Richard Frederick Jessel DSO, DSC, RN

Born  24 Nov 1902

Richard Frederick Jessel, RN. Taken from a crew photo from the HMS Legion


15 Sep 1922 A/S.Lt.
30 Mar 1923 S.Lt.
28 Feb 1925 Lt.
28 Feb 1933 Lt.Cdr.
30 Jun 1940 Cdr.

Retired: 24 Nov 1952


2 Jan 1942 DSC
20 Jan 1942 Mentioned in Despatches (MID)
26 May 1942 DSO
6 Oct 1942 Bar to DSC
1 Jan 1953 OBE

Warship Commands listed for Richard Frederick Jessel, RN

HMS Legion (G 74)Cdr.Destroyer25 Nov 194026 Mar 1942
HMS Mackay (D 70)Cdr.Destroyer15 Nov 1943Mid 1944
HMS Zealous (R 39)Cdr.Destroyer20 Jul 194426 Jul 1946

Career information

We currently have no career / biographical information on this officer.

Events related to this officer

Destroyer HMS Legion (G 74)

12 Feb 1941
The Polish destroyers Piorun, Garland and the British destroyer HMS Legion conduct an offensive patrol against enemy submarines. However, no U-boat was encountered. (1)

4 Mar 1941
Participated in Operation Claymore, a Commando raid on the Lofoten islands, with sister ships Somali, Eskimo, Tartar, Bedouin and Legion. 500 men of #3 and #4 Commandos were carried in the assault ships Queen Emma and Princess Beatrix. The attack primary objective was the destruction of the Norwegian fish oil processing plants, the destruction of which would have struck a severe blow to the German production of glycerine (used in aircraft engines).
The raid was eminently successful, accounting for the sinking of auxiliary patrol boat Krebs, from which Enigma information were recovered, and 7 freighters; in addition, 11 oil factories were blown up, 225 Germans and 60 "Quislings" taken prisoners and 314 Norwegian volunteers removed to the UK.

13 Apr 1941
The British armed merchant cruiser HMS Rajputana (Capt. F.H. Taylor, DSC, RN), is torpedoed and sunk by German U-boat U-108 west of Reykjavik, Iceland in position 64°50'N, 27°25'W. HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN) picks up 283 survivors.

13 Nov 1941
On this day the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal was torpedoed by U-81 off Gibraltar and sank. HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN) stopped alongside the Ark Royal to pick up sailors, a very famous photo shows this moment.

13 Dec 1941

Battle of Cape Bon.

Sinking of two Italian light cruisers.

The Italian light cruisers Alberico da Barbiano and Alberto di Giussano were torpedoed and sunk off Cape Bon, while on a supply mission to Tripoli, Libya, by the Royal Navy destroyers HMS Sikh (Cdr. G.H. Stokes, DSC, RN), HMS Maori (Cdr R.E. Courage, DSO, DSC and Bar, RN), HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, RN) and the Dutch destroyer HrMs Isaac Sweers (Cdr. J. Houtsmuller, RNN).

The Allied destroyers arrived at Malta shortly before noon that day. They were given a warm welcome.


The Italian cruisers departed from Palermo for Tripoli on the 12th. This was known to the British through 'Ultra'. Four destroyers happened to be on a run from Gibraltar to Alexandria via Malta to reinforce the Mediterranean Fleet and these were ordered to try to intercept. Speed was therefore increased to 30 knots.

At 0200/13 the four Allied destroyers were approaching Cape Bon from the westward still doing 30 knots. They were in line ahead in the order Sikh, Legion, Maori and Isaac Sweers.

Shortly afterwards flashing signals were sighted ahead and then the outlines of two mediums sized ships were sighted steaming south. Cdr. Stokes had been warned about two Italian cruisers proceeding from Palermo to Tripoli and immediately presumed them to be these ships.

On rounding Cape Bon he got his first clear sight of the enemy and also RDF contact was obtained. The enemy had turned and was now steaming towards. Speed was immediately reduced so not as to show a large phosphorecent bow wave. Cdr. Stokes then manoeuvred his ships between the coast and the enemy to get the advantace of the light and to remain difficult to spot with the dark land behind.

HMS Sikh then engaged the leading Italian cruiser with a full salvo of four torpedoes and the second cruiser with her guns from a range of 1000 yards. The leading enemy cruiser got hit by one of the torpedoes beneath the foremost turret.

HMS Legion, second in line, had confirmed to the movements of HMS Sikh while rounding Cape Bon. Cdr. Jessel expected Cdr. Stokes in HMS Sikh to have selected the second ship as his target therefore he selected the first cruiser as his. HMS Legion began to fire a full salvo of eight torpedoes at the first cruiser but just as the second torpedo was fired this cruiser was seen to explode and further torpedo fire was stopped at this target. Target was then quickly shifted to the second cruiser and the remained torpedoes were then fired at this target. As HMS Sikh was engaging this target with her guns HMS Legion opened up with her guns on the leading enemy cruiser which was now heavily on fire due to Sikh's torpedo hits. Also an explosion near the bow of the leading cruiser was observed which was most likely on of our two torpedoes that were fired at her hitting the doomed enemy cruiser. The second cruiser was seen to alter course away but she soon altered course back again presumably due the minefield that was in the area she was going for. She was seen to suffer an explosion amidships after an interval which was most likely on of Legion's torpedo's hitting her.

HMS Maori, the third destroyer in line, held her fire until the torpedoes fired by Sikh hit the leading cruiser. She then opened fire with her guns on the leading cruiser and obtained a large number of hits near the bridge of the enemy cruiser. When the burning cruiser was abeam Maori fired two torpedoes, one of which was seen to hit. We passed this cruiser astern and it was obviuous that she was sinking. Maori had lost sight of the second cruiser until a sheet of flame was sighted to port and it was presumed that this cruiser was also sinking. A torpedo-boat was then seen and passed, very close down Maori's starboard side. Fire was opened but not very successful due to the very close range. Close range weapons unfortunately jammed.

The last destroyer in the line was the Dutch HrMs Isaac Sweers. She fired a few rounds at one of the burning cruisers. A destroyer / torpedo-boat was then observed which was first thought to be HMS Legion but was then seen to be an Italian torpedo-boat of the 'Partenope-class'. Fire was then opened on this ship and also one torpedo was fired which most likely ran underneath due to the close range. Several gun hits are thought to have been obtained on this torpedo-boat. (2)

28 Feb 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, DSC, RN) is docked in No.4 Dock at Malta. (3)

19 Mar 1942
Second Battle of the Syrte, occasioned by the passage of convoy MW.10 from Alexandria to Malta. Claimed to have engaged the Italian battleship Littorio at 4400 yards' range (more likely she was in action with a heavy cruiser) but on approaching Malta was severely damaged in an air attack and forced to run up the beach at Marsaxlokk. After emergency repairs to make the hull watertight she entered Grand Harbour.

25 Mar 1942 (position 0.00, 0.00)
Around 1430 hours, HMS Legion (Cdr. R.F. Jessel, DSC, RN), returned to Malta from operations. (4)


  1. Personal communication
  2. ADM 1/12325
  3. ADM 53/116424
  4. ADM 53/116425

ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.

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