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Peter Kavanagh, Ireland


Peter Kavanagh, Irish Naval Service Cadet, 1947.

Ship: New Westminster City

Position: third officer

Convoys: PQ 13, QP 10

Awards: Commendation for Brave Conduct: His Majesty the King, 15 September 1942; 1939-1945 Star; Atlantic Star; Arctic Star; 1939-1945 War Medal with oakleaf; Irish Mercantile Marine Medal with bar for service on Irish ships during the Emergency years 1939-1946

Peter Kavanagh (at the centre), 1973.

Was born in Dublin, Ireland. His career began in 1937 when, following a pre-sea course at the Irish Nautical College, he joined the Cardiff based Reardon-Smith Line engaged in worldwide trading.

In March 1942 Peter Kavanagh sailed to Murmansk with convoy PQ 13 aboard the cargo ship New Westminster City as third officer. New Westminster City was attacked by enemy aircraft and sank in the port of Murmansk on April 3, 1942. Following the sinking of his ship in Murmansk port third officer Peter Kavanagh transferred to the Empire Starlight, but she was severely damaged during an air-raid a few hours later. For the passage home to the UK, Kavanagh was assigned to the SS Harpalion. On the 13 April 1942 off the North Cape, the SS Harpalion was sunk by an aerial torpedo and he was rescued by a lifeboat from HMS Fury. Months later Third officer Kavanagh received a communication from 10 Downing Street which read:

"By the King’s Order the name of Peter Kavanagh, Third Officer, SS New Westminster City was published in the London Gazette on 15 September 1942 as commended for brave conduct in the Merchant Navy. I am charged to record His Majesty’s high appreciation of the service rendered." Winston Churchill, Prime Minister

His actions as part of the New Westminster City crew were also mentioned in the report of the surviving senior officers from the same ship.

In 1947 Peter Kavanagh joined the Irish Naval Service and from 1973 till 1981 served as Director and Flag Officer Commanding Irish Naval Service.

SS New Westminster City

Tonnage: 4747 tons

Built in 1929

Country: UK

Crew during the war: 44 merchant sailors and 6 armed guards

Participated in convoys Dervish, QP 1, PQ 13

Sunk: April 4, 1942 in Murmansk during a Luftwaffe raid. 2 crewmembers killed.


  1. Information and materials provided by Peter Mulvany, the researcher of participation of the Irishmen in the World War II
  2. http://www.irishseamensrelativesassociation.com
  3. http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C10818989
  4. Irish Defence Forces Magazine “An Cosantoir” (The Soldier) July 1981: Obituary of Commodore Peter Kavanagh Irish Naval Service
  5. Pictures: Irish Military Archives, Limerick Leader, https://www.litres.ru/valeriy-nikolaevich-filimonov/ostoychivost-sudna-s-gruzom-zerna-nasypu/chitat-onlayn/