Battle of Jutland 31st may 1916.
Battle of Jutland, theNaval Battle which took place on the west coast of
Jutland, Both the
Germans and the British claimed victory. The Germans because they sank
more ships. The British because the German High seas fleet would never
again venture from there ports for the rest of the war. The German
main fleet consisted of 16 Dreadnaught Battleships and 6 pre dreadnaught battleships, 11 Light Cruisers and 72 destroyers. The
British Fleet consisted of Admiral Jellicoe's fleet of 28 Dreadnaught
battleships and 3 battle cruisers and Admiral Beatty's force of 6 battle
cruisers and 4 fast battleships.
The Germans had planned to sail from the Baltic to the north sea with
the plan to engage the British Battle Cruisers in Norwegian waters. But
due to German radio messages being intercepted by the British the
British Grand fleet were alerted.
British Battleships and Cruisers at The Battle of Jutland
|1st Battle Squadron. HMS Iron Duke (Flagship), HMS Agincourt,
HMS Colossus, HMS Hercules, HMS Marlborough, HMS Neptune, HMS Revenge,
HMS St. Vincent.|
|2nd Battle Squadron. HMS King George V, HMS Ajax, HMS Centurion, HMS
Conqueror, HMS Erin, HMS Monarch, HMS Orion, HMS Thunderer.|
|4th Battle Squadron, HMS Royal Oak, HMS Bellerophon, HMS Benbow, HMS
Canada, HMS Superb, HMS Temeraire, HMS Vanguard|
|5th battle Squadron, HMS Valiant, HMS Barham, HMS Malaya, HMS
|1st Battle-Cruiser Squadron, HMS Lion (Flagship, HMS
Princess Royal, HMS Queen Mary (Sunk) HMS Tiger|
|2nd battle-Cruiser Squadron. HMS Indefatigable
(Sunk) HMS New Zealand, |
|3rd battle-Cruiser Squadron, HMS Indomidable, HMS
Inflexible, HMS Invincible (Sunk)|
|1sr Cruiser Squadron, HMS Black Prince (Sunk), HMS Defence (Sunk) HMS Duke of Edinburgh, HMS Warrior (Sunk)|
|2nd Cruiser Squadron, HMS Cochrane, HMS Hampshire, HMS
Minotaur, HMS Shannon,|
|Light Cruisers. Active, Bellona, Birmingham, Birkenhead,
Boadicea, Calliope, Canturbury,
Caroline, Castor, Champion, Chester, Comus, Constance, Cordelia, Dublin,
Falmouth, Fearless, Galatea, Gloucester, Inconstant, Nottingham,
Phaeton, Royalist, Southampton, Yarmouth|
7 destroyers were lost from the
Flotillas, of 1st, 4th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th , and 13th Flotillas.
|1st battle Squadron. Friedrich
der Grosse (Flagship) Heligoland, Nassau, Oldenburg, Ostfriesland, Posen,
Rheinland, Thuringen, Westfalen.|
|2nd Battle Squadron,
Deutschland, Hannover, Hessen Pommern
(sunk), Schlesen, Schleswig-Holstein|
|3rd Battle Squadron, Konig,
Grosser Kurfurst, Kaiser, Kaiserin, Kronprince William, Markgraf,
|Battle-Cruiser Squadron. Derflinger, Lutzow (sunk)
Moltke, Seydlitz, Von der Tan.|
|Light Cruisers, Elbing
(Sunk) Frankfurt, Frauenlob (sunk), Hamburg, Muenchen, Pillau,
Regensburg, Rostock (sunk) Stettin, Stuttgart, Wiesbaden (Sunk)|
2 Destroyers were lost from the
1st,2,d,3rd,5th,6th,7th and 9th Flotillas
Extracted from Deeds That Thrill The
Empire. Volume V.
The Battle Of Jutland Bank
It is not always realised by “the man in the street” that in
the exercise of sea power, actual fighting plays a relatively small
part. In land warfare,
under modern conditions the opposing forces are in absolutely continuous
contact, and the ebb and flow of battle never ceases until one side is
annihilated or driven to surrender. Naval war has never been like that. The ultimate object of the superior fleet is to control the
seas-that is, to close the ocean highways completely to the enemy-and
whether that control is secured either by the destruction of the hostile
fleet or by instilling in it a healthy dread of putting its fate to the
test of battle in the open is a matter of relative indifference.
These few general remarks are necessary to preface the story of
the greatest naval action of the first two years of war-and one,
further, of the fiercest and most costly of which history has any
record. In the early
afternoon of May 31st 1916, the light cruiser scouts of the
British Grand Fleet encountered off the northwestern coast to Denmark
some similar vessels belonging to the German navy.
It transpired later that the German High Sea Fleet was “out”
in its full available strength, though with what object it had put to
sea had not even yet been divulged.
It is unlikely that the intention of its commander-in-chief,
Admiral von Scheer, was to throw down the gage of battle to Sir John
Jellicoe, nor, if he new anything of the organisation of our North Sea
patrol, could we have hoped to cut off any appreciable part of our
forces before reinforcements came up sufficient to deal comfortably with
the German navy. Speculation
on these points is not of very much use. The
facts-which are all that we have to deal with-are that when the advanced
flotillas of the Germans fleet were somewhere near the Skagerrak-the
first gateway into the Baltic-they found themselves engaged with the
light craft standing out ahead of Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty’s
It was at 2.20 in the afternoon that the curtain went up on a
drama that was to prove to the hilt the valour and the effiency of the
British seaman of the twentieth century.
At that hour the light cruiser Galatica, Commodore E. S.
Alexander Sinclair, senior ship in the fringe of scouts, wirelesses to
the battle cruisers astern that enemy ships were in sight.
It was not a very uncommon message-indeed, it had been heard so
often without any sequel of importance that at first it quite failed to
arouse any excitement. This
time, however, events developed rapidly.
As our scouts pushed on and extended their formation, they
discovered the enemy to be in greater and still greater strength.
From the seaplane carrier Engadine an aerial scout was sent up,
with Lieutenant F. J. Rutland (an officer promoted from the ranks) as
pilot, and Assistant Paymaster G. S. Trewin as observer; and although
the clouds were so low that they had to fly at a height of only 900
feet, they were able to send back a message to the effect that the enemy
was out in considerable force.
Meantime, Sir David Beatty was bringing down his battle cruiser,
so that they could not get back to their bases in the Bight of
Heligoland without a battle. Shortly
after 3.30 he sighted five German battle cruisers steaming full speed in
a southeasterly direction-i.e. Towards home-but the range of 23,000
yards was too great for effective gunfire.
He closed in towards the enemy, which was none other than the
battle cruiser squadron of the High Sea fleet, under the command of Rear
Admiral Hipper, and in a quarter of an hour, when the distance between
them had been reduced to 18,500 yards the battle began.
Before going any further, let it be said that there are two
versions of this phase of the fight.
One is that the Germans, finding themselves intercepted by
superior forces, fled for their home waters for all they were worth.
The other is that their intention was not so much t get home as
to entice Beatty’s ships down under the guns of the battle squadrons
of the High Sea Fleet, which were coming up from the south under Von
Scheer. Whatever the
intentions were, however, it is the battle that matters.
Sir David Beatty’s flagship was the Lion, and with him were the
Queen Mary, Princess Royal, tiger, Indefatigable, and New Zealand.
Bringing up the rear, at a distance-unfortunately-of from 10,000
to 20,000 yards, was a division of fast battleships of the Queen
Elizabeth class, under Rear-Admiral H. Evan Thomas.
The exact composition of the German battle cruiser force is not
certain, but it consisted of five ships, which are believed to have been
the Lutzow, Derflinger, Seydlitz, Moltke and Von der Tann.
In any case, Sir David Beatty, even without the fast battleship
division, had a very appreciable superiority, whether measured by
numbers, the size of his ships, r the calibre of his guns.
As the two forces ran south they fought with ever increasing
intensity. Our own ships
had the superiority in gun powder, but the Germans were stoutly built
and thickly armoured, and the high state of perfection to which their
gunnery implements had been brought enabled them to inflict serious
damage before our own gunnery began to tell upon their moral.
The battle cruisers Queen Mary (Captain C. I. Prowse) and
Indefatigable (Captain C. F. Sowerby) were destroyed.
That the Germans suffered heavily need not be emphasized. Time after time our salvos were seen to strike the enemy’s
ships, and although at this stage none was seen actually to sink, a
vessel cannot sustain the impact of a number of 850, 1,250 or 1,400 lb
shells without severe damage. Our
admirals were exceedingly reserved in their estimates of the injury
inflicted on the enemy, and made no claim to have sunk a German ship
unless it was actually seen to go down.
It is obvious however that when a battle is being fought at the
pace of twenty-eight miles an hour in a gathering, patchy mist, it is
quite possible for an enemy ship reported as having been ” seen to
leave the line ”to have sunk a few minutes after without its last
moments coming under the observation of the vessels responsible.
Some of our destroyers too had a busy and fruitful time during
this run south. Nominally,
they accompanied the battle cruisers in order to protect them against
submarine attack (in which they succeeded to perfection), but
opportunity came to them for still more effective work.
At 4.15 a division of these vessels, under the command of
Commander The Hon. E.B.S. Bingham, in the Nestor, moved out towards the
enemy with the object of delivering a torpedo attack.
On the way they met a flotilla of hostile destroyers setting out
towards our own battle line with a similar object, and a fierce fight
ensued between the opposing craft, in which two of the enemy’s vessels
were sunk without loss to us. The hostile attempt to attack our battle cruisers was thus
frustrated, and our boats pressed on with their original plan.
The Nesdtor, Nomad and Nicator rushed in at the enemy under a
terrific fire and discharged torpedoes at them.
By all the rules of the game they should have been sunk with
every man onboard, and, as it was, the only one of the three to escape
was the Nicator, whose commanding officer, Lieutenant Jack Mocatta, was
rewarded with the D.S.O. The
Nestor and Nomad were both disabled within easy reach of the enemy’s
guns, ad neither of them survived the experience, although, happily,
many of those onboard were saved by the enemy.
These included Lieutenant Commander Paul Whitfield, in command of
the Nomad, who was specially promoted to the rank of commander, and
Commander Bingham, of the Nestor, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for
“the extremely gallant way in which he led his division in their
attack, first on the enemy destroyers, and then on their battle
cruisers. He finally
sighted the enemy battle fleet, and followed by the one remaining
destroyer of his division (Nicator), with dauntless courage he closed to
within 3,000 yards of the enemy in order to attain a favourable position
for firing the torpedoes. While
making this attack, Nestor and Nicator were under concentrated fire of
the secondary batteries of the High Sea Fleet.
Nestor was subsequently sunk.”
In the meantime, our
battle cruisers, with the light cruisers of Commodore W. E.
Goodenough’s squadron spread out ahead, were still hotly engaged with
Hipper’s force. The battle was still travelling south at a high speed, and
the German admiral doubtless thought he was leading Beatty on into a
trap from which he would be unable to extricate himself.
Soon after 4.35, however, the Southampton Goodenough’s flagship
in the scouting squadron-signalled the approach from the south of the
German battle fleet.
It was one of the crucial moments of the fight.
If Beatty, who now had the enemy battle cruisers well in hand,
had gone on, he would certainly have been annihilated; but the obviously
had nothing to gain by throwing his ships away.
He might have turned off sharp to the right-to the west making
for England and safety; but that was not the game.
From the British point of view the battle was only beginning.
Our battle cruisers turned a complete half circle.
Where they had been running almost due south, they turned almost
to due north. Where they
had been steaming down into the jaws of the High Sea Fleet’s battle
squadron thy now began to play a game of their own-to lead the Germans
back to main divisions of the Grand Fleet.
When the battle began sir John with his battle squadrons had not
been very far behind the battle cruisers, but the high speed of the
latter had widened the gap by many miles.
It was 4.42 when sir Beatty turned his squadron about to avoid
the German battle fleet, and another hour and a quarter passed, with hot
fighting every inch of the way, before the leading battleships of the
Grand fleet were sighted five miles to the north.
The action was now reaching its real culminating point.
In spite of the loss of two of his ships, Sir David Beatty was
gradually driving the enemy further and further towards the Danish
coast, and when our battleships were sighted he saw that the supreme
moment had arrived. He put
on speed, and turning sharp to the east, drove straight across the head
of the enemy’s line. As
he did so, a fresh division of battle cruisers, led by Rear Admiral the
Hon Horace hood in the Invincible, took station ahead of Beatty’s
division and although the Invincible was destroyed in the close range
melee that followed, the German force was thrown into the utmost
confusion by our tactics. So
completely were they demoralised that two of our most lightly armed
cruisers, the Yarmouth and the Falmouth, carrying only eight 6-inch guns
apiece, stood in towards the leading ships of the enemy, which carried
11 and 12-inch guns, and fired their guns and torpedoes at them for some
time without sustaining any injury themselves.
For some time now the weather had been growing unfavourable. Before the Grand Fleet came in sight the sea was covered with
a patchy fog that enabled our ships to get only an occasional glimpse of
the enemy, and as our battleships came down from the north they found it
difficult to tell friend from foe-for one ship is very much like another
in a mist at 20,000 yards. Nevertheless,
the Grand Fleet came into action magnificently, and it was only robbed
by the fortune of war from reaping the full harvest of Sir David
Beatty’s gallantry and skill. The
latter officer had himself escaped from the trap the Germans had
prepared for him. More than
that, he had led the Germans on into such a position that, with ordinary
luck on our side or with an absence of luck on either side-the enemy
could have looked for little short of annihilation.
Then it was that Nature had her say.
The mists deepened. Our
leading battleships had not been in action more than a few minutes
before the sea became obscured that the battle degenerated into a sort
of blind man’s buff. By
this time it is beyond the slightest doubt that the enemy had no other
thought than to escape the overwhelming force arrayed against him-and
the circumstances were all in his favour.
From the easterly course on to which he had been driven by sir
David Beatty, he turned first to the south and then to the southwest,
and when, towards nine o’clock at night, our main squadrons caught
their last glimpse of the enemy, he was apparently heading for the open
sea. Throughout the night
there were occasional bursts of fighting as opposing groups of single
ships sighted each other for a few minutes in the darkness, but under
such conditions there could be no approach to organised battle.
In the misty night the enemy-or what remained of him-succeeded in
getting back to his ports, and although our ships scoured the scene of
action until well past noon on June 1st, no trace of a
hostile ship was found. If,
therefore, it had been the intention of the enemy to challenge our
command of the sea, he had suffered a signal defeat, for he had been
pulled up within two challenge our command of the sea, he had suffered a
signal defeat, for he had been pulled up within two hundred miles of his
bases-and on his own side of the North Sea-and compelled to abandon all
pretence of commanding even the immediate neighbourhood of his own
It is still to early to say what were the material results of the
action. On our own side we
lost the battle cruisers Queen Mary, Indefatigable and Invincible, the
armoured cruisers Defence, Black Prince and Warrior, and the destroyers
Ardent, fortune, Nomad, Nector, Shark, Sparrowhawk, Tipperary and
Turbulent. Sir John
Jellicoe’s estimate of the German losses was as follows; two
battleships of the Dreadnought type and one pre-Dreadnought were seen to
sink, and another Dreadnought was so severely damaged that her survival
was doubtful. One battle
cruiser (the Lutzow) was sunk, and another probably sunk. Five light
cruisers were sent to the bottom, six destroyers were seen to sink, and
three more were so damaged that they could hardly have survived the
drubbing. Finally, one submarine was sunk.
When it was realised that practically the whole of the first line
fighting strength of the British and German navies was engaged in this
action, it will be understood that it is impossible to chronicle here
even the names of those who were rewarded for their distinguished
service. The incident which
appealed most strongly to the nation was one in which the hero was one
of the most junior ratings in the fleet.
This lad, “Boy (First Class) John Travers Cornwell,” was the
only person, other than an officer, mentioned in the original dispatches
of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe and Vice-Admiral sir David Beatty, and
these were the words that were used; “The fortitude of the wounded was
admirable. A report from
the commanding officer of the Chester” (a light cruiser) “gives a
splendid instance of devotion to duty.
Boy (First Class) John Travers Cornwell, of the Chester, was
mortally wounded early in the action.
He, nevertheless, remained standing alone at a most exposed post,
quietly awaiting orders until the end of the action, with the gun’s
crew dead and wounded all round him.
His age was under sixteen and a half years. I regret that he was since died,” wrote Admiral Beatty,
“but I recommend his case for special recognition in justice to his
memory, and as an acknowledgement of the high example set by him.” The posthumous award of the Victoria Cross was made, and
various projects were set on foot whereby the lad’s example could be
preserved for all time. A
third award was made in the case of Major F. J. W. Harvey, Royal Marine
Light Infantry of H.N.S. Lion, who, “whilst mortally wounded and
almost the only survivor after the explosion f an enemy shell in ‘Q’
gun house with great presence if mind and devotion to duty ordered the
magazine to be flooded thereby saving the ship.
He died shortly afterwards.”
It is not the custom of the Admiralty to publish them, or to
allow anyone else to publish, details of incidents in which petty
officers and men of the Fleet have distinguished themselves.
For their work in the Jutland Bank battle-by which name this
action is officially known-Sir John Jellicoe was made a member of the
Order of Merit, Sir David Beatty was promoted from K.C.B. to G.C.B. and
knighthoods of the Bath were bestowed upon Rear-Admiral Evan-Thomas and
Rear-Admiral W. C. Pakenham, the latter being second in command of the
Battle Cruiser Squadron under Beatty.
A large number of officers were promoted, and others were
appointed C.B., D.S.O. or D.S.C., while the rewards for the rank and
file included (besides the V.C. already mentioned) fifteen Conspicuous
Gallantry Medals and 196 Distinguished Service Medals, while one petty
officer received a bar to a D.S.M. already won.
One particular incident may be mentioned as showing how much a
D.S.M. may mean in the Navy. When
writing on the Jutland battle at the invitation of the Admiralty.
Mr Rudyard Kipling, describing the experiences of a destroyer,
said “There were also three wise men who saved the ship, whose names
must not be forgotten. They
were Chief Engine Room Artificer Lee, Stoker Petty Officer Gardiner and
Stoker Elvins. When the
funnel carried away, it was touch and go whether the foremost boiler
would not explode. These
three put on respirators, and kept the fans going until all fumes, etc.,
were cleared away.’ To
each man, you will observe, his own particular Hell, which he entered of
his own particular initiative.” These
three men, it will be seen, saved a ship between them.
They also shared a single Distinguished Service Medal between
them, Stoker Elvins being the recipient.
If three men who save a warship share one D.S.N. one is left to
imagine what was done by the other 195 winners of the D.S.M. in the
battle of Jutland Bank.
The full story of the Jutland honours and how they were won would
occupy a volume in itself, and one is compelled to mention only a few,
and those in the briefest possible terms.
Mention has already been made of Flight Lieutenant Rutland, who
went up in a seaplane to observe the enemy’s strength before the
action began. He was
awarded the D.S.C. for this, but he was to win a second distinction.
When the action was at its height the armoured cruiser Warrior
was caught by the concentrated fire of the enemy and completely
disabled, though, fortunately she was not sunk.
She drifted about for some time, perfectly helpless, until at
last the seaplane carrier Engadine came up and took her in tow.
I was thought then that the cruiser would last out, but she made
but slows progress towards England, and at last it decided to abandon
and sink her. In darkness
and a rough sea the bulk of the crew were transferred in safety, but
while a wounded seaman was being passed across to the Engadine in a
stretcher the rolling of the ships threw him into the water. Two or three men I the Engadine immediately asked permission
to go over the side to rescue him, but the captain refused.
The ships were bumping together, and it certainly seemed madness
to attempt a rescue. But
Lieutenant Rutland, who saw the whole incident, happened not to be near
any superior officer. He
therefore asked no one’s permission, but jumped overboard at once.
Thanks to his aid, the wounded man hoisted onboard the Engadine;
but unfortunately he had been so badly crushed between the rolling ships
that life was already extinct. Lieutenant Rutland was awarded the Albert Medal for his
For the rest, one can only take a few typical cases from the
official report: Captain E.
M. Phillpotts (H.M.S. Warspite); “At a critical time, when the Fifth
Battle Squadron was turning to form astern of the battle fleet, under a
heavy fire, the Warspite, owing to a breakdown in her steering gear,
turned towards the enemy, and got into a very dangerous position.
She was splendidly handled, however, and got away to the
northward clear of the enemy’s fire.
Also, when nearing the Fifth of forth, much damaged, she was
attacked by three submarines, and was handled in such a manner as to get
her safely into port.” Captain
Phillpotts was awarded the C.B.
Fleet surgeon Alexander Maclean (H.M.S. Lion);”Performed his
exhausting duties with the greatest zeal and courage.
The medical staff was seriously depleted by casualties, the
wounded and dying had to be dressed under very difficult conditions on
the mess deck, which was flooded with a foot of water from damaged fire
mains.” Awarded the D.S.O.
Boatswain W. H. Fenn (H.N.S. Barham); “Specially recommended. Was in charge of the after repair party and worked in fumes
until he was overcome and removed.
He returned again to the same work as soon as he had regained
consciousness, and rendered invaluable services.
Mr. Fenn had only returned from hospital the day before the
action.” Noted for early
Chief Gunner Alexander Grant (H.N.S. Lion); “With the greatest
zeal and coolness went from magazine to magazine to encourage the crews
in maintaining a rapid supply of ammunition, also in taking charge of
fire parties and extinguishing several extensive fires.”
Promoted to Lieutenant.
Lieutenant R. N. Porter, royal Naval Reserve (H.M.S. Barham):
“After having been severely burned on the cordite explosion at No. 2
starboard 6-inch gun, Lieutenant Porter personally superintended the
extinction of the fire and removal of wounded, and remained at his post
for two hours after, when swelling from burns had closed his eyes and
rendered his hands useless. His
condition when he reached the medical party was critical.”
Promoted to lieutenant commander.
These must be taken as typical of the Navy’s work in the
Jutland battle, the first really great naval action of the war, from
which the enemy escaped only because of the failing daylight and the
rising fog. Its effect to
be measured not by the losses sustained on either side, the full extent
of which we cannot yet know, but by the interval which elapses between
June 1st 1916, and the next (or should we say the first?)
attempt on the part of the High Sea fleet to challenge the supremacy of
the Grand Fleet.
fights of the Great War
W.L. Wyllie R.A. & M.F. Wre
Jutland: Sir David Beatty’s Part
In the last week of May 1916, the Grand fleet was in an unusual
state of excitement. The
finals of the Grand Boxing Competition were to be decided on board the
sports-ship Borodino. Tuesday
30th, had been fixed for the great event, and a general order
of “Make and mend clothes” (Saturday routine) was issued to enable
as many men as possible to attend.
A further holiday was in prospect, for June 1st was
Ascension Day, and Admiral Jellicoe made a flag general, that the day
would be observed as Sunday throughout the fleet.
Toward the close of the boxing competition there seemed to be a
marked tendency to hasten the events, and before the actual finish it
was apparent that something unusual was in progress.
The men had been brought to the Borodino by the attached
drifters, but the urgent necessity to get them back to their ships was
so great that the sports ship herself got under way, going alongside the
super-Dreadnoughts, whilst drifters and picket-boats were busy
transferring spectators and competitors alike to their floating homes.
The greatest activity occurred in the flagships, and steam was
raised in record time, for the rumour went round, “The German Fleet is
out at last.”
When Drake was told that the Armada was sighted he finished his
game of bowls before going out to battle.
There was no hurry in those good old days.
He knew that the “invincible” fleets of Philip, running
before the wind in a great half moon, would take many days to reach the
Straits of Dover and might be harassed all the way.
Our modern sailors, on the contrary, were certain that the only
way to crush the High Sea Fleet was to rush at highest possible speed to
deliver an overwhelming blow. Accordingly,
every available ship put to sea at once.
It is hard to say how much the Commander-in-Chief knew of the
movements of the enemy, but it is a remarkable fact that in the great
Battle of Jutland a German sortie in force exactly coincided with one of
our periodical sweeps. We
do not know why the German High Sea fleet put to sea.
There may have been political pressure or a feeling in high
places that the time had come for the Imperial Navy to show its power.
Perhaps the High Sea Fleet went out only to exercise the men.
Under the German system the crew did not live on board the
battleship, but in barracks ashore. The vessel, all subdivided as they were into small
compartments, would not make very comfortable lodgings, but to prevent
demoralisation the men had to be kept trained.
At this moment the Crown Prince’s Army was making the
tremendous attack on Verdun, Fort Douaumont, the Fille Morte and other
bloodstained fields. Perhaps
the German Fleet was ordered out simply to make a diversion, and thus
help the army in Champagne. Whatever
the cause, the High Sea Fleet was on the afternoon of May 31st
to the westward of Horn Reef. Sir
John Jellicoe and his staff had carefully arranged the movement of the
British fleet. Sir Thomas Jerram, in King George V., with the Second Battle
Squadron, was ordered to leave his base at Cromarty, and, after carrying
out a sweep, was to meet the rest of the Battle Fleet in a position
about half way between Newcastle and the Naze of Norway.
Sir David Beatty, in his flagship Lion, with the battle cruisers
Princess Royal, Queen Mary, Tiger, New Zealand and Indefatigable, was
ordered to make his sweep a little farther to the southeastward of the
rendezvous. He had as a
support the four splendid battleships of the “Queen Elizabeth”
class, under Rear-Admiral Evan Thomas, in Burham, with Warspite, Valiant
and Malaya. Sir David was
expected to be in position by two in the afternoon of the 31st;
his orders wee then to steam north until the main Battle Fleet came into
sight. He had been told
that it would steer towards Horn Reef, the most westerly point of
Jutland. The four battle
cruisers were at two in the afternoon in Lat. 56.46 N., Long. 4.40 E.
they were steering north by east in line ahead at a speed of 19
½ knots. The light cruiser
Champion was screening the big ships with the ten destroyers of the
Thirteenth Flotilla. Three
miles away to the east were New Zealand and Indefatigable, screened by
six destroyers from the Harwich force, and five miles away on Lion’s
port beam were Admiral Evan Thomas’s four great battleships in line
ahead, protected by a light cruiser, Fearless, and nine destroyers.
Another screen, eight miles astern, was composed of
light cruisers spread five miles apart, Southampton being farthest to
the west, flying the broad pennant of Commander Goodenough, and followed
in order by Nottingham, Birmingham and Dublin.
Then came Falmouth, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral T. D. W.
Napier, with Birkenhead and Gloucester.
The most easterly of the light cruiser squadrons was that
commanded by Commodore E. S. Alexander Sinclair, in Galatea, with
Inconstant, Cordelia and Phaeton. At
2.20 the Commodore sighted in the far distance two ships; they had a
German appearance and seemed to be stationary, as though boarding a
neutral. He signalled the
news to Sir David, who at once turned his battle cruisers to the S.S.E.,
the course for Horn Reef. He
meant to place himself between the enemy and their base.
A quarter of an hour after the first message the Commodore sent
another. He had sighted a
great cloud of smoke. Later
he sent yet another report. Strange
vessels were steering north. Admiral
Beatty altered course to port, and soon after sighted the smoke.
He made out five enemy battle cruisers, screened by destroyers
and light craft.
In the meantime Rear-Admiral Napier and Commodore Alexander
Sinclair, without waiting for orders, turned to the east and formed a
screen between the battle cruisers and the enemy.
There were some German light cruisers in the mist, and there were
immediately engaged at long range.
Not wishing to be out of the coming fight, Commodore Goodenough
drove his vessels at their utmost speed, and soon took station with his
squadron ahead of Lion, which had by her change of course dropped
Champion and her Thirteenth Flotilla.
Engadine had been a fast excursion steamer running with
“trippers” to the Continent in the days before the war.
She was now boxed up with a great deckhouse aft, which sheltered
seaplanes. One of these at once went up, piloted by flight-Lieut. F. S.
Rutland, with Assistant-Paymaster G. S. Trewin an observer. The day was most unsuitable for flying, as the clouds hung
low (900 feet) and the seaplane was under a heavy fire all the time from
light cruisers. Four of the
enemy battle cruisers 3,000 yards away wee, however, identified, and Sir
David received the message by half-past three, giving evidence of great
smartness and efficiency.
By the Admiral’s orders his battle cruisers were formed on a
line of bearing. Speed had
been increased to 25 knots, and the course, E.S.E., slightly converged
on that of the enemy. By
this time Admiral Evan Thomas’s fifth Battle Squadron was on Lion’s
port quarter, 10,000 yards away. Champion,
with the thirteenth Flotilla, by steaming fast had once more succeeded
in taking her old station ahead. By
3.48 the battle cruisers had shortened the range to 18,500 yards, and a
most murderous action began, both sides starting simultaneously.
The Germans, as usual, at once picked up the range.
Lion received two hits only three minutes after the action
started. Tiger and Princess
Royal were also hit several times.
The enemy bore well abaft Lion’s beam, and as his shots
continued to fall on board our ships courses were altered to starboard
to lengthen the range and confuse the German gunners.
The enemy, however, still kept up a rapid accurate fire, and in
spite of zigzagging his shells rained upon the British battle cruisers.
Amongst several hits Lion had the roof of one of her turrets
blown right off, with terrible loss of life.
Major Harvey, of the Royal marines, who was mortally wounded sent
a messenger out of the turret to inform the captain of what had helped,
for all communications had broken down.
As the man left the turret he heard the major asking if anyone
was alive below, at the same time giving orders to flood the magazine.
Almost immediately afterwards a second shell landed, killing
everyone and causing a fire, which burnt out the turret.
Without the prompt action of dying major, to whom a posthumous
V.C. was awarded, Lion would have shared the fate of Queen Mary and
Indefatigable. The men down
in the magazine were drowned when it was flooded sacrificed to save
their messmates and the ship.
It was noticeable that the German salvos generally fell in a
cluster, quite close together; they were not stung out as ours were, the
result being that the German cluster often fell quite close but
harmlessly. Columns of water towered high above the British mastheads,
drenching with spray even those in the fire controls. There was another side to the matter when by evil chance a
German salvo happened to make a direct hit.
In that case a rain of shells, falling with a steep angle of
descent, practically wiped out whatever was in its course.
Indefatigable was the first to be struck by such an overwhelming
and irresistible mass of destructive fire.
At six minutes past four a cluster of German shells fell upon the
port side of the upper deck abreast of the after turret.
There was a terrible explosion in the magazine, and the stricken
ship passed out of the line well down by the stern.
Almost directly afterwards a second salvo fell upon the fore part
of the vessel. She turned
on her side and sank, leaving only a great towering cloud of brown grey
smoke and steam.
The suddenness of the catastrophe made it awe-inspiring. At one moment the gallant ship was rushing through the waves
crowded with hundreds of the best fighting men our breed produces, all
in splendid health, full of life and energy. In the next only torn
fragments of steel and men remained.
The foaming waters rushed in and covered everything, the great
grey cloud drifted north and gradually dispersed into filmy vapour.
All was over, and Indefatigable had gone forever.
Admiral Evan Thomas’s big battleships now began to take their
part in the action with 15-inch guns firing when able on the German
light cruisers. The range
of the enemy from their line was from 19,000 to 20,000 yards, but as the
tawny cordite and black smoke from the battle cruisers and destroyers
was drifting it was very hard to see more than two German ships at a
time. The opposite battle
cruiser squadrons had now drawn a little apart owing to the zigzags and
many alternations of course. There
came a slackening in the fire; but a new and deadly weapon was being
use, and the tracks of torpedoes could be seen rushing across the line
of the British advance. Course
was again altered, towards the enemy this time.
Sir David’s orders to the destroyers were that they should take
any favourable opportunity for an attack with torpedoes, and as there
seemed to be some smoke and mist in the east, twelve of the British
boats rushed ahead to take up a position of advantage.
The German small craft, however, were not behindhand.
A light cruiser with fifteen destroyers steamed out, and a
spirited little action between the destroyers of both sides was soon in
full swing at deadly close quarters.
Two of the Germans were sunk, and the rush ahead still continued.
Commander Bingham took Nestor right at the enemy battle cruiser.
Nomad and Nicator followed him.
The shells falling in showers all about them, Nomad was so badly
damaged that she fell out of the line before she got in range, but the
others gallantly rushed on and fired their torpedoes at the Germans, who
were forced to turn away to avoid destruction.
As they manoeuvred they blazed away with their lighter guns at
the dauntless pair. Nestor
was hit by a German light cruiser and brought to a standstill, while the
battle surged onward. Later
on, when the greater conflict once more overspread the scene of this
opening flight, the German Battle Fleet in passing sank the intrepid and
then lonely destroyer leader. She
had continued to fire her torpedoes until not one was left.
All Britain must rejoice that the Germans rescued Commander
Bingham, with the survivors of his dauntless crew,, and that the
Victoria Cross was afterwards received by the young hero.
Nomad, the first of the destroyers to be disabled, was also sunk
when the German Battle Fleet came upon the scene, but a considerable
portion of her brave crew was saved and taken to Germany.
Nicator, the third of the three little destroyers, got safely
back out of the conflict in spite of shot and shell.
Her captain throughout the engagement was leaning over the front
of his bridge smoking a cigarette and whistling the latest popular tunes
of the wardroom gramophone. He
was giving directions to his coxswain by signs, zigzagging his way in
and out dodging the salvos like a three quarter on a Rugby field.
Both he and the captain of Nomad were afterwards awarded the
D.S.O. Petard, Nerissa,
Turbulent and Termagant, getting within 7,000 yards of the enemy,
discharged their torpedoes.
The desperate fight between the battle cruisers was as fierce as
ever. By this time many
heavy shells, hitting continuously, began to tell their story.
The third German ship was in flames, and it was noticed that the
enemy’s precision and rate of fire were not nearly so good as they had
been. To protect themselves
the Germans set up a smoke screen, altering course as soon as it had
fairly hidden them.
The enemy’s salvos were still falling close
together, and at this moment one of them crashing upon Queen Mary struck
her abreast of Q turret. There
was another tremendous explosion, and again a dreadful towering cloud of
brown-grey smoke mounted thousands of feet into the air.
Tiger, which was in station and a half cables astern, steamed
right into the thick of this awful pall.
There was no time to alter course.
Falling fragments rained upon her decks in the darkness.
Captain Pelly has stated that the column stood up solid like a
wall. As the pall of smoke
drifted northward the stern of Queen Mary stood high out of the sea, the
propellers still turning and the water round boiling fiercely, for the
between decks was a mass of flames.
A skylight had been blown open aft, and up the hatch a great wind
from below whirling a column of papers high into the air.
At this moment came a second explosion aft, and fragments were
thrown in all directions.
A midshipman in an after turret stated that he felt the
tremendous shock, and both the enormous 50-ton guns appeared to stand on
end and sink breech first into the ship.
How he got out of the turret seems doubtful, but he found himself
standing on the after funnel, now lying flat upon the deck.
Realising that it was a case for swimming, he took off his coat,
and was stooping down too unlace his boots when there came a second
explosion. He does not
remember going up, but only the sensation of falling, falling, falling
that is known so well in dreams. It
ended in a splash as he arrived in the embrace of the North Sea.
Out of all her splendid ship’s company but eighteen survivors
were picked up by a destroyer.
At the beginning of the action our battle cruisers wee six to
five, with 13.5 and 12-inch guns against the 12- and 11-inch guns of the
enemy. Now they were but
four to five. The thick
armour on the German decks and the subdivision of the compartments had
proved more affective than had ever been foreseen.
All this time Commodore Goodenough, with his “City” class
light cruisers, had been scouting far ahead of Admiral Beatty.
At 7.88 he reported that he had sighted the German Battle Fleet
in the southeast, and that they were steaming north.
Sir David therefore called in his destroyers, and when he had
himself seen the enemy coming up with the wind astern he turned his
ships about, signalling to Admiral Evan Thomas to follow.
When the German Admiral observed that the British ships were
changing their direction he also made a sixteen-point turn, and thus the
tide of the battle surged back towards the northwest, where Jellicoee
was approaching in support. Meanwhile
Commodore Goodenough determined to discover all he could of the
disposition and number of the German Battle Fleet.
He steamed under a very heavy fire within 13,000 yards of the
heavy ships. The drawing opposite page 120 shows Southampton at the moment
when a German salvo was falling just clear of his bridge and forecastle.
This is no fancy picture. It
was enlarged from a tiny photograph taken at the moment, and though in
the original the ship is little over half an inch long, one can see
quite clearly how close together the German shells fell, and to what a
prodigious height the spray was driven.
The Commodore sent off many reports to his Admiral, all the while
turning his little squadron now here, which fell about him so
continuously. Only skilful
handling and wonderful luck saved the Second Light Cruiser Squadron from
Moresby, which had stayed behind to help Engadine with her
seaplane, now rejoined and made a spirited attack at 6,000 yards, two
points before the enemy’s beam. The
four battleships of the “Queen Elizabeth” class had been from the
first hampered by the smoke from so many ships drifting between their
line and the enemy. The tremendous shells hurled by their mighty guns might have
been expected to wreck the German battle cruisers if only they could
have scored a percentage of hits, but the tawny cordite clouds and the
smoke screens all tended to make range-finding difficult and spotting
almost impossible. Besides
this the ships of Admiral Evan Thomas could not steam so fast as the
battle cruisers and tended to drop astern; the enemy were 20,000 yards
away, and it was hard to see more than two ships at a time.
The flagship Barham was first hit at 4.23, and about this time
punishment was no doubt also inflicted on the enemy.
After the sixteen-point turn the Fifth Battle Squadron was able
to take a more important part in the offensive, and many hard knocks
were given and received.
Sir David’s battle cruisers, still in hot action, were now
within an hours steaming of Jellicoe’s fleet, the two leading ships of
the Fifth Battle Squadron, Barham and Valiant, were helping by firing
upon the German battle cruisers, while Warspite and Malaya were engaging
the enemy’s main fleet. The
light cruiser Fearless, with the First Flotilla, was leading the whole
fleet, and Champion, with the Thirteenth Destroyer Flotilla Squadron,
had gone ahead of Admiral Evan Thomas’s heavy ships.
The First and Third Light Cruiser Squadrons were in position on
Sir David’s starboard bow, whilst Commodore Goodenough was on his port
Clouds and smoke became very thick towards the enemy, who was
running right before the wind. The
mists behind him were variable, at times so dense that while at 14,000
yards the German ships were very instinct, on the contrary the British
showed up dark against the afternoon light.
This enabled the German gunners to continue firing, even though
the British flagship and her consorts were sometimes obliged to stop
owing to the haze.
Lion a little later, owing to a slight improvement in the
weather, got off some fifteen salvos, and at the same time her course
was gradually altered towards the enemy, changing from N.N.E. to N.E.
She was now approaching the Battle Fleet, and it was important
that she could conform to the movements ordered by Sir John Jellicoe.
For a moment it is interesting here to break the narrative by
giving the personal impressions of a midshipman who was in the fight. In a great sea battle only about a score of either officers
or men see anything of the real progress, but if the reader can fancy
himself a midshipman of a turret on board a battle cruiser he will
probably accept the following as a true experience:
You are going down to the gun room about tea-time, when suddenly
“Action stations” is sounded, and you rush up just as you are and
take your appointed place in your close by the ammunition hoists.
The two gun crews and the officers tumble up in haste and make
ready for battle, clear away and test all gear, though no one at the
moment supposes that anything more than the usual practice is in the
wind. While waiting for
further orders, word is passed that Galatea has reported that the enemy
is in sight. There will be
no crimson target of scene-painter’s canvas stretched over wooden
trellis, and towed by a tug. This
time it is real war! The
target will not sail quietly on its way.
The target is going to hit savagely back. Half an hour after the bugle sounds you are all hard at work.
The great muzzles swing around to the port bow, right and left
guns shoot their defiance at the foe alternately.
A constant flow of ammunition is coming up the hoists, and this
is your job, your life and death, success or failure-you must give your
mind to nothing else. You
have neither gas mask nor Gieve’s waistcoat, but you must carry on,
and the work must go on without a hitch.
The noise is incessant, for besides the salvos of the heavy guns
at the 6-inch battery is bursting out at intervals with rapid fire more
trying to the ear than the crash of the great turret armament right
under you; the shells are falling all round.
If you stop for a moment and look through one of the sights of
the control cabinet you catch a glimpse of the ship ahead, all but
hidden by the mighty jets of spray which tower far above the mastheads,
the intervening water torn and tormented by the shells which have gone
wide. Smoke is pouring out
of rents in the forecastle. The
enemy has got the range at once, and the hits are falling pretty
regularly on your ship, a stolid old trainer remarking each time:
“There goes another!” just as though a 12-inch shell striking was
quite an ordinary incident. Then
one of the hydraulic cylinders suddenly gives out, owing to a fault in
the casting-quite a little thing in itself, but sufficient to place the
gun out of action, and make the crew, lately so buoyant and cheery, sick
at heart. Soon after there
is a tremendous crash, which seems as though it had stopped the ship
itself-a German shell has hit the armoured barbette a glancing blow,
flying forward, cutting cables, twisting stanchions, filling the fore
part of the ship with splinters and making a horrible mess.
After an hour of hard fighting the conflict is still of a fierce
and resolute character, but a little later on your fire begins to tell,
and the rapidity of the enemy’s shots gradually falls off-the hits
too, are fewer. It is now nearly five o’clock, and you feel the helm is
being put hard over for a sharp turn; your turret swings round and the
great guns begin fire on the starboard beam.
There is more quick firing, but in the end of the enemy’s
attack dies down again. About
an hour afterwards word is passed to the turret that the Battle Fleet is
sighted, the firing continues slowly.
After a long spell comes twilight.
The yelling of the shells grows and more intermittent as the mist
increases, the last being fired about ten.
The guns are now practically horizontal, as the range is only two
miles. After a further
period of waiting some of the crew are allowed to leave the turret to
collect food for their comrades. You
may go for a moment to the wardroom to try to find something to eat.
Working your way aft along the 6-inch batteries in semi-darkness,
for the lights are all out, you tumble over mess tables and gear all
heaped and smashed. Water
is washing about and cordite fumes are everywhere.
You are told that the midshipman of Q turret has been killed by a
shell striking the roof, that one man was blown right under his gun,
that at the same moment the elevating wheel turned and the gun crushed
him. There are dead men in
the ammunition passages, and shells coming through a warrant officer’s
cabin have killed a whole party.
You find some of the wardroom officers black and filthy, eating
raw onions and biscuit and drinking cocoa, and then you work back
through the litter to your turret, with biscuits and a thermos flask.
You are dead tired, and try to get some on the top of a shell
bin. Distant firing is
still going on astern, but you are very weary and the long night slowly
wears away uncomfortably.
The grey morning light as it breaks slowly, shows the guns crews
haggard, with drawn faces, and unspeakably dirty.
A signal has been received-“Take station astern of Battle
Fleet.” You are still at
action stations and only one or two may steal away to try to get
breakfast. The gunroom is in an awful mess; a shell has burst beneath,
starting a fire, and the whole place is flooded.
Schoolbooks are floating about in four inches of water, and
everything in the way of loose fittings is smashed.
The gallery is all right tough, and cook has some boiled eggs and
tea. He has momentarily
reached the height of his popularity.
Afterwards, the crews are fallen out and begin to clear the
dreadful chaos and collect souvenirs.
Their eagerness for material mementos sounds cold blooded, but
such an instinct inevitably follows a crisis.
It is possible now to see the damage done.
Some of the escapes seem miraculous.
One big shell has burst below, and a splinter has stopped right
against the main steam-pipe. Another
striking abreast of B turret was going straight for A and B magazines.
It was stopped by the flour store, and the oil fuel tank.
Oil mixed with flour and water makes a nasty mixture, and the
bits of bulkheads and the mess from many wrecked cabins stick out of the
After hard work there is a service on the quarterdeck, when bits
of men and bodies so mangled as to be unrecognisable are buried, sewn up
in canvas. The rest of the
dead are lying cold and still, in rows on one side of the deck, hidden
behind a screen. War is a
Let us now turn to the forces under Sir John Jellicoe, at this
moment doing their utmost to throw their weight into the scale.
Rear Admiral Hood, who was in command of the famous battle
cruisers Invincible, Inflexible and Indomitable, received orders to
reinforce Sir David Beatty. He
rushed at full speed in line ahead on a southerly course, screened by
the light cruiser Canterbury five miles ahead, with destroyers Shark,
Christopher, Ophelia and Acasta. Chester,
another light cruiser, was scouting towards the enemy.
The haze seemed very patchy; at one moment ships could be seen at
16,000 yards, at another at only 2,000 yards.
The sound of heavy firing could be plainly heard in the sou-west.
Chester turned towards the detonations and soon afterwards made
out on her starboard bow a three-funnelled light cruiser with one or two
received no reply to her searchlight flashes, and turned towards the
west, judging the strangers to be enemies in stronger force than she
could judiciously tackle.
As Chester neared the strangers she prudently steered towards the
north, bringing the enemy craft well abaft her port beam to present a
less favourable target for torpedo attacks.
The enemy at once opened fire, and at the same time two more
light cruisers appeared out of the mist astern.
Captain Lawson at once altered course to the northeast and
steamed as fast as he could for the protection off the Third Battle
Cruiser Squadron. The fight that followed was terribly unequal.
The enemy’s fourth salvo put No. 1 gun on Chester’s port side
out of action, killing or wounding a large proportion of the crews at
No. 2 and 3 guns. In
nineteen minutes thirty-one men had been killed and fifty wounded.
The fire control circuits became disabled, and four shells struck
close to the water line. It was here that Jack Cornwall, a boy rated first class
though but little over sixteen was mortally wounded early in the action.
He stayed at his post with the pads on his ears heroically
waiting for orders though all the rest of the gun’s crews were killed.
A Victoria Cross appreciation of his courage was given
posthumously. The drawing
shows the light cruiser in action heavily engaged by the three Germans.
She is steaming at full speed in zigzags, trying to confuse the
control of the German fire.
Soon after the battle cruisers came upon the scene, and
Rear-Admiral Hood rushed his ships in between Chester and her German
foes. The enemy did not
wait, turning away in a hurry, discharged his torpedoes at the advancing
British ships. The tracks
of five torpedoes were seen afterwards.
Inflexible turned to port to avoid them, while Invincible and
Indomitable turned to starboard. Three passed too near to be pleasant, and one even ran within
twenty yards. In the haze
other German light cruisers, with a large force of destroyers, showed up
astern of the first three, trying by overwhelming force to push through.
Shark, Acasta, Ophelia and Christopher were the destroyers, which
formed the submarine screen of the Third Battle Cruiser Squadron.
They had been left when Invincible made her turn and now sighted
the new enemy. Commander
Loftus Jones did not reckon the odds against him.
He saw that the light cruisers and destroyers were enemies, and
engaged without hesitation. The
Germans poured in a devastating fire, and both Shark and Acasta were
very badly damaged. Many of
the crew were killed and wounded, and when three more enemies steamed
out of the haze and opened fire Shark’s position appeared desperate.
Lieut. -Commander Barron, wishing to tow his unfortunate leader,
brought Acasta alongside, but Loftus Jones, who had been wounded,
declining to risk another destroyer, ordered Acasta away.
Shark now lay a helpless wreck upon the water, target for all the
German light cruisers and destroyers. The
captain was helping to keep the only undamaged gun in action. The last torpedo was being placed in the tube when a shell
bit it, and a tremendous explosion spread death and destruction far and
wide. The action was far
too unequal to last, though the gallant officers and men continued to
fire their gun. Yet another
shell wounded Loftus Jones, taking off his right leg, but he continued
to direct the fire. As the
enemy came nearer-and it seemed possible that is ship might be
captured-he gave orders that she should be sunk.
The only gun was still in action, however, and so the order was
countermanded, the gallant crew fighting until Shark was at last struck
by two torpedoes and sank with immortal glory, her colours flying
triumphantly to the last. Next
morning a Danish merchant steamer picked up six survivors.
In view of the splendid defence made, those men awarded the
Distinguished Service Medal. Here
are their names: W. C. R. Griffin, petty officer; C. Fillend, stoker
petty officer; C. C. Hope, A.B.; C. H. Smith, A. B. ; T. O. G. Howell,
A. B. ; T. W. Swan, stoker. A
posthumous Victoria Cross was given to Loftus Jones, their unconquerable
commander. All these names
will remain indelible on the scroll of England’s long fame at sea.
The Third Light Cruiser Squadron, commanded by Rear-Admiral
Napier, now made a torpedo attack on the five German battle Cruisers,
which still in the mists continued to lead the enemy’s line.
A heavy explosion under water was felt, and it was thought at the
time that one of the torpedoes had struck home.
We left Rear-Admiral Hood dodging the torpedoes of the German
light cruisers. Shortly
afterwards he sighted Lion and the First Battle Cruiser Squadron.
He turned to take his station ahead of Sir David.
A very sharp action was at once begun with the German battle
cruisers at a range of only 8,000 yards.
In the middle of the battle Admiral Hood, who was on the bridge
with his Flag Captain, hailed his gunnery officer, Dannreuther, in the
fire control, saying: “Your firing is very good.
Keep at it as quickly as you can; every shot is telling.”
Only four minutes afterwards a German salvo Invincible on Q
turret. The enemy must have
been using delay-action fuses, for the shells burst inside.
Commander Dannreuther saw the roof of the turret blown right off.
The burning cordite reached the magazine, and a tremendous
explosion rent the unfortunate ship in half.
Officers who were present say that in the great brown-grey cloud
of smoke they saw a picket-boat flung hundreds of fleet of feet into the
air with quantities of other wreckage.
The whole of the amidships of Invincible was blown away, but for
a long time afterwards her two ends stuck out of the sea like half-tide
rocks, grim and awful in their separation.
Many who saw them did not understand at first what they were; an
officer in Benbow, who passed the wreck at 6.56, said he thought it
might be a Zeppelin. Later
he saw the red paint and black topping, with a yardarm group over the
stern, then, terrible to relate, the name Invincible.
A destroyer was standing by picking up men still afloat, and a
large quantity of wreckage drifted on the offside.
Badger saved Commander Dannreuther, another officer and four
Rear Admiral the Hon. Horace Hood ranked as one of the most
promising of the younger flag officers.
He had greatly distinguished himself on the Belgian coast in the
early part of the war, and his death was a great loss to the Royal Navy.
His memory remains honoured and untarnished.
Inflexible now led the line, and as soon as the wreck had been
passed she altered course two points towards the enemy, again lost in
the mist. Later on there
was a still further turn, but a 6.50 Sir David signalled to the two
battle cruisers to take station astern of New Zealand.
At five o’clock Admiral Jellicoe’s advanced cruiser line,
which was commanded by Rear Admiral Heath, was about sixteen miles ahead
of the main battle fleet, and owing to the haze, the cruisers on the
western flank had closed in. Admiral
Hood’s battle cruisers should have been at this time about sixteen
miles east of the advanced cruiser line, but the course of the
“Invincible” was more to the southward, and they were running quite
five knots faster. The
result was that, when the sound of firing reached Admiral Heath’s
ships he saw three battle cruisers steaming to the westward.
Just as he was about to open fire on the British ships Invincible
providentially returned his challenge.
The battle cruisers had rushed in between the advanced line and
Let us now turn to Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot, commanding
four armoured cruisers. Warrior
followed his flagship, Defence, to the eastward.
Duke of Edinburgh and Black Prince formed another line to
starboard; both columns steered to the southeast.
At 3.47 Sir Robert sighted on his starboard bow three of four
German light cruisers. Turning
three points to port, he brought them abeam.
Both the British cruisers fired three salvos the nearest enemy, a
three-funnelled cruiser, but all the shots fell short.
The Sir Robert altered course to port, bringing the fore ahead.
The German vessel was soon much nearer, and the cruisers, half
hidden in mist, turned and opened fire, the shots falling all about the
British ships. Lion and the
First Battle Cruiser Squadron appeared to starboard, still engaged with
the enemy they had been fighting all the afternoon, steaming at high
speed and showing clearly by their battered condition what an ordeal
they had gone through. Lion’s
middle turret had the roof off; fires were burning forward in the port
battery and the funnels were badly riddled, but Sir David had kept his
bridge all through the action.
On board Princess Royal a heavy shell had struck the after
barbette, causing the guns to drop their muzzles forlornly on the deck.
Great columns of tawny smoke continued to belch from the long
muzzles of the other guns with the brilliant, ruddy cordite flames at
Sir Robert took his two cruisers right across the bows of Lion,
so close, indeed, that Capta8n Chatfield star boarded his helm to clear
The positions of the ships are illustrated on p. 141 as they
appeared a few moments afterwards.
Defence and Warrior were now under fire from the German battle
cruisers beyond the mist. Both
Sir Robert’s ships were punishing the tiny Wiesbaden-now in great
distress, listing over and down by the head, but gallantly firing a
solitary gun. Shortly after
six the enemy obtained a clear view of the British ships, sharply
defined against the evening light.
Defence was hit by two salvos fired in quick succession.
The effect was instantaneous.
Her magazine exploded with tremendous violence.
There were no survivors. Fire
seemed to run along from the explosion in each end of the ship and to
meet in the middle. In a moment she simply disappeared.
Warrior, in following, had received the concentrated fire of the
enemy; great 12-inches shells rained upon her without cessation.
Her engineer-Commander afterwards gave a graphic description of
the scene below. All
through her commission he had been gradually working the engines up to
do better and better. On
the morning of the battle he succeeded in making them run more smoothly
than they had ever done before. Never
had the old ship been driven so fast.
Then came the German shells, smashing and rending everything.
The Engineer-Commander’s feelings were of rage and fury. His splendid charges, on which he had lavished so much loving
care, lay fractured and mutilated by flying fragments of steel.
It was unthinkable.
At this moment a heavy shell came hurtling through the port
engine room grating. It
passed through the fore and aft bulkhead into the starboard engine room,
and then without bursting, through the ships side out into the sea.
The catastrophe was overwhelming.
In a moment the starboard engine room was full of cold, green
water, which spouted through the shell hole in the fore and aft
bulkhead, rapidly filling up the port engine room.
“Shall I stop the engines, sir?” cried a leading stoker.
“No, no! Leave
them running!” came the answer. The
Engineer-Commander was grasped by the collar, and a burly stoker helped
him on to the cylinder cover, where, with the water up to his neck, he
could hold on to the engine room grating.
On the deck above a savage fire raged among offices and cabins.
Bright flames licking the paintwork; smoke hung everywhere.
The stoker helped each other along to the shell hole in the
grating, through which they painfully climbed, choked and half blinded
by the fumes. Water washed
about the deck; the dead lay huddled in the corners. It is better to draw a veil over what happened to the
unfortunate men in the starboard engine room, caged between fire and
water. War is ghastly
tragedy, though it calls forth the heroism of men.
Warrior, crippled and confused, turned away westward; though a
perfect wreck, her engines were still running.
She soon found herself close to Sir Evan Thomas’s four
battleships, which had just been ordered to take astern of Agincourt.
The ships of the Fifth Battle Squadron put their helms a
starboard to carry out the order, but they were still under heavy fire,
and for some reason or other the steaming gear of Warspite, the last but
one in the line, jammed, and she continued under starboard helm, turning
circles in the middle of the battle.
The Germans sent many salvos at her, and fires were started and
great damage done, water pouring into her after compartments.
The picture opposite shows the position of the two ships, Warrior
crawling out of action and Warspite perforce still waltzing in the midst
of the shell splashes. Warrior
was no doubt lucky in meeting Warspite, for the great battleship
attracted to her the attention of the German gunners.
There is, of course, no truth in the stories, which appeared in
the newspapers at the time claiming that Warspite went out of her way to
protect the wounded Warrior.
Continuing to creep towards the west, the battered armoured
cruiser was sighted by the seaplane carrier Engadine.
The latter was soon alongside getting wire hawers ready for
towing. All through the
night the gallant little excursion boat continued to tow Warrior towards
a British port. On the
morning of June 1st the pair had reached Lat. 57.18 North,
Long. 3.54 E., but now weather began.
Warrior put her quarter into the waves with every roll and
wallowed in a way, which suggested that she might turn on her side at
any moment. There is a very
marked peculiarity in the lurch of a waterlogged ship, which is
disconcerting. A council
was held, and it was decided to abandon the ship.
Luckily, Engadine was fitted with a very rubbing strakes-a relic
of the days when she carried trippers.
In spite of the rising swell, Lieut skilfully brought her
alongside. -Commander C. J. Robinson, and the large number of wounded
men were gradually transferred. Unfortunately
one of the cases-a seamen who had both legs amputated-was dropped into
the sea between the two ships. Without
waiting a moment, one of Engadine’s pilots-Rutland-jumped in at
tremendous risk and rescued the poor soul.
There can be no doubt that the abandoned Warrior must have sunk
during the night. Many
ships were sent to search for her but found no trace.
An officer of the First Battle Cruiser Squadron has stated that
Engadine, in spite of her unsightly hangar aft, was most efficient and
always at hand when wanted. When
orders came for Beatty’s vessels to leave Rosyth before the battle the
ship was lying with her two cables twisted in a hopeless muddle, for
mooring swivels are not supplied to seaplane carriers.
One officer at least looked at the tangle of chains as he passed,
thinking to himself: “Well, we won’t see Engadine for some time
anyhow.” But when the
squadron was outside Blackrock Gate there was the ex-tripper in her
appointed place ready for anything. It has been recorded how smartly her seaplane got away before
the battle and how quickly the report came in.
Briefly, with al its records of pluck and dash, this terrible
chapter draws to an end. The
tale has been one of determination and grit, of unexampled disaster and
wholesale death. The broad
facts stand out clearly. Six
of our British cruisers and four battleships of our most powerful type
engaged five German battle cruisers at long range for two hours.
The weight of metal was all on our side.
The battle cruisers carried 13.5- and 12-inch guns and the Fifth
Battle Squadron 15-inch guns. Germans
were armed with 11- and 12-inch guns only.
They were hammered for an hour o the run south, and during that
time they sank two or splendid battle cruisers.
The five Germans were still afloat and full of fight when the
German Battle Fleet appeared in support.
On the run north the combat still raged.
Five battle cruisers were leading the German line and taking all
the hard knocks, though the flagship Lutzow was so much damaged that the
Admiral was obliged to transfer his flag, while Seydlitz was in little
better state. Then two more
of our ships, armoured cruisers of older pattern, rushed to attack.
One was sunk at once with all hands and the other so mauled that
she had to be abandoned. When
three more British battle cruisers made an attack from the north, the
foe turned to the east and sank one of them.
No doubt the German Battle Fleet helped considerably during the
latter part of the fighting, but when the rival Battle Fleets at last
got into distant touch with each other three at least of the five German
battle cruisers which began the action with so much spirit were still in
fighting trim, though severely knocked about.
Their shooting was wild. We
have at present no means of knowing what was the state of moral on
board. It was suggested at
the time of the armistice that the hammering the Germans received off
Jutland was enough to prevent the seamen ever wishing to fight again.
It is safer, however, not to assume too much.
What we do know is that the German range finding was excellent at
the start; that the German armour was stout enough to burst our shells
outside and not inside the ships, and that the speed of the battle
cruisers was higher than had been expected.
Our ships, though faster and more heavily armed, were not
sufficiently protected by horizontal armour; besides this, when a turret
was hit the flames spread down the ammunition hoists to the magazines.
The picture opposite shows how the battle cruiser line at the
position called afterwards by our sailors “Windy Corner.”
The German van was making a gradual turn towards the east.
In the forefront of the battle is Tiger, blazing away at the high
sea fleet with all her guns. Ahead of her is Princess Royal, and beyond again Lion.
Defence and Warrior are crossing ahead of the battle cruisers,
and the destroyer Onslow is seen on the extreme right starting off to
make her gallant attack on the little light cruiser, which was called by
the men of our navy “The mad dog”!
Her German name was supposed to be Wiesbaden, though there seems
to be some doubt on this matter. Some
suppose there did many ships fire two light cruisers on. Be that as it may, Onslow sighted a light cruiser on the
starboard bow of Lion in a favourable position for a torpedo attack.
The British destroyer, without counting the odds, steamed right
at the German and engages with gunfire, at first at 4,000 and later at
2,000 yards. Onslow was
badly damaged, but she got near enough to attack with torpedoes; then a
big shell hit the destroyer. Lieut.-Commander
Turvey, D.S.O., fired all his remaining torpedoes, one at the light
cruiser and the rest at the advancing German battleships.
By this time the brave little ship’s engines were out of
action, so another destroyer, Defender, Lieut.-Commander Palmer, which
had been reduced to ten knots by a shot in the engine room, took Onslow
in tow under a heavy fire and brought her out of action.
Afterwards, in spite of bad weather, she went on towing until a
tug from England took charge. Lieut.-Commander Palmer got a D.S.O. for this act of calm
courage carried on though the towing wire parted three times during the
bad weather. In spite of
this and the reduced speed, Palmer continued to struggle homeward with
the lame duck astern.
A few incidents in the first phase of the battle may be of
interest. The descendants
of Lord Barham had presented an excellent portrait of the old Admiral to
his namesake the battleship with the proviso that the picture should not
be stored ashore but be carried into action; splinters duly wounded it.
Barham’s model stood between decks, and a shell bursting below
sent fragments in all directions. It
is a wonderful coincidence that the model of Barham was scarred as
though to scale in exactly the same places as the ship was damaged.
On board Warspite a heavy shell burst just outside the door of
the church, blowing down the door.
Everything inside was wrecked, chairs broken, splinters
everywhere. In spite of all
the ruin the crucifix was quite unhurt and still stood upon the broken
altar, though the vases on each side were knocked over and smashed to
Every incident in the battle is of supreme interest to a nation
of sea going people who for centuries have made the great surrounding
oceans of their different homes the chief element on which they build
Malaya received much damage at “Windy Corner.”
A heavy shell struck the armoured deck in the battery, bursting
inward and wrecking everything. Flames
rushed down the ammunition hoists but were providentially extinguished
before reaching the magazine. In
the battery itself, however, many charges of cordite were ready beside
the 6-inch guns, and a dreadful flame spread along from gun to gun,
burning the men as they waited for the torpedo attack.
Over sixty men were killed outright and many terribly burned.
A boy near one of the after guns, when he saw the flames rushing
down the battery, promptly rolled himself in one of the mats on which
the shells are dumped, and thus escaped unhurt.
Another heavy shell struck a glancing blow on the roof of one of
the turrets, but though the side armour was forced outward, leaving a
gap, none of the men inside received more than a shaking.
Valiant was lucky enough to go through the battle without
casualties. The doctors and
the chaplain waited below for hours, but there was nothing doing.
After the action a search was made far shell holes or splinter
marks, but none could be found. Only
when the ship went into dry dock was a dent discovered which a shell
striking under water might have caused.
One of the battles cruisers-New Zealand-was also untouched though
right in the thick of all the fighting.
Before the war, when the ship visited New Zealand some Maoris
foretold that there would be a great was and New Zealand would take part
in all the big fights but she would come through safely.
The prophecy seems to have been fulfilled.
Certain charms were presented to the ship and though she fired
four hundred and twenty rounds from her 12-inch guns she emerged sound
and uninjured from the action. As is well known, she was a present from
the patriotic New Zealanders to the British Navy.