View Full Version : The Battle of Jutland
09-08-02, 12:35 PM
The Grand Fleet
The Battle of Jutland
ON May 31st, 1916, the Grand Fleet and the High Sea Fleet fought the action which has become known as the Battle of Jutland. The despatch describing the battle, as published some weeks later, was not quite in its original form as written by me. After a conference held at the Admiralty, early in June, modifications were made : some of them because it was considered that certain passages might convey useful information to the enemy, and others because it was thought to be undesirable to draw attention to certain features of British design. Amongst the latter was the insufficiency of the armour protection of our earlier battle cruisers.
Throughout the War it had been our policy to cause our battle cruisers, with their attendant light cruisers, to occupy when at sea an advanced position, often at a considerable distance from the Battle Fleet. Battle cruisers were designed and built in order that they might keep in touch with the enemy and report his movements when he had been found; hence the heavy guns which they carried. They were intended to find the enemy for the Battle Fleet and to ascertain the enemy's strength in order to report to the Battle Fleet. Had this policy not been adopted the enemy's battle cruisers could not have been brought to action on such occasions as the engagement of January 24th, 1915. And in the cases of raids on our coast, the battle cruisers were always sent ahead at full speed to endeavour to cut off the enemy battle cruisers.
Bearing in mind our superiority in numbers in the middle of 1916 and the heavier armaments carried by our ships, the real risk involved in this policy was that of our battle cruisers being drawn on to the enemy's Battle Fleet, and one or more of our vessels being disabled. Provided that our ships were not disabled, they would, owing to their higher speed, have no difficulty in clear weather in keeping out of range of the enemy's Battle Fleet, if it were sighted, whilst still maintaining touch with it, and driving off lighter vessels. With the added support of the ships of the 5th Battle Squadron, which had been grouped with the Battle Cruiser Fleet owing to the absence of the 3rd Battle Squadron at Scapa Flow, the tactical advantage of our ships was even stronger, provided always that the 5th Battle Squadron had an excess of speed over the fastest enemy's Battle Squadron.
In these circumstances, when preparing my despatch, I had felt it necessary on the highest grounds, as well as only just to the officers and men of our battle cruisers, to give some explanation of the heavy losses incurred by our ships in the early part of the action, when we were opposing six battle cruisers (supported, though at long range, by four battleships of the "Queen Elizabeth" class, comprising the 5th Battle Squadron) to five enemy battle cruisers, which were not then supported by the German Battle Fleet. Inquiry into this matter showed that one explanation was that our ships were very inadequately protected by armour as compared with the German vessels of the battle cruiser type. It was considered undesirable to draw attention to this publicly while the War was in progress.
The relative values of protection and gun power had frequently engaged my serious attention. It was also a subject of much discussion amongst writers on naval matters, some of whom went to the length of suggesting that all available weight should be put into gun power and that ships should be left practically without armour. Their views were based on the argument that "the best defence is a powerful offensive." Although this argument is very true when applied to strategy, the War has shown its fallacy as applied to materiel. The loss of the Good Hope, Monmouth, Queen Mary, Indefatigable, Invincible, Defence, and Warrior, and the considerations to which these losses gave rise, convinced naval officers afloat, even if it did not convince others less intimately associated with the Fleet during the War, that ships with inadequate defensive qualities are no match for those which possess them to a considerably greater degree, even if the former are superior in gun power. The conviction was strengthened by the knowledge we obtained, that German ships, far more frequently hit by gunfire, torpedo, or mine than many of our ships that sank, were yet taken safely into port owing partly to their defensive qualities, but partly to the limitations of our armour-piercing shell at that time.
There has been in the past a tendency in some quarters, when comparing the relative strength of the British and German Fleets for the purpose of future provision of large vessels in the Navy Estimates, to make comparison only on the basis of the gun power of the vessels of the two Navies. Great superiority in fighting qualities on the part of the British Fleet was suggested by this blindness to other considerations. During my pre-War service at the Admiralty this question was often under discussion, and I consistently demurred to this line of argument as being very misleading, and pointed out that the true comparison lay between the displacement of the ships of the various classes, because if we assumed, as War experience has since shown that we were justified in assuming, that the German naval designers and constructors were not inferior in ability to our own, it was obvious that, taking ships of equal displacement and equal speed, and about contemporary date, if our vessels possessed superiority in gunfire, the Germans must possess superiority in some other direction. It was well known at the Admiralty that their superiority lay in greatly increased protection, combined with heavier torpedo armament.
We were also aware that the German vessels were fitted with small tube boilers, which were very economical in weight for a given horse-power, and, consequently, the German vessels obtained thereby a further advantage, the weight saved being presumably utilised in giving the ships additional protection. In other words, they adopted a different disposition of the weight available in each ship.
The tables on pp. 310-13 give particulars of the armament, protection, and displacement of the capital ships of the two Navies engaged in the Battle of Jutland, so far as they are known to me: The main facts revealed by an examination of these tables are:
1. The German ships of any particular period were of considerably greater displacement as compared with contemporary British ships.
2. The German ships carried a much greater weight of armour than their British contemporaries.
3. All German. Dreadnoughts were provided with side armour to the upper deck, whilst nine of the earliest British Dreadnoughts were provided with armour protection to the main deck only, thus rendering them far more open to artillery attack. The "Orion" class of battleship and the "Lion" class of battle cruiser, designed during my service at the Admiralty as Controller, were the first of our Dreadnoughts armoured to the upper deck.
4. The main belt and upper belt armour of the German ships was in nearly all cases thicker than in their British contemporaries, whilst the protection at the bow and stern was in all cases considerably greater in the German ships.
5. The deck protection in the German ships was usually greater than in the British vessels and the .watertight subdivision more complete. 6. The German ships carried a greater number of submerged torpedo tubes than the British vessels.
1. The earlier German battle cruisers were of greater displacement than their British contemporaries.
2. The German ships carried a greater weight of armour than their British contemporaries.
3. Five out of our nine battle cruisers were without protection above the main deck, the whole of the German vessels being provided with protection to the upper deck.
4. The German vessels possessed thicker armour in all positions, including deck protection, as well as more complete watertight subdivision.
5. The German ships carried a greater number of submerged torpedo tubes than the British ships.
As against the additional protection of the German ships our vessels of contemporary design were provided in all cases with heavier turret guns, whilst the German ships carried heavier secondary armaments.
A point of considerable interest, .which should also be mentioned because it was to prove important, was that the Germans possessed a delay-action fuse which, combined with a highly efficient armour-piercing projectile, ensured the burst of shell taking place inside the armour of British ships instead of outside, or whilst passing through the armour, which was the case with British shells of that date fired against the thick German armour.
The fuel capacity of the ships of the two Navies was not widely different, although the British ships, as a rule, were fitted to carry more fuel. Although I arranged, after the first few months of war, to reduce the amount of fuel carried by our ships very considerably—in fact, by more than 25 per cent.—I was unable to reduce it further in coal-burning ships without sacrificing some of the protection afforded by the coal, since in our case it was necessary to be prepared to do a considerable amount of steaming at high speed, involving expenditure of coal, before obtaining contact with the enemy. It would have been unwise to contemplate meeting the Germans with coal below what I 'may call the "safety line." On the other hand, it was .well known that, as the Germans had no intention of fighting an action far from their bases, they had effected a very much greater reduction in the quantity of fuel carried, with consequently a corresponding advantage in speed.
09-08-02, 12:36 PM
There was yet one other matter of great importance, namely, the vulnerability of the ships of the two Navies in regard to under-water attack. Here the Germans possessed a very real advantage, which stood them in good stead throughout the war. It arose from two causes :
1. The greater extent of the protective armour inside the ships, and in many cases its greater thickness.
2. The greater distance of this armour from the outer skin of the ship and the consequent additional protection to under-water attack afforded thereby.
In regard to the first point, the great majority of our ships only carried partial internal protection, that is, protection over a portion of the length of the ship. The protection was usually confined to the region of the magazine and shell-rooms. In the German ships it ran throughout the length of the vessel.
As to the second point, it was possible to place the protective bulkhead farther ' ' inboard ' ' in the German ships without cramping machinery and magazine spaces, because the ships themselves were of much greater beam. Consequently the explosion of a mine or a torpedo against the hull of the ship was far less likely to injure the protective bulkhead and so to admit water into the vitals of the ship than was the case with a British vessel. The result was that, although it is known that many German capital ships were mined and torpedoed during the war, including several at the Jutland battle, the Germans have not so far admitted that any were sunk, except the pre- Dreadnought battleship Pommern and the battle cruiser Lutzow, whose injuries from shell fire .were also very extensive.
On the other hand, British capital ships mined or torpedoed rarely survived. The recorded instances of escape are the Inflexible (mined in the Dardanelles) and the Marlborough (torpedoed at Jutland), and in the latter case, although the torpedo struck at about the most favourable spot for the ship, she had some difficulty in reaching port.
The question will be asked why it was that British ships were under this disadvantage. The reply is that the whole of our Dreadnought battleships designed before the War were hampered by the absence of proper dock accommodation. The German Emperor once remarked to me at Kiel on this subject, that we had made the mistake of building our ships before we had proper dock accommodation for them, whilst in Germany they had provided the dock accommodation first and had designed the ships subsequently. He was quite right, although, since docks took a long time to construct, the German policy involved delay in shipbuilding, whereas we got ships of a type, and hence our margin of superiority in 1914. As each successive type of Dreadnought was designed, our constructive staff were faced with the fact that if they went beyond a certain beam the number of docks available would be insufficient; and to obtain money with which to construct adequate docks was always a matter of difficulty. Docks make no appeal to the imagination of the public and cost a great deal of money. The result was that August, 1914, found us with a superiority in ships, but woefully lacking in dock accommodation ; and for this reason alone a Fleet action early in the War, resulting in considerable damage to heavy ships, would have produced embarrassing results.
It is only just to our very able constructive staff at the Admiralty to point this out ; it was one of the reasons which led to the German ships being much better equipped to withstand under-water attack than were our own. It is devoutly to be hoped that this lesson will be borne in mind in the future, and adequate dock accommodation provided for the Fleet.
The matter is one of which I have considerable personal knowledge, since it came within my province as Controller in 1909-11 and was also given to me to examine .whilst Second Sea Lord in 1913. It is needless to say that on both occasions the necessities were pointed out with emphasis. These remarks are not out of place, as will be shown, as an introduction to a consideration of the Battle of Jutland, if that action is to be rightly judged.
In following the proceedings of the Fleet it is essential to bear in mind that the time of receipt of signals, especially of reports emanating from the bridge of a ship, is not a true indication of the time at which the officer making the report began his task. A varying but considerable interval is bound to elapse; this includes the time taken to write out the report, transmit it to the wireless office or signal bridge, code it, signal it, decode it on board the receiving ship, write it out and transmit it to the bridge. The interval is greater with wireless than with visual signals.
09-08-02, 12:39 PM
I.—THE BATTLE CRUISER FLEET'S ACTION
The Grand Fleet put to sea on May 30th for the purpose of carrying out one of its periodical sweeps in the North Sea. The orders from me under which the Fleet acted were as follows :
Vice-Admiral Sir Martyn Jerram, with the 2nd Battle Squadron from Cromarty, was directed to pass through a position in Lat. 58.15 N., Long. 2.0 E., and to meet the remainder of the Battle Fleet at 2 p.m. on the 31st at position (A) in Lat. 57.45 N., Long. 4.15 E.
Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty, with the Battle Cruiser Fleet and the 5th Battle Squadron, was directed to proceed to a position in Lat. 56.40 N., Long. 5 E., economising fuel in the destroyers as much as possible; it was expected that he would be in that position by about 2 P.M. on the 31st, after which he was directed to stand to the northward to get into visual touch with the Battle Fleet.
The Iron Duke and the 1st and 4th Battle Squadrons, together with the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, and the newly commissioned light cruisers Chester and Canterbury, which had been carrying out gunnery and torpedo practices at Scapa, left that base during the evening of May 30th, and proceeded towards position (A), Lat. 57.45 N., Long. 4.15 E., having met the 2nd Battle Squadron en route at 11.15 A.M. in Lat. 58.13 N., Long. 2.42 E. Sir David Beatty had been informed before sailing that the Battle Fleet would steer towards the Horn Reef from the position in Lat. 57.45 N., Long. 4.15 E.
At 2 P.M. on May 31st the Battle Fleet was about 18 miles to the north-westward of the position (A), being actually in Lat. 57.57 N., Long. 3.45 E., in organisation No. 5. The Fleet had been slightly delayed to enable the usual and necessary practice of examining trawlers and other vessels met with en route to be carried out without causing the examining vessels to expend unnecessary fuel in regaining station. We had to be on our guard against disguised enemy scouts. The divisions were in line ahead disposed abeam to starboard in the order: lst-6th Divisions (screened by the 4th, 11th, and 12th Flotillas) with the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron, three miles ahead of the Battle Fleet. The cruisers, with one destroyer to each cruiser, were stationed 16 miles ahead of the Battle Fleet, spread six miles apart on a line of direction N. 40 E. and S. 40 W. ;the cruisers being eight miles apart and their positions being in the order from cast to west :
Cochrane Shannon Minotaur Defence Duke of Edinburgh Black Prince
Hampshire (linking ship 6 miles astern of the Minotaur)
The attached cruisers, the Active, Boadicea, Blanche, and Bellona, were on the flanks of the Battle Fleet, and the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, with the light cruisers Chester and Canterbury, about 20 miles ahead, the whole steering S. 50 E., and zigzagging, the speed of advance being 14 knots.
The disposition of the Battle Fleet is shown below :
Line of Advance.
1st Div. 2nd Div 3rd Div. 4th Div. 5th Div. 6th Div.
Iron Duke (F.F.)
It may be added in further explanation that the flagships of the Battle Fleet were:
Iron Duke, Fleet-Flagship.—Flag of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe (Commander-in-Chief).
King George V.—Flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir M. Jerram, Commanding 2nd Battle Squadron.
Orion.—Flagship of Rear-Admiral A. C. Leveson, Rear-Admiral in the 2nd Battle Squadron.
Superb.—Flagship of Rear-Admiral A. L. Duff, Rear- Admiral in the 4th Battle Squadron.
Benbow.—Flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee, Commanding the 4th Battle Squadron.
Colossus.—Flagship of Rear-Admiral E.- F. A. Gaunt, Rear-Admiral in the 1st Battle Squadron.
Marlborough.—Flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir Cecil Burney, Commanding 1st Battle Squadron and second in command of the Grand Fleet.
The Battle Cruiser Fleet and 5th Battle Squadron, with destroyers, were at 2 P.M. in Lat. 56.46 N., Long. 4.40 E., and had turned to the northward, steering N. by E., .speed 19 1/2 knots, in the order :
The Lion and 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron in single line ahead, screened by the light cruiser Champion and 10 destroyers of the 13th Flotilla, with the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron in single line ahead three miles E.N.E. of the Lion, screened by six destroyers. The 5th Battle Squadron, in single line ahead, was five miles N.N.W. of the Lion, being screened by the light cruiser Fearless and nine destroyers of the 1st Flotilla. The Light Cruiser Squadrons formed a screen eight miles S.S.E. from the Lion, ships spread on a line of direction E.N.E. and W.S.W., five miles apart in the order from west to east :
2nd Light Cruiser Squadron. 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron. 1st Light Cruiser Squadron
Southampton (F.) Nottingham Falmouth (F.) Inconstant Galatea (F.)
Birmingham Dublin Gloucester Cordelia Phaeton
It should be added that the flagships were :
Lion.—Battle Cruiser Fleet-Flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty.
Princess Royal.—Flagship of Rear-Admiral 0. de B. Brock, commanding 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron.
New Zealand.—Flagship of Rear-Admiral W. Pakenham, commanding 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron.
Barham.—Flagship of Rear-Admiral H. Evan-Thomas, commanding 5th Battle Squadron.
The Engadine, a sea-plane carrier, was stationed between the light cruisers Gloucester and Cordelia, and the light cruiser Yarmouth acted as linking ship between the Lion and the light cruiser screen.
The first report of enemy vessels was received from the Galatea, the flagship of Commodore E. S. Alexander- Sinclair, commanding the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, who, at 2.20 P.M., sighted two enemy vessels to the E.S.E. apparently stopped and engaged in boarding a neutral steamer. Sir David Beatty, recognising the possibilities of the situation, immediately turned his fleet to the S.S.E., the course for the Horn Reef, so as to get between the enemy and his base.
At 2.35 P.M. the Galatea reported a large amount of smoke " as from a fleet " bearing E.N.E., followed by a report that the vessels were steering north. The course of the Battle Cruiser Fleet was then altered to the eastward and N.E. towards the smoke, the enemy being sighted at 3.31 P.M. and identified as five battle cruisers accompanied by destroyers.
Meanwhile the 1st and 3rd Light Cruiser Squadrons- changed their direction, and, judging the situation accurately, spread to the east without waiting for orders, forming a screen in advance of the heavy ships. Our Light Cruisers sighted and engaged enemy vessels of a similar class at long range. The 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, under Commodore W. E. Goodenough, with his broad pendant in the Southampton, came in at high speed towards the battle cruisers and formed ahead of them on an E.S.E. course, and at 3.30 P.M. sighted enemy battle cruisers bearing E.N.E,
On receipt of the Galatea's report, Sir David Beatty ordered the Engadine to send up a sea-plane to scout to the N.N.E. This was the first time that sea-planes had been used for reconnaissance work with a fleet in an action, and the event is notable for that reason. The low-lying clouds made observation difficult, but the seaplane, with Flight-Lieutenant F. S. Rutland R.N., as pilot, and Assistant Paymaster G. S. Trewin, R.N., as observer, was able, by flying low under the clouds, to identify and report four enemy light cruisers, the report being received on board the Lion at 3.30 P.M. The sea-plane was under heavy fire from the light cruisers during the observation. By this time the line of battle was being formed, the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron forming astern of the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, with the destroyers of the 9th and 13th Flotillas taking station ahead. The course was E.S.E., slightly converging on the enemy, the speed 25 knots, and the range 23,000 yards. Sir David Beatty formed his ships on a line of bearing in order to clear the smoke.
The 5th Battle Squadron, which had conformed to the movements of the Battle Cruiser Fleet, was now bearing N.N.W., distant 10,000 yards; the .weather was favourable, the sun being behind our ships, the wind S.E., and the visibility good.
Meanwhile the wireless reports from the Galatea to the Lion had been intercepted on board the Iron Duke, and directions were at once given to the Battle Fleet to raise steam for full speed, the ships being at the time at short notice for full speed. The cruisers had been ordered to raise steam for full speed earlier. At 3.10 P.M. the Battle Fleet was ordered to prepare for action, and at 3.30 P.M. I directed Flag Officers of Divisions to inform their ships of the situation. The earliest reports from the Galatea had indicated the presence of light cruisers and destroyers only, and my first impression was that these vessels, on sighting the British force, would endeavour to escape via the Skagerrak, as they were to the eastward of our vessels and were consequently not in so much danger of being cut off as if they turned to the southward. The 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, which was well placed for cutting the enemy off, had the anticipated move taken place, was ordered to frustrate any such intention ; but at 4 P.M. , on the receipt of the information of the presence of enemy battle cruisers, it was directed to reinforce Sir David Beatty. About 3.40 P.M. I received a report from Sir David Beatty that he had sighted five battle cruisers and a number of destroyers, and he also gave his position.
09-08-02, 12:41 PM
As soon as the presence of hostile battle cruisers was reported, course was altered in the Battle Fleet to close our battle cruisers, and speed increased as rapidly as possible. By 4 P.M. the "Fleet speed" was 20 knots, being higher than had previously been obtained. Zig- zagging was abandoned on receipt of the Galatea's first report. The battleships were also directed to keep clear of the wake of the next ahead in order to prevent loss of speed from the wash.
At 3.48 P.M. the action between the battle cruisers began at a range of about 18,500 yards, fire being opened by the two forces practically simultaneously. At the commencement the fire from the German vessels was rapid and accurate, the Lion being hit twice three minutes after fire was opened, and the Lion, Tiger, and Princess Royal all receiving several hits by 4 P.M. ; observers on board our own ships were of opinion that our fire was also effective at that stage.
At about 4 P.M. it was evident by the accuracy of the enemy's fire that he had obtained the range of our ships, which was then about 16,000 yards. The enemy bore well abaft the beam, and course was altered slightly to the southward to confuse his fire control. Course was altered two or three times subsequently for the same purpose. The German ships frequently zigzagged for the purpose of confusing our fire control.
At this period the fire of the enemy's ships was very rapid and accurate; the Lion received several hits, the roof of one of her turrets being blown off at 4 P.M. At about 4.6 P.M. the Indefatigable was hit, approximately at the outer edge of the upper deck level in line with the after turret, by several projectiles of one salvo; an explosion followed (evidently that of a magazine) and the ship fell out of the line, sinking by the stern. She was again hit by another salvo forward, turned over and sank.
About this time (4.8 P.M.) the 5th Battle Squadron came into action, opening fire at a range between 19,000 and 20,000 yards. This slower squadron was some distance astern of the battle cruisers and, by reason partly of the smoke of the ships ahead of the enemy vessels and partly of the light to the eastward having become less favourable, difficulty was experienced in seeing the targets, not more than two ships being visible at a time. At 4.12 P.M. the range of the enemy's battle cruisers from our own was about 23,000 yards, and course was altered from S.S.E. to S.E. to close the enemy. Fire had slackened owing to the increase in range.
The tracks of torpedoes were now reported as crossing the line of our battle cruisers, and reports of sighting the periscopes of enemy submarines were also made by more than one ship.
09-08-02, 12:43 PM
In accordance with the general directions given by Sir David Beatty to the destroyers to attack when a favourable opportunity occurred, the Nestor, Nomad, Nicator, Narborough, Pelican, Petard, Obdurate, Nerissa, Moorsom, Morris, Turbulent and Termagent moved out at 4.15 P.M.; at the same time a similar movement took place on the part of an enemy force of one light cruiser and 15 destroyers. Both sides first steered to reach an advantageous position at the van of the opposing battle cruiser lines from which to deliver their attack, and then turned to the northward to attack. A fierce engagement at close quarters between the light forces resulted, and the enemy lost two destroyers, sunk by our vessels, and, in addition, his torpedo attack was partially frustrated; some torpedoes were fired by the enemy, two of which crossed the track of the 5th Battle Squadron, which had been turned away to avoid the attack.
During this action, .which reflected the greatest credit on our destroyers, several of our attacking vessels, owing to their having dropped back towards the rear of our line, .were not in a good position to attack the enemy's battle cruisers with torpedoes. The Nestor, Nomad, and Nicator, most gallantly led by Commander the Hon. E. B. S. Bingham in the Nestor, were able to press home their attack, causing the' 'enemy's battle cruisers to turn away to avoid their torpedoes. The Nomad was damaged and forced to haul out of line before getting within torpedo range of the battle cruisers, but the Nestor and Nicator succeeded in firing torpedoes at the battle cruisers under a heavy fire from the German secondary armaments. The Nestor was then hit, badly damaged by the fire of a light cruiser, and remained stopped between the lines. She was sunk later by the German Battle Fleet when that force appeared 'on the scene, but not before she had fired her last torpedo at the approaching ships. The Nomad was also sunk by the German Battle Fleet as it came up, but this vessel also fired her torpedoes at the fleet as it approached. In both these destroyers the utmost gallantry in most trying circumstances was shown by the officers and men. It is gratifying to record that a considerable proportion of the ships' companies of these destroyers was picked up by German destroyers as the German Battle Fleet passed the scene. After completing her attack upon the battle cruisers, the Nicator was able to rejoin her flotilla. The Moorsom also attacked the enemy's Battle Fleet and returned. In the meantime, the Petard, Nerissa, Turbulent and Termagent succeeded in firing torpedoes at long range (7,000 yards) at the enemy's battle cruisers. For his gallantry on the occasion of this destroyer attack Commander the Hon. E. B. S. Bingham, who was rescued from the Nestor and taken prisoner by the Germans, received the Victoria Cross.
Meanwhile the engagement between the heavy ships had become very fierce, and the effect on the enemy battle cruisers began to be noticeable, the third ship in the line being observed to be on fire at 4.18 P.M., .whilst our ships of the 5th Battle Squadron were also inflicting and receiving some punishment. The accuracy and rapidity of the fire from the enemy's vessels was deteriorating at this period; our own ships were much handicapped by the decreasing visibility, due partly to the use by the enemy of smoke screens, under cover of .which he altered course to throw out our fire.
The flagship Barham, of the 5th Battle Squadron, received her first hit at 4.23 P.M.
At about 4.26 P.M. a second disaster befell the British battle cruisers. A salvo fired from one of the enemy's battle cruisers hit the Queen Mary abreast of " Q " turret and a terrific explosion resulted, evidently caused by a magazine blowing up. The Tiger, which .was following close astern of the Queen Mary, passed through the dense cloud of smoke caused by the explosion, and a great deal of material fell on her decks, but otherwise the Queen Mary had completely vanished. A few survivors from this ship and from the Indefatigable were afterwards rescued by our destroyers. The loss of these two fine ships with their splendid ships' companies was a heavy blow to the Battle Cruiser Fleet, the instantaneous nature of the disaster adding to its magnitude.
At 4.38 P.M. Commodore Goodenough, in the Southampton, Flagship of the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, .which had been scouting ahead of the battle cruisers, reported that the enemy's Battle Fleet was in sight bearing S.E., and steering to the northward, and gave its position. Sir David Beatty recalled his destroyers, and on sighting the Battle Fleet at 4.42 P.M. turned the battle cruisers 16 points in succession to .starboard. This movement was followed by the enemy's battle cruisers, and Sir David Beatty directed Rear-Admiral Evan-Thomas to turn his ships in succession 16 points to starboard. Commodore Goodenough led the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron to a favourable position from which to observe the movements of the enemy's Battle Fleet, .within 13,000 yards range of the heavy ships, and, in spite of a very heavy fire, clung tenaciously to these ships and forwarded several reports of their position and movements; the skilful manner in which the Commodore, aided by his captains, handled the squadron under this fire undoubtedly saved the ships from heavy loss. Owing to the constant manoeuvring of the ships of the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron during the engagement, the position of the Southampton, as obtained by reckoning, was somewhat inaccurate, as was to be expected. This fact detracted from the value of the reports to me, the position of the enemy by latitude and longitude, as reported from time to time to the Iron Duke, being consequently incorrect. The discrepancy added greatly to the difficulty experienced in ascertaining the correct moment at which to deploy the Battle Fleet, the flank on which to deploy, and the direction of deployment. Such discrepancies are, however, inevitable under the conditions.
The necessary move of the battle cruisers to the southward in their pursuit of the enemy, at a speed considerably in excess of that which the Battle Fleet could attain, resulted in opening the distance between the two forces, so that at the time of the turn of Sir David Beatty's force to the northward, the Iron Duke and the Lion were over 50 miles apart, and closing at a rate of about 45 miles per hour.
As soon as the position of the Lion was known after the receipt of the report of enemy battle cruisers being in sight, Rear-Admiral the Hon. H. S. Hood was directed to proceed immediately to reinforce Sir David Beatty's force, whose position, course and speed was signalled to the Rear-Admiral. The latter officer reported his own position and gave his course and speed as S. S.E., 25 knots. At the same time the Battle Fleet was informed that our battle cruisers were in action .with the enemy's battle cruisers, and an inquiry was addressed to Rear-Admiral Evan-Thomas to ascertain whether be was in company with Sir David Beatty, a reply in the affirmative being received, with a report that his squadron was in action.
At this time I was confident that, under the determined leadership of Sir David Beatty, with a force of four of our best and fastest battleships and six battle cruisers, very serious injury would be inflicted on the five battle cruisers of the enemy if they could be kept within range.
The report of the presence of the German Battle Fleet, which was communicated to our Battle Fleet, did not cause me any uneasiness in respect of the safety of our own vessels, since our ships of the 5th Battle Squadron were credited with a speed of 25 knots. I did not, however, expect that they would be able to exceed a speed of 24 knots; the information furnished to me at this time gave the designed speed of the fastest German battleships as 20.5 knots only. Even after making full allowance for the fact that our ships were probably carrying more fuel and stores proportionately than the Germans, and giving the Germans credit for some excess over the designed speed, no doubt existed in my mind that both our battleships and our battle cruisers with Sir David Beatty could keep well out of range of the enemy's Battle Fleet, if necessary, until I was able to reinforce them. I learned later, as an unpleasant surprise, that the 5th Battle Squadron, when going at its utmost speed, found considerable difficulty in increasing its distance from the enemy's 3rd Battle Squadron, consisting of ships of the "König" class, and on return to Scapa I received a report from the Admiralty which credited this enemy squadron with a speed of 23 knots for a short period, this being the first intimation I had received of such a speed being attainable by them.
To return to Sir David Beatty. The action between the battle cruisers was renewed during the retirement of our ships to the northward, and the two leading ships of the 5th Battle Squadron, the Barham and Valiant, supported our battle cruisers by their fire, whilst the two rear ships of that force, the Warspite and Malaya, engaged the leading ships of the enemy's Battle Fleet as long as their guns would bear, at a range of about 19,000 yards.
09-08-02, 12:44 PM
The light cruiser Fearless, with destroyers of the 1st Flotilla, was now stationed ahead of the battle cruisers, and the light cruiser Champion, with destroyers of the 13th Flotilla, joined the 5th Battle Squadron. The 1st and 3rd Light Cruiser Squadrons, which had been in the rear during the southerly course, now took up a position on the starboard, or advanced, bow of the battle cruisers, the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron being on the port quarter. During this northerly run the fire from our ships was very intermittent, owing to the weather thickening to the eastward, although the enemy was able at times to fire with some accuracy.
From 5 P.M. until after 6 P.M. the light was very much in favour of the enemy, being far clearer to the westward than to the eastward. A photograph taken on board the Malaya at 5.15 P.M. towards the western horizon established this clearly. Our destroyers, shown silhouetted against the bright horizon, were at this time at least 16,000 yards distant.
Our battle cruisers ceased fire altogether for about 30 minutes after 5.12 P.M. owing to the enemy's ships being invisible, fire being reopened at about 5.40 P.M. on the enemy's battle cruisers, three or four of which could be seen, although indistinctly, at a distance of some 14,000 yards. Between 5.42 and 5.52, however, our fire seemed to be effective, the Lion alone firing some 15 salvoes during this period.
At 5.10 P.M. the destroyer Moresby, .which had rejoined the Battle Cruiser Fleet after assisting the Engadine with her sea-plane, fired a torpedo at the enemy's line at a range of between 6,000 and 8,000 yards, from a favourable position—two points before the beam of the enemy's leading battle cruiser.
At 5.35 P.M. the Lion's course was gradually altered from N.N.E. to N.E. in order to conform to the signalled movements and resulting position of the British Battle Fleet. The enemy's battle cruisers also gradually hauled to the eastward, being probably influenced in this movement by reports received from their light cruisers, which were by this time in contact with the light cruiser Chester and in sight of our 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron led by Read-Admiral Hood.
The proceedings of these vessels will now be described.
At 4 P.M., in accordance with my directions, the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, under Rear-Admiral Hood, proceeded at full speed to reinforce Sir David Beatty. At 5 P.M. the squadron, comprising the Invincible (Flag), Inflexible, and Indomitable, in single line ahead in that order, with the destroyers Shark, Christopher, Ophelia, and Acasta) disposed ahead as a submarine screen, had the light cruiser Canterbury five miles ahead and the light cruiser Chester bearing N. 70° W., and was steering S. by E. at 25 knots. The visibility was rapidly decreasing. According to the Indomitable's report, objects could be distinguished at a distance of 16,000 yards on some bearings, and on others at only 2,000 yards, and from then onwards, according to the same report, the visibility varied between 14,000 and 5,000 yards, although other reports place it higher at times.
At 5.30 P.M. the sound of gunfire was plainly heard to the south-westward, and the Chester turned in that direction to investigate and, at 5.36 P.M., sighted a three- funnelled light cruiser on the starboard bow, with one or two destroyers in company. The Chester challenged and, receiving no reply, altered course to west to close, judging from the appearance of the destroyer that the vessel was hostile.
As the Chester closed, course was altered to about north, in order to avoid being open to torpedo attack by the destroyer on a bearing favourable to the latter. This turn brought the enemy well abaft the port beam of the Chester and on an approximately parallel course. During the turn the Chester sighted two or more light cruisers astern of the first ship, and the leading enemy light cruiser opened fire on the Chester, the latter replying immediately afterwards, at a range of about 6,000 yards. The visibility at this time, judging by the distance at which the enemy's light cruisers were sighted from the Chester, could not have exceeded 8,000 yards. The enemy's fourth salvo hit the Chester, put No. 1 gun port out of action, and killed and wounded a large proportion of the gun crews of Nos. 1, 2, and 3 port guns. The light cruisers sighted by the Chester undoubtedly belonged to one of the enemy's scouting groups stationed on the starboard bow of their battle cruisers.
Captain Lawson of the Chester, in view of the superior force to which he was opposed, altered course to the N.E. and towards the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, bringing the enemy's light cruisers, all of which had opened a rapid and accurate fire, astern of him. The enemy vessels turned after the Chester, and during the unequal engagement, which lasted for 19 minutes, Captain Lawson successfully manoeuvred his ship with a view to impeding the accuracy of the hostile fire, realising that she was in no condition to engage such superior forces successfully in her damaged state.
The Chester closed the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron and took station N.E. of this squadron, joining the 2nd Cruiser Squadron at a later phase of the action. The ship suffered considerable casualties, having 31 killed and 50 wounded; three guns and her fire control circuits were disabled; she had four shell holes a little distance above the .water line. It .was on board the Chester that the second Victoria Cross of the action was earned, posthumously, by Jack Cornwell, Boy 1st Class, who ,was mortally wounded early in the action. This gallant lad, whose age was less than 16½ years, nevertheless remained standing alone at a most exposed post, quietly awaiting orders till the end of the action, with the guns' crew, dead and wounded, all round him. Meanwhile flashes of gunfire were seen from the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron at 5.40 P.M., and Rear-Admiral Hood turned his ships to starboard and brought the enemy light cruisers, which were engaging the Chester, and from which vessels the flashes came, on to his port bow. During this turn the destroyers attached to the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron were brought on to the port quarter of the squadron. As soon as Rear- Admiral Hood made out his position he led his squadron with the Canterbury between the enemy and the Chester, on a course about W.N.W., and at 5.55 P.M. opened an effective fire on the German light cruisers with his port guns, at a range of about 10,000 to 12,000 yards. The enemy vessels turned away from this attack and fired torpedoes at the battle cruisers; the tracks of five torpedoes were seen later from the Indomitable. At about 6.10 P.M. the Invincible and Indomitable turned to starboard to avoid these torpedoes, three of which passed very close to the latter ship, and ran alongside within 20 yards of the vessel. The Inflexible turned to port.
Meanwhile more enemy light cruisers were sighted astern of the first group, and the four British destroyers, Shark, Acasta, Ophelia and Christopher, attacked them and the large destroyer force in company with them, and were received by a heavy fire which disabled the Shark and damaged the Acasta. On board the Shark the third V. C. of the action was earned by her gallant captain, Commander Loftus Jones, this award also being, I regret to say, posthumous.
09-08-02, 12:47 PM
The attack of the British destroyers was carried out with great gallantry and determination, and having frustrated the enemy's torpedo attack on the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, Commander Loftus Jones turned his division to regain his position on our battle cruisers. At this moment three German vessels came into sight out of the mist and opened a heavy fire, further disabling the Shark and causing many casualties on board; Commander Loftus Jones was amongst those wounded. Lieut.- Commander J. 0. Barren, commanding the Acasta, came to the assistance of the Shark, but Commander Loftus Jones refused to imperil a second destroyer, and directed the Acasta to leave him. The Shark then became the target for the German ships and destroyers. Commander Loftus Jones, who was assisting to keep the only undamaged gun in action, ordered the last torpedo to be placed in the tube and fired; but whilst this ,was being done the torpedo was hit by a shell and exploded, causing many casualties. Those gallant officers and men in the Shark who still survived continued to fight the only gun left in action, the greatest heroism being exhibited. The captain was now wounded again, his right leg being taken off by a shell; but he still continued to direct the fire, until the condition of the Shark and the approach of German destroyers made it probable that the ship would fall into the hands of the enemy, when he gave orders for her to be sunk, countermanding this order shortly afterwards on realising that her remaining gun could still be fought. A little later, the ship was hit by two torpedoes, and sank with her colours flying. Only six survivors were picked up the next morning by a Danish steamer. In recognition of the great gallantry displayed, the whole of the survivors were awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. Their names are: W. C. R. Griffin, Petty Officer; C. Filleul, Stoker Petty Officer; C. C. Hope, A.B.; C. H. Smith, A.B.; T. O. G. Howell, A.B.; T. W. Swan, Stoker.
At this point it is well to turn to the proceedings of our advanced cruiser line, which at 5 P.M. was about 16 miles ahead of the Battle Fleet, the latter being at that time in Lat. 57.24 N., Long. 5.12 E., steering S.E. by S. at 20 knots. It should be noted that, owing to decreasing visibility, .which .was stated in reports from the cruisers to be slightly above six miles, the cruisers on the starboard flank had closed in and were about six miles apart by 5.30 P.M. The 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron was about 16 miles due east of the advanced cruiser line, but was steering more to the southward on a converging course at a speed of about five knots faster.
At 5.40 P.M. firing was heard ahead by the cruiser line, and shortly afterwards ships were seen from the Minotaur to be emerging from the mist. Rear-Admiral Heath, the senior officer of the cruiser line, had recalled the ships of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron on hearing the firing and had ordered them to form single line ahead on the Minotaur. He then made the signal to engage the enemy, namely, the ships in sight ahead; but before fire was opened they replied to his challenge and were identified as the ships of the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, engaged with the enemy's light cruisers and steering to the westward.
At 5.47 P.M. the Defence, with the Warrior astern, sighted on a S. by W. bearing (namely, on the starboard bow) three or four enemy light cruisers, and course was altered three points to port, bringing them nearly on a beam bearing. Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot, in the Defence, then signalled "Commence fire." Each ship fired three salvoes at a three-funnelled cruiser. The salvoes fell short, and the Defence altered course to starboard, brought the enemy first ahead, and then to a bearing on the port bow, evidently with the intention of closing. The latter alteration of course .was made at 6.1 P.M., and by this time projectiles from the light cruisers were falling in close proximity to the Defence and the Warrior. These ships opened fire with their pout guns at 6.5 P.M. and shortly afterwards passed close across the bows of the Lion from port to starboard. One light cruiser, probably the Wiesbaden, was hit by the second salvoes of both ships, appeared to be badly crippled, and nearly stopped. Our ships continued to close her until within 5,500 yards. From about 6.10 P.M. onwards they had come under fire of guns of heavy calibre from the enemy's battle cruisers, but Sir Robert Arbuthnot, as gallant and determined an officer as ever lived, was evidently bent on finishing off his opponent, and held on, probably not realising in the gathering smoke and mist that the enemy's heavy ships were at fairly close range. At about 6.16 P.M. the Defence was hit by two salvoes in quick succession, which caused her magazines to blow up and the ship disappeared. The loss of so valuable an officer as Sir Robert Arbuthnot and so splendid a ship's company as the officers and men of the Defence was a heavy blow. The Warrior was very badly damaged by shell fire, her engine-rooms being flooded; but Captain Molteno was able to bring his ship out of action, having first seen the Defence disappear. From diagrams made in the Warrior it appears that the German battle cruisers turned 16 points (possibly with a view either to close their Battle Fleet or to come to the aid of the disabled Wiesbaden), engaged the Defence and Warrior, and then turned back again. This supposition is confirmed by sketches taken on board the Duke of Edinburgh at the same time. Owing to the smoke and the mist, however, it was difficult to state exactly what occurred. From the observations on board the Warrior, it is certain that the visibility was much greater in her direction from the enemy's line than it was in the direction of the enemy from the Warrior. Although the Defence and Warrior were being hit frequently, those on board the Warrior could only see the ships firing at them very indistinctly, and it is probable that the low visibility led to Sir Robert Arbuthnot not appreciating that he was at comparatively short range from the German battle cruisers until he was already under an overwhelming fire.
The Warrior passed astern of the 5th Battle Squadron at the period when the steering gear of the Warspite had become temporarily disabled.
The Duke of Edinburgh, the ship next to the west-, ward of the Defence and the Warrior in the cruiser screen, had turned to close these ships when they became engaged with the enemy's light cruisers in accordance ,with a signal from the Defence. The Duke of Edinburgh joined in the engagement, but, on sighting the Lion on her starboard bow, did not follow the other ships across the bows of the battle cruisers, as to do so would have seriously incommoded these vessels; she turned to port to a parallel course and eventually joined the 2nd Cruiser Squadron.
The Black Prince ,was observed from the Duke of Edinburgh to turn some 12 points to port at the same time that the Duke of Edinburgh turned, but her subsequent movements are not clear; the German accounts of the action stated that the Black Prince was sunk by gun fire at the same time as the Defence, but she was not seen to be in action at this time by any of our vessels, and, moreover, a wireless signal, reporting a submarine in sight and timed 8.48 P.M., was subsequently received from her. It is probable that the Black Prince passed to the rear of the Battle Fleet at about 6.30 P.M., and that during the night she found herself close to one of the German battle squadrons, and was sunk then by superior gunfire. In support of this theory, the German account mentions that a cruiser of the " Cressy " type was sunk in that manner during the night. None of the ships of this class was present during the engagement, but the Black Prince might well have been mistaken for a ship of this type in the circumstances.
We left the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron at about 6.10 P.M. at the termination of their engagement with enemy light cruisers, turning to avoid torpedoes fired at them. At about this time Rear-Admiral Hood sighted the Lion and the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, and at about 6.16 P.M. hoisted the signal to his squadron to form single line ahead, and turned to take station ahead of the Lion and to engage the hostile battle cruisers, which at 6.20 P.M. .were sighted at a range of 8,600 yards.
A furious engagement ensued for a few minutes, and the fire of the squadron was judged by those on board the Invincible to be very effective. Rear-Admiral Hood, who was on the bridge of the Invincible with Captain Cay, hailed Commander Dannreuther, the gunnery officer in the fore control, at about 6.30 P.M., saying, " Your firing is very good. Keep at it as quickly as you can; every shot is telling." At about 6.34 P.M. the Invincible, which had already been hit more than once by heavy shell .without appreciable damage, was struck in "Q" turret. The shell apparently burst inside the turret, as Commander Dannreuther saw the roof blown off. A very heavy explosion followed immediately, evidently caused by the magazine blowing up, and the ship broke in half and sank at once, only two officers, including Commander Dannreuther, and four men being subsequently picked up by the destroyer Badger. The British Navy sustained a most serious loss in Rear-Admiral the Hon. Horace Hood, one of the most distinguished of our younger flag officers, and in Captain Cay and the officers and men of his flagship. The difficulties of distinguishing enemy ships even at the close range of this engagement is revealed by the fact that the officers in the Invincible and Indomitable were under the impression that they were engaging battle cruisers, whilst officers in the Inflexible, stationed between these two ships in the line, reported that her fire was being directed at a battleship of the "Kaiser" or "König" class, and that only one ship could be seen.
09-08-02, 12:48 PM
Just before the loss of the Invincible, the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron, commanded by Rear-Admiral Napier, had carried out an effective torpedo attack on the enemy's battle cruisers; both the light cruisers Falmouth and Yarmouth fired torpedoes at the leading battle cruiser. It was thought that one of the torpedoes hit its mark, as a heavy under-water explosion was felt at this time.
After the loss of the Invincible, the Inflexible was left as leader of the line, and as soon as the wreck of the Invincible had been passed, course was altered two points to starboard to close the enemy ships, which were disappearing in the mist. A further turn to starboard for the same purpose was made, but at this time, 6.50 P.M., the battle cruisers being clear of the leading battleships (which .were bearing N.N.W. three miles distant), Sir David Beatty signalled the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron to prolong the line of the battle cruisers, and the Inflexible and Indomitable took station astern of the New Zealand.
The course of events can now be traced with accuracy. The Chester .with the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, which by 5.40 P.M. had got ahead of the Battle Fleet's cruiser screen, encountered some of the light cruisers composing the enemy's screen and engaged them, and, in doing so, drew the enemy's light cruisers towards the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, which, with the Canterbury and destroyers, turned to about W.N.W. to assist the Chester. and to engage the enemy vessels.
In the course of this movement a destroyer attack was made by four British destroyers on the enemy's light cruisers. This attack was apparently thought by the Germans to come from the flotillas with the Battle Fleet, as far as can be judged from their report of the action; the ships of the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron .were undoubtedly mistaken by their vessels for the van of our Battle Fleet, since mention is made in the German report of the British Battle Fleet having been sighted at this time by the German light forces, steering in a westerly or north-westerly direction. The mistaken idea caused the van of the High Sea Fleet to turn off to starboard.
So far from our Battle Fleet being on a westerly course at this time, the fact is that our Battle Fleet held its south-easterly course before, through, and immediately subsequent to deployment, gradually hauling round afterwards, first through south to south-west, and then to west, but it was not until 8 P.M. that a "westerly course was being steered.
The only point that is not clear is the identity of the light cruiser engaged and seriously damaged by the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron. The ship engaged by the Defence and Warrior was apparently the Wiesbaden. It seems to be impossible that the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron engaged the same vessel, and it is more likely to have been another light cruiser in the enemy's screen. The two engagements took place at almost the same time, the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron opening fire at 5.55 P.M., and the Defence and the Warrior (the 1st Cruiser Squadron) commencing their engagement .with the starboard guns at about 5.50 P.M. and continuing it ;with the port guns at 6.5 P.M. It is hardly possible, even in the conditions of low visibility that prevailed, that the two squadrons could have been engaging the same vessel.
Mention should be made here of the work of the destroyer Onslow, commanded by Lieut.-Commander J. C. Tovey, which at 6.5 P.M. .sighted an enemy's light cruiser in a position on the bows of the Lion and favourable for torpedo attack on that ship. The Onslow closed and engaged the light cruiser with gunfire at ranges between 2,000 and 4,000 yards, and then, although severely damaged by shell fire, succeeded in closing a German battle cruiser to attack with torpedoes; she was struck by a heavy shell before more than one torpedo could be fired. Lieut.-Commander Tovey thought that his order to fire all torpedoes had been carried out, and finding that this was not the case, closed the light cruiser and fired a torpedo at her, and then sighting the Battle Fleet fired the remaining torpedoes at battleships. The Onslow's engines then stopped, but the damaged destroyer Defender, Lieut.-Commander Palmer, closed her at 7.15 P.M. and took her in tow under a heavy fire, and, in spite of bad weather during the night and the damaged condition of both destroyers, brought her back to home .waters, transferring her on June 1st to the care of a tug.
Copyright © 1996-1999 by The War Times Journal.
09-08-02, 01:00 PM
THE " plot " made on the reports received between 5 and 6 P.M. from Commodore Goodenough, of the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, and the report at 4.45 P.M. from Sir David Beatty in the Lion giving the position of the enemy's Battle Fleet, showed that we, of the Battle Fleet, might meet the High Sea Fleet approximately ahead and that the cruiser line ahead of the Battle Fleet would sight the enemy nearly ahead of the centre. Obviously, however, great reliance could not be placed on the positions given by the ships of the Battle Cruiser Fleet, which had been in action for two hours and frequently altering course. I realised this, but when contact actually took place it was found that the positions given were at least twelve miles in error when compared with the Iron Duke's reckoning. The result was that the enemy's Battle Fleet appeared on the starboard bow instead of ahead, as I had expected, and contact also took place earlier than was anticipated. There can be no doubt as to the accuracy of the reckoning on board the Iron Duke, as the movements of that ship could be "plotted" with accuracy after leaving Scapa Flow, there being no disturbing elements to deal with.
The first accurate information regarding the position of affairs was contained in a signal from the Black Prince, of the 1st Cruiser Squadron (the starboard wing ship of the cruiser screen), which was timed 5.40 P.M., but received by me considerably later, and in which, it was reported that battle cruisers were in sight, bearing south, distant five miles. It was assumed by me that these were our own vessels.
Prior to this, in view of the rapid decrease in visibility, I had directed Captain Dreyer, my Flag-Captain, to cause the range-finder operators to take ranges of ships on bearings in every direction and to report the direction in which the visibility appeared to be the greatest. My object was to ascertain the most favourable bearing in which to engage the enemy should circumstances admit of a choice being exercised. Captain Dreyer reported that the visibility appeared to be best to the southward.
At 5.45 P.M. the Comus (Captain Hotham), of the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron, which ,was stationed three miles ahead of the Battle Fleet, reported heavy gunfire on a southerly bearing, i.e., three points from ahead, and shortly afterwards flashes of gunfire were visible bearing south-south-west although no ships could be seen.
At about 5.50 P.M. I received a wireless signal from Sir Robert Arbuthnot, of the 1st Cruiser Squadron, reporting having sighted ships in action bearing south-south-west and steering north-east. There was, however, no clue as to the identity of these ships. It was in my mind that they might be the opposing battle cruisers.
At 5.55 P.M. a signal was made by me to Admiral Sir Cecil Burney, leading the starboard ,wing division in the Marlborough, inquiring what he could see. The reply was: "Gun flashes and heavy gunfire on the starboard bow." This reply was received at about 6.5 P.M.
The uncertainty which still prevailed as to the position of the enemy's Battle Fleet and its formation caused me to continue in the Battle Fleet on the course south-east by south at a speed of 20 knots, in divisions line ahead dis posed abeam to starboard, the Iron Duke at 6 P.M. being in Lat. 57.11 N., Long. 5.39 E.
The information so far received had not even been sufficient to justify me in altering the bearing of the guides of columns from the Iron Duke preparatory to deployment, and they were still, therefore, on the beam. The destroyers also were still disposed ahead in their screening formation, as it was very desirable to decide on the direction of deployment before stationing them for action.
At 5.56 P.M. Admiral Sir Cecil Burney reported strange vessels in sight bearing south-south-west and steering east, and at 6 P.M. he reported them as British battle cruisers three to four miles distant, the Lion being leading ship.
This report was made by searchlight and consequently reached me shortly after 6 P.M., but as showing the interval that elapses between the intention to make a signal and the actual receipt of it (even under conditions where the urgency is apparent, no effort is spared to avoid delay, and the signal staff is efficient), it is to be noted that whereas the report gave the bearing of our vessels as south-south-west, notes taken on board the Colossus placed our battle cruisers one point on the starboard bow of that ship, that is, on a south-south-east bearing and distant two miles at 6.5 P.M.
Shortly after 6 P.M. we sighted strange vessels bearing south-west from the Iron Duke at a distance of about five miles. They were identified as our battle cruisers, steering east across the bows of the Battle Fleet. Owing to the mist it was not possible to make out the number of ships that were following the Lion.
At this stage there was still great uncertainty as to the position of the enemy's Battle Fleet; flashes of gunfire were visible from ahead round to the starboard beam, and the noise was heavy and continuous. Our cruisers ahead seemed to be hotly engaged, but the fact that they were not closing the Battle Fleet indicated to me that their opponents could hardly be battleships.
In order to take ground to starboard, with a view to clearing up the situation without altering the formation of the Battle Fleet, a signal had been made to the Battle Fleet at 6.2 P.M. to alter course leaders together, the remainder in succession, to south (a turn of three points). Speed was at the same time reduced to 18 knots to allow of the ships closing up into station. Immediately afterwards it became apparent by the sound of the heavy firing that enemy's heavy ships must be in close proximity, and the Lion, which was sighted at this moment, signalled at 6.6 P.M. that the enemy's battle cruisers bore south-east. Meanwhile, at about 5.50 P.M., I had received a wireless report from Commodore Goodenough, commanding the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, to the effect that the enemy's battle cruisers bore south-west from their Battle Fleet ; in other words, that his Battle Fleet bore north-east from his battle cruisers.
In view of the report from Sir Cecil Burney that our battle cruisers were steering east, and observing that Sir David Beatty reported at 6.6 P.M. that the enemy's battle cruisers bore south-east, it appeared from Commodore Goodenough's signal that the enemy's Battle Fleet must be ahead of his battle cruisers. On the other hand, it seemed to me almost incredible that the Battle Fleet could have passed the battle cruisers. The conflicting reports added greatly to the perplexity of the situation, and I determined to hold on until matters became clearer.
The conviction was, however, forming in my mind that I should strike the enemy's Battle Fleet on a bearing a little on the starboard bow, and in order to be prepared for deployment I turned the Fleet to a south-east course, leaders together and the remainder in succession, and the destroyer flotillas were directed by signal, at 6.8 P.M., to take up the destroyer position No. I for battle. This order disposed them as follows:
There was, however, a very short interval between this signal to the destroyers and the signal for deployment, and consequently the destroyers did not reach their positions before deployment. The subsequent alterations of course to the southward and westward added to their difficulties and delayed them greatly in gaining their stations at the van of the Fleet after deployment. The correct position for the two van flotillas on deployment was three miles ahead of the Fleet, but slightly on the engaged bow.
At 6.1 P.M., immediately on sighting the Lion, a signal had been made to Sir David Beatty inquiring the position of the enemy's Battle Fleet. This signal was repeated at 6.10 P.M., and at 6.14 P.M. he signalled: ' 'Have sighted the enemy's Battle Fleet bearing south-south-west "; this report gave me the first information on which I could take effective action for deployment.
At 6.15 P.M. Rear-Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas, in the Barham, commanding the 5th Battle Squadron, signalled by wireless that the enemy's Battle Fleet was in sight, bearing south-south-east. The distance was not reported in either case, but in view of the low. visibility, I concluded it could not be more than some five miles. Sir Cecil Burney had already reported the 5th Battle Squadron at 6.7 P.M. as in sight, bearing south-west from the Marlborough.
The first definite information received on board the Fleet-Flagship of the position of the enemy's Battle Fleet did not, therefore, come in until 6.14 P.M., and the position given placed it thirty degrees before the starboard beam of the Iron Duke, or fifty-nine degrees before the starboard beam of the Marlborough, and apparently in close proximity. There ,was no time to lose, as there was evident danger of the starboard wing column of the Battle Fleet being engaged by the whole German Battle Fleet before deployment could be effected. So at 6.16 P.M. a signal was made to the Battle Fleet to form line of battle on the port wing column, on a course south-east by east, it being assumed that the course of the enemy was approximately the same as that of our battle cruisers.
09-08-02, 01:01 PM
Speed was at the same time reduced to 14 knots to admit of our battle cruisers passing ahead of the Battle Fleet, as there was danger of the fire of the Battle Fleet being blanketed by them.
During the short interval, crowded with events, that had elapsed since the first flashes and sound of gunfire had been noted on board the Iron Duke, the question of most urgent importance before me had been the direction and manner of deployment.
As the evidence accumulated that the enemy's Battle Fleet was on our starboard side, but on a bearing well before the beam of the Iron Duke, the point for decision was whether to form line of battle on the starboard or on the port wing column. My first and natural impulse was to form on the starboard .wing column in order to bring the Fleet into action at the earliest possible moment, but it became increasingly apparent, both from the sound of gunfire and the reports from the Lion and Barham, that the High Sea Fleet was in such close proximity and on such a bearing as to create obvious disadvantages in such a movement. I assumed that the German destroyers would be ahead of their Battle Fleet, and it was clear that, owing to the mist, the operations of destroyers attacking from a commanding position in the van would be much facilitated; it would be suicidal to place the Battle Fleet in a position where it might be open to attack by destroyers during such a deployment.
The further points that occurred to me were, that if the German ships were as close as seemed probable, there was considerable danger of the 1st Battle Squadron, and especially the Marlborough's Division, being severely handled by the concentrated fire of the High Sea Fleet before the remaining divisions could get into line to assist. Included in the 1st Battle Squadron were several of our older ships, with only indifferent protection as compared with the German capital ships, and an interval of at least four minutes would elapse between each division coming into line astern of the sixth division and a further interval before the guns could be directed on to the ship selected and their fire become effective.
The final disadvantage would be that it appeared, from the supposed position of the High Sea Fleet, that the van of the enemy would Have a very considerable " overlap" if line were formed on the starboard wing division, .whereas this would not be the case with deployment on the port wing column. The overlap would necessitate a large turn of the starboard wing division to port to prevent the "T" being crossed, and each successive division coming into line would have to make this turn, in addition to the 8-point turn required to form the line. I therefore decided to deploy on the first, the port wing, division.
The further knowledge which I gained of the actual state of affairs after the action confirmed my view that the course adopted was the best in the circumstances.
The reports from the ships of the starboard wing division show that the range of the van of the enemy's Battle Fleet at the moment of deployment was about 13,000 yards. The fleets were converging rapidly, with the High Sea Fleet holding a position of advantage such as would enable it to engage effectively, first the unsupported starboard division, and subsequently succeeding divisions as they formed up astern. It is to be observed that it would take some twenty minutes to complete the formation of the line of battle.
The German gunnery was always good at the start, and their ships invariably found the range of a target with great rapidity, and it would have been very bad tactics to give them such an initial advantage, not only in regard to gunnery but also in respect of torpedo attack, both from ships and from destroyers. A subsequent study of the reports and the signals received has admitted of the diagrams which will be found in the pocket being drawn up.
The reports on being reviewed fit in very well, and show clearly how great would have been the objections to forming on the starboard wing divisions. The bearings of the enemy Battle Fleet, as given by the Lion and the Barham at 6.14 and 6.15 respectively, give a fair "cut," and the bearing on which the Marlborough opened fire enables the position of the Battle Fleet to be placed with considerable accuracy. Assuming that the German Battle Fleet was steaming at 17 knots on an easterly course between 6.14 and 6.31, it would be at the latter time bear approximately some 21 degrees before the starboard beam of the Iron Duke at a range of 12,000 yards. The Iron Duke actually engaged the leading battleship at this time on a bearing 20 degrees before the starboard beam at a range of 12,000 yards. The accuracy of the diagram is therefore confirmed, so far as confirmation is possible. It appears certain that between about 6.0 P.M. and 6.16 P.M. the German battle cruisers turned 16 points towards their Battle Fleet, and again turned 16 points to their original course. This is borne out by observations on board the Warrior, which ship was being engaged by the starboard guns of enemy vessels. The German account also shows such a turn at this period.
Rear-Admiral Evan-Thomas, commanding the 5th Battle Squadron, had sighted the Marlborough at 6.6 P.M. and the remainder of the 6th Division of the Battle Fleet a little later. Not seeing any other columns, he concluded that the Marlborough was leading the whole line, and decided to take station ahead of that ship. At 6.19 P.M., however, other battleships were sighted, and Admiral Evan-Thomas realised that the Fleet was deploying to port, the 6th Division being the starboard wing column. He then determined to make a large turn of his squadron to port, in order to form astern of the 6th Division, .which by this time had also turned to port to form line of battle. During the turn, which was very .well executed, the ships of the 5th Battle Squadron were under fire of the enemy's leading battleships, but the shooting was not good, and our vessels received little injury.
Unfortunately, however, the helm of the Warspite jammed, and that ship, continuing her turn through sixteen points, came under a very heavy fire and received considerable injury. The disabled Warrior happened to be in close proximity at this time, and the turn of the Warspite had the effect for the moment of diverting attention from the Warrior, so that the latter vessel got clear.
The Warspite was well extricated by Captain Phillpotts from an unpleasant position and was steered to the northward to make good damages, and eventually, in accordance with directions from Rear-Admiral Evan-Thomas, returned independently to Rosyth, considerably down by the stern owing to damage aft, but otherwise not much injured.
By 6.38 P.M. the remaining ships of the 5th Battle Squadron .were in station astern of the Agincourt (1st Battle Squadron), the last ship of the line.
At 6.33 P.M., as soon as the battle cruisers had passed clear, the speed of the Battle Fleet was increased to 17 knots, and this speed was subsequently maintained. The reduction of speed to 14 knots during the deployment caused some "bunching" at the rear of the line, as the signal did not get through quickly. The reduction had, however, to be maintained until the battle cruisers had formed ahead.
Experience at all Fleet exercises had shown the necessity for keeping a reserve of some three knots of speed in hand in the case of a long line of ships, in order to allow of station being kept in the line under conditions of action, when ships were making alterations of course to throw out enemy's fire, to avoid torpedoes, or when other independent action on the part of single ships, or of divisions of ships, became necessary, as well as to avoid excessive smoke from the funnels; for this reason the Fleet speed during the action was fixed at 17 knots. In the 1st Battle Squadron, some ships had at times to steam 20 knots, showing the necessity for this reserve. Up to 7.10 P.M. also the flotillas were not in station ahead.
At 6.14 P.M. the enemy's salvoes were falling near ships of the 1st Battle Squadron, and the Marlborough^s Division of the Battle Squadron became engaged with some ships of the enemy's Battle Fleet at 6.17 P.M. immediately after turning for the deployment. At this time fire was opened by the Marlborough on a ship stated to be of the " Kaiser " class, at a range of 13,000 yards and on a bearing 20 degrees abaft the starboard beam; this knowledge enables us to deduce the position of the van of the German Battle Fleet at this time.
Our rear ships were now able to make out the enemy's Fleet steering to the eastward, the battle cruisers leading, followed by the Battle Fleet in single line, the order being, four ships of the "Konig" class in the van, followed by ships of the "Kaiser" and "Helgoland" classes, the rear of the line being invisible. A report that had reached me at 4.48 P.M. from the Commodore of the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron indicated that ships of the "Kaiser" class were in the van of the Battle Fleet. The order of the Fleet may have been changed subsequent to this report, but there is no doubt that ships of the "Konig" class led during the Fleet action. The point is not, however, of importance.
09-08-02, 01:03 PM
The Battle of Jutland
The Battlefleet in Action
At about 6.38 P.M. the 6th Division was in line and our deployment was complete. Enemy shells had been falling close to the Colossus and her 5th Division since 6.11 P.M., and these ships opened fire at 6.30 P.M. ; but the conditions of visibility made it difficult to distinguish the enemy's battleships.
At 6.23 P.M. a three-funnelled enemy vessel had passed down the line, on the starboard, or engaged, side of our
Fleet, apparently partly disabled. Her identity could not at the time be clearly established, but her German colours were flying and she was in a position for attacking the Battle Fleet by torpedoes; at 6.20 P.M. the Iron Duke fired a few turret salvoes at her; she was fired at with turret guns by other vessels and was seen to sink at the rear of the line.
At this time, owing to smoke and mist, it was most difficult to distinguish friend from foe, and quite impossible to form an opinion on board the Iron Duke, in her position towards the centre of the line, as to the formation of the enemy's Fleet. The identity of ships insight on the starboard beam was not even sufficiently clear for me to permit of fire being opened; but at 6.30 P.M. it became certain that our own battle cruisers had drawn ahead of the Battle Fleet and that the vessels then before the beam .were battleships of the " Konig " class. The order was, therefore, given to open fire, and the Iron Duke engaged what appeared to be the leading battleship at a range of 12,000 yards on a bearing 20 degrees before the starboard beam; other ships of the 3rd and 4th Divisions (the 4th Battle Squadron) opened fire at about the same time, and the van divisions (2nd Battle Squadron) very shortly afterwards ; these latter ships reported engaging enemy battle cruisers as well as battleships. The fire of the Iron Duke, which came more directly under my observation, was seen to be immediately effective, the third and fourth salvoes fired registering several palpable hits. It appeared as if all the enemy ships at that time in sight from the Iron Duke (not more than three or four, owing to smoke and mist) were receiving heavy punishment, and the second battleship was seen to turn out of the line badly on fire, and settling by the stern. A large number of observers in the Thunderer, Benbow, Barham, Marne, Morning Star and Magic stated afterwards that they saw this ship blow up at 6.50 P.M.
The visibility was very variable and perhaps averaged about 12,000 yards to the southward, though much less on other bearings, but ranges could not at times be obtained from the range-finders of the Iron Duke at a greater distance than 9,000 yards, although at 7.15 P.M., in a temporary clear channel through the mist, good ranges of 15,000 yards were obtained of a battleship at which four salvoes were fired by the Iron Duke before she was again hidden by smoke and mist. The very baffling light was caused principally by low misty clouds, but partly also by the heavy smoke from the funnels and guns of the opposing Fleets. The direction of the wind was about west-south-west with a force 2, causing the enemy's funnel smoke to drift towards our line.
The visibility at the rear of the battle line was apparently greater than in the centre at about 7 P.M., and the enemy's fire, which was probably being concentrated on our rear ships, was more accurate at this period, but quite ineffective, only one ship, the Colossus, being hit by gun-fire, although numerous projectiles were falling near the ships of the 1st and 5th Battle Squadrons.
Whilst observers in ships in the van and centre of the Battle Fleet could see only three or four enemy vessels at any one time, those in the ships of the rear division did occasionally see as many as eight, and were consequently better able to distinguish the formation and movements of the enemy's Battle Fleet. It was not possible, owing to the small number of ships in sight, due to smoke and mist, to distribute the fire of the battleships by signal in the customary manner; the only course to adopt was for the captains to direct the fire of their guns on to any target which they could distinguish.
The course of the Fleet on deployment had been south-east by east, as already stated, but the van had hauled in to south-east without signal shortly after deployment in order to close the enemy, and at 6.50 P.M., as the range was apparently opening, the course was altered by signal to south "by divisions" in order to close the enemy. The King George V., leading the van of the Battle Fleet, had just anticipated this signal by turning to south. The alteration was made " by divisions' instead of "in succession' in order that the enemy should be closed more rapidly by the whole Battle Fleet.
This large turn (of four points) "by divisions" involved some small amount of "blanketing' of the rear ships of one division by the leading ships of that next astern, and at one time the Thunderer was firing over the bows of the Iron Duke, causing some slight inconvenience on the bridge of the latter ship; the " blanketing," however, was unavoidable and the loss of fire involved was inappreciable.
At 6.45 P.M. one or two torpedoes crossed the track of the rear of our battle line, and the Marlborough altered course to avoid one. They were apparently fired, at long range, by enemy destroyers, which were barely visible to the ships in rear and quite invisible to those on board the Iron Duke. They might, however, have been fired by enemy battleships which were within torpedo range, or by a submarine, the Revenge reporting that it was thought that one had been rammed by that ship. The tracks of some of the torpedoes were seen by the observers stationed aloft, and were avoided by very skilful handling of the ships by their captains.
At 6.54 P.M., however, a heavy explosion occurred under the fore bridge of the Marlborough, abreast the starboard forward hydraulic engine-room. The ship took up a list of some seven degrees to starboard, but continued in action so effectively that she avoided three more torpedoes shortly afterwards, re-opened fire at 7.3 P.M., and at 7.12 P.M. fired fourteen rapid salvoes at a ship of the " Konig " class, hitting her so frequently that she was seen to turn out of line.
The signal from Sir Cecil Burney of the damage to his flagship stated that the vessel had been struck by a "mine or torpedo." It was assumed by me that a torpedo had hit the ship, as so many vessels had passed over the same locality without injury from mine. This proved to be the case, the track of this torpedo not having been sufficiently visible to enable Captain Ross to avoid it.
The fact of the tracks of so many of the enemy's torpedoes being visible was a matter of great surprise to me, and I think to other officers. Reports had been prevalent that the Germans had succeeded in producing a torpedo which left little or no track on the surface. The information as to the visibility of the tracks did not reach me until the return of the Fleet to harbour, as although one torpedo was reported by observers on board the destroyer Oak to have passed close ahead of the Iron Duke at about 7.35 P.M., finishing its run 2,000 yards beyond that ship, and a second was observed by the Benbow to pass apparently ahead of the Iron Duke at 8.30 P.M., neither of them was seen on board the flagship by the trained look-outs specially stationed for the purpose.
Some ten minutes after the alteration of course to south, a signal was made to the 2nd Battle Squadron to take station ahead of the Iron Duke and for the 1st Battle Squadron to form astern. This signal had, how ever, been already anticipated by the vessels ahead of the Iron Duke in accordance with the general battle orders giving discretionary powers to the commanders of squadrons, and the line had been partly reformed before the signal was made.
An incident occurred at about 6.47 P.M. which was an indication of the spirit prevailing in the Fleet, of which it is impossible to speak too highly. The destroyer Acasta, which had been badly hit aft during her attack on enemy light cruisers in company with the Shark and had her engines disabled, was passed by the Fleet. Her commanding officer, Lieut.-Commander J. 0. Barren, signalled the condition of his ship to the Iron Duke as that ship passed, leaving the Acasta on her starboard or engaged side. The ship's company was observed to be cheering each ship as she passed. It is satisfactory to relate that this destroyer and her gallant ship's company were subsequently brought into Aberdeen, being assisted by the Nonsuch.
Shortly after 6.55 P.M. the Iron Duke passed the wreck of a ship with the bow and stern standing out of the water, the centre portion apparently resting on the bottom, with the destroyer Badger picking up survivors. It was thought at first that this was the remains of a German light cruiser, but inquiry of the Badger elicited the lamentable news that the wreck was that of the Invincible. It was assumed at the time that she had been sunk either by a mine or by a torpedo, and the latter appeared to he the more probable cause of her loss. Subsequent information, however, showed that she was destroyed by gunfire, causing her magazines to explode, as already recorded.
09-08-02, 01:04 PM
At 7 P.M. Sir David Beatty signalled reporting that the enemy was to the westward.
Our alteration of course to south had, meanwhile, brought the enemy's line into view once more, and between 7.0 and 7.30 P.M. the Battle Fleet was again in action with battleships and also battle cruisers, as they could be distinguished in the haze, which at that period was very baffling. The range varied from as much as 15,000 yards at the van to as little as 8,500 in the rear, this difference in range indicating that the enemy's Fleet was turning to the westward, as shown in the plan facing
In spite of the difficult conditions, the fire of many of our battleships was very effective at this period. Some instances may be given. At 7.15 P.M. the Iron Duke, as already mentioned, engaged a hostile battleship at 15,000 yards range and on a bearing 74 degrees from right ahead. At 7.20 she trained her guns on a battle cruiser of " Lutzow" type, abaft the beam, which hid herself by a destroyer smoke screen; at 7.17 P.M. the King George V. opened fire on a vessel, taken to be the leading ship in the enemy's line, at a range of about 13,000 yards; the Orion at a battleship ; the St. Vincent was " holding her target (a battleship) effectively till 7.26 P.M., the range being between 10,000 and 9,500 yards " ; the Agincourt at 7.6 P.M. opened fire at 11,000 yards on one of four battleships that showed clearly out of the mist, and judged that at least four of her salvoes "straddled" the target; the Revenge was engaging what were taken to be battle cruisers, obtaining distinct hits on two of them; the Colossus from 7.12 to 7.20 P.M. was engaging a ship taken to be a battle cruiser, either the Derfflinger or Lutzow, at ranges between 10,000 and 8,000 yards, and observed several direct hits, two being on the water line; whilst the Marlborough, as already mentioned, "engaged a ship of the 'Konig' class. " Other vessels reported being in effective action during this period. The Royal Oak, the ship next astern of the Iron Duke, opened fire at 7.15 P.M. on the leading ship of three vessels taken to be battle cruisers, at a range of 14,000 yards; this ship was hit and turned away, and fire was shifted to the second ship which was lost to sight in the mist after a few rounds had been fired. It was difficult to be certain of the class of vessel on which fire was being directed, but one or more of the enemy's battle cruisers had undoubtedly dropped astern by 7 P.M., as a result of the heavy punishment they had received from our battle cruisers and the 5th Battle Squadron, and were engaged by ships of the Battle Fleet.
Both at this period and earlier in the action, the ships of the 1st Battle Squadron were afforded more opportunities for effective fire than the rest of the Battle Fleet, and the fullest use was made of the opportunities. This squadron, under the able command of Sir Cecil Burney, was known by me to be highly efficient, and very strong proof was furnished during the Jutland battle, if proof were needed, that his careful training had borne excellent results. The immunity of the ships of the squadron from the enemy's fire, whilst they were inflicting on his vessels very severe punishment, bears eloquent testimony to the offensive powers of the squadron.
At 7.5 P.M. the whole battle line was turned together three more points to starboard to close the range further; immediately afterwards two ships ahead of the Iron Duke reported a submarine a little on the port bow; at 7.10 P.M. a flotilla of enemy destroyers, supported by a cruiser, was observed to be approaching on a bearing S. 50 W. from the Iron Duke, and the Fleet was turned back to south in order to turn on to the submarine and bring the ships in line ahead, ready for any required manoeuvre. A heavy fire was opened on the destroyers at ranges between 10,000 and 6,500 yards. At the latter range the destroyers turned and passed towards the rear of the line in a heavy smoke screen. One destroyer was seen by several observers to sink from the effects of the gunfire.
At a sufficient interval before it was considered that the torpedoes fired by the destroyers would cross our line, a signal was made to the Battle Fleet to turn two points to port by subdivisions. Some minutes later a report was made to me by Commander Bellairs (the officer on my Staff especially detailed for this duty, and provided with an instrument for giving the necessary information) that this turn was insufficient to clear the torpedoes, as I had held on until the last moment; a further turn of two points was then made for a short time. As a result of this attack and another that followed immediately, some twenty or more torpedoes were observed to cross the track of the Battle Fleet, in spite of our turn, the large majority of them passing the ships of the 1st and 5th Battle Squadrons at the rear of the line. It was fortunate that, owing to the turn away of the Fleet, the torpedoes were apparently near the end of their run, and were consequently not running at high speed. They were all avoided by the very skilful handling of the ships by their captains, to whom the highest credit is due, not only for their skill in avoiding the torpedoes, but for the manner in which the ships, by neighbourly conduct towards each other, prevented risk of collision and kept their station in the line. The captains were most ably assisted by the admirable look-out kept by the organisation that existed for dealing with this danger. I doubt, however, whether the skill shown would have saved several ships from being torpedoed had the range been less and the torpedoes consequently running at a higher speed. Frequent exercises carried out at Scapa Flow showed conclusively that the percentage of torpedoes that would hit ships in a line when fired from destroyers at ranges up to 8,000 yards was comparatively high, even if the tracks were seen and the ships were manoeuvred to avoid them. One very good reason is that torpedoes are always a considerable but varying distance ahead of the line of bubbles marking their track, making it difficult to judge the position of the torpedo from its track. Many ships experienced escapes from this and other attacks; thus the Hercules reported that she " turned away six points to avoid the torpedoes, one of which passed along the starboard side and 40 yards across the bow, and the other passed close under the stern "; the Neptune reported that "the tracks of three torpedoes were seen from the fore-top, one of which passed very close and was avoided by the use of the helm " ; in the Agincourt's report, a statement occurred that " at 7.8 P.M. a torpedo just missed astern, it having been reported from aloft and course altered " ; and again, " at 7.38 P.M. tracks of two torpedoes running parallel were observed approaching ; course altered to avoid torpedoes which passed ahead ; and at 8.25 P.M. torpedo track on starboard side, turned at full speed; torpedo broke surface at about 150 yards on the starboard bow " ; the Revenge remarked, "at 7.85 P.M. altered course to port to avoid two torpedoes, one passed about ten yards ahead and the other about twenty yards astern, and at 7.43 P.M. altered course to avoid torpedoes, two passing astern "; the Colossus stated, " at 7.35 P.M. turned to port to avoid a torpedo coming from starboard side" ; the Barham at this period reported that "at least four torpedoes passed through the line close to the Barham " ; the Collingwood reported, " torpedo track was seen 20 degrees abaft the beam and coming straight at the ship; large helm was put on and the torpedo passed very close astern; at the same time another was seen to pass about thirty yards ahead. " The captain of the Collingwood, in remarking on the destroyer attack, added, " the great value of this form of attack on a line of ships is, to me, an outstanding feature of the Battle Fleet action."
09-08-02, 01:06 PM
The first two-point turn was made at 7.23 P.M. and the Fleet was brought to a south by west course by 7.33 P.M. (that is, to a course one point to the westward of the course of the Fleet before the destroyer attack). The total amount by which the range was opened by the turns was about 1,750 yards.
The 4th Light Cruiser Squadron and the 4th and 11th Flotillas had been delayed in reaching their action station at the van until about 7.15 P.M., owing to the turns to the westward made by the Battle Fleet to close the enemy. In accordance with arrangements made previously to counter destroyer attacks, these vessels were ordered out to engage the enemy destroyers, which, according to the report of the Commodore Le Mesurier, commanding the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron, were steering towards the head of the division led by the King George V.) the van ship of the Battle Fleet. Although not very well placed for the first attack for the reason given above, they were in a very favourable position to counter the second destroyer attack, which took place at 7.25 P.M. The enemy's flotilla was sighted bearing 30 degrees before the starboard beam of the Iron Duke at a range of 9,000 yards and was heavily engaged by the light forces and the 4th, 1st, and 5th Battle Squadrons.
During this attack three enemy destroyers were reported as sunk by the fire of the battleships, light cruisers and destroyers; one of them, bearing a Commodore's pendant, being sunk at 7.50 P.M. by a division of the 12th Flotilla, consisting of the Obedient, Marvel, Mindful and Onslaught, which attacked them near the rear of our battle line. The Southampton and Dublin, of the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, attacked and sank a second destroyer at this period. At least six torpedoes were observed to pass ahead of, or through the track of, the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron during their attack on the German flotilla.
The destroyer attacks were combined with a retiring movement on the part of the enemy's Battle Fleet, the movement being covered with the aid of a heavy smoke screen. Although this retirement was not visible from the Iron Duke owing to the smoke and mist, and was, therefore, not known to me until after the action, it was clearly seen from the rear of our line, as is indicated by the following citations:
The Captain of the Valiant stated in his report: "At 7.23 P.M. enemy's Battle Fleet now altered course together away from us and broke off the action, sending out a low cloud of smoke which effectually covered their retreat and obscured them from further view."
The Captain of the Malaya reported, referring to this period : " This was the last of the enemy seen in daylight, owing to their Battle Fleet having turned away."
Sir Cecil Burney stated in regard to this period: " As the destroyer attack developed, the enemy's Battle Fleet in sight were observed to turn at least eight points until their sterns were towards our line. They ceased fire, declined further action, and disappeared into the mist."
The Captain of the St. Vincent said: "The target was held closely until 7.26 P.M. (32 minutes in all), when the enemy had turned eight or ten points away, disappearing into the mist and with a smoke screen made by destroyers to cover them as well."
Rear-Admiral Evan-Thomas remarked: " After joining the Battle Fleet the 5th Battle Squadron conformed to the movements of the Commander-in-Chief, engaging the rear ships of the enemy's battle line, until they turned away and went out of sight, all ships apparently covering themselves with artificial smoke."
The Captain of the Revenge recorded: " A flotilla of destroyers passed through the line and made a most efficient smoke screen. At this period the enemy's fleet turned eight points to starboard and rapidly drew out of sight."
In the German account of the action at this stage, it is stated, in more than one passage, that the British Fleet during this action between the Battle Fleets was to the northward of the High Seas Fleet. This is correct of the earlier stages. The account refers to the attacks on our line by the German destroyer flotillas, and states finally that in the last attack the destroyers did not sight the heavy ships, but only light cruisers and destroyers to the north-eastward. The accuracy of this statement is doubtful, since the destroyers were clearly in sight from our heavy ships. But the account then proceeds to state that "the German Commander-in-Chief turns his battle line to a southerly and southwesterly course on which the enemy was last seen, but he is no longer to be found."
This is illuminating. It is first stated that our ships bore north and north-east from the enemy and then that the enemy turned to south and south-west, that is, directly away from the British Fleet. Thus the fact that the German Fleet turned directly away is confirmed by Germans.
No report of this movement of the German Fleet reached me, and at first it was thought that his temporary disappearance was due to the thickening mist, especially as firing could be heard from the battleships in rear, but at 7.41 P.M., the enemy Battle Fleet being no longer in sight from the Iron Duke, course was altered " by divisions ^ three points more to starboard (namely, to south-west) to close the enemy, and single line ahead was again formed on the Iron Duke on that course.
At this period the rear of our battle line was still in action at intervals with one or two ships of the enemy's fleet, which were probably some that had dropped astern partially disabled, but by 7.55 P.M. fire had practically ceased.
At about 7.40 P.M. I received a report from Sir David Beatty stating that the enemy bore north-west by west from the Lion, distant 10 to II miles, and that the Lion's course was south-west. Although the battle cruisers were not in .sight from the Iron Duke, I assumed the Lion to be five or six miles ahead of the van of the Battle Fleet, but it appeared later from a report received in reply to directions signalled by me at 8.10 P.M. to the King George V. to follow the battle cruisers, that they were not in sight from that ship either.
At this time the enemy's Battle Fleet seems to have become divided, for whilst Sir David Beatty reported the presence of battleships north-west by west from the Lion, other enemy battleships were observed to the westward (that is, on the starboard bow of the Iron Duke), and the course of the Fleet was at once altered " by divisions " to west in order to close the enemy; this alteration was made at 7.59 P.M.
It will be observed that all the large alterations of course of the Battle Fleet during the engagement were made " by divisions" instead of "in succession from the van, or together." The reason was that in this way the whole Fleet could be brought closer to the enemy with far greater rapidity, and in a more ordered formation, than if the movement had been carried out by the line " in succession."
The objection to altering by turning all ships together was the inevitable confusion that would have ensued as the result of such a manoeuvre carried out with a very large Fleet under action conditions in misty weather, particularly if the ships were thus kept on a line of bearing for a long period.
The battleships sighted at 7.59 P.M. opened fire later on ships of the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron, which had moved out to starboard of the battle line to engage a flotilla of enemy destroyers which were steering to attack the Battle Fleet. The Calliope, the flagship of Commodore Le Mesurier, ,was hit by a, heavy shell and received some damage, but retained her fighting efficiency and fired a torpedo at the leading battleship at a range of 6,500 yards ; an explosion was noticed on board a ship of the "Kaiser" class by the Calliope. The ships sighted turned away and touch could not be regained, although sounds of gunfire could be heard from ahead at 8.25 P.M., probably from our battle cruisers, which obtained touch with and engaged some of the enemy's ships very effectively between 8.22 and 8.28 P.M. The Falmouth .was the last ship of the Battle Cruiser Fleet to be in touch with the enemy, at 8.38 P.M. ; the ships then in sight turned eight points together away from the Falmouth.
At 8.30 P.M. the light was failing and the Fleet was turned "by divisions" to a south-west course, thus reforming single line again.
During the proceedings of the Battle Fleet described above, the battle cruisers were intermittently in action, as mentioned in Sir David Beatty's report in the Appendix.
09-08-02, 01:07 PM
At first, touch with the enemy was lost owing to the large alterations of course carried out by the High Sea Fleet, but it was regained at 7.12 P.M., the battle cruisers opening fire at 7.14 P.M., though only for two and a half minutes, and increasing speed to 22 knots. At this period the battle cruisers were steering south-west by south to south-west, and 'this course took them from the port to the starboard bow of the Battle Fleet by 7.12 P.M. The movements of our battle cruisers, which were at this time between four and five miles ahead of the van of the Battle Fleet could not be distinguished, owing partly to the funnel and cordite smoke from the battle cruisers themselves, but even more to the funnel smoke from the numerous cruisers, light cruisers and destroyers which were attempting to gain their positions ahead of the van.
The movements of the enemy's fleet could not be distinguished from our Battle Fleet owing again to their own funnel and cordite smoke, and also to the smoke screens which ships and destroyers were making to conceal their movements. It will be realised that these conditions, which particularly affected the Battle Fleet, did not apply to the same extent to our ships ahead of our Battle Fleet. They had little but the .smoke of the enemy's leading ships to obscure the view. Farther to the rear, the Battle Fleet had the smoke of all our craft ahead of it as well as that of the enemy's long line of ships.
Conditions which were perhaps difficult ahead of the Battle Fleet were very much accentuated in the Battle Fleet. Vice-Admiral Sir Martyn Jerram, in his report, remarked on this point : " As leading ship, in addition to the hazy atmosphere, I was much hampered by what I imagine must have been cordite fumes from the battle cruisers after they had passed us, and from other cruisers engaged on the bow, also by funnel gases from small craft ahead, and for a considerable time by dense smoke from the Duke of Edinburgh, which was unable to draw clear. "
The general position at 6.45 P.M. and again at 7.15 P.M. is shown in the plans facing pp. 356 and 360.
At 7.10 P.M., according to remarks from the Minotaur, flagship of Rear-Admiral H. L. Heath, commanding the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, the position as seen from that ship was as follows: "The 2nd Cruiser Squadron was in single line ahead three to four miles on the port side of the King George V., gaining on her slightly, but with all the destroyers and light craft between her and the King George V. The battle cruisers were about four miles distant on the starboard bow of the Minotaur; owing to their higher speed, the battle cruisers rapidly ' increased their distance from the Battle Fleet to some eight miles ."
At 7.5 P.M. according to a report from the Shannon, of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, the Shannon's course was S. 10 W., "the 2nd Cruiser Squadron endeavouring to take station on the engaged bow of the Battle Fleet ; the Battle Fleet still engaged, the battle cruisers not engaged and turned slightly to port." And again at 7.22 P.M. a report says: "The Duke of Edinburgh had now taken station astern of the Shannon, the battle cruisers were engaged and had wheeled to starboard. Leading ships of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron were starting to cross the bows of the Battle Fleet from port to starboard. Battle cruisers firing intermittently, light cruisers making their way through the destroyer flotillas to attack the enemy light cruisers." Rear-Admiral Heath sated: " At 7.11 P.M. I proceeded with the squadron at 20 knots to take up station astern of the Battle Cruiser Fleet, which was then engaged with the enemy. " He added : " One salvo fell short on the starboard bow of the Minotaur and some others in close proximity" ; and later says, " even when the salvo referred to in the preceding paragraph fell, no more than the flashes of the enemy's guns could be seen."
Further remarks from the Shannon, at a later stage, were : " At 8 P.M. Battle Fleet altered course to starboard to close the enemy, and by 8.15 was lost to sight, bearing about north by east."
"At 8.15 P.M. Battle Fleet, out of sight from Shannon, was heard to be in action.^
"At 8.30 P.M. the visibility of grey ships was about 9,000 yards." ^At 8.45 P.M. King George V. again sighted, bearing north-north-east. Visibility had again improved, and her range was estimated at about 10,000 yards. Conformed to her course S. 75 W. to close enemy."
At 7.20 P.M. the ships engaged by our battle cruisers turned away and were lost to sight. They were located for a moment at 8.20 P.M. with the aid of the 1st and 3rd Light Cruiser Squadrons, and, although they disappeared again at once, they were once more located and effectively engaged between 8.22 and 8.28 P.M. at about 10,000 yards range. They turned away once more and were finally lost to sight by the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron (the last ships to keep in touch) at 8.38 P.M., steaming to the westward.
This was the last opportunity which the battle cruisers had of putting the finishing touch upon a fine afternoon's work. They had, under the very able and gallant leadership of Sir David Beatty, assisted by the splendid squadron so well commanded by Rear-Admiral Evan-Thomas, gone far to crush out of existence the opposing Battle Cruiser Squadron.
It will be seen from the above account that our battle cruisers experienced great difficulty in locating and holding the enemy after 7.20 P.M., even when far ahead of the Battle Fleet, with its small craft, and therefore in a position of freedom from the smoke of our own vessels and the enemy's line. After this time, 7.20 P.M., the battle cruisers .were only engaged for some six minutes. The enemy turned away on each occasion when he was located and showed no disposition to fight.
The visibility by this time had become very bad; the light was failing, and it became necessary to decide on the disposition for the night.
Copyright © 1996-1999 by The War Times Journal.