Ships Stories | The Battle of Jutland - Centenary Initiative
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Ships Stories

HMS ABDIEL – HER ROLE AT JUTLAND

HMS Abdiel, a newly built fast minelayer, joined the Grand Fleet in early 1916.

Soon after the main battle commenced, Abdiel took up her station close to Jellicoe’s flagship. the Iron Duke. The ship, with a full load of mines, was effectively a floating bomb which could easily have been detonated by a single enemy shell whilst their own 4inch guns did not have the range to participate in the fleet action. However, the Abdiel remained unscathed and the main action was broken off at about 21:00 when the German fleet began to retire towards its base at Wilhelmshaven.

At about 21:30, Commander Curtis was ordered to proceed at high speed towards the German coast to extend the minefield he had previously laid off the Horn Reef (on May 3rd and 4th) and in the path of the retiring German fleet. To achieve this, he had to take HMS Abdiel through the ongoing but somewhat scrappy battle between the opposing squadrons and get behind the German fleet. Had Abdiel stumbled across even a minor German warship the results would probably have been fatal but Commander Curtis succeeded

in his task and laid the mines off the Horn Reefs at between shortly after midnight in the morning of 1 June. Abdiel then returned to her base at Rosyth, again passing through the High Seas Fleet. Later, at about 06:30, the German battleship, SMS Ostfriesland on its way back to Wilhelmshaven, stuck and was damaged by one of her mines. Admiral Jellicoe, in his formal report, wrote the following:

Abdiel, ably commanded by Commander Berwick Curtis, carried out her duties with the success which has always characterised her work.”

Commander Curtis own account, written as a letter. was very understated :

Abdiel had no active part as far as fighting was concerned in the Battle of Jutland, and one cannot make a good yarn out of it. Up to the time of meeting the Germans we were working with the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron, stationed 5 miles ahead of the Battle Fleet and steaming in line abreast, ships a mile apart. When the fleets sighted each other and the deployment signal was made, the 4th LCS went off to their station ahead of the line but Abdiel remained where she was until the fleet had nearly completed deploying, by which time the “overs ” from the Germans, strafing two of our four-funnelled cruisers about half a mile south-west of us and the three battle

cruisers led by Invincible about half a mile to the south-east of us, came buzzing about and bursting round us. I, therefore, legged it round the head of our battle line, which had finished deploying, and managed to get through four lines of destroyers taking up their position ahead of the fleet, and finally got to my battle position half a mile or so on the disengaged beam of the Iron Duke. Here we remained until dusk. At about 9.30 pm I got orders to proceed to a position south of Vyl Lightship and lay a line of mines. We therefore went off at 32 knots, passing on our way several ships in the distance, and also a flotilla of sorts which were making a great deal of smoke, but as we were not making any smoke ourselves, we presumably were not seen. We reached our position about 1 a.m., and laid the mines, then returned to Rosyth for another load, passing south of the big North Sea mine area. Abdiel was not hit during the battle, and did not have any action with any German destroyer or big ships, but we got a very good view of the whole show between 6 and 8 p.m. We had 80 ordinary mines and 10 Leon mines on board, all primed, so perhaps it is just as well that we weren’t hit. The ship did exactly what she was intended to do, justified her existence, and that’s all there is to it.”

HMS Abdiel's flag at Lwford.

HMS Abdiel’s flag at Lawford.

 

The Battle Ensign flown by the minelayer HMS Abdiel at the Battle of Jutland (which normally would have flown from the foremast or mainmast) was left at St Mary’s Church, Lawford by her captain, Commander Berwick Curtis. Originally it was on public display but it seems to have been removed and stored in the Church away from public display in recent years.

(Kindly submitted by David MacDonald and based on his account).

SOME MORE STORIES :
Imperial War Museum HMS Abdiel community :
https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/community/2963

HMS ACASTA

HMS Acasta was originally going to be called HMS King. One account of her action at Jutland is below :

« Acasta was very badly mauled in her encounter with German light cruisers and was finally so damaged that she lay drifting close to the course of the German battleships. She had a list to starboard, two large holes just abaft the third funnel, one large hold forward on the port side, and sat very low in the water, her guns and torpedo tubes still trained aneam and they had been during the action. As the fleet flagship, HMS Iron Duke, came rushing by, firing her guns and leading her division, the men of the plucky little destroyer rushed out, forming a lime from the forecastle head to right aft and gave their Commander-in-Chief three heary cheers. Acasta was afterwards take in tow by Nonsuch and brought safe to port (Aberdeen).»

She had suffered some heavy casulaties :

· Engineer Lieutenant James Forrest

· Chief Petty Officer Stoker Richard Massey who is buried at Anns Hill, Gosport (from whence many of my family came)

· Chief Stoker George Howe who lies buried in Milton Cemetery, so either he died of wounds or his body was recovered.

· Engine Room Artificer James Bailey, buried Horsham

· Herbert James Bailey who was taken to Horesham for hospitalisation by train

I think John Barron, her thirty three year old commander was unhurt.

SOME MORE STORIES :
Imperial War Museum HMS Acasta community :
https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/community/2561

HMS AGINCOURT

A YOUNG LIEUTENANT’S REPORT ON JUTLAND

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Lt. Horatio Westmacott, HMS Agincourt

I write this now but don’t know when I shall be allowed to send it off on account of the Censor. As I think I told you before the Navy has been sending occasional parties out to the trenches to get some idea of the fighting in France and bring back stories to relieve the monotony of their shipmates. Well, the Army retaliated by sending some Officers up to the Grand Fleet to see what we were up to. There were to arrive by 8.o’c in the evening and one, a Captain in the R.E., called Webb was to be accommodated in the Agincourt. That afternoon we were ordered to raise steam with all despatch and an hour or two after the soldiers were aboard we got under weigh. The rumour went around that the Huns were out but they have been out pottering about in their own waters so often before, and we have always hurried out to meet them, only to find that before we could get near they would slip back, so we took little account of the rumour expecting that our trip would fizzle out in the same way that it has one hundred and one times before. It was the real thing this time and what we had been waiting very nearly two years for the soldierman who had come to pay us a visit of days sees almost at once. He must think ours a giddy life. Well to get on with the story. The night before the action I had the middle watch, that is 12 to 4. The next afternoon we exercised action stations for about an hour my station being the foretop, namely the foremast from where I control the 6” guns of which we have ten aside. By control I mean that I get orders up a voice pipe from the Captain in the conning tower to open fire on such and such ship and I do the rest, viz, give them the bearing of the enemy, range, deflection, etc, and keep altering the range so as to keep trying to hit the enemy. After finishing our exercise we had lunch and I got into my chair for a well earned snooze, having been up half the night. The Fleet all this time was steering in the direction where the Admiral had news by wireless of the enemy, and we were still in a state of apathy, expecting the whole thing to come to nothing. However about 3 o’c in the afternoon we were wakened by a signal from the Fleet Flagship to “prepare in every respect for instant action” which entailed a busy hour’s work for us doing the thousand and one little things that had to be done, different of course in every ship. My job was to see a number of the men’s hammocks stowed down below out of the way and then to see a lot of tubs and fire buckets in different parts of the ship filled in case a fire system should get shot away in any part. By the time I had done that it was after 4 o’c and it was my first dog watch, viz, 4 to 6 I had to rip up on the bridge having had no tea. During the first dog we kept hearing reports by wireless, that the battle cruisers and our faster battle ships were engaging the enemy. About a quarter past five we could hear firing but the weather was very hazy and we could not see them, visibility about 7 miles. At about 10 to 6 we saw the flashes of guns on our stbd bow, we had gone into action about 10 minutes previously. The Captain had had it piped round the ship about 10 minutes before that the battlecruisers were engaging the enemy which brought forth a rousing cheer and all rushed off to their stations full of excitement.

As officer of the watch I had of course been in charge of the ship up to that moment so I turned over to the Captain and went up the foremast to my station. On arrival there I got the report that both my batteries were ready for opening fire, which I passed on to the Gunnery Dept and then proceeded to wait my chances. The flashes we had seen were our own battlecruisers firing on the enemy. They crossed ahead of us aamd presently through the smoke we made out the enemy and opened fire on them with our 12” guns, of which we have 14. They are controlled by the Gunnery Commander from a position on the foremast just above mine. The reason we are up there of course that to a certain extent it puts us above our own smoke and also one can see further. The higher you are the better you are able to spot the fall of shot. With a low visibility one could see flashes everywhere but it was difficult to make out ships , however we saw our 12” were hitting all right first firing at a cruiser and later at the battleships as they came in sight My old ship the ‘Defence’ passing close to us to take up her station was being fired at by enemy ships that were out of sight from us. I saw three salvos of shots that were falling all around her and the fourth got her. It must have been a hit in some magazine for there was a tremendous explosion before she sank. Later we passed a ship, bottom up. I should judge from the size and colour that it was a German light cruiser, but I have no means of telling at present. We also passed one of our Destroyers with all hands on the upper deck flying the signal that they were in imminent danger of sinking. Great columns of water springing up all around us caused by the big shells firing at us, they sent up a column higher than the mast of the ship, the ship next ahead of us was straddled, viz 3 shots short and 2 over, luckily not hit by a salvo and we saw the water streaming off her as if she had suddenly plunged into a heavy sea . We were hit by lots of small splinters from the big shells bursting but no direct hit and very little damage done. The decks a bit scored in places and most of the boats had a hole of two in them. My chance didn’t come at first but later after about half an hour the enemy developed a destroyer attack and out of the haze about 60 degrees on our starboard bow a lot of destoyers came racing towards us. I opened fire at about 9000 yards and managed to cripple 0ne, for we counted five direct hits and the rest then turned away without getting in their attack, leaving one disabled behind. I did not see it sink but our destroyers must have finished it off alright as it could not steam. We saw the tracks of torpedo’s fired at us at various times and three times had to alter course to avoid them, two passing ahead and one astern, all pretty close shaves for us we also saw one torpedo break surface about 50 yds abeam of us having run its full course and just not reached us, so we were quite in luck’s way. Our flagship, the Marlborough, was hit by a torpedo but managed to stay on till the ed of the action. She had a list of about 5 degrees but it reduced her speed very little. During the night the admiral transferred his flag to another ship and the Marlborough made off to the nearest harbour where she arrived safely. We lost the enemy in the haze and dark that was coming on. During the night we saw lots of flashes from guns along way from us, Destroyer attack certainly , but on whom I don’t know. I got no sleep that night, being in the foretop all the time constantly on the lookout. About 10:30pm I was relieved for about half an hour to get my food, my first since lunch at noon and to put on warmer clothes for the night. Some time at about 16:30 in the morning we sited a ZEP, which we had a bang at but I fear made no impression. There is I think nothing more to tell you. I only hope that next time we come up with them it will be in the morning and not the evening, there will probably then be more to write about. I am tremendously in luck being stationed in the foretop for I could see all there was to be seen and one can’t conceive a grander spectacle than a Naval Battle.

Written June 3rd, 1916, HMS Agincourt.

(Kindly submitted by Adrian Wildish. Lt. (later Captain) Horatio Westmacott was Adrian’s maternal grandfather. Horatio was from Probus in Cornwall, where his father was the local Parish Priest. His tomb is there along with Horatio’s brother who was killed during the war and whose name is on the local War Memorial. Horatio developed Multiple Scorosis and died in the late 1950’s in Torquay Devon.

A lucky Posting to Agincout

Aged thirteen, Herbert (Bertie) Acheson Forster went to Dartmouth as a naval cadet As war broke out, joined the crew of HMS Invincible His posting had changed from the Victoria & Albert to Invincible so that he could accompany other officers of the Royal Yacht to the new dreadnought, purchased by the Turkish Navy, but now commandeered as HMS Agincourt. This saved his life as, tragically, Invincible sank with all hands. In 1937 he retired as Rear Admiral Forster MVO, RN.

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Herbert (Bertie) Acheson Forster (Courtesy of Michael Nurton)

HMS Agincourt’s origins

HMS Agincourt was originally been built for the Turkish navy and would have ben known as known as the Sultan Osman. As the situation in Europe heated up Churchill was getting ready to sieze the ship and keep her for the British Royal Navy. On July 31st (after Russia had mobilized) he told Armstrong Vickers, her builders, of his intentions. At 14:30 that afternoon the Turks paid a large installment (£800,000) into the Vicker’s account. Immediately Churchill ordered her siezed, bot telling the Turks. British sailors boarded her and took her over within minutes.

It is felt that this action heavily contributed to Turkey entering the war on the German’s side. With all its consequences at Gallipoli. It’s thought that Enver Pasha had offered the Germans the ship knowing that it was going to be siezed which then led them into a more aggressive role of rupport.

The ship became known as the « Gin Palace » Inside,when she’d been siezed, she had already been outfitted with fine Turkish carpets.

SOME MORE STORIES :
Imperial War Museum HMS Agincourt community :
https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/community/2938

HMS AMBUSCADE.

Help us raise money for heroes.

Pat Avery, grandson of the Telegraphist who served in the torpedo boat destroyer HMS Ambuscade during the Battle of Jutland 100 years ago, has published a book, written to raise money for the Royal Navy’s principal charity.

Ldg Tel Basil Phillips J10426 HMS Ambuscade

Ldg Tel Basil Phillips J10426 HMS Ambuscade

The book, Duel in the North Sea: HMS Ambuscade at Jutland (Sea Funnel, ISBN 978-0-95479-5313 £10), has been released to commemorate the centenary of the battle, and documents what was the most intensely contested and significant naval engagement of the First World War. All proceeds from the sale of the book goes directly to the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity

9780954795313

As a direct descendant of one of the sailors involved in the Battle of Jutland, Pat, together with other family members, was invited by the Government to the special Centenary commemorative service held in St.Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney on 31st May, an event attended by HRH The Princess Royal, The President of the Federal Republic of Germany, and Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron.

Pat said afterwards “It was a tremendous honour and privilege to be present on such a momentous occasion. Not only to remember my grandfather, but all the officers and men on both sides, particularly those who made the supreme sacrifice.”

Another highlight for Pat in connection with the book was an appearance on the BBC TV programme Songs of Praise, which was first screened on BBC1 on 29th May.  Filming took place in Belfast aboard HMS Caroline, the sole surviving ship from the Battle of Jutland.

Pat Avery on HMS Caroline on May 29th 2016 where Songs of Praise was filmed.

Pat Avery on HMS Caroline on May 29th 2016 where Songs of Praise was filmed.

Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said: “This book is a personal contribution from a naval family, but it also reflects our national story. Britain was dependent on the sea for security and prosperity in 1916, just as we are today. The Battle of Jutland ensured the Royal Navy retained its supremacy. Famous for being a clash between battleships, this book rightly remembers the men who served in the numerous smaller, but no less gallant, ships of the Grand Fleet and the vital role they played in the battle.”

Lauren Wileman, representing the charity, said: “The book gives an excellent personal insight into the battle. We are very grateful to be receiving 100 per cent of the profits from the sale of copies of the book. It is an extremely generous gesture from Pat in support of the Charity. Donations generated from the book will go toward helping naval veterans of all ages, as well as those serving today and their families.”

(Courtesy of Pat Avery)

To order, please visit the publisher’s website at:  www.seafunnel.co.uk

HMS ARDENT

Arthur Harold Cragg was a Petty Officer Stoker on board HMS Ardent. He had only just been married while on his final shore leave before the battle. His diaries have been digitized by his great great nephew and I hope we can share some of them soon.

(Courtesy of Neil Armstrong)

HMAS AUSTRALIA – THE SHIP THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN AT JUTLAND

Just weeks before Jutland, HMAS Australia, suffered a cruel fate at the hands of her sister ship, New Zealand, in a ramming incident in bad weather conditions. It caused considerable ill-will between the ships’ companies.

HMAS Australia was launched in 1911 and commissioned as the flagship of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in 1913. Her immediate role in the naval war was hunting for Admiral Graf Spee’s German East Asia Squadron. She was diverted to New Guinea and Samoa and, as a consequence, could not take part in the destruction of the German force. And, because she was out of action at Jutland, is reputed to have only fired her guns on two occasions. Once in January 1915, against a German merchant vessel and in December 1917 at a suspected German submarine.

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HMS Australia before Jutland

HMS BARHAM

HMS Barham was one of five fast battleships of the Queen Elizabeth class.

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HMS Barham leading the 5th Battle Squadron in heav weather (private collection)

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HMS Barham at anchor in Scapa Flow (private collection)

She was commissioned on August 1915, and at Jutland, as Rear Admiral Sir Hugh Evan-Thomas’ flagship received six hits. With one of her sister ships, HMS Valiant, the two made 23-24 hits on evenmy ships during the battle, mostly in the so-called “Run to the North”.

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Rear-Admiral Sir Hugh Evan-Thomas (private collection) with his beloved “Jutland Jack”

Her end in the Mediterranean in the Second World War was as a result of a torpedo attack. The full explosion was horrific and captured on film from rolling over to catastrphic explosion

Imperial War Museum HMS Barham community :
https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/community/2315

Pathé Newreel footage of HMS Barham explosion :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdrISbwy_zI

HMS BELLEROPHON

The battleship known as The Billy Ruffian was used on Canadian currency

Bellerophon was at Jutland as part of Admiral Doveton Sturdee’s 4th Battle Division. She left the battle undamaged and had fired around 62 heavy shells.

When Bellerophon later crossed the area where Rear Admiral Horace Hood had been killed with almost his entire ship’s company, a 19 year old “snottie” (a term, I won’t say of endearment, used for midshipmen in the Royal Navy), commented on the terrible carnage.

“During the lull we came out of the turrets to get some fresh air and there, floating around us, was a whole mass of bodies and débris – some of our sailors were cheering because they thought they were Germans, but unfortunately they were from the Invincible. It was a terrible experience and my first experience of death.”

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HMS Bellerophon was on the Royal Bank of Canada’s 1913 $10 note.

Imperial War Museum HMS Bellerophon community :
https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/community/2799

HMS BENBOW

The story of two brothers who fought in the biggest naval battle since Trafalgar

During the fourteen or hours of action at Jutland, 8,500 men were killed on both sides. One was Alexander Kasterine’s sixteen year old great uncle Archibald, then servicing as a midshipman on new battle-cruiser, HMS Queen Mary (she’d only been in service three years). His eighteen year old brother Robert “Bertie” Dickson, his grandfather, was also in the battle and survived unscathed.

Bertie witnessed the main action through the periscope in his gun turret on the dreadnought HMS Benbow. In a series of letters between Bertie and his parents, kept in the archive of the National Library of Scotland, Alex learned of the horror and spectacle of battle, a young man’s pride at victory over the enemy, the parent’s and brother’s grief of losing the youngest member of the family, and a mother’s anger at the incompetence of a British Admiral.

Archibald and Bertie grew up in a comfortable and happy household in Edinburgh. Their father, William, was the Director of the National Library of Scotland, their mother, Kathleen, the daughter of General Murdoch Smith a Royal Engineer who had spent much of his life as diplomat in Iran overseeing the construction of railways and spying in the Great Game against Russia.

Family albums show photographs of the two boys with adoring parents and enjoying summer holidays fishing, tennis and beachcoming across Scotland. However, the boys were destined for early adulthood and at the ages of 12 were sent to Dartmouth Naval College to train as midshipmen.

Bertie (shown on the left) and Archibald Dickson together for the last day before they both returned to their ship before the Battle of Jutland, May 1916

In August 1914, their parents made the long journey to visit the boys at naval college. As they sat picnicking and watching a college cricket match, an officer ran onto the pitch announcing that Britain had declared war with Germany. The boys bid farewell to their parents and ran from the pitch to join their ships. They did not see Bertie for another two years, not till the eve of the Battle of Jutland.

Death in war is a lottery. Archie was sent to the battle-cruiser HMS Queen Mary, known as the “pride of the navy”. His older brother Bertie joined HMS Benbow a dreadnought battleship.

Bertie’s first sight of the battle was at the start of the second and heaviest engagement, just after 18:00, crouched inside one of Benbow’s gun turrets. Looking through his periscope he drew sketches of the battle and in a letter to his father, describes how saw the enemy coming into view at the same time as Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty’s Battle-cruiser Fleet. Bertie noted that he could not see his brother’s battle-cruiser, Queen Mary, that formed part of Beatty’s Fleet.

“The Battle-Cruisers were being straddled continuously, great columns of water rising all round them. We waited anxiously for a glimpse of the Queen Mary and Indefatigable, but they never came. They had gone before ever we arrived”.

Unknown to Bertie, an hour earlier, his brother Archie had been killed along with 1,285 other men when the Queen Mary was destroyed in the first phase of the battle. Another cruiser the Indefatigable was also destroyed in the same action with the German Scouting Group with the loss of 1,000 men.

Two days after the battle, Alex’s great grandparents received a telegram at their home in Gloucester Place, Edinburgh with the words “DEEPLY REGRET INFORM YOU MIDSHIPMAN ARCHIBALD W DICKSON KILLED IN ACTION + ADMIRALTY”.

Alex’s great grandmother, Kathleen, wrote to her only surviving son Bertie of her grief.

“My dearest and only boy, We can’t tell each other in writing what we are feeling today – my world was divided into three parts, or a third has crumbled away. You will, I hope, be some boy’s Father some day, but you can never be his Mother, so you can never know what I am feeling now.

I am telling the simple truth when I say, that all mothers and sons are not what we were to each other. He had needed me so much always, and I was perhaps too proud of the big handsome man my delicate kiddie was growing into. Thank God you missed being in the Queen Mary ”.

Archie and Bertie’s father, William Dickson, found some solace in what many considered at the time to be a victory for the Royal Navy, but the pain was acute for him too.

“It seems impossible to believe that we shall never see Archie again and that he, and his friends who used to come here, and that splendid ship of which they were all so proud, are at the bottom of the sea.

It is good to know from your letter and from all we hear elsewhere, that the results of the action have been so much better than appeared from the first news, and that all their sacrifices have not been in vain.

He quotes the reassuring words of a Commander Sands who had written to him to say

“you have at least the proud satisfaction of knowing that he fell doing his duty in a greater and perhaps more decisive action Trafalgar”

But that won’t bring Archie back. It is a terrible blow to Mum, but she is bearing it very bravely”.

Bertie wrote to his father, once it was confirmed that his brother was dead.

“The hardest truth is better than that awful uncertainty. I wonder if you saw him that last Sunday? I can picture it yet. I can’t realize coming home again and not finding Archie with you or at Rosyth. All our two lives we’ve been in a family of four and its heart breaking to think of all those happy holidays we’ve had and the home life that can never be the same again…In all the two years abroad last commission I never wanted to be home with you like I do now, but in all our troubles we must not think of our selves”.

By 4th June, Kathleen grief had turned to anger, specifically towards Vice Admiral Beatty.

“There is no end of a flowing account of the battle in the evening paper – it must be very badly informed, for if, as would appear from it, Beatty engaged the German Grand Fleet with his five Cruisers, for no better reason than to demonstrate British pluck, he would deserve to be shot.

Immediately after the battle, Archie’s grieving mother had asked his surviving son to write to the survivors to find out more about the circumstances of Archie’s death. Two of the 20 survivors wrote to Bertie, describing the likely last moments for Archie. Midshipman Jocelyn Storey was in “X” turret with Archie.

“At about 5.20 a heavy shell hit our turret and put the right gun out of action but killed nobody. Three minutes later an awful explosion took place which smashed up our turret completely. The left gun broke in half and fell into the working chamber and the right one came right back. A cordite fire got going and a lot of the fittings broke loose and killed a lot of people. Those of us who were left got open the cabinet door and got into the S. cabinet. I did not see any sign of your brother and don’t know what happened to him…whether he was killed by the explosion or the fumes I can’t say.

Storey was able to get out of the turret and sat on the side of the listing ship,

“where the after magazine went up and blew us into the water. When I came up the ship was gone and there were very few swimming in the water. I saw your brother nowhere….I think that is all I can tell you as I did not see him after the action started properly but just before he seemed quite happy not in the smallest degree”.

A month after the battle, Bertie wrote to his mother saying how he thought Archie met his end.

“I think myself that Archie was killed in the cabinet, knowing the construction of the 13.5” turret. I know that he was in the right hand corner of the cabinet, because he showed me his action station when I was onboard. Story say “the right gun came right back”, so one can well imagine the end.

How I wish someone had been saved who had seen him in those last moments before the ship sank, and who had spoken to him. But nobody need tell you that his last thoughts were of you and of home, and to no one who has fallen in this war have those thoughts been happier, more loving, or brought greater comfort”.

The second correspondent and surviving shipmate, Petty Officer Ernest Francis described to Bertie, the turret’s early success in the battle but also its last moments.

“We fires off 30 rounds and observes one of the German ships falling out of the line “First blood to Queen Mary”. Then came the big explosion, which shook us a bit … Immediately after that come what I term the big smash, and I was dangling in the air on a bowline, which saved me from being thrown down on to the floor of the turret. The turret was destroyed and the Lt gave the order to clear the turret.

Francis described what historians agree was the main cause of the Queen Mary and Indefatigable’s destruction.

“To finish my account, I will say that I believe the cause of the ship being blown up was a shell striking “B” turret working chamber igniting the shells stowed there in the ready racks, and the flash must have passed down into the magazine, and that was the finish”.

In one of the first engagements of the war, the Battle of Dogger Bank, a German ship, the Seydlitz, had nearly suffered the same catastrophic magazine explosion because its magazine was not protected from flash. The Germans immediately introduced modifications to their flash control ensure it did not happen again. The British navy did not make such changes.

The second reason for the Queen Mary and Indefatigable’s destruction was a tactical error by the British commander Beatty. Whilst subject to debate and controversy after the battle for several decades, modern historians agree that Beatty had made a fatal error in the battle.

Through poor communication he allowed his Queen Elizabeth class ships in the 5th Battle Squadron to become separated so that in the early stages of the action, these heavily armoured super-dreadnoughts were trailing behind, increasing the likelihood of British losses.

Beatty was also criticized for not firing at the German ships earlier enough and taking advantage of his ships greater range. At Beatty’s flagship, HMS Lion, was hit and fell temporarily out of line, the Derfflinger’s gunnery officer directed fire at the Queen Mary which was already being targeted by Seydlitz. After hits to its turrets from the two German ships, the ship listed to its port and a series of explosion destroyed the bow and stern. As men escaped the turrets and began to jump into the water, the ship exploded.

From the bridge of Lion, Beatty observed the 800 feet high explosion of fiery smoke that obliterated the Queen Mary. His Captain recalled that Beatty turned and remarked:

“There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today”.

Beatty and his remaining Battle-cruisers followed by the lagging 5th Battle squadron headed north and draw the pursuing German ships into the jaws of Admiral Jellicoe’s Grand Fleet who were steaming south toward Beatty. Communications from Beatty were again at fault as he gave incorrect information on his position so that as Alex’s grandfather on one of Jellicoe’s fleet’s ships observed

“…we sighted him half an hour before we expected to, and before the armoured cruisers had got into position”.

Despite this, Jellicoe quickly manoeuvred his fleet to port creating the first of two “crossed Ts” that meant the approaching German fleet was subjected to heavily concentrated British fire.

Beattie emerged from the gloom at great speed in what must have been a dramatic sight for the eighteen year old on Benbow.

“Led by the Lion, they (the British cruisers) suddenly burst through the mist on the starboard bow. Lion, Princess Royal, Tiger and New Zealand; they tore past us at full speed, their great funnels and superstructures silhouetted against the sheets of flare and thick cordite smoke as they fired salvo after salvo at the enemy whose flashes could now be seen in the distance between the ships. It was a wonderful sight. The Lion had been hit and was smoking forward. (Admiral) Beatty passed across the bows of the Battle Fleet and went right ahead of everybody….”

By 18:30 the two main fleets were heavily engaged. A few minutes later another line of British ships passed between the two fleets, as described by Bertie.

“(Admiral) Bobbie Arbuthnot was trapped on the weather side of the Fleet, and with his speed, was unable to follow the Battle Cruisers to the Van. He had no choice but to lead his squadron down our whole engaged side, between us and the enemy … He made a splendid fight of it, firing at a tremendous rate the whole time, but getting terribly mauled. At 6.20, just as he got on our starboard quarter, his flagship, the Defence, was blown to pieces by the most appalling explosion. She was turning, and a salvo hit her. A great flame shot up, followed by a pillar smoke and steam.

“All ships of both Fleets were firing now…The action had now become pretty fierce although the enemy’s firing from the time our Battle Fleet arrived became very poor indeed, in fact at times we wondered who they were shooting at. The fight developed on a roughly semi-circular course, with many alterations of course and speed. We were engaging both battleships and battle cruisers at a maximum range of about 16,000 yards. Four Kaiser class battleships were now plainly visible. Shortly after 630 a ship of this class was seen to haul out of the line badly on fire, turn over and sink. One enemy light cruiser with three funnels, although she may originally had four, drifted down disabled between the lines, burning fiercely”

As dusk fell at 18:46, the German fleet “altered course to starboard and disappeared”. Fearing torpedo attack and mines, Jellicoe did not pursue, a decision for which he was criticized by some for missing an opportunity to maul the enemy but praised by others as the enemy returned to its port where it stayed for the duration of the war. Pursuing the enemy was not necessary to achieve the same result and two years previously the Admiralty had agreed that the British fleet would not pursue the Germans in such circumstances.

However, fierce firefights continued during the night.

“An enemy’s battle cruiser now appeared on our starboard quarter. Some observers think it was a battleship of the Koenig class, but most agree now that it was the Lützow. Ranging commenced and at 19:17 we opened fire at 13,000 yds. We gave her five salvos of 13.5 lyddite of which the third took effect. A great flame shot up from her quarter deck, setting the after part of the ship on fire and she disappeared into the mist blazing”.

Bertie’s letter describes his dreadnought dodging torpedoes and thus gives an idea of why Jellicoe felt pursuing the German fleet would leave his fleet vulnerable to a destroyer attack.

“Endless forming and disposing began after this and for nearly an hour we did innumerable 9 pendant turns, increasing speed to 20 knots. At 8.30 the third and last destroyer attack was made by the enemy bearing NNW and this ship was very nearly sunk. We had to put the helm hard a port and stop the starboard engine to avoid a torpedo which passed immediately ahead. We replied with one rippling salvo of 6” which completely repelled them. These were our last shots. At 9.00pm we ceased fire, having been engaged intermittently for 2.5 hours, and the general action was broken off in the darkness and the mist which now came down thick and cold”.

The following day, Bertie’s ship searched for survivors.

“We passed through miles of oil and wreckage, and many dead bodies in lifebelts, but no sign of the enemy, except his submarines which were reported at 9,30 and which kept us on the jump for a little….

Later in the afternoon, the weather worsened and burials at sea took place

“The barometer had been low all day, but now it fell rapidly, and an icy wind accompanied by choppy seas came down on the Fleet. At 7pm all ensigns were half-masted while the bodies of men who fell in action in Barham and Malaya were committed to the deep. The seas were coming on boards some of the ships and spray was sweeping along the decks. Surely no men ever had a wilder burial”.

A week later, back in their base in Scapa Flow, a more formal burial took place

“Each ship sent 60 men and 4 officers. We formed up in a great long line inland from the sea. Then the Commander in chief and all the Flag Officers and their staffs passed silently up the line and headed by the massed bands of the Iron Duke, Benbow and Colossus, we marched slowly to the Dead March from “Saul” to the ground consecrated by the Archbishop of York and formed up in a great triangle, Admirals and their staffs in the centre. There must have been 3 or 4 thousand officers and men there”.

Whilst the British lost many more men and ships than the Germans, the battle was a victory in the sense that Admiral Jellicoe had forced the German navy back to its port where it remained for the rest of war, enabling a debilitating blockade of Germany.

Like thousands of other families, Alex’s great grandparents were left with only memories of their son. For Kathleen, she had a photograph developed that was taken on the boys’ last day together just before they sailed out of Rosyth.

Bertie wrote to his mother,

“I am so glad we had it taken, and we will value it more than any other, for it was taken less than 10 minutes before we said goodbye to Archie for the last time. I don’t know if you saw him again…but I never did… I do so sympathize with you carrying on your job in a house where every chair must bring back the dearest memories of Archie”.

Bertie served in the Navy for another 40 years until his retirement as a Rear Admiral. His mother grieved every 31st May at home in Edinburgh, inviting family friends to a shrine of flowers around a photograph of his midshipman son, a long way from the dark wastes of the North Sea where her son was lost.

(Courtesy of Alexander Kasterine)

SOME MORE STORIES :
Imperial War Museum HMS Benbow community :
https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/community/2871

HMS BLACK PRINCE

The deadly loss of an entire ship’s company at night.

During the deployment, Rear Admiral Sir Robert Aubuthnot, ran dangerously close to Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty’s flagship. In fact, of his four ships, only two managed to cut across – HMS Defence and HMS Warrior. The Duke of Edinburgh and HMS Black Prince got left behind. Searching for her sister ships in the night, Black Prince, stumbled on the entire German battle line and was blown to pieces.

Black Prince

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HMS Black Prince

I’ve been over her wreck on the North Sea in April 2015 and seen the extended hull torpedo launch ramp. She went down fighting. 857 officers and men to their graves.

Kenneth King’s grandmother’s brother, Jack Butlin, died on HMS Black Prince. when she mistakenly thought that the line of ships she had found in the night were “friendlies”.  The German line was between 750 – 1,200 yards distant. At that distance they did not have a chance although they had managed a turn away and were launching torpedoes at their aggressors. Dr. Innes McCartney was able to work out the ship’s direction of turn.

SOME MORE STORIES :

Imperial War Museum HMS Black Prince community :

https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/community/2773

HMS BLANCHE

Rhys Roberts’ grandfather, Samuel Robert Vaughan Roberts, was at the Battle of Jutland as a stoker aboard HMS Blanche under the command of Reginald Drax, later Admiral. He joined the Royal Navy when he was 18 in November 1913 for a twenty-two year contract.

Samuel Roberts, HMS Blanche (first row in the center)

HMS Blanche, Roberts is in the center of the first row.

When he finished in 1935 he thought he had retired but was called for duty again in 1939, and finished duty with the RN in 1947. During both World Wars and the inter war years he was involved in many operations on many different ships including HMS’s Valiant and London. He worked his way up through the ranks to Chief Petty Officer and Chief Stoker. He died in 1973.

Samuel Roberts during World War II

(Courtesy of his grandson, Rhys Roberts)

 

 

 

HMS CALLIOPE

HMS Calliope was the flagship of the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron and directly attached to the Grand Fleet. In command was Charles E. leMesurier, John LeMesurier’s father.

Calliope was to be very heavily engaged in fighting back the German torpedo attack that led to Jellicoe’s Turn Away. She was hit three times and around a dozen men killed. Many years after the battle (actually in 1932), Jellicoe later wrote that he should have used the 4th LCS more effectively, particularly in the scouting actions when contact had been lost.

Sir James Spooner’s father had been at Jutland on the Calliope as a Lieutenant. He was later awarded a DSO in 1919 and promoted to Captain. . He had gone to Wilhemshaven and had heard about the extensive damage that had been suffered by the German ships.

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HMS Calliope, flagship of the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron at Jutland

Later, in 1920-21, he was chosen as the Navigating officer on HMS New Zealand when Sir John Jellicoe later made his Dominion Tour. He’d been a great fan of the Admiral.

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HMS New Zealand in the Panama Canal. Part of the Dominion voyage 1919. In Gaillard Cut (Kindly submitted by Sir James Spooner who had been a friend of my father, George).

SOME MORE STORIES :
Imperial War Museum HMS Calliope community :
https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/community/2568

HMS CANADA

Like Agincourt, build originally for the Turkish Navy, HMS Canada was built for the Chilean navy. The 28,600 ton battleship was based on the Iron Duke design but carried heavier guns (14inch) and had an extra three foot beam. Unlike the Turks, the Chileans actually wanted to sell one of their ships and accordingly HMS Canada was brought back and completed her refit in September 1915.

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HMS Canada

Initially she was part of the 4th Battle Squadron and later, after Jutland, transferred to the 1st Battle Squadron.

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HMS Canada at Jutland during the deployment. She is astern of HMS Superb.

After the war she was sold back to Chile and became the Almirante Latore.

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The Dowager Countess Jellicoe on a visit, I believe, to the Almirante Latore (date unknown, private collection).

She is wearing a pin depicting HMS Iron Duke.

HMS Canada has been lovingly restored by the Friends of the Royal Navy and will be part of the NMRN Jutland Exhibition in May 2016.

SOME MORE STORIES :
Imperial War Museum HMS Canada community :
https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/community/2968

HMS CAROLINE

Caroline nearly gave the British another 15 minutes of daylight gunnery

HMS Caroline holds a special place in the hearts of all those connected with the Battle of Jutland. She is the last survivor and has been lovingly restored with monies from the Heritage Lottery Fund. I was fortunate enough to visit her before the rennovations startedy.

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Nick Jellicoe visiting HMS Caroline in 2013 shortly before

her rennovation.

Built in Birkenhead in the Merseyside, the 446 foot light cruiser, weighting 3,750 tons, was launched in December 1914. She was a beautiful sleek sight.

After Jutland Caroline served as a drill ship till 2011 though she had a short spell during World War II serving as an operational headquarters for the management of the transatlantic convoys.

The following is an account of her role at Jutland told by Warrant Officer Frederick Fielder.

« The ship left port on Tuesday 30th May in company with the remainder of the Grand Battle Fleet. A quiet night was passed as regards the Fleet, but it proved to be a somewhat exciting one aboard, owing to a slight steering gear defect which necessitated the hand steering gear being connected, the ship being steered by it for a couple of hours. The following morning we were informed by our Captain (Captain R. Ralph Crooke), with the aid of a sketch map, of the duties of our squadron in connection with the forthcoming fleet movements. This showed that we were to be the most advanced squadron in the movement which, it was hoped, would draw the German fleet from the Kiel canal where it had reposed in security for so many months.

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Warrant Officer Frederick

Fielder, HMS Caroline

Our position was to have been north of Zealand Island. Here we hoped to see something of the German ships, having wished to do so for a year and a half without having the good fortune to sight them, although we came within distance of them when the Blücher was sunk. We were told however to form an escort for the Lion, which was damaged in that engagement, but later returned safely to port.

During the forenoon, we were informed that the Battle Cruisers were in touch with the enemy. Later we were told that their Battle Fleet was out, but a long way off. Our direction had already been altered to bring us up with the Battle Cruisers. We had been to action stations and made all preparations for battle should we have the good luck to get on the scene of the engagement before the enemy scattered for port, as was their usual custom when meeting any of our ships.

At ten minutes past three, the alarm rattlers were sounded, and everyone at once rushed off to their stations. We had the exciting news that we were nearing the scene of conflict, and soon we could hear the sound of gunfire. Shortly afterwards coming in sight of our Battle Cruisers who were firing broadside after broadside. We rapidly closed on them, taking up positions to protect them from torpedo and submarine attacks, being for some time in company with the Lion, the flagship of the battle cruiser squadron flying the flag of Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty, At this time the whole of our fleet was in a very close formation, lines of battleships intermingled with lines of cruisers, light cruisers and destroyers. These ships, to the eye of an observer unused to naval tactics, would have appeared a hopeless mess of ships of all classes and sizes, even to us in the Grand Fleet who had regularly been engaged in similar practice evolutions at sea during the whole period of the war (now of nearly two years duration) it seemed a somewhat confusing situation as our particular squadron, (4th Light Cruiser Squadron) although in correct positions line abreast, had such a restricted area to manoeuvre in, owing to being between our own big ships, that the men manning our port guns, were talking to the men manning the starboard guns of the next ship to us, so close were we to each other, these men were chaffing each other about a boat race, which had taken place between the two ships the previous Saturday and while engaged in this pleasant pastime, big shells were falling round the ships, dropping perilously near, one destroyer just astern having a funnel knocked over the side, and another having her bows crumpled up, which necessitated her dropping out of the line, the men mentioned above still delighting each other by their wittiness.

The nearest big ship to us at the time, the Lion, had a shell inboard under the forecastle, causing a fire which must have given them trouble, as volumes of smoke were issuing from her port side, on several occasions belching forth with renewed intensity. However she was able to continue her course and firing.

The fleet had now spread out over a larger area, assuming a different formation, we being single line ahead by the side of the battle cruisers, who were pounding away at the enemy, now quite visible to the naked eye, their shells falling around us, at times being uncomfortably close, it being nothing short of marvellous that we were not struck, although in the light of a later experience, our numerous escapes were not so close as they might have been.

As our guns were of no avail against the big ships of the enemy who were only within range of the big guns of the battle ships and battle cruisers “Carry on smoking” was piped and we were in the position of being spectators of the fight now raging with intensity. Some difficulty had been experienced in keeping our men, who were engaged in ammunition supply and other multifarious duties below at the stations as they had now been some hours standing by doing nothing and naturally wanted to see the ‘scrap’. When the word was passed to ‘Carry on Smoking,’ they scrambled up on deck keeping handy to hatchways, ready to jump down to their stations should the necessity arise.

It was a glorious sight to see our big ships firing their broadsides. On two occasions, when their shells had found their billets on an enemy ship, which would be observed by the shells bursting against their sides loud cheers were given by our men, who also clapped as if witnessing a football match, being quite unconcerned about the big shells that only too frequently passed over our heads or dropped in the water near the ship.

About this time, a large ship was observed on the far side of our battle cruisers to have burst into a vivid sheet of flame and when then the smoke cleared away, she was seen to be in two portions, as her stern was showing a few feet out of the water, while her bow was some forty or fifty feet standing perpendicularly out of the sea. We feared that it was one of our own ships, and after events proved that it was the Invincible.

The firing was now going on with increased intensity, and this ship in particular was extremely fortunate in avoiding not only shells but torpedoes, for two were observed to be coming towards the ship, but by splendid handling of the helm, one passed on each side of the ship and on another occasion, one was making for us, but fortunate, it was nearing the end of its run and was traveling at only about six knots and as it neared the ship, the wash of our propellers turned it away just sufficient to clear the stern by inches.

Dusk was now coming on, and the light, which had been very bad for firing all day was failing, and the German ships were getting very indistinct and were apparently getting very badly mauled by our shellfire.

A periscope was then observed some way off and in line with our course. Soon afterwards a bump was felt along our bottom. A man coming up from the fore boiler room reported that a distinct shock was felt there under the bottom. Whether we touched the submarine and sank her is not known, only that something was evidently struck.

A destroyer attack was now made on our battle fleet, and our squadron was detached off to repel it which was done with complete success, at least two of the destroyers being sunk and our leading ships ran in very close to the German Fleet, firing torpedoes and getting rather badly knocked about by the big guns of the enemy. However, all returned safely, our Commodore ship with nine killed and several injured.

The enemy, who were now getting punished unmercifully by our big ships, suddenly set up a smoke screen, and turned away under cover of it, evidently trying to get back to their harbour. They eluded us for the time being, and after a while, one half of the Officers and Men went below to get a meal as we had been some hours without an opportunity of getting one. A short time afterwards our alarm rattlers sounded off, and on dashing to our stations, we found that we were steaming on an almost parallel course to a line of German battle ships or battle cruiser being quite close to them. I had just come up on deck and on observing them said “Why, they are German ships” which could be easily seen by their distinctive funnels. Our starboard torpedo tubes were trained on them, and as we fired two torpedoes, so the nearest ship to us opened fire with a broadside of eleven inch guns, but we were lucky enough not to be struck, although it was a straddle, ie some shots falling short, others going over and by all the rules of gunnery, the next broadside should have finished our career, especially as we were at such close range and the enemy set up a large star shell to light us up, but our Guardian Angel was still protecting us, for the next broadside missed us, going over the shells screaming over our heads, some dropping between us and our own ships on he other side. By this time, we had set up a smoke screen and escaped from an extremely perilous position, for this small ship would have been literally blown off the water had any of the broadsides fired at us got home. However, we did escape, due no doubt to the erratic German shooting, their men probably being in a state of panic or blue funk as they must have received fearful punishment from our hands No more was seen of them that night by the main fleet, and we cruised about for the few hours of darkness, no one turning in as all hammocks and Officers bedding was stowed away in case of fire. We fully expected, and fervently hoped that we could finish the battle the next day and have another glorious first of June to add to the assets of the British Navy.

Darkness, such as it was, had now set in and we had time to finish our interrupted meal, which consisted of cold meat and bread, as there had been no opportunity of cooking anything. The other watch was more than relieved that the guns had stopped, and we settled down to our ordinary night war routine at sea.

All hands were roused to their stations at two a.m. And we fully expected to come in contact with the enemy again, as from ten O’clock to midnight, heavy firing had been taking place away off our port quarter, the light from the guns being reflected in the sky. I was on watch as Searchlight Control Officer, and being stationed aft had a full view of the reflections, which were sporadic, but very vivid at times. It afterwards transpired that our Destroyer flotillas were making a night attack on the enemy fleet, which was endeavouring to get back to harbour. They had evidently had quite enough for the day. We however, were only too anxious to continue the fight, and would have given much for four more hours of daylight.

The fleet cruised about in the vicinity of the scene of action all the following day. Scouts were out in the hope of seeing the German fleet again, or even any lame ducks. There was no German fleet in being though, and it cannot be too much emphasised how disappointed every man in our fleet was when we had to give up searching for them and return to our base to replenish with coal, oil and ammunition, without having the opportunity of finishing the battle.

Nothing of importance happened during the 300 or 400 mile trip back, except that the sea, which had hitherto been calm, was rising, and fears were entertained concerning the safety of the (name not given), one of our big Battleships, which had been torpedoed, but was making her way into harbour ».

The ship in question was the SMS Westfalen. Caroline’s torpedo had run absolutely true and went straight under her.

SOME MORE STORIES :
Imperial War Museum HMS Caroline community :
https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/community/2741

Chief gunner James Weddick :
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/horror-epic-sea-battle-world-7868609

HMS CHESTER

Who was the man who saved Captain Lawson?

William Roy died at the battle of Jutland aboard HMS Chester. He was the Chief Yeoman of signals and reputedly saved the life of Captain Lawson as they came under fire from Admiral Boedicker’s light cruiser squadron. Roy’s grandson has two questions:

· Are there any living relations of Captain Lawson who might be able to put some light on this event?

· What medals were awarded to the crew of the Chester?

HMS Chester and HMS Canterbury were out of each wing of Horace Hood’s 3rd Battle cruiser Squadron’s flagship, HMS Invincible. With her were also from the 4th destroyer flotilla: HMS Shark, HMS Acasta, HMS Christopher and HMS Ophelia.

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HMS Chester. She’d been commissioned less than a month.

Captain Robert Lawson heard the sounds of Hipper’s battle cruisers and headed in that direction. Unluckily he headed straight into the SMS Frankfurt, of Hipper’s 1st Scouting Group, steaming five miles north-west of the disengaged side of Hipper’s battle-cruisers, with the Wiesbaden, the Pillau and the Elbing. They had been busy chasing Evan-Thomas’s 5th Battle Squadron and the surviving four battle cruisers of Beatty’s two battle-cruiser fleet squadrons, the 1st and the 2nd.

Chester signalled a challenge and made an error on the response. She approached to within 5,000 yards. As a newly commissioned ship, her crew was not completely battle-ready and unprepared for the withering fire that was let looses. Within three minutes most of her ten guns had been hit and three were out of action; the forward one was the first to go. That was where Jack Cornwell was manning a gun.

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The small and very intimate memorial to HMS Chester and her crew in Chester Cathedral.

Below decks there were men lining the passageways with horrific injuries to their legs and feet. The shrapnel has scythed most men’s limbs off.

SOME MORE STORIES :
Imperial War Museum HMS Chester community :
https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/community/2303

HMS DEFENCE

Why did Arbuthnot charge the German line?

HMS Defence, the flagship of Rear Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot was one of the terrible casualties of Jutland. Arbuthnot had seen the engagement between with Wiesbaden and some of Horace Hood’s ships. Some say he wanted to intervene and prevent the Wiesbaden escaping, others that he was deploying his squadron to take it round to the back of the line. He still passed dangerously close to Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty’s flagship missing her by around 200 yards. Of his four ships, only two managed to cut across – his own, HMS Defence, and HMS Warrior. The Duke of Edinburgh and HMS Black Prince didn’t.

The two ran into a hail of fire and Defence was seen to explode in front of the passing ships of the Grand Fleet. Warrior got away.

Arbuthnot was taking his ships to the rear of the line to take up a new position rear of the dreadnoughts. He should have passed behind the Grand Fleet. Instead, he passed in front, not only obscuring British fire but also, because he attacked the Wiesbaden, attracting fire from a number of powerful German ships. Jellicoe had wanted to remove him from command a few years earlier but had been refused by the admiralty. Arbuthnot was disliked by his men for excessive discipline.

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Rear Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot’s prophetic words.

She was an old armoured cruiser and as such should probably never have been part of the British battle line. She wasn’t built for such a role. Rather her role was conceived of as being an armed ship that could interdict an adversary’s merchant shipping at sea.

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The stern of HMS Defence (Public Domain)

One of the terrible flaws in the design of Defence was the midships between the main fore and aft 9.2inch Mk XI guns. Here were ten secondary guns, all BL 7.5 inch Mk V, five on each wing, supplied with shell and cordite from the main magazines where strict magazine handling practices were probably upheld but where, beside each gun, great bins, capable of holding between 40-60 cordite bags, were built.

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An embroidered memory of HMS Defence (courtesy of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth)

In April 2015, on the North Sea Expedition organized by Gert Normann Andersen of the new Sea War Museum in Thyborøn, Denmark, Dr. Innes McCartney and I were allowed a privileged view of her wreck using the powerful multi beam sonar scans of the M/S Vina, one of the pipe-laying ships from Andersen’s JD-Contractor A/S company fleet. McCartney has spent more than fifteen years diving the wrecks of Jutland and wrote about the archeology of the Defence. My memory of the day is very different from what his would have been. Arbuthnot had been ashore two days before Jutland and had been playing tennis with my grandmother, Gwen Jellicoe, the Admiral’s wife.

A small village link between Jellicoe and a Royal Marine on HMS Defence.

George Henry Buckle was a Royal marine artillery Bombardier on HMS Defence. He came from a small village between Eton and Windsor called Clewer, where he met his wife. She had been born and bred in Pennington near Lymington on the edge of the new forest in Hampshire. They met when Andrew Wright’s great grandmother was employed by the local vicar as a house keeper, a job she applied for whilst living in Pennington. They married and lived in Southsea Portsmouth, next to Eastney barracks at 80 Cromwell Road, Andrew is still researching in which turret his great grandfather was in when he died. The link is that one of John Jellicoe’s ancestors had lived in Clewar. In what was then the manor house. More work to be done on this!

(courtesy of Andrew Wright)

SOME MORE STORIES :
Dr. Innes McCartney. The Armoured Cruiser Defence: A Case Study in assessing the Royal Navy shipwrecks and the Battle of Jutland, 1916, as an archeological resource.
Go to  “Source Materials”

The Liddle Archive, Leeds University
Imperial War Museum HMS Defence community :
https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/community/381

 

HMS ENGADINE

The only seaplane carrier at Jutland

The Engadine was originally a channel ferry. She became a Royal Navy ship in 1914 and a large hangar was constructed behind her funnels and a crane added to handle the lowering and boarding of her four Short 184 seaplanes. Turrets were not yet used for take-offs and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) had not yet experimented with flight deck take offs or landings.

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Seaplane carrier HMS Engadine

At Jutland, Lieutenant Frederick S. Rutland with Assistant Paymaster G.S. Trewin, following Beatty’s orders took off to reconnoitre the German battle cruiser fleet. They saw Hipper’s turn southward but were eventally brought down when a fuel line was damaged. None of her radioed signals got further than her mother ship, the Engadine.

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Lieutenant Frederick S. Rutland and his Short 184

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Lieutenant Frederick S. Rutland (Private Collection. On the left)

Returning to port, the Engadinetried to tow the damaged HMS Warrior and was able to take her crew off. Rutland exhibited a second act of courage when he dived in between the two ships to rescue a wounded sailor who had fallen in and was in danger of getting crushed. He was decorated for his bravery.

SMS DERFFLINGER

Some special conversations with Georg von der Hase’s grandson

Georg von Hase was the Gunnery officer on SMS Derfflinger. She was the second ship in Hipper’s line of battle when fire was opened _at 15:48 from the Lützow. Von Hase wrote about his experience at Jutland in « From Kiel to Jutland » and it has become one of the classics to which naval historians turn for a glimpse of what it was like on German ships.

I met with Dieter Ammer, von Hase’s grandson, at his office recently when I was in Hamburg. We could have talked for hours but one of the things that I came away with were some images of what his grandfather looked like. I’d never seen any images before despite him having been a prolific writer.

Sadly, his grandfather in 1968 had given him the ship’s official logs to carry out of East Germany and keep with him in safety in the west. They never made it. The young, eighteen year old was arrested at the border between East and West Germany. The book was confiscated and then stolen by the border guards. He himself was locked up with no idea what his fate would be for days, without being able to inform anybody. Eventually he got out but was never able to retrieve the records that his grandfather had passed on. Maybe one day we’ll see them.

HMS GALATEA

A friendship that has lasted through generations

The opening shots of the battle of Jutland were fired at 14 :28 by the light cruiser, HMS Galatea, out on the easterly wing of Sir David Beatty’s Battle-cruiser Fleet. She was part of the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron with her sister ship, HMS Phaeton.

On board was the father of my own father’s best boyhood friend, Tim Marten. I know Tim’s daughter, Jenny Ingham Clark, and her brother, Michael, wrote about Tim’s life and his memories of my own father, George (Lorna Almond. A British Achilles.The life of George, Earl Jellicoe)

One such occasion was when George had his friend to stay with him over the holidays at their Isle of White house, St Lawrence Court just abover Ventnor. George persuaded Tim to go peach picking in the garden even though he’d been expressly forbidden from doing so. The peaches were being allowed one final day of ripening on the trees before being served at tea for some special guests. Neither King George V nor his wife Queen Mary enjoyed the fruits of the Admiral’s garden.

Frank Marten ([Francis Arthur Marten, 1879 – 1950), Tim’s father, described the some of the highlights of the day. One was the meeting of the two British fleets – the battle cruiser Fleet and Grand Fleet and the incredible complexity of the deployment at « windy corner ». He also told the story of the chance meeting with the German Fleet. The Galatea had been late receiving the signal to turn north and rejoin the main body of Beatty’s fleet as he steamed northwards to make the rendezvous point with Jellicoe’s Grand Fleet.This meant that she continued on her easterly track and eventually saw the smoke from the stationary N J Fjord. The Germans saw the same smoke and the Elbing sent two destroyers in to have a closer look. The B.110 and B.109 sped off and while one stood off, the other sent a boarding party. The Germans were seen by the Galatea which signalled Beatty and then at 14,000 yards, her maximum range, opened fire.

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Tim Marten (L) and my father, George, with my elder brother in his arms (Private Collection. On the left)

Tim Marten and my father remained friends till my father’s death in 2007. Tim passed away a few years later.

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HMS INDEFATIGABLE

The fates would not give him a second chance

On 28th October 1914, at the time Turkey entered the 1st World War my grandfather, Rowland Lickbarrow Randle, a Royal Navy petty officer, was ‘serving the pinnace’ at the British Embassy in Constantinople (now Istanbul). He and another petty officer were required to stay behind and destroy anything in the embassy that might be of use to the enemy and then make their way back to England in borrowed civilian clothes. To enable their escape they were given a special passport to give them safe conduct through Bulgaria where they were to get on any available merchant ship they could find bound for England.

Had it been known they were in the British Navy they would have been killed or imprisoned. They managed to get on a ship and in mid ocean a passing British war ship was stopped from which one of the crew identified Rowland and he and his colleague were transferred to the war ship and returned to England.

Rowland Lickbarrow

Rowland Lickbarrow

Fate was not kind though as on return he was posted to the HMS Indefatigable which was the first ship to go down at the Battle of Jutland. Had the merchant ship he had found passage on not been intercepted and he had arrived back in England a little later then he would probably have been posted to a different ship.

(Coutesy Malcolm Randall)

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HMS IRON DUKE

My grandfather’s flagship. Not the usual stories

The story of HMS Iron Duke became so embedded in our family history that there are reminders in many of our family photo albums of the other lives of the Duke. One was my grandfather’s love of sailing. Seen here in New Zealand when he was serving as Governor-General.

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The Admiral at sea with another Iron Duke.

There’s a lovely story in one of Vladimir Nabakov’s books (Speak, Memory) when he talks about his own father :

“There, with a certain old-world naiveté, my father had mentioned making a present of his Swan fountain pen to Admiral Jellicoe who at table had borrowed it to autograph a menu card and had praised its fluent and suave nib. This unfortunate disclosure of the pen’s make was promptly echoed in the London papers by a Mabie, Todd and Co;, Ltd, advertisement, which quoted a translation of the passage and depicted my father handing the firm’s product to the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet, Under the chaotic sky of a sea battle.”

Here’s a copy of the advertisement (excuse my rather bad photo) that resulted :

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Admiral Jellicoe’s advertising for Swan fountain pens (Courtesy of Nissim Marshall who kindly brought the Nabakov connection to me)

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Only discovered this year in our attic, a more informal photo of the Admiral and the Iron Duke.

An idea of the size of her guns can also be better illustrated by comparing the size of a London red double decker and her forward 13.5inch guns. Andrew Choong at the National Maritime Museum’s brass foundry holds all the ships’ plans and likes to use this illustration to get the point across to visitors.

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What a London double decker bus would have looked like if placed beside one of Iron Duke’s 13.5inch guns.

The ties between the Iron Duke and the families continue today with regular visits to and correspondence with to-day’s Type 23.

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The Latham family visiting HMS Iron Duke on an Open Day in 2015. From Left to right: George Latham (Richard’s second son), Richard Latham (my cousin), Elliot Latham (George’s son) and myself.

Ron Horabin. A gentleman – literally – and an inspiration

Still the fondest memory I have is of the day when Ron Horabin, an ex-brickie from Runcorn, Liverpool, astonished me with the generous gift of the scratch model of the Iron Duke to the Jellicoe family’s safekeeping and use during the Jutland Commemoration. He’d taken three years to build her. It was an extraordinarily powerful moment for me and I often thought of what Ron would have thought if he could have seen his model in Denmark and Germany’s best maritime museums. R.I.P Ron., thank you.

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A proud day for each of us. Ron Horbain and Nick Jellicoe.

Today’s Iron Duke back at Jutland Bank one hundred years later

On May 31st, the Iron Duke was well remembered on the North Sea at Jutland. She accompanied HMS Duncan and the German frigate Brandenberg at the wreath laying. On HMS Duncan, Iron Duke‘s battle ensign and her Jack both flew for the first time in a hundred years. Both had been at Jutland.

Batle of Jutland Commemerations HMS Duncan joined FGS Brandenburg and HMS Iron Duke to commemorate 100 years since the battle of Jutland.

Batle of Jutland Commemerations
HMS Duncan joined FGS Brandenburg and HMS Iron Duke to commemorate 100 years since the battle of Jutland.

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An interesting picture of the kind of man Jellicoe was 

I recently received an e-mail from someone whose grandfather was a young telegraphist serving in HMS Iron Duke. Shortly before battle was joined, Admiral Jellicoe asked him to make two mugs of chai and report back.  “My Grandfather did so and offered the Admiral one mug before asking who the second was for.  Jellicoe replied that the second mug was for him and as they drank their chai, took the time to talk to my Grandfather about what to expect during the battle, and to encourage and reassure him.  I clearly remember my Grandfather telling me the story more than 60 years after the event and it obviously had an extremely positive impact on him – indeed he used it to illustrate how an officer should always find time to look after his subordinates”. I was very touched by his story.

(courtesy of Richard Cole-Mackintosh)

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HMS INVINCIBLE

At the very moment Invincible’s shooting is at her best, she falls victim to another magazine explosion.

Invincble went to the rescue of the Chester, one of her scout cruisers, which had been chased by four enemy cruisers (the Frankfurt, Pillau, Elbing and Wiesbaden) and had taken heavy casualties. At 17:53 Invincible’s 12-inch guns opened fire at 8,000 yards. The Wiesbaden, last ship in the line, was hit as she turned to run: one of the Invincible’s massive shells had burst through the side in the engine room bringing her to a stop.

A half hour later Invincible had – after having steering problems – joined up with Beatty’s line and roughly 9,000 yards distance from Hipper’s battle-cruisers. At 18:26 she was heavily engagd with the Lützow and causing heavy damage so much so that Rear Admiral Horace Hood encouraged his gunner officer, Herbert Danreuther (a godson of Richard Wagner) saying “Your firing is very good. Keep at it as quickly as you can. Every shot is telling”.

Minutes later, the fog back that had been protecting parted and the ship was lit up by the sunlight which fell trough. At 18:31 Lützow now landed a shell that penetrated Q turret and set her magazines on fire. The explosion was like a small nuclear mushroom cloud.

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HMS Invincible seen astern of one of her sister ships at Jutland.

Passing ships were confused. They had not seen what had happened and at first cheered, thinking it was a German ship.

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HMS Invincible broken into two parts, bow and stern, with the destroyer HMS Badger picking up survivors.

There were 6 survivors. Four were picked up by Badger. Two, including Hubert Danreuther, were seen at 19:02 by HMS Colossus. At 19:05 Jellicoe himself signaled Badger: “Is wreck one of our ships? Reply – Yes, Invincible”

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Rear Admiral The. Hon. Horace Hood, 3rd Battle

Squadron flew his flag from HMS Invincible.

When the surviving ships came back to Rosyth, Hood’s family were gathered and eagerly awaiting the father of the family. They had not heard the news. It must have been crushing.

Lady Hood wrote a number of letters to re-assure those with husbands who had not returned of their last moments. One such letter concerned Charles Overy in a letter to the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser, on January 27th 1917.

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Two friends lose brothers the same day. On the same ship

Below is a letter from Oldric Portal, whose younger brother, Raymond, died on Invincible. It is written to his friend Tom Fisher who also lost his brother – Charles – on Invincible.

Oldric’s letter summarises the report that Hubert Dannreuther, the Gunnery Commander on Invincible, presented to the Admiralty and the King. Dannreuther was one of the six who survived, having been up on the mast turrets, observing the fire and taking ranges

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Report from Oldric , HMS Invincible, giving a clear summary of the sequence of events before Invincible exploded (Kindly submitted by Deborah Curle, the great-niece of Charles Fisher, seen below, was serving on HMS Invincible.).

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Charles Fisher, HMS Invincible. His sister, Adeline, was Vaughan Williams’ first wife, who apparently never recovered from his loss. It gives the Jutland Concert which took place on June 15th 2016 at the Barbican Center, some closer connections with the battle than one might at first imagine.

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The telegram that went to inform next of kin of a death in action was Curt beyond belief.

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HMS KING GEORGE V

Passing history on. A meeting in Lyness

Earlier this year, on a rainy visit to the Lyness naval cemetery I met with the Head Gardener for the Scottish War Graves Commission, Graham Hobbs. He’d been tending the graves with so many names that I recognized but Malaya and Barham made a strong impression on me. Together, we also looked at the German graves. For the unfortunate – and unarmed – sailors who were coming ashore when their ships were being scuttled. It was June 22nd 1919. The few guards that were there panicked.

Graham and I both had grandfathers at Jutland. His grandfather was a boy signaller on King George V which he’d joined in November 1915. He’d celebrated his 17th birthday just nine days before the battle. We both regretted that neither of us had been able to talk with our grandfathers about what they’d experienced. Graham as he was too young, myself because my grandfather had already died in 1935. So for both we did not have that personal connection with the story of Jutland.

So what would Edward’s role have on the day? Particularly when the Equal Speed Charlie London penant was hoisted on Iron Duke? Edward, on the bridge or the flag deck, would have his orders to watch for flag hoists from the ships astern as the Admiral’s messages were passed up the line. He would be focussed particularly on hoists from HMS Ajax, immediately astern and HMS’s Centurion and Erin following Ajax.

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With the signal Equal Speed Charlie London Jellicoe, on the bridge of HMS Iron Duke ordered that the Grand Fleet transform its structure from 6 columns of four dreadnoughts to a single battle line steering course Southeast by East, while maintaining the current speed.

To a boy signalman on the flag deck it would have been a most exhilarating time. Nervous with anticipation at the prospect of his first action, the grand spectacle of the Grand Fleet spread out beside and behind. The Boy Signalman would have been kept busy with important jobs to be done, but still keeping his eyes on the ships in company’s yardarms, waiting for orders from the flagship

The second that the flaghoist Equal Speed Charlie London was hoisted on Iron Duke or a relaying ship, young Edward would have immediately repeated it, at the dip, and reported to the Yeoman of Signals.

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Edward George Hobbs, a boy signaller on HMS King George V at Jutland (Courtesy of Graham Hobbs, Head Gardener Scotland, Commonwealth Graves Commission)

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HMS LION

The survivors of Q turret

At the start of the run to the south, German gunnery, maybe with the advantage of better visibility and Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty’s ships being silhouetted, was outstanding. Lion was hit within three minutes of Lützow opening fire at 15:48. There were 98 fatalities. Here were the survivors.

The din of battle was such that neither Chatfield, Beatty’s Flag Captain, not Beatty himself knew that the midships’ turret had blown up. Lion nearly met the same fate as the other battle cruisers had it not been for the actions of Major Francis Hervey, posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross (see “The Victoria Cross at Jutland”).

The middle person in the centre row is the great grand-father of the person who posted this photo a few years ago. His name was Edward Haynes. It was his writing at the bottom of the photo. I hope that his great grandson contacts me when he sees this photo.

SMS LÜTZOW

The terrible duty her Captain had to carry out.

“Suddenly the entire ship is roughly shaken. The colossus heaves far over, and everything that is not fixed is upset. The first direct hit! The torpedo pierces the fore part of the ship. Its effects are terrible. Iron, wood, metal, parts of bodies, and smashed ships’ implements are all intermixed, and the electric light, by chance spared, continues to shine upon this sight.

Two decks lower, in the diesel dynamo room, there is still life. That compartment has not been hit, and twenty-seven men, in the prime of life, have been spared, but the chamber is shut off from all others, for the water is rushing into all sections.

They are doomed to death. Several 38-centimetre shells squarely hit their mark, working terrible havoc. The first hit the wireless department. Of the twelve living men who a moment ago were seated before the apparatus, there is nothing more to be seen.

Nothing is left but a smoking heap of ruins. The second shot again pierced the fore part of the ship. The entire forepart of the vessel, as far as the diesel motor room, was past saving.

Another broadside meant for the Lützow fell short, but a torpedo boat close by disappeared, leaving only a few odd pieces of wood and a smashed lifeboat drifting around. It is now half-past 7, and the hostile circle grows ever smaller. The Lützow and the Seydlitz lie with their bows deep in the water; both are badly mauled. The forepart of the Lützow was in flames. Shells burst against the ship’s side in rapid succession.

A terrible sight is presented on board the Lützow, and it needs iron nerves to look upon it coolly. Hundreds have lost their lives, while many have lain for hours in torture, and the fight is not yet over. The bow is now crushed in and is entirely submerged. The four screws are already sticking half out of the water, so that the Lutzow can only make eight to ten knots an hour, as against the normal thirty-two.

The Admiral decides to transfer to the Moltke. He gives orders to turn and get away from the scene of the fight, but the Lutzow has not gone a mile before she receives a broadside of 38-centimetre shells. The entire ship was filled with the poisonous fumes of the shells, and any one who failed to affix his gas mask was doomed to be suffocated.

It was three-quarters of an hour before the lighting installation was restored. Then for the first time could the extent of the damage wrought by the salvo be seen. One of the shells had landed in the sick bay. Here there were only three doctors and fifteen attendants, besides 160 to 180 wounded. Of all those, only four remained alive. These four were hurled into the next compartment by the air pressure; there they lay unconscious.

The Lützow was now a complete wreck. Corpses drifted past. From the bows up to the first 30-centimetere gun turret the ship lay submerged. The other gun turrets were completely disabled, with the guns sticking out in all directions.

On deck lay the bodies of the sailors in their torn uniforms, in the midst of the empty shell cases. From the masts fluttered torn flags, twisted signal lines, and pieces of wire of the wireless installation. Had not the lookout man and the three officers on the commander’s bridge given signs of life, the Lutzow would have truly resembled a ship of the dead.

Below, on the battery deck, there still lay innumerable wounded, but there was no longer a doctor to attend to them. Night came on and hope was entertained of getting away without a further encounter. But at 3 o’clock in the night news of the approach of two British cruisers and five destroyers was received and just at that critical time the fore and middle bulkheads gave way.

Orders were given to carry the wounded to the stern. Then the order rings out: “All hands muster in division order abaft.” A tumult arises on the lower deck, for everybody is now bent on saving his life. It is impossible in that short space of time to bring up all the wounded, for they are scattered everywhere. Eighteen men had the good fortune to be carried up, but all the rest who could not walk or crawl had to be left behind.

The twenty-seven men shut up in the diesel dynamo chamber had heard the order through the speaking tube, for many, mad with anguish, screamed through the tube for help, and it was learned that two of their number lay bound because they had become insane. Inspired by their sense of duty, these sealed-up men had continued to carry on their work in order to provide the ship with light.

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The last moments of SMS Lützow, by the French marine artist Albert Victor Eugenie Brenet (1903 – 2005). The torpedo boats, G. 38 and G.39, are standing by. The G.38 will fire four torpedoes to sink Hippper’s former flagship. Apparently a number of men had been so tired that they only woke up as the torpedoes exploded underneath them. They were seen running along her decks.

The torpedo-boats now quickly took off the crew of the Lützow, and those left behind were doomed to death. It was resolved that no piece of the vessel should fall into the enemy’s hands. An order was given and a torpedo cleft the waters. Just then seven men were to be seen running like madmen round the rear deck. Over-fatigued as they were, they had apparently dropped off to sleep and only just awakened.

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The Lützow Memorial in the Friedenhof, Wilhemshaven. It’s a beautiful memorial

In a very carefully tended war cemetary.

As the torpedo exploded, the Lützow‘s bow quickly dipped, and the stern rose until she stood on end. Then she heeled over and sank, forming a great whirlpool that carried everything within it into the depths.

When the roll was called it appeared that there were 1,003 survivors of the Lützow; 597 men had perished in the battle.

(Account of the Battle of Jutland by a German Sailor on the Lützow. Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. IV, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923)

HMS MALAYA

One of the four Queen Elizabeth class battleships at Jutland serving under the command of Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty, the Malaya was heavily damaged at the battle but « gave as good as she got ».

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Silhouettes of the five powerful 15inch gunned Queen Elizabeth class battleships, four of which fought at Jutland (private collection)

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The commemorative headstone to Malaya’s fallen at Jutland at Lyness naval cemetary (private collection)

Not all of Malaya’s dead were buried on land. In fact, one of the most poignant photos that I have of Jutland is the burial at sea from Malaya after a signal had been sent Jellicoe, acknowledged and agreed to:

“5th Battle Sqn to Jellicoe – Permission for Barham & Malaya to commit some KIA to the deep. Reply: Approved”.

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Burial at sea of Malaya’s fallen at Jutland (private collection)

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HMS MARLBOROUGH

The only British dreadnought hit by a torpedo at Jutland

Two men died on HMS Marlborough when she was struck by a torpedo. But there were others injured, some for whom Marlborough the records seem to have been lost. One such man was a stoker, Lawrence Lonsdale. He’d been on board when Marlborough went to Odessa to rescue the Russian Royal Family and was frequently in hospital in Portsmouth, a result of the physical damage from the pressure wave of the explosion. In 1948 he died of a blood clot on the brain. If someone can help with some research I will pass it on to his grandson.

Marlborough’s after action report read:

“6:54 p.m. Marlborough was hit by a torped in Diesel engine room, shock was sufficient to shake off switches on lower power board some fuzes in telephone circuits…these were very quickly replaced and all control instruments were found to be in step, two men in Diesel room were killed”

Marlborough started to list quite seriously but not so badly that she could not keep on firing. Later in the night, however, she was holding the fleet back and was escorted back. Her crew was take off in the early hours as it was, at one point, feared that she might capsize.

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HMNZS NEW ZEALAND

In Aukland, New Zealand, in the Develport Naval Museum there is a strangely shaped large chunk of grey steel. It was a part of HMNZS New Zealand’s X turret after she’d been hit by a German shell at Jutland.

“…there was a terrific explosion alongside us and the whole place became filled with dense yellow smoke. I shipped smoke pads, goggles and everything we are supplied with and slipped down into the turret expecting every moment the magazine would go up. Nothing happened… There was absolutely no panic and as soon as the smoke cleared, we found everything worked properly and went on firing” (Lieutenant Boyle).

Moments later, three men lifted and moved the 1,064 lbs (483kg) slab of armour to free the rollers on which the turret turned.

New Zealand’s gunnery record at Jutland, however, was not that impressive. She’d expended a total of 420 heavy caliber rounds with one, possibly four hits: three on Seydlitz and one on the pre-dreadnought SMS Schleswig-Holstein.

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HMNZS New Zealand’s powerful BL 12 Mk X guns.

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HMS NOMAD

The ones who survived

At 16:40, the three destroyers of the first group (Bingham on the Nestor, Jack Mocatta on the Nicator and Paul Whitfield on the Nomad turned and raced back north at a fast 35 knots to head into a kind of no-man’s-land towards the German battle-cruiser line. Around 16 :45 Nomad was badly hit, it’s thought from heavy fire from SMS Wiesbaden who herself only had hours left to live. Badly listing, Whitfield took the Nomad around behing HMS Princess Royal. He was able to get a couple of torpedoes off but fearing sinking, he weighed down the ship’s confidential documents and threw them over.

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HMS Nomad

His ship was marooned right in the path of the German fleet and took heavy fire from around 3,000 yards. Whitfield was badly wounded as were seven ratings. There was nothing left to do but abandon ship. They were lucky and were picked up by a German ship and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp. They would have died in the water very quickly had it not been for this rescue.

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Captured crew of the Nomad. Charlie Benson (second on the left) and Alfred. Edward Amey (far right) (Courtesy John Keegan, whose great, great, great… !… uncle was Charlie Benson). OK

Some years ago I saw a letter from someone called Jill in New Jersey. I hope the photo above may help her. I hope someone will see this and pass it along.

“My great-grandfather was on the HMS Nomad when it was sunk, waited in the water for thirteen hours, then was taken as a prisoner of war in Brandenburg, Germany… Anyone know where I could find a picture or a list of P.O.W.s from the HMS Nomad? ”

She attached one of his letters. I think his name was Hurley.

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HMS NOTTINGHAM

Surviving Jutland only to be sunk at the next German Fleet sortie.

Michael Joseph Hanley was was born into a family that saw four of its members serve in the 1914-1918 conflict. The family was luckier than most. All returned alive. In the case of Michael he served as a Stoker First Class on HMS Nottingham and was at Jutland in Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty’s forces.

The ship escaped major damage during the battle but a couple of months later the Light Cruiser was torpedoed and sunk in the North Sea by German submarine U-52 on August 19th 2016 with the loss of 40 sailors. It was the German fleet’s first sortie after Jutland during which, again, Scheer managed to get his fleet away before a main battle action could take place. HMS Nottingham, and earlier HMS Falmouth, were both torpedoed. Nottingham was hit by three torpedoes at 18:00, Falmouth by two from the U-63 at 16:52.

HMS Penn and Oracle came to Nottingham‘s aid rescuing twenty-one officers and 357 men. Hanley eventually left the RN in 1919 but remained on reserve until 1930. He passed away at the age of 66 in May 1956.

(Courtesy of Michael Hanley, Clearwater, Florida USA)

 

HMS ONSLAUGHT

The sub who brought Onslaught back to safety

Harry Kemmis was a 19 year old Sub-Lieutenant on HMS Onslaught. After their successful attack on the SMS Pommern, the bridge was hit by a shell, the commander Arthur Onslow was killed and the steering etc. disabled. As the most senior remaining officer, Harry Kemmis requested permission to withdraw and successfully brought the disabled ship back to Rosyth.

For many years the Royal Ensign from the Onslaught hung above the stairs of his home in Scotland. The family still have some momentos from the ship.

(Kind courtesy of Harry Kemmis’s grandson, Edward Kemmis-Matterson)

 

 

HMS QUEEN MARY

The story of one man giving his life so another could live

Algernon William Percy, known as Bobby, joined the Royal Naval Reserve as a sub-lieutenant on the outbreak of war at the age of 29. He had wanted to join the army, given his eight years’ service with a Militia battalion in the Northumberland Fusiliers, from which he retired with the rank of lieutenant in 1910. But his poor health would not stand up to the rigours of front line military duty and his position in the Northumberland Fusiliers had largely been due to his family’s association with the regiment: his uncle was the 7th Duke of Northumberland, and his father, Lord Algernon Percy, was Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the battalion. Bobby was educated at his parents’s home, Guy’s Cliffe, Warwickshire because his health was too delicate to allow him so be sent away to boarding school. His first formal education came when he went up to Christ Church in 1904, following in the footsteps of many relations over the years.

As he was nearly 20 when he went to Oxford, he remained there for only one year. After that, he was a Justice of the Peace and a County Councillor in Warwickshire – where he also served on the Prison Visiting Committee and the Hospitals Committee. Outside of officialdom, he was well known and popular on the hunting field.

When he secured a place in the Royal Naval Reserve, he was delighted – all the more so to be aboard a vessel at Spithead by 24th September 1914. He wrote to his uncle, the Duke, “I am looking forward to it very much…it is a thoroughly well thought out scheme so I don’t think I was wrong in taking it as I couldn’t have got anything else I could have managed half so well, and I couldn’t sit at home doing nothing.” He added that he felt very lucky, and pleased that his parents were quite willing for him to go. The family did not have a recent tradition of serving at sea: Bobby’s father, like so many Percies, had served in the Grenadier Guards and his great uncle (Lord Henry Percy, also a member of the Travellers Club) had won a Victoria Cross with the same regiment at the Battle of Inkerman in 1854. However, Bobby’s great-grandfather’s generation included three admirals: Jocelyn and William Percy had served as junior officers in the Napoleonic wars – as had their cousin, the 4th Duke of Northumberland, who eventually became First Lord of the Admiralty and president of the RNLI. As a cabinet minister in the 1850s, the 4th Duke played a part in accelerating the introduction of steam power to the Royal Navy.

Bobby’s first ship was the Royal Yacht Squadron’s Catania, a fabulously luxurious steam yacht belonging to the Duke of Sutherland which had recently been requisitioned by the Admiralty for minesweeping and U-Boat patrol in the Solent. He described it as “most comfortable…but by no manner of means a hazardous expedition.” That said, he was quick to tell his uncle that they had some guns (two 6-pounders) and lots of rifles and revolvers. But it was unlikely they would see serious action.

In January 1915 Bobby transferred to HMS Queen Mary. It was a prime posting for an aspiring naval officer, being one of the most modern ships in the service. Completed in 1913, she was a battlecruiser (i.e. fast and lightly armoured), and therefore designed specifically for offensive action. Her eight 13.5 inch guns had already come in to play at the Battle of Heligoland Bight on 28th August 1914. Bobby’s career aboard Queen Mary was interrupted by illness. He had to be hospitalized, and then spent considerable time on sick leave. It wasn’t until Monday 29th May 1916 that he was able to rejoin his ship – two days before the Battle of Jutland. Unfortunately, in an extraordinarily intensive action during the afternoon of Wednesday 31st May, the British battlecruisers bore the brunt of German firepower. Whereas less than 10% of British ships present at Jutland sunk, a third of the battlecruisers (three out of nine) were lost. Their relatively light armour, particularly on deck and near the gun turrets, was their undoing. Terrifyingly, all three exploded – their magazines hit – and sank in seconds, killing a total of over 3,300 men. Less than one per cent of the three battlecruisers’ collective crews lived.

Bobby actually survived the blowing up of HMS Queen Mary. After the initial explosion, which broke the ship in two, he found himself unhurt in the water; somehow, he had managed to get hold of a life jacket. A short time after, there was a second explosion which shook the aft end of the ship as it began to roll over and sink. He was wounded slightly in the forehead by a flying splinter – but, according to a surviving officer who was with him, he was “quite alright.” A destroyer soon appeared to pick them up, but about fifteen swimmers, including Bobby, were missed. The survivor, who wrote to Bobby’s father from a German prisoner of war camp a few weeks after the action, said that when they had all become cold and affected by the oil fumes all around them, Bobby offered him his life jacket, “for which action I shall never forget him, although I had only known him a few days.” Some time afterwards a German destroyer picked the man up, semiconscious. Only one able seaman was with him; the captain of the destroyer could see no more survivors and Bobby was never seen alive again. Just 18 of Queen Mary‘s crew of 1,264 lived.

A few weeks later, Bobby’s body was washed up with many others near Fredrikstad in Norway. An English lady living nearby attended a military funeral on 28th June:

“Another English lady and myself were the only ones of their own present, and as we stood by the graves we felt we were representing the mothers and wives of the brave men whose bodies we committed to the dust….

All the coffins were covered with the most beautiful wreaths and flowers brought by all kinds of people. Wasn’t it kind? All the bodies had lifebelts on but no discs with their names…. One officer had a ring with the initials A.W.P. and a crest engraved on his gold cuff buttons…. How I wished their friends could have known that the dear remains were laid carefully and kindly in consecrated soil, it would be a little comfort to their sore hearts.”

By a fortunate coincidence the author of that letter’s niece lived in Northumberland, and so Lady Algernon Percy discovered the details of her son’s burial.

A senior naval officer wrote:

“He had such a gallant big heart, always battling against delicate health and never flinching from anything because of it.”

Another wrote:

“His character was one of transparent truthfulness and honesty; he honestly was one of those not very common men who are absolutely incapable of a dishonourable action, and thus did us all no end of good by simply living with us.”

And a friend,

“He was the soul of honour and chivalry”

(Courtesy of Algernon Percy)

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The horrifying newspaper list of all those fallen, HMS Queen Mary

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A lucky Escape

Frederick John Chapman Cox was serving on HMS Queen Mary in early 1916. Six weeks before the battle he was transferred to HMS Princess Royal as a shipwright. There, while he was leading a damage control party on the upper deck, he witnessed his old ship and all his old shipmates blown up.

(Courtesy of Graham Chadwick. Frederick John Chapman Cox was his maternal grandfather)

Never knowing his father

Charles Albert Birks was the only child of Annie Elizabeth Birks. He was born on 8th April 1894 in Hull and was living at 91 Arundell Street, Hull. At the age of 16, the 1911 census shows he was a dock worker in Hull.

Aged nineteen, Charles joined the Navy.On 29th August 1913, beginning his naval career at Victory ll, service number SS / 114538 . He then served aboard HMS Vindictive from January to July 1914. It was during this service aboard Vindictive he married Ruth Gurnell in the April of 1914 and sent a post card around this time to Ruth depicting an image and poem called “The Sailors Grave”. On the back he wrote “Dear Ruth, I hope this will never happen to me, keep this one will you”. This poignant message to his new wife, unbeknown to her, held such meaning. His career then took him back to Victory ll for a month and then onto HMS Drake 1st Aug 1914 – 7th April 1915 During this service, Charles spent 10 days in the cells. As part of his punishment, he served aboard SS Alsatian, as there is a letter he sent to his wife Ruth on 25th December 1914. Charles was promoted to Stoker 1st Class on 4th April 1915. He then spent April to October 1915 back at Victory ll.

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Charles Albert Birks, HMS Queen Mary

The day after Charles began his service on Queen Mary, his son, James Charles, was born 27th October 1915. During February 1916, Charles had a short leave period home. This was his only time with his new born son. He had travelled home on leave with a close friend, Stoker 1st class Jack Wilson, returning back to his duties at the beginning of March 1916. Charles Albert Birks was killed in action, age 22 on May 31st at Jutland.

(With kind permission of Michael Birks)

A seaman’s grave

Able Seaman Frederick Richard Sell was born in Bexleyheath on the 19th July 1894, one of nine children. He attended Foster’s School and when he started on 21st January 1901, the family were living at 1 Danson Cottages,

His parents had married at the end of 1886, his mother Minnee Jane (née Smith) born in Wilmington and his father, Richard, born in Reading. Richard was a domestic gardener and the family moved frequently with his work, the children being born around the borough: Amelia Temple born (1887, Crayford), Florence Emily A (1889, Bexleyheath), Alfred Harry (1891, Lee), Frederick Richard (19 July 1894, Bexleyheath), Ernest George (1st May 1898, Bexley), Olive Minnie (1901, Welling), Edith Mary (1903, Welling), Charles Victor (1906, Bexleyheath) and William Patrick (1908, Bexleyheath). The family’s Welling homes included Danson Lane and 3 High Street, Welling.

By 1911 Frederick had moved with his family to 7 Medina Terrace, Godstone Road, Whyleleafe. He was 17 years old and employed as a domestic post boy. His sisters Amelia and Florence had by then left home (Florence had married in 1909). and brother Alfred was living at 12 High Street, Welling, with his grand-father Isaac Smith.

Frederick joined the Royal Navy and by 1916 was an Able Seaman, service number J15717 serving aboard HMS Queen Mary.

Frederick died at sea aged 22 and his body was not recovered. In 1991 the wreck of the ship was discovered. The wreck site is now a designated protected place under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. No one can explore or remove items from the wreck although the propellers made of phosphor bronze may have been removed before 1991.

Frederick is remembered at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial and on the Welling War Memorial. Frederick’s death was notified to his mother who was then living at 1 Home Cottages, Godstone Road, Kenley, Surrey, near to where the Family had lived in 1911.

In a 1920 Jenkins local directory, the father, Richard is listed as living back in Welling – at 12 High Street. In 1921, Alfred Harry married Lily Ashdown. Their first child born in 1922 was named Frederick, probably in memory of his younger brother.

The ones who could never get out. The stokers.

Enos George Farr married Ada Saigeman in 1912. Together they had one child named after Enos’s father. Enos was a stoker on the Queen Mary and after his death, even though Ada married again twice, it was always Enos whom she mourned for all her life.

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Enos George Farr (Queen Mary) and Ada Saigeman on their wedding day, 1912.

He is always remembered on the memorial at Bear Wood in Wokingham, Berkshire.

Times were hard and their son, “Tids”, ended up on the training ship Arethusa. Enos George Snr. was a Stoker on Queen Mary so was trapped deep inside the ship.

(Courtesy of Ann Churchett, grand daughter of Ada Saigeman)

Joseph Baker (286450) was another one trapped inside the deep hull of the Queen. The story of this Acting Chief Stoker will soon be told by his grandson who is coming over from Australia for the centenary and will be Portsmouth for the commemorations.

(Courtesy of Teresa Walker, grand daughter of Joseph Baker)

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HMS SPITFIRE

5.00 pm 31st May 1916

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‘The hours of waiting seemed interminable. Our thoughts went home to those in happy ignorance of the coming fight. But there were the last minute preparations to make and the battle flags to hoist, which gave us a glorious thrill.’

The crew of HMS Spitfire of the 4th Destroyer Flotilla, Grand Fleet had been waiting months, years even, for ‘Them’ to come ‘Out’. They had been based at Scapa Flow since February 1915, waiting, and patrolling. Patrolling the Hoxa Sound, the Pentland Firth, escorting ships to Cromarty or Rosyth, screening the Battle Fleet out on PZ exercises, boarding merchant ships or fruitlessly searching for submarines and minelayers.

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Spitfire on patrol, 1915

And occasionally proceeding at speed south toward Heligoland, or East for the Skaggerak on a ‘stunt’, hoping that there really was ‘something doing’ this time. A personal diary entry for April 1915 notes a busy morning watch with plenty of submarine screening etc.

« Met the Battlefleet at 4.00 am. We are steaming S50°E 15 knots which is straight for the Skaggerak. Nothing much happened all day. We all thought we might see something this time; so one can imagine how sick we were when at 6.0pm we all turned round ».[2]

The Spitfire officers would spend the long winter nights ship- visiting, dressing up to entertain, or quietly playing Bridge and Vingt John. In March 1915 they had purchased a monkey for the ship, arguing about where it would sleep (Captain’s cabin, eventually). In September a ping-pong tournament was organised and Spitfire lost to a combined Shark / Acasta team. Though very often the weather prevented any socialising so there was time to write a lot of letters, and wait for the mail.

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Officers’ picnic – 30th May 1916

During the long summer days of 1915 officers of the Flotilla had taken to picnicking ashore, and Tuesday 30th May 1916 was no different – a picnic was arranged that day and officers from the Spitfire, Shark, Sparrowhawk, Ardent, Fortune & Acasta cooked up tea on a stony beach. But by that evening, at short notice, they were steaming out of a sunset, Eastward with the Battle Fleet; the Acasta and Shark detached to screen the three Battlecruisers, Spitfire and the rest of the 4th Flotilla screening the port wing of the Battle Fleet.

Through the night and into the next day, still Eastward and a little South, learning during the afternoon that the Battlecruiser Fleet were in action; gradually increasing speed towards the south, making them more certain that they should at last be in action.

« Now we heard the sound of guns, and flashes on the horizon. » [1]

They were ordered to get ahead of the deploying Battle Fleet as they were on the Fleet’s disengaged side. The wakes of so many vessels going at full speed close beside each other caused the most curious breakers.

These were occasionally mistaken for the signs of submarines, and a good deal of firing took place away behind them. Presently, the destroyer Acasta came hurtling right across the track of the Fleet. She was flying ‘not under control’ signals.

« Her crew were all cheering hard, and we cheered back, and [we] cheered again as we saw the bow and stern of a big ship sticking up out of the water. But our cheers ceased suddenly as we read the name Invincible on the stern portion ». [1]

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Torpedo practice – 1915

They were now ahead of the Battle Fleet awaiting orders, knowing that they may be ordered to deliver, or repel a torpedo attack at any moment. Shot was falling within sight though not reaching them and all the while watching, and waiting. Visibility was worsening due to smoke from gunfire, mist and enemy smokescreens. And by dusk they could hear only sporadic salvos, ahead and behind them.

Windy Corner, Jutland – WL Wyllie

At 9.30pm they were forming up 5 miles astern of the Battle Fleet. They did not know the outcome of the battle, where the enemy were or even where most of their ships were – only that they should form 5 miles astern of the Battle Fleet. By 10.00pm they were settled in line ahead – Tipperary leading, Spitfire, Sparrowhawk, Garland and Contest of the 1st Division following.

It was a very dark night as there was no moon, and the sky was overcast and the atmosphere hazy.[3]

They were very nervous of running into their own ships by mistake and had been ordered to keep a sharp lookout for the enemy. In the darkness they could make out ships closing them from astern, Tipperary made the challenge; they were British. Shortly before midnight they saw again the dark shape of a line of ships on their starboard quarter, occasional glare in their funnel smoke. Some thought they were friends, but they could just as well be the enemy, so 21” torpedo tube and 4” gun were kept trained on them. Maybe it reminded them of a patrol in early 1915 where it was moonlight. The St Vincent came out – we could have got in a lovely shot with our mouldies, about 8000 yds – she never saw us till we challenged her.

But here visibility was under 1000 yards and when the dark outlines were nearly abeam, at a range of between 500 and 700 yards Tipperary again made the challenge…

The reply was all three ships switching on a blaze of searchlights. The majority of these lights were trained on the Tipperary and only a few stray beams lit on us and on our next astern. Then these lights went out, and after an extraordinarily short pause were switched on again, and at the same moment a regular rain of shell was concentrated on our unfortunate leader, and in less than a minute she was hit and badly on fire forward. [2]

« At the same moment we fired our 2 torpedoes and saw one of them hit. But I saw the most infernal storm of shells hitting the water just ahead of us, and all around the Tipperary ». [1]

« [We] had been hit several times. The after guns’ crew and the torpedo party were suffering the most casualties, but the latter luckily not until after they had fired our second torpedo, from the foremost tube ». [2]

« Hours and years of practice took over and immediately both torpedoes were fired the Spitfire turned away, helm put hard-a-starboard, increasing to full speed and away out of it. It was at that moment they were hit amidships by a full salvo, and seemed to disappear, one great sheet of flame. But they got safely away and with two torpedoes gone the question was, at whom to fire the spare torpedo? That was soon solved as soon as we resumed our course, we saw Tipperary behind us, a dreadful, burning torch. She was stopped and being fired at under the concentration of the enemy’s searchlights. So back we went to attack the ships attacking her ». [1]

But they could not load the spare torpedo due to damage sustained to the loading gear; the Torpedo Gunner was injured and the majority of the torpedo ratings were either injured or killed. The Captain decided to go to the assistance of the Tipperary and, if necessary, carry on action with their guns. As they got near he felt maddened at seeing their leader disabled and being so fiercely attacked. He gave what seemed the hopeless order to fire at searchlights, which, as if at target practice, winked, and went out.

« We closed the Tipperary, now a mass of burning wreckage and looking a very sad sight indeed. At a distance her bridge, wheel-house and chart-house appeared to be one sheet of flame, giving one the impression of a burning house, and so bright was the light from this part that it seemed to obliterate one’s vision of the remainder of the ship and of the sea round about, except that part close to her which was all lit up, reflecting the flames ». [2]

« But the Germans were still very close, and even without searchlights the Spitfire was visible. To the horror of the Captain a large German ship had altered course to ram them. He had a choice – either turn to port onto a similar course and suffer the fate of the Tipperary – continue on the same course and be cut in two – or turn to starboard towards them and trust to luck. He chose this last, and they turned at high speed, but, oh! how slowly we seemed to come round. Everything was lit up by the burning Tipperary. As the enemy loomed nearer and nearer it seemed impossible that we could get clear… [on] the bridge we were blinded by the flashes of our fo’c’sle gun ». [1]

and with a ghastly, fearful crash the two ships met port bow to port bow. In the glare of searchlight men were hurled across the deck and one man from the fo’c’sle gun’s crew was lost overboard. The ship rolled like she had never rolled before and the sides of the two vessels bumped and ground together, ripping plate and scuttle. When they were bridge to bridge the German fired her forward main armament probably 11”, point blank at us. The shell passed over my head and through the bridge. The blast was terrific [3] and reduced the bridge to a mass of tangled wreckage. The projectiles themselves did not detonate, but as they passed through they decapitated one man, and cut another in two, either side of the Captain. The Captain himself was thrown by the blast 24 feet onto the upper deck, face down with his head over the side, unconscious. The rest of the bridge personnel were killed or wounded by concussion.

The huge German ship « surged down our port side, clearing everything before her; the boats came crashing down and even the davits were torn out of their sockets, and all the time she was firing her guns just over our heads ». [2] But none of the shells seemed to hit. And all the while the German vessel kept the Spitfire illuminated until finally clearing her astern. Spitfire was left afloat, but drifting in a somewhat pitiful condition.

« …fires started breaking out forward, and to make matters worse all the lights were short- circuited, so that anyone going up to the bridge received strong electric shocks. Moreover, all the electric bells in the ship were ringing, which made things feel rather creepy ». [2]

The Captain could not be found, so the 1st Lieutenant took command. His two concerns were to regain control of the ship and put out fires that might draw unwanted attention.

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The moment of collision. The 935 ton Spitfire rams into the 20,000 ton SMS Nassau.

It was extraordinary the way fire spread, burning strongly in places where one thought there was hardly anything inflammable, such as on the fore-bridge and the decks, but flags, signal halliards, and the coco-nut matting on the deck all caught fire, and sparks from the latter were flying about everywhere. [2]

A large-calibre shell had grazed the deck and the bottom of the second funnel. A second fire was spouting from the hole and stokers beneath in the foremost boiler-room had to don gasmasks. Many of the fire hoses were cut by splinters and useless so it took time to get these fires under control.

One got rather a nasty shock by walking one moment on a small fountain from the fire main and the next minute stepping on something smouldering or burning. [2]

An inspection of the engine-room and boiler-rooms found that three of the four boilers were functioning and that the ship was capable of 6 knots. And as the bridge had been destroyed a voice- pipe was rigged to the engine-room from the compass aft, and for about half an hour they steered by that. They had noted their course of NW shortly before the collision, however, they had no Coxswain and the two Quartermasters were injured, one in the right hand, one the left; but they took charge of the wheel – one ‘Navy Pattern Quartermaster’ as Rudyard Kipling later put it.

The Captain, Sub, Gunner, Coxswain and Chief Stoker were all missing – the latter was found with a broken jaw under the Downton pump, and the Coxswain, delirious, under the remains of his wheel. He was got out, but an Able Seaman also on the bridge was trapped and had to have his leg amputated, in the dark, with no anaesthetic.

The Chief Stoker found the semi-conscious Captain, lifting and moving him to the midship gun. Still dazed, the Captain angrily demanded to know why they weren’t firing whilst the Sub and Gunner also reappeared, fortunately not badly injured. The majority of the crew were now aft having misunderstood the order ‘connect up aft’ and saw on their starboard quarter, a few hundred yards away what appeared to be a German battlecruiser, on fire, steering as if to cut them in two, and we thought we were done for; I believe the majority of us lay down and waited for the crash. But no crash came. To our intense relief she missed our stern by a few feet, but so close was she to us that it seemed that we were actually lying under her guns, which were trained out on her starboard beam. She tore past us with a roar, rather like a motor roaring up hill on low gear, and the very crackling and heat of the flames could be heard and felt. She was a mass of fire from foremast to mainmast, on deck and between decks. Flames were issuing out of her from every corner…[2]

With the ship now under control and the majority of the crew accounted for a ‘council of war’ was held. The breaking dawn was about to show in greater detail the extent of the damage:

The damage on the Spitfire was extensive

The main concern was the damage to the bow – a huge, lengthways gap of about 60 feet. Attempts were made to shore this with whatever was to hand but any shoring was washed away time and time again. Mess, shell and storerooms forward were flooded or unreachable causing concern bulkheads would not hold. All three 4” guns however were found to be undamaged and crews found for them. And they were finally able to load the spare torpedo.

With the galley being undamaged they had some food, a cup of cocoa and a tot of rum was served to the men which cheered them up no end.

« I shall never forget that early morning cup of cocoa. We officers all muffled up, grimed and hollow-eyed, were seated on the ammunition sacks, sheltered by what remained of the canvas protection to the steering-wheel… »[1]

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Captain Trelawny (right) drinking hot cocoa the morning after

They found their Union Jack amongst the wreckage – the White Ensign with its shrapnel holes, was still flying. After a grisly search they then buried their dead; with all hands again aft the Captain read the funeral service. The colours under which they had fought were half- masted, and we lowered their bodies as reverently as we could into the deep; there was a big sea running. Then we turned to and cleared up the ship. [2]

« Another concern was their being able to reply to any challenge as radio, searchlight, mast and flags had all been blown away. They cut up remaining flags to denote who they were and flew them at an improvised mast. For night, they had recourse to an electric torch. Navigation was similarly difficult – a torn piece of a chart was found and a book-case batten used as a ruler as (my) chart and navigating notebook were lost, so that I was not certain of our position. For the North Sea is a large place, although one always pictures it to oneself as being so small ». [3]

The original intention was to make for Harwich; but as wind and sea rose they were forced gradually northwards. They took position and directions from a Norwegian merchant ship, following its wake for a time as they assumed that would lead them towards the English coast; but again the weather edged them northward as they attempted to protect their damaged bow. The wind still increased to a gale and at 1.00 am it was decided there was little choice but to fire distress signals. They got the box of ‘fireworks’ up and sat on them, unable to quite bring themselves to use them. But with dawn breaking for a second time, as if, it seemed to them, by a miracle, the wind moderated and the sea became smooth finally enabling them to make 10 knots. After meeting some minesweepers they made landfall about 20 miles from the Tyne, and refusing to take a tug – the two Quartermasters still at their posts after 36 hours, guided the ship between the piers at about noon 2nd June.

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Spitfire arrives back near the Tyne

11.0 pm 31st May 1916

« The course laid down for our Flotilla was to meet with the heaviest part of the German line: our four leading destroyers were shortly to engage not only with cruisers but with dreadnoughts. But nobody knew. » [1]

Lt Cdr CWE Trelawney [1] Lt AP Bush[2]_Sub Lt Wiggins[3]

(The account of HMS Spitfire at Jutland is courtesy of Alan Bush, grandson of Lt. Athelstan P Bush)

SOME MORE STORIES :
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HMS SHARK

xxxxx

(With thanks to Max Fletcher)

HMS SUPERB

Her white Ensign helps keep her story alive

The Royal Hospital School has stepped in to help the Jutland Centenary Initiative by loaning the white ensign from HMS Superb which was at Jutland at the Danish Sea War Museum in Thyborøn.

The school where Admiral Jellicoe laid the foundation stone in 1927, lost an astonishing 101 alumni during the battle.

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HMS SOUTHAMPTON

The ship that saved the battle-cruisers

At 16:48 Commodore “Barge” Goodenough sent a stunning signal back to his commander, Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty.

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Commodore Goodenough (private collection)

Scouting ahead of the 1st and 2nd battle cruiser Squadrons, Goodenough had just spotted sixteen dreadnoughts of the High Seas Fleet sailing north preparing to spring the trap on Beatty who had been lured south towards Hipper.

“Urgent. Priority. Course of Enemy’s battlefleet, N., single line-ahead. Composition of van Kaiser class. Bearing of centre, E. Destroyers on both wings and ahead. Enemy’s Battle Cruisers joining battlefleet from Northward. My position Lat. 56° 29′ N., Long. 6° 14′ E”.

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HMS Southampton (Public Domain)

The vital signal warned Beatty and now he was able to turn the trap around and bring Scheer to Jellicoe’s guns instead. The effect of the signal was also stunning to Beatty who, like Jellicoe, did not expect (and had been told not to expect) the main German battle Fleet.

“What am I to think of OD [Operations Division] when I get that telegram and in three hours’ time meet the whole of the German High Seas Fleet well out at sea?”

A Royal Hospital School student at Jutland 

Petty Albert William Garland Symonds was the fifth of seven children born to William and Emily Symonds on July 2, 1888. He was educated at the Royal Hospital School, Greenwich, and served 25 years in the Royal Navy, retiring as a Chief Writer. I have worked very closely and with great pleasure with the staff and students of the new Royal Hospital School to commemorate their special link to Jutland. The school lost 101 of their former pupils at the battle.

When Albert got back to Rosyth on the evening of June 2nd, he wrote up his experience and memories of the battle. What he wrote is below.

Foreword

I am writing this at 6 PM on the evening of Friday June 2nd 1916. The ship is at Rosyth and we reached this base at 2 PM today having left it at 9 PM on Tuesday 30th May. In the interval a Naval action of some magnitude has taken place.

HMS Southampton played her part in it and it has been an honourable if somewhat trying part which we have played. It is of course inevitable that one ship, not to mention one individual like myself can form but an indifferent opinion of the complete results and actions of a ‘show’ such as this last one. But it so happened that circumstances dictated that this ship should see as much of the action, if not more than any other ship. Also my position in the ship as a Control Officer of the After Control, only became a busy one under two circumstances.

(1)  If the Lieut. (G) is killed

(2)  If we should become engaged both sides at once

Neither of these incidents took place, so that I had time to take notes and observe times etc. I have judged it best to follow generally the form of a diary then I can distinguish easily between what I heard and what I saw. (ALL TIMES ARE G.M.T.)

THE ACCOUNT

On the afternoon of Tuesday the 30th May we were lying at our base (Rosyth) when the signal came through at about 6 PM “Flag Lion to B.C.F. (Battle Cruiser Fleet) and 5th B.S.(Battle Squadron) – raise steam and report when ready to proceed”

At 9 PM we weighed and proceeded, no one in this ship knowing at the time the object of the operation. It does not in fact appear that we had great expectations of seeing them as we cruised East all Wednesday forenoon at no very high speed. By noon we had steam for “full speed” at 1⁄2 hours’ notice but as we were well over towards the Danish coast, this order partook more of the nature of routine than of anything else. The course of the Fleet was approx. East and the L.C. (Light Cruiser) screen was spread 1st L.C.S. (Light Cruiser Squadron) – 3rd – 2nd L.C.S. (ourselves) from North to South.

At 2.23 PM “Galatea” sighted two enemy Light Cruisers and much smoke bearing East. At 2.56 PM they reported the German B.C. Fleet. We held on our Easterly course until 3.55 PM the B.C. came into line, steering South with the “Lion” leading and they at once opened fire on the German B. C. Fleet We were on the “Lion’s” starboard bow and on our port beam was a number of T.B.D’s. (Torpedo Boat Destroyers) and the “Champion” (Light Cruiser). As soon as we opened fire (and by “we” I mean our B.C.) the Germans opened fire as well, if not before. It must be realized that whilst our own B.C. were only a mile or so from us the Germans were about 20,000 yards away and against a very dark background, whilst we were silhouetted against the Western sky. The tactical disadvantage was very great, as it was extremely difficult for our B.C. to see the German B.C. It was of course still harder for us to see the Germans, in fact all that we ever saw of the enemy during the first period of the action was a series of flashes on the horizon. We were therefore helpless spectators of the severe punishment our own B.C. were suffering without having the consolation of seeing what damage the Germans were experiencing.

As has been the custom before, the German shooting was initially very good. Our B.C. were foaming through enormous splashes and it was evident that our line was being straddled. I was watching the line at 4.15 (approx.) and I had just noted with satisfaction that the “Lion” was emerging from a collection of huge fountains of water when I was horrified to see a colossal column of grey white smoke stand on the water where the “Indefatigable” (Battle Cruiser) had been. This column of smoke which I estimate was 700 feet high expanded on top into a great mushroom. The base of this mushroom stalk became a fiery red.

I realized the “Indefatigable” had been blown up and the next thing I remember was seeing the next ship in the line coming through the place where she had been.

I cannot attempt to describe my feelings when the action having proceeded as before vis: – flashes on the horizon, columns of splashes around our Battle Cruisers, salvoes from our B.C.

At 4.23 PM in an almost similar manner the “Queen Mary” (Battle Cruiser) was obliterated by an 800 feet high mushroom of fiery smoke, in this case I remember seeing bits of her ‘flying upward’. As I watched this fiery gravestone, it seemed to waver slightly at the base and I caught a momentary but clear glimpse of the hull of the “Queen Mary” sticking out of the water from the stern to the after funnel.

At this moment (i.e. shortly after the “Queen Mary” sunk) we had either sheared across to port or the B.C. had sheared to starboard to open range, for I remember noticing that we were about 1⁄2 a mile almost right ahead of the “Lion”. Whilst in this position I saw the shell or shells hit the “Lion” which put her midship port turret out of action also causing a fire. I hear that this single shell accounted for the greater number of those killed in the “Lion” (109)

At 4.38 we sighted and reported Light Cruisers followed by the German High Seas Fleet bearing South East steering about North East or North. Either just before or after this, Admiral Beatty made the signal to a/c 16 points which the B.C. then did. We did not obey this signal and held to the Southward for two reasons: –

(1) We thought there might be the chance of making a torpedo attack. (2) We wished to have a good look at them and report accurately.

With these intentions we held on and on, ever drawing nearer to this formidable line of German Battleships. I could see them plainly and counted 16 of them led by the four “Koenig’s” with the six older ones in the rear. Every moment it seemed as if they must open fire and obliterate us, but luckily they decided we were not worth ammunition at this stage of the proceedings. Finally, at a range of 12.900 yards we discovered we could not get into position for a torpedo attack so we turned 16 points and steered Northerly with the German B.C. on our starboard bow and the German Battle Fleet on our starboard quarter and beam, this was at 4,45 PM.

When the “Lion” and remaining B.C. turned 16 points to North or North by West the German B.C. seeing their Grand Fleet coming up from the South also turned 16 points. Our B.C. was then engaged with the German B.C. but we could not see much of this, then came a gap of a couple of miles then the 5th B.S. heavily engaged with the leading half of the German line. Close to the last ship of the 5th B.S. was the “Southampton”, sometimes we were 4-6 cables on their disengaged quarter, at other times we were almost astern. Away on our port quarter were some destroyers and the other ships of our squadron.

‘For the following hour, 5pm to 6pm, I can truthfully say I thought each succeeding minute was our last. For that hour we were under persistent 11in shellfire from the rear of the German fleet. That is to say, all the German battleships which could not get to our battleships thought they might as well while away the time by knocking us out.

‘Needless to say we could not fire a shot in return as the range was about 16,000 yards, way beyond our guns. ‘I crouched behind the 1/10in plate of the after control with Hayward-Booth (the Sub.) and the Clerk and we gnawed on bully beef.

However, my throat was so dry that I could not get much down and we could not get any water.

About once a minute or perhaps thrice in two minutes a series of ear splitting reports would indicate that another salvo had burst around the ship. Against my will I could never resist hanging over the edge and then I saw half a dozen or four muddy foamy looking circles in the water over which black smoke hung. Sometimes these pools were one side, sometimes the other. Some were literally absolutely alongside the ship and those threw masses of water onboard drenching us to the skin.

I should say (and this is a carefully reasoned and considered estimate) that 40 large shells fell within 75 yards of us within the hour and many others at varying distances out. We seemed to bear a charmed life but it was obvious that such a position could not last forever. How we escaped for an hour amazes everyone from the Commander downwards but providence was with us.

We did escape until the arrival at 6.17 PM of Sir J. Jellicoe and the Battle Fleet, this caused the action to enter a 3rd phase. Before proceeding with the third phase of this unique and historic day (a very milestone if not turning point in Naval history) I must emphasize one highly important point which belongs of right to both the 1st and 2nd phases of the action.

I refer to the question of light.
This highly important factor was very greatly in the enemy’s favour during phases one and two. (i.e. Phase One: B.C. against German B.C. Phase Two: 5th B.S. and B.C. against German B.C. and High Seas Fleet).
The fact of this being so was of course due to our relative positions and the time of day. Though at 4 PM the sun was still high in the heavens it was to the N.W. of us and we were to the West of the enemy. As this wonderful afternoon drew on and the sun sank lower towards the N.W. horizon the British ships were silhouetted against the illumination in the sky. The enemy showed up indifferently against a mass of low lying dark grey and purplish clouds.

Having stated this most important point I can now describe how at 6.17 PM I heard with the keenest satisfaction that Sir John Jellicoe who had been hurrying South with the Grand Fleet Battleships and armoured cruisers had been sighted right ahead.
It is neither my place nor my province to discuss in a descriptive account such as this, the tactics employed on the 31st May – 1st June. But I cannot allow myself to go any further without expressing my admiration and delight at the masterly gunnery in which the Commander-in-Chief worked round the Germans to get good light, by putting them to the Westward of him.

When one considers that he could not be considered as fully prepared for a General Fleet Action and that he had been obliged to come rushing South to get us out of a hot corner his success is still more magnificent.

When the Battle Fleet deployed to the Eastward our B.C. passing across the bows of the Fleet took up their positions in the van where also to be found the 1st, 4th and 3rd L.C.S. and Destroyers. The 5th B.S. joined up quite naturally at the tail of the line and we remained astern of them with the “Faulknor” and her destroyers.

As our Grand Fleet deployed I saw a terrible sight, I saw a four funneled cruiser apparently steering down between the two Battle lines, she was moving surrounded by splashes and was in hell. At 6.25 that terribly familiar column of smoke rose over the spot where I had last seen her. It was the end of the “Defence” (armoured cruiser). From amidst the welter of confusion a second 4 funneled cruiser appeared steering about West at 7 knots, she was heavily on fire aft and seemed in a bad way. Painfully she crept across the end of our Battle Line and drew clear of the inferno which was still lashing the water where the “Defence” had gone down.

After we had seen the “Defence” go down and as the “Warrior” hauled across out of it, the line of battle became formed and action became general. Shortly afterwards we were amazed to see “Warspite” suddenly turn to starboard and steer towards the German Fleet. I guessed at once she had been hit in the steering gear.

For three or four thousand yards she went towards them coming under a hail of huge shells as the German Battle Fleet or rather portions of it concentrated on her. I was prepared to see her go up at any moment as it did not seem possible she could survive, the more so as she seemed to be stopped. This lasted some ten minutes when to our astonishment she re-appeared again from amongst the cascades of splashes and smoke around her and steaming strongly came up to the rear of the fleet again. As a matter of fact, she was ordered shortly afterwards to repair to Rosyth for Repairs.

Action may now be said to have become general.
Our long line of Battleships stretching away literally for miles to the N.E. and gradually curving around the Germans. (Though the speed of the fleet was only 17 knots) they presented an inspiring and heartening spectacle as they proceeded majestically along.

survive, the more so as she seemed to be stopped. This lasted some ten minutes when to our astonishment she re-appeared again from amongst the cascades of splashes and smoke around her and steaming strongly came up to the rear of the fleet again. As a matter of fact, she was ordered shortly afterwards to repair to Rosyth for Repairs.

Action may now be said to have become general.
Our long line of Battleships stretching away literally for miles to the N.E. and gradually curving around the Germans. (Though the speed of the fleet was only 17 knots) they presented an inspiring and heartening spectacle as they proceeded majestically along.

Salvo after salvo belched out from the long line of these great ships now confronted for the first time in their careers with the enemy they had waited to see for so many weary months. Firing was not very rapid to begin with as the light was still very poor but as the boot was shifted to the other leg and the Germans became outlined against the western sky the Battleships warmed to their work and an almost continuous succession of jets of flame and brown balls of cordite smoke shot out from the British Battle Fleet.

At 6.47 PM we observed a 3 funneled German Battleship lying between the tail of our line and the German line, she was stopped and on fire. Having nothing particular at that moment on his hands our Commodore Goodenough decided to run over towards her and work our wicked will on her. The fleet at the time was only steaming at 17 knots so we saw that we should have no difficulty in rejoining the rear of the Battle Fleet. At 6.50 we turned to about S.E. and ran down at high speed supported by our squadron to where this 3 funneled German Battleship (probably the Pommern) wallowed in her agony. As soon as we got within range the Squadron opened fire and we could see several shells, in fact a very large number burst on her, the six rear ships of the German line had in my opinion preserved an ominous silence whilst we advanced to batter their helpless brother.

It was the calm before the storm for when we were about 6,000 yards from the 3 funneler and 12,000 yards from the German Battle line they opened a very heavy fire on our Squadron, we fled helter skelter to get back to the rear of our own lines pursued by a perfect shower of 11 inch shells which ‘crumped’ down alongside us in astounding precision.

As an instance of what we had for ten minutes I may mention that Booth and myself were in the After Control together making feeble jokes about the shells which were greeted by our Control Party with hysterical laughter of a somewhat forced nature, and at 7 PM we observed 3 salvo’s of 3 or 4 shells in each strike the water together. We agreed that 2 salvo’s aggregating 7 shells fell alongside the starboard side of the ship, distance about 15 to 50 yards and one bunch of 3 fell 40 yards on the port side at the same time. A regular stream of about one every 15 seconds was falling just ahead of the ship on either bow drenching people on the bridge with their spray.

At 7.15 we were out of range astern of the 5th B.S. (The Q.E’s) who were loosing off steady salvo’s from their 15 inch guns. Although the sea was flat calm the surface was heaving with a sullen swell simply due to the tremendous number of ships of every size and speed which were moving about, it was very difficult for us to steer due to this. Over the whole scene hung brown clouds with the vapour from hundreds of funnels pouring smoke spread over the 100 miles of sea (10×10) in which the main action was being fought.

At about 7.15 the Commander-in-Chief had managed to get to the East North East of the enemy, which later in order to avoid having his track crossed and as he was also being menaced by a destroyer attack turned to the South East. The light was now in our favour and during the next 10 minutes the enemy Battle Fleet must have suffered very heavily from our Fleet.

I had an impression at the time that German T.B.D’s (Torpedo boat destroyers) endeavoured to attack our van. The distance was so great that I could not be sure. I have since heard it was so and that they were beaten off.
At 7.30 PM the Germans had experienced enough for I suddenly saw the rear ships of their line alter course 8 points together. So apparent was this manoeuvre that I sent a written message to the Commodore drawing his attention to it. At the same time his destroyers at the S.E. end (or van) of his line started a smoke screen which by 7.35 was effective having drifted the length of their line. Under cover of this, they retired.

Our Battle Fleet held on a Southerly course as the enemy had been obliged to retire to the S.W. and there seemed a good chance of cutting them off from Germany.
A minor incident which now took place deserves recording…..A German destroyer was left in a disabled condition the wrong side of the smoke screen from its own point of view. As we passed at 7.45 we fired a salvo at 6,400 yards and hit it just in time. The “Faulknor” and a number of destroyers went over to administer the “coup- de-grace”

It has just occurred to me that if the “Marlborough” was torpedoed it might have been this little hornet that did it, for she must have been closer to our line than any other German T.B.D. However, this is only a surmise.

At 8.25 “Birmingham” sighted a submarine, perhaps this got the “Marlborough”?
At 8.30 the Fleet was in columns of divisions, we the 2nd L.C.S. were in line ahead on the starboard beam of the three remaining ships of the 5th B.S. (“Warspite” had gone home) At 8.50 PM we sighted four German T.B.D’s on our starboard bow apparently intending an attack on the Battle Fleet, probably the 5th B.S. We opened fire at once and hit the leading one, though the dusk made shooting very difficult. We drove the others off and they vanished with their tails down.

At 9 PM heavy firing and flashes ahead and to the S.E. I found out afterwards this was the 3rd L.C.S. and our B.C. who had been feeling their way to the Eastward to see if our Fleet was trying to get between the Germans and their base. At this stage of the proceedings only 3 German B.C. were going about together. At about 9.15 or 9.30 we eased to 17 knots, we were astern of the Battle Fleet and course South.

At about this time I drank a little tea which I found, it had no milk or sugar but it was good. Booth also found a slab of chocolate in his cabin.
At approx. 9.40 we suddenly saw a flotilla of destroyers rushing at us, just as we were about to open fire we saw they were our own. As they dashed past our line (how we cursed their haphazard behavior), one of them fired a 4” at us, but didn’t hit anyone. I imagine a Gun layer lost his head.
At 10 PM searchlights were suddenly switched on, away on our starboard beam.

I notice that I keep on using the word ‘suddenly’ I can only plead that during these slow dragging hours most of the events did happen ‘suddenly’
In the glare of these searchlights we saw a number of destroyers making an attack which apparently failed as the ships with the searchlights opened a very rapid fire and scored at least one hit as a big explosion took place on one T.B.D. We thought they looked like our own T.B.D’s but were not sure. (Was this the flotilla that passed us half an hour before and did we see “Tipperary” sunk?)

In a few minutes the lights went out and we were once more straining our eyes in staring out on all sides.

PART II

In this account of the great action I take up the threads of the story where we have just left off. In case the reader has become confused by the times I will briefly state that up to the moment when Part II begins, this Squadron and especially this ship had been under very heavy shell fire most noticeably from 5 – 6 PM when astern of the 5th B.S. and again from 7 – 7.10 PM when running away from the rear ships of the German line. During all this time from 2.30 – 10.00 PM May 31st which is the time Part I ends we had been at Action Stations

When it became dusk we went to night Defence Stations and I went to the bridge as our arrangements are that the Gunnery Lieutenant should control one side and that I control the other. In conversation with him (Burroughs) we had agreed that as in the event of a night action it was improbable, or at all events devoutly to be hoped that we should not be engaged both sides at once, that if we did get into action I should go down into the battery and preferably the waist, quarterdeck and after end generally, as owing to their distance from the bridge, communication to these positions and the guns there are precarious.

It is therefore advisable to have an Officer on the spot if possible, for coolness in a night attack is obviously essential.

The time of which I am now writing is 10 PM on 31st May having watched the night action described at the end of Part I, I decided to rest for a little. I was on the bridge at the time and looking round I discovered the canvas cover of a searchlight, curling myself up in this I lay down at the base of the steering compass.

The narrative will now assume a distinctly personal character but this is inevitable for did I attempt to give a general description of our night action I should be bound to fail. It would be impossible for one individual to do so. I can simply record what I experienced and what I saw together with what I heard immediately afterwards.

At 10.15 I heard someone say that a line of cruisers had been seen on the beam, getting up I went aft and looked in on my way at the After Control where I found Mr. Cabage (Bosun) and Booth who declared they could see German cruisers on the beam. It was a German scouting group consisting of “Fürst Bismarck” or “Rion”, “Augsburg”, “Kolberg”, “Rostock” ?

At this moment 10.20 a ship astern of us either the “Dublin” or the “Nottingham” fired out to starboard and almost at once I saw the shell detonate on a ship on the beam. I dashed down into the waist and stood behind S3 gun, instantly we were dazzled by a mass of searchlight beams. We switched on our own lights and opened fire, I have a distinct recollection of seeing a line of cruisers but I can only remember one, a four funneled craft of the “Rostock” class, distance 1,500 yards. I remember thinking “well we can’t miss each other at this range, we are in for it this time”

I think S.3 had fired two rounds and already a hail of shells had enveloped the ship, though I didn’t realize it at the time, when there was a blinding flash and I seemed to be standing in a fire

During this action I have forgotten to mention that we fired a torpedo at the German line. As the range was 1000 to 1500 yards it is probable that the “Mouldy” ran all right and that we got a hit, this belief is further strengthened by these facts:-

(1)  Observers aft declare they saw one of the German ships struck by a torpedo and suffer a very heavy explosion. Of course these reports cannot be considered very reliable owing to the circumstances under which they were made.

(2)  Officers’ in the ships astern have told me that they observed an underwater explosion in one four funneled cruiser in the German line.

(3)  Next day we passed a place where a ship had gone down, this coincided very nearly with the spot where we had our action.

(4)  If the enemy did not suffer any very exceptional loss, why did they shear off when they must have seen that another five minutes would have sunk us (“Southampton”) unless they thought that we could not possibly survive with our big fires and that why together with their admission of the “Rostock” they persist in claiming the “Birmingham”, evidently us. I must confess that we must have presented a very comforting sight to German eyes.

I staggered back and stumbled round the superstructure and passing aft on the port side came round to the point marked “A” on the sketch where I observed that a fire was in full blast at “B” between the gun and the corner of the superstructure at “H”

The Sergeant Major gallantly dashed forward to turn on the fire main at “H” but no water came as the pipe below had been pierced by a shell. As I have already said I was standing behind the gun when another shell hit, this shell on bursting against the side killed the breech worker of the gun near me and also the loading number standing just to my left front. It also knocked out and wounded the whole of the rest of the guns’ crew except three men, there were left these three or two, I’m not sure exactly, the Sergeant Major (severely burnt) and myself, slightly singed.

When we saw that the fire main would not work we managed to get a hose up the hatch and bring it round, whilst doing this I looked up to the boat deck and saw a sight which almost paralyzed me with horror. An enormous fire was raging between the 2nd and 3rd funnels. Every now and then it showed signs of dying away only to flare up again as high as the top of the funnel. It lit up the whole ship and one could feel its heat. It quite obscured another fire which I found out afterwards was going under the fore bridge. Every moment I thought, as did everyone else onboard and also people in the ship next to us, that we should blow up.

I must explain that though I hardly realized it at the time, an Armoured cruiser, (either the “Roon” or “Prinz Heinrich” and four light cruisers were concentrating on us. With the exception of one or two shells which did some damage to the “Dublin” (she had the Navigator and one man killed, 9 wounded) none of the rest of the squadron were touched.

To get back to the story….
Whilst we were putting out the fire another shell burst on the starboard after searchlight killing two or three men up there and hurled the remains of it down on top of us in the waist, as far as I know it killed no one. When we had put out the fire I dragged a hose up the port ladder to the boat deck, falling over a heap of about three dead men on the way. When I got to the central fire it was being got under control.

I met the Commander there, also Booth and also saw most of P.3’s gun’s crew dead by their gun as were also S. 3’s, they were lying on the deck. Whilst this fire had been raging we were lit up from stem to stern and the enemy let drive at us for all they were worth. As this fire died down the enemy put out their lights and sheared off, either this was due to the punishment they had received or some other cause. At all events we held our course and they turned away.

Darkness succeeded light and groping my way forward I passed a number of dead men and came across a boy (Mellish), a splendid little chap, one arm and a leg was off. He was bleeding to death, quite conscious and most plucky, I had him taken below as well as many others, Mellish died one hour afterwards.

On reaching the bridge I met the Commander who sent me to report casualties, I went down aft stopping to see some dead put over the side and then down the hatch to the central passageway which was in places running with blood. The doctors were operating in the Stokers bathroom; they were doing an amputation when I arrived. Not a murmur rose, not a sound, not a groan came from these wrecks of humanity lying on the deck, the tables and the sideboard. A whispered request for a cigarette was all I heard.

Going up to the bridge again I told the Commander what I could and then went down to the battery where the Lieut. (G) and the Commander were making up sufficient guns’ crews with stokers to man one side if required. We also did our best to test and restore communications which in most cases were blown to stems. Having done what, we could, Booth and myself went up to the bridge and lay down on the searchlight cover as there was nothing else we could do. We found a lot of blood there so we shifted ground.

Suddenly firing started right astern, supposedly Battle Cruisers in action. I prayed to heaven we should not run up against them, with only enough men left to man one side and even then the loading numbers were stokers, we were in no state to fight.

We increased to 20 knots and when dawn was breaking we sighted a number of Battleships right ahead. Such is the uncertainty of night work that for one or two painful moments we were not sure of their identity, but luckily they were our own. The scene on the upper deck defies description and in places it was so horrible that I will not describe it. The funnels were riddled with holes large and small and most of the upper deck casing and the boats were coloured a bright yellow from the melinite fumes. Of the boats, only one was fit to put in the water.

Down below, the smoking room flat presented an extraordinary appearance, Marsden’s cabin and Stoddart’s on the starboard side were utterly wrecked as two shells had passed through here. One had carried on into the Wardroom and the other had made its way across the ship into mine doing a good deal of damage and smashing the scuttle. All my gear was on the deck and there was about six to nine inches of water (chiefly through my broken scuttle) everywhere. It was a painful sight.

A shell went into the Commodore’s cabin high up but did nothing, another entered Booth’s cabin and smashing through his bunk entered the Wardroom and fetched up with some violence against the soda water machine. A 9.4” entered the ships’ side through the Carpenter’s cabin, killed two men in the flat and did damage I have already described in the waist overhead.

The funnels were hit repeatedly and there were several direct hits on the deck which did tremendous execution amongst the gun crews near them. Two or three direct hits under the bridge caused a fire and deaths under and on the bridge itself. There were further hits along the side, some of which were kept out by our three inch armour, but one big one penetrated and wrecked the First Lieutenant’s cabin. Others came in and smashed the Gunner (T) and (G’s) cabins.

A big one entered the stokers number two mess deck and killed some men there, it also gave some trouble as it was on the waterline. This one and the one in the Carpenter’s cabin were the only ones which leaked at all badly once we had plugged and shored them all up. The main suction kept the water from these in hand.

As to our movements during the 1st June and also as to a detailed list of our injuries, they are not really of great general interest.
The Germans probably doubled back on their tracks and though we were between them and their base the weather was misty and they escaped the Commander-in-Chief’s Grand Fleet. We passed some very large mines and a T.B.D. bottom up whilst we were cruising about in the Bight looking for the Germans.
At twelve noon we packed up Action stations having been at them for 23 hours and we returned to base. On the way in we had to heave to once during the night as a small gale caused some of the shores to carry away and we began to leak rather badly.

We also buried some wounded who had died of their wounds, one poor chap had just died today in the hospital ship after surviving a week, he was one of the frightfully burnt cases

I now propose to close this account by rendering thanks where they are due, as one

fellow said speaking about our ‘night show’……

” There were not many atheists’ onboard us at 11 PM, though there might have been some at 10 PM”.

HMS Southampton 24th October 1917

Said Writer A.W.G. Symonds has served under me from 27th October 1915 to 15th February 1917. He has always carried out his responsible duties here with accuracy and loyalty. In several trying and arduous situations, including the Battle of Jutland, 31st May 1916, his conduct has been in every way satisfactory. I have no hesitation in recommending him for a position of responsibility and trust.

Signed
Staff Paymaster R.N.

 

The Journal was transcribed by Ian Mackenzie, HMS Lowestoft Association April 2016

 

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HMS ST VINCENT

Letter from a young midshipman to his mother (as it appeared in a contemporary newspaper account)

Letter from a Combatant

The Battle of Jutland

We are pleased to share with our readers this letter from a young midshipman of the Royal Navy who relates to his parents the great battle of May 31st as he witnessed it from his battle station.

Admiral Sir John Jellicoe’s Fleet_[On board the battleship HMS X…, First Battle Squadron]

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HMS St. Vincent, Cadet Henry Arthur Adeane Mallet with his elder brother, Victor (later Sir Victor Mallet) dated August 1914. (Private Collection)

My Dear Parents,

Sunday evening seems to me an adequate time to sum up my impressions of battle to you; I therefore begin:

Wednesday May 31st, in the afternoon., we were southbound not expecting a squall, in fact no one was thinking of one. At 3.30 p.m. (15:30 hrs) we were told to prepare ourselves immediately for clearing for action. We went through this interesting exercise which consists mainly in destroying everything, putting tables upside down, taking chairs out on deck, and to flood the decks with two or three inches of water. We locked again our chests in the bathroom, though I had time enough to tumble down below decks and extract from mine my warm things and my life gear. I was, indeed, expecting to spend the night outdoors and it was not exactly warm.

At that time, the weather was cloudy and misty, and one could not see very far. Towards 4 pm (16oo hrs) we forced speed and we received news that our light cruisers had seen the enemy, which took us to a paroxysm of excitement. It seemed to us (and I think I was not mistaken) that a meeting with the object of our wrath depended only on a stroke of luck. This element of sport added to our excitement.

At 17:00hrs, we learned that the fastest battlecruisers and first class battleships had made contact with the enemy. We went full steam towards our target, in the fervent hope that we would reach it. At about a quarter to six, we sighted glimmers of light on the starboard bow, and a little later we saw the battlecruisers exchanging fire with the enemy. The battle fleet was sailing on several lines. We wheeled to port in the wake of the battlecruisers. We made one single long line with all our starboard guns aimed at the enemy. At 6:30, or a little after, we opened fire on a ship which all of us took for the armoured cruiser Roon. (I since learnt that it was probably not the Roon, but it was nevertheless a large armoured cruiser.) She had already suffered serious damage, and after taking direct hits from half a dozen of our salvos she disappeared in a magnificent conflagration. She was able to stay afloat for only a few moments after we had abandoned her. Afterwards we chose as a target a much larger first class battleship (probably a Kaiser class), and the squadron gave her a taste of hell. There is ample reason to believe that she had succumbed, but I am not sure if anyone had actually seen her sink. It was at that point that the entire German battle line, which had just taken its combat positions, turned around and took flight. And that was the end! It was about 8 pm.

You see then that they had retreated before we had been able to truly attack them. They had sustained very serious damages! We had really witnessed only the preliminaries to a fight and we could only have a rather vague idea of the real thing. Nevertheless, what we saw was perfect. We were overcome by joy and felt the better for it.

It was impossible for us to bear down on the retreating shadows not knowing if the enemy had not disposed dozens of mines and submarines on our path. We did nonetheless give chase to them on a safer course. I spent the night on the fire control bridge even though, as you know, my battle station was in a gun turret. My mission was to stand by the 4 inch guns in the event that we came under fire from destroyers. I did not sleep all night as a result.

That night, at about 10:30pm (22:30 hrs), there was a violent engagement or an attack from the destroyers at a certain distance from us to starboard. It is likely that this was the battle in which the German dreadnought mentioned earlier was sunk. We saw a number of flashes of light lights and a huge conflagration and this caused a great commotion among us. Nothing else happened to us for the rest of the night, and at 2am I returned to my turret where everything was ready (the guns loaded etc.) to open fire at the first warning. We took turns to sit on top of the turret to smoke a pipe.

A little after 4 a.m. we sighted a zeppelin aircraft astern, and I could not help being greatly excited since it was the first one I had ever seen. It drew nearer to the ship but rather, I think, to scout than to throw bombs at us for, in fact, it did not drop a single one. We fired at it with a 12inch gun and sent two rounds of our anti-aircraft cannon, which made it to retreat immediately. To tell the truth, I think it was out of range, but it was worth trying our luck against it.

We remained at the same spot for a while, hoping for a good opportunity, but obviously the Huns did not see things the same way and they kept well out of reach. So we started our way back. We remained at our battle stations until 3 pm (15:00 hrs) which means we had kept to them for 24 hours at a stretch. This is not too bad.

There is reason to believe that during the operations four torpedoes were fired at us but not one of them hit us as, it seems, all the ships on which I have sailed have been proverbially lucky. We made it back without any damages or casualties. It is considered that it was our squadron which took the brunt of the onslaught during the engagement of the first class battleships. Of course, the battlecruisers, more any one else, “took a beating”. At least I think that we have fired more than any other unit. At any rate, and whatever might have happened, I am convinced that the Huns had been more battered than we were, and onboard our ship everything had gone like clockwork.

Having waited so long for this day, we all felt a great joy and everybody was delighted except when it was all over. Then, I must confess, I felt very saddened at the thought of all the brave men who had had to die.

That morning we held a memorial service on board ship, following which I attended the funerals of some of the victims. Admiral Jellicoe was present and so were many others, it was very impressive.

I fear I got carried away and have told you too much, but I hope you will not hold against me. It is so rarely I have something to tell you._Goodbye.

Your affectionate son, Arthur.

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Sub-Lieutenant Henry Arthur Adeane Mallet, dated November 1918.

(Kind courtesy of Mowbray Jackson who also helped update the ship’s database profile. Many thanks)

Mowbray Jackson’s grandfather was the seventeen year old Midshipman in question, on the battleship HMS St Vincent and was ‘doggie’ to Captain Fisher. So both our grandfathers were there…albeit on different pay scales! He had just come off convalescent leave due to his having been blown up at Gallipoli in 1915. The letter was written to his parents after the battle and his father had it copied and sent to various cousins. To his horror, one cousin in Paris had it translated and published in Le Monde. Mowbray includes two interesting photos. Both need some help with identification.

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One of the returning light cruisres showing the damage to the breech of one of her guns. Which Light cruiser could this be?

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Who is this unidentified officer?

SOME MORE STORIES:
Imperial War Museum HMS Yarmouth community:
https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/community/2936
See Ships’ database on HMS St. Vincent.

HMS WARRIOR

On the 23rd August this year (2016) the very last wreck from Jutland was found. That’s extraordinary, one hundred years after the event that the sea had not given up her secrets. The discovery was made by the joint efforts of Gert Normann Andersen, the prime mover behind Denmark’s new Seawar museum in the small fishing town of Thyborøn, and Dr. Innes McCartney, naval archeologist.

She lies at 83 metres where she went down when HMS Engadine finally had to cut the hawser. Her crew evacuated calmly and professionally. Able bodied first and then wounded.

A new book was published about the experiences of an ERA (engine room artificer) on the ship. Rosemary Parr’s book writes about the terrifying experience of her grandfather, stuck with water up to his chest and unable to get out. His own and the sheer courage of other ERAs was moving and deeply moving.

Rosemary Parr's book

Lieutenant Commander Rob Whitworth (Royal Navy) whose Great Grandfather, William Henry Swan served on board HMS Warrior as Chief Engine Room Artificer  during the Battle of Jutland, said: “Researching my Great Grandfather’s role during the battle has helped me to understand my family’s place in history. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by large numbers and to lose sight of the personal stories of those that took part. Speaking to descendants and remembering their families’ individual stories helps to preserve the memories of those that lost their lives. I’m proud to be able to share my Great Grandfather’s story and would encourage others to do the same and attend events in 2016”.

 

HMS YARMOUTH

Prior to Jutland HMS Yarmouth had been involved in the search for the Emden and had sunk one of its colliers and captured another, she was then attached to the 3rd LCS (Light Cruiser Squadron) and formed part of Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty’s Fleet – on the fleets outward passage to Jutland she reported a periscope sighting which turned out to be mistaken, but caused Beatty to change direction for approx. 20 minutes.

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HMS Yarmouth

Not an auspicious start to Jutland but during the battle the Yarmouth expended 160 6in shells – second only to Falmouth (also in the 3rd LCS) – together they expended a third of all the 6in shells fired by Light Cruisers in the battle. Ships they engaged with were the Wiesbaden, Lützow, Derfflingger and various destroyers. Yarmouth also fired a torpedo at fired at the Lützow but missed.

Connected to both the Yarmouth and Jutland, is the interesting story of “Rutland of Jutland”.

Attached to the 3rd LCS was the seaplane carrier HMS Engadine. On 30 May 1916 Beatty ordered Engadine to make a search to the north-northeast. At 15:07 Lieutenant Rutland took off in his Short Type 184 and his observer, Assistant Paymaster G. S. Trewin, signalled Engadine that they had spotted three German cruisers and five destroyers at 15:30. This was the first time that a heavier-than-air aircraft had carried out a reconnaissance of an enemy fleet in action. Rutland was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross “for his gallantry and persistence in flying within close distance of the enemy light cruisers”. During the Battle of Jutland, the armoured cruiser HMS Warrior had been crippled by numerous hits by German battleships. At 19:45 Engadine attempted to take her in tow, but the jammed rudder prevented that until it was trained amidships. Early the following morning Warrior_‘s progressive flooding had worsened and she was sinking. The captain ordered his ship abandoned after Engadine came alongside to take the crew off at 08:00. About 675 officers and men successfully made it to the much smaller Engadine. Among these were about 30 seriously wounded men who were transferred across in their stretchers; one man fell from his stretcher between the ships, but, against orders, Rutland dived overboard with a bowline to rescue him. For his bravery he was awarded the First Class Albert Medal for Lifesaving in gold.

On 28 June 1917, Flight Commander Rutland took off in a Sopwith Pup from a flying-off platform mounted on the roof of one of the gun turrets of the light cruiser HMS Yarmouth, the first such successful launch of an aircraft in history. He received a second award of the DSC in 1917 for “services on patrol duties and submarine searching in home waters”.

However the story does not have a happy ending – Rutland resigned his commission in 1923. He had come to the notice of MI5 in 1922 when the agency had received what it called “reliable information” from a “very delicate source” that the Japanese had had secret talks with Rutland. MI5 noted that Rutland possessed “unique knowledge of aircraft carriers and deck landings”. He had subsequently been providing technical details which helped the Japanese design aircraft carriers, in the years before the attack on Pearl Harbour. This was discovered when Japan’s cyphers were broken. MI6 discovered that Rutland had come to the attention of the US authorities. He returned to Britain on 5 October 1941 and on 16 December 1941 he was interned under Defence Regulation 18B “by reason of alleged hostile associations”. Rutland committed suicide in 1949.

(Kind courtesy of John Toohey, 2016, who also helped with HMS Yarmouth’s ship’s profile in the database. Many thanks)

SOME MORE STORIES :
Imperial War Museum HMS Yarmouth community :
https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/community/3002

 

HMS TIGER

Arthur Lunn from Dawlish in Devon, recounted his part in the battle of Jutland and the horrific injuries he suffered to his ten year old great nephew, Christopher. He’d been a signaler on HMS Tiger.He’d be ordered to send a message by flags and, just as he had started, Tiger was hit. Lunn was blown clean off the superstructure. As he fell, he was cut open. From his waist to his ankle. Literally ripped open. He fell in to the sea but was rescued by a small boat.Hauled aboard, he lay bleeding to death on the deck. If it had not been for one of his rescuers, a sailmaker, he would have died there. The man stitched him up from his rearside to his ankle.Christopher remembers seeing his great uncle’s leg. He described it as looking like the stitches on a rugby ball.

(Courtesy of Christopher North, Arthur Lunn’s great nephew)

SM Torpedoboot V.41

Two grandfathers at Jutland in the German Fleet. One a friend of Admiral Jellicoe’s from China Days.  

From an interview with Jürgen Schultz-Siemens, one grandfather who was Max Schultz, the commander of the 6th Half Flotilla led by the V.41 at Jutland. He and my grandfather had fought together in China in 1900 and had, when they ran out of food, shared what little they had. When Jellicoe was in Berlin in 1913 for the marriage of the Kaiser’s daughter, he and Schultz met with their wives. On May 29th 2016, I was invited to the  Commemoration service in the Wilhelmshaven Friedhof. With my cousin, I laid a wreath on Shlultz’s commemoration stone which is metres from the Lützow memorial.

 

Max Schultz's memorial stone in the Wilhelmshaven Friedhof.

Max Schultz’s memorial stone in the Wilhelmshaven Friedhof.

What is their role had in the events?

Leopold Siemens was Lieutenant and second radio officer on the battleship SMS Rheinland. Max Schultz, 13 years earlier entered the Navy, led the VI Half Torpedo boat flotilla as a Lieutenant Commander. He was of the attack against the British battle line which forced Jellicoe to turn away when Admiral Scheer wanted to withdraw theHigh Seas Fleet eleven torpedoes were fired though none hit. However, they achieved what they had set out to do. Force the British battleships to turn away. Schultz has received the Knight’s Cross of the Hohenzollern for his actions on the 5th June.

 

Max unfortunately died six months later off the Belgian coast when Flottillenführerboot, the  V. 69 was sunk by British cruisers. He was among those who have not survive.

Max Schultz as Korvettenkapitän 1916.

Max Schultz as Korvettenkapitän 1916.

 

But Jürgen knew his other grandfather, Leopold, who lived till after the second world war. He wants to write up his history for his own children with the memoirs that Leopold left.

Leopold was a radio officer and had to pass the commands from the flagship along the line as they were trying to get through the British line at night. The older officers looked down on the new technology of radio calling it  Funkenpusterei . His ship, the Rhineland suffered two 15-centimeter  hits and had ten dead. “Only the Stupid have no fear ,” he recalled later to Jürgen.

Max led torpedo boat at maximum speed, around 36 knots, right up to the British line. To within 6,000 meters. The sight of the firing British ships left an indelible impression: “sinister and gigantic”

Three grandsons meet. Richard Latham and Nick Jellicoe are grandsons of Admiral Jellicoe. Max Schultz's grandson, Jürgen, stands between us his grandfather's memorial stone in Wilhelmshaven.

Three grandsons meet. Richard Latham and Nick Jellicoe are grandsons of Admiral Jellicoe. Max Schultz’s grandson, Jürgen, stands between us his grandfather’s memorial stone in Wilhelmshaven.

Both officers felt they were part of an elite force. Well trained and prepared. They were aware of a certain superiority, because they knew British training well. They’d had such close contacts before the war. Both Leopold and Max saw how the German ships have achieved better shooting results. They both saw the terrible spectacle of the loss of three of the large British battlecruisers. They must have both felt proud, Jürgem says, despite them both also understanding that nothing had changed so far as the strategic position was concerned. The total blockade of Germany remained. They did not feel comfortable wearing their naval uniforms as time progressed. They felt they weren’t playing their part as so many of their friends were dying in the land war.

Leopold was a strong officer and proud of the care he felt for his men. ” Leadership and responsibility of people were the nicest thing about my job,” he said. He felt himself a Prussian and as “a convinced republican “. Like most officers in the imperial Navy he came from a bourgeois background. He stayed in the Navy and became a Vice Admiral in the Kriegsmarine and served with Karl Doenitz, He knew submarines well and became head of Submarine development. Tragically, he lost his only son Horst, my mother’s brother, as a young lieutenant on one of these is U -boats in 1942. Until the outbreak of war Leopold had served as Naval Attaché in London. He had very good and personal relations with the British Admiralty. The day Britain declared war on Germany, September 2nd 1939, he’d been invited by John Godfrey, head of the British Navy intelligence, to a dinner as the only foreign guest. No on spoke politics. Everyone knew what was about to happen. At the end of the evening he thanked Godfrey for his friendship and left with Warrender’s words of 1914: ” Friends today, friends forever .”

Leopold was dismissed in late 1944 as the naval commander in northern Norway and threatened with indictment for treason accused of not supporting the war effort vigorously enough.