Naval History Homepage and Site Search



World War 1 at Sea


NAVAL OPERATIONS, Volume 3, Spring 1915 to June 1916 (Part 2 of 2)

by Sir Julian S Corbett

Links to main World War 1 pages:
- Military & Naval Chronology
- Naval Operations -
Merchant Navy
- Navy and Army Despatches
- Honours and Gallantry Awards
- Royal & Dominion Navy Casualties
- Warships & Auxiliaries of the RN
- Guide to Warship Locations
- Campaigns, Battles & Actions

Battlecruiser Force Commanders, Battle of Jutland: British Adm Beatty; German Adm Hipper (Library of Congress, click to enlarge)

on to Naval Operations, Vol 4

or return to World War 1, 1914-1918


To enjoy reading the text and following  the maps at the same time, try opening the same page in two separate browser windows



(Part 2 of 2)

XVI. The Eve of Jutland

XVII. Jutland ‑ The First Phase ‑ Battle Cruiser Action

XVIII. Jutland ‑ The Second Phase ‑ First contact of the Battle Fleets

XIX. Jutland ‑ The Third Phase - 6.30 to Nightfall

XX. Jutland ‑ The Fourth Phase ‑ The Night

XXI. Jutland ‑ The Last Phase ‑ The First of June


APPENDICES - Battle Of Jutland


A. Distribution of the Ships of the Grand Fleet Before Sailing on Tuesday May 30, 1916, with the Names of Flag and Commanding Officers

B. Organisation of the Grand Fleet as it Sailed on May 30, 1916

C. Ships of the High Seas Fleet, with the Names of Flag and Commanding Officers, May 31, 1916

D. Organisation of the High Seas Fleet as it Sailed on May 31, 1916

E. List of Ships (British and German) Sunk

F. British Casualties

G. German Casualties

H. Hits Received by British Ships

I. Hits Received by German Ships

J. Signals Deciphered in the Admiralty Between 11.15 P.M. May 31 and 1.25 A.M. June 1


Index (not included – you can use Search)






(Part 2 of 2)




Diagram No.

16. Opening Movements

The Battle Cruiser Action

17. From 2.15 P.M. to 2.30 P.M.

18. From 2.30 to 2.45

19. From 2.45 to 3.0

20. From 3.0 to 3.15

21. From 3.15 to 3.30

22. From 3.30 to 3.40

23. From 3.40 to 4.0

24. From 4.0 to 4.20

25. From 4.20 to 4.40

26. From 4.40 to 5.0

27. From 5.0 to 5.20

28. From 5.20 to 5.40

29. From 5.40 to 6.0

30. From 6.0 to 6.15

The Deployment

31. From 6.15 P.M. to 6.26 P.M.

The Main Action

32. From 6.26 P.M. to 6.35 P.M.

33. From 6.35 to 6.45

34. From 6.45 to 6.56

35. From 6.56 to 7.12

36. From 7.12 to 7.18

37. From 7.18 to 7.26

38. From 7.26 to 7.35

39. From 7.35 to 7.45

40. From 7.45 to 8.15

41. From 8.15 to 8.35

42. From 8.35 to 9.0

43. From 9.0 to 10.0

The Night Movements

44. From 10 P.M. to 3.0 A.M.

The Night Actions

45. 8 Phases, A-H (in 8 parts)

The First of June

46. From 3 A.M. to Noon








THE impunity with which the enemy had insulted our East Coast after his long inactivity came with something of a shock to public opinion. There was nothing approaching to panic ‑ the faith in the navy was scarcely shaken ‑ but the Admiralty thought it desirable to issue a reassuring pronouncement. It took the form of a letter from Mr. Balfour to the Mayors of Lowestoft and Yarmouth, in which he stated that our home forces were about to be redistributed in a way which would make a repetition of a raid against our East Coast highly dangerous to the enemy. In the early stages of the war, it was explained, it was necessary to keep our main fleet in northern waters, where it could be concen­trated against any prolonged operation of the enemy such as attempted invasion, but could not be sure of intercepting raids. Now, however, that new construction had materially increased our strength, we not only had better means of coast defence, but it was possible to bring important forces south from the Grand Fleet without imperilling our preponderance elsewhere.


A redistribution of the character he indicated had in fact been under consideration since the beginning of the year. The old difficulty of inadequate bases in the North Sea had held it up, and it had been found necessary to postpone it till the work of providing what was required was further advanced. On February 17, at a meeting of the War Com­mittee which Admiral Jellicoe came down to attend, the whole strategical aspect of the naval situation had been fully investigated. In the first place the Committee had explored the possibility of a naval offensive on the lines of Lord Fisher's still‑born plan. Its precise nature had never been divulged, but it was understood to aim at seizing any opportunity of the moment which would serve to upset the German war plans by forcing them to dissipate forces for the defence of their northern front. There were various possible objectives. One of the German coastal islands might be seized as an aircraft and submarine base, or for operations


Feb.-Apr. 1916


for blocking their harbours. A landing on the Schleswig coast was another possibility, or, better still, in Denmark, if the neutrality of Denmark, like that of Belgium, should be violated by the enemy. Finally, as an ultimate objective, there was the coast of Pomerania, within a hundred miles of Berlin, where, with the then incalculable Russian force at hand, a threatened invasion could not be ignored. The whole scheme presupposed military co‑operation and the preserva­tion of the Grand Fleet intact to deal with the High Seas Fleet if it came out. The Grand Fleet was not to be used; the whole of the combined work was to be entrusted to the special fleet which Lord Fisher had under construction.


That fleet, we know, had been eaten away by the Dardanelles operations, but whatever chances of success the scheme may have had at its inception, it was agreed that they had now disappeared. Owing to the increased range and power of heavy artillery, a coastal island was no longer tenable as a base, and no troops were available for a landing. Moreover, with the enhanced effectiveness of mines and submarines, the difficulties of supplying a fleet in the Baltic were greater than ever, and on these and other minor grounds it was decided that no naval offensive such as Lord Fisher had planned was possible.


There remained nothing but minor aggression, such as closing the enemy's ports with blockships and mines, but here again the objections seemed insuperable. To begin with, a very large number of ships would be required if the blocking was to be effective, and we had none to spare. Owing to the diversion of skilled hands from the shipyards into the army, our mercantile construction was not keeping pace with the destruction by mines and submarines. Efforts were being made to recover the wasted men, and mercantile shipbuilding had been declared "war work," but already grave anxiety was being felt for the maintenance of our oversea supplies. As for attempting to close the ports with mines, they were too easily removed on the coast, unless continually watched, and until the enemy main fleet was defeated this could not be done. The con­clusion, therefore, was that the only possible course was to preserve the old expectant attitude while persevering by every means in our power to goad the High Seas Fleet to expose itself in the open sea.


But even for this the distribution of the fleet left much to be desired, and early in April the question was thoroughly re‑examined. Admiral Sir Henry Jackson, First Sea Lord, pointed out that while the existing disposition provided no real protection for the southern area, the main fleet was


Apr. 1916



based too far north to be able to seize such opportunities as had hitherto occurred and the only ones which were likely to occur again. So long as we kept, our greatly superior fleet concentrated, the enemy would never come within its reach to commit suicide. If we did not divide it we could never get victory. All we could expect was raids by airships and small craft which, under the new German Commander‑in‑Chief, the High Seas Fleet might come out to support, and to meet it the Grand Fleet must be based further south by dividing it between Rosyth and the Humber. Steps were already being taken to render both places capable of receiving the required number of ships, but until the southern bases were ready redistribution must stand over.


There was, however, an expedient which if adopted would improve the situation, and that was to detach the 5th Battle Squadron, the fastest in the fleet, to act with the battle cruiser fleet. There were, moreover, special reasons why this change was regarded in some quarters as admitting of no delay. It was known that two new and powerful ships, the Luetzow and Hindenburg, were about to join the German battle cruisers. Some corresponding reinforcement was con­sequently required for the Rosyth force, and the proposal was that the "Queen Elizabeths" should join Admiral Beatty to take the place of the 3rd Battle Squadron. This solution was warmly recommended by Admiral Beatty, but the Commander‑in‑Chief saw serious objections. High as was the speed of the 5th Battle Squadron, it was believed not to be sufficient for them to be sure of bringing the Luetzow and Hindenburg to action. An even graver consideration was that in Admiral Jellicoe's battle plans the "Queen Elizabeths" were given the function of a free wing squadron, which, not forming part of the main line of battle, could be used at any opportune moment in an action for bringing a concentration to bear on part of the enemy fleet, or otherwise by independent attack to modify the rigidity of the old single line ahead formation on which the battle orders were based. It was, decided therefore to leave things as they were, at least till we knew for certain that the German battle cruiser force was superior to our own, and that the larger distribution should not be attempted until the new battleships that were coming forward had brought the main fleet up to a strength of twenty‑four Dreadnoughts.


Meanwhile the East Coast had to lie open to a raid. So weak was its defence that to the Admiralty it was inexplicable why the Germans did not attempt a blow. The risk to us


Apr. 1916


was obvious, but it was one that must be run for the greater end. Indeed, the acceptance of the risk was the only means in sight by which the greater end could be attained. Convinced that so long as we kept our fleet concentrated where it was, a decisive action was out of the question, the Admiralty saw in the temptation to raid the only effective means of getting the enemy to expose himself. All, however, that could be done at present was to take steps to ensure that a raid would involve the exposure we desired, and by the middle of April something was possible. The main fleet had reached the stipulated strength, and on the 15th the Commander‑in‑Chief was informed that the proposed redistribution was to begin as soon as the work of defending the outer anchorage of the Forth was completed.


Meanwhile, as the Humber was ready to receive a contingent, the 3rd Battle Squadron and 3rd Cruiser Squadron were to move there. The effect would be that the Germans, if they attempted a raid with light craft, would be compelled to bring out a battle force to support it. A chance might then occur, but to obtain full advantage of it Dreadnoughts must be ready to support the Humber Squadron. The Commander‑in‑Chief was therefore directed to consider whether as the new Forth defences progressed he would not be able to base more of his ships there. He was also informed that in order to expedite matters it had been decided to utilise the material that had been prepared for the Dover Strait boom and send it up to the Forth.


Then, on the eve of the first step being taken, came the Lowestoft raid. The expected blow had fallen; nothing had been near enough to prevent it or to retaliate; the chance of an action had been missed. It was now imperative that something must be done at once, and the Admiralty hastened to ask the Commander‑in‑Chief what he would propose. "The enemy," they said, "have practically tested our weak­ness in southern waters and will probably act on the offensive in those waters shortly." Commodore Tyrwhitt, they pointed out, had now only one light cruiser available, and until the damaged ships were repaired they must call on the Commander‑in‑Chief to safeguard the threatened area; What he advised was that the 3rd Battle Squadron and the 3rd Cruiser Squadron should proceed south at once from Rosyth, and be based not in the Humber but in the Swin ‑ that is the northern passage of the Thames estuary ‑ or at Sheerness or Dover, and that the Rosyth submarines should move down to Yarmouth. If minefields were laid off the East Coast they should provide, with the increased force of sub­marines, an ample defence against bombarding raids, while


May 12, 1916



the 3rd Battle Squadron, with the Dreadnought added, as soon as she was refitted, would constitute a covering force quite able to deal with the German battle cruisers at their present strength. This was so far approved that the sub­marines, except two which were to remain in the Forth, went south, and the 3rd Battle Squadron and the 3rd Cruiser Squadron were ordered to proceed to Sheerness at the first opportunity and to regard the Swin as their war anchorage. By May 2 they arrived, and were next day formally detached from the Grand Fleet and placed under the orders of Vice­Admiral Sir Edward Bradford, commanding the battle squadron.


But this was no more than a temporary expedient. It was now obvious that if the main redistribution was to be made at all, it should be done with the least possible delay. In giving his advice Admiral Jellicoe had stated that until the outer anchorage below the Forth bridge was made proof against torpedo attack he could not move any part of his battle fleet to Rosyth, and he urged that the defensive work both there and in the Humber should be pushed on with the utmost energy. As soon as ever the work was sufficiently for­ward he intended to base one Dreadnought squadron and the 1st Cruiser Squadron on the Humber and the rest on the Forth.


A conference was accordingly assembled (May 12) at Rosyth, at which the First Sea Lord presided, to come to a final decision as to whether the proposed redistribution was strategically sound and to concert with the military authorities what defences were immediately necessary for both bases, and how they could be most speedily carried out. The conclusions were that, whether or not the centre of gravity was to be permanently shifted to the southward, the constitution of the Forth as a primary base was urgent. Of this the Commander‑in‑Chief was now convinced, but in deference to his views and experience it was agreed that Scapa was too valuable to be disestablished. It was to remain as an alter­native base for the exercise of squadrons and individual ships, as well as a base for the 10th Cruiser Squadron and its supporting force as necessary. As for the Humber, it was also to be an alternative secondary base, and by a reorganisation of the battle fleet all the 12‑inch‑gun Dreadnoughts (except the Dreadnought herself) were to be formed into a new 4th Battle Squadron which would be detachable there or elsewhere as required. The Forth, it was agreed, could be made capable of holding the 1st and 2nd Battle Squadrons and the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, as well as the battle cruiser fleet and the necessary light craft, and it was hoped that all


May 1916


would be ready before the winter. (Admiral Sir Robert Lowry, Commanding the Coast of Scotland, had been made Commander‑in‑Chief, Rosyth, on March 1 owing to the increasing importance of the Scottish naval command.)


No conclusion, however, was reached as to whether the shift south was strategically advisable, and ending a final decision the propriety of at once attaching the "Queen Elizabeths" to the battle cruiser fleet was again raised, but to this the Commander‑in‑Chief was still opposed. It was, however, agreed that it would be well to move them or the new 4th Battle Squadron to Rosyth occasionally, and as the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron (Invincible, Inflexible and Indomitable) was about to proceed to Scapa for exercises, Admiral Jellicoe announced his intention of replacing them temporarily with the "Queen Elizabeths." So it came about that when the long‑expected day was at hand, the distribution was not that on which his considered battle orders were based; in one important par­ticular the organisation they contemplated was dislocated. The free fast battle squadron was no longer under his hand.


At Scapa he had two battle squadrons with their attached light cruisers: the First, under Vice‑Admiral Sir Cecil Burney in the Marlborough, with Rear‑Admiral E. F. A. Gaunt as Second Flag, and the Fourth, under Vice‑Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee in the Benbow, with Rear‑Admiral A. L. Duff as his Second. Besides Rear‑Admiral The Hon. H. L. A. Hood's 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron with the attached light cruisers, he had with him the 2nd Cruiser Squadron and the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron, with the 4th, 12th and part of the 11th Destroyer Flotillas, numbering in all one light cruiser, four flotilla leaders and thirty‑five destroyers ready for action.


At Cromarty was the 2nd Battle Squadron, with one attached light cruiser, under Vice‑Admiral Sir Thomas Jerram in the King George V, with Rear‑Admiral A. C. Leveson as his Second. Here, too, was Rear‑Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot's 1st Cruiser Squadron, with the rest of the 11th Flotilla, whose available strength was the flotilla leader Kempenfelt and ten destroyers. Recently, in order the better to secure combined action, the whole of the battle fleet flotillas, whether at Scapa or Cromarty, had been constituted a single command, under a Commodore "F," a post to which Captain J. R. P. Hawksley had been appointed only a month before, with his broad pendant in the light cruiser Castor.


But this was only one feature of the flotilla reorganisation which was in course of procedure. In August 1915, as the new destroyer programme began to materialise, it had been decided that the Grand Fleet should have six flotillas, one for each of the five


May 1916



battle squadrons and one for the battle cruiser fleet, that is, 100 destroyers in all. At that time, however, they numbered only sixty‑five, and would remain at that total till all the old boats of the 1st, 2nd and 4th Flotillas were relieved by the first new ones coming forward. The process of relief was proceeding when early in 1916 the pressing need everywhere for more light cruisers suggested a further reorganisation.


At a conference in the Admiralty on January 17, 1916, a plan was formulated for setting free the flotilla cruisers by organising the destroyers into four flotillas instead of six­ - three for the battle fleet of twenty‑four boats each and one for Rosyth of twenty‑eight. Each half flotilla would have a flotilla leader, in one of which was to be the flotilla Captain (Captain "D"), and in the other the senior Commander, a system which approximated to that of the Germans. The only light cruiser required would be one for the Commodore who was to command the whole, while retaining the post of Captain "D" in his own flotilla.


On March 18, however, the Commander‑in‑Chief expressed his opinion that sixteen to eighteen destroyers were the utmost a Captain "D" could handle efficiently from a flotilla leader, and one such vessel was required for every eight or ten boats. He proposed, therefore, a reversion to five flotillas, four for the battle fleet of eighteen boats each, which, allowing for two spares, would give an effective strength of sixteen. Each flotilla was to have a light cruiser and flotilla leader or two flotilla leaders. The fifth, for Rosyth, was to consist of twenty‑eight boats with a light cruiser and two flotilla leaders, the light cruisers to be relieved by flotilla leaders as they came forward. Thus on the eve of the battle the Grand Fleet flotillas were in a state of transition, and with new boats continually joining. Commodore Hawksley had had as yet no time to exercise his command.


Under Admiral Beatty, whose fleet flagship was the Lion, was Rear‑Admiral H. Evan‑Thomas, with his flag in the Barham, and three other ships of the 5th Battle Squadron, the Queen Elizabeth being in dock at Rosyth. The battle cruiser fleet now consisted of the 1st Squadron, under Rear­Admiral O. de B. Brock in the Princess Royal, and the 2nd, under Rear‑Admiral W. C. Pakenham in the New Zealand, his flagship, the Australia, being also in dock. Together, with the Lion, they numbered six ships.


The three light cruiser squadrons which formed the remainder of the force were the 1st, under Commodore E. S. Alexander‑Sinclair in the Galatea, the 2nd, under Commodore W. E. Goodenough in the Southampton, and the 3rd under Rear‑Admiral T. D. W. Napier in the Falmouth.


May 1916


The available strength of the attached flotillas was twenty‑seven ‑ nine boats of the 1st Flotilla led by the light cruiser Fearless, ten of the 13th led by the light cruiser Champion, and two divisions (eight boats) of the 9th and 10th Flotillas, which had joined from Harwich. (These Harwich destroyers were asked for, as there were not enough otherwise to provide an efficient screen for the heavy ships.)


At the moment, therefore, the Grand Fleet consisted of twenty four "Dreadnoughts," four "Queen Elizabeths," nine battle cruisers, eight cruisers, nineteen light cruisers, besides four attached to the battle squadrons. The flotillas numbered seventy‑two boats, with three light cruisers and five flotilla leaders. At Scapa was also a balloon ship and the seaplane carrier Campania, while another, the Engadine, was at Rosyth; she alone sailed with the fleet. Measures were also on foot for enabling submarines to take part in an action, and a new flotilla was being formed at Blyth, whence it was hoped it would be able to join the final concentration. (For distribution of the fleet see Appendix A.)


Over and above this great fleet, the most formidable that had ever sailed the sea, there was the Harwich Force, whose available strength was now five light cruisers, two flotilla leaders and about seventeen destroyers. Under the war plan it had always been contemplated that it would be available at least for the concluding phases of a battle in the North Sea. But it was far away, and it was more than doubtful whether it could reach the scene of action in time.


So the distribution remained until such time as the southern bases were ready. But pending the change Admiral Jellicoe did not wait with his arms folded. Satisfied that much might be done with the fleet as it was, he continued his efforts to entice the enemy to sea. Hitherto all his devices had failed to bring them far enough north, but by the end of the month he had prepared a plan that went beyond anything he had yet hazarded. Two squadrons of light cruisers were to proceed to the Skaw, which they were to reach by dawn on June 2. Thence they would sweep right down the Kattegat as far as the Great Belt and the Sound, while a battle squadron would push into the Skagerrak in support. Such a bait, it was hoped, could scarcely fail to draw a strong enemy force from the Bight. Possibly, as had happened before, they would not come far enough north to ensure an action, but at least they might be lured into a trap. To this end three of the Harwich sub­marines were to be in position from June 1 to 3 westward from the Vyl light‑vessel, which is just southwards of Horn


May 1916



Reefs. South of them the Abdiel would extend to the west­ward the minefield she had laid on May 3‑4 due south of the Vyl, while the seaplane carrier Engadine, escorted by a light cruiser squadron and destroyers, would be off the Reefs on the look‑out for Zeppelins, and east of the Dogger Bank would be two of the Blyth submarines. Finally, somewhere north of the mined area the battle fleet and battle cruiser fleet would be cruising, ready to move south and attack directly they heard any strong forces of the enemy were out.


The plan, however, was destined never to be put to the test. By pure coincidence Admiral Scheer had already elaborated a strikingly similar combination with a practically identical object, and while the British operation was being worked out he was only waiting for favourable weather to carry out his own, all unaware that it was precisely what his adversary was bent on forcing him to do.


For Germany the situation which had developed out of the destruction of the Lusitania and Sussex was one which called loudly for action on the lines of his desire, and at the same time seemed to have increased the chances of success. With the indefinite postponement of unrestricted submarine warfare, the bulk of the "U" boats could be used against the armed forces of the enemy, while offensive action of some kind against us at sea was imperative if the German navy was to justify its existence in the eyes of the people. A disillusioned nation which had borne the heavy burden of creating it was groaning under the increasing severity of the blockade, and calling ominously for retaliation. On land hope was waning. The appalling sacrifices which had been made in the desperate effort to win the Verdun salient had so far been made in vain. For the first time the spirit of the people was sick, and in the fleet alone was their present hope of a restorative. Only too pleased with a situation so favourable to the free hand he wished, Admiral Scheer pro­ceeded to develop still more ambitious plans for crippling his overpowering adversary. His hopes were also brightened by Mr. Balfour's announcement that part of the Grand Fleet was being moved into the southern area. For Admiral Scheer this could only mean a loosening of our concentration, and he had now little doubt that another well‑designed raid would bring about the kind of conflict he desired.


The plan he conceived was of greater boldness than anything he had yet ventured. It was based on a bombard­ment of Sunderland, the nearest vulnerable port to Rosyth, where lay Admiral Beatty with the southernmost section of the Grand Fleet. Owing to the need of repairing the serious


May 1916


damage which the Seydlitz had suffered during the raid on the East‑Coast, and to the fact that several of his battleships were crippled with machinery defects, it must be some weeks before Admiral Scheer could be ready. He had therefore ample time to work out elaborate precautions to reduce the risk he meant to run. To this end he intended to use the whole of his submarines. Sixteen of them were to be stationed off the Grand Fleet bases, the bulk of them being naturally allotted to Rosyth. Others were employed defensively as part of the extensive dispositions he made for securing the safety of his bases in the Bight. The actual bombardment was to be carried out by Admiral Hipper's battle cruisers and the light cruisers of the 2nd Scouting Group, and when the Rosyth force came out to engage him he was to endeavour to lead all that escaped the submarines to within reach of the battle fleet.


The weak point in the scheme was that, owing to Admiral Jellicoe's habit of making sweeps down the North Sea at odd times, the danger of being caught at a disadvantage could not be ignored, and Admiral Scheer, with whom boldness was never allowed to pass the limits of sane prudence, regarded adequate reconnaissance by airships as essential in order to make sure the field was clear. But experience had shown that this novel weapon fell far short of what had been hoped from it as a fleet auxiliary. For distant reconnaissance airships could not be relied on except in the most favourable weather, and it was therefore necessary to provide an alternative plan which in case of need would dispense with their assistance. Should, therefore, the weather render the Sunderland design too risky, he intended to proceed up the Danish coasts as though to strike at our cruisers and merchantmen which were reported so frequently in the Skagerrak. By this means he could safely dispense with airships, for his one exposed flank could be guarded from surprise by his cruisers and flotillas. (Scheer, High Seas Fleet, p. 136, and his report in Battle of Jutland Official Despatches (Cmd. 1068), p. 587.)


In the latter half of May, however, it was reasonable to count on a sufficiently long spell of fair weather for the more ambitious plan to be feasible, and to this Admiral Scheer adhered. Accordingly, on May 17 it was inaugurated by the submarines of the High Seas Fleet putting to sea for their allotted stations. (U 52, U 24, U 70, U 32, U 66. U 47, U 43, U 44, U 63, U 51.) They were to form lines of observation between Norway and the Forth, and from the 23rd onwards, when it was expected that the fleet would be ready for action, they would take up their intercepting positions.


May 15‑30, 1916



In addition to these, the U 46 was detailed to patrol. off Sunderland during the night of May 21/22, and subsequently until June 2, to take up a position off Peterhead. As she was not ready in time, however, the U 47, one of the ten submarines assigned to the North Sea, took her place. The submarine minelayers, U 72, U 74 and U 75 (U 75 laid the mines on which the Hampshire, with Lord Kitchener on board, foundered a week later. U 74 in action with armed trawlers, was sunk with all hands on the 27th) put to sea on May 13, 23 and 24 respectively to lay lines of twenty‑two mines each in the Firth of Forth, the Moray Firth and westward of the Orkneys, while on the 20th UB 27 sailed to force her way into the Firth of Forth beyond May Island with the object of attacking warships entering or leaving. On the 21st UB 21 and UB 22 went out to keep watch on the Humber, and on the 22nd U 67 and U 46 were sent to guard the fleet from flank attacks westward of Terschelling.


Though these initial movements were immediately de­tected by the Admiralty, the High Seas Fleet had been too long quiescent for any inference to be made that a big opera­tion was in the wind. During our raid on Tondern in the first week in May we knew the fleet had been ordered out, but we quickly detected that the 3rd Battle Squadron had been sent to the Baltic for exercises, and our diving patrol reported all quiet in the Bight beyond the routine mine­sweeping and outpost duty of the flotillas. Consequently, although by the 22nd we knew that at least eight and prob­ably more submarines were in the north part of the North Sea, nothing but a fresh attack on commerce was expected.


Meanwhile Admiral Scheer, with everything in readiness, was eagerly watching the weather for the moment when he could safely give the word to carry on; but day after day passed and nothing came from the airship commander but monotonous reports that it was impossible for any of his craft to go up. This went on till the time was near when the submarines would have to return. May 30 was the last possible day to which Admiral Scheer's operations could be postponed, and at midnight on the 28th/29th he made a general signal for all units to be prepared to sail next morning when the Seydlitz would be ready. Still the weather remained unchanged, and finally he had to confess his favourite scheme was impracticable. On May 30, therefore, he directed Admiral Hipper to proceed early on the 31st with the scouting divi­sions to the Skagerrak, with orders to show himself off the


May 30, 1916


Norwegian coast so as to ensure his presence being reported to the British Admiralty, while he himself would follow secretly with the battle fleet.


In Admiral Hipper's orders to show himself there is a pleasant old‑world flavour of the days before directional wireless. The precaution was needless. During the morning of the 30th there were indications that the High Seas Fleet was assembling in the Jade roads outside Wilhelmshaven, and this, connected with the mystery of the submarines, pointed to some movement of unusual importance. Accord­ingly at midday on the 30th it was decided to warn Admiral Jellicoe that the German fleet might go to sea early next morning and that there were as many as sixteen submarines out, most of which were believed to be in the North Sea. No definite orders were given. Beyond further indications that a large operation was at hand, all was still obscure.


Its object could not yet be divined, and as a precaution the Harwich destroyers and the East Coast minesweeping sloops were recalled and all submarines ordered to be in readiness for sea. It seemed possible that an operation which we thought had been planned some time before was about to commence, but further than this Admiral Scheer's intentions could not be fathomed. Shortly after 5.0 p.m., however, it became known that all sections of the High Seas Fleet had received an important operation signal. This could not be wholly deciphered, but there was no time to lose, and at 5.40 a tele­gram was sent to the Commander‑in‑Chief and Admiral Beatty conveying to them the latest information and ordering them to concentrate as usual eastward of the "Long Forties" ‑ which stretched about a hundred miles east of the Aberdeen coast ‑ and be ready for eventualities. They were further informed that both the Harwich and the Nore forces would be held back till the situation became clearer, but that, as Ad­miral Jellicoe's plan provided, three submarines were being sent to the Vyl light‑vessel. (Two submarines from the Blyth Flotilla, which, as we have seen, was being formed with the idea of co‑operating with the Grand Fleet in battle, were sent east of the Dogger, and four others sailed at noon on the 31st with the destroyer Talisman.)


It was, of course, possible that the German move north­wards might only be a blind to cover some design in the southern area. Admiral Bradford at Sheerness had already been ordered to have the 3rd Battle Squadron ready to sail at daylight and to send his cruisers out to the Swin, and all the East Coast Auxiliary Patrols were now recalled.


May 30-31, 1916



Commodore Tyrwhitt was also warned for action at daylight with all available light cruisers and destroyers. We were thus well prepared to deal with any serious operation in the southern area.


To the northward all was equally ready, and by 10.30 p.m. all available units of the Grand Fleet except the Campania (See Note A. p. 326a) were at sea making for the rendezvous which Admiral Jellicoe had chosen east of the Long Forties. For himself, with the main portion of the fleet (1st and 4th Battle Squadrons, 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, 2nd Cruiser Squadron, and 4th Light Cruiser Squadron, with the 4th and 12th Flotillas and a division of the 11th, comprising one light cruiser, four flotilla leaders and thirty-­five destroyers) he fixed a position off the Skagerrak (57¼ 45' N. 40¼ 15' E.), on a line between Buchan Ness and the south of Norway some ninety miles to the westward of the Naze, and there at 2.0 p.m. next day Admiral Jerram would meet him from Cromarty with the 2nd Battle Squadron, the 1st Cruiser Squadron and nine destroyers of the 11th Flotilla with its flotilla leader.


At the same time Admiral Beatty with the battle cruiser fleet and the 5th Battle Squadron was to be at a rendezvous sixty‑nine miles to S.S.E. of the Commander‑in‑Chief ‑ that is, in the direction of the Bight. (1st and 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadrons. 5th Battle Squadron (less the Queen Elizabeth), 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Light Cruiser Squadrons, and twenty‑seven destroyers of the 10th, 10th and 13th Flotillas.)


For a true advanced squadron whose function was to bring the enemy within reach of the main fleet the interval was undoubtedly too great, since in the North Sea visual connec­tion could not be counted on over such a distance. But, as we have seen, this was not at the time the primary function of Admiral Beatty's force. As the prospect of a fleet action grew ever more remote, its tactical character as an advanced squadron became secondary to the ever‑present need of intercepting raids on our coast. To this end a disposition was needed which, while the battle fleet could be kept far enough back to prevent the enemy evading it to crush the 10th Cruiser Squadron and raise the blockade, at the same time allowed the advanced force to be far enough to the south­ward to deal with a direct attack across the breadth of the North Sea. A distance of fifty miles between the two parts of the Grand Fleet was the least that could satisfy these conditions, and the disposition which Admiral Jellicoe now adopted had, after long consideration, become the approved normal whenever there were indications that the Germans


May 31, 1916


were contemplating some large operation with an unknown objective. It was only when we ourselves were operating offensively that the interval was reduced to a mean of about forty miles. On this occasion, in the absence off any indications that the Germans had changed their policy, neither the Admiralty nor Admiral Jellicoe had any reason for altering the established practice.


So through the short summer night the three sections of the fleet steamed for their rendezvous with nothing to encourage them to believe that what had set them in motion was anything more than one of the many alarms which had so often ended in disappointment. A few hours before Admiral Beatty sailed, a submarine U 63 off the Forth had attacked the Trident, one of the destroyers attached to the Blyth Submarine Flotilla.


Earlier in the afternoon the sloop Gentian had been attacked by U 43, also unsuccessfully, off the Pentland Skerries, while another submarine had been reported off Aberdeen, but this was all that had been seen of them that day. Later on, at break of day (3.50), when Admiral Beatty was about seventy miles out, the Galatea, port wing ship of his advanced screen, had a torpedo fired at her, and shortly after 8.0 a.m., eighty miles or so further on, the Yarmouth reported another. As she was "linking" ship right ahead of the Lion, Admiral Beatty turned eight points to port for twenty minutes to avoid the danger. Before he resumed his course, the destroyer Turbulent, which formed part of the battle cruisers' screen, reported another steering south, but by this time they had passed the "U" boat line and the trap had failed.


Nor as scouts did Admiral Scheer's sub­marines prove more successful. The glimpses they had of the various squadrons and the scraps of intercepted signals they were able to pass on gave him no picture of concerted action. The conclusion he formed was that, whatever their purpose, the movements had no connection with his own enterprise. The reports indeed rather indicated a dispersal of our fleet on distinct missions, and being even less able to visualise the pregnant situation than our own authorities, he was more hopeful than ever of success. (Scheer, High Seas Fleet, P. 141.)


Our own appreciation was still far from clear on the eve of sailing, Admiral Scheer, in accordance with the usual practice, had transferred the call sign of his flagship to the naval centre at Wilhelmshaven, so that, although it was thought he had sailed that morning, our directional wireless



May 31, 1916


(p 326a)


up till noon could only indicate that the battle fleet was still in the Jade. Thus, Admiral Jellicoe, who was informed of this by the Admiralty,' had no special reason to expect the chance of an action. The natural deduction from the in­formation he had was that another of the now familiar cruiser raids was on foot, and that, as before, the battle fleet was preparing to cover the retirement. This being so, there was nothing to call for a modification of his dispositions.


Note A

On May 30 the Campania had left Scapa on one of her routine co‑operation exercises, and throughout the day suc­cessful spotting flights had been made by her aircraft for ships carrying out firing practice. Her balloon had also been sent up and four officers had been given the opportunity to observe the firing. These exercises were finished by 5.30 p.m. and the carrier returned to Scapa where she anchored at 5.15 p.m. at a spot six miles to the north‑eastward of the fleet anchorage.


At 5.35 p.m. she received the preparatory signal for the fleet to leave Scapa, and at 7.0 p.m. she received a further signal ordering her to raise steam for full speed; by 9.30 p.m. she was ready to proceed. Her stationing signal was sent at 10.54 p.m., but this she did not receive. At 11.45 p.m. she was asked by the Rear‑Admiral, Scapa, if she was leaving that night, and then only did her Commanding Officer (Captain Oliver Schwann) realise that the fleet had sailed, for neither the ships nor their lights could be seen from his anchorage. The Campania at once weighed anchor and proceeded out of harbour some two‑and‑a‑quarter hours after the Iron Duke.


It was some time before the Cornmander‑in‑Chief was aware that the carrier had not sailed. She had been ordered to take station astern of the light cruiser Blanche, and that vessel advised accordingly. At 11.20 the Blanche, having no sight of the Campania, enquired of Commodore F if he could see her, and received the reply "No; I am asking last des­troyer." As the Mons replied to the question in the negative the Blanche reported to the C-in‑C. at 11.58 p.m. that the destroyers could see no sign of the Campania, and one minute later the C‑in‑C. signalled direct to the carrier giving the speed and course. It was not until two hours later (2.0 a.m. May 31) that Admiral Jellicoe learned that the Campania had left harbour.


(p 326b)


Enemy submarines had been reported in the North Sea during that morning and at 3.55 a.m. the Galatea signalled that she had been attacked by one. As the Campania had no destroyer escort and was so far astern of the fleet that, in the C-in‑C's opinion, there was very little chance of her overtaking it in time to be of any assistance, he ordered her at 4.37 a.m. to return to her base, where she again dropped anchor at 9.15 a.m.


Her engine room staff had made a splendid effort to regain the lost time, and in fact she was overhauling the Grand Fleet at the rate of at least three miles an hour when she was ordered to return. If therefore, no accident had occurred, she could have joined up by about 1.30 p.m. ‑ some hours before the action began. As she carried ten seaplanes it is possible that she might have rendered valuable reconnaissance service and thus have amply justified the risk of submarine attack.


Note B

Directional wireless indicated that the German flagship was still in the Jade at 11.10, and a telegram from the Admiralty passed the news on to Admiral Jellicoe in the following terms at 12.30 p.m.:

" No definite news of enemy. They made all preparations for sailing this morning. It was thought Fleet had sailed but directional wireless places flagship in Jade at 11.10 G.M.T. Apparently they have been unable to carry out air recon­naissance which has delayed them."


This message remained for many hours the only news Admiral Jellicoe had, and he therefore held on his course at economical speed.


On the evening of the previous day (May 30), however, at 5.41 Admiral Scheer had sent out the following signal:


" C-in‑C. to High Seas Fleet: The head of the 3rd Battle Squadron will pass Jade war lightship A at 4.30 a.m. (M.E.T.) 2nd Squadron will take part in the operation from the begin­ning and will join up astern of 1st Squadron. Wilhelmshaven 3rd Entrance will control W/T in German Bight." (Der Kreig zur See: Nordsee, Vol. 5, p. 519).


This was intercepted by the Admiralty but could not be deciphered. Had it been possible for Admiral Jellicoe to receive this information he could have arrived much earlier in the battle area, and the daylight thus gained would have been an immense advantage. As it was, it was not till the evening of May 31 was well advanced, as we shall see, that contact with the enemy battle fleet was made.










(In this account of the Battle of Jutland courses and bearings are magnetic: compass variation 13¼15'W. Times are G.M.T.)



For detailed information as to damage sustained by German vessels see the German Official History, Der Krieg zur See: Nordsee. Vol. 5.





ADMIRAL BEATTY, who was leading the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron (Lion, Princess Royal, Queen Mary, Tiger), had been zigzagging at nineteen knots on a mean course a little south of east towards the Jutland bank, and at noon made his position about forty miles short of the rendez­vous, but this was an error, and in fact he was over five miles further away to the north‑westward. (Lion's noon position in recorded in her signal log as 56¼ 44' N., 3¼ 45' E., but comparison with the mean of the observed Positions of the rest of the ships shows that she must have been in 56¼ 46'N., 3¼ 36 ½ E. See Diagram 16.)




Diagram 16 - Opening Movements


On either side of him was his destroyer screen, and eight miles ahead his light cruisers were spread in pairs on a front of thirty miles facing south‑east, with the Yarmouth as linking ship and his seaplane carrier Engadine about the middle of the cruiser line. The 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron (New Zealand and Indefatigable) was three miles on his port bow, while Admiral Evan‑Thomas with the "Queen Elizabeths" (Barham, Valiant, Warspite and Malaya) and the 1st Flotilla 4 was five miles astern. In this disposition he continued till 1.30, when, in preparatiort for the designed turn to the northward on reaching the rendezvous, he changed the line of bearing of his screen to E.N.E. and W.S.W., with the centre to bear S.S.E. from the Lion, so that when he came to make the turn it would be between him and an enerny advancing from the Bight. Similarly he advanced the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron and the 5th Battle Squadron two points, to bring the battle cruisers three miles E.N.E. of him and the battleships five miles N.N.W., so that on turning north they would be on either bow of the Lion. At 2.0, when he believed he was only ten miles short of his assigned position, though in fact the distance must have been over fifteen miles, having no news of the enemy, he made a general signal, in pursuance of Admiral Jellicoe's instructions, for the fleet to turn northward at 2.15. The only information he had was the Admiralty telegram, (12.30 p.m.), stating that, although it was thought the High Seas Fleet had put to sea in the early morning, by directional wireless the German flag­ship seemed to be still in the Jade at 11.10.


The truth was that Admiral Hipper, with the German scouting force, consisting of five battle cruisers, five light cruisers and thirty destroyers, had left the Jade about 1.0 a.m. and was as high up the Danish coast as the Jutland bank, approximately in the same latitude as Admiral Beatty's rendezvous and about fifty miles to the eastward of the Lion. (First Scouting Group: Battle cruisers, Luetzow (flag), Derfflinger, Seydlitz, Moltke and Von der Tann. Second Scouting Group (Light cruisers) Frankfurt (flag), Wiesbaden, Pillau, Elbing. The fifth light cruiser was the Regensburg leading the 2nd, 6th and 9th Flotillas. Scheer (High Seas Fleet, p. 140) states that Admiral Hipper was ordered to leave the Jade at 2.0 a.m.)


His light cruisers were spread on the quadrant of a circle from seven to ten miles ahead of him, but between his port wing ship and our nearest cruisers there was still a distance of twenty‑two miles. Following him, over fifty miles astern, was Admiral Scheer with his two Dreadnought squadrons and six ships of the second squadron of "Deutschlands," which corresponded to our "King Edward VIIs" of Admiral Bradford's squadron at the Nore. As yet the German admiral had no suspicion of the presence of our fleet, but since the morning broke in all the beauty of a clear summer day he might well count on his dispositions for securing him from surprise. Yet, seeing what the actual situation was, this was by no means certain. It looked indeed as though Admiral Jellicoe's dispositions were exactly what was needed, and that if nothing incalculable happened Admiral Scheer would have little chance of avoiding the battle for which we


1.30‑2.30 P.M.



had so long been striving, and would be brought against the whole Grand Fleet with his line of retreat in jeopardy. (At 11.30 a.m. five Zeppelins were sent up, one towards the Skagerrak, the others to patrol between the second and fourth meridians. Owing to the hazy weather, however, they were able to see nothing and shortly after 4.0 p.m. were recalled. For organisation of the German fleet see Appendices C and D.)


But the incalculable did happen, just as it did in March 1805 when Villeneuve's chance meeting with a neutral revealed the trap Nelson had laid and enabled him to escape out of the Mediterranean. So now it happened that about the time Admiral Beatty made the signal for turning north­ward, the Elbing, Admiral Hipper's left wing light cruiser, sighted a steamer (the Danish S.S. N. J. Fjord) to the west­ward and detached one of her attendant destroyers to ascertain the stranger's character. (See Diagram 17.)




Diagram 17 - From 2.15 P.M. to 2.30 P.M


At the same time Commodore Alexander‑Sinclair, who, with his broad pendant in the Galatea, and with the Phaeton in company, was on the eastern wing of our cruiser screen, and was just about to turn north with the Admiral, also saw the vessel about fourteen miles E.S.E., and decided to hold on to the eastward a little to examine her. So luck would have it that the German destroyer as she came west sighted the Galatea's smoke and reported it. The Elbing at once altered course towards it, followed by the Frankfurt, Pillau and Wiesbaden. The result was premature contact. Admiral Beatty had only just settled down on his northward course to join the Battle Fleet when, at 2.20, the Galatea hoisted the welcome signal "Enemy in sight " and reported he could see "two cruisers, probably hostile, bearing E.S.E., course unknown."


For Admiral Beatty this was enough. Hitherto the Galatea's reports had not been definite enough to warrant his departing from his instructions to close the Commander­in‑Chief. Now he saw them overridden by a chance of cutting off the enemy in sight, and at 2.25 he ordered his destroyers to take up positions for forming a submarine screen upon a S.S.E. course. Meanwhile the Galatea, increasing speed, was coming within range of the enemy, and at 2.28 she opened fire, whereupon Admiral Beatty, seeing his cruiser screen engaged, made a general signal (2.32) to alter course in succession to S.S.E. and to raise steam for full speed to intercept the enemy's retreat. (See Diagram 18.)




Diagram 18 - From 2.30 to 2.45


By this time the Galatea had discovered the ships she first saw were only destroyers, but at the same moment a hostile cruiser appeared, and with this ship, which was the Elbing, she and the Phaeton became engaged while the rest of the light cruisers were hurrying


May 31, 1916


eastwards to support their engaged consorts. Four minutes earlier Admiral Hipper knew that the Elbing had got contact, and still without knowledge of the import of her news he had turned towards her.


"It was thanks to that steamer," writes Admiral Scheer, that the action took place. Had the destroyer not pro­ceeded to the steamer and thus sighted the smoke of the enemy to the west, our course might have carried us past the English cruisers." (Scheer, High Seas Fleet, p. 141.)


This could scarcely have happened. The conjecture rests on the German admiral's belief that our battle cruisers turned to north after contact was obtained, but in fact they had done so before, according to plan, and had it not been for the neutral steamer, would have continued north. Assuming, therefore, that no similar chance befell for two or three hours, Admirals Beatty and Hipper would have held on upon converging courses about abreast of each other. What would have happened then? Owing to the unfortunate Admiralty signal, which had not been cor­rected, Admiral Jellicoe assumed his opponent had not left the Jade by noon, and he had, therefore, been making for his rendezvous at 15 knots.


The speed was governed by the fuel endurance of the destroyers, the aim being to ensure that they should reach the rendezvous with fuel enough to fight an action even if, as was likely, the fleet had to remain out more than two days. Continuous steaming at this speed would bring him to the rendezvous at the appointed hour, but, as it happened, suspicious vessels were met with which the destroyers had to examine, and he had to ease down for them to rejoin. He was consequently behind time, At 2.0 p.m. he was short of the rendezvous by eighteen miles, but according to his intention he would soon be heading for Horn Reefs to meet Admiral Beatty coming north, so that, unless something supervened, Admiral Hipper, who was proceeding to show himself on the coast of Norway, would know nothing of his danger till he ran into Admiral Jellicoe's cruisers. It is, however, very doubtful whether he could have got so far without being aware that there was something near him to the westward.


The course he was then steering apparently would take him to the westward of the Naze, and if he had not soon altered more to the eastward, as he possibly might have done, his own course and that of Admiral Beatty's right wing cruisers would have been inclining so much that within half an hour at most they would scarcely have failed to sight each other's smoke. In any case there would have arisen a situation differing materially from that which actually





occurred, and one much less favourable for the Germans. Admiral Hipper would have been committed further to the north and further ahead of his supporting battle fleet, while the two sections of the Grand Fleet would have been closer together. It is even possible that Admiral Hipper might have found retirement on Admiral Scheer impracticable, and that his only line of escape would be through the Skagerrak, where pursuit could have been safely pressed to the last. But the vision of what might have been remains a shadow land where fancy may wander and no approach to certainty is attainable. All we can assert is that Admiral Scheer thought it good fortune that he chanced to gain contact when and where he did.


Sixty‑five miles away to the northward Admiral Jellicoe had taken in the Galatea's signals, and though there was nothing to lead him to expect anything more than an affair of cruisers, he ordered steam to be ready for full speed. (see Diagram 16 - repeated.)



Diagram 16 - Opening Movements


A few minutes later he heard the Galalea reporting a large amount of smoke as though from a fleet bearing E.N.E. of her, and he then (2.43) ceased zigzagging and held on upon his normal course at 17 knots, increasing to 18 knots twelve minutes later. Admiral Beatty's 2.25 flag signal to his destroyers was re­peated by searchlight to the Barham at 2.30; it cannot, however, be definitely established whether or not the message was passed on to Admiral Evan‑Thomas on the bridge. Even if it was, some minutes would elapse before it reached him. The 2.32 signal ("Alter course, leading ships to­gether, the rest in succession, to S.S.E.") was also made by flags, and repetition by searchlight would also have entailed a loss of some minutes. It was, therefore, not until 2.40 that the 5th Battle Squadron followed Admiral Beatty in his endeavour to get between the enemy and Horn Reefs. (see Diagram 18 - repeated.)



Diagram 18 - From 2.30 to 2.45


Seeing that the battle cruisers were increasing speed, Admiral Evan‑Thomas was left over ten miles astern and unable to see what they were doing. This distance, however, Admiral Beatty's alterations of course soon enabled him to reduce.


The Galatea, after seeing the big cloud of smoke, from which she inferred the presence of a fleet fifteen miles to the eastward, went off to the north‑westward with her consort, the Phaeton, in order to draw the enemy on and enable Admiral Beatty to cut them off. The enemy cruisers gave chase, but at 2.45 they seemed to have altered to the northward. (see Diagrams 19 and 20).




Diagram 19 - From 2.45 to 3.0






Diagram 20 - From 3.00 to 3.15


Commodore Alexander‑Sinclair, however, continued his efforts to entice them north‑west, and about 3.20 he was able


May 31, 1916


to report they were following him in that direction. As his signals came in Admiral Beatty gradually altered course, till by 3.0 p.m. he was steering east, a course which he judged would prevent the enemy getting back round Horn Reefs without an action. In fact he was actually steering direct for Admiral Hipper, who at this time was passing about twenty‑nine miles right ahead of him in the wake of the chasing cruisers. A quarter of an hour later, however, as the Galatea continued to report she was leading the enemy N.W, Admiral Beatty altered still more to the northward till he was steering north­east. This continued for about ten minutes, when five columns of heavy smoke came into sight on his starboard bow. (See Diagram 21.)




Diagram 21 - From 3.15 to 3.30


At the same time the Galatea reported she could see more smoke E.S.E. of her, indicating another squadron astern of the ships that were chasing her, and at 3.29 Admiral Beatty, seeing he was heading too far north, turned back to east. The result of these movements was that all the ships of our 1st and 3rd Light Cruiser Squadrons which had been closing the Galatea were well to the north‑west of him, and Admiral Evan‑Thomas, by increasing speed and cutting the corner, had got up to within six miles on his port quarter.


Admiral Beatty's new course was well judged for achieving his purpose of cutting the enemy off from the Bight. Up till 3.20 each Admiral was still unaware of the other's presence, but at that time, Admiral Hipper, though still some fourteen miles away upon the Lion's starboard bow, sighted two columns of British battle cruisers steering towards him. So much less was the visibility to the eastward that it was not until about twelve minutes later, when he had been on his easterly course about three minutes, that Admiral Beatty sighted the enemy's five battle cruisers on his port bow. Simultaneously the Germans were aware that the British force was heading to cross their wake. For Admiral Hipper it meant his chief's plan could be carried no further. For the moment there was nothing for it but to endeavour to fall back on Admiral Scheer before it was too late, and to try to draw the enemy within his reach. Accordingly he immediately recalled his light cruisers and himself swung round sixteen points to starboard (3.33). (See Diagram 22.)




Diagram 22 - From 3.30 to 3.40


For Admiral Beatty it was the long‑desired chance of getting back what he had missed at the Dogger Bank. As Admiral Hipper's force turned back towards the Bight he called the New Zealand and Indefatigable into line astern (3.34) and signalled to Admiral Evan‑Thomas to turn east, speed twenty‑five knots,


2.45‑3.45 p.m.



as the enemy was in sight, and to the 9th Flotilla to take station ahead of the Lion, while the 13th Flotilla was to get two points on her starboard bow.


When the German battle cruisers were sighted they were hull down eleven miles away on the dim horizon. It was impossible to see what they were doing, and Admiral Beatty held on as he was at twenty‑five knots to close, while the 5th Battle Squadron, six miles on his port quarter, turned on the same course (E). A few minutes later a seaplane which had gone up from the Engadine reported that the course of the enemy was south, and similar signals were sent about the same time by the Galatea and Falmouth, but these all referred to the enemy's light cruisers. (See Diagram 23.)




Diagram 23 - From 3.40 to 4.0


By this time the enemy must have been well within the effective range of the Lion's 13.5 inch guns, but Admiral Beatty was still holding his fire. It would seem that, owing to the atmospheric con­ditions, accurate range‑finding to the eastward was difficult. The observations from the flagship made the enemy further away than they actually were. As our ships were the more lightly armoured and had guns of heavier calibre the advan­tage of fighting at long range was obvious, and for some minutes Admiral Hipper had been anxiously expecting his enemy to open fire.


(According to both Scheer and Hase, the Germans believed that our battle cruisers could outrange theirs. This was partly true; Hase states that their extreme range was 180 hectometres (19,674 yards). In Admiral Beatty's "Fighting Orders" he gives his maximum ranges as follows: 13.5 inch guns, 23,000 and 24,000 yards; 12‑inch guns, 18,500 yards; but, as the result of his experience gained at the Battle of Jutland, he lays down 16,000 yards as the most advantageous range for engaging, his reasons being:

(a) To utilise the advantages of our heavier projectiles.

(b) To minimise the disadvantages of our lighter protection.

(c) To outrange the enemy's torpedoes.

(d) The time of flight (twenty‑six seconds) is suitable for controlling double salvoes and attaining a high rate of fire.

(e) The range is not too great for elficient observation of fire.

(f) 16,000 yards in well inside the maximum range of 12‑inch guns.")

At 3.45 Admiral Beatty, in order to bring all guns to bear and to clear the smoke, signalled to form a compass line of bearing N.W. on a course E.S.E. Admiral Hipper's idea of reducing the odds against him was to reserve his fire till the last moment, so as to close as near as possible before the action began. But now, as soon as he saw what Admiral Beatty was doing, he opened fire. Simultaneously Admiral Beatty did the same, believing he was still over 18,000 yards away. In truth the range can hardly have been so great. Many of the first German


May 31, 1916


salvoes were far over (Commander von Hase, gunnery officer of the Derfflinger, says that his first few salvoes were over, though he began at 3.48 with 15,000 metres (16,400 yards). With the sixth salvo at 3.52 he straddled, the range being then 11,900 metres (13,000 yards). Kiel and Jutland, pp. 145‑7), but looking westward the visibility was very good and the mistake was quickly corrected. In a minute or two our ships were firing through giant columns of water and spray as the enemy's shell fell and burst all round them. So far as can be calculated from various data, it would seem that the distance at which our ships opened may have been as low as 16,000 yards, but whatever it was this much is certain, that it was an intense relief to the Germans that we did not open fire from a longer distance, when the superiority which they believed our heavier guns gave us would have denied them the possibility of making effective reply.


His other advantage Admiral Beatty was bent on using to pay back what he had himself suffered at the Dogger Bank. Having one ship more than his opponent, he was able, while preserving the rule of keeping all the enemy under fire, to order the Princess Royal, his next astern, to con­centrate with him on the Luetzow, in which Admiral Hipper was leading. But the Queen Mary, which was third in the line, having apparently missed the signal for distribution of fire, took her opposite number, the Seydlitz, so that until she realised what was happening, the Derfflinger, which was second in the enemy's line, was left undisturbed for nearly ten minutes. (Hase, Kiel and Jutland, pp. 149, 150.)


In the rear half of our line a similar error occurred. The Tiger, the Queen Mary's next astern, appeared also to have missed the signal, so that she and the New Zealand, who had correctly taken the fourth ship, were both on the Moltke, while the Indefatigable and Von der Tann enjoyed an undisturbed duel. (The signal for the distribution of fire is not recorded in the signal log of either the Tiger or the New Zealand. It was made by flags from the Lion at 3.46. At 3.47 there was another flag signal to turn together E. S. E., and in half a minute came the signal, also made by flags, to open fire.)


Seeing that our ships were clearly defined against the bright western sky, the Germans were able to pick up the range very quickly, and hits came fast. Admiral Hipper was also distributing his fire along our line, and in the first few minutes the Lion and Tiger were both hulled twice. Though Admiral Beatty was gradually bringing the enemy nearer and nearer abeam by a succession of small turns to starboard, the range continued to diminish so fast that the enemy was able to open rapid fire with both main and


3.45‑4.0 p.m.



secondary armament. By 3.54 it was down to about 18,000 yards. The Lion was now steering about S.S.E., parallel to the enemy's course, and with a steady range both sides were in hot action. But it was too fierce to last, and in another minute Admiral Hipper turned his ships sharply away to S.E. into line ahead. Admiral Beatty, too, bore away about two points to south (3.57), and the action continued with the range now opening rapidly. To Admiral Evan‑Thomas, who was now over seven miles astern, the new movement was hidden in clouds of gun smoke, and having as yet seen nothing of the German battle cruisers, he held on to the eastward.


During this part of the action the Queen Mary registered two hits on the Seydlitz, one of which pierced and disabled one of the midship turrets in which most of the crew were killed. To some extent our fire had been hampered by a division of the 9th Flotilla, which, in its strenuous endeavour to get ahead into a favourable position for attack, was trying to pass up the engaged side of the battle cruisers and almost blinding the Princess Royal and Tiger with its smoke. (These destroyers ("L" class) were some of those which had lately come from the Harwich Force and were slower than those attached to the Grand Fleet. The officer commanding them reported: "Owing to lack of speed my division was not able to get ahead and I therefore had to remain on the engaged side of the battle cruiser squadron or drop astern. I chose to remain where I was, rather than lose all chance of making a torpedo attack.")


At 3.58, immediately after he turned to the southward, Admiral Beatty, like his opponent, signalled to increase the rate of fire, and about this time the Derfflinger received her first hit. Her gunnery officer described how the shells burst with a terrific roar as they struck the water, raising colossal pillars of livid green water, which rose higher than the masts, and hung in the air for five or ten seconds before they crashed down in clouds of spray. For our own people things were no less lively. With main and secondary arma­ment in action the German salvoes were being delivered about every twenty seconds, and our ships too were in a forest of waterspouts. It was one of the hottest moments of the action, when every nerve had to be strained to the utmost, and Admiral Beatty, having the enemy well abaft his beam, signalled to the 13th Flotilla that it seemed a good oppor­tunity to attack. Five minutes later, while the fight still raged at its hottest, the Lion received a nearly fatal blow. A heavy shell struck Q‑turret, entered the gun‑house, burst over the left gun, and killed nearly the whole of the guns' crews, and it was only the presence of mind and devotion of the officer of the turret, Major F. J. W. Harvey, R.M.L.I., when


May 31, 1916


almost incapacitated with a mortal wound, that saved the flag­ship from sudden destruction. (In spite of both his legs being shot off he was able to pass the word down to close the magazine doors and flood the magazines. He thus pre­vented the fire which started from reaching the ammunition, and so saved the ship, an action for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross after death.)


The shot must have come from the Luetzow, for the Derfflinger had been all the time on the Princess Royal. At the other end of the line the duel between the Indefatigable and the Von der Tann had been growing in intensity till, at about 4.0, the British ship was suddenly hidden in a burst of flame and smoke. A salvo of three shots had fallen on her upper deck and must have penetrated to a magazine. She staggered out of the line, sinking by the stern when another salvo struck her; a second terrible explo­sion rent her, and at 4.5 she turned over and all trace of her was gone. (See Diagram 24.)




Diagram 24 - From 4.0 to 4.20


There can be little doubt she suffered the fate from which Major Harvey had just saved the Lion, but in the roar and turmoil of the action no more was known than that she with her 57 officers and 960 men was gone. Two men were picked up later by the German torpedo-boat S 68. So intense indeed was now the storm of the fight, so thick about the ships the spouting columns of shell‑tossed water, so blinding the smoke and flame, that only a few in the fleet knew so much. But now the opposing lines had got upon slightly diverging courses the strain began to slacken. A fire had broken out on board the Lion from the last hit. To the Germans she appeared to fall out of the line, but what she did was to incline away to starboard in order to confuse the enemy's fire control, and so continued to open the range till by 4.5 the German guns could no longer reach, and Admiral Hipper ceased fire.


Admiral Evan‑Thomas, who till this time had been steering E. by S. direct for the enemy, was nearly eight miles away. Five minutes earlier he had had a blurred glimpse of the German light cruisers which our 1st and 3rd Light Cruiser Squadrons were chasing, and with a few salvoes at 18,000 yards had forced them to disappear to the eastward. It was now (4.5) he saw Admiral Hipper's force for the first time, and directly afterwards discovered that Admiral Beatty had turned south. He at once conformed, and as soon as he was settled on the new course the Barham opened fire on the rearmost enemy. The range was estimated at 19,000 yards, and the target very dim, but the Von der Tann was straddled almost


4.0‑4.30 p.m.



at once, and the Germans took to zigzagging to confuse the range. The shooting indeed seems to have been magnificent. The Germans saw the salvoes falling absolutely together and closely concentrated, and were full of admiration for the remarkable fire direction it revealed. It was nothing, they thought, but the poor quality of the British bursting charges that saved them from disaster. (The actual explanation was that our armour‑piercing shells broke up on oblique impact without penetrating the armour.)


After five minutes the Barham shifted to the second ship from the rear and the action became more general, but at the great range little could be done. The German line was so obscured by haze and smoke that seldom more than one or two ships could be seen, and often there was nothing to lay on but the flashes of the guns.


For Admiral Hipper was in action again. At 4.10, being then eleven miles away abaft the beam of the Lion, he inclined inwards a couple of points, and as Admiral Beatty simultaneously altered still more to port to press his van, he was able at 4.17 to re‑open fire at extreme range. The Lion had not yet been able entirely to master the fire that was smothering her. To the Germans she must have been invisible, for the Derfflinger, mistaking the Princess Royal for the flagship, began firing on the next astern, which the Seydlitz was also engaging. Thus the Queen Mary, at from 15,800 to 14,500 yards, became the target of both these ships. For about five minutes she stood it gallantly. She was fighting splendidly. The Germans say full salvoes were coming from her with fabulous rapidity. (Hase. Kiel and Jutland, pp. 157‑8.)


Twice already she had been straddled by the Derfflinger, when at 4.26 a plunging salvo crashed upon her deck forward. In a moment there was a dazzling flash of red flame where the salvo fell, and then a much heavier explosion rent her amidships. (See Diagram 25.)




Diagram 25 - From 4.20 to 4.40


Her bows plunged down, and as the Tiger and New Zealand raced by her to port and starboard, her propellers were still slowly revolving high in the air. In another moment, as her two consorts were smothered in a shower of black debris, there was nothing of her left but a dark pillar of smoke rising stemlike till it spread hundreds of feet high in the likeness of a vast palm tree. (The casualties were 57 officers and 1,209 men killed; 2 officers and 5 men wounded. Seventeen of her crew, one of whom died, were rescued by the Laurel. One by the Petard and two by the German destroyer V 28.)


Two such successes were beyond anything the Germans had reason to expect. Admiral Scheer's plan had broken down, and yet they were gaining even more than he


May 31, 1916


could have hoped from it. But Admiral Hipper was far from out of the wood. The 5th Battle Squadron had well hold of the enemy's rear; under the increasing fire the shooting of the German' ships was growing unsteady; and from ahead of them the 13th Flotilla was developing the attack for which the moment had come.


This flotilla comprised some of the best and latest of our destroyers ‑ Nestor (Commander The Hon. E. B. S. Bingham). Nomad (Lieutenant‑Commander P. Whitfield), Nicator (Lieutenant in command J. E. A. Mocatta), Pelican (Lieutenant­Commander K. A. Beattie), Narborough (Lieutenant‑Com­mander G. Corlett), Petard (Lieutenant‑Commander E. C. O. Thomson), Obdurate (Lieutenant‑Commander C. H. H. Sams); and Nerissa (Lieutenant‑Commander M. G. B. Legge), with the Turbulent (Lieutenant‑Commander D. Stuart), and Termagant (Lieutenant‑Commander C. P. Blake), of the 9th Flotilla and the Moorsom (Commander J. C. Hodgson) and Morris (Lieutenant‑Commander E. S. Graham) of the 10th Flotilla. At 4.15 Captain J. U. Farie in the flotilla cruiser Champion gave the order to attack, and led by Commander Bingham in the Nestor, in five minutes the five foremost boats were far enough advanced to cross the Lion's bows about a mile ahead. (See Diagrams 24 - repeated, 25 - repeated, and 26.)


Diagram 24 - 4.0 to 4.20


Diagram 25 - From 4.20 to 4.40




Diagram 26 - 4.40 to 5.0


The last four, having been thrown out by a light cruiser having to cross the line, were a little later and acting independently. Once clear the Nestor led for a favourable attacking position. The enemy were some eight miles off to the north‑east, and as our destroyers raced for them they could see the exhilarating sight of a German flotilla emerging from the smoke with the apparent intention of delivering a like attack on our battle cruisers. In fact, so Admiral Scheer tells us, Commodore Heinrich of the Regensburg, the leader of Admiral Hipper's attached flotillas, seeing the plight his chief was in when our 5th Battle Squadron got his range, determined to deliver an attack to relieve him. (Scheer, High Seas Fleet, p. 144.)


Commander Bingham immediately turned north to intercept it, and soon a hot fight began. Combined with the fire of our ships it was more than the Germans could endure. Though more numerous than our own destroyers, they were smaller and had a weaker gun armament, so, without pressing their attack home to effective range, they fired ten torpedoes hastily and retired. To avoid the attack Admiral Evan-­Thomas had turned away two points, but hardly any of the torpedoes reached him, and none took effect. Part of the foiled flotilla was to be seen seeking safety round the rear of their squadron and part round the van. These last


4.15‑4.45 p.m.



Commander Bingham turned to chase at his utmost speed, while our other divisions went after the rest.


The Nicator was now the only boat with him, for the Nomad, his next astern, had been disabled by a shell in her boilers. But, nothing daunted, he continued to chase till he had reached a good position for the Luetzow, when, turning to attack, he fired two torpedoes at 5,000 yards. But Admiral Hipper was ready for him with the same foiling manceuvre as our own, and just as the Nestor fired the Germans suddenly turned away (4.30), and both torpedoes missed. The Nicator had no better luck. But Commander Bingham was not yet satisfied, and followed by the Nicator he turned eastward after his prey. Undeterred by a rain of shell from the secondary armament of the enemy, as well as from the Regensburg, now assisted by four destroyers of the 2nd Flotilla, they pressed on and fired again at 3,500 yards. Again there was no hit, and miraculously dodging the enemy's rapid salvoes they turned back to escape.


By this time Lieutenant‑Commander Thomson in the Petard, having become separated from his division, was endeavouring to attack with the Turbulent, followed by the Nerissa and Termagant, as well as the Morris and Moorsom of the 9th Flotilla, who had attached themselves to the party. In the first onset he had fired a torpedo at the leading German destroyer, V 27, which seems to have taken deadly effect, for she was soon seen to be lying stopped with her decks awash, but all the boats were too much engaged in the melee with the enemy's destroyers to be able to get at the squadron. It was a wild scene of groups of long low forms vomiting heavy trails of smoke and dashing hither and thither at thirty knots or more through the smother and splashes, and with a rain of shell from the secondary armament of the German battle cruisers, as well as from the Regensburg and the destroyers, with the heavy shell of the contending squadrons screaming overhead. Gradually a pall of gun and funnel smoke almost hid the shell‑tormented sea, and beyond the fact that the German torpedo attack had failed, little could be told of what was happening, when, at 4.43, the Lion ran up the destroyers' recall. (See Diagram 20 - repeated.)



Diagram 20 - From 3.00 to 3.15


As they all turned to obey, it was seen that midway between the lines the Nestor's first antagonist, V 27, and another destroyer, V 29, were sinking. Near to them was the Nomad in a like condition, and as the Petard ran back she came across the Nestor scarcely able to crawl. Commander Bingham in dodging back from his second gallant attack had had two


May 31, 1916


boilers put out of action by the Regensburg. The Petard offered him a tow, but he refused to expose another destroyer to what now looked like certain destruction.


The meaning of the destroyer recall was that in the midst of the turmoil the tables had been once more turned and the fight had assumed an entirely new aspect. Ten minutes earlier (4.33) Commodore Goodenough, commanding the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron in the Southampton, which was then nearly two miles ahead of the Lion on her port bow, suddenly sent the surprising signal that battleships were in sight south‑east of him. (See Diagram 25 - repeated.)



Diagram 25 - From 4.20 to 4.40


Closing them at full speed he was able in five minutes to make them out to be the German battle fleet. So startling a development was scarcely credible. Admiral Beatty had still no reason to think Admiral Scheer had left the Jade, but there was the signal, and it was imme­diately confirmed by the Champion, who was also ahead and supporting her destroyers. What was to be done? Admiral Beatty, who since 4.30 had been inclining away from the enemy to open the range, turned at once to port direct for the position where the apparition had been reported, while Admiral Evan‑Thomas held on, firing heavily on the German battle cruisers as they turned away before the destroyer attack. Wholly unexpected as Admiral Scheer's arrival was, all doubt was quickly at an end. Two minutes after the Lion altered course she could see the leading German battle­ship less than twelve miles away to the south‑eastward, and then an apparently interminable line of battleships came into view, attended by light cruisers and a swarm of destroyers. There could be no question as to what it meant, and at 4.40 Admiral Beatty swung back sixteen points in succession to north‑west, and then northward to join the Commander‑in‑Chief by the shortest possible course. (See Diagram 26 - repeated.)




Diagram 26 - From 4.40 to 5.0


The signal was "general," but it was made by flags, and Admiral Evan‑Thomas, who was eight miles astern, could not see it. He was busy at the time with the enemy, and was just making a signal to "concentrate in pairs from the rear." He saw the turn, but being in hot chase, he rightly judged his duty was to hold on as he was. This he did till eight minutes later, when, as the Lion and Barham had approached each other on opposite courses within two miles, Admiral Beatty signalled direct to the battle squadron to turn back sixteen points to starboard. But as they were closing each other at the rate of nearly a mile a minute, Admiral Evan‑Thomas had passed before he could carry out the order, and so he turned up in succession astern of the


4.30‑4.48 p.m.



battle cruisers, as the enemy began to fire on the turning point. Commodore Goodenough elected to disregard the general signal, and held on at twenty‑five knots direct for the new enemy, bent on reporting in detail their composition and if possible making a torpedo attack. So, inspired by the old tradition of the service, he raced on at full speed into the jaws of death till he had seen all that was needful. His boldness perhaps saved him. As he was heading direct for the enemy, possibly they could not be certain what his squadron was, for he held on to within 13,000 yards of them before he turned back north‑west, and it was not till then, when it could be seen his ships had four funnels, that they were fired on. Though they were immediately drenched with the splashes from the enemy's closely falling salvoes, yet by clever zigzagging all escaped injury.


What he had seen - and it was a sight no British ship had enjoyed since the war began ‑ was the German High Seas Fleet deployed in battle order, line ahead. In the van, led by Rear‑Admira1 Behncke in the Koenig, came the 3rd Squadron, seven of the "Koenig" and "Kaiser" classes, the latest German Dreadnoughts. Following them were nine more Dreadnoughts ‑ five "Helgolands," with twelve 12‑inch guns and four "Nassaus" with twelve of 11‑inch. In the rear was the 2nd Squadron of six pre‑Dreadnoughts. Admiral Scheer himself, in the fleet flagship Friedrich der Grosse, was eighth ship in his selected post of command between the van and centre, and in company were five cruisers of the 4th Scouting Group and three and a half flotillas of destroyers, led by the light cruiser Rostock.


At 3.54 he had heard that Admiral Hipper was engaged with the enemy and was leading them towards him. Apparently it was some time before he learnt the exact position, for it was not till 4.5 that he altered to a north‑westerly course to support his battle cruisers and to prevent the premature retreat of the enemy. With this object, a quarter of an hour later, believing the chance he had worked for had come, he turned to the westward so as to bring Admiral Beatty between two fires. But he had scarcely begun the movement when he heard of our 5th Battle Squadron having appeared om the scene, and immediately turned north to save Admiral Hipper from the trap in which till that moment he thought he had caught his opponent.


He held on this course until 4.42 when he turned two points to port; at 4.58 he made a, furither turn of two points to port which brought him on to a north‑westerly course and led him towards our destroyers as they were retiring in response to


May 31, 1916


Admiral Beatty's recall. Helpless, right in his track lay the Nomad and the Nestor. As the battleships came on, both boats were quickly smothered with their fire, yet before they had to be abandoned both had fired their last torpedoes at their new assailants and what was left of the crews had taken to the riddled boats, from which they were soon rescued by a German destroyer.


The Nicator and Petard as they retired also got in four shots between them at the battle cruisers. Three came from the Petard, the last of which, fired just before 5.0, hit the Seydlitz. It took her on the starboard side forward under the armoured belt, tearing a hole 13 feet by 39, and put her No. 1 15‑centimetre gun permanently out of action, but so well was she constructed that she was able to carry on. Though twenty torpedoes had been fired, this was the only damage done to the German fleet; yet, small as was the result, the whole affair must ever stand as an exemplary piece of flotilla work in battle. Not only had our destroyers foiled the attempt of the German flotillas, but had broken through them, and with the opposing ship‑fire unsubdued, had pushed home their attack with unsurpassed dash and daring.


Though the positive effects were small, yet the courage and determination our men had displayed were not without effect on the action. They had certainly forced the German battle cruisers to continue their turn away during the highly critical minutes when our battle cruisers were making the sixteen‑point turn and would otherwise have been exposed to severe punishment. As between the opposed flotillas it had been a fair trial of strength, and though in losses honours were easy, for on each side two boats had been sunk, the faith of the Germans in the superiority of their destroyer service must have been shaken.


By the time our two destroyers went down our two squadrons were out of sight from the rest of the flotilla, but could be heard still firing. Admiral Hipper after his turn away had resumed his southerly course, just as Admiral Beatty was making his sixteen‑point turn to N.W. After he had hauled round another four points to North, firing broke out again almost immediately, the Lion engaging the Von der Tann, the left‑hand ship of the enemy. A few salvoes only had been fired at extreme range, when Admiral Hipper, in his turn, altered round sixteen points to starboard in succession to take up his station ahead of the advancing German battle fleet. In the mist and the resulting confusion of smoke, Admiral Beatty once more lost sight of the enemy, and for about six minutes firing ceased. By five o'clock, however,


4.45‑5.15 p.m.



the German battle cruisers could again be dimly seen steering to the northward. Once more Admiral Beatty engaged them, and almost immediately the Lion received another bad hit, giving rise to a fire which, but for the closed magazine door, must have put an end to her. It was little our battle cruisers could do, for while they showed up clearly against the glowing western sky, the increasing mist so obscured the eastern horizon, that Admiral Hipper's ships were soon barely visible. Only on the flashes of the guns was it possible to get a target, or when from time to time the sun broke through the clouds to light up the enemy's line and dazzle his eyes. As Admiral Beatty ran out of range firing became intermittent, and within eight minutes ceased altogether. At 5.10 he reduced to 24 knots, and made his way northward to join the main fleet. (See Diagram 27.)




Diagram 27 - From 5.0 to 5.20


Away on his port quarter Admiral Evan‑Thomas was having the same trouble . (See Diagram 26 - repeated.)



Diagram 26 - From 4.40 to 5.0


By the time his turn northward was completed he was some three miles astern of the battle cruisers and nearly abreast of the Koenig, so that he at once became engaged with Admiral Scheer's van squadron, as well as with Admiral Hipper. To reduce the range the whole German battle fleet had turned north‑west by divisions, and in this formation was trying to close the range. The Barham had hardly turned before she was badly hit by a heavy shell which caused many casualties and wrecked her wireless gear. Those of the enemy ships that were within range seemed to be concentrating on the turning point, but the Valiant, her next astern, got round without being touched. The Warspite was no less fortunate, and as Malaya, the rear ship, turned it was evident that she was the target of a whole division or more.


Salvoes were falling all round her at the rate of six a minute. By hauling out to port, however, she escaped, but for the next twenty minutes she was constantly straddled, and was twice so badly hit below the water line that she began to list. It was then decided to open fire short with the 6‑inch starboard battery in order to set up a screen, but before the order was passed another heavy shell burst inside it, devastating guns and crew and starting a fire amidst the havoc it had wrought . (The casualties in the 5th Battle Squadron were chiefly suffered in this period. Barham had 26 killed and 37 wounded, Malaya lost 63 killed and 33 wounded. For over half an hour she bore the brunt of the fighting.) For a time Admiral Evan‑Thomas kept a northerly course, as Admiral Beatty had done, the Barham and the Valiant firing on the enemy's battle cruisers while his two rear ships engaged the battleships. (See Diagram 27 - repeated.)



Diagram 27 - From 5.0 to 5.20


Thus, as Admiral Scheer was coming


5.0-5.30 p.m.


on north‑west the courses converged, and Admiral Evan­-Thomas was unable, in spite of his superior speed, to increase the range, and all his squadron remained under a heavy fire, which they returned as well as the bad light permitted. Two destroyers of the 13th Flotilla, which had not yet been in action, made a bold attempt to close. These were the Onslow (Lieutenant‑Commander J. C. Tovey) and the Moresby (Lieu­tenant‑Commander R. V. Alison), who, having been detached to screen the seaplane carrier, had missed the big attack. But on rejoining Admiral Beatty when he turned north they saw their opportunity in the approaching German battle fleet.


Then, about 5.0 p.m., as the Admiral altered to N.N.W., the Onslow, steering N.N.E., with the Moresby close astern, found herself diverging from our battle cruisers and closing those of the enemy. As they seemed to have no screen ahead of them, the opportunity was not to be resisted, and the Onslow led on to close nearer. Before, however, the range was low enough to please her, four light cruisers appeared. They were Admiral Hipper's light scouting group, which had just turned north again. Instantly they developed so accurate and heavy a fire on the two destroyers that they were forced to turn away and scatter. The Onslow swung to port and abandoned her bold attempt. The Moresby, however, was more fortunate. Having turned to starboard and started to run south she soon found herself in position to attack the van of the advancing German battle fleet, and closing to within 8,000 yards she gave a long‑range torpedo to the third ship in the line. It missed, but both boats got back from their brilliant adventure with their fighting capacity unimpaired.


By this time (5.20) Admiral Evan‑Thomas had inclined to port till he was steering approximately in the wake of the battle cruisers N.N.W., and as the range then opened, the fury of the running fight was abating. The Germans soon found thernselves unable to reach our ships, while they themselves were still under fire. Hits were made on both their battle cruisers and battleships; the Grosser Kuerfurst, Markgraf, Luetzow and Derfflinger all being hit on the water line, while the Seydlitz also received considerable damage. By 5.30, however, the pursuit was dropped, though firing continued intermittently. So the first phase of the battle ended with all our squadrons hastening northward under the quiet evening sky to join the Commander‑in‑Chief, and the Germans following at their utmost speed in response to Admiral Scheer's signal to pursue the enemy.











When at 5.30 the firing died away Admiral Jellicoe was twenty‑three miles to the northward, with his three Dreadnought squadrons in divisions in line ahead disposed abeam. (See Diagram 28.)




Diagram 28 - From 5.20 to 5.40


Rear‑Admiral Hood with the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron (Invincible, Inflexible and Indomitable), with the light cruisers Chester and Canterbury and four destroyers, was twenty‑one miles ahead, but too far to the eastward to be seen by the Lion. Spread in advance were two cruiser squadrons, the 1st Cruiser Squadron. (Defence, Warrior, Duke of Edinburgh and Black Prince), under Rear‑Admiral Arbuthnot, forming the starboard half of the line, and the Minotaur, Cochrane and Shannon of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron the port half, under Rear‑Admiral H. L. Heath, with his fourth ship, the Hampshire, as linking ship.


Directly ahead of the battle squadrons as anti‑submarine screen was Commodore Le Mesurier's 4th Light Cruiser Squadron (Calliope, Constance, Comus, Royalist and Caroline). The light cruisers attached to the battle squadrons, Active, Boadicea, Blanche and Bellona, had fallen astern into the stations assigned for the approach.


(Cruising disposition No. 1: Cochrane, Shannon, Minotaur, centre of screen, Defence, Duke of Edinburgh, Black Prince, Hampshire (linking ship). Cruisers spread eight miles apart. (At 3.10 the centre of the screen had been ordered to be sixteen miles ahead of the battle fleet.) The 4th Light Cruiser Squadron was four miles ahead of the battle fleet and the attached light cruisers on the flanks.)


Thus disposed his advanced ships should have covered a front of forty miles. But owing to the continually decreasing visibility they had been forced to close in order to keep visual touch till their front was reduced to some twenty­five miles.


In the main fleet Vice‑Admiral Burney, commanding the 1st Battle Squadron, formed the starboard wing with the 6th Division (Marlborough, Revenge, Hercules and Agincourt), and next to him was the 5th Division (Colossus, Collingwood,


May 31, 1916


Neptune and St Vincent), led by Rear‑Admiral Gaunt. on the port flank was the 2nd Battle Squadron, the strongest section of the fleet, under Vice‑Admiral Jerram (King George V), who was leading the wing division (Ajax, Centurion and Erin), with his other division next (Orion, Monarch, Conqueror and Thunderer), led by Rear‑Admiral Leveson.


In the centre was the 4th Squadron, led by Vice‑Admiral Sturdee at the head of his starboard division (Benbow, Bellerophon, Temeraire and Vanguard), and at the head of the other division (Superb, with the flag of Rear‑Admiral Duff, Royal Oak and Canada) was Admiral Jellicoe in the fleet flag­ship Iron Duke.


He thus had under his own hand, with­out counting the four ships of the 5th Squadron, a fairly homogeneous force of twenty‑four Dreadnoughts, against Admiral Scheer's sixteen and the six ships of the older pre‑Dreadnought squadron. As the Germans had no gun heavier than 12‑inch, while our main armament ranged from 12‑inch to 15‑inch, Admiral Jellicoe had also a considerable superiority in gun power, but, on the other hand, the German ships were better protected and had more torpedo tubes. (For the organisation of the Grand Fleet see Appendix B.)


From this marked inequality in the main weapon of the two admirals arose a corresponding difference of tactics, and particularly in their views of how to use their minor forces in battle. Each was equally bent on a combination of all arms, but each had his own method, correctly based on his relative strength in primary units. Since Admiral Jellicoe was so much superior in battleships, his best chance of a decisive success was to get in a smashing blow with his main weapon, while Admiral Scheer would naturally seek to avoid such a blow, or at least to weaken it by energetic use of his minor forces. It was fully expected that for this purpose he would use mines, submarines and destroyers, but in fact he had nothing but destroyers.


Accordingly his destroyers were given a highly offensive function, and to enable them to exercise it with facility they were more or less equally divided into two groups, the one in the van (3rd and 1st Half Flotillas) and the other in rear (5th and 7th Flotillas), both on the disengaged side of the battle squadrons. On the other hand, since it was fundamental with Admiral Jellicoe that the blow with his dominant weapon should be given with the utmost violence, it was essential that his Dreadnought force should not be interfered with or have its attention distracted by minor attack from the enemy. His destroyers were therefore given a function that was primarily defensive. Their instructions were to confine


2.20-3.10 p.m.



themselves at first to repelling torpedo attacks which the enemy might threaten, but subject to this restriction com­manders of units were given full discretion for delivering their attack as and when they saw occasion. Cruisers and light cruisers were charged with like primary duties, either independently against similar types of ship or in support of destroyers; but here again commanders of squadrons were given the freest possible hand as to how they played their parts in the tactical combination. On this conception of co‑ordination they, as well as the destroyers, had their battle stations at either end of the line in the positions from which they could best contribute to the free action of the battle fleet without masking its fire.


One other material factor had an equally strong effect on Admiral Jellicoe's tactics. Seeing that his battle fleet was superior to that of the enemy in numbers as well as in weight of gun power and effective range, his advantage was to open the action out of effective torpedo range ‑ which was taken to be 15,000 yards ‑ and not to come to close range till the enemy began to be dominated. Without keeping in mind these fundamental considerations it is impossible to follow the battle with a just appreciation of what was or was not done.


At 2.20, when Admiral Jellicoe began to take in the Galatea's signals, he was still nearly twelve miles from his two o'clock rendezvous, owing to the delay caused by examin­ing vessels which the fleet encountered to see that they were not enemy scouts. (According to the Iron Duke's reckoning she was at two o'clock nineteen and a half miles N. 40 W. of the rendezvous, but she seems actually to have been four miles further on, in Lat. 57¼ 54 1/2' N., Long. 3¼ 52' E., that in, fifteen and a half miles from the rendezvous.)


As at first the reports of the enemy indicated nothing more than light cruising forces, possibly even only destroyers, he kept on at the economical speed of his destroyers, zigzagging as before, but ordered the fleet to raise steam for full speed (2.35). As soon, however, as the reports made it evident that something more serious might be in question he ceased zigzagging and resumed his normal course S. 50 E., increasing speed to seventeen knots (2.43). Not content with this, twelve minutes later he increased by another knot, and almost at once called for steam to be raised for full speed with all dispatch and signalled to prepare for action (3.0). Then, in accordance with his pre‑arranged Plan, he altered course S.E. by S., in the direction of Horn Reefs, and ordered his cruisers to push on sixteen miles ahead of him. It was an order they must have some difficulty in


May 31, 1916


carrying out, for he was increasing to nineteen knots when he received Admiral Beatty's 3.15 position. Neither flagship's dead reckoning, as we have seen, was quite correct. The position which the Iron Duke gave at 3.26 made the two flagships seventy‑one miles apart and bearing N. 16 W. Admiral Beatty had given his course and speed as N.E. twenty‑three knots, while the Galatea said she was leading the enemy N.W. On this information Admiral Jellicoe concluded that some enemy cruisers and destroyers were being chased to the north­ward by the battle cruiser fleet, and he now ordered all flag officers to inform their divisions of the situation, and at 3.35 he himself warned Commodore Hawksley, who as Commodore "F" was commanding the Grand Fleet flotillas, that the enemy should be in touch with our cruisers by four o'clock.


So far all seemed going well. But the signal had hardly been made when the outlook was entirely changed. An urgent message came in from the Lion that the enemy's battle cruisers with a large number of destroyers had come into sight bearing N.E.; another followed quickly giving their course as south‑easterly (S. 55 E.), and then a third (3.55) that Admiral Beatty was engaged with them. All hope of an early encounter was now shattered. It looked more than ever like a repetition of former raids, but without loss of time Admiral Jellicoe increased to twenty knots and ordered Admiral Hood to proceed ahead immediately to support the battle cruiser fleet.


The Invincible, in which Admiral Hood's flag was flying, was then about twenty‑five miles on the port bow of the Iron Duke, and a little ahead of station, for when at 3.15 Admiral Hood heard from the Galatea of the enemy's light cruisers coming northward, he had inclined to the east­ward at twenty‑two knots to head them off. Half an hour later, when he knew they had turned to the southward, be altered back to S. 26 E., and when the welcome order came to push ahead he was about forty‑three miles from the position the Lion had given S. by W. of him. But as he had no margin of speed there was little hope of overtaking Admiral Beatty on that course. He had therefore altered to S.S.E. - with what unforeseen good effect will be seen later ‑ and sped away at twenty‑five knots.


Then for an anxious half‑hour all was silence; not a word reached the Commander‑in‑Chief of how his colleague was faring. Of the 5th Battle Squadron he had heard nothing. He telegraphed (4.17) to know if it was in company with the battle cruisers. The reassuring reply was "Yes, I am engaging enemy." Then as the battle fleet pressed southward he


3.20‑5.15 p.m.



thought of the open Skagerrak and the unguarded waters behind him, and at 4.38 ordered Admiral Tupper with the 10th Cruiser Squadron to close the blockade against outgoing raiders by taking up the eastern patrol area.


The message had hardly been despatched when in the Iron Duke's wireless room was heard the call of the Southampton, followed by the message, "Have sighted enemy battle fleet bearing approximately S.E. course North." It was the first that had been heard of Admiral Scheer that day, since he had been reported apparently in the Jade, yet it was confirmed in a few minutes by Admiral Beatty. The message came in mutilated and confusing, but for the Com­mander‑in‑Chief it was enough and at 4.47 the whole fleet was reading the stirring general signal "Enemy's battle fleet coming north." If Admiral Jellicoe had any doubt as to what lay before him it was quickly set at rest by Com­modore Goodenough's boldness in pressing his reconnaissance home. The detailed report he was able to make to Admiral Beatty he also sent to the Commander‑in‑Chief, and at 4.51 Admiral Jellicoe signalled to the Admiralty "Fleet action is imminent."


(Admiral Beatty's signal is a typical example of the difficulty of con­veying accurate information in action. His own W/T having been shot away, he semaphored to the Princess Royal, his next astern, as he was turning north, "Report enemy's battle fleet to Commander‑in‑Chief bearing S.E." The message she sent was entered in her log thus: " S.O. Battle Cruiser Fleet to Commander‑in‑Chief via Princess Royal: Urgent‑priority. Have sighted enemy's battle fleet bearing S.E. My position Lat. 56¼ 36' N., Long. 60¼ 04' E." By some of the ships the message was taken in correctly. In the Iron Duke it read: " 26‑30 battleships probably bearing S.S.E. steering S.E," but in the light of the Southampton's signal the enemy's course was rightly interpreted.)


Everywhere as the long‑despaired‑of news was whispered through the air and sped along the wires excitement grew. Dockyards all round the coast were astir and tugs were getting up steam to assist crippled ships, and nowhere was the tension higher than in the squadrons that were still chafing in port. At Harwich when the half‑read battle signals told clearly enough what was happening in the North Sea Commodore Tyrwhitt was straining in the leash that held him. It had always been understood that if a fleet action became imminent he was to join the Commander‑in‑Chief with all speed, and he had just asked for instructions; but the Minutes went by and none came. From the Thames at 5.0 Admiral Bradford signalled to the Admiralty that he was moving out from the Swin to the Black Deep light­vessel. Then Commodore Tyrwhitt could bear it no longer,


May 31, 1916


and at 5.15 he too informed the Admiralty he was proceeding to sea. He still had time to deal with a half‑beaten enemy trying to escape through the waters with which he was so familiar, and so reap the reward of all the strenuous work on which he had been incessantly engaged since the war began. But the Admiralty were not yet in a position to give him the necessary orders. Crossing his message came the reply to his request for instructions: "Complete with fuel. You may have to relieve light cruisers and destroyers in battle cruiser fleet later." So dismal a part could not be tamely accepted until at least the effect of his last telegram was known, and he held on hopefully.


The Admiralty's responsibilities in the southern area were too heavy for them to fall in with his obvious wish. It was in any case of the last importance that his force should be complete with fuel and ready to carry out whatever duty was ultimately assigned to it. Twenty minutes later Com­modore Tyrwhitt read with sinking heart his next instruction, "Return at once and await orders."


At 6.30 Admiral Beatty, from whom the enemy was tem­porarily obscured, was continuing his course N.N.W. to close the Commander‑in‑Chief. Admiral Evan‑Thomas, who was four miles astern on a northerly course, was still in action. Ever since Admiral Beatty had lost sight of the enemy, the 5th Battle Squadron had been almost continuously engaged, the flagship and the Valiant with the German battle cruisers at 19,000 to 20,000 yards, and the two rear ships with the battle fleet, but it could hardly be seen except for the flashes of its guns. It was only now and then that a ship showed up long enough to be taken as a target. Our ships, on the other hand, were well defined against a bright yellow horizon, and since, in spite of the squadron's speed, it had not yet got beyond the enemy's range, the rear ships, Warspite and Malaya, were suffering from the leading German battleships. The cause of the inability to drop the enemy was that Admiral Scheer was still heading in quarter line to close the range. Only by an inclination to the westward could Admiral Evan­Thomas counter the move, and that would have thrown his squadron off the line to meet Admiral Jellicoe. Up to this time neither admiral was at all sure where the Commander-in‑Chief was, but as his estimated bearing was N. 16 W­., Admiral Beatty at 5.33 hauled round to N.N.E. Seven minutes before, Admiral Hipper, on receiving Admiral Scheer's order for a "general chase," had conformed to his Chief's inclination to the westward, so that the courses of


5.15‑5.45 p.m.



all squadrons were now converging, with the result that by 5.40 Admiral Beatty could again make out his adversary in the mist only 14,000 yards away, and the action broke out again in renewed fury. (See Diagram 29.)




Diagram 29 - From 5.40 to 6.0


Simultaneously Admiral Evan­-Thomas also saw the enemy's battle cruisers, and both the Barham and the Valiant added their fire to that of Admiral Beatty, while the Warspite and Malaya continued to engage the now dim forms of Admiral Scheer's leading battleships. Under the concentrated fire, with the light now in our favour, Admiral Hipper's squadrons began to suffer severely, but hauling away slightly to open the range they stood up to their barely visible opponents, as yet in complete ignorance of the perilous situation which was just developing.


At 5.33 Admiral Napier, leading the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron in the Falmouth four miles ahead of the Lion, sighted the Black Prince, starboard wing ship of Admiral Arbuthnot's 1st Cruiser Squadron, and so finally visual touch was established between the two sections of the Grand Fleet. As this squadron formed the starboard section of Admiral Jellicoe's advanced screen, her station was on the extreme westward flank. With the decreasing visibility Admiral Arbuthnot was inclining inwards to close Admiral Heath on his left and steering south‑east diagonally across the battle cruiser course. The Black Prince was therefore nearest to the enemy, and just as Admiral Beatty re‑opened fire was able to report battle cruisers five miles south of her. They were our own that she saw, but whether or not she mistook them for Germans, the signal was received by the Commander­-in‑Chief as reporting enemy battle cruisers, and only deepened the perplexity of the sparse and confusing information he had been getting from the southward.


Assuming that the enemy's battle fleet.would be only a few miles astern of the battle cruisers, the Black Prince's message made its position some twenty miles north‑westward of where the last message from Commodore Goodenough placed it, and Admiral Jellicoe rightly concluded that the battle cruisers seen must be our own. (The Black Prince's signal was by wireless timed 5.42, but was not read by the Commander‑in‑Chief till considerably later.)


It was thus with everything in extreme uncertainty that contact with the enemy began to be felt, and it was felt very close. As early as 3.10, when it was known that Admiral Beatty was in touch with something more than destroyers, Admiral Jellicoe had ordered the screen to get sixteen miles ahead, but he himself was increasing speed so rapidly that they had not been able to gain half the distance.


May 31, 1916


Deployment could not be postponed much longer, and little time was left for signals to get through to the Commander­in‑Chief which would determine the all‑important factor of the exact position of the enemy's battle fleet.


At the moment, however, that his starboard wing had contact with Admiral Beatty something even more important was happening on the opposite flank. Here Admiral Hood in response to the order to support Admiral Beatty, had reached about twenty‑five miles ahead of the battle fleet with the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron. One of his attached light cruisers, the Canterbury, was about five miles further forward; the other, the Chester, was the same distance to the westward on his starboard beam, while his four destroyers, Shark, Acasta, Ophelia and Christopher, formed his anti­-submarine screen ahead. The Chester was thus nearest to the enemy; at 5.27 her commander, Captain R. N. Lawson, hearing the sound of guns to the south‑westward, had turned in that direction to investigate. (See Diagram 28 - repeated.)



Diagram 28 - From 5.20 to 5.40


Soon he could see far‑away flashes breaking the mist where the 5th Battle Squadron was still fighting, and in another minute or two the form of a three‑funnelled cruiser with some destroyers took shape crossing ahead of him. Realising at once that she was an enemy, he turned to starboard to bring his guns to bear, but as this movement brought one of the destroyers in admir­able position for attack on his port how he swung north and was opening fire on his phantom enemy when he saw she was not alone. Two other ghost‑like forms were astern of her, and in a minute or two the Chester was smothered in bursting shell. Within five minutes she had three of her guns dis­abled: the majority of the guns' crews were lying dead or wounded, and with only her after gun in action she turned away northeastward at utmost speed, dodging the salvoes like a snipe. (Two light cruisers which had been ordered and were building at Messrs, Cammell Laird's for the Greek Government were purchased and taken over in 1915. They were renamed Birkenhead and Chester. The former was completed in September 1915, but the Chester was less far advanced, and was only commissioned on 2nd May, 1916. The Birkenhead and Chester, which were considerably heavier (5,250 tons) than the "C" class cruisers, resembled very closely the "Chatha " class. They carried a main armament of ten 5.5‑inch guns. The speed of the Birkenhead was twenty‑five knots, and that of the Chester twenty‑six knots.)


It was Admiral Boedicker's light cruiser squadron (2nd Scouting Group) she had run into, as on Admiral Hipper's disengaged side it was continuing to the northward some four miles on his starboard beam, and the ships chasing the Chester


5.20-6.15 p.m.



were the Frankfurt (flag), Wiesbaden, Pillau and Elbing. The Chester seemed doomed, but rescue was at hand. Directly Admiral Hood heard the firing abaft his starboard beam he swung round north‑west (5.37). As the German cruisers were closing to the eastward the courses quickly converged. In a few minutes our battle cruisers could see emerging from the mist the Chester zigzagging in the storm of shell splashes that were drenching her, and almost at once her eager pursuers came into view. (See Diagram 29 - repeated.)



Diagram 29 - From 5.40 to 6.0


Immediately they saw their danger they swung round to starboard on the opposite course to Admiral Hood, but it was too late. As they passed, his guns crashed into them, while the Chester escaped across the Invincible's bows, firing her last shots as she ran northward into safety. (Beside the loss of three of her ten 5.5‑inch guns the Cheshire had several holes in and above her armour. Her after control was destroyed, but her engines were practically uninjured. Her casualties were seventy‑seven (thirty‑five killed or died of wounds and forty‑two wounded). Amongst the killed was the boy Jack Cornwell, who for his exemplary conduct in the action was warded a posthumous Victoria Cross. Indeed the behaviour of all concerned marked the affair as highly creditable to a new ship that had not been quite a month in commission. At daylight on June 1 she was ordered to proceed to the Humber, where she arrived at 5.0 p.m.)


As for Admiral Boedicker, he only escaped the 12‑inch salvoes that were smothering him by recourse to his torpedoes. To avoid them Admiral Hood had to turn away, and the enemy was soon lost in the mist, but not before the Wiesbaden was a wreck and both the Pillau and Frankfurt badly hit.


But the episode did not end here. When Admiral Hood turned to the rescue of the Chester his four destroyers were left on his port quarter, and they soon caught sight of the German cruisers running towards them south‑east, half hidden by shell splashes. The division was led by Commander Loftus Jones in the Shark, the same intrepid officer who by his resolute dogging of Admiral von Ingenohl's cruiser screen at dawn on the day of the Scarborough raid had caused the whole High Seas Fleet to turn back to its base. Seeing the excellent chance that had fallen to him, he led off to make the most of it, followed by the Acasta (Lieutenant‑Commander J. O. Barron), Ophelia (Commander L. G. E. Crabbe) ‑ both officers had been with him in his previous exploit ‑ and the Christopher (Lieutenant‑Commander F. M. Kerr). (See Diagram 30.)




Diagram 30 - From 6.0 to 6.15


As they approached they could see that ahead of the flying cruisers a number of enemy destroyers were evidently developing an attack on Admiral Hood, but as soon as the Germans were aware of the Shark's direction they turned to


May 31, 1916

protect Admiral Boedicker. A very hot engagement was the result. The Shark got off a torpedo at one of the cruisers, but was quickly smothered with the fire of the squadron and its destroyers, and by the time Commander Jones knew he had frustrated the attack on Admiral Hood and had turned back, his boat was brought to a standstill. His old comrade, Lieutenant‑Commander Barron, rushed up to take him in tow, but he would not hear of the Acasta, which was also badly damaged, being sunk for him, and ordered her to leave him.


At this moment Captain P. M. R. Royds in the Canterbury appeared coming up to the rescue from the south­east. By turning to the southward he enticed the cruisers to chase, and for a while the Shark was left in peace. Presently, however, more destroyers, which Admiral Hipper had ordered to attack Admiral Hood in order to cover his retirement, came up and poured in a merciless fire. (The 12th Half Flotilla and the 9th Flotilla.) In a moment her after gun was hit, and its crew killed, and Commander Jones, who was himself controlling its fire, had a leg shot away at the knee. Yet he continued to encourage his men to fight the only gun he had left, until the Shark went down with her flag still flying.


(An able seaman, C. C. Hope, thus describes the scene after the captain was disabled: "The gaff on which the ensign was flying was shot away, and Capt Jones asked what was wrong with the flag, and appeared greatly upset. Then I climbed and unbent the ensign from the gaff. I passed it down to Midshipman Smith, RNR, who hoisted it on the yardarm. Commander Jones seemed then to be less worried." A petty‑officer got the wounded captain to a life‑saving raft, but a few hours later he died of exhaustion, to be awarded subsequently a post­humous Victoria Cross. The six survivors were eventually picked up by the Danish steamer Vidar.)


So, maintaining to the last the finest traditions of the Service, she came to her end. Upon her, as she lay helpless yet unbeaten, the vast forces of which she formed so small a part were converging to the crisis of the long‑foreseen day. Fourteen miles north‑west Admiral Jellicoe was coming at high speed towards her, still in cruising order, for as yet no word, other than half‑a‑dozen differing reports, had come in to tell him where the German battle fleet was, and he was trying vainly to ascertain its exact position that he might judge how best to deploy. (There was a difference of over eight miles in the enemy's position as reported by various vessels, and, although the messages sent from the Admiralty at 5.0 and 5.45 gave, as we now know, the position and course fairly accurately, little reliance was placed upon them.)


Six miles south‑west of him was Admiral Beatty. Heavily engaged again, and supported by the fire of the 5th Battle Squadron, he had forced the German battle cruisers to turn east, and he was altering to starboard in conformity when at 5.56, he had sight of the leading


5.56-6.6 p.m.



battleships of the Grand Fleet, four miles to the northward. "Thereupon," he says in his report, "I altered course east and proceeded at utmost speed." (The signal "alter course in succession to east," was made at 6.0. At 5.56 he had signalled "Alter course in succession to N.E. by E. Speed 25 knots," and at this speed he continued for the next twenty‑five minutes, when he increased a knot.)


Though his reasons for doing so are not recorded, it was clearly of importance that he should keep firm hold of the enemy's battle cruisers, so as to prevent them from sighting our battle fleet and reporting it to Admiral Scheer. If, as he apparently thought most likely, Admiral Jellicoe was going to deploy to starboard, that being the flank nearest to the enemy, his easterly course would do no harm, and the reasons which eventually convinced his chief that a deployment to starboard was tactically inadmissible can scarcely have been in his mind.


But for Admiral Jellicoe the movement was difficult to understand. On the conflicting information he had he was still expecting to meet the enemy right ahead, and as soon as he made out our battle cruisers heading across his bows and engaged with an unseen enemy he flashed to Admiral Beatty the query, "Where is the enemy's battle fleet? " (6.1). Something was evidently wrong, for Admiral Beatty had appeared much further to the westward than his position signals had indicated. Both flagships, in fact, were out of their reckoning. The Lion's error was nearly seven miles west, and that of the Iron Duke over four miles east, so that the cumulative error was about eleven miles. To Admiral Jellicoe it now seemed probable that instead of the enemy being found ahead they would appear a little on his starboard bow, and in order to gain ground in that direction he at once altered to south (6.2). (See Diagram 30.)


A few minutes later, a rapid calculation, however, convinced him that his new course would not do. It brought the "guides" ‑ that is, the leading ships of divisions ‑ into echelon, or, in technical phrase, they were "disposed quarterly" with the starboard wing forward, a disposition very unfavourable for a deployment to the eastward since it could not bring the line at right angles to the bearing of the enemy. This was tactically essential for a good deployment, and before it could be done the port guides must be brought up on the flagship's beam. But it was now evident from various indications that the enemy was too near for this disposition to be completed in time. A further effect of the errors in reckoning was that he was likely


May 31, 1916


to get contact twenty minutes sooner than he expected (See Diagram 31.)




Diagram 31 - The Deployment: From 6.15 to 6.26


It was therefore vital to get the fleet into the best position immediately attainable for instant deployment in either direction, and at 6.6, as the best he could do, he signalled course S.E., to bring the guides approximately abreast again.


Just then Admiral Beatty, who was beginning to pass across the starboard division of the battle fleet only two miles ahead of the Marlborough, flashed back his reply to the Commander‑in‑Chief's query, but it only said "Enemy's battle cruisers bearing S.E." This did no more than deepen the obscurity. About ten minutes earlier Admiral Jellicoe had heard from Commodore Goodenough that the enemy's battle fleet had altered course to north and that their battle cruisers bore S.W. from it. On this information it was incomprehensible that the battle cruisers should have been sighted first, and at his wits' end to fathom the situation the Commander‑in‑Chief repeated to Admiral Beatty, "Where is the enemy's battle fleet? " At the moment the Lion had no enemy in sight. There was no immediate answer, and precious minutes went by with no further light to determine the right direction for deployment.


The Commander‑in‑Chiefs perplexity was not lightened by the fact that Admiral Beatty in giving the bearing of the enemy battle cruisers had omitted their course. In fact he had lost sight of them, and did not know what it was. The reason was that Admiral Hipper, finding himself in a corner too hot for him, had turned away, and with his flagship in flames was retiring with all speed on Admiral Scheer. But danger still lay in his path. For now came the Ophelia's chance. Driven off when the Shark attacked, Commander Crabbe had returned for another attempt, and was rewarded by a fair shot at the German battle cruisers. The torpedo missed, but these bold attacks were not without effect upon Admiral Hipper. With Admiral Beatty engaging him to port and British destroyers continually attacking him, he was confirmed in the impression which the appearance of Admiral Hood's battle cruisers had made upon his mind, and he says it was because he felt sure that he had run into our main fleet that he swung back to retire on Admiral Scheer. This information he had passed to his chief before he turned north‑eastwards again upon the same course as the battle fleet (6.14). But even now he did not find rest from the worry of the insistent British destroyers. Indeed, he was soon in worse predicament than ever, for he found himself attacked upon both bows at once. To port was one of Admiral


6.6-6.20 p.m.



Beatty's destroyers, the Onslow, to starboard was the Acasta. After Lieutenant‑Commander Tovey in the Onslow had been foiled in his attempt to attack with the Moresby during the run north, he had taken station on the engaged bow of the Lion, and as Admiral Beatty turned east he could see the Wiesbaden, in an excellent position for using his torpedoes, only 6,000 yards away. He immediately dashed at her, firing as he went to within 2,000 yards, when suddenly he found himself upon the port bow of the enemy's battle cruisers. The Onslow at once came under the fire of the advancing ships, but the chance against the battle cruisers was too tempting to resist, and at 8,000 yards from the van ship Lieutenant‑Commander Tovey ordered all torpedoes to be fired. But, as luck would have it, at that very moment a heavy shell struck the Onslow amidships and she was enveloped in clouds of escaping steam. Only one torpedo was got off, but Lieutenant‑Commander Tovey, thinking all had been fired and finding his speed greatly reduced, began to creep away to retire.


He too had missed, but the Acasta had not yet done. As Admiral Hipper returned north‑eastwards she was just leaving the crippled Shark, and Lieutenant‑Commander Barron, seeing the Luetzow coming up on his port quarter, an admirably placed target, turned to attack. With a storm of shell the enemy strove to baffle her attack. Yet undeterred, Lieutenant‑Commander Barron fired. The shot seemed to go fairly home with a great explosion, and he sped away with his boat so torn with shell that she could neither stop nor steer. (The Acasta has been given the credit for having made a successful shot on the Seydlitz during this attack, but it is now known from German sources that the Seydlitz was only torpedoed once - by the Petard, earlier in the action.)


Meanwhile the Onslow had also been busy. Lieutenant­-Commander Tovey, having discovered as he retired that all his torpedoes had not been spent, as he thought, had fired one of them as he passed close to the Wiesbaden, which hit heir fairly under the conning tower. The explosion could be clearly seen and heard, but she did not sink. Scarcely had he noted his success when another and a far more important target presented itself. Some five miles away a whole line of German battleships loomed up in the mist advancing upon him at high speed. What was he to do? He had two tor­pedoes still in his tubes, but his engines were failing, his speed was down to ten knots, and to turn to attack meant almost certain destruction, and yet he turned. One destroyer


May 31, 1916


more or less, so he reasoned, mattered little, while two torpedoes fired from an ideal position might materially affect the action, and in this admirable spirit of devotion he decided to attack again. Making for the advancing battleships he waited till his sights were on, and at 8,000 yards fired his remaining torpedoes. Fair to cross the enemy's line they ran as he struggled away, but the Germans manoeuvred to avoid them, and there was no hit. So bold an attack with a crippled ship deserved a better result, but the sacrifice that he faced was not required of him, and two days later he got safely back to port. (After struggling away from the action the Onslow was taken in tow by the Defender another crippled destroyer, and both succeeded in getting in to Aberdeen on June 2.)


Having avoided the Onslow's attack Admiral Scheer held on again, and so did Admiral Hipper, for ahead of him could be seen one of his ships in sore distress. Burning fiercely lay the helpless Wiesbaden, still afloat, and some British cruisers were pouring into her a concentrated fire. It was Admiral Arbuthnot with the 1st Cruiser Squadron that had appeared in the thick of the fighting. We have last seen him closing in towards the 2nd Cruiser Squadron as the visibility de­creased, till by 5.50 he was right ahead of the Iron Duke. (See Diagram 29 - repeated.)



Diagram 29 - From 5.40 to 6.0


The Warrior was with him, the Duke of Edinburgh two miles to starboard, and the Black Prince out of sight to the westward. At that time the glitter of the Chester's action with Admiral Hipper's light cruisers became visible on his starboard bow, and he turned to port to bring his guns to bear just as Admiral Hipper was turning away from the concentrated fire of our battle cruisers and the 5th Battle Squadron. As the enemy became faintly visible Admiral Arbuthnot opened fire, but seeing his salvoes fall short he turned to the southward, and as he ran down to close saw the Wiesbaden lying disabled and in flames. At the moment when he himself made his turn southward Admiral Beatty had led round to the eastward to keep his teeth in Admiral Hipper, and now the Defence saw the battle cruisers coming up fast from the westward across her course. (See Diagram 30 - repeated.)



Diagram 30 - From 6.0 to 6.15


But Admiral Arbuthnot was not to be baulked. The Battle Orders laid it down clearly that the first duty of cruisers in a fleet action was to engage the enemy's cruisers (prior to deployment their duty was that of reconnaissance in conjunction with, and in support of the light cruisers) and with the Warrior close astern, firing with all guns that would bear he held on so close athwart the Lion's bows that she was forced


5.50‑6.20 p.m.



to deviate from her course to clear, while the Duke of Edinburgh, which was coming down more to the westward, turned east on Admiral Beatty's. disengaged side. Both the Defence and Warrior had already hit the doomed Wiesbaden. Still Admiral Arbuthnot, in spite of straddling salvoes, held on till within 5,500 yards of his prey he turned to starboard. Both ships were now in a hurricane of fire, which the Germans were concentrating with terrible effect to save their burning ship, and there quickly followed yet another of the series of those appalling catastrophes which make this battle so tragic­ally memorable. Four minutes after crossing the Lion's bows, the Defence was hit by two heavy salvoes in quick succes­sion, and the Admiral and his flagship disappeared in a roar of flame (6.20). The Warrior barely escaped a similar fate. Labouring away with damaged engines she was only saved by the Warspite of the 5th Battle Squadron. At the critical moment, for reasons that will appear directly, this ship was seen to leave the line, and flying the "Not under control" signal she made a complete circle round the damaged cruiser. For a while both were in a rain of shell, till the storm of the battle passed to the eastward and they were left in peace. So ended the first bold, if ill‑judged, attempt at individual action by a spirited squadron commander.


Against the loss of one ship Admiral Scheer had now to his credit the destruction of two battle cruisers and one cruiser, but of this he was unaware at the time. (Admiral Jellicoe did not know the extent of his own losses until the forenoon of the following day.)


Suddenly the whole scene changed. As the cloud of smoke and flame in which the Defence had perished died away, the leading ships of the two German lines could see, out of the grey beyond, an interminable line of huge ships stretching across their course with both ends of it lost in the mist. (Hase, Kiel and Jutland, pp. 177‑8.)


For Admiral Scheer, who believed that our fleet was operating in dispersed detachments, the sight came with a shock of surprise. Within range ahead of him a mass of British Dreadnoughts were deploying, and, confident as he might have been in the success of his bold and well‑laid plan, he had met his match. Instead of cutting off a detached squadron of his enemy, as he hoped, he suddenly found himself in present danger of being entrapped by at least the bulk of the Grand Fleet.


Until Admiral Jellicoe was almost in sight of the German battle fleet he still could not tell where it was by several miles. Owing to unavoidable errors in reckoning, the reports he


May 31.1916


had been receiving were too conflicting for more than wide approximation. It was a situation which his long aperience of manceuvres had led him to anticipate, and one against which he had done his best to provide. Seeing that correct deploying depended absolutely on knowing the enemy's exact position, course and speed, he had insisted in his Battle Orders on the importance of securing visual touch at the earliest moment, and had issued a special warning that the necessary precision was not to be expected from wireless. He himself had arranged for visual touch with the Hampshire as connect­ing ship between his light cruiser screen and his advanced scout line, but, as we have seen, the high speed at which he had been coming down ever since he knew the enemy was at sea made it impossible for that line to get far enough ahead. In the battle cruiser force things were still worse.


Though Commodore Goodenough had kept admirable station astern all through, Admiral Beatty in the rapid changes of course in the early part of the action had for a while lost touch with his other two squadrons, and they were not able to get into visual contact again with the Lion until 5.0, when it was too late to extend either of them to link up with the Comman­der‑in‑Chief's advanced screen. Thus it was that Admiral Jellicoe had nothing to guide him but the confusing wireless messages which led him to believe that the German battle fleet must be farther advanced and more to the eastward than it actually was. It was indeed only due to the effect of the preliminary fighting that he was not more seriously misled. During the chase northward Admiral Scheer's fleet had straggled out, and at 5.45, when he began to scent the presence of our battle fleet, he was forced to slacken speed and allow his slower squadrons to close up into battle order. (See Diagram 29 - repeated.)



Diagram 29 - From 5.40 to 6.0


Five minutes later he could hear the Wiesbaden saying she was out of con­trol, and he ordered the fleet to incline two points to starboard towards her. But for this the head of his line must have been some miles more to the westward than it was when it came into view.


In spite of all doubt, however, Admiral Jellicoe, after hearing where the enemy battle cruisers were, was becoming convinced he would have to deploy to the eastward, and (6.8) ordered his three flotillas of destroyers to take up the necessary disposition. (This was Disposition No. 1, under which two flotillas would be to port of the line of approach and one to starboard. Preparatory to deployment, one flotilla would take station three miles on the starboard bow of the star­board wing, and one three miles on the port bow of the port wing, the third being two miles abeam of the port flotilla. On deployment to the eastward he would thus have two flotillas in the van and one in the rear. The three­ mile distance was selected as being the best for enabling flotillas to deliver attacks on the enemy battle fleet and to repel similar attacks on our own.)


But at 6.14, four minutes after he


6.0-6.15 p.m.



had repeated his urgent inquiry as to where the enemy's battle fleet was, all doubt was set at rest. Just before the Lion had cleared the Defence, the head of Admiral Scheer's line suddenly appeared out of the gloom on her starboard beam, and Admiral Beatty signalled "Have sighted the enemy's battle fleet bearing S.S.W." In the course of the next few minutes his leading vessels were heavily engaged with the van of the enemy's battle fleet. The Barham had also seen them to S.S.E.. and was trying to get a message through, but her flags could not be seen, and her wireless was not received till it was too late to be of use.


Many had been the critical situations which British admirals in the past had been called upon suddenly to solve, but never had there been one which demanded higher quali­ties of leadership, ripe judgment and quick decision, than that which confronted Admiral Jellicoe in this supreme moment of the naval war. There was not an instant to lose if deployment were to be made in time. The enemy, instead of being met ahead, were on his starboard side. He could only guess their course. Beyond a few miles every­thing was shrouded in mist; the little that could be seen was no more than a blurred picture, and with every tick of the clock the situation was developing with a rapidity of which his predecessors had never dreamt. At a speed higher than anything in their experience the two hostile fleets were rushing upon each other; battle cruisers, cruisers and destroyers were hurrying to their battle stations, and the vessels steaming across his front were shutting out all beyond in an impenetrable pall of funnel smoke. (In addition to the battle cruisers, several light cruisers and destroyers, the Duke of Edinburgh was pouring forth a dense volume of smoke while the burning Wiesbaden contributed to the general smother.)


Above all was the roar of battle both ahead and to starboard, and in this blind distraction Admiral Jellicoe had to make the decision on which the fortunes of his country hung.


His first and natural impulse was, he says, to deploy on the starboard flank, which was nearest to the enemy. (Jellicoe, The Grand Fleet, 1914‑16, p. 348.) But for this the decisive intelligence had come too late and he was too near. Heavy shells were already failing between the lines of his divisions, and if he deployed, as his natural impulse was, it would mean that Admiral Burney, whose


May 31, 1916


squadron was the oldest and least powerful in the fleet, would receive the concentrated fire of the enemy's best ships' and almost certainly a heavy destroyer attack while in the act of deployment. To increase the disadvantage he would be compelled as he deployed to turn to port in order to avoid having his "T" crossed, and this would mean that the fleet would be turning at least twelve points in the thick of the enemy's fire, and, what is still more important, the action would be opened well within torpedo range of the enemy's battleships ‑ a hazard which in Admiral Jellicoe's system it was vital to avoid.


It is scarcely to be doubted that his reasoning was correct. We now know that such an opening with the visibility as low as it was would have given his adversary exactly the opportunity he prayed for. The tactics on which Admiral Scheer's whole conception of offensive action with an inferior fleet was undoubtedly based were a rapid and overwhelming concentration with gun and torpedo on part of his oppo­nent's line, followed by a withdrawal under cover of a smoke screen before a counter‑concentration could be brought to bear ‑ a bold manceuvre which the High Seas Fleet had persistently practised. A possible alternative for Admiral Jellicoe was deployment on the flagship in the centre, but this was too complicated at such a juncture. Nothing, then, remained but to form his line to port on Admiral Jerram, and at 6.15 he signalled for him to lead the deployment S.E. by E.


(To continue the course S.E. would have led nearer to the enemy, but for this there was no clear signal. Equal speed deployment could he signalled with a numeral flag indicating the number of points away from the course the fleet was on, but the signal had never been made with a zero flag. After a rapid consultation with his staff, Admiral Jellicoe decided that an unfamiliar signal made at such a juncture was too hazardous, and might well lead to confusion. He therefore did the next best thing, by ordering a course S.E. by E. ‑ that is, one point away from his S.E. course. Deployment south-westward on his starboard wing would have involved the fleets passing each other on opposite courses and leave open to the enemy a clear line of retreat to the northward. See Diagram 31 - repeated.)




Diagram 31 - The Deployment: From 6.15 to 6.26


The wisdom of the decision was quickly apparent. Scarcely had Admiral Burney turned his division when it came under fire from the van of the German fleet at about 14,000 yards ‑ a range which was within the effective capacity of the long‑range torpedoes of the enemy's capital ships. (The German ships had a much stronger torpedo armament than our own. ­All of them had from four to six submerged tubes. The best armed of ours had four, and half of them only two. On the other hand, our gun armament was greatly superior, and for this reason Admiral Jellicoe judged that to get the utmost advantage he must engage at not less than 15,000 yards, which was deemed to be the effective range of the enemy's torpedo.)


6.15‑6.20 p.m.



It was only as the smoke of the vessels steaming across his front slowly drifted clear that the divisions turning ahead of Admiral Burney could successively come to his assistance, but fortunately he had other and more powerful support. When Admiral Evan‑Thomas first sighted the Marlborough he believed that the fleet had already deployed: it was too thick for any other division to be seen, and he concluded that she was leading the line. By that time he had turned to the eastward after Admiral Beatty, and like him was steering to cross ahead of the enemy. He was again hotly engaged, and as he was on a course that converged with that of Admiral Burney at a greatly superior speed he was gradually drawing into his battle station ahead of the Marlborough. But the real state of the case quickly became plain.


As he drew ahead he could see that the fleet was only just forming line, and that the deployment was consequently to the east­ward. In these circumstances his proper battle station was at the head of the line with the battle cruisers. But to reach that position was now out of the question. To follow Admiral Beatty across the front of the battle fleet would make the interference worse than it already was, and he decided his only course was to make a wide turn and lead on as best he could into his alternative battle station astern. (By the Battle Orders, if the fleet deployed towards Heligoland, as it was now doing, both he and Admiral Beatty were to take station ahead. Otherwise he would be astern, with the battle cruisers ahead.)


In waters alive as they now were with rapidly moving ships it was no easy task. With Admiral Beatty's light cruisers and destroyers as well as the flotillas of the battle fleet making for their own battle stations in all directions, the manoeuvre called for nerve and dexterity of a high order. To add to the hazard the Warspite's steering gear began to give way under the wounds she had received. As she put her helm over it jammed, and this was why she swerved out of the line just in time to save the Warrior, and how as she circled round the crippled cruiser the two ships became the focus of the enemy's fire. The Onslow, limping away, saw the Warspite apparently stopped in a forest of water spouts, doomed as it seemed to destruction, but replying to the enemy's fire with all her guns ‑ an inspiring sight for the lonely destroyer. (The Fighting at Jutland, p. 258.) With his other three ships Admiral Evan‑Thomas led on, and dropping neatly into his station, re‑opened a fire, the accuracy and the effect of which were the admiration of friend and foe. (See Diagram 32.)




Diagram 32 - The Main Action. From 6.26 to 6.35


At the other end of the line there was an equally fine


May 31, 1916


stroke of seamanship. Shortly after 6.0 p.m., while Admiral Hood was still engaging the enemy's light cruisers, he heard firing to the westward and turned towards it. Not a ship was to he seen, but the distant thud of guns soon increased to a continuous roll of thunder, and the horizon was lit by whirling sheets of flame. Then out of the lurid obscurity appeared the Lion and her sisters in hot fight, and he held on to meet them with the fine intention of turning up ahead of their van. It was no easy feat. For at this juncture the torpedo attack which Admiral Hipper had launched to cover his retirement developed. As our battle cruisers turned to avoid it the line was thrown into confusion. But no harm was done. The torpedoes passed harmlessly, the line quickly re‑formed and in the most brilliant manner Admiral Hood swung his squadron into station ahead of the Lion. (The Invincible and Indomitable turned away to starboard, the Inflexible which was rear ship, to port.)


It was all high testimony to what training and seamanship could achieve. Such maze of crossing ships were the waters at both ends of the line in which the deployment took place that officers held their breath, collisions seemed inevitable, but all went well, and in that fateful hour was reaped the harvest which in the long years of preparation had been laboriously sown by Admiral Jellicoe and his predecessors, Sir Arthur Wilson, Sir Francis Bridgeman, Sir William May and Sir George Callaghan.


Thus did Admiral Jellicoe attain the tactical position which, on his unrivalled experience of manoeuvres and exercises under those masters, he had regarded as the most desirable. "Action on approximately similar courses," he wrote in his Battle Orders, "will be one of the underlying objects of my tactics, because it is the form of action likely to give the most decisive results." He was in single line with a fast division ahead and astern and every prospect of engaging the enemy on similar courses. For as soon as the Gerinans realised that large forces were in front of them the Koenig had led to the eastward on a course which they prob­ably took to be parallel to that of the enemy (6.27).


It was in fact parallel to the course Admiral Beatty was steering to get ahead of the battle fleet, and the haze and smoke must have effectually prevented Admiral Scheer from seeing that our deployment was being made on a course that sharply converged with his own. Possibly also the movement was made to cover Admiral Hipper, who, five minutes earlier, under the fire of our battle cruisers, had turned to the southward on a nearly parallel course with


6.20-6.30 a.m.



Admiral Hood, and was again suffering severely, the Luetzow herself being hardly under control.


While Admiral Scheer was thus apparently trying to meet a situation which he had not yet fathomed, to Admiral Jellicoe it gradually became plain. He had just settled down on the deployment course, but as Admiral Beatty was head­ing to cross he had to reduce speed to 14 knots to allow the battle cruisers to clear. Now, however, their smoke so far drifted away that he could get occasional glimpses of the German ships as the sun declined in the north‑west and now and then lit one or more of them up. He could see they were turning to the eastward, with our battle cruisers hotly engag­ing their van. Obviously it was the moment to deliver the crushing blow for which his whole tactical scheme was devised, and eager to seize the occasion he signalled for the fleet to turn to south‑south‑east by sub‑divisions in order to close, But a moment's reflection convinced him he must forgo the move.


The necessity for reducing speed to let Admiral Beatty get clear had checked an otherwise perfect deployment; ships astern of him became bunched, and his two rear squad­rons had not yet reached the turning point. There was thus an awkward angle in the line, and in such a position the movement would have rendered it practically impossible to complete the deployment. There was, moreover, a further difficulty. Though Admiral Beatty, by increasing to twenty­-six knots, had cleared the rear of the line, he was still masking the van and rapidly converging on the battleships, while Admiral Jerram was inclining to port away from the enemy in order to obtain more sea room. There was nothing, there­fore, for Admiral Jellicoe to do but cancel the signal and hold on as he was, nor was it till 6.33 that the battle cruisers were well enough ahead to allow him to increase again to his battle speed of seventeen knots.


Thus the enforced passage of Admiral Beatty across the battle front, due to the sudden appearance at the moment of contact of the enemy battle fleet on an unexpected bearing, which necessitated deployment on the port wing, spoiled a promising opening to the action. The first duty of our battle cruisers, as laid down in the Grand Fleet Battle Orders, was to destroy the enemy battle cruisers. It was incumbent upon them also at the commencement of an action to take up their battle station at the head of our line in order to frustrate any attempt on the part of the enemy battle cruisers to attack the van of our battle fleet with torpedoes at long range. In the circumstances Admiral Beatty's movement was inevitable.


It was not indeed till this time (about 6.30) that the


May 31, 1916


flagship in the centre got into action with the enemy's battle fleet. As the Koenig led round to the eastward the Iron Duke and the ships astern fired at her and any enemy vessels they could see, but now it was only here and there between the slowly drifting patches of smoke‑laden haze that they could occasionally get a target.


At 6.32 Admiral Beatty reached his station ahead of the battle fleet. Ahead of him again was Admiral Hood with his three battle cruisers, leading the fleet, and leading it in a manner worthy of the honoured name he bore. Upon him was concentrated the fire of three or four of Admiral Hipper's five ships. (The Luetzow had apparently fallen out of the line, and possibly another was keeping her company. Admiral Napier, who was close by with part of the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron, reports coming across two detached battle cruisers steering east. They engaged him with their secondary armament, and both his ships fired torpedoes at the leading enemy.)


Under pressure of the oncoming British Dreadnoughts they had turned again to the southward. For the past ten minutes the action between them and the "Invincibles" had been growing hot upon similar courses, and Admiral Hood with Capt A. L. Cay, his flag‑captain, at his side was directing it from the bridge. Having the advantage of the light he was giving more than he received. The range was down below 9,000 yards, but it was the greatest that visibility would permit, and he was doing too well to alter. "Several shells," says Commander von Hase of the Derfflinger, "pierced our ship with a terrific force and exploded with a tremendous roar which shook every seam and rivet. The captain had again frequently to steer the ship out of the line to get clear of the hail of fire."


So heavy was the punishment he was inflicting that Admiral Hood hailed Com­mander Dannreuther, his gunnery officer, in the control top, and called to him, "Your firing is very good. Keep at it as quickly as you can. Every shot is telling." They were the last words he is known to have spoken. Just then the mist was riven and from the Derfflinger her tormentor was suddenly silhouetted against a light patch of sky. Then as another salvo from the Invincible straddled her she began rapid salvoes in reply, in which probably the Koenig joined with as many. One after another they went home on the Invincible. Flames shot up from the gallant flagship, and there came again the awful spectacle of a fiery burst, followed by a huge column of dark smoke which, mottled with blackened debris, swelled up hundreds of feet in the air, and the mother of all battle cruisers had gone to join the other two that were no more. As her two consorts





swerved round her seething death‑bed they could see she was rent in two; her stem and stern rose apart high out of the troubled waters as though she had touched the bottom, and near by a group of half a dozen men were clinging to a life raft, cheering the ships as they raced by to continue the fight. (The survivors were Commander H. E. Dannreuther, Lieutenant C. S. Sandford, C.P.O. Thompson and three other ratings, most of whom had been in the control top. They were picked up by the Badger, of the 1st Flotilla.) So in the highest exultation of battle ‑ doing all a man could do for victory ‑ the intrepid Admiral met his end, gilding in his death with new lustre the immortal name of Hood.











THE explosion in which the Invincible perished heralded a new phase of the action. A period of manoeuvring ensued comparable with, that when from May 28 to June 1 Lord Howe strove to bring Villaret-Joyeuse to action a hundred and twenty‑two years before. But now a tactical contest of days was condensed into hours. Admiral Scheer had come suddenly upon his enemy in the act of deployment, but instead of being able to throw him into confusion by a concentrated attack on part of his line, he found his own van being enveloped by a superior force ready for action. Persuaded as he was by the reports of his submarines that the Grand Fleet had been split up, he did not as yet realise that he was face to face with the whole of it. But he could divine enough. Out of the mist which shrouded his enemy, fire was coming from about eight points of the compass. Fortunately for him, the smoke‑laden air was saving him from the full weight of it.


The British battle fleet had almost completed its deployment, and although it also was baffled by patches of mist and hanging smoke that appeared and dissolved at intervals so that only a few of the enemy could be seen at a time, nearly all ships were firing and getting hits, while they themselves suffered not at all. The head of the German line was already being smashed in. The Luetzow was com­pletely disabled, and Admiral Hipper was about to board a destroyer in order to shift his flag. The Derfflinger, with her masts and rigging cut to shreds and water pouring through a large hole in her bows as she rose and fell to the swell, was little better off. The head of the German battle line was being forced to the eastward, and one of the "Koenigs " was seen to be blazing fore and aft.(Several of our vessels reported this ship as having sunk shortly after­wards (Jutland Despatches (Cmd. 1068), p. 18). What they mistook for a sinking ship was probably the disabled Luetzow.)


So boldly had Captain E. H. F. Heaton‑Ellis in the Inflexible led on past the wreck


6.30-6.35 p.m.



of the lost flagship, that the rest of the German battle cruisers, thinking it must be the van of our battle fleet, swerved away to the westward (6.35). (See Diagram 32 - repeated.)



Diagram 32 - The Main Action. From 6.26 to 6.35


Admiral Scheer thus found himself in an awkward predica­ment. Completely out‑manoeuvred, he had no choice but to get his neck out of the noose. But this was no easy matter. To retire in succession was not to be thought of, for the turning point would be a deathtrap as the long line of the enemy's fleet encircled it, while, on the other hand, his own fleet was in nearly the worst possible position for a turn away together. His rear had not yet reached the eastward turning point, and was still steering north‑east; his van battle division was going south‑east, so that as the battle cruisers had turned to the westward he had three kinks in his line. Yet a turn together was his only chance. Even though the extended order in which his ships were steaming allowed them ample room to manoeuvre, to attempt such a thing with the fleet as it was and under fire was attended with no small risk, but the exigency had been foreseen and a special measure pro­vided to meet it. (Admiral Scheer's plans show his ships to have been at this time between four and five cables apart. In the Grand Fleet, ships in column were two and a half cables apart.)


In the German tactical manuals it was termed the Gefechtskehrtwendung (battle turn away), a simultaneous withdrawal analogous to that attributed to the French at the end of the sailing period which had baffled our greatest tacticians to counter. So vital was it for an inferior fleet to be able to disengage at any moment that it had been sedulously practised by the Germans in all conditions of the line. This was well known to us, and in the exercises we had practised since the war began, an effective reply to the manoeuvre had constantly been sought, but none had been found.


The only possible means of preventing the enemy's escape was a resolute and immediate chase, but to baffle pursuit the Kehrtwendung was to be made under cover of a destroyer attack and a smoke screen which would at once conceal the direction of the retreat and check the pursuit. A century earlier, in the days of close action, slow speed, and towering masts, such devices for concealing tactical movements would have been of little avail, but under modern conditions in the misty North Sea, with fleets engaging at high speed on the limits of visibility, they had every chance of success.


Yet it was not without misgiving that Admiral Scheer


May 31, 1916


decided to perform the manoeuvre. It had never been at­tempted under fire, several of his ships were crippled, the fleets were very close, and should the enemy, with his superior speed, penetrate his intention and turn to follow, his situation would be perilous in the extreme. But, like the resolute commander he proved himself to be, he did not hesitate, and at 6.33, just after the Invincible blew up, he made the manoeuvring signal, at the same time launching his destroyers to deliver their covering attack and to set up the protecting smoke screen. (The signal read: Turn together sixteen points to starboard and form single line ahead in the opposite direction.) The effect was all he could desire. In two or three minutes his fleet, already only visible from the British ships by glimpses, had disappeared, and all firing ceased. (See Diagram 33.)




Diagram 33 - From 6.35 to 6.45


It soon appeared to Admiral Jellicoe that the enemy must have turned away, though whether they had turned right back to the south‑westward, directly away from him, or to a course for Heligoland, he was unable to discover. What was he to do? An immediate turn by divisions, in order to follow, was out of the question. It would have placed his fleet in a position directly open to a possibly overwhelming attack from the long‑range torpedoes in the enemy's capital ships; and this, it must be remembered, was a danger, at that time new and unmeasured, to which no capable tactician could venture to expose his fleet, above all in the opening stages of an action. Nor did the viciousness of the expedient end here. For it would have brought the German destroyers directly ahead of the advancing British fleet, in the best possible position for launching every available torpedo.


A turn in succession was equally undesirable, for though fewer ships would have been laid open to torpedo attack, the fleet must have been led straight into the waters now occupied by the enemy. Such a hazard could not be accepted. The German capital ships were all believed to carry mines, and might reasonably be expected to lay them as they retired. Nor would such a turn have enabled the British fleet to re‑engage immediately, for some minutes had elapsed since the enemy had turned and the range was opening rapidly.


Another alternative was to turn right round to the west­ward and so maintain his position to the northward, but this would only have brought the enemy upon a bow bearing instead of ahead, and the torpedo menace would not have been appreciably reduced. The only way in which this difficulty could have been even partially met was to divide the


6.35‑6.45 p.m.



fleet and undoubtedly in clear weather and with plenty of daylight something might possibly have been done in this way to foil the enemy's evasive tactics. But in the prevailing atmospheric conditions, and so late in the day, co‑ordination between independent squadrons would have been impossible, and the well‑known risk which for two centuries had forced all navies to cling to the single line of battle in spite of all its drawbacks ‑ the risk of independent squadrons being over­whelmed individually by a concentrated enemy ‑ would have been very great in the prevailing conditions and in the face of so able a tactician as Admiral Scheer.


The alternative to forcing the enemy to engage by the independent action of squadrons was to follow him up closelyy with the whole fleet. With a sufficient superiority of speed it has always been regarded as the most effective method, but the introduction of minelayers and submarines had re­stricted its merit, and as early as October, 1914, Admiral Jellicoe, in a memorandum he submitted to the Admiralty, had explained the modification of the time‑honoured tactics which the new developments involved.


In certain conditions, which were those in which he considered it most likely the German fleet would be met, he did not intend "to comply with enemy tactics by moving in the invited direction." "If, for instance," he wrote, "the enemy were to turn away from an advancing fleet, I should assume the intention was to lead us over mines and submarines, and should decline to be so drawn." In reply he received from the new Board, which Lord Fisher had just joined as First Sea Lord, an assurance "of their full confidence in your contemplated conduct of the fleet in action." (Jutland Despatches, p. 601.) After six months' experience of the war his views were unshaken, and on April 5, 1915, he had again submitted his intentions to the Board for approval, and again no exception was taken to them.


But, as it happened, the principles laid down in these memoranda did little or nothing to affect his tactics. The situation on his first contact.with the High Seas Fleet differed from that which the memoranda contemplated. True he had every reason to believe that submarines were present. He knew many were in the North Sea, and ship after ship reported sighting one. The situation he had visualised in the memor­anda was one in which the enemy would be seeking an action in the open sea deliberately. Now he kniew he had surprised them and that there was little risk of their having time to prepare a minefield or even a submarine trap. The domina­ting consideration of the movement he made was therefore quite different from that which his memoranda emphasised,


May 31, 1916


and his "contemplated conduct of the fleet in action" in no way affected what followed.


In the constant search before the battle for an effective counter to the manceuvre which he had so surely foreseen, and with which he was now faced, he had come to the con­clusion that "nothing but ample time and superior speed can be an answer, and this means that unless the meeting of the fleets takes place fairly early in the day, it is most difficult, if not impossible, to fight the action to a finish." But the day was already far advanced, and in the face of Admiral Scheer's evasive tactics and of the low visibility it is difficult to see, even now, how the action, so well begun, could have been pushed to a decision.


Nothing then remained for Admiral Jellicoe, since he could not tell in what direction the enemy had retired, but to place himself as soon as possible athwart their line of retreat to the Bight, for along that line, sooner or later, they were almost certain to be discovered. His ships were so disposed as to be able instantly to form line of battle on a course parallel to that line, and in order to maintain them in this disposition, Admiral Jellicoe now turned by divisions to south‑east (6.44) as the best means of attaining the required position, so far as he could divine the situation. (See Diagram 34.)




Diagram 34 - From 6.45 to 6.56


It was still obscure, and from the battle cruisers, who being three miles on the starboard bow of the battle fleet, had been in a better position to gauge what had happened than himself, he obtained little help to penetrate it. They also had ceased firing, a sure indication that the enemy were not yet heading for their base ‑ the more so since he could see that Admiral Beatty was hauling round gradually to starboard. Accordingly, having no news of the enemy from the van, as soon as his turn was complete (6.50) he signalled to Admiral Burney, who was furthest to the westward, "Can you see any enemy battleships? " The reply was, "No!" For Admiral Jellicoe this was enough. Convinced that he had now made enough to the eastward to bring him between the enemy and their base, he ordered the guides of his divisions to lead four more points to star­board, and signalled to, the battle cruiser squadrons that the course of the fleet was now south (6.54).


This course had already been anticipated by Captain Kennedy, who was now senior officer of what was left of Admiral Hood's squadron, and for the past five minutes the Inflexible, which was still leading, had been steering south. Some minutes elapsed before Admiral Beatty received this


6.35‑7.0 p.m.



course from the Commander‑in‑Chief (Admiral Beatty in his despatch of June 12 states that he did not receive the signal till 7.6), but, having followed the Inflexible's lead, he too was steering south.


Nothing was in sight, and to maintain his station on the battle fleet he now (6.55) reduced speed to eighteen knots. At the same time, ordering the Inflexible and Indomitable to take station astern of him, he began to circle to starboard, but owing to a failure of the gyro compass the turn was carried much farther than he intended before the defect was noticed. The consequence was that a complete circle had to he made, so that by 7.1 he was once again where he had been when the turn started. (See Diagram 35.)




Diagram 35 - From 6.56 to 7.12


The effect of the mishap was to delay his progress to the southward by about seven minutes, and when he received the Commander‑in‑Chief's signal to steer south, he was already heading to the south‑westward to regain touch with the enemy with the Inflexible and Indomitable in station in rear of his line.


The German smoke screen had, in fact, been entirely successful, but the half‑hearted destroyer attack had failed. A few torpedoes crossed our lines, and to avoid them some divisions had to turn away, but they had little or no effect on Admiral Jellicoe's closing movement. Just as it was com­plete, however. Admiral Burney signalled that his flagship, the Marlborough, had been hit by a torpedo. Where it came from is difficult to say, but so far as can be seen it was most probably fired by the Wiesbaden, which was still afloat. The blow was severe, but not fatal; the Marlborough was not even put out of action. As for the ill‑fated Wiesbaden, her gallant struggle was near its inevitable end. Being the only enemy ship now visible, she came under a heavier fire than ever, and some ten minutes later the flames with which she had been struggling were quenched beneath the sea.


Meanwhile, Admiral Scheer, with his line disordered by the Kehrtwendung manoeuvre, had turned to the westward. His four Dreadnought divisions in reverse order were disposed quarterly, that is, in echelon, with the rear division leading; south of them the two pre‑Dreadnought divisions, similarly disposed, were trying to get into station ahead, while Admiral Hipper's battered battle cruisers were coming up on his port quarter. The leading ships had been badly damaged, but at this cost Admiral Scheer cleverly extricated his fleet from the trap in which his adversary had so nearly caught him, and could hope to steal away in night cruising order with considerable success to


May 31, 1916


his credit. But for escape in this way it was still too early. There was more than an hour to sunset, and in the long twi­light of those latitudes it was too dangerous to attempt. (Sunset was at 8.7.)


Crippled as many of his ships were, they might well be over­taken, and long before dark the enemy would be able, if he came south ‑ which Admiral Jellicoe was actually doing ‑ to force him to action again with every advantage. The result could only be a severe reverse, and since his enemy would be in a position to cut him off from the Bight, it might well mean annihilation. "There was," he says, "only one way of avoiding this." (Jutland Despatches, p. 594.)


It was to advance again regardless of consequences and launch all his destroyers against our line. The manoeuvre, he calculated, could not fail after his last move to come as a surprise that would upset his enemy's plans for the rest of the day, and if the attack was only pushed home with enough violence on some part of their line he could hope to escape for the night. It was a desperate expedient, but emboldened by the skill with which his captains had carried out the last Kehrtwendung under fire, he determined to stake his fate upon it. His idea, so he says, was to strike at the enemy's centre under cover of a destroyer attack while the battle cruisers held our van, and shortly before 7.0 he signalled the fleet to turn back together 16 points to starboard ‑ i.e., back to the eastward.


(The analogy between the explanation which Admiral Scheer gives of his conduct at this time and the Trafalgar Memorandum is so close that the inspiration is evident. We have a fast advance squadron, a main body of Dreadnoughts with a reserve of pre‑Dreadnoughts, as well as the two attacks on centre and van. Compare also Admiral Scheer's comment (High Seas Fleet, p. 155): " The manoeuvre would be bound to surprise the enemy and upset his plans for the rest of the day," with Nelson's remark to Keats (Despatches vii, 241 note): " I think it will surprise and confound the enemy. They won't know what I am about." But Nelson added: "It will bring forward a pell‑mell battle, and that is what 1 want," while Admiral Scheer concludes: "If the blow fell heavily it would facilitate breaking loose at night." Further falsity in the analogy is that Nelson, fighting close with short‑range guns, had no fear of mutual interference of squadrons. More­over, under modern conditions of high freedom of movement and long‑range guns, any part of the attacked fleet could at once succour another. Under sail it could not do so, and it was on this that Nelson mainly relied for success against a superior enemy. It would almost seem, indeed, that Admiral Scheer fell into the not uncommon error of endeavouring to apply a historical precedent without sufficiently considering the extent to which development of material reduced its applicability to the conditions of his own time. It may at least be taken as a reminder that the value of history in the art of war is not only to elucidate the resemblance of past and present, but also their essential differences.)


Such is the explanation of his intentions which Admiral Scheer chose to give to the world. It may well be that he


6.35‑7.0 p.m.



justly gauged the appetite and the ignorance of the German public in naval matters, but it cannot be reconciled with his high reputation as a tactician, or even with sanity. In the relative dispositions of the two fleets as he judged them to be, to thrust at the enemy's centre in line ahead was deliber­ately to expose himself to having his "T" crossed by a superior fleet, and we may well believe, as is told, that sub­sequently his Chief‑of‑Staff remarked that had he attempted such a stroke in manoeuvres he would have been promptly ordered to haul down his flag. Fortunately the ascertained facts of this phase of the action indicate clearly enough that his intentions were very different and much wiser.


From his own diagrams we know that when he turned away sixteen points at 6.35 he believed the British fleet was disposed on an are extending from east by south of him to north‑east by north about seven miles distant, and that it was steering south‑eastward. Assuming a normal battle speed of 18 knots, this would mean that at 7.0, when he had turned back eastward for his alleged attempt at the centre, his enemy would be some fifteen miles away on an arc bearing from him between south‑east and east. The diagrams further show that at this time he thought he could see "individual heavy enemy ships " (which he took to be Queen Elizabeths ") bearing north‑east seven miles, and just turning to the eastward, and on these his van opened fire as it came on the easterly course. (What he saw was probably the isolated Warspite, and Commodore Goodenough's squadron, which had seen the turn to the eastward.)


Possibly the sight of them may have suggested that the enemy's fleet had been divided in order to force him to action. If so the counter movement was obvious. A course to the east would cut off the detached ships and at the same time give a fair chance of crossing astern of the main body. Further, the course would carry him past the Wiesbaden, whose crew he was bent on rescuing, and once clear to the eastward he would have his enemy at gunnery advantage against the western horizon. From such a position, moreover, each time he launched his destroyers to attack he would be driving the enemy further off the line of retreat to Horn Reefs. Such a device then for extricating his fleet from the trap in which he found himself was much more to be expected from his ability than the incredible folly of which it was his humour to accuse himself. It is scarcely to be doubted therefore that he was already seeking "to break loose," as he says. That he hoped to surprise his enemy is equally credible, but Admiral Jellicoe


May 31, 1916


had penetrated the situation acutely enough to be ready for him, and again it was Admiral Scheer who was surprised.


At 6.55 Admiral Jellicoe had turned south, and when he had been on this course for five minutes a message came in from the Lion saying " Enemy are to westward." (See Diagram 35 - repeated.)



Diagram 35 - From 6.56 to 7.12


The information only went to confirm him that he was in the position he desired, and at 7.5 he turned three points to starboard in order to close. He knew almost immediately that Admiral Scheer's movement had been accurately detected. As usual, Commodore Goodenough with the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron was where he was most wanted. Having clung to the enemy as long as possible during the running fight north, he had not followed Admiral Beatty across the front of the battle fleet, but when in the deployment the 5th Battle Squadron formed up in rear of the line, he had taken his proper battle station on its starboard quarter. There he remained during the first of the fighting, but when the enemy disappeared he ran down to the southward to try to regain touch.


Thus when the Koenig led back to the eastward he was only 12,000 yards away, and immediately came under fire. But, as before, he stoutly held his ground till at 7.4 he was able to report that the enemy had turned back. (Southampton to S.O., R.C.F. Urgent. Priority. Enemy battle fleet steering E.S.E. Enemy bears from me S.S.W. Number unknown. My position lat. 57¼ 02' N., 6¼ 07 E.) Then he withdrew again to his station ‑ with another bold and well‑judged piece of cruiser work added to his already fine record.


The information made clear to the Commander‑in‑Chief beyond all doubt that what he had already prepared for was coming. A few minutes after he had made the turn together to close the enemy, the ships immediately ahead of him reported a submarine a little on the port bow. Unaware that it was but one of the many false alarms that day, he im­mediately turned upon it. The turn, which was to the south again, had the additional advantage of bringing back his columns into line ahead, ready for any required manoeuvre, and it was high time; for now he could see a number of destroyers, apparently supported by a light cruiser, ap­proaching on his starboard bow. Astern of him Admiral Sturdee saw them too, and at 7.8 signalled to the Commander­in‑Chief "Enemy destroyers south‑west." A minute or two later, when the southerly turn was complete, Admiral Burney was seen to be re‑opening fire. Out of the mist to the west­ward the van of the enemy's fleet was just coming into sight,


7.0‑7.15 p.m.



and it was on them he was firing. Six minutes earlier he had fired his last salvo at the Wiesbaden, and now he could see what he took to be the Koenig and some of her sisters on his starboard bow, and at 7.12 his division had everything in action ‑ primary armament on the ships and secondary on the 3rd Flotilla which was now attacking.


The Marlborough opened a devastating fire on the leading ship. Fourteen salvoes were fired in six minutes, and of these at least four gave distinct hits. In the sixth salvo a large cloud of grey and white smoke sprang up near the enemy's foremast, while in the twelfth two hits could be clearly seen under the bridge and rather low. (See Diagram 36).




Diagram 36 - From 7.12 to 7.18


The Revenge, Admiral Burney's second ship, took the enemy for "Kaiser" class battleships. She too opened fire on the leading ship, but seeing that her target was already under a heavy fire, she shifted on to the fourth ship and fired rapid salvoes. Sixteen in all were fired, and several hits were observed.


The third ship of the division, the Hercules, seeing three battle cruisers to the left of these battleships, opened fire upon the second of them, and scored hits with her fifth and sixth salvoes, while the Revenge, her next ahead, reports firing a torpedo, which was seen to run true, at the rear battle cruiser, the Von der Tann. Following the Hercules was the Agincourt, the rear ship, and she too saw four enemy battleships, which she rightly judged to be their 5th Division, appearing out of the mist. She opened fire at 11,000 yards, obtained four straddles and observed effective hits.


Meanwhile our 5th Division, led by Admiral Gaunt in the Colossus, had also come into action. The division was well ahead of the Marlborough, so it was the enemy battle cruisers that became the target as they appeared out of the mist upon the starboard eam. They were very close, and at ranges between 9,000 and 8,000 yards all four ships poured in an overwhelming fire, to which the German ships were unable to make any effective reply. The Colossus alone was hit by two shells, which only inflicted minor damage.


Admiral Jellicoe could see his rear divisions in hot action, though in the smother of the fight the ships could not be made out with certainty. But whatever the enemy was that was coming into action, it was evident to the Commander-­in‑Chief that his rear was dangerously threatened, and he signalled (7.12) to Admiral Burney to form into line astern of the 4th Division. At the same time Admiral Sturdee, who, according to the established rule, had inclined two


May 31. 1916


points away from the destroyers, conformed to his inten­tion by turning up astern of him. As the enemy came on and the position became clear, Admiral Jellicoe saw that by completing his line of battle he could cross his adversary's " T," and at 7.16 he ordered Admiral Jerram to take station ahead. So, at last, the battle fleet had its turn, and in a few minutes nearly the whole of it was engaged at ranges between 9,000 and 12,000 yards in an overwhelming attack on the enemy's battle cruisers and the van of their battle fleet. At 7.13 the Iron Duke opened fire on the Koenig, followed by the rest of the centre squadron at ranges varying from 11,000 to over 14,000 yards, according as battle cruisers or battleships gave them a target through the smoke of the enemy's guns and burning ships. Admiral Jerram's squadron also came into action with the enemy battleships a minute or two later, but at longer ranges.


Thus it was that when Admiral Scheer on his easterly course came in sight of the Grand Fleet he found his opponent had surprised him in the worst possible position. Instead of gaining a clear path to eastward, he was rushing to destruction into the arms of a much superior force disposed on a quadrant athwart his course. So much he could see, but little more. For the Grand Fleet was to him nothing but a long vista of formidable shapes half seen in the increasing gloom of the eastern horizon, while groups of his own ships from time to time were defined between the shifting veils of mist against the glow of the western horizon.


For the second time he found himself enveloped in a flaming arc of gun‑flashes, and now they were so near that his predicament was more critical than ever. The surprise had been complete, and realising at once that his plan for extricating his fleet had been baffled, he saw his only chance of escape was to risk another Kehrtwendung, and he immediately (about 7.12) launched his destroyers to attack and raise a smoke screen in order to cover the precarious manoeuvre. This time the conditions rendered it even more dangerous than before. (See Diagram 37.)




Diagram 37 - From 7.18 to 7.27


The enemy was closer and his line was as badly bent. The van had already turned on a similar course to the enemy to bring their guns to bear, and they were under a heavy and accurate fire, which threatened every moment to grow more violent and destruc­tive as the range decreased. The British fire was rapidly extending from rear to van, and for the German battle cruisers the situation was specially desperate, but, unequal as was the contest, they had to stand the punishment. For no sooner had Admiral Scheer sent out his destroyers than he saw the





cover they could afford was not enough, and that something more must be done and done quickly if the Kehrtwendung was not to end in disaster. There was nothing for it but the battle cruisers. If need was they must be sacrificed to save the battle fleet, and in desperation he had ordered them to press home a forlorn attack on the enemy's van. (Admiral Scheer's confused narrative (High Seas Fleet, pp. 156‑7) leaves the order of events uncertain at this point, but Commander von Hase (Kiel and Jutland, p. 196) clearly states that the signal for the battle cruisers to "push home their attack was made at the same time as that for the Kehrtwendung ‑ that is, about 7.12. According to Admiral Scheer's diagrams (Jutland Despatches) the latter signal was hauled down five minutes later.)


For such an exigency the Germans had a signal corre­sponding to our old ones for attacking the van, centre or rear, and for close action. But their love of heroic gesture was not content with such simplicity. They called it "Ran an den feind," literally "charge the enemy" - a headlong rush on the objective indicated regardless of consequences ‑ and the signification of the signal was " Press for a decision with every means at your disposal. Charge. Ram." (Cf., Hase (Kiel and Jutland, p. 125), who says that the signal entered in the log was " Charge the enemy. Ram. Ships denoted are to attack without regard to consequences.")


The battle cruisers were still under the command of Captain Hartog of the Derfflinger, for Admiral Hipper had not yet been able to transfer his flag; the Luetzow was out of action and still burning, and Captain Hartog had only just succeeded in forming the four that were left into line. All were badly damaged, but Captain Hartog, without flinching, led off on his "death ride" against the British van.


To call it a "death ride," as they did, was no exaggeration, even had they been less crippled than they were. Admiral Gaunt's division was still upon them, and most of the divi­sions of the battle fleet to port of him, though all were now engaged in repelling the destroyer attacks, were also firing at the devoted German battle cruisers as they came from time to time into view against the western glow, while away before their port beam Admiral Beatty had found them again.


At 7.10, when the battle fleet came into action, he was about eight miles to the south‑eastward of Admiral Burney and three miles sharp on the port bow of Admiral Jerram. Ten minutes earlier, having turned to the same course as the battle fleet and steaming at eighteen knots to keep his station on the port wing, he began to haul to starboard to try to regain touch with the enemy, till he was going south‑west by south. On this course at 7.15, being then from two to three miles further to the eastward than the battleship division


May 31, 1916


which was nearest to the enemy, he suddenly made out some of the German ships west‑north‑west of him. They were over 18,000 yards away, but as the sun had now sunk behind the clouds the visibility in that direction had improved so much that in a couple of minutes he could open fire, and at the same time he increased speed to head off what he took to he the van of the enemy's line. (The Lion's first salvo was at 17,500 yards and the range was corrected "up" to 18,300. The Princess Royal gives the range an 18,000 and the Tiger as 19,800 at 7.16.)


The peril of the Germans was thus sensibly increased, nor could they make any effective reply. A rippling ring of gun­flashes was all they could see as salvo after salvo from the battle fleet crashed into them out of the thundering void. In a couple of minutes the Derfflinger had two turrets blown to pieces, her decks were a shambles, she was ablaze fore and aft and all her fire control gear out of action. She was blinded by the smoke from the burning Luetzow and the agony of the rest can scarcely have been less. It seemed only a question of minutes for the end to come when a signal from their Commander‑in‑Chief gave them relief.


The German turn away was to starboard, but the Admiral himself turned to port. Possibly there was some confusion. "My intention," Admiral Scheer explains, "was to get through and to save the ships ahead of the Friedrich der Grosse from a difficult situation in carrying out the manoeuvre" (meaning presumably to give them more room to turn). He admits that his evolution might have led the ship astern to think there had been a mistake in signalling, but Admiral Schmidt, he says, who was leading the 1st Squadron in the Ostfriesland, understood, and without waiting for the ships astern of him to turn first, as was the rule for minimising the risk of collision, immediately turned his ship to starboard and thus forced his ships round. "This action," comments Admiral Scheer, "gave satisfactory evidence of the capable handling of ships and the leaders' intelligent grasp of the situation," but it certainly also indicates that the Kehrtwendung was carried out with some precipitancy. (Scheer, High Seas Fleet, pp. 157-8)


Thanks to the risk taken, the battleships were all fairly round by 7.20. Then Admiral Scheer signalled to his forlorn hope to break off their rush and simply "manoeuvre off the enemy's van," and at the same time he sent out the destroyers' recall. Fitfully the firing died away; like a Homeric mist the smother of haze and smoke thickened impenetrably between the combatants, and Admiral Scheer, for the time at least, had saved his fleet; but


7.15‑7.30 p.m.



no more. His surprise tactics had not had the effect he expected, they had not upset his enemy's plans for the rest of the day, nor had his attack "fallen heavily enough," as he says he hoped, to facilitate his "breaking loose at night." (Scheer, High Seas Fleet, p. 155.)


So effective, however, was the smoke screen which the destroyers set up that, combined with the mist and the fail­ing light, it sufficed for some time to prevent Admiral Jellicoe from having any idea of what the enemy was about. All he knew was that as Admiral Scheer disappeared he had made a series of attacks with his numerous destroyers. (He had in all six and a half flotillas. Attached to the battle fleet were the 3rd, 5th, 7th and the 1st half flotilla; with the battle cruisers were the 2nd, 6th and 9th. A third of them were not available for the cover­ing attack. The 7th Flotilla was astern of the battle fleet; the 1st half flotilla and most of the 12th and 18th half flotillaa were away guarding the disabled Luetzow. Each flotilla consisted of eleven boats and was organised in two half flotillas numbered consecutively, the first and second forming the 1st Flotilla, the third and fourth forming the 2nd Flotilla, etc.)


They opened with the 11th half flotilla, but so hot was their reception that they fired their torpedoes as soon as they were within extreme range. Eleven were fired, but none took effect. For Admiral Jellicoe performed the manceuvre which long and well‑ascertained experiment had proved to be the only way of avoiding such an attack. Admiral Jerram, who had not yet been able to get into station ahead, was ordered to turn his ships away four points together, and to the rest of the fleet he made the "Preparative," which meant they were to turn away two points by sub‑divisions (7.21). Then after an interval judged by the time it would take for the torpedoes to reach the line the turn was made, but almost immediately Commander R. M. Bellairs, who had charge of the special in­strument designed for the purpose, informed the Admiral that the turn already made was not enough and he signalled for another two points to port. At the moment he was practically without protection from his light craft.


Owing to his recent strenuous efforts to close the enemy's battle fleet, all his own flotillas had not yet been able to get up into their battle stations, and all he had for counter attack was Commodore Le Mesurier's 4th Light Cruiser Squadron. (Calliope, Constance, Comus, Royalist, Caroline.) This squadron was in station on the port wing, and on receiving a signal from the Commander‑in‑Chief to attack, went round across the course of the fleet at utmost speed. They were quickly engaged, and under their fire, combined with that of the battleships, it would seem that in the second attack also the enemy destroyers were unable to press near enough to be


May 31, 1916


effective. A number of torpedoes were fired, but thanks to the turn away they were nearing the end of their run when they crossed our line and were easily avoided.


Ten minutes later followed a third attack from the 3rd and 5th Flotillas attached to the German battle fleet, but with no better success. (See Diagrams 38 and 39.)




Diagram 38 - From 7.26 to 7.35





Diagram 39 - From 7.35 to 7.45


They, it seems, at once encountered Commodore Le Mesurier, who launched his squadron against them with so much energy that Admiral Jellicoe, being still unaware of the extent of the German withdrawal, had to warn him not to get too near the enemy's battleships. So hot, indeed, was his counter attack that the German destroyers never even had sight of our fleet. In all three attacks not one of our ships had been touched, while in the first attempt one of the enemy destroyers, S 35, had been sunk and apparently several others damaged. The failure of the German flotillas to obtain any positive result under conditions so favourable, was due to the ease with which their torpedoes were avoided. At this time the Germans had not succeeded to the extent our own people had done in concealing the tracks of tor­pedoes, and consequently their approach could be seen in plenty of time for the necessary action to be taken. (This was one of the surprises of the battle, and had it been known previously it might have modified the instructions for avoiding torpedo attack.)


The one effective feature of the attack was the smoke screen, which the destroyers developed so thickly as they returned that nothing could be seen of the German fleet. No report of how complete the turn away was had reached the Commander‑in‑Chief, and as the rear ships were still firing he could only conclude that his inability to see the enemy was due to the fouling of the western horizon. The guns he heard in his rear were really the last that were being fired at the retreating destroyers. This he could not tell, and he ordered the fleet to alter course five points towards the enemy ‑ that is, to south by west (7.35) ‑ expecting at any moment to have sight of them again as the smother cleared. It was the course in any case which, until he knew where they were, would ensure maintaining his dominant position between them and their base ‑ the only way he could see of eventually forcing the enemy to decisive action. But further information came almost immediately. Admiral Beatty on his south­westerly course could still see a few of the enemy, but not distinctly enough to engage them, and at 7.40 a signal (timed ten minutes earlier) was received from him saying that the enemy bore N.W. by W. from him about ten miles. He was


7.30‑8.15 p.m.



out of sight, and the Lion's position as given by the signal was obviously wrong, but Admiral Jellicoe, calculating correctly that she was five or six miles ahead of his van, immediately signalled for line ahead and turned to S.W., the course Admiral Beatty had given. (The position the Lion gave was Lat. 56¼ 56', Long. 6¼ 16', which would have made her two miles on the Iron Duke's port beam at 7.30. She was actually five or six miles farther to S.W., so that at 7.40 she was about five and a half miles ahead of Admiral Jerram.)


The situation, however, was still far from clear. At 7.45 Commodore Goodenough, who had apparently seen the German turn away at 7.15, sent an urgent message to say that at that time the enemy had detached a number of ships of unknown type which were steering N.W. Shortly after this the Commander‑in‑Chief received two important messages from Admiral Beatty. At 7.45 he had sent a message to say that the leading enemy battleship bore from him N.W. by W. on a course about S.W. The message was passed en clair by searchlight, so that it reached the Commander‑in‑Chief at 7.59. He at once turned the fleet by divisions to the west­ward in order to close and informed Admiral Beatty to that effect. For twenty minutes he held that course, and during that time, the second message sent at 7.50 reached him. (See Diagram 40.)




Diagram 40 - From 7.45 to 8.15


It was in these words: " Submit van of battleships follow battle cruisers. We can then cut off whole of enemy's battle fleet." This was received in the Iron Duke at 7.54, but being made by wireless had to be deciphered, and did not come to the Admiral's hands until shortly after eight. By 8.7 Admiral Jerram, who, on his own initiative had been steaming at a greater speed than the rest of the fleet, was now well ahead, and had the Commander‑in‑Chief's order to follow the battle cruisers. (Owing to the continual alteration of course to starboard "in divisions," in order to close the enemy, it had become necessary for Admiral Jerram, having the van squadron, to steam at higher speed than the rest of the fleet in order to get into his station as line ahead was reformed and to obtain a clear range. At 7.20 the fleet speed had been reduced by signal to fifteen knots and increased again to seventeen at 8.0. During most of this period Admiral Jerram on his own initiative was steaming nineteen knots, with the ships of his squadron keeping station upon him.)


It was quick work. Admiral Jellicoe cannot have hesitated a moment in adopting his colleague's proposal. It is true that Admiral Beatty's ships were in no condition to meet battle­ships, but it was the last chance of bringing the enemy to action before dark.


The situation was still obscure, nor is it clear on what


May 31, 1916


evidence Admiral Beatty made his confident suggestion. By that time, he had completely lost sight of the enemy in the smoke screen, and altering course himself to west-­south‑west he was sending away the 1st and 3rd Light Cruiser Squadrons to sweep to the westward and try to locate the head of the German line. As for the Com­mander‑in‑Chief, he was still deeper in the dark. He had received no accurate information, either from his own ships or from the Admiralty, as to the strength or composition of the German fleet, still less of its order and disposition. Nor could he ascertain the all‑important facts with his own eyes. All that he had sighted was the dim shapes of a few ships, but whether they were van, centre or rear it was impossible to tell. Now even these had faded away, and whether their vanishing from view was caused by a thicken­ing of the mist or a tactical movement he could only guess. The situation was indeed so completely wrapped in mystery as to baffle even his remarkable powers of penetration, and it was some considerable time before the obscurity was in any way relieved.


As soon as Admiral Scheer had withdrawn his fleet well out of range beyond the smoke screen he had turned to the southward, hoping apparently that if the British fleet started to chase him to the westward he would be able to slip away to the Horn Reefs south of them. At all events, having now no doubt, as he says, that he was in contact with the whole British fleet, he had decided that his only chance was to make for Horn Reefs by the shortest route and in close for­mation, and that to foil any attempts to intercept him he must devote all his destroyers to night attacks even at the risk of having to fight an action at daylight without them.


To bring about such a meeting he was sure would be our object, and that we should consequently endeavour by strong attacks in the twilight and using flotillas at night to force him to the westward. The result could scarcely be doubtful with his fleet in the condition it was. His van battle divisions had suffered further severe damage in the last encounter, and his battle cruisers were in still worse plight. Admiral Hipper had not yet succeeded in finding one fit to carry his flag. When he had got up alongside the Seydlitz he found her down by the bows and all her wireless gone, and was told she had shipped several thousand tons of water. Then he tried the Moltke, but she was under too heavy a fire to stop for him, and as for the Derfflinger, she proved to be in even worse condition than the Seydlitz. It was not until 9.50 that he


7.50‑8.30 p.m.



hoisted his flag in the Moltke, having been on board the G 39 for about three hours. (According to the original German text (p. 360) Admiral Hipper boarded the Moltke at 10.05 (9.05 G.M.T.). In the appendix at p. 534, however, the following signals are recorded:‑ "G 39 to Moltke, visual, received 10.50 p.m.‑ A. C. Scouting Forces will board Moltke"; "Moltke to G 39, visual, received 10.55 p.m. ‑ Moltke has stopped." It would appear, therefore, that 10.05 in the text is a miseprint for 10.50.)


It was at 7.53 that Admiral Scheer, determined not to be forced to the westward further than could be helped, ventured to turn to the south, with his disordered fleet gradually closing up in reverse order. His pre‑Dreadnought squadron was now on the starboard bow of the battle fleet, and the battle cruisers with their attached light cruisers were to the east of them, doing the best their reduced speed would allow to get into station ahead, while Admiral Scheer's own light cruiser squadron (4th Scouting Group) had taken the place of Admiral Hipper's light cruisers as advanced screen. So they steamed anxiously on upon the southerly course. It was not the direct route for Horn Reefs, but it was as near to it as presumably he thought it wise to attempt, and even so it was enough to bring about what he apprehended.


Meanwhile, Admiral Jerram was at a loss how to obey the order he had received to follow our battle cruisers. In asking for the van squadron Admiral Beatty had not given his position, and the Commander‑in‑Chief had therefore assumed that the Lion and King George V were in visual touch. (Up to the time the order was given the Minotaur, of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron had been in sight of both ships, but she had just passed out of sight from the King George V. She signals 8.10 and 8.55. (Jutland Despatches.))


But in fact they were not, and Admiral Jerram had no means of knowing where the battle cruisers were. But now firing was suddenly heard somewhere on his port beam. It was no sure guide ‑ gun‑fire at sea is always difficult to locate ‑ but it was at least an indication, and on it Admiral Jerram took action. Signalling to his squadron "Follow me," he turned two points to port, which brought him west‑south‑west, and called up Admiral Beatty to know his position, course and speed (8.21). There was no reply, so he held on as he was. (See Diagram 41.)




Diagram 41 - From 8.15 to 8.35


The meaning of the firing he heard was that Admiral Napier, in the Falmouth, in sweeping westward with the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron on Admiral Beatty's orders to locate the head of the enemy's line, had run into contact with their advanced cruiser squadron. At 8.10 he had been able to report to Admiral Beatty that ships were in sight north by west, and five minutes later he sighted five enemy light cruisers west by north steering across his bows. It was the 4th Scouting Group, then steering south ahead of the German


May 31, 1916


battle fleet. He immediately turned parallel and opened fire. His ships, being spread a mile apart to the southward of him, could at first afford him no support, but as he closed them they came successively into action. A sharp fight ensued until about 8.32, when the Germans, having had enough, turned eight points away, and though the British turned after them, they were soon lost to sight in the growing darkness. At 8.15 Admiral Beatty had turned to the same course as the battle fleet, but four minutes later he caught sight of the German battle cruisers and pre‑Dreadnought squadron coming south, and turning away a point to port he opened fire. At the same time Admiral Jellicoe had further light. Some ten minutes earlier Commodore Hawksley, who, in the light cruiser Castor, was on his port bow with part of the 11th Flotilla, saw smoke in the W.N.W. and pushed out to investigate. (Commodore Hawksley was Captain "D" of the 11th Flotilla and also Commodore "F," commanding all the Grand Fleet flotillas.)


Commodore Le Mesurier followed in support with the first division of the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron (Calliope (broad pendant), Constance and Comus), and before Admiral Jerram had started in search of the battle cruisers, he was able to inform him that twelve enemy destroyers were in sight to the N.W. From the course they were steering they seemed to be making for our battle cruisers, but with the help of the Castor and her destroyers Commodore Le Mesurier quickly drove them off, and as he pressed on in chase came in sight of the German battle fleet steering south. Turning to a similar course the Calliope fired a torpedo at 6,500 yards, and then, coming under fire from three battle­ships, was forced to retire. For ten minutes she was in a boil of splashes, but by zigzagging managed to escape. Admiral Jellicoe now knew what to do. The enemy were fairly well located, and at 8.28 he turned the fleet by divisions S.W. towards the sound of Admiral Beatty's guns ‑ a move­ment which brought it into line ahead again.


The position, therefore, could scarcely be better. While Admiral Beatty had firm hold of the enemy's van squadrons well ahead of them, Admiral Jellicoe was coming into line of battle abreast of their main body on a converging course. By no possibility, even if Admiral Jerram had known how to make for the battle cruisers directly he got the order, could he have been up in time to reinforce them. Nor was his assistance needed. Already the German ships under Admiral Beatty's fire were suffering, with no means of making effective reply; for again in the deepening dusk they could see nothing


8.15‑9.0 p.m.



but the gun‑flashes of their assailants. Upon Admiral Hipper's squadron the punishment fell most severely. The Derfflinger had another turret temporarily put out of action. The Seydlitz also suffered serious damage; it was more than in their crippled condition they could endure, and only the action of Admiral Mauve's pre‑Dreadnought squadron saved them. These old ships, being now ahead, had come into action for the first time, and at last had their chance, so Admiral Scheer says, of justifying Admiral Mauve's im­portunity to be allowed to accompany the fleet. It was little they could do, but they stoutly held their ground till their battle cruisers and light forces had passed to their disengaged side. For Admiral Scheer the position was impossible. Threatened with what he most apprehended­ - an attack in force in the twilight to press him to the westward ‑ he turned away for the third time before our battle fleet had sight of him, and by 8.35, as he was once more lost in the thickening mists, the firing ahead was dying away.


Again Admiral Jellicoe was puzzled to know the reason. On his starboard bow the Comus of the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron was still in action, and when he asked what she was firing at she replied, "Enemy's battle fleet west." Unable to penetrate the situation, Admiral Jellicoe then signalled to Admiral Beatty to indicate the bearing of the enemy (8.46). (see Diagram 42.)




Diagram 42 - From 8.35 to 9.0


Hardly had the message gone when a signal came in from the Falmouth, flagship of the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron, giving the bearing of the enemy as north and their course W.S.W. (Her own position she gave as Lat. 56¼ 42' N., Long. 5¼ 37' E., which was about five miles north of her actual position.


Admiral Jerram was also sending an urgent message that our battle cruisers were not in sight (8.44), and ten minutes later Admiral Beatty was asking the Minotaur where Admiral Jerram was, but as she had lost sight of him since 8.10 she could not tell. The Lion's main wireless had been shot away and she received the Commander‑in-­Chief's message indirectly, and before Admiral Beatty got his last query he sent to Admiral Jellicoe the information for which he had been asking, " Enemy battle cruisers and pre‑Dreadnought battleships," it said, "bear from me N.34W., distant ten to eleven miles steering S.W." He then gave his position and S.W. as his course. (The "time of origin" of this message is entered in the Lion's log as 8.40; "time of despatch" 8.59. Its receipt by the Iron Duke is noted as 9.5.)


With sufficient accuracy he could now determine where


May 31, 1916


the enemy were and What they were doing, and further light came from Commodore Goodenough, who had his squadron in station astern. He could be heard in action, and reported that he was engaging destroyers which from the westward were trying to attack the 5th Battle Squadron. The 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron sighted a "V" class torpedo boat, upon which the Southampton and Dublin opened fire, hitting her amidships. This can only have been the V 48, which was sunk later by the destroyers of the 12th Flotilla. Firing could also be heard ahead. The Caroline and Royalist, of the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron, had just seen what they took to be the German pre‑Dreadnought squadron, and the senior officer, Captain H. R. Crooke, made the signal to attack with torpedo (8.50). Admiral Jerram who still could not make out where Admiral Beatty was, and was expecting to sight him at any moment, at once signalled "Negative the attack. Those are our battle‑cruisers." Captain Crooke, however, could see more clearly, and having no doubt as to what he had sighted, took upon himself the responsibility of ignoring the order and proceeded with the attack. In spite of the storm of fire that met them the Caroline fired two torpedoes and the Royalist one at 8,000 yards. Then, smothered with shell, they made off, and though both were straddled again and again they escaped under a screen of funnel smoke little the worse for their adventure. As for our destroyers, though they were in their battle stations astern of the Caroline, they could make no attempt to attack, for owing to the uncertainty of Admiral Beatty's whereabouts, Admiral Jerram was in too much doubt about the enemy's identity to open fire, and without battleship support a destroyer attack before dark is not tactically sound.


Though no harm was done to the enemy, the affair was of value to the Commander‑in‑Chief. He now knew for certain that he was still in a good position between the Germans and their base, and that it was at least possible to force them further to the west. But the sun had set nearly an hour before; the gloom all round was deepening into darkness, and any further attempt to engage must involve a night action. This, like Lord Howe on the same day in 1794, he was determined not to hazard. (See the despatch in Barrow's Life of Howe, p. 232. With a misty night coming on and an adversary so skilful at turning away it was equally impossible for Admiral Jellicoe to bring the enemy "properly to action," that is, in a manner likely to secure decisive results.)


Modern developments had only hardened the long‑established objections which condemned fleet actions by night as inadmissible, and


8.50‑9.30 p.m.



for Admiral Jellicoe all that remained was to determine what course to take so as to intercept the enemy in the morning.


"I was loth to forgo," he wrote in his despatch, "the advantage of position which would have resulted from an easterly or westerly course, and I therefore decided to steer to the southward, where I should be in a position to renew the engagement at daylight." This was at nine o'clock, while the firing was still going on. About ten minutes later he heard from Admiral Jerram that our battle cruisers were in sight west‑north‑west on a south‑westerly course, but in fact it was the enemy's battle cruisers, not our own, that he had seen. There was nothing to suggest the error, and the message as received did nothing to modify Admiral Jellicoe's intentions. All it indicated was that he now had his whole force well together, and at 9.17 he made a general signal for the fleet to assume night cruising order in close formation so as to ensure keeping visual touch through the dark hours and to avoid the risk of ships mistaking each other for the enemy. (The actual signal was, "Assume second organisation. Form divisions in line ahead, columns disposed abeam to port. Columns to be one mile apart." See Diagram 43.)




Diagram 43 - From 9.0 to 10.0


The organisation which the signal specified brought the fleet into columns of squadrons instead of columns of divisions ‑ that is, it was now in three columns instead of six, with the 5th Battle Squadron on the port flank. Admiral Beatty remained detached in advance of the main body. At 9.16 he had taken in the Commander‑in‑Chief's signal to all squadron commanders and flotilla captains that the course of the fleet was south, and in view of the gathering darkness he seems to have come to the same conclusion as his Chief, that it was unwise for him to attempt to engage again before daylight. The reasons he gave in his report were his own distance from the battle fleet and the damaged condition of the battle cruisers, while the enemy were concentrated and accompanied by numerous destroyers; and finally our strategical position was "such as to make it appear certain that we should locate the enemy at daylight under most favourable circumstances." On this appreciation, he says, "I did not consider it desirable or proper to close the enemy battle fleet during the dark hours. 1 therefore concluded that I should be carrying out the Commander‑in‑Chief's wishes by turning to the course of the fleet, reporting to the Commander‑in‑Chief that I had done so. My duty in this situation was to ensure that the enemy fleet could not regain its base by passing round the southern flank of our forces. I therefore turned to south at 9.24 p.m. at


May 31, 1916


seventeen knots . . . . with the 1st and 3rd Light Cruiser Squadrons spread to the southward and westward."


Nothing probably could have more nicely interpreted what was in Admiral Jellicoe's mind. The crux of the strategical situation was the possibility of the enemy slipping away to the eastward either ahead or astern during the night. There were three ways by which Admiral Scheer could seek the safety of his base. One was by Horn Reefs and the Amrum bank; the second was by a passage to the westward of Heligoland, and the third by making the Frisian coast and so along the German swept channel from the Ems to the Jade. On the course Admiral Jellicoe had chosen with the battle cruiser fleet ahead of him he calculated he was "favourably placed to intercept the enemy should he make for his base by steering for Heligoland or towards the Ems." (Jutland Despatches, p. 21.) But his disposition did not so well provide for the Horn Reefs route should the enemy attempt to reach it by passing across the northward of our fleet. True, he had the three Harwich submarines lying in wait on a line from the Vyl light‑vessel, but that was not enough to deny the enemy the Horn Reefs passage. As an additional precaution he there­fore ordered the Abdiel to proceed in accordance with her original instructions and extend the minefield south of the submarine patrol line. But, what was far more important, he took the fine decision (at 9.27) of massing the whole of his flotillas five miles astern of the fleet. The risk involved was not great. True it would leave him without an anti‑sub­marine screen during the night, but he could count with fair certainty on having his destroyers about him again at dawn. Meanwhile their presence five miles astern would ensure him against attempts of the enemy's flotillas on his rear, and had the great advantage of exposing the Germans to a massed torpedo attack should they endeavour to pass north of him.


So with the battle fleet well closed up in night cruising order, the destroyers astern and the battle cruiser fleet some twelve miles a little before his starboard beam, he held on south, as, big with fate, the night closed down.












As Admiral Jellicoe was doing all that time‑honoured tradition and his own experience taught him, to ensure that the enemy should not get away without a decision, his adversary appears to have made up his mind as to what was his best chance of avoiding one. Foiled once if not twice in his attempt to get by to the eastward, he could no longer delay another determined effort to cross. (See Diagram 43 - repeated.)



Diagram 43 - From 9.0 to 10.0


At all hazards he must take the most direct way home, though it involved another attempt to push across the enemy's wake and the possibility of receiving another shock such as had baffled his first effort. Accordingly at 9.10 ‑ that is, seven minutes before Admiral Jellicoe had given directions to take up night cruising order ‑ he made the necessary signals. The first was for the main body of the fleet to maintain a course S.S.E.1/4 E. at 16 knots. This was the rallying course in case of accidents, and it led in the direction of Horn Reefs. The organisation the fleet was to assume followed: 1st Battle Squadron, 3rd Battle Squadron, 2nd Battle Squadron; Battle Cruisers in the rear; 2nd Scouting Group ahead and the 4th Scouting Group to starboard. (The Westfalen (Captain Redlich) of the 1st Battle Squadron was leading the line.) He did not, however, turn at once on the specified course. It would look as though he was unwilling to approach the Grand Fleet till it had had time to draw well ahead, and beyond the two scouting groups nearly all his destroyers were thrown out to feel for it. Shortly after 9.30 the van began to lead round to port on the course for Horn Reefs.


That he expected to find the way clear is hardly credible. Presumably he was feeling for his enemy, and as the courses of the two fleets were now fast converging his advanced guard cruisers came into action almost immediately. What they struck was the destroyer rear guard where the Castor with the 11th Flotilla had taken station on the wing nearest the enemy,


May 31, 1916


with Commodore Hawksley at the head of two divisions and Commander H. E. Sulivan in the Kempenfelt leading the remainder. About half an hour after Admiral Scheer's change of course, the Commodore, peering through the darkness, could make out ships on his starboard bow. What they were it was impossible to tell, and he was making towards them when they showed challenging lights. To add to the doubt as to their identity the first two signals they made were correct for the British challenge of the day, but the other two were wrong. For Commodore Hawksley, however, the uncertainty was soon set at rest. Suddenly the two leading strangers switched on searchlights and at 2,000 yards opened fire. Hitting began at once on both sides. Four times shells got home on the Castor, causing heavy casualties. One set her motor barge on fire, and so fiercely did it blaze that the whole ship became a brilliantly lighted target, and she turned away, but not before she had fired a torpedo. The enemy seemed also to turn away to avoid it, and they now disappeared. Each of the leading destroyers of the Castor's half‑flotilla Marne and Magic, had also fired one torpedo, but they were so blinded by the rapid flashes of the Castor's guns that neither could see to fire more, while as for the rest of the destroyers, they were so certain that a mistake was being made, and that the strangers were some of our own ships, that they refrained from firing at all. So in the first hour of darkness the incalculable hazards of a night action were exemplified. (The German vessels engaged at this time with the 11th Flotilla were the Hamburg and Elbing of the 4th Scouting Group, both of which ineffectively fired a torpedo, and almost immediately afterwards the Frankfurt and Pillau of the 2nd Scouting Group opened fire. The Hamburg received considerable damage in this encounter, and three of her stokers and all the crew of her No. 3 gun were seriously wounded.)


Abortive as the affair was it can only have appeared to Admiral Scheer as the kind of attack he was expecting to be made in order to force him to the westward. To all appearance it had been frustrated by his van cruisers, but he nevertheless seems to have found it advisable to give way a little, for at the time he would have got his cruisers' report he altered a point to starboard (10.6). (See Diagram 44.)




Diagram 44 - The Night Movements. From 10.0 P.M. to 3.0 A.M.


But this proved insufficient to clear him. Commodore Hawksley had hardly resumed his southerly course after the fleet when Admiral Scheer could see that another engagement had started to eastward of him. Here Commodore Goodenough with the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron wais trying to keep his station in rear of the battle fleet. He had fallen a good deal astern of the Commander‑ in‑Chief,



9.30‑10.45 p.m.



for he had been keeping in touch with the Marlborough, which, owing to her torpedo damage, was unable to do more than 16 knots. Admiral Burney's division was consequently about four miles astern of station, and at 10.0 Admiral Evan‑Thomas found it necessary to turn the 5th Battle Squadron back to look for him. In spite of Admiral Scheer's last inclination to starboard the two fleets were still on converging courses, and the result was that the 4th Scouting Group, which had apparently taken station on his port beam, soon found themselves abreast of Commodore Goodenough. (Stettin (Commodore von Reuter), Muenchen, Frauenlob, Stuttgart, Hamburg.)


For him the meeting was no surprise. For some time the play of searchlights and gun‑flashes to the westward, where the Castor had been in action, had warned him that the enemy was not far away. With starboard gun crews closed up ready for instant action an intense look‑out was being kept, when, against the faint glow that still tinged the western horizon, the silhouettes of five cruisers took shape. (See Diagram 45 (A).)




Diagram 45 (A) - 10.30 P.M.


They were very close, and clearly on a converging course. There could be little doubt what they were. For a moment or two recog­nition lights began to twinkle from both lines, when, at a range of eight hundred yards, Captain A. C. Scott of the Dublin was sure enough to fire. The shell could be seen to tear a hole in the side of one of the strangers; instantaneously a dozen searchlights were switched on to him and the Southampton, and they were smothered with rapid fire by the whole enemy squadron. In a moment all was a roar of passing and exploding shell and a wild confusion of gun‑flashes, dazzling searchlight beams and rapid changes of course. It was work in the old style at point‑blank range, with missing hardly possible on either side. But the enemy were far from having it their own way. Captains C. B. Miller and A. A. M. Duff of the Nottingham and Birmingham had judiciously kept their searchlights quiet, and the enemy, unable to see them, left them alone to develop a rapid and destructive fire. At the first glimpse of the Germans, moreover, the Southampton had got a torpedo tube ready, and while her deck, bridges and, superstructure were being swept in the storm of shell, it was fired. A bright explosion was seen in the enemy's line, and then suddenly they switched off their searchlights and vanished into the gloom. In a quarter of an hour it was all over. The Southampton had had all her midship guns' crews and most of her searchlight parties wiped out, she was


May 31, 1916


blazing like a beacon with cordite fires, expecting every moment to blow up, and her casualties were thirty‑five killed and forty‑one wounded. The Dublin fared better, having only two ships on her, but she too lost heavily. She was on fire between decks, her navigator was killed and her charts all destroyed, so that, as she soon after lost touch with the Southampton, she could not tell where she was and was not able to rejoin her squadron until 10.15 a.m. the following day. As for the Germans, seeing, that for those deadly minutes the Nottingham and Birmingham had been pour­ing in rapid fire at point‑blank practically undisturbed, they can scarcely have suffered less. (The German returns for 4th Scouting Group in this and the previous action with the Falmouth give the losses for the Stettin, Muenchen and Hamburg killed 31, wounded 71. Those of the Stuttgart are not recorded. The Frauenlob (sunk) 320.)


One ship was lost with all hands, for the Southampton's torpedo found its billet in the Frauenlob, and in a quarter of an hour she went down with her 12 officers and 308 men. Her end was not seen; for the Southampton and Dublin, under the crushing concentration, had been forced to turn away to master their fires. This was soon done, and the Commodore held on to the eastward till he came across the 5th Battle Squadron, when he gathered his scattered squadron (less the Dublin) to form a rear guard against destroyer attack.


With his wireless put out of action and his squadron temporarily out of touch it was impossible for Commodore Goodenough to communicate his news to the Commander‑in-Chief. The glitter of the action could be seen in the Iron Duke, but its significance was not grasped. Admiral Jellicoe had fully expected a torpedo attack would be made on his rear, and the need of guarding against it was one of the reasons that decided him to mass his flotillas astern. He had little doubt that what he anticipated was happening, and shortly before 11.0 ‑ that is, about the time the Frauenlob went down Hawksley received from him the query: "Are you engaging enemy destroyers? " The reply was already on its way, crossing the Commander‑in‑Chief's message, and it said "Have been engaged with enemy cruisers," and the inference in the Iron Duke was that these were ships acting in support of destroyers.


Destroyers indeed had been sighted in the vicinity of the flotilla which was next to the Commodore to the east­ward. This was the 4th Flotilla, under Captain C. J. Wintour. (Captain Wintour had only twelve boats with him. He was leading the 1st half flotilla in the flotilla leader Tipperary, with Commander W. L. Allen leading the 2nd half in the Broke. The two boats that were left of the Shark division, Ophelia and Christopher, were screening Admiral Beatty's squadron. Another division, Owl, Hardy and Midge, were with the armoured cruisers. The remaining three of the twenty were refitting. The 1st half flotilla consisted of the Spitfire, Sparrowhawk, Garland, Contest; the 2nd half of Achates, Ambuscade, Ardent, Fortune, with the Porpoise and Unity of the last division, following. At this time they were in two columns, but half an hour later Captain Wintour ordered the Broke to form her divisions astern of him.)


10.0‑10.45 p.m.



At about 10.10 he was turning sixteen points into his assigned station on a southerly course when three of his rear boats were aware of three or four enemy destroyers to the north­ward, who fired four torpedoes at them, but before our people could get off more than a round or two in reply they disappeared into the darkness. Shortly afterwards the Garland, which was one of the destroyers that had fired, sighted a light cruiser of the "Graudenz" class to westward going south, and Captain Wintour held on upon the same course in accordance with his orders (10.35). Five minutes later the Boadicea, Admiral Jerram's attached light cruiser, was reporting enemy ships on her starboard beam. None of‑these reports reached the flagship, the observations not being deemed of sufficient importance to justify betraying the position of the battle fleet by signalling them to the Commander‑in‑Chief. So far, then, he had no information to modify his belief that he was still between the enemy and their base. There was nothing, therefore, to suggest a change of plan, and he continued his southerly course.


Admiral Scheer, however, may have had something more definite to go upon, for the 9.27 general signal to the British flotillas had been intercepted by the German wireless station at Neumuenster and passed to him, but whether the message actually came to his hand cannot be definitely established. What he did know was that his advanced cruisers had been in contact with some of our destroyers, and in all probability he was also informed that his searching destroyers had located others of ours to the south of them, but had found no trace of the battleships. On these indications it must have seemed that our fleet had drawn far enough ahead for him to risk an attempt to escape by passing across his enemy's wake. At all events, shortly after half‑past ten he altered course to port upon a course S.E. by S., direct for the Horn Reefs light‑vessel.


By this time the sky had become overcast, the night was very dark, and he was feeling his way with the 2nd Scouting Group in line ahead, and his available destroyers spread before him in a wide "V" formation E.N.E. and S.S.W. from the


May 31, 1916


van ship. (Scheer, High Seas Fleet, p. 160. The screen consisted of the 2nd, 5th and 7th Flotillas and part of the 6th and 9th, possibly about forty destroyers. A great many of the boats, he says, had fired all their torpedoes in the day fighting; some were astern protecting the Luetzow, and others were held back by the flotilla leaders in case of emergency.)


It was with the port wing of these ships that Captain Wintour must have come into contact, but for nearly an hour nothing more broke the calm and black­ness of the night. The reason may have been that some time after the Castor's action the German fleet had in­clined away a little to starboard, and was not converging so much as it had been up to ten o'clock. Whatever the cause, the long spell of quiet could only confirm the Commander-­in‑Chief in his belief that the enemy were to the westward of him, and he was holding on to the southward while Admiral Burney's division, unbeknown to him, was falling farther and farther astern. Some fifteen miles away before the Iron Duke's starboard beam was Admiral Beatty, with all the battle cruisers screened by two divisions of the 1st Flotilla and the Christopher and Ophelia of the 4th Flotilla. (See Diagram 45 (B).)




Diagram 45 (B) - 11.20 P.M.


On his starboard quarter was the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron with the 1st in company. The latter he had ordered to take station four miles on his starboard beam and to keep a sharp look‑out for the enemy north by west; but the Lion was out of sight and the light cruisers were only able to take station on her assumed position. Admiral Beatty, too, must have been fairly sure the fleet was holding the Germans away from their base and expecting to find them to the westward in the morning. But in fact they had crossed astern of him more than an hour before, and Admiral Scheer, heading for the Horn Reefs, was some fifteen miles to the north­eastward of the Lion, when at 11.30 the fight broke out again and the power of Admiral Jellicoe's massed flotillas to bar the escape of the High Seas Fleet was put to a fiery test.


When the hour came ‑ the hour that was to decide the question which had been the food of so much thought and experiment during the years of preparation ‑ Captain Wintour was leading his flotilla south in line ahead. To the eastward, but nearly seven miles away, was Captain Farie in the light cruiser Champion, leading the seven remaining boats of the 13th Flotilla (Obdurate, Moresby, Nerissa, Narborough, Nicator, Pelican, Petard), with the Termagant and Turbulent of the 10th. Close abeam of him were the four Harwich boats of the 9th Flotilla (Lydiard, Liberty, Landrail, Laurel), with the Morris of the 10th. (The Moorsom had been sent back owing to damaged oil tanks, due to a hit in the afternoon action.)





And then, also well in station, came Captain A. J. B. Stirling leading fourteen boats of the 12th Flotilla in the Faulknor. Between the two groups there was thus a wide space owing to the fact that the eastern flotillas were keeping station on Admiral Burney's division, which was still dropping more and more astern owing to the Marlborough's injuries.


This was the position when, towards 11.20, Captain Wintour and the leading boats of his solitary flotilla were aware of a shadowy line of ships to starboard on a converging course. Whether they were friend or foe it was impossible to tell, and he held on for some minutes with all torpedo tubes trained to starboard. Still they made no sign, and at last, as they were evidently drawing ahead of him and had closed to less than 1,000 yards, he ventured to give the chal­lenge. (It would appear that on hearing of this first contact the van of the High Seas Fleet hauled away a little to starboard, and then led in again to E.S.E. to resume its station. Consequently by 11.20 there was a substantial kink in the line.)


Salvoes, accurate and rapid, at point blank followed instantaneously, and in a minute the Tipperary burst into flames, almost lost to sight in brilliantly illuminated splashes. Yet she fired both her torpedoes. The four boats of her division did the same, and so did the Broke. Some of the rear boats, still uncertain that a mistake was not being made, held their fire till accidentally one of the enemy's beams lit up the rear ship. Then it was plain to see what they had to deal with, and they also attacked. Several of the boats claim to have hit. Explosions were plainly seen; there were gaps in the line of staring searchlights. How many hits were made is uncertain, but one at least of the cruisers received her death blow. It was the Elbing of the 2nd Scouting Group, part of the advanced screen of the High Seas Fleet. In face of the destroyer attack they had turned away and tried to escape by passing through the line of the leading battle squadron. The Frankfurt and the Pillau succeeded, but the Elbing, less fortunate, was badly rammed by the Posen. She did not sink at once, but had soon to be abandoned. (Damage was also sustained by the Westfalen, Nassau and Rheinland, all of which were hit in their foremost funnels and searchlights. Their casualties were ten killed and thirty‑eight wounded.)


All that man could do Captain Wintour had done, but he was now no more. The first salvo had swept away the Tipperary's bridge, on which he stood, and she was left a mass of burning wreckage. (Nine of the Tipperary's crew were rescued by the German S.53.) Lieutenant‑Commander C.W.E. Trelawny in the Spitfire was next astern. Unable to reload his tubes for another attack ‑ his torpedo davit had been disabled


May 31, 1916


‑ he had to he content with smashing an enemy's searchlight with gunfire, and then came back to his leader's assistance. In the fierce glare of the flames he could see nothing. All around was impenetrable blackness, till out of it he suddenly saw what he took to be two German cruisers coming down upon him. Then followed one of the most remarkable inci­dents of the battle. "The nearer one," he wrote, " altered course to ram me apparently. I therefore put my helm hard‑a‑port and the two ships rammed each other port bow to port how. I consider I must have considerably damaged this cruiser, as twenty feet of her side plating was left on my forecastle." As the two ships met at full speed the enemy fired her forward guns, over the Spitfire. She was too close for their utmost depression to secure a hit, but the blast blew away her bridge, searchlight platform and foremost funnel, and left officers and men half stunned and entangled in a mass of wreckage. Her forecastle was torn open, sixty feet of her bow plating was shorn away, and she took fire. As soon as Lieutenant‑Commander Trelawny had extricated himself from the ruin of the bridge he threw over­board the steel chest containing the secret books. Only by a miracle could a destroyer survive such an adventure, but, wonderful to relate, she did survive. And the wonder increases now that we know it was no mere cruiser she had met in full career, but the German Dreadnought Nassau. Thanks to those who designed and constructed her the Spitfire was able to limp away with three boilers still going, and in due course came home carrying the plating and part of the anchor gear of her mighty antagonist as trophies of the conflict. (See Diagram 45(B) - repeated.)



Diagram 45 (B) - 11.20 P.M.


As for the remainder of the fleet, this uproar and con­fusion so close at hand was too much for it, and with the firing at its height the van led away to starboard until it was steering S.S.W, nearly eight points off its course for home. Eight minutes later Admiral Scheer, who had just reached the turning point, made a peremptory signal, ordering the fleet to steer S.E. by S., and by 11.34 the Westfalen had again turned on the direct course for Horn Reefs.


Meanwhile the Broke had taken the Tipperary's place. Commander Allen found that half a dozen boats had got into line astern of him, and in the order Sparrowhawk, Garland, Contest, Ardent, Fortune, Porpoise, he was leading then, southward, where he judged he should find the enemy again. (See Diagram 45(C).)




Diagram 45 (C) - 11.40 P.M.


He was not far wrong. In a few minutes ‑ it was about 11.40 ‑ he could see a large ship on his starboard bow heading to cross his course. He challenged. The answer was again






a blaze of searchlights and a burst of rapid fire. Commander Alien swung to port to bring his tubes to bear. Lieutenant­-Commander S. Hopkins in the Sparrowhawk did the same, and then to his horror he saw that the Broke, instead of steadying her helm, was continuing to swing and coming straight for him. As the Broke turned she had been hit by a salvo which put her out of control. There was no time to avoid a collision, and she crashed into the Sparrowhawk just before the bridge. Only by a hair's breadth the Garland avoided the Sparrowhawk and turned away, but the Contest, coming next, did not see the trouble in time and cut five feet of her stern clean off as she lay locked with the Broke. (The Broke again came into action with two enemy destroyers early the next morning, but escaped to the northward, with the