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Jellicoe: The Grand Fleet
Chapter 12b - The Battle of Jutland


The Grand Fleet put to sea on May 30th for the purpose of carrying out one of its periodical sweeps in the North Sea. The orders from me under which the Fleet acted were as follows :

Vice-Admiral Sir Martyn Jerram, with the 2nd Battle Squadron from Cromarty, was directed to pass through a position in Lat. 58.15 N., Long. 2.0 E., and to meet the remainder of the Battle Fleet at 2 p.m. on the 31st at position (A) in Lat. 57.45 N., Long. 4.15 E.

Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty, with the Battle Cruiser Fleet and the 5th Battle Squadron, was directed to proceed to a position in Lat. 56.40 N., Long. 5 E., economising fuel in the destroyers as much as possible; it was expected that he would be in that position by about 2 P.M. on the 31st, after which he was directed to stand to the northward to get into visual touch with the Battle Fleet.

The Iron Duke and the 1st and 4th Battle Squadrons, together with the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, and the newly commissioned light cruisers Chester and Canterbury, which had been carrying out gunnery and torpedo practices at Scapa, left that base during the evening of May 30th, and proceeded towards position (A), Lat. 57.45 N., Long. 4.15 E., having met the 2nd Battle Squadron en route at 11.15 A.M. in Lat. 58.13 N., Long. 2.42 E. Sir David Beatty had been informed before sailing that the Battle Fleet would steer towards the Horn Reef from the position in Lat. 57.45 N., Long. 4.15 E.

At 2 P.M. on May 31st the Battle Fleet was about 18 miles to the north-westward of the position (A), being actually in Lat. 57.57 N., Long. 3.45 E., in organisation No. 5. The Fleet had been slightly delayed to enable the usual and necessary practice of examining trawlers and other vessels met with en route to be carried out without causing the examining vessels to expend unnecessary fuel in regaining station. We had to be on our guard against disguised enemy scouts. The divisions were in line ahead disposed abeam to starboard in the order: lst-6th Divisions (screened by the 4th, 11th, and 12th Flotillas) with the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron, three miles ahead of the Battle Fleet. The cruisers, with one destroyer to each cruiser, were stationed 16 miles ahead of the Battle Fleet, spread six miles apart on a line of direction N. 40 E. and S. 40 W. ;the cruisers being eight miles apart and their positions being in the order from cast to west :

(F.) (F.)
Cochrane Shannon Minotaur Defence Duke of Edinburgh Black Prince
Hampshire (linking ship 6 miles astern of the Minotaur)

The attached cruisers, the Active, Boadicea, Blanche, and Bellona, were on the flanks of the Battle Fleet, and the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, with the light cruisers Chester and Canterbury, about 20 miles ahead, the whole steering S. 50 E., and zigzagging, the speed of advance being 14 knots.

The disposition of the Battle Fleet is shown below :

Line of Advance.
1st Div. 2nd Div 3rd Div. 4th Div. 5th Div. 6th Div.
King George
(F.) Monarch
Iron Duke (F.F.)
Royal Oak
Superb (F.)
Colossus (F.)
St. Vincent
Agincourt F.

It may be added in further explanation that the flagships of the Battle Fleet were:
Iron Duke, Fleet-Flagship.—Flag of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe (Commander-in-Chief).
King George V.—Flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir M. Jerram, Commanding 2nd Battle Squadron.
Orion.—Flagship of Rear-Admiral A. C. Leveson, Rear-Admiral in the 2nd Battle Squadron.
Superb.—Flagship of Rear-Admiral A. L. Duff, Rear- Admiral in the 4th Battle Squadron.
Benbow.—Flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee, Commanding the 4th Battle Squadron.
Colossus.—Flagship of Rear-Admiral E.- F. A. Gaunt, Rear-Admiral in the 1st Battle Squadron.
Marlborough.—Flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir Cecil Burney, Commanding 1st Battle Squadron and second in command of the Grand Fleet.

The Battle Cruiser Fleet and 5th Battle Squadron, with destroyers, were at 2 P.M. in Lat. 56.46 N., Long. 4.40 E., and had turned to the northward, steering N. by E., .speed 19 1/2 knots, in the order :

The Lion and 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron in single line ahead, screened by the light cruiser Champion and 10 destroyers of the 13th Flotilla, with the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron in single line ahead three miles E.N.E. of the Lion, screened by six destroyers. The 5th Battle Squadron, in single line ahead, was five miles N.N.W. of the Lion, being screened by the light cruiser Fearless and nine destroyers of the 1st Flotilla. The Light Cruiser Squadrons formed a screen eight miles S.S.E. from the Lion, ships spread on a line of direction E.N.E. and W.S.W., five miles apart in the order from west to east :

2nd Light Cruiser Squadron. 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron. 1st Light Cruiser Squadron
Southampton (F.) Nottingham Falmouth (F.) Inconstant Galatea (F.)
Birmingham Dublin Gloucester Cordelia Phaeton

It should be added that the flagships were :
Lion.—Battle Cruiser Fleet-Flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty.
Princess Royal.—Flagship of Rear-Admiral 0. de B. Brock, commanding 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron.
New Zealand.—Flagship of Rear-Admiral W. Pakenham, commanding 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron.
Barham.—Flagship of Rear-Admiral H. Evan-Thomas, commanding 5th Battle Squadron.

The Engadine, a sea-plane carrier, was stationed between the light cruisers Gloucester and Cordelia, and the light cruiser Yarmouth acted as linking ship between the Lion and the light cruiser screen.

The first report of enemy vessels was received from the Galatea, the flagship of Commodore E. S. Alexander- Sinclair, commanding the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, who, at 2.20 P.M., sighted two enemy vessels to the E.S.E. apparently stopped and engaged in boarding a neutral steamer. Sir David Beatty, recognising the possibilities of the situation, immediately turned his fleet to the S.S.E., the course for the Horn Reef, so as to get between the enemy and his base.

At 2.35 P.M. the Galatea reported a large amount of smoke " as from a fleet " bearing E.N.E., followed by a report that the vessels were steering north. The course of the Battle Cruiser Fleet was then altered to the eastward and N.E. towards the smoke, the enemy being sighted at 3.31 P.M. and identified as five battle cruisers accompanied by destroyers.

Meanwhile the 1st and 3rd Light Cruiser Squadrons- changed their direction, and, judging the situation accurately, spread to the east without waiting for orders, forming a screen in advance of the heavy ships. Our Light Cruisers sighted and engaged enemy vessels of a similar class at long range. The 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, under Commodore W. E. Goodenough, with his broad pendant in the Southampton, came in at high speed towards the battle cruisers and formed ahead of them on an E.S.E. course, and at 3.30 P.M. sighted enemy battle cruisers bearing E.N.E,

On receipt of the Galatea's report, Sir David Beatty ordered the Engadine to send up a sea-plane to scout to the N.N.E. This was the first time that sea-planes had been used for reconnaissance work with a fleet in an action, and the event is notable for that reason. The low-lying clouds made observation difficult, but the seaplane, with Flight-Lieutenant F. S. Rutland R.N., as pilot, and Assistant Paymaster G. S. Trewin, R.N., as observer, was able, by flying low under the clouds, to identify and report four enemy light cruisers, the report being received on board the Lion at 3.30 P.M. The sea-plane was under heavy fire from the light cruisers during the observation. By this time the line of battle was being formed, the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron forming astern of the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, with the destroyers of the 9th and 13th Flotillas taking station ahead. The course was E.S.E., slightly converging on the enemy, the speed 25 knots, and the range 23,000 yards. Sir David Beatty formed his ships on a line of bearing in order to clear the smoke.

The 5th Battle Squadron, which had conformed to the movements of the Battle Cruiser Fleet, was now bearing N.N.W., distant 10,000 yards; the .weather was favourable, the sun being behind our ships, the wind S.E., and the visibility good.

Meanwhile the wireless reports from the Galatea to the Lion had been intercepted on board the Iron Duke, and directions were at once given to the Battle Fleet to raise steam for full speed, the ships being at the time at short notice for full speed. The cruisers had been ordered to raise steam for full speed earlier. At 3.10 P.M. the Battle Fleet was ordered to prepare for action, and at 3.30 P.M. I directed Flag Officers of Divisions to inform their ships of the situation. The earliest reports from the Galatea had indicated the presence of light cruisers and destroyers only, and my first impression was that these vessels, on sighting the British force, would endeavour to escape via the Skagerrak, as they were to the eastward of our vessels and were consequently not in so much danger of being cut off as if they turned to the southward. The 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, which was well placed for cutting the enemy off, had the anticipated move taken place, was ordered to frustrate any such intention ; but at 4 P.M. , on the receipt of the information of the presence of enemy battle cruisers, it was directed to reinforce Sir David Beatty. About 3.40 P.M. I received a report from Sir David Beatty that he had sighted five battle cruisers and a number of destroyers, and he also gave his position.

As soon as the presence of hostile battle cruisers was reported, course was altered in the Battle Fleet to close our battle cruisers, and speed increased as rapidly as possible. By 4 P.M. the "Fleet speed" was 20 knots, being higher than had previously been obtained. Zig- zagging was abandoned on receipt of the Galatea's first report. The battleships were also directed to keep clear of the wake of the next ahead in order to prevent loss of speed from the wash.

At 3.48 P.M. the action between the battle cruisers began at a range of about 18,500 yards, fire being opened by the two forces practically simultaneously. At the commencement the fire from the German vessels was rapid and accurate, the Lion being hit twice three minutes after fire was opened, and the Lion, Tiger, and Princess Royal all receiving several hits by 4 P.M. ; observers on board our own ships were of opinion that our fire was also effective at that stage.

At about 4 P.M. it was evident by the accuracy of the enemy's fire that he had obtained the range of our ships, which was then about 16,000 yards. The enemy bore well abaft the beam, and course was altered slightly to the southward to confuse his fire control. Course was altered two or three times subsequently for the same purpose. The German ships frequently zigzagged for the purpose of confusing our fire control.

At this period the fire of the enemy's ships was very rapid and accurate; the Lion received several hits, the roof of one of her turrets being blown off at 4 P.M. At about 4.6 P.M. the Indefatigable was hit, approximately at the outer edge of the upper deck level in line with the after turret, by several projectiles of one salvo; an explosion followed (evidently that of a magazine) and the ship fell out of the line, sinking by the stern. She was again hit by another salvo forward, turned over and sank.

About this time (4.8 P.M.) the 5th Battle Squadron came into action, opening fire at a range between 19,000 and 20,000 yards. This slower squadron was some distance astern of the battle cruisers and, by reason partly of the smoke of the ships ahead of the enemy vessels and partly of the light to the eastward having become less favourable, difficulty was experienced in seeing the targets, not more than two ships being visible at a time. At 4.12 P.M. the range of the enemy's battle cruisers from our own was about 23,000 yards, and course was altered from S.S.E. to S.E. to close the enemy. Fire had slackened owing to the increase in range.

The tracks of torpedoes were now reported as crossing the line of our battle cruisers, and reports of sighting the periscopes of enemy submarines were also made by more than one ship.

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