I.THE BATTLE CRUISER FLEET'S
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 :
||Duke of Edinburgh
|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
The disposition of the Battle Fleet is shown below :
|Line of Advance.
|Iron Duke (F.F.)
It may be added in further explanation that the flagships of
the Battle Fleet were:
Iron Duke, Fleet-Flagship.Flag of Admiral Sir
John Jellicoe (Commander-in-Chief).
King George V.Flagship of
Vice-Admiral Sir M. Jerram, Commanding 2nd Battle Squadron.
Orion.Flagship of Rear-Admiral A. C. Leveson, Rear-Admiral in the 2nd
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
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 :
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.
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 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.