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

The attack of the British destroyers was carried out with great gallantry and determination, and having frustrated the enemy's torpedo attack on the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, Commander Loftus Jones turned his division to regain his position on our battle cruisers. At this moment three German vessels came into sight out of the mist and opened a heavy fire, further disabling the Shark and causing many casualties on board; Commander Loftus Jones was amongst those wounded. Lieut.- Commander J. 0. Barren, commanding the Acasta, came to the assistance of the Shark, but Commander Loftus Jones refused to imperil a second destroyer, and directed the Acasta to leave him. The Shark then became the target for the German ships and destroyers. Commander Loftus Jones, who was assisting to keep the only undamaged gun in action, ordered the last torpedo to be placed in the tube and fired; but whilst this ,was being done the torpedo was hit by a shell and exploded, causing many casualties. Those gallant officers and men in the Shark who still survived continued to fight the only gun left in action, the greatest heroism being exhibited. The captain was now wounded again, his right leg being taken off by a shell; but he still continued to direct the fire, until the condition of the Shark and the approach of German destroyers made it probable that the ship would fall into the hands of the enemy, when he gave orders for her to be sunk, countermanding this order shortly afterwards on realising that her remaining gun could still be fought. A little later, the ship was hit by two torpedoes, and sank with her colours flying. Only six survivors were picked up the next morning by a Danish steamer. In recognition of the great gallantry displayed, the whole of the survivors were awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. Their names are: W. C. R. Griffin, Petty Officer; C. Filleul, Stoker Petty Officer; C. C. Hope, A.B.; C. H. Smith, A.B.; T. O. G. Howell, A.B.; T. W. Swan, Stoker.

At this point it is well to turn to the proceedings of our advanced cruiser line, which at 5 P.M. was about 16 miles ahead of the Battle Fleet, the latter being at that time in Lat. 57.24 N., Long. 5.12 E., steering S.E. by S. at 20 knots. It should be noted that, owing to decreasing visibility, .which .was stated in reports from the cruisers to be slightly above six miles, the cruisers on the starboard flank had closed in and were about six miles apart by 5.30 P.M. The 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron was about 16 miles due east of the advanced cruiser line, but was steering more to the southward on a converging course at a speed of about five knots faster.

At 5.40 P.M. firing was heard ahead by the cruiser line, and shortly afterwards ships were seen from the Minotaur to be emerging from the mist. Rear-Admiral Heath, the senior officer of the cruiser line, had recalled the ships of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron on hearing the firing and had ordered them to form single line ahead on the Minotaur. He then made the signal to engage the enemy, namely, the ships in sight ahead; but before fire was opened they replied to his challenge and were identified as the ships of the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, engaged with the enemy's light cruisers and steering to the westward.

At 5.47 P.M. the Defence, with the Warrior astern, sighted on a S. by W. bearing (namely, on the starboard bow) three or four enemy light cruisers, and course was altered three points to port, bringing them nearly on a beam bearing. Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot, in the Defence, then signalled "Commence fire." Each ship fired three salvoes at a three-funnelled cruiser. The salvoes fell short, and the Defence altered course to starboard, brought the enemy first ahead, and then to a bearing on the port bow, evidently with the intention of closing. The latter alteration of course .was made at 6.1 P.M., and by this time projectiles from the light cruisers were falling in close proximity to the Defence and the Warrior. These ships opened fire with their pout guns at 6.5 P.M. and shortly afterwards passed close across the bows of the Lion from port to starboard. One light cruiser, probably the Wiesbaden, was hit by the second salvoes of both ships, appeared to be badly crippled, and nearly stopped. Our ships continued to close her until within 5,500 yards. From about 6.10 P.M. onwards they had come under fire of guns of heavy calibre from the enemy's battle cruisers, but Sir Robert Arbuthnot, as gallant and determined an officer as ever lived, was evidently bent on finishing off his opponent, and held on, probably not realising in the gathering smoke and mist that the enemy's heavy ships were at fairly close range. At about 6.16 P.M. the Defence was hit by two salvoes in quick succession, which caused her magazines to blow up and the ship disappeared. The loss of so valuable an officer as Sir Robert Arbuthnot and so splendid a ship's company as the officers and men of the Defence was a heavy blow. The Warrior was very badly damaged by shell fire, her engine-rooms being flooded; but Captain Molteno was able to bring his ship out of action, having first seen the Defence disappear. From diagrams made in the Warrior it appears that the German battle cruisers turned 16 points (possibly with a view either to close their Battle Fleet or to come to the aid of the disabled Wiesbaden), engaged the Defence and Warrior, and then turned back again. This supposition is confirmed by sketches taken on board the Duke of Edinburgh at the same time. Owing to the smoke and the mist, however, it was difficult to state exactly what occurred. From the observations on board the Warrior, it is certain that the visibility was much greater in her direction from the enemy's line than it was in the direction of the enemy from the Warrior. Although the Defence and Warrior were being hit frequently, those on board the Warrior could only see the ships firing at them very indistinctly, and it is probable that the low visibility led to Sir Robert Arbuthnot not appreciating that he was at comparatively short range from the German battle cruisers until he was already under an overwhelming fire.

The Warrior passed astern of the 5th Battle Squadron at the period when the steering gear of the Warspite had become temporarily disabled.

The Duke of Edinburgh, the ship next to the west-, ward of the Defence and the Warrior in the cruiser screen, had turned to close these ships when they became engaged with the enemy's light cruisers in accordance ,with a signal from the Defence. The Duke of Edinburgh joined in the engagement, but, on sighting the Lion on her starboard bow, did not follow the other ships across the bows of the battle cruisers, as to do so would have seriously incommoded these vessels; she turned to port to a parallel course and eventually joined the 2nd Cruiser Squadron.

The Black Prince ,was observed from the Duke of Edinburgh to turn some 12 points to port at the same time that the Duke of Edinburgh turned, but her subsequent movements are not clear; the German accounts of the action stated that the Black Prince was sunk by gun fire at the same time as the Defence, but she was not seen to be in action at this time by any of our vessels, and, moreover, a wireless signal, reporting a submarine in sight and timed 8.48 P.M., was subsequently received from her. It is probable that the Black Prince passed to the rear of the Battle Fleet at about 6.30 P.M., and that during the night she found herself close to one of the German battle squadrons, and was sunk then by superior gunfire. In support of this theory, the German account mentions that a cruiser of the " Cressy " type was sunk in that manner during the night. None of the ships of this class was present during the engagement, but the Black Prince might well have been mistaken for a ship of this type in the circumstances.

We left the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron at about 6.10 P.M. at the termination of their engagement with enemy light cruisers, turning to avoid torpedoes fired at them. At about this time Rear-Admiral Hood sighted the Lion and the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, and at about 6.16 P.M. hoisted the signal to his squadron to form single line ahead, and turned to take station ahead of the Lion and to engage the hostile battle cruisers, which at 6.20 P.M. .were sighted at a range of 8,600 yards.

A furious engagement ensued for a few minutes, and the fire of the squadron was judged by those on board the Invincible to be very effective. Rear-Admiral Hood, who was on the bridge of the Invincible with Captain Cay, hailed Commander Dannreuther, the gunnery officer in the fore control, at about 6.30 P.M., saying, " Your firing is very good. Keep at it as quickly as you can; every shot is telling." At about 6.34 P.M. the Invincible, which had already been hit more than once by heavy shell .without appreciable damage, was struck in "Q" turret. The shell apparently burst inside the turret, as Commander Dannreuther saw the roof blown off. A very heavy explosion followed immediately, evidently caused by the magazine blowing up, and the ship broke in half and sank at once, only two officers, including Commander Dannreuther, and four men being subsequently picked up by the destroyer Badger. The British Navy sustained a most serious loss in Rear-Admiral the Hon. Horace Hood, one of the most distinguished of our younger flag officers, and in Captain Cay and the officers and men of his flagship. The difficulties of distinguishing enemy ships even at the close range of this engagement is revealed by the fact that the officers in the Invincible and Indomitable were under the impression that they were engaging battle cruisers, whilst officers in the Inflexible, stationed between these two ships in the line, reported that her fire was being directed at a battleship of the "Kaiser" or "König" class, and that only one ship could be seen.

Just before the loss of the Invincible, the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron, commanded by Rear-Admiral Napier, had carried out an effective torpedo attack on the enemy's battle cruisers; both the light cruisers Falmouth and Yarmouth fired torpedoes at the leading battle cruiser. It was thought that one of the torpedoes hit its mark, as a heavy under-water explosion was felt at this time.

After the loss of the Invincible, the Inflexible was left as leader of the line, and as soon as the wreck of the Invincible had been passed, course was altered two points to starboard to close the enemy ships, which were disappearing in the mist. A further turn to starboard for the same purpose was made, but at this time, 6.50 P.M., the battle cruisers being clear of the leading battleships (which .were bearing N.N.W. three miles distant), Sir David Beatty signalled the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron to prolong the line of the battle cruisers, and the Inflexible and Indomitable took station astern of the New Zealand.

The course of events can now be traced with accuracy. The Chester .with the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, which by 5.40 P.M. had got ahead of the Battle Fleet's cruiser screen, encountered some of the light cruisers composing the enemy's screen and engaged them, and, in doing so, drew the enemy's light cruisers towards the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, which, with the Canterbury and destroyers, turned to about W.N.W. to assist the Chester. and to engage the enemy vessels.

In the course of this movement a destroyer attack was made by four British destroyers on the enemy's light cruisers. This attack was apparently thought by the Germans to come from the flotillas with the Battle Fleet, as far as can be judged from their report of the action; the ships of the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron .were undoubtedly mistaken by their vessels for the van of our Battle Fleet, since mention is made in the German report of the British Battle Fleet having been sighted at this time by the German light forces, steering in a westerly or north-westerly direction. The mistaken idea caused the van of the High Sea Fleet to turn off to starboard.

So far from our Battle Fleet being on a westerly course at this time, the fact is that our Battle Fleet held its south-easterly course before, through, and immediately subsequent to deployment, gradually hauling round afterwards, first through south to south-west, and then to west, but it was not until 8 P.M. that a "westerly course was being steered.

The only point that is not clear is the identity of the light cruiser engaged and seriously damaged by the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron. The ship engaged by the Defence and Warrior was apparently the Wiesbaden. It seems to be impossible that the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron engaged the same vessel, and it is more likely to have been another light cruiser in the enemy's screen. The two engagements took place at almost the same time, the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron opening fire at 5.55 P.M., and the Defence and the Warrior (the 1st Cruiser Squadron) commencing their engagement .with the starboard guns at about 5.50 P.M. and continuing it ;with the port guns at 6.5 P.M. It is hardly possible, even in the conditions of low visibility that prevailed, that the two squadrons could have been engaging the same vessel.

Mention should be made here of the work of the destroyer Onslow, commanded by Lieut.-Commander J. C. Tovey, which at 6.5 P.M. .sighted an enemy's light cruiser in a position on the bows of the Lion and favourable for torpedo attack on that ship. The Onslow closed and engaged the light cruiser with gunfire at ranges between 2,000 and 4,000 yards, and then, although severely damaged by shell fire, succeeded in closing a German battle cruiser to attack with torpedoes; she was struck by a heavy shell before more than one torpedo could be fired. Lieut.-Commander Tovey thought that his order to fire all torpedoes had been carried out, and finding that this was not the case, closed the light cruiser and fired a torpedo at her, and then sighting the Battle Fleet fired the remaining torpedoes at battleships. The Onslow's engines then stopped, but the damaged destroyer Defender, Lieut.-Commander Palmer, closed her at 7.15 P.M. and took her in tow under a heavy fire, and, in spite of bad weather during the night and the damaged condition of both destroyers, brought her back to home .waters, transferring her on June 1st to the care of a tug.

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