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Jellicoe: The Grand Fleet
Chapter 13c - The Battle of Jutland
The Battlefleet in Action

The first two-point turn was made at 7.23 P.M. and the Fleet was brought to a south by west course by 7.33 P.M. (that is, to a course one point to the westward of the course of the Fleet before the destroyer attack). The total amount by which the range was opened by the turns was about 1,750 yards.

The 4th Light Cruiser Squadron and the 4th and 11th Flotillas had been delayed in reaching their action station at the van until about 7.15 P.M., owing to the turns to the westward made by the Battle Fleet to close the enemy. In accordance with arrangements made previously to counter destroyer attacks, these vessels were ordered out to engage the enemy destroyers, which, according to the report of the Commodore Le Mesurier, commanding the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron, were steering towards the head of the division led by the King George V.) the van ship of the Battle Fleet. Although not very well placed for the first attack for the reason given above, they were in a very favourable position to counter the second destroyer attack, which took place at 7.25 P.M. The enemy's flotilla was sighted bearing 30 degrees before the starboard beam of the Iron Duke at a range of 9,000 yards and was heavily engaged by the light forces and the 4th, 1st, and 5th Battle Squadrons.

During this attack three enemy destroyers were reported as sunk by the fire of the battleships, light cruisers and destroyers; one of them, bearing a Commodore's pendant, being sunk at 7.50 P.M. by a division of the 12th Flotilla, consisting of the Obedient, Marvel, Mindful and Onslaught, which attacked them near the rear of our battle line. The Southampton and Dublin, of the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, attacked and sank a second destroyer at this period. At least six torpedoes were observed to pass ahead of, or through the track of, the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron during their attack on the German flotilla.

The destroyer attacks were combined with a retiring movement on the part of the enemy's Battle Fleet, the movement being covered with the aid of a heavy smoke screen. Although this retirement was not visible from the Iron Duke owing to the smoke and mist, and was, therefore, not known to me until after the action, it was clearly seen from the rear of our line, as is indicated by the following citations:

The Captain of the Valiant stated in his report: "At 7.23 P.M. enemy's Battle Fleet now altered course together away from us and broke off the action, sending out a low cloud of smoke which effectually covered their retreat and obscured them from further view."

The Captain of the Malaya reported, referring to this period : " This was the last of the enemy seen in daylight, owing to their Battle Fleet having turned away."

Sir Cecil Burney stated in regard to this period: " As the destroyer attack developed, the enemy's Battle Fleet in sight were observed to turn at least eight points until their sterns were towards our line. They ceased fire, declined further action, and disappeared into the mist."

The Captain of the St. Vincent said: "The target was held closely until 7.26 P.M. (32 minutes in all), when the enemy had turned eight or ten points away, disappearing into the mist and with a smoke screen made by destroyers to cover them as well."

Rear-Admiral Evan-Thomas remarked: " After joining the Battle Fleet the 5th Battle Squadron conformed to the movements of the Commander-in-Chief, engaging the rear ships of the enemy's battle line, until they turned away and went out of sight, all ships apparently covering themselves with artificial smoke."

The Captain of the Revenge recorded: " A flotilla of destroyers passed through the line and made a most efficient smoke screen. At this period the enemy's fleet turned eight points to starboard and rapidly drew out of sight."

In the German account of the action at this stage, it is stated, in more than one passage, that the British Fleet during this action between the Battle Fleets was to the northward of the High Seas Fleet. This is correct of the earlier stages. The account refers to the attacks on our line by the German destroyer flotillas, and states finally that in the last attack the destroyers did not sight the heavy ships, but only light cruisers and destroyers to the north-eastward. The accuracy of this statement is doubtful, since the destroyers were clearly in sight from our heavy ships. But the account then proceeds to state that "the German Commander-in-Chief turns his battle line to a southerly and southwesterly course on which the enemy was last seen, but he is no longer to be found."

This is illuminating. It is first stated that our ships bore north and north-east from the enemy and then that the enemy turned to south and south-west, that is, directly away from the British Fleet. Thus the fact that the German Fleet turned directly away is confirmed by Germans.

No report of this movement of the German Fleet reached me, and at first it was thought that his temporary disappearance was due to the thickening mist, especially as firing could be heard from the battleships in rear, but at 7.41 P.M., the enemy Battle Fleet being no longer in sight from the Iron Duke, course was altered " by divisions ^ three points more to starboard (namely, to south-west) to close the enemy, and single line ahead was again formed on the Iron Duke on that course.

At this period the rear of our battle line was still in action at intervals with one or two ships of the enemy's fleet, which were probably some that had dropped astern partially disabled, but by 7.55 P.M. fire had practically ceased.

At about 7.40 P.M. I received a report from Sir David Beatty stating that the enemy bore north-west by west from the Lion, distant 10 to II miles, and that the Lion's course was south-west. Although the battle cruisers were not in .sight from the Iron Duke, I assumed the Lion to be five or six miles ahead of the van of the Battle Fleet, but it appeared later from a report received in reply to directions signalled by me at 8.10 P.M. to the King George V. to follow the battle cruisers, that they were not in sight from that ship either.

At this time the enemy's Battle Fleet seems to have become divided, for whilst Sir David Beatty reported the presence of battleships north-west by west from the Lion, other enemy battleships were observed to the westward (that is, on the starboard bow of the Iron Duke), and the course of the Fleet was at once altered " by divisions " to west in order to close the enemy; this alteration was made at 7.59 P.M.

It will be observed that all the large alterations of course of the Battle Fleet during the engagement were made " by divisions" instead of "in succession from the van, or together." The reason was that in this way the whole Fleet could be brought closer to the enemy with far greater rapidity, and in a more ordered formation, than if the movement had been carried out by the line " in succession."

The objection to altering by turning all ships together was the inevitable confusion that would have ensued as the result of such a manoeuvre carried out with a very large Fleet under action conditions in misty weather, particularly if the ships were thus kept on a line of bearing for a long period.

The battleships sighted at 7.59 P.M. opened fire later on ships of the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron, which had moved out to starboard of the battle line to engage a flotilla of enemy destroyers which were steering to attack the Battle Fleet. The Calliope, the flagship of Commodore Le Mesurier, ,was hit by a, heavy shell and received some damage, but retained her fighting efficiency and fired a torpedo at the leading battleship at a range of 6,500 yards ; an explosion was noticed on board a ship of the "Kaiser" class by the Calliope. The ships sighted turned away and touch could not be regained, although sounds of gunfire could be heard from ahead at 8.25 P.M., probably from our battle cruisers, which obtained touch with and engaged some of the enemy's ships very effectively between 8.22 and 8.28 P.M. The Falmouth .was the last ship of the Battle Cruiser Fleet to be in touch with the enemy, at 8.38 P.M. ; the ships then in sight turned eight points together away from the Falmouth.

At 8.30 P.M. the light was failing and the Fleet was turned "by divisions" to a south-west course, thus reforming single line again.

During the proceedings of the Battle Fleet described above, the battle cruisers were intermittently in action, as mentioned in Sir David Beatty's report in the Appendix.

At first, touch with the enemy was lost owing to the large alterations of course carried out by the High Sea Fleet, but it was regained at 7.12 P.M., the battle cruisers opening fire at 7.14 P.M., though only for two and a half minutes, and increasing speed to 22 knots. At this period the battle cruisers were steering south-west by south to south-west, and 'this course took them from the port to the starboard bow of the Battle Fleet by 7.12 P.M. The movements of our battle cruisers, which were at this time between four and five miles ahead of the van of the Battle Fleet could not be distinguished, owing partly to the funnel and cordite smoke from the battle cruisers themselves, but even more to the funnel smoke from the numerous cruisers, light cruisers and destroyers which were attempting to gain their positions ahead of the van.

The movements of the enemy's fleet could not be distinguished from our Battle Fleet owing again to their own funnel and cordite smoke, and also to the smoke screens which ships and destroyers were making to conceal their movements. It will be realised that these conditions, which particularly affected the Battle Fleet, did not apply to the same extent to our ships ahead of our Battle Fleet. They had little but the .smoke of the enemy's leading ships to obscure the view. Farther to the rear, the Battle Fleet had the smoke of all our craft ahead of it as well as that of the enemy's long line of ships.

Conditions which were perhaps difficult ahead of the Battle Fleet were very much accentuated in the Battle Fleet. Vice-Admiral Sir Martyn Jerram, in his report, remarked on this point : " As leading ship, in addition to the hazy atmosphere, I was much hampered by what I imagine must have been cordite fumes from the battle cruisers after they had passed us, and from other cruisers engaged on the bow, also by funnel gases from small craft ahead, and for a considerable time by dense smoke from the Duke of Edinburgh, which was unable to draw clear. "

The general position at 6.45 P.M. and again at 7.15 P.M. is shown in the plans facing pp. 356 and 360.

At 7.10 P.M., according to remarks from the Minotaur, flagship of Rear-Admiral H. L. Heath, commanding the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, the position as seen from that ship was as follows: "The 2nd Cruiser Squadron was in single line ahead three to four miles on the port side of the King George V., gaining on her slightly, but with all the destroyers and light craft between her and the King George V. The battle cruisers were about four miles distant on the starboard bow of the Minotaur; owing to their higher speed, the battle cruisers rapidly ' increased their distance from the Battle Fleet to some eight miles ."

At 7.5 P.M. according to a report from the Shannon, of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, the Shannon's course was S. 10 W., "the 2nd Cruiser Squadron endeavouring to take station on the engaged bow of the Battle Fleet ; the Battle Fleet still engaged, the battle cruisers not engaged and turned slightly to port." And again at 7.22 P.M. a report says: "The Duke of Edinburgh had now taken station astern of the Shannon, the battle cruisers were engaged and had wheeled to starboard. Leading ships of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron were starting to cross the bows of the Battle Fleet from port to starboard. Battle cruisers firing intermittently, light cruisers making their way through the destroyer flotillas to attack the enemy light cruisers." Rear-Admiral Heath sated: " At 7.11 P.M. I proceeded with the squadron at 20 knots to take up station astern of the Battle Cruiser Fleet, which was then engaged with the enemy. " He added : " One salvo fell short on the starboard bow of the Minotaur and some others in close proximity" ; and later says, " even when the salvo referred to in the preceding paragraph fell, no more than the flashes of the enemy's guns could be seen."

Further remarks from the Shannon, at a later stage, were : " At 8 P.M. Battle Fleet altered course to starboard to close the enemy, and by 8.15 was lost to sight, bearing about north by east."

"At 8.15 P.M. Battle Fleet, out of sight from Shannon, was heard to be in action.^

"At 8.30 P.M. the visibility of grey ships was about 9,000 yards." ^At 8.45 P.M. King George V. again sighted, bearing north-north-east. Visibility had again improved, and her range was estimated at about 10,000 yards. Conformed to her course S. 75 W. to close enemy."

At 7.20 P.M. the ships engaged by our battle cruisers turned away and were lost to sight. They were located for a moment at 8.20 P.M. with the aid of the 1st and 3rd Light Cruiser Squadrons, and, although they disappeared again at once, they were once more located and effectively engaged between 8.22 and 8.28 P.M. at about 10,000 yards range. They turned away once more and were finally lost to sight by the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron (the last ships to keep in touch) at 8.38 P.M., steaming to the westward.

This was the last opportunity which the battle cruisers had of putting the finishing touch upon a fine afternoon's work. They had, under the very able and gallant leadership of Sir David Beatty, assisted by the splendid squadron so well commanded by Rear-Admiral Evan-Thomas, gone far to crush out of existence the opposing Battle Cruiser Squadron.

It will be seen from the above account that our battle cruisers experienced great difficulty in locating and holding the enemy after 7.20 P.M., even when far ahead of the Battle Fleet, with its small craft, and therefore in a position of freedom from the smoke of our own vessels and the enemy's line. After this time, 7.20 P.M., the battle cruisers .were only engaged for some six minutes. The enemy turned away on each occasion when he was located and showed no disposition to fight.

The visibility by this time had become very bad; the light was failing, and it became necessary to decide on the disposition for the night.

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