It may be that the leader did not grasp the situation, and
was afraid to come any nearer for fear of torpedo attacks. Neither did any of
the other officers on the enemy side think of holding firmly to our line, which
would have greatly impeded our movements and rendered a fresh attack on the
enemy line extremely difficult.
Immediately after the line was turned the enemy fire ceased
temporarily, partly because the artificial smoke sent out by the torpedo-boats
to protect the linethe battle-cruisers in particular greatly
impeded the enemy's view, but chiefly no doubt on account of the severe losses
the enemy had suffered.
Losses that were observed for certain as sunk were: a ship
of the "Queen Elizabeth " class (name unknown), a battle-cruiser
(Invincible), two armoured cruisers (Black Prince and
Defence), the light cruiser Shark, and one marked " O 24."
Heavily damaged and partially set on fire were: One cruiser (Warrior,
sunk later), three light cruisers, three destroyers (of which the Acasta
On our side "V48" was the only destroyer sunk, the
Wiesbaden was rendered incapable, and the Lützow so badly
damaged that the Chief of Reconnaissance was subsequently compelled at 9 P.M.
to leave the ship under the enemy's fire, and transfer to the Moltke.
The leadership of Scouting Division I was thus made over to the
Derfflinger (Captain Hartog) until II P.M. The other battle-cruisers and
the leading ships of Squadron III had also suffered, but kept their place in
the line. No one reported inability to do so; I was, therefore, able to reckon
on their being fully prepared to fight. After the enemy was forced to cease
firing on our line steering S.W., he flung himself on the already heavily
damaged Wiesbaden. The ship put up a gallant fight against the
overwhelmingly superior forces, which was clearly to be seen as she had emerged
from out of the clouds of smoke and was distinctly visible.
It was still too early for a nocturnal move. If the enemy
followed us our action in retaining the direction taken after turning the line
would partake of the nature of a retreat, and in the event of any damage to our
ships in the rear the Fleet would be compelled to sacrifice them or else to
decide on a line of action enforced by enemy pressure, and not adopted
voluntarily, and would therefore be detrimental to us from the very outset.
Still less was it feasible to strive at detaching oneself from the enemy,
leaving it to him to decide when he would elect to meet us the next morning.
There was but one way of averting thisto force the enemy into a second
battle by another determined advance, and forcibly compel his torpedo-boats to
attack. The success of the turning of the line while fighting encouraged me to
make the attempt, and decided me to make still further use of the facility of
movement. The manuvre would be bound to surprise the enemy, to upset his
plans for the rest of the day, and if the blow fell heavily it would facilitate
the breaking loose at night. The fight of the Wiesbaden helped also to
strengthen my resolve to make an effort to render assistance to her and at
least save the crew.
Accordingly, after we had been on the new course about a
quarter of an hour, the line was again swung rounds to starboard on an easterly
course at 8.55 P.M. The battle-cruisers were ordered to operate with full
strength on the enemy's leading point, all the torpedo-boat flotillas had
orders to attack, and the First Leader of the torpedo-boats, Commodore
Michelsen, was instructed to send his boats to rescue the Wiesbaden's
crew. The boats told off for this purpose were compelled to relinquish the
attempt. The Wiesbaden and the boats making for her were in the midst of
such heavy fire that the leader of the torpedo-boats thought it useless to
sacrifice his boats. In turning to go back "V73 " and "G 88 " together fired
off four torpedoes at the " Queen Elizabeths."
The battle that developed after the second change of course
and led to the intended result very soon brought a full resumption of the
firing at the van which, as was inevitable, became the same running fight as
the previous one, in order to bring the whole of the guns into action. This
time, however, in spite of "crossing the T," the acknowledged purpose was to
deal a blow at the centre of the enemy line. The fire directed on our line by
the enemy concentrated chiefly on the battle-cruisers and the Fifth Division.
The ships suffered all the more as they could see but little of the enemy
beyond the flash of fire at each round, while they themselves apparently
offered a good target for the enemy guns. The behaviour of the battle-cruisers
is specially deserving of the highest praise; crippled in the use of their guns
by their numerous casualties, some of them badly damaged, obeying the given
signal, " At the enemy," they dashed recklessly to the attack.
The conduct of Squadron II (Rear-Admiral Behncke) and the
action of the ships of the Fifth Division are equally worthy of recognition.
They, together with the battle-cruisers, bore the brunt of the fight, and thus
rendered it possible for the torpedo-boat flotillas to take so effective a
share in the proceedings. The systematic procedure of our ships in the line was
a great help to the flotillas on their starboard side in opening the attack.
The first to attack were those ahead with the cruisers, the boats of Flotillas
VI and IX. Next came Flotillas III and V from the Main Fleet. Flotilla II was
kept back by the Second Leader of torpedo-boats, for fear it might be left
unprotected behind VI and IX. This action was justified by the course of
events. The 1st Torpedo Half-Flotilla and a few boats from Flotillas VI and IX
were occupied in covering the damaged Lützow. There was no longer
any opportunity for an attack by Flotilla VII which had been in the rear of our
fighting line. As they advanced Flotillas VI and IX were met by the heavy enemy
fire that until then had been directed against the battle-cruisers; they
carried the attack to within 70 hm. against the centre of a line comprising
more than twenty large battleships steering in a circle E.S.E. to S., and
opened fire under favourable conditions. In the attack "S 35 " was hit midships
and sank at once. All the other boats returned, and in doing so sent out dense
clouds of smoke between the enemy and our own Main Fleet. The enemy must have
turned aside on the attack of Flotillas VI and IX. Flotillas III and V that
came after found nothing but light craft, and had no opportunity of attacking
the battleships. The action of the torpedo-boat flotillas had achieved its
At 9.17 P.M., therefore, the line was again for the third
time swung round on to a westerly course, and this was carried out at the
moment when the flagship Friedrich der Grosse was taking a southerly
course close by the turning point. Although the signal to swing round hung on
the starboard side and was being carried out by the neighbouring ships, I made
the Chief of the Friedrich der Grosse carry out the turn to larboard
This might have led the ships following behind to think that
there was a mistake in the signalling. But my intention to get through and save
the ships in front of the Friedrich der Grosse from a difficult
situation in carrying out the manuvre was rightly understood by
Vice-Admiral Ehrhardt Schmidt in the Ostfriesland, the Leader of
Squadron I. He did not wait, therefore, for the carrying out of the movement
from the rearwhich is the general rule to avoid all danger of
collisionbut himself gave the lead in the turning of his squadron by
starting the turn to starboard with the Ostfriesland and thus forced his
ships round. This action was a very satisfactory proof of the capable handling
of the ships and the leaders' intelligent grasp of the situation.
After the change to a westerly course the Fleet was brought
round to a south-westerly, southerly, and finally to a south-easterly course to
meet the enemy's encircling movement and keep open a way for our return, The
enemy fire ceased very soon after we had swung round and we lost sight of our
adversary. The enemy's casualties at this stage of the fighting cannot be
Excepting the effects of direct hits which we were able to
confirm from the flames of explosions, the enemy has only admitted the damage
to the Marlborough by torpedoes.³ On our side all the ships were in
a condition to keep up the speed requisite for night work (16 knots) and thus
keep their place in the line.
NIGHT MOVEMENTS AND BATTLES
Twilight was now far advanced, and it was only by personal
observation that I could assure myself of the presence and external condition
of those ships that chiefly had been under fire, and especially that the
Lützow was able to keep with the unit. At 9.30 the battle-cruiser
was seen to larboard [port] of the flagship, and had reported that she could do
15 knots. The report made by the torpedo-boat flotilla as to the enemy's
strength and the extension of his firing line made it quite certain that we had
been in battle with the entire English Fleet. It might safely be expected that
in the twilight the enemy would endeavour by attacking with strong forces, and
during the night with destroyers, to force us over to the west in order to open
battle with us when it was light. He was strong enough to do it. If we could
succeed in warding off the enemy's encircling movement, and could be the first
to reach Horns Reef, then the liberty of decision for the next morning was
assured to us. In order to make this possible all flotillas were ordered: to be
ready to attack at night, even though there was a danger when day broke of
their not being able to take part in the new battle that was expected. The Main
Fleet in close formation was to make for -Horns Reef by the shortest route,
and, defying all enemy attacks, keep on that course. In accordance with this,
preparations for the night were made.
The Leaders of the torpedo-boats were instructed to arrange
night attacks for the flotillas. At 9.20 a southerly course was ordered. In
changing to this course Squadron II had fallen out on the starboard side as the
leading ship of Squadron I fell into the new course, not being able to fix the
position of Squadron II. Owing to the latter's inferior speed it fell behind
the ships of Squadrons III and I in the last part of the day's battle. Squadron
II now attempted, at full speed and manuvring to larboard [port], to
resume its place in front of Squadron I, which was its rightful position, after
the Fleet had been turned. It came, therefore, just in time to help our
battle-cruisers that were engaged in a short but sharp encounter with the enemy
shortly before it was quite dark. While Scouting Divisions I and II were trying
to place themselves at the head of our line they were met at 10.20 by heavy
fire coming from a southeasterly direction. Nothing could be seen of the enemy
beyond the flash of the guns at each round. The ships, already heavily damaged,
were hit again without being able to return the fire to any purpose. They
turned back, therefore, and passed in between Squadrons II and I to leeward of
The head of Squadron I followed the movements of the
cruisers, while Squadron II (Rear-Admiral Mauve) stood by and took the enemy's
fire. When Squadron II became aware that the failing light made any return fire
useless it withdrew, thinking to attract the enemy to closer quarters with
Squadron I. The enemy did not follow, but ceased firing.
Almost at the same time the Leader of Scouting Division IV.
Commodore von Reuter, under similar conditions, had been engaged in a short
encounter with four of five cruisers, some of them ships of the 'Hampshire "
Following on this attack, we took a south-easterly course
which The Situation at 10.30 P.M, was at once seen to be necessary and adopted
by Squadron I, bringing Squadron II again on the starboard side of the Fleet.
In view of the fact that the leading ships of the Main Fleet would chiefly have
to ward off the attacks of the enemy, and in order that at daybreak there
should be powerful vessels at the head, Squadron II was placed in the rear. At
11 P.M. the head of the line stood at 36" 37' North latitude, and 5" 30' East
longitude. At 11.6 P.M. the order for the night was "Course S.S.E. 1/4 E, speed
Out of consideration for their damaged condition, Scouting
Division I was told off to cover the rear, Division II to the vanguard, and the
IVth to cover the starboard side. The Leaders of the torpedo-boat forces placed
the flotillas in an E.N.E. to S.S.W. direction, which was where the enemy Main
Fleet could be expected. A great many of the boats had fired off all their
torpedoes during the battle. Some were left behind for the protection of the
badly damaged Lützow; others were retained by the flotilla leaders
in case of emergency. The rescue of the crews of the Elbing and Rostock was due
to that decision.
The Second, Fifth and Seventh, and part of the Sixth and
Ninth were the only Flotillas that proceeded to the attack; the boats had
various nocturnal fights with enemy light forces. They never sighted the Main
Fleet. At 5 A.M. on June 1 "L 24" sighted a portion of the Main Fleet in Jammer
Bay. It was as we surmised after the battle the enemy had gone north.
Flotilla II, which had been stationed at the most northerly part of the sector,
was forced back by cruisers and destroyers, and went round by Skagen; at 4
o'clock when day broke the other flotillas collected near the Main Fleet.
The battleship squadrons proceeded during the night in the
following order: Squadron I, Flagship of the Fleet, Squadron III and Squadron
II. Squadrons I and II were now in reversed positions; that is to say, the
ships previously in the rear were now at the van.
Other attempts to bring the admirals ahead were abandoned
owing to the darkness and lack of time. The conduct of the line was entrusted
to Captain Redlich on the Westfalen. The enemy attacked from the east
with both light and heavy forces during the night almost without ceasing.
Scouting Divisions I and II and the ships in Squadron I in particular were to
ward off the attacks. The result was excellent. To meet these attacks in time,
bring the enemy under fire and by suitable manuvring evade his torpedoes,
demanded the most careful observation on board the vessels. Consequently the
line was in constant movement, and it required great skill on the part of the
commanders to get into position again, and necessitated a perpetual look-out
for those manuvring just in front of them. Very little use was made of
the searchlights. It had been proved that the fire from the attacking boats was
aimed chiefly at these illuminated targets. As our light guns and the
navigation control on the ships were close to the searchlights, and because of
the better view to be obtained the officers and men on duty there would not
take cover, several unfortunate casualties occurred. On board the
Oldenburg the commander, Captain Höpfner, was severely wounded by a
shell, and several officers and many of the crew were killed.
Utterly mistaking the situation, a large enemy cruiser with
four funnels came up at 2 A.M. (apparently one of the "Cressy" class), and was
soon within 1, 500 metres of Squadron I's battleships, the
Thüringen and Ostfriesland. In a few seconds she was on
fire, and sank with a terrible explosion four minutes after opening fire. The
destruction of this vessel, which was so near that the crew could be seen
rushing backwards and forwards on the burning deck while the searchlights
disclosed the flight of the heavy projectiles till they fell and exploded, was
a grand but terrible sight. Squadron I reported during the night that after
carrying out an evading manuvre the Nassau had not returned in her
place, and as she did not answer a call it was feared she had been torpedoed.
Towards morning, however, there was a faint wireless from her reporting that
she was standing by the Vyl Lightship at Horns Reef, and during the night had
rammed and cut through a destroyer. After this exploit the commander preferred
not to return to our darkened line but made for the morning's rendezvous.
A careful estimation showed that during the night one
battlecruiser, one light cruiser and seven destroyers were sunk on the enemy's
side, and several battle-cruisers and destroyers badly damaged. The 2nd
Division of Squadron I at the head of the line were specially successful in the
defence they put up against torpedo attacks, as they themselves accounted for
six destroyers. On our side the old light cruiser Frauenlob, the
battleship Pommern and "V 4 " were sunk; Rostock and
Elbing were abandoned and blown up. At 12.45 A.M. the Frauenlob (Captain
Georg Hoffmann), during a fight between Scouting Division IV and four cruisers
of the "Town " class, was hit by a torpedo and, according to the accounts of
the few survivors, went down fighting to the last.
The Pommern (Captain Bölken) was torpedoed at
4.20 A.M. and went down with a violent explosion. Unfortunately none of the
crew could be saved, as the wreckage drifted away so quickly that nothing was
seen on the water by a ship following at 500 m. distance.
At 4.50 A.M. "V4" struck an enemy mine; the crew was not
saved. At 1.30 A.M. the Rostock and Elbing to the larboard [port]
of the head of Squadron I were engaged in a fight with destroyers, but had
finally to withdraw from the enemy's torpedoes and break through Squadron I's
line, so as not to impede the firing from the ships of the line. While doing
this the Rostock was hit by a torpedo, and the Elbing and
Posen collided. Both cruisers were put out of action. The Rostock
kept afloat till 5.45 A.M., but as enemy cruisers were then sighted she was
blown up, the entire crew and the wounded having previously been taken off by
the boats of Flotilla III. The crew of the Elbing was also taken over by
a boat belonging to Flotilla III. The Commander, Captain Madlung, the First
Officer, the Torpedo Officer and a cutter's crew remained on board to keep the
ship afloat as long as possible. When, however, enemy forces were sighted at 4
A.M. the Elbing was also blown up. The remainder of the crew got away in
the cutter and were subsequently picked up by a Dutch fishing-smack and
returned home via Holland.
The Lützow was kept above water until 3.45 A.M.
The König, the rear ship of the Fleet, lost sight of her at 11.15
P.M. The vessel was at last steered from the stern. All efforts to stop the
water pouring in were fruitless; the fore part of the ship had been too badly
damaged, and she had at last 7,000 tons of water in her. The screws revolved
out of the water, and she had to be given up. The crew with all the wounded
were taken off by the torpedo-boats "G40," "G37," "G38" and "V45," and the
Lützow was sunk by a torpedo. Altogether the four boats had 1,250
men from the Lützow on board. Twice they encountered enemy cruisers
and destroyers, but on each occasion, led by the senior officer, Commander
Beitzen (Richard), they attacked and successfully made their way into the
German Bight. In the last engagement "G40" had her engines hit and had to be
When this report reached the Main Fleet the Second Leader of
Torpedo-Boats on the Regensburg turned at once, regardless as to whether
he might meet with superior English forces or not, and took over the towing
party. "S 32,' Leader of Flotilla I (Captain Fröhlich), was hit in her
boiler at 1 A.M. and rendered temporarily useless. By feeding the boiler with
sea water the captain succeeded, however, in taking the boat into Danish
waters. From thence she was towed through the Nordmann Deep by torpedo-boats
dispatched to her assistance.
These events prove that the English Naval forces made no
effort to occupy the waters between the scene of battle and Horns Reef.
It was only during the night that there was opportunity for
the ships to report on the number of prisoners they had on board and to gather
from them some idea of the enemy's losses. Then I learned that the
Warspite, which we had observed to be badly damaged in the battle, was
sunk. Among other vessels reported sunk were the battle-cruisers Queen Mary,
Indefatigable, and Invincible. This was all news to me, and
convinced me that the English losses were far more considerable than our own.
On arriving at Horns Reef at 5 A.M. I decided to remain
there and await the Lützow. I had not then heard of her fate. From
11.30 P.M. on, the vessel had been able to do 13 knots. The last report from
her was at 1.55 A.M.transmitted by convoy-boat " G 40 "stating that
she was making very slow way, that the means of navigation were limited, that
the gun power was reduced to a fifth, course south, station E 16. At 5.30 A.M.
came a message that the Lützow had been abandoned at 4 A.M.
After that I had no difficulty in drawing my own
conclusions. As the enemy did not come down from the North, even with light
forces, it was evident that he was retiring, especially as nothing more could
be seen of him notwithstanding that his torpedo-boats were about until dawn.
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