Churchill Right on Dardanelles

Minister of Munitions Winston Churchill meets women war workers at Georgetown’s filling works near Glasgow during a visit on 9 October 1918. Churchill came into Lloyd George’s cabinet, known as the Second Coalition, as Minister of Munitions. 

Churchill was forced out of the cabinet by H.H. Asquith since the Conservatives would not come into a coalition with the his Liberal Party if Churchill remained in the Cabinet. This was painful, to say the least, for both men. Asquith is actually responsible for the launch of Churchill’s career. He appointed him to a series of powerful cabinet posts from Home Secretary to President of the Board of Trade to First Lord of the Admiralty.

Although the decision to force the Dardanelles was made by the entire cabinet under the leadership of Prime Minister H.H. Asquith, Winston Churchill is somehow given the entire blame for what became a disaster. In spite of their later denials, the First Sea Lord, Admiral Jackie Fisher, and the Secretary of State for War, Field Marshal Kitchener, were in favour of this plan. After the war, a Royal Commission cleared Churchill of blame for the Dardanelles/Gallipoli campaign.

As you can see from the map above, Churchill’s plan was for the Royal Navy to use old battleships to force their was from the Aegean through the Dardanelles into the Sea of Marmara. From there they would have easily taken Istanbul and opened up the Black Sea to maritime traffic. The Turkish Navy was too small to have stopped them although at that point all Turkish warships were being commanded by German naval officers. (Clash of Fleets: Naval Battles of the Great War, by Vincent O’Hara).

The best and shortest explanation of why this was a sound idea and what it was could have achieved is given by Violet Bonham Carter, Baroness Asquith. Violet Asquith was the daughter of Prime Minister H.H. Asquith and in spite of her youth, he often discussed complex matters of state with her because of her brilliance and keen understanding of British politics. She was one of the most extraordinary women of her time.

Portrait of the brilliant and perceptive British politician and author Violet Bonham-Carter, neé Asquith, 1915.   In December 1964, she was elevated to the peerage in her own right as Baroness Asquith of Yarnbury (15 April 1887 – 19 February 1969).

She met Winston Churchill when she was 18 and they remained friends for rest of their lives. In the last several years of his life, she was one of the few people who would be invited to sit with him and  her presence cheered him. She herself was an extraordinary woman and the only female friend he had. The last telegram Churchill sent in his life was one congratulating Violet on her elevation to the peerage. She was brilliant, thought by many to be almost as good a speaker as Churchill and had a personality of steel. All of this appealed to Churchill.

“Winston Churchill As I Knew Him” is her memoir about the early years of friendship between them from 1906 until 1915.  She describes the rationale behind the campaign. “Once the fleet had broken through the Straits (the Dardanelles) into the Sea of Marmora the Greeks and the Bulgarians, hungry for spoils, might join us in attacking Turkey (at that time allied with Imperial Germany); Italy might be weaned from her neutrality; Rumania would not stand alone. The Balkan States might form a united front to sweep the Turks from Europe. But what mattered most was to help Russia in her desperate need. When Constantinople (now Istanbul) fell we could release her shipping bottled up in the Black Sea. She could export her grain to us ad we could send her arms and ammunition.”

It was a bold plan. But for the lack of will of the British Admiral commanding the task force of old battleships assembled to run the Dardanelles, it probably would have worked and would have changed history. Certainly Baroness Asquith believed this to her dying day. She thought this was the worst mistake made in the 20th century.

No question that Admiral David Beatty would have successfully forced the Dardanelles. At this point there were no Turkish soldiers on the small spit of land known as Gallipoli. Unfortunately, it didn’t work because the Royal Navy’s fighting instinct had atrophied over a century of ruling the waves without challenge.

I am convinced that Admiral, the Earl Beatty of the North Sea, would have forced the Dardanelles had he been in command. In spite of his errors in command in his many engagements with the Germans, he certainly never lost his nerve. In fact, if anything, he went at the Germans too quickly without waiting for his other ships to come up in support.

 

 

 

 

Argument Continues One Hundred Years After Jutland

Some battles are never over and the Battle of Jutland is such a battle. One the 100th anniversary of the Jutland, the Telegraph of London published the following by Nick Jellicoe, Admiral John Jellicoe’s grandson.

 

Nick Jellicoe standing over his grandfather's nval uniform

Nick Jellicoe standing over his grandfather’s nval uniform CREDIT: NMRN/BNPS

(London Daily Telgraph)

Even Nelson could not have done better at Jutland than my grandfather

Britain’s military greatness was founded on its maritime power – and yet in the First World War, while the Royal Navy maintained a crucial economic blockade on Germany, there was just one great sea battle: Jutland.

One hundred years ago on Tuesday, the fleets of Great Britain and Germany confronted one another in the North Sea off the coast of Denmark. To this day, controversy rages over what exactly happened and which side, if any, won the day.

The Kaiser claimed victory, citing heavier British losses in men and ships. But numbers are misleading: yes, the Germans suffered smaller absolute losses – but these represented a far higher percentage of their strength and so were difficult to absorb.

However, the Germans got their version of the battle out while the British were still at sea. The Admiralty bungled its communiqués so badly, it took five revisions before Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty and a former journalist, was recruited to get the British story across.

 

Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, Commander in Chief of the Grand Fleet, reaching the top of a flight of steps on board a battleship. A small group of sailors is stood below looking up at him whilst a capital ship sails astern of the ship. (Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum

So what really happened? My grandfather, Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, commanded the British Grand Fleet that day and his reputation has arguably never recovered. True, Jutland wasn’t the second Trafalgar the public had expected.

But Jellicoe’s achievement – that of maintaining naval surface supremacy – was quickly lost in the hunt for scapegoats for the failure to secure an outright victory. Those who, like Churchill, had formally approved his written tactical intentions two years previously now accused him of having been too cautious.

The sea was in Jellicoe’s blood through maternal connections back to Nelson and Phillip Patton, an Admiral of the Red. His own father went to sea aged 12 and Jellicoe joined the Navy at 13, passing out of Britannia, with a first-class certificate two years later, in 1874. His career advanced rapidly; but it was under Jacky Fisher that his expertise in gunnery and understanding of ship design developed.

Aged 31, Jellicoe was promoted Commander, then became second-in-command to Admiral Tryon on the ill-fated HMS Victoria (later involved in a fatal collision). Eventually, Jellicoe became Chief-of-Staff on Admiral Seymour’s – unsuccessful – relief expedition to the beleaguered legations in Peking. Friendships with future adversaries would survive war; but after a second brush with death (Jellicoe was shot in the chest leading an attack against Boxer troops), he was invalided home.

To meet the emerging German threat, Fisher as First Sea Lord worked on re-balancing Britain’s naval power centred on Gibraltar and the Channel. But the launch of HMS Dreadnought in 1906 (Jellicoe was on the design team) fuelled a new naval arms race. Jellicoe, meanwhile, had a spell as Director of Naval Ordnance, during which he uncovered poor quality in British munitions. However, his tenure was too short to make a difference, and this left the Fleet at a disadvantage as it faced the enemy at Jutland.

The battle itself was fought late in the day, May 31, 1916. The visibility was appalling, induced by a combination of North Sea fog, lingering cordite fumes and chemical smoke screens. Often, only two ships could be seen at any moment. The battle began ignominiously with the destruction of two British battlecruisers, Indefatigable and Queen Mary. Later that evening, Horace Hood’s Invincible and an older armoured cruiser, Defence, also blew up.

But it was not all bad. Admiral Sir David Beatty, who commanded the Battlecruiser Squadron, lured the Germans back to Jellicoe, who masterfully deployed his 24 dreadnoughts into a five-and-a-half-mile long battle line, twice catching the leading German ships in a “T”, a classic naval warfare tactic.

But Jellicoe did not follow the German battle turns. He judged that he would not have caught them, and also feared that, in the thick fog, he might steam straight on to mines dropped in their wake. As dusk began to fall, he turned his fleet away from a massed German torpedo attack.

Many later saw this as his biggest mistake. Some naval strategists argue even now that he should have turned towards the torpedoes. But Jellicoe was concerned that a 25,000-ton dreadnought’s lack of manoeuvrability would have made them a sitting target for the German torpedoes.

Indeed, not one hit home. However, it meant that Jellicoe lost contact with the rest of the fleet.

Not willing to fight a night action where, in his mind, too much was left to chance, he steamed to where he thought the badly damaged German fleet would run. But even though Admiralty codebreakers knew where the Imperial High Seas Fleet intended to go, they failed to pass these vital signals to Jellicoe. When morning broke, no German ships could be found. They had returned to port claiming victory, perpetuating a myth that has lasted to this day.

For many years, it was averred that that the Grand Fleet wasn’t really engaged at Jutland. But the statistics tell a different story: in the first 75 minutes, the British scored 17 heavy hits against the Germans’ 44. In the last hour of battle fleet engagement, the opposite was the case: 49 to 3. Fourteen British and 11 German ships were sunk, with thousands killed on both sides.

Why had losses been so catastrophic? To begin with, magazine safety was sacrificed for gunnery speed and unstable cordite charges were stacked outside battle-cruiser magazines. A single spark could rip a whole ship apart. The protective scuttles through which cordite was fed to the guns were seldom used and even, in some cases, removed.

Furthermore, Fisher put emphasis on speed and gun caliber, thereby failing to give the battle-cruiser enough armoured protection. Jellicoe had privately voiced concerns about these weaknesses.

I seriously doubt that, under the conditions that day, a Nelson would have done any better. He knew that a failure at Trafalgar only risked a third of British naval assets, whereas Jellicoe was, in Churchill’s famous words, “the only man on either side who could have lost the war in an afternoon”.

The entire complement of British first-line ships was deployed at Jutland, and both sides were fighting with new and mainly untried technologies – long-range gunnery, fire control systems, torpedoes, mines, new ship designs.

The stalemate at Jutland convinced the German high command that they could never win a fleet-to-fleet action. Instead, they aggressively resumed unrestricted submarine activity as the only chance of winning a war bogged down on the western front.

THE SUPREME WAR COUNCIL, 1917-1920 (Q 73541) Admiral John Jellicoe and Admiral Jean-Marie Lacaze leaving the Naval Allied Conference in Paris, 27 July 1917. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205187947
THE ALLIED MILITARY PLANNING DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 49115) Admiral John Jellicoe, the First Sea Lord, leaving Hotel Crillon after the Allied Conference in Paris, 26 July 1917. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205282995

Defeating the U-boat menace became Jellicoe’s next task; and yet, despite great success, public opinion had turned against him. Even though half the Admiralty Board threatened to resign, he was sacked on Christmas Eve 1917.

For a country used to great naval victories, Jutland was a disappointment. On the other hand, without the lessons learned that day, the Navy would have been even less prepared than it was for the next war. Progress was made in independent divisional and night-fighting tactics, destroyer tactics, gunnery, signals management, magazine protection and ordnance and officer training.

This was Jellicoe’s legacy; and fittingly, when he died in November 1935, the flags of the Royal Navy, the French Marine Nationale and Hitler’s Kriegsmarine were all lowered in tribute and respect.

detailed article with slide shows and photographs here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/even-nelson-could-not-have-done-better-at-jutland-than-my-grandf/

 

Battlecruisers Explode & Admiral Sir David Beatty

THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 19571) Admiral David Beatty, posing deliberately for the camera with his hat at its famous ‘Beatty tilt’ shortly after his appointment as the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205125185

Rakish, occasionally reckless, always recognizable, and a fighter in the tradition of Lord Nelson, Admiral David Beatty became the most well known figure of the Royal Navy in later World War One and afterwards.

Admiral David Beatty was keenly aware of the value of public relations however often he decried the popular press. He complained in letters to his wife and friends about that damn fellow Filson who is here….(that is, aboard his then flagship, HMS Lion). He was referring to Filson Young who was a journalist and war correspondent who wasn’t important but knew a lot of important people and managed to get himself into all sorts of places. He talked himself into being commissioned into the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve as a sub-Lieutenant and had himself assigned to HMS Lion with the express task of writing about Admiral David Beatty.

 

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 68682) King George V and Admiral David Beatty on the quarter deck of HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH of the Grand Fleet. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205357472

 

This wasn’t as difficult as it sounds since Young had known Beatty for several years and hero worshiped him. Beatty theoretically found all this annoying mind you, he hardly wanted some hero worshiping journalist like Filson Young around. Except he did and he liked Filson so he invited Filson Young to become part of personal staff mess over which Beatty presided like a king. So as much as he complained, he was usually available to talk to Filson who was aboard HMS Lion during the Battle of the Dogger Bank. In the early twenties he wrote an impressive book still worth reading today: With the Battlecruisers.

Admiral Beatty, later Admiral of the Fleet and Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet, later First Sea Lord and elevated to the peerage as Earl Beatty of the North Sea, was looked on by the public as the ideal of a true Royal Navy officer with the ‘Nelson touch.’ Handsome, controversial (but not too controversial), always wearing his naval cap with his trademark “Beatty tilt,” he was instantly recognizable.  Beatty was a handsome man and a warrior. Women were strongly attracted to him and he was strongly attracted back. His private life was considered scandalous (which it sort of was) which only made him more interesting.

 

 

Battlecruiser HMS Indefatigable explodes at Jutland on 31 May 1916. Only two sailors out of a ship’s company of 1,019 survived.

“In the distance the British battlecruiser HMS Indefatigable sinking after being struck by shells from the German battlecruiser Von Der Tann first in “X” magazine and then once she had limped out of the line she was hit by another salvo on the foredeck, the resulting explosion then destroying her. All but two of Indefatigable’s crew of 1,119 were killed in the blast.”(Photo and caption courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

Three of Admiral David Beatty’s battlecruisers— HMS Invincible, HMS Queen Mary, and HMS Indefatigable —were hit in vulnerable areas not protected by sufficient armour, by German shells during the battle of Jutland and literally exploded. Only a handful of officers and ratings from the three ships survived. Beatty’s own flagship, HMS Lion, was hit repeatedly by German shells which did significant damage.

 

HMS Lion on the left with waterspouts from enemy shells surrounding her. To the right, battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary explodes after German shells penetrated one of her powder magazines.

Beatty and HMS Lion had been pounded by the German navy before in the Battle of the Dogger Bank when German ships temporarily put HMS Lion out of action. Fortunately, since the battle was in the North Sea, HMS Lion did not have to steam far to reach port once the engines were brought back online. Nonetheless, after this experience and Jutland, Beatty had been in more action exposed to death and danger on an open navigating bridge than any other British admiral.

battlecruiser HMS Lion at sea (photo courtesy of Imperial War Museum)

The battlecruiser, a fast, lightly armoured but carrying heavy guns, was the brainchild of Admiral of the Fleet Jacky Fisher, First Sea Lord from 1904 to 1910 (that is, the professional head of the Royal Navy) who subsequently served disastrously in the same position from 1914 to 1915.

            “Their speed will be their protection,” was Fishers’s unrelenting slogan: a dictum now as flawed as the refusal of combat with a nominal equal was unthinkable.”

Thus writes the brilliant naval historian, Professor Andrew Gordon, of the battlecruiser concept, in his magisterial work: The Rules of the Game—Jutland and British Naval Command.  

 

HMS Dreadnought, circa 1906. The booms lashed to the side of the ship were designed to hold anti-torpedo netting. (US Navy Archives)

Fisher was a brilliant and far-sighted naval officer who in his first term from 1904 to 1910, was responsible for the modernization of the Royal Navy including the construction of the first modern battleship, HMS Dreadnought. Upon commissioning in 1906, the revolutionary design of the ship immediately rendered obsolete all other battleships in the world including all the pre-dreadnought battleships of the Royal Navy.

Fisher’s second major brainchild was the battlecruiser. He forced this design through a skeptical Admiralty only to see his design proven disastrous at Jutland on 31 May 1916.

 

Admiral of the Fleet Sir David Richard Beatty, PC, GCB, OM, GCVO, DSO. (Privy Counsellor, Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Order of Merit, Grand Cross of the Victorian Order, Distinguished Service Order) Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum. From the Collection: THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE HOME WATERS, 1914-1918 

 

During that battle, the Admiral Commanding Battle Cruisers, David Beatty, was more than startled when the battlecruisers around him started exploding. After the second of his battlecruisers exploded, Beatty turned to his flag captain on HMS Lion and said, “something seems to be wrong with our bloody ships today.” And there was.

You can read book after book on the Battle of Jutland but it was Beatty who found and pinned the German High Seas fleet and led them toward what should have been its destruction by the Grand Fleet under Jellicoe. In doing so, Beatty was in action with his battlecruiser squadron far longer than the heavy battleships of the Grand Fleet.

The battlecruisers were not designed to fight it out with battleships but this is what happened in any event. Beatty has been criticized for being overly aggressive but that is specious. The culture of the Royal Navy was once the enemy was sighted, you went at them. It was the responsibility of the heavier ships to come up in support as fast as they could. In this Jellicoe failed.

But the biggest failure was that of the battlecruiser design and concept. It was a disaster. Unfortunately, after scrapping enough ships to meet their obligations under the Washington Naval Limitation Treaty, the Royal Navy was left with three of the newer battlecruisers: HMS Hood, HMS Repulse, and HMS Renown. Of these three, only the Renown was taken out of service and rebuilt with all of her major flaws corrected including thickening the armour over her magazines. While the other two were taken out of service for refits, neither spent two years in the dry dock being completely rebuilt and re-engined as did the Renown.

 

HMS Hood at sea. (Photo courtesy of Imperial War Museum)

The result wasn’t surprising. HMS Hood became a victim of plunging fire from the Bismarck. A shell went through the three inches of steel which formed the armoured deck over the aft powder magazine. It ignited the magazine and the ship blew up and sank in less than two minutes.

HMS Hood was the largest warship in the world and a symbol of the might of the British Empire. Since the Hood spent so much time on “goodwill” tours throughout the world showing the flag, she was the most well known warship in the world. That she simply blew up was a shock to the British public and people throughout the world. (Only three men out of 1600 survived).

In a disastrous nightmare, HMS Repulse accompanied the KGV class battleship Prince of Wales, to Singapore and was sunk by the Japanese in the early days of the Pacific campaign.

This left only HMS Renown which for many months served as Admiral James Somerville’s flagship while he commanded the famous Force H from Gibraltar. (The ‘H’ doesn’t stand for anything). HMS Renown survived the war because she survived the bombs and the shells which hit her whereas the Hood and the Repulse did not. A sad story of a class of ships which should have been taken out of service entirely once their vulnerability at Jutland became clear.

Entire Crew Killed When Battlecruiser Exploded

queenmary

Royal Navy battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary

(booms to hold anti-torpedo netting are flush against the hull)

Due to the flawed theories of Admiral Sir Jack Fisher, the Royal Navy’s concept of a battlecruiser proved to be a disaster. Theoretically faster than a battleship but less heavily armoured, battlecruisers were meant as scouts for the main battle fleet. The distinction between battleships and battlecruiser was often forgotten.

The ship was coal fired and it required all of her 42 boilers to come on line for the ship to make her design speed of 28 knots.

Launch of battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary at Palmer's Shipbuilding, Jarrow-on-Tyne, England. 1913.
                                    Launch of battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary at Palmer’s Shipbuilding, Jarrow-on-Tyne, England. 20 March 1912

destruction_of_hms_queen_mary

After HMS Queen Mary was hit in the forward magazines the entire ship exploded.

In this explosion, caused by faulty design of flashback protectors in British Navy magazines, 1,266 crewmen died.  Eighteen survived. Two other Royal Navy battlecruisers, HMS Invincible and HMS Indefatigable, also exploded with almost no survivors.

Even Nelson could not have done better at Jutland than my grandfather

Article From London Daily Mail here:

Source: Even Nelson could not have done better at Jutland than my grandfather

 

Respectfully disagree with the scholar and gentleman grandson of the distinguished Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Jellicoe C-in-C Grand Fleet at Jutland. Admiral David Beatty C-in-C Battlecruisers showed the Nelson Touch at Jutland. Admiral Jellicoe a bit slow in coming up to support him.

“Fear God and Dread Nought”

HMS Dreadnought 1906 IWM b

Brainchild of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Jacky Fisher, HMS Dreadnought, commissioned in 1906, revolutionized naval warfare. (Photograph courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

Her name, which became synonymous with “battleship,” was taken from the personal motto of Admiral of the Fleet and First Sea Lord (professional head of the Royal Navy) Sir John “Jacky” Fisher “Fear God and Dread Nought”. Admiral Jack pushed the radical new design through the bureaucracy of the Royal Navy by threats and demotions and bullying and trampling on anyone who got in his way.

Not a nice man, Sir Jacky Fisher but history doesn’t judge him for his faults as a man but for his brilliance as a naval leader. Save Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Fisher, few in high places saw the mortal danger posed by the Germans when the Anglo-German naval race began nor did anyone want to admit that the Royal Navy was being strangled by tradition. New ship designs were urgently needed and it was Fisher who saw this more clearly than anyone and rang the alarm bell.

HMS Dreadnought 1906 IWM c

Deck scene aboard HMS Dreadnought circa 1910. 

(photo courtesy of Imperial War Museum)

HMS Dreadnought 1907 IWM

HMS Dreadnought at underway at slow speed, 1907.

Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum

HMS Dreadnought as flagship of Home Fleet 1907

HMS Dreadnought underway in 1907 as flagship of the Home Fleet.

Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum

HMS Dreadnought 1906 IWM d

A striking starboard bow portrait of the battleship HMS Dreadnought

(photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

HMS Dreadnought 7

HMS Dreadnought

(photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

Ironically, Fisher was the first naval leader to recognize that aircraft made battleships obsolete………..something he said in 1920!

Royal Navy Won the Battle of Jutland, part two

2nd Battle Squadron

Second battle ship squadron at Battle of Jutland. In spite of Admiral Beatty’s orders to move expeditiously toward his battlecruisers and close the enemy, these battleships just waddled along and the squadron was extremely slow in  its maneuvering. (Official Royal Navy photo in the public domain).

The Battle of Jutland

31 May 1916

 

 

9,000 Men Killed, 250 Warships Clash, 25 Sent to the Bottom

There continues to be an odd debate about who won this battle. This continued debate is who is ridiculous. The British Royal Navy won. The idea that the Battle of Jutland was a “tactical victory” for the Germans because they sank more British ships and a “strategic victory” for the British because the Germans did not break British control of the North Sea is laughable. After the battle, the German High Seas Fleet turned around, steamed back to their anchorage at Kiel and never again made a serious challenge to British control of the North Sea.

HMSLiondamagetoQturret1916

Damage to Q turret on battlecruiser HMS Lion, Admiral Beatty’s Flagship at the Battle of Jutland (Photo courtesy of IWM)

In spite of the damage to his ship and other battlecruisers in his squadron, Beatty was the British Admiral who most lived up to the “Nelson Touch” at the Battle of Jutland. Beatty deserved the praise and promotions he received since he “steered for the thunder of the guns.”

Since every source gives slightly different figures, I have taken the following figures verbatim from the after action summary prepared by Lion’s Captain during the Battle of Jutland,  A.E.M. Chatfield. (Later Admiral of the Fleet and First Sea Lord or Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Navy)

In the Royal Navy this is formally known as “Report of Proceedings.” The report was made to Vice-Admiral Beatty, Commanding the Battle Cruiser Fleet. As mentioned, HMS Lion was Beatty’s flagship during the battle hence he was aboard the entire time.

1200px-HMSLion_besideHMSQueenMaryblowingup1916

HMS Lion surrounded by waterspouts from enemy gunfire as HMS Queen Mary explodes at right. (photo courtesy Imperial War Museum)

 “The damage to the ship is not serious, except that “Q” turret is wrecked, but is reparable. The ship was hit altogether twelve times by enemy heavy shell, but the damage, which I have already reported to you separately, does not seriously affect our seaworthiness or fighting efficiency……”

“…the heavy casualties, which amounted to 95 killed and 49 wounded, mostly in the first two hours of the action, were a tremendous strain on the strongest discipline, yet there was never the least sign of wavering in the least degree from their duty.”

 

HMS_Lion_hit_at_Jutland

HMS Lion hit by German shellfire at Jutland. Photograph downloaded and scanned  from The Literary Digest History of the World War, 10 volumes, Halsey, Francis Whiting, ed; Funk & Wagnalls Co, New York and London, 1920

The complete Report of Proceedings can be found on the following website:

www.dreadnoughtproject.org

For some reason, naval historians and enthusiasts continue to debate who the actual victor was in this battle. True, the battle was confusing, to put it mildly. Huge formations of ships on the same side were often out of sight of each other.

Wireless communications were in their infancy so admirals on the scene were compelled to communicate to their various squadrons using signal flags. Unfortunately, long and complex orders required long strings of signal flags which were very difficult for signalman on other ships to read because of the conditions.

With low cloud cover, visibility was a limited so reading the flag signals was difficult. Because the battle began at 5:30 pm British time, the light began to fade within a few hours.

All warships on the scene were powered by coal and produced huge clouds of smoke especially when they were steaming at speed. When ships fired on other ships, this generated clouds of powder smoke. To sum it up: many captains couldn’t see a damn thing much less distant flag signals from their Fleet or Squadron commanders.

(c) Rosenstiel's; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Admiral of the Fleet David Richard Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty, Admiral Commanding Battlecruiser Squadron at the Battle of Jutland who showed the Nelson Touch by steering to the thunder of the guns. Beatty’s flagship, HMS Lion, was hit five times and Beatty almost killed. He saw the Germans and went at that. He is the great hero of Jutland and was so recognized by the public and most of the government and the Royal Navy after the battle. 

portrait by Sir John Lavery, oil on canvas, 1917. National Portrait Gallery.

Because of this, there is still debate over where different formations were at different times. The most fascinating question in a history of any battle is:  “what facts did commanders know, when did they learn those facts and how much weight did they give various facts over others?”

Jutland is a battle where the debate over these issues has continued to this very day and will continue for decades to come so I well understand why naval enthusiasts continue to debate the details.  However, many historians and amateur historians, suggest Jutland was a “strategic victory” for the British and a “tactical victory” for the Germans. Reason: Germans sank a larger number of Royal Navy ships  than the British sank German ships. This is both by number and tonnage.

This is historical hair-splitting, which I say with due respect to those who like to engage in this debate.

John_Jellicoe,_Admiral_of_the_Fleet

Admiral of the Fleet John Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe, GCB, OM, GCVO, SGM (Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, Order of Merit, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Sea Gallantry Medal. (1859-1935). (Photo courtesy of the US Library of Congress).

There is absolutely no doubt that at Jutland, Sir John Jellicoe, the commander of the Grand Fleet, was slow to come up and missed the opportunity to get between the German Fleet and their path of retreat to their base anchorage at Kiel. He was deeply aware that losing this battle could be catastrophic and he was very fearful of German submarines and their torpedoes. Yet his hesitation was unjustified. He had a massive fleet and could have taken significant losses.

After he maneuvered his entire battle fleet of more than thirty battleships from divisions to “in line abreast,” it would have been very difficult for U-Boats to have made successful attacks. Further, he was protected from U-boats by his large number of supporting destroyers and lighter ships.

At a critical moment, Jellicoe reduced speed to fifteen knots and it was that brief time at that slower speed that cost the Royal Navy the naval victory of the century.

While Jellicoe was trying to decide what to do, Admiral Beatty in his lightly armoured battlecruisers did most of the fighting and sustained most of the major ship losses.

As I wrote previously, the British Grand Fleet won the battle hands down because the German fleet never again sortied in fleet strength from their main base although smaller squadrons dashed out from time to time. But the High Seas Fleet mainly spent the rest of the war anchored behind heavy torpedo netting and other barriers to British attack.

It is worth noting that after Jellicoe prematurely gave up the chase and returned to his anchorage at Scapa Flow, the men “coaled ship.” That is refueled. In spite of their losses in ships and men, after “coaling,” Jellicoe reported to the Admiralty that the Grand Fleet was available to steam with one hour’s notice.

 

03_sms_seydlitz

SMS Seydlitz at the German fleet anchorage. The ship had been hit 21 times by British shells. She inflicted serious damage in return, sinking the Royal Navy battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary in concert with another German ship.  SMS is an acronym for ‘Seiner Majestät Schiff’ which translates from German as “His Majesty’s Ship”. 

In the lat month of World War One, Admiral Scheer, the German Fleet commander, was going to stage a last Wagnerian suicide mission by taking the fleet to sea in the last few weeks of the war. This precipitated mutiny aboard the ships of the High Seas Fleet and most German ships and bases were seized by mutinous sailors. These naval mutinies in Germany spread to other naval bases and led to the collapse of the Imperial German Government and the downfall of the Kaiser who was a pathetic and silly little man.

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While Sir John Jellicoe was C-in-C of the Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland, it was Beatty who commanded the battlecruiser squadron, who became the national here. One of the reasons for this was Beatty’s aggressiveness in closing the enemy which resulted in his flagship, HMS Lion, being hit five times by German shells.

beatty farewell

 

1919. Admiral of the Fleet and Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet David Beatty making his farewell speech to the ship’s company of his Fleet Flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth of the Grand Fleet. Captain Ernle Chatfield and Commander Geoffrey Blake are with him. (photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)