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

The Battle of Jutland

31 May 1916


Vice Admiral David Beatty, Commanding Battlecruiser Fleet division of the British Grand Fleet at Jutland. 

Knight Grand Cross of Bath, Order of Merit, Grand Cross of the Victorian Order, Distinguished Service Order, Privy Council

(17 January 1871 – 11 March 1936)

Beatty made mistakes during the battle but his aggressiveness in seeking out and engaging units of the German fleet contrasted with the caution of Grand Fleet C-in-C Sir John Jellicoe. He emerged from the battle with an enhanced reputation over Jellicoe and later took his position.

Partisans of both men have been dueling with letters to the Times, books, lectures and decades later with computer games, computer simulations and websites.

The Battle of Jutland in the North Sea was one of the few clashes between massive battle fleets comprised of steel warships in maritime history. Because the engagement took place near the Jutland Peninsular of Denmark, the British refer to it as the Battle of Jutland. However, to the Germans, it is known as the Battle of the Skagerrak, the body of water in which part of the battle was fought.


Beatty’s flagship at Jutland was the battlecruiser HMS Lion. She took a terrific pounding during the engagement. The above shows HMS Lion being hit by a German shell during the battle.

Historian Andrew Gordon, author of the magisterial work, The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command, wrote that farmers thirty miles inland could hear the rumbling of the massive naval cannons. Several naval historians and Royal Navy enthusiasts recommended this book to me a year ago and I devoured it. (Metaphorically speaking).

It is one of the best books on the Royal Navy I have ever read.



Map of Northern Denmark showing the Jutland Peninsular pointing North and to the left is the body of water known to the Germans as the Skagerrak.

The Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet with 150 ships, including twenty-eight battleships, faced-off against the German High Seas Fleet comprised of 100 ships, including sixteen battleships. The battle began in the late afternoon and continued into the night.

“Something Wrong With Our Bloody Ships Today”

Map of Skagerrak and Kattegat (Denmark, Norway, Sweden).

The Battle of Jutland, was named by the British for the nearby Jutland peninsular, and was named as the Battle of the Skagerrak by the Germans, after the portion of the North Sea in which it was fought. Depending on the history one is reading, either names are used which can be confusing. The map above should help make sense of it all but maybe not.

[The Confederacy and the Union did a similar thing in the American Civil War with the South naming battles after the nearest town and North typically naming battles after the nearest body of water. Hence: First and Second Manassas/First and Second Bull Run (after the Bull Run creek), Sharpsburg vs Antietam (Creek), etc.]

David Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty (17 January 1871 – 11 March 1936), was an admiral in the Royal Navy, and participated in the Battle of Jutland by using his squadron to lure the German fleet towards the waiting British Grand fleet under Jellicoe. As an unmarried young officer he had a scandalous affair with a married daughter of Marshall Field, the very wealthy department store magnate from Chicago. Eventually the woman divorced her husband, and married Beatty, although the marriage was not a happy one and Beatty continued to have his affairs and she apparently did as well.

When Vice Admiralty Beatty’s battlecruisers found the Germans at the Battle of Jutland, they found them the hard way: by hearing and seeing shellfire coming their way since the Germans had spotted them first. After HMS Invincible and HMS Queen Mary had both blown up, Beatty said, or is purported to have said:

There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today.

There is a debate over what he actually did say, although it seems clear that Beatty did say there was something wrong with “our ships.”

His flagship, HMS Lion, was pummeled by the German ships and almost blew up as well since she had the same design flaw in her powder magazines as did the two battlecruisers which had just blown up. Only through the extraordinary courage of Major Francis Harvey, the Royal Marine officer commanding HMS Lion’s Q turret did the Lion not explode. Hit by a German shell which killed almost everyone in the turret and the powder magazine, the mortally wounded Harvey ordered the flooding of the turret’s magazine which saved the ship from exploding like her consorts. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

June 1916. Damage to Q turret of British battlecruiser HMS Lion after the Battle of Jutland. Front armour plate has been removed.

[Images courtesy of the Wikipedia, Wikipedia, and Wikipedia.]