The Battle of Jutland was notable in the history of naval warfare for several reasons. It was not only the most significant naval engagement fought by the Royal Navy since the close of the Napoleonic Wars a century before, but was also the only great naval battle of the First World War. There have been many histories written about the battle and it remains perennially interesting to students of naval warfare in the modern age. Leonaur's Editors believe that this book by Bellairs is particularly erudite in its analysis of the event and is more than worth bringing back into print. On its original publication the book included many diagrams demonstrating the movements of vessels, these have been retained and enlarged. This new edition has also been significantly enhanced by the inclusion of many additional illustrations of the battle and the vessels of the protagonist fleets.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
Our North Sea strategy, it should be stated, was conditioned by the fact that it was known that our one objective, the enemy fleet, was in the habit of using a channel swept clear of mines in the vicinity of the Horn Reef as a main exit and entrance into the Heligoland Bight. It was, therefore, the primary object of our warships, encountering German ships north of the Horn Reef, to place themselves so as to cut the enemy off from the entrance to this channel, and so prevent his return to the mined waters and fortified coasts of the Heligoland Bight. Our first care, in order to achieve this purpose, was to obtain early information of the enemy proceeding to sea, and as to the extent of his force.
The acquisition of this information was hampered by two bad errors of the Admiralty as to the material required, in both of which Germany had produced the necessary equipment before the war broke out. The first was the development of lighter than air craft which could scout over the North Sea. The dirigibles, building in 1914, were abandoned by Mr. Churchill’s orders. The second error was that no submarines were equipped, until late in the war, with a long range wireless, so as to transmit the information they acquired while in the Heligoland Bight and its vicinity.
On the other hand, Germany’s Zeppelins had performed North Sea voyages before the war, and her submarines were so well equipped with wireless that when the Formidable was torpedoed in the British Channel, the information at once went to Berlin. On this occasion, when the whole Grand Fleet swept over the northern section of the North Sea, we were aware from certain indications that German ships would be met, but we did not know in what strength the move would be made. We were also aware of the German Fleet’s wireless messages.
A quarter of an hour later, or at 2.35 p.m., the report was received from the Galatea that a large amount of smoke, apparently from a fleet, was observed to the eastward, and, after a few minutes’ interval, that these ships were steaming to the northward. On receipt of this report Beatty altered course to E.N.E. towards the smoke, and at 3.30 p.m., or seventy minutes after the first report, five enemy battle-cruisers accompanied by two light cruisers and fifteen destroyers were sighted.
At the time of this second report from the Galatea the position of the ships was as shown in diagram B. The visibility was good, the sun behind the British force, the wind S.E., and the position favourable for cutting off the enemy from the Horn Reef Channel. Nothing was known of the German Battle Fleet being at sea. The four fast battleships of the Queen Elizabeth class, armed with eight 15-inch guns each, were 10,000 yards, or 5 nautical miles, away and out of range. They did not come into action until twenty minutes after the battle began, or at 4.8 p.m., at 19,000 to 20,000 yards’ range, the battle-cruisers of both sides having opened fire simultaneously at 3.48 p.m. Beatty having brought the enemy to action in a position advantageous for cutting them off from the Horn Reef, now reduced speed from 27 to 21 knots to enable the four Barhams and their small craft satellites to come up.
The German fire was accurate, three of the 1st Battle-Cruiser Squadron being hit several times in the first twelve minutes of action, the Lion being hit twice in the first three minutes. Both squadrons pursued zigzag courses for the purpose of confusing the fire-control of the opposing side, so that the range had opened to 23,000 yards at 4.12 p.m. (this is not shown in the official diagram, which makes the range 18,000 yards), and course was again altered to close the enemy. Beatty had given a general direction to his destroyers to attack when they thought the moment favourable, and a division of twelve destroyers proceeded to get ahead of the enemy at 4.16.
About the same time an enemy cruiser and fifteen enemy destroyers moved out for a similar purpose. The object was in each case to obtain a favourable position on the bow, and then turn to the north or the opposite course to the enemy, and fire their torpedoes. The two flotillas met and the Germans lost two destroyers, the British destroyers having much superior gun armaments. The enemy destroyers succeeded in firing some torpedoes at our four Barhams without effect, and we also fired several torpedoes. The Nestor fired three torpedoes, two about 4.48, and one about eight minutes later.
Captain Bingham of the Nestor believed that the Lützow was hit, and he states that the Nestor’s survivors, who were subsequently taken prisoners, had confirmation of this from the Lützow’s crew, who said that their speed was much reduced. The German cruiser disabled the Nestor, and she, with the Nomad, which was disabled about 4.45, were subsequently sunk by the German Battle Fleet, but not before the Nestor had discharged her fourth and last torpedo. The attack was handicapped, like subsequent destroyer operations in the daylight battle, by our vessels making easy targets through being painted black.
It is worthwhile at this stage to point out that an attack such as the one we have dealt with may last half through a battle in spite of the speed of the assailants, which is a mile or more in two minutes. They have first to draw well ahead of any enemy moving at 26 knots, and it may take half an hour to do so on a somewhat converging course. They then turn towards the enemy to deliver the attack on the opposite course, and the rate of approach is that of their combined speeds, or as much as an express train. It is then very difficult for the defending guns to get good aimed shots, owing to the rapidity with which the bearing changes, and the torpedoes are fired soon after at the line, which in this case was about two thousand yards in length, of which about half would be actual target. In this particular attack, before even our torpedoes were fired, our own battle-cruisers had turned in succession to north at 4.42 on sighting the enemy High Seas Fleet of 22 battleships. While our torpedoes were speeding to the enemy battle-cruisers they turned four points away, and subsequently to north, making the complete turn in the opposite direction to Beatty. The Barhams turned up astern of our battle-cruisers so as to act as a rear-guard.