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The Fighting at Jutland

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The Fighting at Jutland
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Author(s): Edited by H. W. Fawcett & G. W. W. Hooper
Date Published: 2010/11
Page Count: 296
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-422-6
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-421-9

Experiences of the momentous fleet battle of the Great War at sea

The narratives of the fighting at Jutland which are collected in this book were all written by officers or men who were present at the battle, and they are, therefore, first-hand evidence of the detailed events of the fighting. The book is not a criticism; it is a record of personal experiences. One has often felt that a great gap would be filled in the histories of old-time naval battles if one could read true stories of all the hundred and one personal incidents of the fighting that must have occurred in the days of old. Imagine the adventure that could be contained in a book truly describing the fighting incidents of Trafalgar! What an insight it would give us into the character and courage of the men who served Nelson. So this book of the Fighting at Jutland is an endeavour to fill a like gap for the one fleet action of the War of 1914-18. (From the Introduction) This book benefits from the inclusion a useful supporting narrative of the action in detail and at large to give the experiences of the individual authors context and to clarify their role in the wider conflict, as well as numerous photographs, illustrations, maps and diagrams demonstrating the manoeuvring of vessels. Available in softcover and hardcover with dustjacket.

Shortly after 10 p.m. I groped my way on to the bridge and had a chat with B., the Gunnery Lieutenant, as a result of which he arranged that, in the event of night action, he would control the guns from the fore-bridge, and I would be in general charge aft. A moment later a signalman and R.I., the navigator, suddenly whispered, “Five ships on the beam.”<br>
The Commodore looked at them through night glasses, and I heard a whispered discussion going on as to whether they were the enemy or the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron. From their faint silhouettes it was impossible to discover more than the fact that they were light cruisers. I decided to go aft as quickly as possible. On the way aft I looked in at the after control, where H. B. said to me, “There are five Huns on the beam. What on earth is going on?”<br>
They were evidently in as much doubt as us, for, as I got down into the waist by the mainmast, a very great many things happened in a very short time. We began to challenge; the Germans switched on coloured lights at their fore yardarms. A second later a solitary gun crashed forth from the Dublin, which was next astern of us. Simultaneously I saw the shell hit a ship just above the water-line and about 800 yards away. As I caught a nightmare-like glimpse of her interior, which has remained photographed on my mind to this day, I said to myself: “My G——, they are alongside us.”<br>
At that moment the Germans switched on their searchlights and we switched on ours. Before I was blinded by the lights in my eyes I caught sight of a line of light grey ships. Then the gun behind which I was standing answered my shout of “Fire!”<br>
The action lasted three and a half minutes. The four leading German ships concentrated their lights and guns on the Southampton, the fifth, and perhaps the fourth as well, fired at the Dublin. The Nottingham and Birmingham, third and fourth in our line, with great wisdom did not switch on their lights, and were not fired at. In those three and a half minutes we had 89 casualties, and 75 per cent, of the personnel on the upper deck were killed or wounded. . . . <br>
The range was amazingly close—no two groups of such ships have ever fought so close in the history of this war. There could be no missing. A gun was fired and a hit obtained; the gun was loaded, it flamed, it roared, it leapt to the rear, it slid to the front; there was another hit.<br>
But to load guns there must be men, flesh and blood must lift the shells and cordite, and open and close the hungry breeches. But flesh and blood cannot stand high explosives, and there was a great deal of high explosive bursting all along H.M.S. Southampton’s upper deck from her after screen to the fore-bridge.<br>
The range was so close that the German shots went high, just high enough to burst on the upper deck and around the after superstructure and bridge. And in a light cruiser that’s where all the flesh and blood has to stand.<br>
So in a very few seconds my guns stopped firing, all through lack of flesh and blood—it was a great pity. In fact, the sergeant-major, with a burnt face, and myself seemed to be the only bits of flesh and blood left standing.<br>
Where on earth were the others?<br>
Why had the men on each side of me fallen down in such funny heaps? It was curious, very curious; as a matter of fact, daylight revealed that it wasn’t so very remarkable. The really remarkable thing was that the sergeant-major, with his burnt face, and myself were still standing about and representing flesh and blood.<br>
One shell burst on the side just below the gun, and the fragments had whipped over the top of the low bulwark and mowed the men down as standing corn falls before the reaper. Another shell burst on the searchlight just above us and hurled the remains of this expensive instrument many feet. Three men who looked after it and had guided its beam on to the enemy died instantaneously.<br>
The fragments from this shell descended upon “the waist” like hail, and scoured out the insides of the gun-shields of the two 6-inch, manned by marines, one gun each side. And then I seemed to be standing in a fire. The flash of some exploding shell had ignited half-a-dozen rounds of cordite.<br>
A shell exploding in the half-deck had severed the connection to the upper deck fire main. I put my head down a hatch and shouted for a good hose. The wine steward came up on deck with one, someone turned on the water down below, and the fire was quickly out. . . .<br>
Then it became lighter than the day.<br>
I looked forward.<br>
Two pillars of white flame rose splendidly aloft. One roared up the fore-mast, the other reached above the tops of the second and third funnels. This then was the end! The heat warmed the cheek. It was bad luck, just after we had got the small fire aft extinguished. But there could be no doubt; the central ammunition hoist was between those two funnels.<br>
What was it going to feel like to blow up?<br>
Let me see how—had the Queen Mary looked?<br>
Of course, we were a smaller ship, perhaps we would blow up in a gentler manner. Might as well take one’s greatcoat off, just in case one fetched up in the water. I took it off.<br>
What ought one to do?
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