Part 2 - The Battle Cruisers In The Van
PROCEEDINGS ON 1ST JUNE
At daylight, 1st June, the battle fleet, being then to the southward and westward of the Horn Reef, turned to the northward in search of enemy vessels and for the purpose of collecting our own cruisers and torpedo-boat destroyers. At 2.30 a.m. Vice-Admiral Sir Cecil Burney transferred his flag from Marlborough to Revenge, as the former ship had some difficulty in keeping up the speed of the squadron. Marlborough was detached by my direction to a base, successfully driving off an enemy submarine attack en route. The visibility early on 1st June (three to four miles) was less than on 31st May, and the torpedo-boat destroyers, being out of visual touch, did not rejoin until 9 a.m. The British Fleet remained in the proximity of the battlefield and near the line of approach to German ports until 11 a.m. on 1st June, in spite of the disadvantage of long distances from fleet bases and the danger incurred in waters adjacent to enemy coasts from submarined and torpedo craft. The enemy, however, made no sign, and I was reluctantly compelled to the conclusion that the High Sea fleet had returned into port. Subsequent events proved this assumption to have been correct. Our position must have been known to the enemy, as at 4 a.m. the fleet engaged a Zeppelin for about five minutes, during which time she had ample opportunity to note and subsequently report the position and course of the British Fleet.
The waters from the latitude of the Horn Reef to the scene of the action were thoroughly searched, and some survivors from the destroyers Ardent (Lieutenant-Commander Arthur Marsden), Fortune (Lieutenant-Commander Frank G. Terry), and Tipperary (Captain (D) Charles J. Wintour), were picked up, and the Sparrowhawk (Lieutenant-Commander Sydney Hopkins), which had been in a collision and was no longer seaworthy, was sunk after her crew has been taken off. A large amount of wreckage was seen, but no enemy ships, and at 1.15 p.m., it being evident that the German Fleet has succeeded in returning to port, course was shaped for our bases, which were reached without further incident on Friday, 2nd June. A cruiser squadron was detached to search for Warrior, which vessel had been abandoned whilst in tow of Engadine on her way to the base owing to bad weather setting in and the vessel becoming unseaworthy, but no trace of her was discovered, and a further subsequent search by a light cruiser squadron having failed to locate her, it is evident that she foundered.
Sir David Beatty reports in regard to the Engadine as follows:-
“The work of Engadine appears to have been most praiseworthy throughout, and of great value. Lieutenant-Commander C. G. Robinson deserves great credit for the skilful and seamanlike manner in which he handled his ship. He actually towed warrior for 75 miles between 8.40 p.m., 31st May, and 7.15 a.m., 1st June, and was instrumental in saving the lives of her ship’s company.”
I fully endorse his remarks.
The Fleet fuelled and replenished with ammunition, and at 9.30 p.m. on 2nd June was reported ready for further action.
The conditions of low visibility under which the day action took place and the approach of darkness to enhance the difficulty of giving an accurate report of the damage inflicted or the names of the ships sunk by our forces, but after a most careful examination of the evidence of all officers, who testified to seeing enemy vessels actually sink, and personal interviews with a large number of these officers. I am of opinion that the list shown in the enclosure gives the minimum in regard to numbers, though it is possibly not entirely accurate as regards the particular class of vessel, especially those which were sunk during the night attacks. In addition to the vessels sunk, it is unquestionable that many other ships were very seriously damaged by gunfire and by torpedo attack.
I deeply regret to report the loss of H.M. ships Queen Mary, Indefatigable, Invincible, Defence, Black Prince, Warrior, and of H.M. T.B.D.’s Tipperary, Ardent, Fortune, Shark, Sparrowhawk, Nestor, Nomad, and Turbulent, and still more do I regret the resultant heavy loss of life. The death of such gallant and distinguished officers as Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot, Bart., Rear-Admiral The Hon. Horace Hood, Captain Charles F. Sowerby, Captain Cecil I. Prowse, Captain Arthur L. Cay, Captain Thomas P. Bonham, Captain Charles J. Wintour, and Captain Stanley V. Ellis, and those who perished with them, is a serious loss to the Navy and to the country. They led officers and men who were equally gallant, and whose death is mourned by their comrades in the Grand Fleet. They fell doing their duty nobly, a death which they would have been the first to desire.
The enemy fought with the gallantry that was expected of him. We particularly admired the conduct of those on board a disabled German light cruiser which passed down the British line shortly after deployment, under a heavy fire, which was returned by the only gun left in action.
THE PERSONNEL OF THE FLEET
The conduct of officer and men throughout the day and night actions was entirely beyond praise. No words of mine could do them justice. On all sides it is reported to me that the glorious traditions of the past were most worthily upheld – whether in heavy ships, cruisers, light cruisers, or destroyers – the same admirable spirit prevailed. Officers and men were cool and determined, with a cheeriness that would have carried them through anything. The heroism of the wounded was the admiration of all.
I cannot adequately express the pride with which the sprit of the Fleet filled me.
Details of the work of the various ships during action have now been given. It must never be forgotten, however, that the prelude to action is the work of the engine-room department, and that during action the officers and men of that department perform their most important duties without the incentive which a knowledge of the course of the action gives to those on deck. The qualities of discipline and endurance are taxed to the utmost under these conditions, and they were, as always, most fully maintained throughout the operations under review. Several ships attained speeds that had never before been reached, thus showing very clearly their high state of steaming efficiency. Failures in material were conspicuous by their absence, and several instances are reported of magnificent work on the part of the engine-room departments of injured ships.
The artisan ratings also carried out much valuable work during and after the action; they could not have done better.
The work of the medical officers of the Fleet, carried out very largely under the most difficult conditions, was entirely admirable and invaluable. Lacking in many cases all the essentials for performing critical operations, and with their staff seriously depleted by casualties, they worked untiringly and with the greatest success. To them we owe a deep debt of gratitude.
It will be seen that the hardest fighting fell to the lot of the Battle Cruiser Fleet (the units of which were less heavily armoured than their opponents), the fifth Battle Squadron, the First Cruiser Squadron, Fourth Light Cruiser Squadron and the Flotillas. This was inevitable under the conditions, and the squadrons and flotillas mentioned, as well as the individual vessels composing them, were handled with conspicuous ability, as were also the 1st, 2nd and 4th Squadrons of the Battle Fleet and the 2nd Cruiser Squadron.
I desire to place on record my high appreciation of the manner in which all the vessels were handled. The conditions were such as to call for great skill and ability, quick judgement and decisions, and this was conspicuous throughout the day.
I beg also to draw special attention to the services rendered by Vice-Admiral Sir Cecil Burney (Second in Command of the Grand Fleet) Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Jerram, Vice-Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee, Rear-Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas, Rear-Admiral Alexander L. Duff, Rear-Admiral Arthur C. Leveson and Rear-Admiral Ernest F. A. Gaunt, commanding squadrons or divisions in the Battle Fleet. They acted throughout with skill and judgement. Sir Cecil Burney’s Squadron owing to its position was able to see more of the enemy Battle Fleet than the other battle squadrons, and under a leader who has rendered me most valuable and loyal assistance at all times the squadron did excellent work. The magnificent squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral Evan-Thomas formed a support of great value to Sir David Beatty during the afternoon, and was brought into action in rear of the Battle Fleet in most judicious manner in the evening.
Sir David Beatty once again showed his fine qualities of gallant leadership, firm determination and correct strategic insight. He appreciated the situations at once on sighting first the enemy’s lighter forces, then his battle cruisers and finally his battle fleet. I can fully sympathise with his feelings when the evening mist and fading light robbed the Fleet of that complete victory for which he had manoeuvred, and for which the vessels in company with him had striven so hard. The services rendered by him, not only on this, but on two previous occasions, have been of the very greatest value.
Sir David Beatty brings to my notice the brilliant support afforded him by Rear-Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas; the magnificent manner in which Rear-Admiral the Hon. Horace Hood brought his squadron into action, the able support afforded him by Rear-Admiral William C. Pakenham and Rear-Admiral Osmond de B. Brock, and the good work performed by the Light Cruiser Squadrons under the command respectively of Rear-Admiral Trevylyan D. W. Napier, Commodore William E. Goodenough and Commodore Edwyn S. Alexander-Sinclair. He states that on every occasion these officers anticipated his wishes and used their forces to the best possible effect.
I most fully endorse all his remarks, and I forward also the following extract from his report regarding the valuable services rendered by his staff:-
“I desire to record and bring to your notice the great assistance that I received on a day of great anxiety and strains from my Chief of the Staff, Captain Rudolf W. Bentinck, whose good judgement was of the greatest help. He was a tower of strength. My Flag-Commander, the Hon. Reginald A. R. Plunkett, was most valuable in observing the effect of our fire, thereby enabling me to take advantage of the enemy’s discomfiture; my Secretary, Frank T. Spickernell, who had made accurate notes of events as they occurred, which proved of the utmost value in keeping the situation clearly before me ; my Flag Lieutenant-Commander Ralph F. Seymour, who maintained efficient communications under the most difficult circumstances despite the fact that his signalling appliances were continually shot away. All these officers carried out their duties with great coolness on the manoeuvring platform, where they were fully exposed to the enemy’s fire.’
I cannot close this despatch without recording the brilliant work of my Chief of the Staff, Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Madden, K.C.B., C.V.O. Throughout a period of 21 months of war his services have been of inestimable value. His good judgement, his long experience in fleets, special gift for organisation, and his capacity for unlimited work, have all been of the greatest assistance to me, and have relieved me of much of the anxiety inseparable from the conduct of the Fleet during the war. In the stages leading up to the Fleet Action and during and after the action he was always at hand to assist, and his judgement never at fault. I owe him more than I can say.
My special thanks are due also to Commodore Lionel Halsey C.M.G., the Captain of the Fleet, who also assists me in the working of the Fleet at sea, and to whose good organisation is largely due the rapidity with which the fleet was fuelled and replenished with ammunition on return to its bases. He was of much assistance to me during the action.
Commander Charles M. Forbes, my Flag-Commander, and Commander Roger
M. Bellairs, of my staff, plotted the movements of the two fleets with rapidity and accuracy as reports were received; Commander the Hon. Matthew R. Best, M.V.O., of my Staff, acted as observer aloft throughout the action, and his services were of value. These officers carried out their duties with much efficiency during the action.
The signals were worked with smoothness and rapidity by Commander Alexander
R. W. Woods, assisted by the other signal officers, and all ships responded remarkably well under difficult conditions. The signal departments in all ships deserve credit for their work. My Flag-Lieutenant, Lieutenant-Commander Herbert Fitzherbert, was also of much service to me throughout the action.
The high state of efficiency of the W.T. arrangements of the fleet, and the facility with which they were worked before, during and after the action, is a great testimony to the indefatigable work carried out by commander Richard L. Nicholson. His services have been invaluable throughout the war.
A special work of praise is due to the wireless departments in all ships.
My Secretaries, Fleet Paymaster Hamnet H. Share, C.B., and Victor H. T. Weekes, recorded with accuracy salient features of the action. Their records have been of much assistance.
To the Master of the Fleet, Captain Oliver E. Leggett, I am indebted for the accuracy with which he kept the reckoning throughout the operations.
In a separate despatch I propose to bring to the notice of their Lordships the names of officers and men all of whom did not come under my personal observation, but who had the opportunity of specially distinguishing themselves.
I append the full text of sir David Beatty’s report to me, from which, as will be seen, I have made copious extracts in order to make my narrative continuous and complete.*
I am, Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
J. R. JELLICOE, Admiral.
* NOTE – The list of ships and commanding officers which took part in the action has been withheld from publication for the present in accordance with practice.
List of enemy Vessels put out of action, 31 May – 1 June, 1916.
BATTLESHIPS OR BATTLE CRUISERS.
2 Battleships, “Dreadnought” type.
1 Battleship, “Deutschland” type.
(Seen to sink.)
1 Battle Cruiser.
(Sunk – “Lutzow” admitted by Germans.)
1 Battleship, “Dreadnought” type
1 Battle Cruiser
(Seen to be so severely damaged as to render it extremely doubtful if they could reach port)
5 Light Cruisers
(Seen to sink ; one of them had the appearance of being a larger type, and might have been a battleship.)
6 Torpedo-boat Destroyers.
(Seen to sink.)
3 Torpedo-boat Destroyers.
(Seen to be so severely damaged as to render it extremely doubtful if they could reach port.)