Account of the battle given by the German Admiralty to the Associated Press

World War 1 Naval Combat

World War 1 Naval Combat

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From Chief, Censor, Admiralty, Intercepted Message

From: Bouman The Hague.
To: Associated Press, London.
Message dated: 30/6/16.

Admiralty has given the Associated Press a detail account of the Naval Battle Skaggerack, wherefrom the following has been taken:

The High seas fleet consisting of three battleship squadrons, five battle cruisers, a large number of small cruisers, several Destroyer flotillas, cruising in Skaggerack on 31st May purpose as on earlier occasions offering battle British fleet.  The vanguard of small cruisers at 4.30 in the afternoon suddenly encountered ninety miles west of Hanstholm a group of eight newest cruisers of the Calliope class, fifteen to twenty of the most modern Destroyers.  While German light forces and first cruiser squadron under Hipper were following the Britons retiring north-westward, the German battle cruisers sighted to westward Beatty’s battle cruiser squadron of six ships, including four Lions and two Indefatigables, which developed battle line south-easterly course.  Hipper formed line ahead same general course approached for running fight, and opened fire at 5.40 in the afternoon with heavy artillery at a range of 13,000 meters against superior enemy. The weather was clear, light sea, light north-west wind.  After about a quarter of an hour a violent explosion occurred, last cruiser Indefatigable caused heavy shell destroyed Indefatigable.  About 6.20 afternoon five Queen Elizabeths coming west joined the British battle cruiser line, powerfully reinforcing with fifteen inch guns remaining after 6.20 five British battle cruisers.  To equalise this superiority Hipper ordered Destroyers to attack enemy British Destroyers small cruisers interposed; bitter close range engagement ensued wherein light cruiser participated.  Germans lost two torpedo boats whose crews were rescued by sister ships under heavy fire.  Two British Destroyers sunk by artillery; two other Nestor and Nomad remained crippled scene, later destroyed by main fleet after German torpedo boats rescued all survivors. While this engagement was in progress might [?] explosion caused big shell broke Queen Mary third ship in the line asunder at 6.30 when smoke cloud disappears.  Soon thereafter German main battleship fleet sighted southwards, steering north. Hostile fast squadrons there-upon turned northward closing first section of the fight lasting about an hour. British retired high speed before sharply following German fleet, German battle cruisers continued artillery combat, increasing intensity, particularly with division Queen Elizabeths, wherein leading German battleship division intermittently participated hostile ships showed desire to run in flat curve ahead point our line cross it. Seven forty five in the evening British small cruises and Destroyers launched an attack against our battle cruisers which avoided torpedoes by manoeuvring while British battle cruisers retired from the engagement wherein later they did not participate as far as can be established. Shortly thereafter a German re-connoitering group, parrying Destroyer attack, received heavy fire from the northeast whereby the cruiser Wiesbaden was soon put out of action, parts German torpedo flotillas which immediately attacked heavy ships appearing shadow-like from bank of haze north east, made out long line at least twenty five battleships which first on northwest to westerly course sought junction British battle cruisers and Queen Elizabeths, then turned to easterly to south-easterly course. With the advent of the British main fleet, whose centre consisted of three squadrons eight battleships with fast divisions of three Invincibles on northern wing and three newest Royal Sovereigns armed with fifteen inch guns at southern end began about eight in the evening third section of the engagement embracing combat main fleets Vice Admiral Scheer determined to attack British main fleet which as now recognised was completely assembled and about doubly superior.

German battleships squadrons headed by battle cruisers steered first toward extensive haze bank in north east wherefrom crippled Wiesbaden was still receiving heavy fire. Around the Wiesbaden stubborn individual fights in quickly changing conditions now occurred; enemy light forces supported by armoured cruiser squadron of five ships of Minotaur, Achilles, Duke of Edinburgh classes coming from north-east; apparently surprised by decreasing visibility of our battle cruisers and leading battleship divisions they thereby came under violent heavy fire, whereby smaller cruiser and Defence and Black Prince were sunk, Warrior regained its own line as a wreck and sank later, small cruiser was severely damaged. Two destroyers had already fallen victims to the attack by German torpedo-boats against leading British battleships, small cruiser and two destroyers were damaged. German battle cruisers and leading battleship divisions had in these engagements and under effect of increased fire of enemy battleship squadron which shortly after eight could be made out in haze turned to north-easterly finally easterly course. Germans observed amidst artillery combat shelling of great intensity signs of effect of good shooting particularly eight-twenty thirty. Several officers of German ships observed that battleship Queen Elizabeth class blowing up under conditions similar to Queen Mary. Invincible sank after being severely hit. Ship of Iron Duke class had earlier received a torpedo hit; one Queen Elizabeth class running around in circle apparently hit in steering arrangements. Luetzow was hit at least by fifteen heavy shells and was unable to maintain place in the line: Vice Admiral Hipper therefore transhipped by torpedo-boat under heavy fire to Moltke. Derfflinger in the meantime temporarily took the lead.  German torpedo flotillas attacked enemy main fleet heard detonations. Germans therein lost torpedo-boat by heavy hit.  Enemy destroyer seen hit by torpedo and in sinking condition. After this first violent onslaught into mass of superior enemy opponents lost sight of each other in smoke power cloud.  After short cessation of artillery combat, Scheer ordered new attack with all available forces.  German battle cruisers which with several light cruisers and torpedo-boats again headed the line encountered soon after nine renewed heavy fire from mist which was answered by them and then by leading division main fleet.  Armoured cruisers now flung themselves in reckless onset at extreme speed against enemy line in order to cover the attack; torpedo-boats approached it though covered with shot to 6,000 metres. Several German torpedo flotillas dashed forward to attack, delivered torpedoes and returned, losing only one boat, despite most severe counter-fire.  Bitter artillery fight again interrupted after this second violent onslaught, in smoke from guns and funnels several torpedo flotillas which were ordered to attack somewhat later found after penetrating smoke cloud enemy fleet no longer before them.  Nor when fleet commander again brought German squadrons upon southerly and south-westerly course where enemy last seen could opponents be found.  Only once more shortly before 10.30 did the battle flare up for a short time; in late twilight German battle cruisers sighted towards four enemy capital ships and opened fire immediately.  As two German battleship squadrons attacked enemy turned and vanished in the darkness; older German light cruisers of fourth reconnaissance group were also engaged with older enemy armoured cruisers in a short fight. This ended day battle.

German divisions which after losing sight of enemy took up night mark in southerly direction were attacked until dawn by enemy light forces in rapid succession.  The attacks were favoured by general strategic situation and particularly dark night. Cruiser Frauelob was severally damaged during engagement of fourth reconnaissance group with superior cruiser force and was lost from sight missing then on.  Armoured cruiser Cressy class suddenly appeared close to German battleship, was shot into fire after four seconds and sank four minutes.  Florent Destroyer 60 (names hard to decipher in darkness, therefore uncertainly established) and four destroyers three, seventy-eight, nought-six, twenty-seven destroyed by four fire partly in course seconds.  One destroyer was cut in two by ram of German battleship seven destroyers thirty hit and severely damaged, these including Tipperary, Turbulent which after saving survivors were left behind in sinking condition and drifted past our lines some burning bow to stern.  Tracks of countless torpedoes were sighted by German ships but only the Pommern fell immediate victim to torpedo.  Cruiser Rostock was hit but remained afloat.  Elbing was damaged by German battleship in unavoidable manoeuvre.  After vain endeavour to keep the ship afloat the Elbing was blown up after crew embarked on torpedoboats.  German post torpedoboat struck mine laid by enemy. Report closes with summary losses as already published.

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