The Great War, I was there - Part 1

THE KING WAS THERE /vo one with more justice could claim an honoured place amongst veterans of the Great War than His Majesty King George VI, who played a gallant part at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916. He tells of his inexperience a letter to a friend, some extracts of which we are privileged to print below I t is sometimes forgotten that of the two elder sons of King George V it was the second, Prince Albert, who was in the front line of action at the out­break of war. He had passed through the normal training of a naval cadet at Osborne and Dartmouth, had made his first cruise in H.M.S. Cumberland, and had been posted as a midshipman to H.M.S. Collingwood. He performed the ordi­nary duties of the rank without the smallest special privilege, and was known to his messmates as plain “Mr. Johnstone.” lie served afloat during those early exciting weeks when the Grand Fleet was outstanding to sea, therefor was no harbour sufficiently secure to shelter that great armada, but his experience at this time was not along one, for it was sadly interrupted by severe inter­mittent illness. He had to be sent ashore to hospital and it was nearly two “The Jutland battle was a great thing "to have been in, and it certainly was very different from what I expected. “We, of course, in the Collingwood saw a good deal more than some of the other ships, and v/e fired more than they did. We were not hit at all, which was very lucky, though we were straddled several times. “One shell dropped over the forecastle, missing us by inches!" I was in the fore turret, second in command. Tait was O.C.T. During some part of it I was sitting on top when they straddled us. I didn't remain up very long after that! .“We had no breakdowns of any sort. I Everything worked very well,and as for i the men, they were quite marvellous. Just as cheery as usual and worked like demons. “The worst part of it was the night I afterwards. We ceased firing at 9 p.m. and then went tonight defence till 2 a.m., I when v/e closed up in the turrets again. “We were sick at not seeing the enemy again that morning. An old Zepp was sighted at 4 a.m., who gave away our position to them. “Of course, there were many sideshows, I ______________________ years before his recovery permitted him togo to sea again. He faced this trial with exemplary courage and patience, and when he was well enough took a turn of duty on the staff at the Admiralty. But at the critical hour when the Ger­man High Seas Fleet was to leave its harbours and make its one desperate fling to cripple the might of the British Navy lie was again at his post in H.M.S. Collingwood. News came on May 30,1916, that the German fleet was out, and on May 3 1 took place the most famous naval action of the war, the Battle of Jutland. T iie Collingwood was in the First Battle Squadron, and the present King took his station as second in com­mand of A turret. About 6 o’clock in the evening the Collingwood moved into the battle area and her guns came into action. She in turn received the atten­tions of an enemy torpedo which was skilfully avoided, and also came undei shellfire. For sometime Prince Albeit stayed on the top of the turret. His own vivid, simple account is such as any other enthusiastic young naval officer might have written, and was contained in a letter to his former tutor. It is given below :most of them extremely funny, but I can't tell you them now.“ I heard from Mr. Start the other day, and several times from Greig. I used to see a good deal of poor old Percy when he was in London last April. It was very sad his going down in the Queen Mary." I see a certain amount of The Term at different times, but they change ships so often it is impossible to remember where they all are." I was down at Torquay the other day, for a fortnight, and I went over to the college to seethe old place. They are building on extra dormitories and class­rooms, etc., behind the seamanship room. What a pity it v/as they never looked ahead when the plans were out!drawn They have now got five terms there, but shortly there will be six, so you can see how much room will have to be made for them. “My younger brother George has now gone to Osborne. He went last September. I enjoyed your story of the Turk on Turco Goat. “Wishing you the best of luck, "Ever “Yours very sincerelv, "ALBERT.” y younger brother ”is the present Duke of Kent. “The worst part of it was the night afterwards.” One can well imagine the sensations of the young Prince as the Collingwood steamed through the dark­ness with every mind agog for a renewal of the inaction the morning. But it HE SAW JUTLAND King George VI, as Prince Albert, was pro­moted to the rank of lieutenant in 1916 after the Battle of Jutland. The photograph was taken soon after his promotion. early became apparent that the Germans intended 110 further encounter and the last shots the Collingwood fired were at the “old Zepp ”which had appeared in the dawn sky. Then she steamed back to her anchorage in Scapa Flow, passing heron way the wreckage of a German cruiser. For the first time since William IV as Duke of Clarence was present at the Siege of Gibraltar a future King of England had taken part in a major naval action, displaying typical coolness and courage in emergency. When in the spring of 1938 King George opened the great Empire Exhibi­tion at Glasgow he met in the Shipping Section an old shipmate, Chief Petty Officer J. Jervois, who served with him in the Collingwood. “You probably saw more of Jutland than I did,” said Jervois, “because you were second in command of the 12-inch gun in‘ A ’turret ”“Yes, I remember now,” replied the King. "You were down in that funny little cubby-hole, the fore medical flat.”
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