Previous Page  22-23 / 36 Next Page
Show Menu
Previous Page 22-23 / 36 Next Page
Page Background

The Battle of Jutland, which took

place from the 31st May-1st June

1916, was the only full-scale clash of

battleships in the Great War.

Both sides claimed victory, and

indeed the British Royal Navy lost

more ships (14 to the German

Imperial Navy’s 11), and consequently

more men (6,077 to the Germans’

2,551). However, not only were

the British the victors in terms of

achievement of their aims, but in

tonnage as well; the Germans

lost 119,200 tons of shipping

to Britain’s 113,300. If your

relative fought in the battle

you certainly have cause to

be proud, since according to

‘Nelson’s History of the War, Vol XIV’ by John Buchan,

Admiral Sir John Jellicoe

said of Jutland, “The conduct

of the officers and men

throughout the day and night

actions was entirely beyond

praise. No words of mine can

do them justice… I cannot

adequately express the pride

with which the spirit of the

fleet filled me.”

Prior to the battle the

Royal Navy was superior to

the Imperial Navy in both

numbers and skill, and Vice-

Admiral Reinhard Scheer,

commander of the German ‘High

Seas’ Fleet, knew it. Britain had

blockaded his fleet in the Heligoland

Bight, and vital supplies were not

getting to Germany. The people

were getting hungry and restless,

and the pressure was on Scheer to

do something. He decided to try

and attack when the Royal Navy

was scattered, to pick off a portion

of its ships. Unbeknownst to him,

his codes had been broken and the

Royal Navy was onto his plan before

it had taken shape. On Tuesday 30th

May, 1916, the navy was patrolling

the North Sea in two groups, with

Sir John Jellicoe and the Battle

Fleet sailing in the north and Vice

Admiral Sir David Beatty leading the

Battle Cruiser Fleet further south,

when the full German High Sea Fleet

nosed out of Heligoland. Admiral

von Hipper’s Battle Cruisers turned

north at speed, while Admiral von

Scheer’s Battle Fleet hung back. At

2.20pm Beatty’s scouts spotted von

Hipper’s ships, and Beatty eagerly

changed course to draw closer and

try to cut the German fleet off from

its harbour. By 3.30 the battle lines

had formed. Knowing that Hipper

intended to lure him towards von

Scheer’s waiting force, Beatty chose

to commit fully to the attack to make

it look like he had taken the bait,

rather than launching a quick assault

and running away before he was

outnumbered; unfortunately he lost

two battle cruisers for his pains. Only

on sighting von Scheer’s ships did he

swing back towards Jellicoe.

Since the weather was unfavourable

for Zeppelin reconnaissance, the

Germans believed that Beatty

was alone and outclassed. In fact

Jellicoe was just 50 miles off and

proceeding at full speed towards

the battle, even as Beatty closed

the ground from the other direction.

At 5.45 Jellicoe’s fleet spotted the

Germans, and by 6.50 the two British

fleets had formed a line to face the

Imperial Navy together. Now it was

the Germans who were outnumbered

and outclassed. Scheer moved at

speed back towards Heligoland,

and the British ships raced

to cut him off. Had it not

been for the coming of

night and the worsening

visibility, the Germans would

have been completely

annihilated. However, in

the smoke from the battle

many smaller German ships

slipped through the line,

while others managed to find

safety in the gathering mist.

As darkness fell, the larger

ships in the British fleet were

forced to gather in a flotilla

for protection. The smaller

ships fought on throughout

the night, but by morning

the German fleet had

scattered and found safety.

The Germans had failed to

break the British blockade or

to weaken the Royal Navy,

while the British had inflicted

a telling enough blow to ensure that

the Imperial Army never again tried

to launch a mass attack.

If your ancestor was involved in this

epic battle, now is the time to start

looking for more information, with

the centenary of the Battle of Jutland

approaching on 31st May 2016 and

the National Museum of the Royal

Navy in Portsmouth opening a new


, ‘36 Hours: Jutland 1916’ , the

same day. A visit will give you the

chance to examine photographs,

listen to sound recordings and pore

over manuscripts, while the ‘Jutland Impact Project’ will be launching

online. Relatives of those involved

in the battle will be invited to add

stories and research to that already

conducted by Portland U3A Team,

in conjunction with Portsmouth

University. The resulting interactive

site will aim to chart the movements

and stories of all 100,000 British

sailors involved, with details such

as rank, service number, date and

place of birth, mother, next of kin

address, ship, memorials on which

they are commemorated and any

extra information, such as photos

or census details. HMS Caroline ,

the lone surviving ship from the

battle, has been restored and will be


ailable to view at Alexan

dra Dock,

Belfast, from June 2016; there’ll be

the option to take a virtual tour too.

As far as online resources go, you

can read ‘Battle of Jutland, 30th May to 1st June 1916: official despatches with appendices’ in its entirety for

free. You can also find WW1 Royal

Navy engagement papers and Royal

Navy Volunteer Reserve enrolment

papers among documents at the

Fleet Air Arm Museum , so it might

be worth getting in touch to ask if

they might have a record of your

ancestor’s service.

If it’s general information about the

battle and its events that you’re after,

you can leaf through the Forces War

Records Historic Documents Archive

from the comfort of your own home.

There are lots of books with full

chapters on the action, including

‘The Grand Fleet 1914-1916’ , written

by Admiral Viscount Jellicoe himself,

‘Nelson’s History of War Vol XIV’ ,

which includes the despatches of

both British Admirals, sent directly

after the battle, as an appendix,

‘Twenty Years After the Battlefield


Then and Now’ , plus a host of other


There is also ‘The Great War: I was There, Part 16’ , which contains no

less than six assorted eyewitness

accounts of the battle. In terms of

records, we hold several collections

that might be of interest, including

‘Royal Navy Division Casualties of the Great War, 1914-1924 ’, ‘Royal Naval Officers’ Campaign Medal

Rolls, 1914-1920’


‘UK Navy List 1919’ and the ‘Naval Long Service &


Conduct Medal Roll’ . Another

excellent website, with a huge

range of resources telling the story

of the Battle of Jutland, is http:// Battle_of_Jutland_1916_Official_ Despatches1.htm . The site outlines

all ships involved in the conflict,

and features recommendations for

awards for those who fought, a list of

commanding officers, maps detailing

the battle movements and more.

The National Archives at Kew has

lots of Jutland-specific records,

just waiting to be discovered. If you

search the

Discovery Catalogue

you will find Ships’ Logs galore to

browse, as well as lots of named

records. In reference ADM 1/8457/114-

118 and 122-132 you will find details of

the losses of various ships at Jutland,

plus casualty lists (for example,

ADM 1/8457/115 is a list of casualties

suffered on HMS Tiger, which was

lightly damaged by German shells

in the course of the battle). Then,

of course, there are lots of more

general British Navy records to find,

such as the ‘Admiralty, and Ministry

of Defence, Navy Department: Medal

Rolls’ collection, ADM 171, or the

Royal Naval Reserve officers’ and

ratings’ records in ADM 240 and

BT377/7 respectively.

The best thing about researching

the Battle of Jutland right now is

that you have the chance to make

your own contribution to the nation’s

historical archives. Just as you may

find helpful details recorded in the

‘Jutland Impact Project’, s

o others

will be able to benefit from your

work, which could provide them with

the vital clue that will propel their

research down exciting new avenues.


search for information about your

Battle of Jutland ancestor

Top to bottom: wounded men

following the battle, Cockatoo pet

of HMS Iron Duke, HMS



a wound in her side from a German

shell, map of the Battle of Jutland

Left: Sir John Jellicoe, Commander

in Chief, Right: Sir David Beatty

commanded the Battle Cruiser

Squadron at Jutland