The Battle of Jutland (known as the Battle of Skagerrak in Germany), fought between the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet (which also included ships and individual personnel from the Royal Australian Navy and Royal Canadian Navy) against the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet on 31st May and 1st June 1916, was the largest surface naval battle of the metal ship era, the only major fleet action of World War 1, and the last major fleet action that the participants will ever fight.
It also played a key role in the demise of the reputation of the battlecruiser, saw the first use of a carrier based aircraft in battle and is one of the most controversial naval actions in the Royal Navy's long history.
Involving some 250 ships and 100,000 men, this battle off Denmark’s North Sea coast was the only major naval surface engagement of World War I.
The British flotilla was comprised of 151 British, Australian, and Canadian ships. The composition included 28 battleships, 9 battlecruisers, 8 armoured cruisers, 26 light cruisers, 78 destroyers, 1 minelayer, and 1 seaplane.
British losses amounted to approximately 6,784 men and 111,000 tons of ship, and German losses to approximately 3,058 men and 62,000 tons of ship.
The British losses of major ships were sudden and spectacular, caused by the weakness of their defensive armour that allowed German shells to pierce the British ships magazine holds resulting in massive explosions.
Britain lost: Battlecruisers - Indefatigable, Queen Mary and Invincible. Armoured Cruisers - Black Prince, Defence and Warrior, Destroyers – Ardent, Fortune, Nestor, Nomad, Shark, Sparrowhawk, Tipperary and Turbulent. Fourteen ships, with a loss of approximately 6,784 Crew.
Germany lost: Battlecruiser - Lutzow, Armoured Cruiser - Pommern, Light Cruisers - Elbing, Frauenlob, Rostock, Wiesbaden, Destroyers - , S35, V4, V27, V29, V48. Eleven ships with a loss of approximately 3,058 Crew.
British dry dock repairs completion dates: Tiger 1.7.1916, Barham 4.7.1916, Malaya 10.7.1916, Warspite 20.7.1916, Princess Royal 21.7.1916, Marlbourgh 2.8.1916, Lion 13.9.1916. Seven ships damaged.
German dry dock repairs completion dates: Heligoland 16.6.1916, Grosser and Kurfurst 16.7.1916, Markgraf 20.7.1916, Konig 21.7.1916, Ostfriesland 26.7.1916, Moltke 30.7.1916, Von der Tann 2.8.1916, Seydlitz 16.9.1916. Nine ships damaged.
Some of the casualties:-
4pm Lion very badly hit on Q turret. Major Harvey, fatally wounded, orders magazine doors closed and flooded (men inside are sacrificed) posthumus VC awarded.
4.26 pm Queen Mary struck by salvo, almost instantaneously, a terrific upheaval and a dense cloud of smoke rose high in the air. Tiger was behind her, passed through the smoke, heavy fall of debris on her decks, no sign of Queen Mary. 1266 crewmen died, eighteen survived
6.15 pm Defence and Warrior had been engaging enemy LCs crossed ahead of Lion and were exposed to heavy enemy fire. Defence blew up and sank, Warrior received severe damage but was saved when Warspite’s steering jammed and she kept turning in circles around her. Engadine took Warrior in tow but she sank before reaching harbour. Warspite badly damaged and ordered back to harbour (Rosyth).
6.34 pm Lutzow badly damaged. Hipper had to move his flag ship Seydlitz, also badly damaged and then to Molke.
Invincible at head of line badly hit, blew up and sank. Later her bow and stern were just visible, midships resting on the bottom, she had broken in two. 1026 killed, only six survived.
11.25 pm Fourth Destroyer Flotilla comes into action with a large ship, Broke hit by shells destroying her lower bridge and jamming her helm. She hits Sparrowhawk and they are then rammed by another. Five feet of her stern cut off. Tipperary was set on fire and sank (185 lives). German Elbing was abandoned and sank.
12.10 am Black Prince which had lost touch with main fleet when she closed on the rear of the First German Squadron and was sunk at point blank range.
1.48 am German Lutzow sinking.
2.06 am Leader Faulknor and three Destroyers commence attack on ships sighted by Obedient. Onslaught badly hit, Destroyers fire torpedoes and German Pommern is hit and sinks.
7.30 am Warrior abandoned, Engadine takes crew.
In the years following the battle the wrecks were slowly discovered. Invincible was found by the Royal Navy minesweeper HMS Oakley in 1919. After the Second World War some of the wrecks seem to have been commercially salvaged. For instance, the Hydrographic Office record for SMS Lützow (No.32344) shows that salvage operations were taking place on the wreck in 1960. From 2000–2001 a series of diving expeditions involving veteran shipwreck historian and archaeologist Innes McCartney located the wrecks ofDefence, Indefatigable and Nomad. It was discovered that Indefatigable too, had been ripped apart by salvors at some unknown time. In 2003 McCartney led a detailed survey of the wrecks for the Channel 4 documentary "Clash of the Dreadnoughts"The film examined the last minutes of the lost ships and revealed for the first time how both 'P' and 'Q' turrets of Invincible had been blasted out of the ship and tossed into the sea before she broke in half. On the 90th anniversary of the battle, in 2006, the UK Ministry of Defence belatedly announced that the 14 British vessels lost in the battle were being designated as protected places under the Protection of Military Remains Act.
Pommern (sunk) -844 killed
Lutzow (sunk) -115 killed 50 wounded
Wiesbaden (sunk) -589 killed
Elbing (sunk) - 4 killed, 12 wounded
Rostock (sunk) -14 killed, 6 wounded
Frauenlob (sunk) - 32- killed, 1 wounded
V48 -90 killed
V35 - 88 killed
V29 - 33 killed, 4 wounded
V27 - 3 wounded
V4 - 18 killed and 4 wounded
TOTALS - 2115 killed, 80 wounded, total 2195 casualties
British Casualties in Ships Sunk - (again read this as approximate)
Queen Mary (blown up) - 1266 killed, 6 wounded, 2 prisoner
Indefatigable (blown up) - 1017 killed, 2 prisoner
Invincible (blown up) - 1026 killed, 1 prisoner
Defence (blown up)-903 killed
Black Prince (blown up) - 1026 killed, 1 wounded
Warrior - 71 killed and 36 wounded
Nestor - 6 killed, 8 wounded, 80 prisoner
Nomad - 8 killed, 4 wounded, 72 prisoner
Turbulent - 96 killed, 13 wounded
Ardent - 78 killed, 1 wounded
Fortune - 67 killed, 2 wounded
Shark - 86 killed, 3 wounded
Sparrowhawk - 6 killed
Tipperary (sunk) - 185 killed, 2 wounded, 8 prisoners
TOTALS - 5857 killed, 67 wounded, 185 taken prisoner, total 6007 casualties
German newspapers naturally claimed a glorious victory based on the numbers of ships sunk. It was significant, however, that the German High Seas Fleet did not put to sea again for the rest of World War I and the Royal Navy's British Grand Fleet continued to remain in command of the sea.
The most far reaching result of Jutland was that it convinced Scheer and the German Naval staff that the only way of gaining naval victory was via unrestricted submarine warfare, and not by defeating the British in battle. The Germans had fought Jutland as well or better than could be expected, whilst the British could be expected to perform better next time, and yet nothing had changed. However it was not the German submarine blockade of Britain but the British blockade of Germany, maintained under the guns of the Grand Fleet, that eventually did most to bring the war to an end.
Source of information –
Battle of Jutland – Info. from RA Harper’s 'The Truth About Jutland'
Jutland- An Analysis of the Fighting, by John Campbell (Conway Maritime Press, 1996).
You can read more information about Jutland and the men who are buried in Queensferry Cemetery Commonwealth Graves further in this section, 'Commonwealth Graves'