Account of Frederick Clayton Woodhouse at the Battle of Jutland

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Frederick Woodhouse's account of the Battle of Jutland can be found in the Liddle Collection at the University of Leeds.[1]

It seems that he may have been the turret trainer, as he had a sighting port and no apparent direct duty while the ship was under director firing.


On Wednesday May 31st 1916 at 3.45 pm BST I was having tea in the Gunroom. We had been ashore the day before & had a game of cricket, the first of the season & when we came on board we heard that we had made a signal to raise steam for 22 knots. It was nothing but the usual air-raid stunt with the Engadine with us. Wednesday was a lovely day. We were expecting to rendez-vous with the Grand Fleet some time that evening as far as I know. We had all been sitting on deck most of the afternoon & it was sunny and clear & maximum visibility. We were steering more or less East. At 3.45 pm I suddenly heard "Control" sounded off. I naturally thought that it was a range-keeping exercise, because there was such good visibility. I went quite slowly up to A Turret, not in any hurry at all. Soon after I got there, the whole of Turret's crew appeared & I asked them what they were doing, and they said that "Action" had been sounded off without the "G's".[2] This very much surprised me, because I had [2] not heard any rumour of our meeting the enemy, in fact there seemed to be, if anything, less chance than usual of doing so. I did not really think that there was anything doing until when we had been closed up about 5 minutes, that is at about 4.0 pm the T.S. passed up to all turrets, "Galatea reports 1st LCS engaged with 3 enemy cruisers". Then of course we knew that we were really going into action, but, personally I thought that we had just caught one of their patrols & would just have another little show like Heligoland. Then we finished preparing in the turret & tested the director circuits. After that we got the order "A.P. Load". By this time it was just 4.0. The T.S. passed through "Right Gun's crews to tea for 10 minutes" & they went to tea. I went below to fetch my glasses & goggles & respirator. I also fetched Mr Watson's, the officer of the turret. The hatches were nearly all closed & there were hoses all about the place, and all the men's bags & hammocks, were being taken down as quickly as possible [3]

I went back again into the turret. The gun's crews came back again almost immediately & said that "Action" had been sounded off again and we at once got a message from the T.S. that the second BCS who were on our Starboard bow, had sighted 5 enemy battle cruisers. We immediately closed the manhole & got the armoured floor plate into place. We then got the order to Stand by & brought the left gun to the ready. Meanwhile the 2nd BCS had been ordered to take station astern of us because we wanted to be the first in the fight. We were then 6 ships in line ahead, Lion, P.R., QM, Tiger, N.Z., and Indefatigable. We were proceeding at 24 knots & the 5th BS who had been with us were left some distance astern. The turrets trained Red 30 & stood by. We were in director firing the whole time, and there were no breakdowns at all in the fire control gear. We first sighted the enemy on the Starboard bow, & altered course to starboard in succession to bring them on our port bow. Mr Watson was [4] in the gunhouse at this time & I got up into the sighting position. We were trained on the left-hand battle-cruiser, one of the Lützow class. At 4.45 I saw them open fire & everybody felt very excited. I did not see the splashes, but I heard that they were a short distance over us. At 4.47 we fired our first salvo. I don't know where it went. I was not looking out at this time. I was writing notes as well as I could. The enemy seemed to be firing very rapidly & they must have been concentrating on us. We heard a succession of explosions which seemed to get closer and closer to us, but we always seemed to alter course at the right time to avoid them. I noticed that some of their salvos seemed only to have 3 shots, so we may have knocked out one of their turrets. At 5.0 we heard from the T.S. the order to flood Q magazine. We did not know of course what had happened. We also heard a rumour that the Queen Mary had been sunk, but the T.S. denied it so as not to make us downhearted I suppose. We were told at about this time that one of the enemy was [5] on fire, but we did not see it. At 5.0 we altered course to starboard & for a short time A Turret would not bear, but we very soon were bearing again & reopened fire. At 5.12 the tube retainer of the left gun jammed; but was put right in about 2 minutes. We were getting a pretty hot time now & we soon sighted the German High Sea Fleet & at 5.37 altered course 16 points to avoid them, they having opened fire on us. Their battle cruisers were now ahead of their battle fleet & they were all going at about 20 knots. We ceased fire for about 10 minutes now & the 5th BS who had caught us up, were engaged. At 5.48 we reopened fire on the Left Hand battle cruiser, & the 3rd BCS joined up with us & took station ahead of us & opened fire on the German battle-cruisers. At 5.55 we heard that there was a fire in X magazine, but at 6.10 the TS reported that there was no fire in X, only smoke. There actually was a small fire, but the report was made so as not to frighten the men in the turret. At 6.15 I was sent down to find out how much ammunition we had left, and was nearly [6] hit by the recoil of the left gun as I was going down the ladder in the gunhouse. Everything was going perfectly well in the working chamber; no breakdowns at all. At 6.30 we ceased firing, trained fore & aft & lined up director and checked sights; all correct. The turrets crews were given permission to get out on top of the turrets. Some of our men went right out and came back having seen Q turret. The front plate & roof were blown right off & everybody was dead except the Sergeant-major & 1 or 2 men in handing rooms. It was an awful sight. I did not go to see it till after the action when most of the bodies had been removed. The shell burst on top of the left gun & blew off the front & roof. The inside of the turret caught fire & the major, who was not badly wounded sent the sergeant major to report the turret out of action. 10 minutes later the cordite in the gunloading cages & waiting trays exploded & the flash travelled right down the trunk & exploded the cordite in the hoppers & also went into the shell room & killed everybody there. The [7] magazine doors had just been closed, a fact which saved the ship. Everyone in the handing room was killed & the flash travelled up through the hatches to the switchboard, killing Dr George Bassett Moon, Mr Edwin George Goad & all the men there, then went right up & along the mess deck, & the blast of it was noticed by the people in the wireless office. Another hit by the canteen had wiped out nearly the whole of the after repair party.

During this lull we saw that a shell had come across from the port side & smashed the sheet cable holder & gone out through the ship's side without exploding. A large part of the cable holder was found on top of the turret & pieces of the cable all over the foc'stle. At 6.37 we reopened fire on the starboard side. At 6.45 the chain rammer of the left gun jammed about 6 inches out after ramming home the projectile. We managed to finish loading the gun by hand & somehow lowered the cage. We could not move the rammer & could not get the hand loading tray into [8] position or raise the gunloading cage, as the only thing to be done was to remove the whole rammer & go into hand ramming. We did not get this done till about midnight. We had 2 chief armourers & 4 E.R.A.s to help. At 6.54 the T.S. gave us the cheering news that the enemy were not firing at us. Several German ships seemed to be missing at this time. At 7.0 we heard that the Grand Fleet was in sight. Thank Heaven. We were getting pretty well sick of it by that time. At 7.2 we ceased firing & shifted object to a light cruiser, Green 38. We fired one salvo & then checked fire. I saw the armoured cruiser squadron going into action at this time. They seemed to be going straight at the enemy and were firing at an enormous rate. At 7.12 we reopened fire on a Battle cruiser , the left hand ship of their line. The light cruiser we had been firing at was seen to be on fire at 7.15. 7.20 the range of the battle cruiser was 7200 & we felt rather uncomfortable as we only had 5 guns in action. She did not seem [9] to be hitting us much though. She must have been having a pretty poor time. At 7.40 we saw a big ship broken in half with bow & stern sticking out of the water. We all thought it was one of the enemy & were fearfully lucked & told everybody in the shell rooms & magazines. She subsequently proved to be the Invincible. At about 7.40 we ceased firing & I and the whole turret's crew got out on top of the turret for a breather. It was very misty now & quite calm still, with the wind rising slowly. We were still on top of the turret at 8.10 when suddenly the mist lifted & we saw enemy battle cruisers, I am not quite sure how many, but I think 2. They were about 12,000 yards off & we opened fire at once. We all got inside the turret as quickly as possible, but it seemed years waiting on top of the turret for the men to get down through the manhole. They had fired twice or 3 times before we all got in, but thank heaven we did not fire till everybody was inside. We did not fire for long because the enemy again disappeared into the mist again. [10]

9.17. Opened fire on a light cruiser Green 70. Quite rapid firing. B Turret fired both guns at once.

Did not fire many salvoes.

At 9.30 we were firing at a battle cruiser again. Apparently it was very good firing. T.S. passed up that we hit her 5 times in 5 minutes & she was blazing all over. Anyway she only fired two salvoes. At 10.24 we ceased firing for good & were told to get as much sleep as possible for we were going to be in action again next morning! We were pleased, I don't think. I got no sleep because the left rammer was not repaired till about midnight & there was no room. Could not sleep on the deck because it was about ¼ inch deep in black slime caused only by the sweating of inside of turret & dirt of boots etc. Walls of turret dripping water. Had a delightful supper of biscuits (ship's hard dry) bully beef & dirty water. Nothing happened next morning. We only had about 15 rounds of AP left. Used nothing but AP in all turrets. Got left gun ready for hand ramming [11] by about 1 a.m. Went around the ship with Mr Macey on Thursday morning. Nasty sight. Captain Jones had been on top of the turret all day night. Used the Admiral's & Captain's cabins for the wounded; Captain's bathroom as operating theatre. Huge hole in midship funnel. Second cutter nearly burnt. 2nd whaler jammed between stump derrick & 2nd cutter. Galley wrecked again. Shell in canteen, one just above it smashed No 9 motor bollard, another in the sick bay. Came in through skylight & burst against inside of an armour plate & nearly blew it out of the ship's side. Indefatigable sunk at 5.0, Queen Mary at 5.26 & Invincible at 6.36. All times above B.S.T. Hill saw all the ships go up. Shells were quite visible apparently, especially ricos which were quite yellow. Had one complete 12inch shell in midships funnel. It was in a raging fire for some time & had to be ditched because we could not get the fuse out. Remained at B.J.1 stations till noon on Thursday & steamed N & South looking [12] for disabled German ships. Arrived in Rosyth about 9am on Friday. Soldiers gave us a cheer as we went under the bridge. Tiger & PR went into the dockyard at once. Coaled ship 1200 tons. Men were nearly dead by the time we had finished. Went on ammunitioning all night. I went and turned in & nobody turned me out.


  1. RNMN/WOODHOUSE in the Liddle Collection, University of Leeds Special Collections, pp. 1-12.
  2. Bugle calls used for drill purposes, rather for actual live fire, were followed by "G" notes.