First B.S. (Royal Navy) at the Battle of Jutland
Report of Sir Cecil Burney, Vice-Admiral Commanding the First Battle Squadron, to the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet
Royal Oak, 10 June, 1916
SIR,—I have the honour to report that the First Battle Squadron and Bellona left the northern base in accordance with your orders at 9.30 P.M., May 30, 1916, my flag being in Marlborough, and proceeded in company with your flag to the south-eastward.
2. The first intimation of the enemy being at sea was received in Marlborough about 2.30 P.M., May 31, a signal being intercepted from Galatea to Senior Officer, Battle Cruiser Fleet, reporting enemy cruisers bearing E.S.E. Further enemy reports were received from various units of the Battle Cruiser Fleet, and at 3.55 a signal was made by senior officer, Battle-cruiser Fleet, that he was engaging the enemy.
At 4 P.M. senior officer, 2nd Light-cruiser Squadron, reported enemy battle-fleet in sight steering east, and at 5 P.M. that they had altered course to north. The situation as it developed was reported by visual signal from time to time to the ships under my command.
At 5.30 P.M. heavy gun firing was heard on the starboard bow, and a little later flashes were clearly seen. At 5.45 P.M. Lion, Princess Royal, Tiger, and New Zealand were sighted on starboard bow heavily engaged with the enemy, whose flashes could now be seen to the southward, this being reported to flag at 6 P.M. at which time our battle-cruisers were bearing S.S.W. 3 to 4 miles steering east, Lion the leading ship. The 5th Battle Squadron then came in sight bearing S.W., also heavily engaged.
3. At 6.2 P.M. Marlborough's position was Lat. 57-04 N., Long. 5-29 E., course being altered by 9 pendant to south, speed 18 knots, and at 6.6 P.M. course was again altered to S.E. by 9 pendant. 6.15 P.M., signal was received to form line of battle S. E. by E. by equal speed pendant, enemy bearing E.S.E. from Barham.
4. About this time the battle-cruisers, who appeared to be ahead of the leading division, turned to starboard as if to cross the enemy's T.
5. One of our armoured cruisers, probably Warrior, was observed passing down the engaged side, making for her position in rear of the line. When near the end of the line she turned up parallel to it and engaged the enemy at short range. Heavy enemy salvoes were observed to fall all round her; she then turned about 14 points to port, a salvo struck her and a large flame was seen to burst from her quarter deck and she then passed astern.
6. A salvo of five shots fell ahead of the Hercules about 6.15 P.M. As the battle-cruisers drew ahead and their smoke cleared, the German line could be more easily seen and four Kaisers and four Heligolands could be dimly made out. Marlborough opened fire at 6.17 P.M. at a battleship of the Kaiser class. Range, 13,000 yards, about green 110. Marlborough fired seven salvoes and hits were observed in fifth and seventh salvoes, the remainder of the squadron opening fire as a target became visible.
7. At 6.20 P.M., speed of 14 knots was ordered by general signal. Shortly after this there was much bunching up of ships in the rear of the line. Marlborough and other ships had to reduce to 8 knots and St. Vincent had to stop for a short time. Owing to haze and the enemy's smoke organised distribution of fire was out of the question; individual ships selected their own targets.
8. As the action developed and disabled ships of both sides passed down between the lines, great difficulty was experienced in distinguishing the enemy's from our own ships.
9. Marlborough now shifted fire to a three-funnelled ship, and at 6.34 P.M. formed up astern of the line and opened fire on a battleship of the Kaiser class.
10. At 6.45 P.M. Marlborough altered course to avoid a torpedo. At 6.54 P.M. a heavy explosion was experienced under the fore bridge, the ship taking up a list of 8 degrees to starboard. The torpedo had struck the ship abreast of No. 1 dynamo room and hydraulic room, both of which were flooded, the two men stationed in the former being killed. Water was also reported up to the floor plates in "A" boiler room and it was considered necessary to draw the fires in that boiler room, but as a speed of 17 knots could be maintained I decided that Marlborough should maintain her position in the line and continue to lead her division. The list remained steady and it was reported in less than an hour that the water was being kept under.
11. Shortly after being struck, Marlborough opened fire on an enemy cruiser passing down the line which was suspected of having fired the torpedo. The third and fourth salvoes both hit and appeared to open up her side, as a deep red flame could be seen inside her hull. A torpedo was fired at her at 7.10 P.M. During this time the Acasta was passed disabled on the port side, and Marlborough avoided three more torpedoes by the use of the helm.
12. Marlborough then engaged a ship of the König class, firing fourteen salvoes. Distinct hits were seen in four salvoes. (The gunnery difficulties experienced by the ship after she was torpedoed are reported in the ship's gunnery report.) This ship finally turned out of the line, very low in the water aft, and was apparently sinking. A destroyer was observed to place herself on her engaged side, and make a dense smoke in order to screen her.
13. Shortly after this a heavy smoke screen was observed at what appeared to be the head of the enemy battle-fleet, and it was soon apparent that the destroyers were attacking under its cover. I immediately hoisted the signal "NM", informing our flotillas astern that the enemy flotillas were making an attack. At the same time the preparative was hoisted, and I turned my division away. As far as I could judge the whole squadron opened fire on the attacking destroyers with the whole of the secondary and some of the main armament, and the attack was checked and they turned away, but not before they were able to fire some of their torpedoes, which, however, were avoided. Two of the enemy's destroyers were observed to be hit by Marlborough's 6-inch gunfire alone, and there must have been others as the fire was so intense.
14. As the destroyer attack developed the enemy battle-fleet in sight were observed to turn at least our line. They ceased fire, declined further action, and disappeared into the mist. Our destroyers in rear of the line proceeded out to attack the enemy destroyers and sink any disabled craft.
15. During the action at one period the enemy appeared to be firing steady, well drilled salvoes, by some form of director such as the Petravic system, but their range-finding and range-keeping appear to have been at fault when they were hit, although the firing on our armoured cruisers was remarkable for its accuracy. Many of their salvoes were seen to fall over, and it was not till late in the action that they apparently found the range when the Colossus was straddled by four successive salvoes, correct for elevation.
16. As the action progressed their fire became more feeble. A certain number of shell of 4-inch or 6-inch calibre were seen to burst on the water just short of Marlborough and other ships of the First Battle Squadron, some leaving a cloud of light green vapour, and others a heavy grey vapour which spread over the surface of the water.
17. During the action many reports of submarines were made, some being undoubtedly authentic and course was altered to attack them and avoid their torpedoes. Shortly before Marlborough was torpedoed a heavy shock was felt on board Revenge in the transmitting room and other places, and two independent officer witnesses saw quantities of oil float to the surface and wreckage come up astern.
18. The tracks of torpedoes approaching the ship were clearly seen from the top and reported in good time so that they were avoided, with the exception of the one which struck the ship, and therefore it is considered to be probable that it came from a submarine.
19. It is estimated that at least twenty-one torpedoes passed through the First Battle Squadron, only one taking effect.
20. Before, during, and after the action the wireless telegraphy communication throughout the squadron was entirely satisfactory and invaluable for manœuvring and action signals, especially in the case of the repeating ship (Bellona), who was often unable to distinguish the flag signals. No damage to aerials or instruments was sustained except in Marlborough, whose auxiliary aerial was partially shot away, and an intermittent earth on the main aerial feeder, which could not be traced for three-quarters of an hour, interrupted the reception of distant signals. In Colossus the internal buzzer communication between main office and signal tower was shot away. No enemy signalling was heard on auxiliary, and though they continually attempted to jamb the main installation signals from ships in company were easily overread.
21. After the enemy disappeared in the haze the First Battle Squadron conformed to the movements of your flag, but though Marlborough went the revolutions for 17 knots, I estimate the speed over the ground was only approximately 15.8 owing to the damage. Consequently the 6th division fell some way astern during the night.
22. Four night attacks were observed during the night, the first on the starboard beam, the others taking place in succession towards the stern. Several explosions were heard and two very large ones with flames shooting up into the sky were seen; star shells were seen.
23. About midnight, smoke was observed ahead of Marlborough, which crossed from starboard to port and back again from port to starboard, and then came down the starboard side. It appeared to be a large ship and was challenged by Revenge, who was answered by two letters, though they were not the correct ones. She then disappeared.
24. At 2.30 A.M., June 1, it was reported to me that the bulkhead in "A" boiler room of Marlborough would not stand the speed, namely, revolutions for 17 knots, and that it was advisable to reduce to 10 or 12 knots. In consequence of this Marlborough was hauled out of line and the remainder of the division continued. I signalled Fearless, who was observed to be astern of Agincourt, to come alongside Marlborough, and I and my staff transferred to Revenge, in her, and then sent her back to escort Marlborough, who was subsequently ordered to Rosyth, via "M" Channel.
25. Shortly after arriving in Revenge a zeppelin was sighted, evidently scouting. Fire was opened on her, which caused her to dip, and she quickly disappeared. She looked a remarkably easy target if shrapnel had been available.
26. At daylight, owing to the very low visibility and to the fact that the division had dropped so far astern during the night (as explained above) and also to the transfer of my flag to Revenge, the remainder of the fleet was out of sight. I shaped course as necessary to effect a junction. At 3.40 A.M. Faulknor with Obedient and Marvel joined my flag and reported the 12th Flotilla had attacked a division of the German Battle-fleet during the night, and that one battleship had been blown up.
27. At 5.15 A.M. Revenge passed through the wreckage of a German battleship or battle-cruiser, judging from the size of the floating powder cases. At 6.30 A.M. what appeared to be the wreckage of the Black Prince was passed through, and a little later two rafts were observed with three men on them. I ordered Obedient to take them off, but she reported on rejoining that before she got there they had been taken off by a Dutch steamer, whose captain protested against their being taken off his steamer, and so the captain of Obedient left them.
28. At 8.35 A.M. passed Sparrowhawk abandoned with Marksman close to. Marksman reported she was unable to tow her. She had attempted to do so, but the hawsers had parted. I, therefore, ordered her to sink her. She did so and then joined my flag. Nothing else of interest occurred and I rejoined your flag that evening.
29. The following ammunition was fired by the First Battle Squadron :—
30. I would like to bring to your notice the conduct of the crew of the Acasta, as mentioned in the report from the captain of Hercules; although badly damaged and apparently in a hopeless state, they cheered the Hercules as the latter passed.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
Vice-Admiral Commanding First Battle Squadron.