First D.F. (Royal Navy) at the Battle of Jutland

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At the Battle of Jutland, the First Destroyer Flotilla fielded ten destroyers led by torpedo cruiser Fearless and screened the Fifth Battle Squadron on its disengaged side during the Run to the South and then served the same duty for the First Battle Cruiser Squadron. Attack and Defender sustained hits from 11-in shells, but kept in the action.[1]

It was organised as follows:[2][3]

At the same time, Phoenix remained in harbour and the flotilla leader Botha and destroyers Jackal, Archer, Tigress and Phoenix were in dockyard hands.[4]

Fearless

Roper issued a report on 2 June.[5]

SIR,
I HAVE the honour to forward the following report of my
proceedings during the recent operations in the North Sea.
2. The first report of the enemy being sighted was received
at 2.30 p.m., G.M.T., on 31st May. The First Flotilla consisting
of " Fearless " and nine destroyers :—
" Acheron," " Hydra," " Defender,"
" Ariel," " Badger," " Lizard,"
" Attack," " Goshawk," " Lapwing,"
was then screening the Fifth Battle Squadron.
3. The action gradually becoming general, " Fearless " and
destroyers took station on the disengaged side of the Fifth
Battle Squadron. About 4.1 p.m., G.M.T., " Indefatigable "
was seen to blow up, and another big explosion was observed
about 15 minutes later, presumably " Queen Mary."
4. At 4.45 p.m., G.M.T., our Battle Cruisers were seen steaming
North, and at 4.55 p.m. " Fearless " and First Flotilla altered
course 16 points and steamed North on the disengaged bow of
the First Battle Cruiser Squadron. Although " Fearless " was
steaming at full speed, having received a signal from " Lion "
to close and form Submarine Screen, she was unable to get up,
and gradually dropped back.
5. Soon after this the Grand Fleet was sighted, and at 6.8 p.m.,
G.M.T., finding that " Fearless " could not get up and was
steaming across the front of the Battle Fleet making heavy
smoke, the ship was turned about 32 points, and station taken
up with other Light Cruisers and Destroyers on the disengaged
quarter of the Battle Fleet.
6. This position was maintained until the " Acasta " was
found disabled with the signal " In danger of sinking " flying.
" Galatea " was taking her in tow. " Fearless " relieved
" Galatea " and would have taken the destroyer in tow, but the
latter reported she was not then in danger of sinking and I did
not consider I ought to hamper myself with a disabled vessel in
the middle of the action. I therefore proceeded and followed
after the Battle Fleet, passing the wreck of a Light Cruiser,
upside down and stem out of the water, apparently German,
judging by the draught markings.
7. The Battle Fleet was not picked up until after dusk,
when a column of ships was sighted ahead and station was taken
astern of what was subsequently found to be the First Battle
Squadron. Much heavy firing was observed.during the night.
8. About midnight, G.M.T., a large vessel, which appeared to
be a German Battleship was seen to pass down the starboard
side, but as ships ahead did not open fire and it was considered
that she must have been seen, it was thought advisable to take
no action, as her course led directly to the destroyers following,
and, judging from the action which occurred shortly afterwards,
they apparently engaged her.
9. When, daylight broke " Fearless " was found to be astern
of " Agincourt " and was ordered alongside " Marlborough " by
the Vice-Admiral, at 2.45 a.m. G.M.T., 1st June, to transfer him
to " Revenge," and this was accomplished at 3.10 a.m.
10. Acting under orders received from the Vice-Admiral,
" Fearless " then proceeded to join " Marlborough " and escort
her.
11 . At 4.10 a.m., G.M.T., fire was opened at a Zeppelin,
Latitude 55' 20' N., Longitude 6' 27' East. " Marlborough "
also opened fire, and it retired.
12. At 2.45 p.m., G.M.T., 1st June, 4 destroyers of Harwich
force joined " Marlborough " for escort duty, and 4 more later;
also 2 patrol destroyers at about 5.0 p.m.
13. " Marlborough " was left off the Bull Lightship in the
Humber at 8.0 a.m., G.M.T., on 2nd June, and " Fearless " then
returned to base, arriving at 8.0 p.m., G.M.T.

I have the honour to be,
Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
C. D. ROPER,
Captain (D.).

The Vice-Admiral Commanding,

Battle Cruiser Fleet.

On the 6th, he sent along reports from Attack and Defender, as well as highlights from Acheron, Ariel and Badger. That of Acheron was omitted from the Official Despatches on the grounds that it was comprised solely of "recommendations of personnel in no way bearing on the course of the action."[6]

Attack

Attack's unusually detailed and diagrammatically rich report was dated 3 June.[7]

SIR,

I HAVE the honour to report that on Wednesday,
May 31st, at :—
P. M .
3.40. In Lat. 56.52 N., Long. 5.22 E., Course S. 81 E.,
Speed 25 Knots, the 5th B.S. signalled "Enemy in
sight. " Attack " sighted enemy immediately on
receipt of signal. B.C.F. engaged, and shortly after-
wards B.C.F. appeared to alter course to the S.E.


The 1st Flotilla was formed in No. 3 Submarine Screen on
5th B.S. organisation as follows :-


3.50. 1st Flotilla took station in Division Line ahead on
Starboard Quarter of 5th B.S.

3.51. " Barham " opened fire.
3.54. " Valiant " opened fire.
3.56. " Warspite " opened fire.
5th B.S. was generally engaged and altering course
to the S.E.
3.58. Large explosion to the S,E'ward was observed amongst
4. 5. 1st Flotilla formed LT2.
4. 6. Enemy returned 5th B.S. fire.
4.15. 5th B.S. and destroyers steering SSE.


4.16. Enemy's salvoes falling short of 5th B.S.
4.18. Enemy's salvoes falling over 5th B.S.
5th B.S. apparently altered formation to Sub.
divisions in starboard quarter line.
4.23. Salvo appeared to hit last ship in enemy's line.
4.24. Altered course to SE'ward. Large explosion appeared to
take place amongst B.C. Fleet,
4.25. 1st Flotilla forming astern of 5th B.S.
4,30. Enemy's salvoes improving and range decreasing.
4.31. 1st Flotilla ordered to take station ahead of 5th B.S.,
leaving, 5th B.S. on starboard hand.
4.38. Small craft on port bow opened fire (this ship was so
far off that she was almost undistinguishable).
4.38. Enemy's salvoes falling very close to 5th B.S.
4.42. Destroyers (1st Flotilla) in divisions line ahead astern
of 5th B.S.
4.48. Passed British destroyer rescuing survivors, probably
from " Queen Mary.'
4.50. Battle cruisers—" Lion," " Princess Royal," " Tiger "
and " New Zealand " passed 5th B.S. to port on
opposite courses.
1st Flotilla turned 16 points together and took
station on port beam of B.O.F. heading N.
4.51. Enemy concentrated heavy fire on B.C.F., overs falling
amongst 1st Flotilla.—" Lion" observed to be hit.
4.55. 1st Flotilla taking station astern of B.O.F.
4.59. " Tiger " on fire aft.—" Lion " and " Tiger " being hit.
5. 4. Wireless Office reported that enemy's ships repeatedly
making by w/t RA RA RA - - - - - and jambing
each other.
5. 5. a/c NW 24 knots. Enemy's fire on B.Cs slackening,
apparently enemy is concentrating their fire on
B.S. astern.
5. 6. Enemy's salvoes on 5th B.S. observed to be very good.
5. 9. Light cruisers and Destroyers coming up from the
Southward.
5.10. More ships observed coming up from the Southward.
5.10 Approx disposition of ships in sight.


5.13. 1st Flotilla formed submarine screen on B. C. Fleet
B.C.F. no longer engaged with enemy.
5.15.. a/c N.N.W., enemy no longer in sight.
5.25. a/c N.N.E., and received signal from "Lion "—" Prepare
to renew action."
5.27. a/c N.E. by N.
5,35. Renewed action with the enemy to the S.W., who
appeared to be steaming to the w'ard.
5.45. Fires observed in " Lion " and " Tiger." Enemy's
salvoes appeared to be very good.
6. 0. Battlevery Fleet, 3rd B.C.S., Armoured and Light Cruisers
and T.B.D. Flotillas joined up from the N'ard.
B.C. Fleet altered course to E'ard and S.E.
0.10. General engagement.
About this time a Battle Cruiser of the 3rd B,C.S,
blew up. Course and speed of 1st B.C.F. S.E.,
28 knots.
Nose of 11-in. projectile (A.P. ?) struck "Attack,"
passed through after shelter, pierced upper deck, and
then fell into the Ward Room.
The 1st Flotilla had difficulty in passing through
the G.F. Flotillas just joining up ; it was not easy to
keep " Acheron " in sight, and at the same time avoid
the numerous cruisers and destroyers passing through.
The enemy's projectiles were falling amongst this mass
of T.B.D.'s, and it was remarkable that no one (wept
" Defender " appeared to be seriously damaged.
6.15. Ship of " Defence " class—on starb. quarter—badly on
fire and then appeared to blow up,
6.25. " Badger " detached to stand by survivors of "Invin-
cible."
6.30. Approx. disposition of ships in sight.


6.32. Passed two halves of vessel (red bottom colour) with bow
and stern sticking out of the water, and bearing SW.
6.39. Fire of B.C.F. and enemy eased up considerably.
6.43. Firing ceased—speed 18 knots----received signal to take
station ahead of Admiral.
6.50. a/c East.
7. 2. a/c SSE and 1st Flotilla formed submarine screen No. 3
on B.C. Fleet, speed 22 knots.
7. 3. Battle fleet engaged to the N.W. B.C.F. a/c to
SSW and SW.
7.11. B.C. Fleet reengaged the enemy. 1st Flotilla in Division's
Line ahead on prto(sic) beam of B.C. Fleet.
7.15, Course S.W. and S., speed 24 knots.
7.21. Received signal from "Lion "—" Enemy's torpedo craft
approaching." Followed "Acheron," who proceeded
to take station ahead of B.C. Fleet. (No attack,
however was delivered by enemy's torpedo craft.)
7.30. B.C. Fleet ceased fire. Battle Fleet still engaged.
7.35. Course S.S.W., speed 28 knots, enemy away to the
westward.
8.20. B.C. Fleet again engaged the enemy. Course S.W.,
enemy bearing N.W. Great number of enemy's overs
falling amongst 1st Flotilla, small splinters striking
" Attack."
8.30. Light cruisers engaged to the W.S.W. of us. " Badger "
rejoined. First Flotilla formed submarine screen No. 3
on B.C.F.
8.40, Firing ceased. Course S.W. 10 knots.
8.50. Speed 17 knots.
9. 0. Large explosion N.
Action ceased as far as B.C. Fleet and 1st Flotilla
were concerned. Two balls of flame were noticed to
fall from the sky far away astern—time not actually
noted, but about 10.0 to 10.30 p.m.
9.18. a/c South, and steamed S. 17 knots until 2.30 a.m. on
1st June, when at 2.35 a/c 16 points.
June 1st.
2.45. a/c N.N.E.
3. 0. Increased to 20 knots.
3.22. a/c N. by E. " Inflexible " and " Indomitable " opened
fire on starboard side—nothing visible from Attack."
4. 0. " Lion's " position 55.26 N., 6.5 E.
4. 3. a/c N.N.W.
4.20. a/c N.12E.
4.40. a/c East.
4.50. a/c South, 15 knots, and passed down between two lines
of the Battle Fleet, bound to the N'ard.
4.55. a/c E.S.E.


5. 5. a/c N.N.E., speed 18 knots (appeared to be making N.12E.
course.)
5.25. Sighted the Battle Fleet, N.12E., steering N.12E.
5.30. Increased to 20 knots.
5.32. a/c S.E.
6.10. a/c South.
7.25. a/c N.N.E.
8. 0. a/c N.
8.30. B.C.F. formed divisions in line ahead disposed abeam
to port.
9. 0. Formed submarine screen No. 5 on " New Zealand."
9.40. a/c W.S.W.
9.45. a/c S.12W.
9.50. a/c S.S.W.
9.57. 15 knots.
10. 5. a/c N.N.by W.
11 . 0. Received orders from " Badger " to return to base and
complete with oil. Course N. 74 W., 15 knots. 0.45 p.m. [14] Position 56.03 N., 6.22E. " Lizard " took sta-
tion astern. 0.30 a.m. on 2nd June. Reduced to 13 knots
to economise oil, as was running very short. At
2.30 a.m. saw what appeared to be gun flashes bearing
West.
7.50 a.m. Passed May Island.
Note. - All times G.M.T. All course and bearings Magnetic.
(2) Diagram of courses during the action is attached.
(3) On arrival in harbour completed with oil; effected
temporary repairs by ship's staff to hole in U.D., and then at
tim
1.0 p.m. reported to " Lion "—" Ready for sea."

I have the honour to be,
Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
C. N. H. JAMES,
Lieut.-Comdr.

Captain (D),

1st Flotilla.

Defender

Defender's report was dated 3 June.[15]

SIR,
I HAVE the honour to report my proceedings during period
noono 30th May to noon 3rd June.
Ship was undocked at Leith at 1.00 p.m. 30th, and proceeded
to Rosyth, ammunition and fuel taken on board. At 6.00 p.m.
reported to Captain (D). First Flotilla that ship was ready for
sea, ands requested orders. Orders were given to raise steam and
proceede with them. Sailed with them and under orders of
" Fearless " screened the 5th B.S.
At about 4.30 p.m. 31st May the action commenced with
the enemy, ship then being with 5th B.S. At about 5.30 p.m.
"Lion" ordered First Flotilla to screen ahead of Battle Cruisers ;
using our utmost speed endeavoured to do so, and by the time
the 2nd action was in progress ship was 200 yards on the beam
of " Lion " away from the enemy. At 6.30 a 12-in. shell struck
the ship's side in the foremost boiler room, placing that boiler
room out of action, killing a Stoker Petty Officer, and causing an
oil fuel fire. The shell failed to explode, but wrecked a fan, and
other damage to No. 1 boiler, finally lodging in the ashpit. Being
unable to maintain my position in the line, turned 18 points, and
passed between the battle fleets until reached an area of com-
parative calm, when turned again and repaired damage. The
fire having been dealt with, it was found a mat kept the
stokehold dry, my only trouble now being lack of speed. I
looked round for useful employment, and saw a destroyer in
great difficulties, so closed her. She proved to be H.M.S.
" Onslow " (Lieut.-Commander [[C. J. Tovey) and unable to
steam. Proceeded unable to take her in tow ; meanwhile the action
hadto developed more in our direction, and stray shells were falling
round us ; however, by 7.15 the " Onslow " was in tow, steaming
for Rosyth at 12 knots. During the night No. 2 boiler was got
into use.
At 1.00 a.m. the weather became bad and the tow parted;
" Onslow " was able to steam slowly by herself then, so we went
on slow together. At about 5.00 a.m. had to stop and adjust
bottom lines, which had carried away. It then appeared that
" Onslow " could not make headway, so by Ws orders took in
tow again, using my wire ; managed this, but towing slip parted
shortly afterwards. Using two shackles of cable round the after
bollards and gun, got her in tow again. Proceeded at eight
knots; sea still rising continually; had to reduce speed until
very little headway on.
Unfortunately had hazy idea of position, sounding failed
owing to the sea. The wind, which had been blowing all day
from the S.W., backed suddenly to the North, adding to our
troubles, as it blew hard with a nasty sea.
At 9.30 a.m., 2nd June, land was sighted, and as Aberdeen
was the nearest course, was steered for it, " Onslow " being
transferred to tugs about 1.00 p.m.
" Defender " proceeded to Rosyth, where temporary repairs
to side, shell extracted, were carried out by " Woolwich," orders
were given to proceed to Harwich.


Details on recommendation, personnel &c. omitted from the Report
as reproduced in the
Official Despatches.


I have the honour to be,
Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
L. R. PALMER,
Lieutenant.-Commander.

Captain C. D. Roper, R.N.,

H.M.S. "Fearless."

Lizard

Lizard submitted her report on 2 June.[16]

SIR,
 I HAVE the honour to forward report of proceedings
whilst at sea on 31st May, 1st and 2nd June.
30th May.
10.30. Left harbour and formed JG 3 on 5th B.S. After
leaving May Island proceeded on an easterly course.
31st May.
2.50. Received signal that enemy had been sighted. Shortly
after
3. 0. several enemy B.C. and light cruisers were sighted
ahead on a Southerly course about 12 miles distant. At
3.40 speed of squadron was increased to 2412 knots, the
B.C.S. having already opened fire. At
13.50 destroyers were ordered out of the way and were
ordered to form L.T. formation on " Fearless." At
this time " Barham " commenced ranging.
4. 0. " Fearless " and First flotilla were ordered to take station
astern, and whilst doing so, B.C.S. were observed
returning on opposite course. At
5.15 the course being now about North, Destroyers were
ordered into JG 3 on " Lion," but were unable to get
into position as " Lion " was steaming 24 knots. At
6. 5. course was altered to N.E. by E., and action resumed.
The Grand Fleet which had been sighted about 5.30 on
Port bow and deployed at this time commenced firing.
6.20. Course E.
6.30. Course S.E. Enemy being apparently out of range,
fire now ceased.
7. 0. Formed JG 3 on " Lion's " division. At
8.20. sighted several enemy light cruisers on Starbd. Beam,
and " Lion " opened fire, destroyers drawing ahead
to avoid being hit.
8.25. Course W.N.W. (towards enemy). Meanwhile the Grand
Fleet seemed to be heavily engaged astern and on our
Starbd. quarter.
8.27. Course S.W. Received signal that enemy destroyers
were advancing to attack, but their attack seemed to
be driven off by Light Cruiser squadron, which after-
wards appeared to form a screen between us and the
enemy. Nothing further happened until about
2.30 a.m., when a Zeppelin was observed at about 5,000 ft.
and about 6-7 miles away. A 'Battle cruiser was
observed to fire a salvo at her, and at about
3.30 heavy firing was heard astern, At
11.30. " Lizard " was ordered to return to base and oil.

I have the honour to be,
Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
E. BROOKE,
Lieutenant Commander.

The Vice-Admiral Commanding,

1st B.C.S.

Badger

On June 8th, Roper forwarded extracts of Badger's report.[17]

"At 6.0 p.m. the 3rd B.C.S. was observed ahead heavily
engaged, and shortly afterwards 2 explosions occurred in the
' Invincible,' and she disappeared in a cloud of smoke. When
it cleared the bow and stern were seen sticking out of the water
surrounded by a quantity of wreckage, and at 6.40 I was ordered
by B.C.F., to return to the ' Invincible ' and pick up
survivors. Commander Dannreuther, Lieutenant Sanford, C.P.O.
Thompson, Yeo. Sigs. Pratt, A. B. Danbridge, Gunner R.M.
Gasson, were picked up, the last-mentioned suffering from severe
burns. ' Badger ' then rejoined ' Lion,' passing through the
Battle Fleet which was engaged."

Ariel

On June 8th, Roper forwarded extracts of Ariel's report.[18]

"Witnessed the sinking of H.M.S. ' Invincible,' also of an
enemy capital ship near the commencement of the action at
about the same time that the ' Indefatigable ' was sunk, but
was unable to distinguish class or type.
"Continued with B.C.F. till 3.50 p.m., 1st June. At 2.15 p.m.,
1st June, when in approximate position 57° 00' N., 6° 02' E,
passed 20 to 30 bodies of German bluejackets, all supported by
black-covered life jackets bearing a name consisting of about
six letters commencing with the letter L, the bodies had in all
but one case the appearance of having been drowned or having
died of exposure, only one appearing to be damaged. A red
life belt bearing the lettering S.M.S. ' L-- ' was also seen,
also black jolly boat marked ' V--- ' probably from a German
Destroyer, it was empty."

Footnotes

  1. March. British Destroyers. p. 123.
  2. Naval Operations. Volume III. pp. 429-30.
  3. Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. pp. 46-7.
  4. Naval Operations. Volume III. pp. 429-30.
  5. Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. pp. 242-3.
  6. Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. pp. 244.
  7. Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. pp. 244-9.
  8. Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. p. 244.
  9. Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. p. 245.
  10. Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. p. 245.
  11. Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. p. 246.
  12. Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. p. 247.
  13. Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. Plate 20.
  14. This time entry may be incorrect, given its placement. Formatting has been altered slightly here.
  15. Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. pp. 249-250.
  16. Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. p. 251.
  17. Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. p. 252.
  18. Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. p. 252.