H.M.S. New Zealand at the Battle of Heligoland Bight
Shortly before noon, the Light Cruiser Squadron were observed to be firing; it was then about eight miles away, slightly on our port bow, and steaming at great speed from left to right. Although the flashes from their guns were clearly visible, the direction in which the ships were steaming was uncertain and no enemy was visible.
New Zealand increased to full speed, steering S.E. and leading the line of battle cruisers.
On nearer approach, the flashes of the enemy's guns were seen just to the left of the light cruisers and at the same time a large number of destroyers, accompanied by the Arethusa, passed down our port hand, retiring from an invisible enemy who was pitching projectiles amongst them.
As the light cruiser's antagonist was obviously beaten-her upper deck a mass of wreckage and only one funnel and one mast standing we passed on, leaving her on our starboard hand.
Vice-admiral then ordered the Battle Cruiser Squadron to take station in sequence of fleet numbers, which reversed the positions, and the order then was: Lion, Queen Mary, Princess Royal, New Zealand, and Invincible a good way astern of the line.
At this time the visibility was 8,000-6,000, sea calm, wind 0-2 from N.N.E., mist and smoke from light cruisers in action.
At 12.50 p.m., Lion opened fire on something on her port bow. Nothing could be seen from New Zealand's fore top through the mist and smoke, except the flashes of her guns, but a few projectiles fell near us and burst, making splashes about 20 feet high.
A misty object was once seen from the fore top and 8,000 yards put on the sights, in case fire could be opened.
The conning tower then reported the enemy bearing port 30, the fore turret ("A") opened fire, obtaining their direction from a locally fitted officer of quarters open sight, and laying for the horizon or flashes.
It is doubtful if this was really worth while, as only a direct hit could possibly have been seen.
Nevertheless, it afforded the satisfaction of a repIy, and showed that fire could be opened without the gunlayers seeing the target.
It was thought that our shell were falling over and the range on the sights was reduced to about 6,000 yards. The enemy, however, disappeared into the mist; some think that he turned completely round to port.
At any rate, a foremast with a German ensign flying at the mast head appeared above the smoke, bearing port 40, and moving fast enough to make the flag blow out well.
This was immediately follwed by the whole ship, which resembled generally a three-funnelled county cruiser.
She opened a brisk fire on New Zealand and Princess Royal from five or six guns. Several shot fell ahead of us, a few short, and one passed between the fore top and fore bridge, being clearly seen coming by the control officer and range-finder operator.
Meanwhile the order "Fire" was passed several times, but "Q" and "X" turrets would not bear, and "A" and "P" turrets were rather slow in commencing.
Our first shots were practically in line with the stem and over. They could be followed the whole way and could be seen quite clearly.
The third salvo resulted in a hit and the order "Independent" was given.
No ranges were taken until after hitting had been established, on account of the sudden appearance of the enemy and the mist, also the fact that the spray had obscured the right objective of "A" turret range-finder and could not be removed from the inside.
The enemy was now heading on a course parallel to our own. The rate had varied from 500 closing to 0, the fore part of the ship could be clearly seen, but the remainder was completely hidden in clouds of white smoke. Range 5,000-3,000 yards.
Several reports from "Q" and "X" turrets agree that flashes of guns from another ship were seen from a bearing about port 60, and the gunlayers were uncertain as to whether the foremost turrets were firing at her or not.
Then the real target came into view.
A shot removed her foremast just above the top, and the flag came down. Another flag could be seen just below the top, but whether it had been there all the time or was hoisted later, could not be ascertained.
Shortly after all turrets had opened fire, the deflection was thrown completely off to the right, presumably by a sudden reduction in the enemy's speed.
It is thought that this was caused by a torpedo fired from the New Zealand at 1 p.m., which appeared to have been the cause of a great upheaval of water and a cloud of black smoke which was seen to arise amidships.
A correction to the deflection brought the shots back again, after about six had missed, and shortly afterwards we ceased firing.
When shots fell to the right of the foremast, spotting was easy and the projectiles could be followed the whole way.
When they fell to the left, it was impassible to see "overs" and difficult to see "shorts" owing to the smoky background, the flash and black smoke of hits could be seen sometimes.
Spotting, range-taking and gunlaying, although sometimes difficult for us, must have been absolutely impossible for our opponent, when tactical position was the worst possible.
Had our positions been reversed, we shold certainly have suffered severely if we had been hit forward early in the engagemtent.
The clouds of smoke drifting across the line of fire would have prevented all but the fore top, and possibly "A" turret and conning tower, from seeing where the shells were coming from.
This point, most noticeable in the Empress of India firing, was again well exemplified.
Although our position was absolutely ideal, the after-turrets suffered from being temporarily obscured by the smoke from the foremost ones, and generally lost the enemy when it blew across them.
Once hitting had been established, our enemy's fire died away, except from a foremost gun, which continued firing until it apparently disappeared overboard.
This is probably due to the fact that her after gunlayers could see absolutely nothing but smoke, through which our shell must have come as through a blanket.
1. An attendant destroyer could have prevented the necessity for a sudden alteration of course caused by the appearance of a submarine, which threw all the guns off their bearing.
2. It is very difficult to get 4-inch guns on to a submarine, unless the bearings can be accurately shown, and as the ship is usually making violent alterations of course, this becomes a matter of some difficulty.
3. Ships cannot maintain a steady course in the presence of mines and submarines and should therefore have efficient bearing transmitters to the guns.
4. It should be arranged to inform the turrets when the 4-inch guns are manned so that they can limit their arcs of firing.
5. All secondary lighting on the main deck (oil lamps) was extinguished by the concussion of our own guns. Electric torches would have been most useful to officers whotse duty took them along this deck.
6. A shell removed the enemy's foremast in the same manner that a rifle bullet would break a stick.
7. A flag at the masthead or a high mast is very conspicuous and can be used as an object for training when nothing else is visible, and if the horizon is used far laying, firing can be continued.
8. The experience gained by watching Empress of India and other similar firings was invaluable and officers and gunlayers should all have some experience of the difficulties caused by firing shell instead of shot.
9. The enemy should never be given opportunity to fire back during a lull, such as would occur in salvo firing if a salvo missed.
10. The vibration caused by steaming full speed made "X" turret's telephones indistinct.
11. Hardly any of the descriptions of the ship we fired at afterwards agreed. Some thought she had four funnels, several that we fired at two different ships.
12. Sticks of cordite falling down the trunk prevented a main cage quite reaching the bottom; consequently ihe safety gear would not allow the trunk door to be opened.
13. When we were able to see the enemy's port side, it was apparent that a shell passing through the forecastle had blown this side out like a shot passing through tin. Not a single thing on the upper deck appeared to be in its right place, except the foremost funnel and the stump of the foremast.
14. The ship, the Köln, sank quickly, her bows evidently touching the bottom, so that the stern remained above water for an appreciable time before finally subsiding.
15. No hydraulic or electrical breakdowns occurred.
16. Rounds fired :- 12-inch capped common shell.
|"A"||turret||... ... ... ...||32|
|"P"||turret||... ... ... ...||17|
|"Q"||turret||... ... ... ...||19|
|"X"||turret||... ... ... ...||12|
|Total||... ...||... ... ... ...||80|
|"A" turret ... ... ... ...||4|