H.M.S. Princess Royal at the Battle of Jutland
I HAVE the honour to report that " Princess Royal,"
flying your Flag, was in company with " Lion," First and Second
Battle Cruiser Squadrons, less " Australia," on the afternoon
of the 31st May, when the Enemy's Fleet was sighted bearing
N.E., our position being Lat. 56° 51 N., Long. 5° 16 E., and course
N.E. Fire was opened by the enemy at 3.46 p.m. and imme-
diately returned by us, " Lion " and "Princess Royal "
concentrating on the leading ship (of " Derfflinger " type), the
opening range being 16,000 yards. She was straddled at the
third salvo, and a hit was observed at 3.54 p.m. Course was
gradually altered to southward.
2. The hit forward at 3.56 p.m. caused the electric training
of the Argo Tower to fail, and the hand gear was found to be
set up. Control was turned over to " B " turret for ten minutes,
and then resumed by the Argo Tower, of which the rangefinder
was out of action. At 4.11 a torpedo missed the Ship, passing
under the midship section from starboard to port. The shooting
of " Lion " and " Princess Royal " appeared good for some time
before the enemy turned away at 4.26 p.m.
3. Shortly afterwards, the High Sea Fleet came in sight,
and our course was altered to the northward (4.38 p.m.). On
picking up the enemy again, their right-hand ship was seen to
be enveloped in smoke and steering away. Four salvoes were
fired at a three-funnelled cruiser steering southwards, and fire
at 4.50 was opened on the second ship in the line, as " Lion's "
smoke interfered with our view of the leading ship ; she
resembled the " Seydlitz." The " Lion's " smoke becoming
better, fire was shifted at 4.56 to the leading ship again (also
of the " Seydlitz " or similar type). At 5.8 the enemy could no
longer be seen and fire was checked.
4. At 5.41 p.m. fire was opened on the left-hand ship which
at 5.48 was seen to be on fire. The wreck of the " Invincible "
was passed at 6.36 p.m. on the starboard hand. The course
of the Squadron was gradually altered to the eastward. At
6.4 fire was checked, the enemy not being visible.
5. Fire was reopened at 6.12, the target being apparently
a battleship (two funnels wide apart). Course had to be altered
slightly to the N.E. at 6.15 to allow the First Cruiser Squadron
to cross our front ; the original course was afterwards resumed
and then gradually Worked round to the southward, and half
an hour later to the south-westward.
6. The Ship came, about this time, under a heavy fire,
possibly from the battleships of the " König " class, which
were seen abaft the beam. " X " Turret was put out of action
by this fire, and the ship was holed in the starboard after reserve
bunkern by another shot of the same salvo, which wrecked the
after engine-room casings before exploding against the upper
decks on the port side. Fire was checked at 6.22 p.m., the
enemy being invisible owing to smoke, and advantage was
taken of the lull to check the instruments. At 6.40 p.m. a
torpedo missed the Ship, passing from port to starboard under
the middle section again.
7. Fire was reopened at 7.14 p.m. for three minutes on an
enemy ship which was on fire amidships, having been hit by
About 8.40 p.m. a very heavy shock was felt, and everyone
thought a torpedo had hit us, but this was not so, however ;
and therefore we must have struck and passed over a very
heavy object, possibly a submarine or a sunken vessel.
8. At 8.21 p.m. fire was reopened on the leading battle
cruiser, which could now be seen without any interference
from " Lion " smoke, and good ranges could be obtained for
the first .time. She was repeatedly hit until 8.30, when she
dropped astern on fire and was bidden by destroyer smoke
screen. Fire was resumed at 8.33 on a three-funnelled battleship
of the " Helgoland " or " Pommern " type, and hits were
obtained with the second and third salvoes. Fire was checked
at 8.30, the target being obscured by the smoke screen.
9. Nothing more was seen of the enemy after this.
10. After the turn northwards at 4.38 p.m. the enemy was
always on the starboard side.
11. The only electrical defect which developed in the course
of the. action affecting the fighting efficiency was the failure
of the electrical training of the Argo Tower at the beginning
of the action, caused by the blowing of the fuzes in No. 1
starboard and port pipe passages (caused by the explosion of
the shell which hit at 3.56 p.m.). These were replaced and the
Argo Tower Motor worked correctly.
12. The gunnery interruptions were :—
" A " Turret—Right Gun.—Retractor lever bent,
causing missfires. Turret Armourer and Chief Armourer
away on advance leave, and considerable delay caused.
Left Gun.—Crank pinion axis broke with breech
in closed position. Breech could not be opened for
11 hours. Gun out of action.
" B" Turret.—Turret armour hit without internal
damage. Tubes occasionally missfired—bad tubes.
" Q" Turret.—Right gun hit on muzzle, cracked
Inner "A " tube for 2 ins, and caused scoring of right
" X " Turret.-12-in. hit on armour which was badly
distorted. Large piece thrown through gunhouse, killing
left gun's crew, damaging sliding shaft to breech and
destroying all pressure pipes on left side. Turret jambed
and out of action.
Gun Control Tower.—Two 12-in. shell striking forward
caused vibration which put training gear temporarily out
of action and jammed transmitter gear of Argo Range-
finder. Slight damage by splinters to 4-in. gun circuits,
&c. repaired by Ship's Staff.
Voice-pipes.—Captain's, on Compass Platform to Argo
Tower and between Argo Tower and Director Tower
both cut by fragments of the first salvo which hit the
ship All voice-pipe in both struts and auxiliary director
circuit destroyed by shell.
" A " Turret- 34
" B " Turret- 78
" Q " Turret- 78
" X " Turret- 40
13. The main engines and boilers were not affected by hits
and steam was easily maintained for all services.
Examination of the propellers by divers shows that a very
small piece has been removed from one blade, and a cone from
a propeller nut has come off. This may have been caused by
the collision referred to in para. 7.
The explosion of the shell which came through the starboard
after reserve bunker and wrecked the casings of the after engine
rooms, filled them with dense smoke, some of which penetrated
to the starboard forward engine room, but this dispersed after
the fire was subdued, the hole on the port side of the after deck
facilitating the dispersion.
14. The electric light on the upper and main decks was cut off
at the switchboard previous to the action to prevent probable
causes of fire through short-circuiting of leads.
15. " Princess Royal " was hit by approximately nine heavy
shell, besides a constant stream of shell fragments. The principal
(a) Caused by shell exploding against upper deck in
Admiral's Port cabin over " B " Turret Flat, which
wrecked the cabin, killed and 'wounded many of the
Fore 4-in, guns' crews and salvage party, put the Fore
Distributing Station out of action till it could be cleared
of smoke, partially gassed the men in the Transmitting
Station and Lower Conning Tower, and started several
fires, which were very difficult to put out owing to gas
(b) Hole through base of No. 1 Funnel.
(c) Hole through armour in port forward reserve
bunker, by which the fire main pipe and the gearing of
the flood valve to " B " port magazine were shot away.
(d) Gunhouse of " X " Turret.
(e) Shell through starboard after reserve bunker,
which wrecked the after engine room casings and exploded
on the port side of the main deck, killing and wounding
many of the After 4-in. guns' crews and salvage party,
breaking the fire main and brine system, and cawing
The fires were subdued in a minimum of time but under
much difficulty, due to the lack of electric light, the failure of
the oil lighting, the breaking of fire mains and valves, and the
heavy smoke and gars caused by the explosions and fires.
The two holes in the Ship's side were plugged as soon as it
was possible to get at them after, the fires were dealt with.
16. Soon after opening fire, a shell burst in " B " Turret Flat,
putting out the lights, jambing the hatch to the Fore Distributing
Station, and filling the air with thick clouds of smoke, which
were very irritating to the eyes and throat, especially the latter.
Respirators were immediately put on, and were found most
useful. Goggles were were used but were found to get dimmed. The
gases, being heavy, hung about in the Distributing Station for
hours afterwards. The for effects of the gas on the system also
became obvious by nausea, giddiness and vomiting, so that the
Station was evacuated and the Port Fore 4-in. Battery used.
The removal of wounded, as anticipated, proved slow and very
difficult. After the action was over, the Fore Distributing
Station was used for operations.
The Port After Mess Deck, the Distributing Station and the
Issue Room were used for the treatment of the wounded aft.
The greater proportion of the injuries consisted of burns
about the face and arms, which proved serious and led in a,
few hours to much swelling of mouth and eyes, and great shock.
The conduct of the wounded was steady, no complaint being
as reproduced in the Official Despatches.
- I have the honour to be,
- Your obedient Servant,
- WALTER COWAN,
- WALTER COWAN,
- I have the honour to be,
The Rear-Admiral Commanding.
- Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. pp. 150-4, Chart between pages 146 and 147.
- Admiralty (1920). Battle of Jutland 30th May to 1st June 1916: Official Despatches with Appendices. Cmd. 1068. London: His Majesty's Stationary Office.