H.M.S. Superb at the Battle of Jutland

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Report of Proceedings


No. 104.

H.M.S. "Superb",

Fourth Battle Squadron,

3rd June 1916.


IN compliance with your orders, I have the honour to forward the following report of the action of the 31st May 1916.

All times are G.M.T.

2. Gun firing was first heard about 5.30 p.m., apparently on starboard bow in a direction about South. Course and speed of the fleet then was S.E. by S., 19 knots. Later (about 5.50 p.m.) firing was seen about S.S.W. (flashes only), which eventually turned out to be our Battle Cruiser Fleet with Light Cruisers engaged with an unseen enemy to the Southward and to Starboard of our course.

6.05. Course, South.
6.08. Course, S.E. Our Armoured Cruisers, Light Cruisers, with some destroyers were observed about this time heavily engaged and apparently falling back on the Battle Fleet. As we were deploying, they seemed to turn to port.
6.12. Deployed by Equal Speed Pt. to S.E, by E. and sighted Ships to Southward indistinctly—probably enemy; too misty and indistinct to open fire. About this time a few projectiles were dropping in our vicinity but none very close. One appeared to pass between " Iron Duke " and " Royal Oak " at 6.14, about 300 over, and burst on striking water, emitting a pale grey smoke.
Our Battle Cruisers on deployment seemed to be between us and the enemy and steaming at high speed on a course a few points to port of that of the fleet. "Lion" was observed to have a small fire nearly abreast her fore turret on the Port side, some white smoke appeared to be coming through her forecastle deck. They eventually passed ahead of us and disappeared in the mist. " Lion " was seen to be straddled once or twice. Two of our Armoured Cruisers appeared now to be continually straddled and struck by heavy projectiles. One salvo was seen by certain Officers to strike one of them (four funnels), and immediately afterwards she blew up with a heavy explosion and red flames. Another Officer also states that about this time he saw another vessel (three funnels) blow up.
6.26. "Iron Duke" opened fire, followed by "Royal Oak" and a three-funnelled enemy ship, "Kolberg" class, was observed steaming an opposite course.
6.26-50. "Superb" opened fire, green 80, range about 10,400 yards. First two salvoes out for deflection (enemy apparently stopped or reduced to slow speed, not at first realised). Third and fourth salvoes straddled and hit. Ship seen flaming fiercely amidships and aft. She disappeared in a dense cloud of white smoke. The Commander (G) and other Officers thought she sank, but I find she was seen later by ships astern of us. About this time the Navigating Officer states he saw another large German ship, but not for long. Two of our T.B.Ds. were also seen on fire, one at fore end, and one at after end, both heading on opposite course to fleet nearly.
7. 0. Passed wreck of " Invincible "; it was not known at the time what ship it was. A T.B.D. was standing by her with a boat down.
About 7.20. Observed certain enemy ships in line with some destroyers ahead, a large ship resembling the " Derfflinger " was clearly seen, but opinions differ as to how many were seen astern of her, some say two, some say three, of which one is described as resembling the "Helgoland" class. Personally I think they were Battle Cruisers. "Superb" opened fire on the supposed "Derfflinger" at 7.20, steaming apparently nearly parallel to us. We could not get a range, so opened fire at 11,000 yards without Deflection correct, but first salvo short. She was hit with the third and fourth salvoes, and then turned away heavily on fire aft. Some Officers say the destroyers ahead turned and made a smoke screen to hide these ships. I cannot personally confirm this, but they passed out of sight. "Superb" fired by director, which in such misty weather was invaluable. Control Officer had no difficulty in getting director on correct object, and, no difficulty was found in distinguishing our own salvoes Chief difficulty throughout action was making certain between friend and foe.
7.23 and 7.26. Two turns of two Pts. to Port by Preparative. These turns are assumed to have been due to an abortive destroyer attack by the enemy which never developed, partly to excellent 6-in. firing from "Royal Oak" (perhaps also "Iron Duke") and to the approach of our Light Cruisers and destroyers to engage them.
7.36. Course, S. by W. Formed single line.
7.43. Course, S.W. Course and speed was subsequently altered at 8.3, 8.25, and 8.29 to West, 17 knots, W.S.W. and S.S.W. respectively.
9. 5. Course south for the night and about this time destroyers took station astern.
10.13. Much firing on Starboard Quarter, apparently a destroyer action; direct flashes seen and some large red fireballs or something of that sort.
About this time a vessel on port hand passed showing bright white lights at irregular intervals.
11.30 and 11.43. Firing observed right astern, but no direct flashes seen, only the glare of gun flashes.

1st June.

0.25. Ditto on port quarter.
2.45. Turned to West and shortly afterwards to North.
3.35. Heard heavy gun firing about W.S.W.
3.50. Sighted a Zeppelin S.E. Several Officers seem to think she was signalling with a searchlight, and the Lieutenant (T) observed trailing from her what he took to be a trailing Earth for her W/T.
Nothing more of the enemy was seen after this.

Throughout the whole action it was misty and very difficult to see objects distinctly.

I attach a rough sketch of the wreck of the "Invincible" taken at the time by Lieutenant Curry (T) from several points of view. Also a rough plan of the movements of ships before deployment, as they appeared to Sub-Lieutenant Paul in the fore-top.

I have the honour to be,


Your Obedient Servant,



The Vice-Admiral Commanding

Fourth Battle Squadron,

H.M.S. " Benbow."

Notable Crew

  • Geoffrey Harrington Sainsbury, (22 November, 1893 – 29 December, 1973), Midshipman better known as the translator of Maigret into English.



  • Admiralty (1920). Battle of Jutland 30th May to 1st June 1916: Official Despatches with Appendices. Cmd. 1068. London: His Majesty's Stationary Office.