Jutland:British Reactions

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Battle of Jutland
31 May – 1 June, 1916
Chapters
PreliminariesRun to the SouthRun to the NorthClash of the Battle FleetsNight ActionsBritish ReactionsGerman ReactionsAnalysisConclusions

At 19:00 on 2 June, the Permanent Secretary to the Board of Admiralty made the following announcement:

On the afternoon of Wednesday, May 31, a naval engagement took place off the coast of Jutland.
The British ships on which the brunt of the fighting fell were the Battle Cruiser Fleet and some cruisers and light cruisers, supported by four fast battleships. Among these the losses were heavy.
The German Battle Fleet, aided by low visibility, avoided prolonged action with our main forces, and soon after these appeared on the scene the enemy returned to port, though not before receiving severe damage from our battleships.
The battle-cruisers Queen Mary, Indefatigable, Invincible, and the cruisers Defence and Black Prince were sunk.
The Warrior was disabled, and after being towed for some time had to be abandoned by her crew.
It is also known that the destroyers Tipperary, Turbulent, Fortune, Sparrowhawk, and Ardent were lost, and six others are not yet accounted for.
No British battleships or light cruisers were sunk.
The enemy's losses were serious.
At least one battle-cruiser was destroyed, and one severely damaged; one battleship reported sunk by our destroyers during a night attack; two light cruisers were disabled, and probably sunk.
The exact number of enemy destroyers disposed of during the action cannot be ascertained with any certainty, but it must have been large.[1]

Much controversy has surrounded the publication of this communiqué. At the time the Second Sea Lord, Sir Frederick T. Hamilton, referred to it as "stupid" and wrote that Beatty was "very angry at the Admiralty" about it.[2]

As to its authorship, Hamilton wrote in his diary that, "I found that Masterton-Smith [Private Secretary to the First Lord] was the author of it[;] Jackson & Oliver having been too busy to attend to it properly and having told them to say anything they liked so long as it was true they may be partly excused as they could hardly expect that, knowing what we did of the German losses through the Japanese Telegram, the Germans would lie in the barefaced manner they did."[3] Sir W. Graham Greene wrote in 1934 that, "Mr. Balfour had a meeting at once with his chief Naval Advisers and, after considerable discussion, decided that the losses should be published without abridgement or any colourable explanation, so that there should be no charge, as had been previously made, that the Admiralty were suppressing any untoward circumstances. Mr. Balfour himself drafted the "Communiqué" which went out the same evening."[4]

Comparatively unknown is the second communiqué, issued by the Admiralty at 01.05 on 3 June. Marder mentions it,[5] yet most sources seem to believe that there was nothing between the first announcement and the one written by Churchill. Graham Greene doesn't mention it in his notes on Balfour.[6] The German Official History doesn't mention it.[7]

Since the foregoing communiqué a further report has been received from the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet, stating that it is now ascertained that our losses in destroyers amount to eight boats in all.

The Commander-in-Chief also reports that it is now possible to form a closer estimate of the losses and damage sustained by the enemy fleet.

One Dreadnought battleship of the Kaiser class was blown up in an attack by British destroyers, and another dreadnought of the Kaiser class is believed to have been sunk by gunfire.

Of three German battle cruisers—two of which it is believed were the Derfflinger and the Lützow—one was blown up, another was heavily engaged by our battle fleet, and was seen to be disabled and stopping, and the third was observed to be seriously damaged.

One German light cruiser and six German destroyers were sunk, and at least two more German light cruisers were seen to be disabled.

Further repeated hits were observed on three other German battleships that were engaged.

Finally, a German submarine was rammed and sunk.[8][9]

On 6 June Jellicoe wrote to his wife:

Of course I am not satisfied, as given clear weather the battle would have been final and there would have been no German Fleet left, whatever happened to us. But that can't be helped. It is ludicrous for the Germans to claim a victory. Victory always rests with the force that occupies the scene of the action, and we did this for the greater part of the next day, until it was quite clear that they had all gone home or as many as were left to go. If they had been so confident of victory they would have tried to go on fighting instead of legging it for home.[10]

Footnotes

  1. "Great Naval Battle" (News). The Times. Saturday, 3 June, 1916. Issue 41184, col A, p. 8.
  2. Diary entry for 7 June, 1916. National Maritime Museum. Hamilton Papers. HTN/106.
  3. Diary entry for 7 June, 1916. National Maritime Museum. Hamilton Papers. HTN/106.
  4. "Earl Balfour as First Lord of the Admiralty." National Maritime Museum. Greene Papers. GEE/13. f. 4.
  5. Marder. p. 242.
  6. "Earl Balfour as First Lord of the Admiralty." National Maritime Museum. Greene Papers. GEE/13. ff. 1-9.
  7. The Battle of Jutland (The German Official Account). p. 240.
  8. "Great Naval Battle" (News). The Times. Saturday, 3 June, 1916. Issue 41184, col A, p. 8.
  9. This claim might be based on the many Mysterious Collisions at Jutland.
  10. Quoted in Bacon. Earl Jellicoe. p. 306.

Bibliography