Jutland:Run to the South

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

On 31 May 1916, the British Grand Fleet and the German High Sea Fleet were both steaming in the North Sea, and advancing toward each other for an afternoon encounter. The two forces were similarly employed, in the general sense: the primary forces of battleships were advancing with battlecruisers searching for the enemy ahead. See this post for the relative strengths of the two fleets and the preliminary moves.

At 2:20 pm H.M.S. Galatea, one of the light cruisers of Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty’s Battle Cruiser Fleet, hoisted the signal 'Enemy in sight.' Both the B.C.F. and Vizeadmiral Franz Hipper’s I Scouting Group had sent ships to investigate a Dutch merchant ship.[1]

The B.C.F. normally consisted of three squadrons each of three battlecruisers. However, the Third Battle Cruiser Squadron had been transferred to Scapa Flow, where there was more room to conduct gunnery practice, and replaced by Rear Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas's Fifth Battle Squadron.

The armoured cruiser H.M.S. Australia and the battleship H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth were not available for service, giving Beatty five battlecruisers and four battleships against Hipper's five battlecruisers. Both forces also had light cruisers and destroyers with them.

Beatty headed towards his enemy, which he at first thought comprised only light cruisers, but the Fifth Battle Squadron did not immediately conform to this turn toward the enemy. Beatty most often led the B.C.F. on a "follow me" basis, which was more appropriate for his force than it would have been for Admiral Sir John Jellicoe’s much larger Grand Fleet. Evan-Thomas, who had not been given a copy of the orders under which the B.C.F. operated, was used to Jellicoe's more regimented process and did not initially react to Beatty's move.[2]

The B.C.F. included a seaplane carrier, H.M.S. Engadine, but she launched only one of her four seaplanes, crewed by pilot Flight Lieutenant Frederick Rutland and observer Paymaster G. S. Trewin. Low clouds restricted their visibility to only one to four miles.[3]

The G.F. also included a seaplane carrier, H.M.S. Campania, but signalling errors resulted in her being left in harbour. Jellicoe, who thought that her maximum speed was 19 knots rather than the actual 21.5 knots and was worried that she would be vulnerable to U-boats, ordered her to stay in port. She could have caught up with the fleet by 1:30 pm but the poor visibility and primitive communications would have restricted the usefulness of her ten seaplanes even if she had arrived safely and in time.[4].

The I S.G. opened fire at about 15,000 yards range at 3:48 pm, with the B.C.F. replying seconds later. Beatty thought that the range was 18,000 yards, 500 less than the maximum of his two 12 inch armed ships. The 13.5 inch guns on the others had a range of 23-24,000 yards.[5]

The I S.G. now attempted to lead the B.C.F. onto the High Sea Fleet, with a high speed chase to the south developing. At 4:00 pm a hit on Beatty’s Flagship H.M.S. Lion’s Q turret might have caused her to blow up had it not been for improvements in ammunition handling procedures recently introduced by her Chief Gunner Alexander Grant and orders given by mortally wounded Royal Marine Major Francis Harvey to close the magazine doors and flood the magazines. Harvey was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross.[6]

Three minutes later, H.M.S. Indefatigable blew up, with the loss of 1,017 men killed. The two survivors were picked up by the Germans. Just after this S.M.S. Moltke launched four torpedoes, which was followed by false sightings of U-boats by the British.[7]

Fifth Battle Squadron, after firing on German light cruisers, spotted the enemy battlecruisers at 4:05 pm. They had just ceased fire because of the range. Evan-Thomas turned south to conform to Beatty's course before opening fire at 19,000 yards. His squadron's fire was more accurate than that of the British battlecruisers, but at such a long range the shells hit the enemy at an oblique angle, causing the over sensitive lyddite in them to explode on contact rather than to penetrate. The visibility was now obscured by haze and smoke.[8]

At 4:10 pm both Beatty and Hipper altered course to close the range and the Germans reopened fire at 4:17 pm. H.M.S. Queen Mary came under fire from both S.M.S. Derfflinger and Seydlitz. The Germans praised her shooting, but at 4:26 pm she blew up. Only 20 of her men were rescued, 18 by the British, one of whom later died, and two by the Germans. The other 1,266 men on board went down with her.[9]

The next stage of the action was a destroyer action that resulted in the sinking of H.M.S. Nestor and H.M.S. Nomad and Template:GE-V27 and Template:GE-V29. One torpedo hit Seydlitz, but did not do much damage.[10]

Nestor's captain, Commander Edward Bingham was awarded the VC. He was rescued by the Germans, the only one of the four Jutland VC winners to survive the battle.

About 4:30 pm Commodore William Goodenough's light cruiser H.M.S. Southampton sighted the H.S.F.. He signalled Beatty by searchlight at 4:33 pm and Jellicoe and Beatty by wireless at 4:38 pm that enemy battleships were in sight. At 4:40 pm Beatty ordered his force to rejoin the Grand Fleet. His mission was now to lead the enemy to Jellicoe,[11] in the second phase of the battle, which would eventually become known as the Run to the North.

See Also


  1. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. Volume III. p. 59.
  2. The Rules of the Game. pp. 81-101.
  3. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. Volume III. p. 63.
  4. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. Volume III. pp. 48-49.
  5. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. Volume III. p. 64.
  6. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. Volume III. p. 65-66.
  7. Tarrant. Jutland: The German Perspective. pp. 84-86.
  8. Naval Operations. Volume III. pp. 336-37.
  9. Naval Operations. Volume III. p. 337.
  10. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. Volume III. pp. 68-69.
  11. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. Volume III. pp. 69-70.