H.M.S. Hercules at the Battle of Jutland
Report of Proceedings
Sir, 4th June 1916.
I HAVE the honour to report the following circumstances with regard to the action on Wednesday, 31st May 1916.
2. The Ship's company, having fallen out from Action Stations to get tea, closed up again on hearing gun-firing on the starboard bow—5.50 p.m.
3. The Battle Fleet, less 5th Battle Squadron, were then in divisions ahead disposed abeam to starboard, 10 cables. Course—S.E. by S.; Speed—19 knots.
4. At 5.55 p.m., our Battle Cruisers were sighted on starboard bow, through the mist, in action. Range of Tiger—11,000 yards.
Enemy's shots were falling occasionally between our Battle Cruisers and our Battle Fleet and shortly afterwards appeared to hit "Tiger."
At 6.0 p.m., our Battle Cruisers began to draw across our bows from starboard to port, the Lion being slightly on fire on her forecastle, port side.
6.5 p.m.—Turned in succession to South by "9" pendant.
6.13 p.m.—Formed fine of Battle S.E. by E.
6.15 p.m.—As "Hercules" started to deploy a salvo, with a small spread, of some five shots straddled our forecastle and deluged the Fore Bridge, Conning Tower and Fore Top—a mass of heavy water falling on board. From a fragment of shell picked up on the forecastle the projectile would appear to be an A.P., nearly 15-in.
After this deluge I wondered where this salvo had come from as only the flashes of some four or five of the enemy's ships beyond our Battle Cruisers could be seen from the Bridge. I then noticed that the rear of our Battle line must have afforded a fine silhouette for the enemy, as some of our ships on the reverse side of us were clearly visible against the bright sunlit sky.
I remarked to Captain Schoultz at the time—"What a fine target our ship must be for the enemy as we can see nothing of him."
6.20 p.m.—"Hercules" fired her first salvo at an enemy ship—four funnels—apparently of "Roon" class. She was noticed to be already disabled and stopped.
At about 6.30 p.m., three of enemy's Battleships of "Kaiser" class were seen indistinctly through the mist, and seven or eight salvoes were fired at that ship which appeared most visible.
Fire was continually checked owing to the haze.
About this time, one of our four-funnelled cruisers to the Southward was being heavily hit. The after magazine exploded, the flame reaching above her mast; then, after a short interval, her foremost magazine blew up, and no more was seen of her.
6.40 p.m.—Ship of Warrior class, bearing S.E., 3-4,000 yards, was observed attempting to escape from the enemy's fire, a great many shots falling all around her. She was steaming at full speed and zigzagging all the time.
6.45 p.m.—Deployment finished as far as "Hercules" was concerned. Course, S.E. by divisions.
6.47 p.m.—One of enemy's ships ("Roon"?) on our starboard side badly on fire. (Vide 6.20 p.m.)
6.55 p.m.—Marlborough struck by a mine or torpedo on starboard side. She listed quickly to starboard but continued firing. From this time a speed of 16 knots was never exceeded by our 6th Division.
6.56 p.m.—Acasta with "6" flag flying and "not under control" signal up, was passed; she cheered "Hercules" while drifting past.
7. 5 p.m.—Altered course together 3 points to starboard.
7. 9 p.m.—Altered course back 3 points to port.
7.10 p.m.—Several enemy Battle Cruisers to left of the "Kaiser" class ships were now clearly visible. The lefthand Battle Cruiser observed was a "Derfflinger" or a "Lützow"; the second was "Seydlitz" or "Moltke"; the third appeared to be also a Battle Cruiser, but was obscured by smoke. Approximate course of these ships—S.E.
7.12 p.m.—Turned together to South and opened fire at second Battle Cruiser from the left; hits were made with Lyddite Common at the fifth and sixth salvoes. Range about 9,000 yards.
First hit—abaft the foremost funnel; second hit—abreast mainmast. The enemy did not reply to our fire until after the third salvo and then appeared to be firing "individual." They usually fired about five seconds after "Hercules." Lieutenant Commander (T) observed the leading ship also hit during this time and that two or three of the enemy's shots fell 100 yards short between "Hercules" and Agincourt, and one near Revenge's starboard quarter. This one burst.
The enemy Battle Cruisers then disappeared from view.
7,20 p.m.—Passed on port side at a distance of about two miles a ship with a broken back and bow and stern portions out of water to a height of about 50 ft. Undoubtedly a man-of-war, painted red bottom colour and grey topsides. Men were observed on the after portion of the wreck and one of our three-funnelled light cruisers passed within 100 yards of her.
7.24 p.m.—Turned away 2 points—S.S.E.—by Sub-divisions.
7.31 p.m.—Observed much smoke made by enemy. Received signal "Enemy torpedo craft are approaching." A few salvoes with 12-in. guns were fired at attacking destroyers, which fell among them—Range, 6,000 yards ; they then withdrew. "Agincourt" certainly made one direct hit.
7.35 p.m.—Altered course by Sub-divisions to S. by W. Shortly after this turn two tracks of torpedoes were observed from the Fore Top approaching from starboard. Turned "Hercules" 6 points away and two torpedoes passed ship—one along starboard side and 40 yards across bow ; the other under the stern, very close.
7.40 p.m.—Squadron formed line ahead by signal. Course, S.W. During the next half hour ships in Marlborough's division signalled sighting submarines and ships altered course as necessary. "Hercules" saw none, but conformed to movements of the other ships.
By about 8.30 p.m., "Marlborough's" division had dropped considerably astern of the 5th Division.
9.5 p.m.—Squadron now proceeded to Southward at 17 knots —6th Division, 15 knots—for the night. Weather misty; visibility, 2 to 5 miles. From 10.15 p.m. to 12.30 a.m., 1st June, five separate engagements appear to have occurred. Each lasted about 5-10 minutes. On the first occasion searchlights were observed and attack bore N.W. by W. The attacks gradually worked round the stern to N. by E., and in the third a star shell was fired. During the third or fourth, a big explosion took place in the middle of the gun flashes. Very approximate position of explosion Lat. 56° 13' N., Long. 6° 5' E.
2.20 a.m.—"Marlborough" hauled out of the line, and fell astern.
2.55 a.m.—Altered course to North.
3. 8. a.m.—12 knots. Flag transferred to Revenge.
3.30 a.m.—17 knots astern of "Revenge."
3.37 a.m.—Altered course to 205°.
3.45 a.m.—Heard firing ahead.
3.50 a.m.—Zeppelin on starboard bow. Fired 4-in. and 3-pdr, without effect. Course, 345°. Zeppelin disappeared 2 points abaft starboard beam.
3.53 a.m.—Course 205°, 19 knots.
4.45 a.m.—Passed floating mine.
4.57 a.m.—Passed one of the 5th Battle Squadron, and one Cruiser, Green 105°, Course 347°.
5.20 a.m.—Passed wreckage; drums, life-buoys, &c,, to port (German?). Lat. 55° 52' N., Long. 6° 5' E.
6.30 a.m.—Passed wreckage, including two 6-in. ammunition cases (British). Lat. 56° 15' N., Long. 5° 561' e.
6.40 a.m.—Altered course to S.S.E.
7.34 a.m.—Altered course to N.N.W.
7.44 a.m.—Sighted destroyer, bearing S.E. by S., and two four-funnelled cruisers.
7.45 a.m.—21 knots.
8.35 a.m.—Passed large triangular object, apparently portion of ship, on port side, 5-6,000 yards distant, also a capsized boat near by, and other wreckage together with oil. Lat. 56° 11' N.. Long. 6° 3' E., 22 fathoms (possibly same place as explosion occurred during third or fourth night attack).
8.42 a.m.—Sighted a flotilla leader N. by E., and challenged.
8.44 a.m.—Sighted destroyer in crippled condition (Sparrowhawk).
9.7 a.m.—Altered course to N.W. to clear "Texel."
9.9. a.m.—Passed four Dutch Merchant vessels round two men clinging to wreckage. S.S. "Texel," "Thames Tug," "Kangean"' and "Zuiderdilk." "Texel" signalled "All's well." I. at. 56° 21' N., Long. 5° 50' E.
5. Ammunition expended :
12 Common Filled Powder.
4 A.P. Filled Lyddite.
82 Common Filled Lyddite.
6. Torpedoes were not fired as no opportunities occurred.
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient Servant,
L. CLINTON BAKER, Captain.
The Vice-Admiral Commanding
First Battle Squadron.
- Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. pp 72-75.
- Admiralty (1920). Battle of Jutland 30th May to 1st June 1916: Official Despatches with Appendices. Cmd. 1068. London: His Majesty's Stationary Office.
- Campbell, N.J.M. (2000). Jutland: An Analysis of the Fighting. New York: The Lyons Press. ISBN 1-55821-759-2. (on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk).