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helped. Hipper must not be allowed to escape; and Scheer must first be
found and then lured on toward Jellicoe.

At twelve minutes to four both sides began firing at a range of eight
miles and a speed of nearly thirty (land) miles an hour. Jutland was a
gunner's battle, just as the naval experts had foretold; though
torpedoes played their part. It was much too fast and furious for
submarines; and the thickening mist made aircraft useless. Hipper's
five ships hit hard at Beatty's six; and one big German shell reached
the vitals of the _Indefatigable_, which blew up like a mine. There
was a shattering crash, an enormous spurt of flame, a horrid "flurry"
on the water; and ship and crew went down. That left five all. But,
after the battle cruisers had been at it for twenty minutes, the four
_Queen Elizabeths_ (that is, battleships of the same kind as the
"Q.E.") began heaving shells from eleven miles astern. Ten minutes
later the central German dreadnought turned out of line a mass of
seething fire. But, after five minutes more, the magnificent _Queen
Mary_, Beatty's champion shooting battle cruiser, was simply torn in
two by the explosion of her magazine. This left four all in battle
cruisers, with the four fast British battleships straining their last
turn of speed to come up.

[Illustration: BEATTY.]

Meanwhile fifteen German and twelve British destroyers charged out
together to try their torpedoes, met in the middle, and had a fierce
fight. Two Germans went down; but the British formation was broken,
and only three closed the German battle cruisers, which received them
with a perfect hurricane of shells from their quick-firing guns,
sinking one, disabling another, and forcing the third to retire.
Commander Bingham, who won the V.C. by leading this skilful and gallant
attack, had his destroyer, the _Nestor_, sunk under him. But he was
saved, as if by a miracle, and taken prisoner aboard a German
man-of-war.


_Second Round: Beatty luring Scheer and Hipper on towards Jellicoe:
4.38 to 5.50 P.M._

Commodore Goodenough's splendid light cruisers went scouting ahead till
they met Scheer racing north. Then they turned north themselves, under
a tremendous outburst of fire, to rejoin Beatty, who now, changing from
pursuer to pursued, also turned north to join Jellicoe. The Germans,
with their twenty-two dreadnoughts, now hoped _Der Tag_ had really come
for Beatty's eight. But Beatty hit hard and drove a German battle
cruiser out of the line very badly mauled. Shortly afterwards the
destroyer _Moresby_ fired a torpedo which hit a German battleship.
There was a tremendous burst of steam and smoke; and, when this had
cleared off, the German was seen to be on fire. But Beatty's strong
point was speed. His battle cruisers and four fast _Queen Elizabeth_
battleships could do a good bit more than the slowest Germans; and as
the Germans now had to keep together, in case Jellicoe came up, their
whole line could go no faster than its slowest ship. Starting with a
lead and putting on a spurt Beatty turned gradually more to the
eastward, that is, toward the German line, which then had to turn and
keep parallel or else let him cross its T. If you will separate the
crosspiece from the upright of a T - for big ships fight some miles
apart - you will see quite plainly that ships in a line like the upright
of the T have no chance at all against ships in a line like the
crosspiece of the T. The crosspiece line can converge all its
broadsides on the leading ship of the upright, smash it utterly, and
then do the same to the next, and the next. So the Germans, having to
keep together and having to keep parallel to Beatty, were gradually
forced eastwards, which would give Jellicoe the best chance to come
into line against them.


_The Third and Greatest Round: Jellicoe forms his Victorious Line of
Battle: 5.50 to 6.38 P.M._

For three hours and a half Jellicoe, with his twenty-four dreadnought
battleships, had been racing south to reach the scene of action. He
had gained at first, when Beatty was going east to find von Hipper. He
had lost when Hipper and Beatty were racing south to meet von Scheer.
But now the whole battle was coming north to meet him. As the
battlefield kept shifting about, and the fortunes of the fight kept
changing, he shaped his course accordingly. But he never slackened
speed, racing along under every pound of steam the straining ships
could carry, thanks to the skill of those quiet heroes of the
engine-room, who, seeing nothing of either friend or foe, never know
anything of either defeat or victory, life or death, till all is over
either with the battle or themselves.

As the great Battle Fleet came rushing from the north every eye was
strained to catch the first sight of Beatty and the Germans. The
thunder of a thousand guns rolled far across that summer sea. It was
heard along the coast of Jutland a hundred miles away; and the main
body of the Grand Fleet knew _The Day_ had come long before they
reached the battlefield. Presently the flashes began sparkling into
view; and then the ships themselves loomed up, dimly made out through
mist and smoke.

Jellicoe did not yet know exactly where the Germans were, and Beatty
could not tell what they would do now Jellicoe had come. But Beatty
turned sharp east immediately he sighted Jellicoe, and the Germans soon
turned too, fearing to have him cross their T while Jellicoe was
rounding on them. They wanted to escape, seeing the fight was
hopeless. But they could not take the quickest way, that of turning
all together - each ship turning right round where she was and making
off as hard as she could - because this would have changed the places of
the admirals and put the battle cruisers in the rear as well. Nor
could they safely turn right back on their course, while keeping the
same line-ahead, because some ships would then be masking the fire of
others till the whole line had been reversed; and they sorely needed
every gun they had. So the only way left was to keep parallel with
Beatty till a chance came to turn sharply enough to get away, but not
sharply enough to mask any of their own fire.

Imagine the whole enormous battlefield as something like a target, with
the Germans circling round the bull's-eye, Beatty round the inner, and
Jellicoe just coming into the outer. From Beatty's reports and his own
observation Jellicoe could not know even that before six. So he sent
out his own battle cruiser squadron under Admiral Hood to lengthen
Beatty's line and overlap the Germans. Hood then sent one of his light
cruisers, the _Chester_, speeding ahead to scout. But three German
light cruisers held her up in a furious fight of twenty minutes. The
_Chester_ fought desperately, losing more than half her men, but
getting her scout work done in spite of the fearful odds against her.
How well she fought may be found out from the story of Jack Cornwell;
for he was only one of her many heroes. Ship's boy, first class, and
sixteen years of age, Jack Cornwell would have been the youngest V.C.
in the world had he lived to wear it. With every man in the gun's crew
round him dead or dying, and with the gun-shield shot away, he stood
there, under a terrific fire, mortally wounded, with the receivers at
his ears, reporting exactly what had happened to everyone except
himself, and calmly waiting for orders how to carry on.

When the battered _Chester_ told Hood he was too far south-east he
turned back north-west till he sighted Beatty coming toward him at full
speed. On Beatty's orders he then carried out Jellicoe's plan by
turning back so as to lengthen Beatty's line of battle cruisers at the
forward end, thus overlapping the Germans. This splendidly skilful and
most daring move so alarmed the Germans that they trained every gun
they could on him in a furious effort to wipe out the deadly overlap.
He led the gallant line, "bringing his squadron into action ahead in a
most inspiring manner, worthy of his great naval ancestors." (He was
the great-great-grandson of the Lord Hood whom Nelson always called the
best of naval officers.) His flagship, the _Invincible_, hit back with
all her might, helped by the ships astern. "Keep it up," called Hood
to his gunnery officer, Commander Dannreuther, one of the six
survivors, "every shot is hitting them." But the converging fire of a
hundred giant guns simply smashed the _Invincible_ from stem to stern.
At last a huge shell reached her magazine, and she blew up like a
volcano; sheets of flame leaping higher than her masts, boats and loose
gear whirling higher still, like leaves in an autumn gale, and then one
sickening belch of steamy smoke to tell that all was over. After this
Hood's two remaining battle cruisers took station astern of Beatty's
four.

[Illustration: LIGHT CRUISER.]

Meanwhile another light cruiser of Hood's, the _Canterbury_, was trying
to protect three destroyers, led by the _Shark_, that were fighting
German light cruisers and destroyers. Hipper and Scheer were doing
their very utmost to keep Beatty and Jellicoe at arm's length till they
could complete the German turn round the bull's-eye and make an effort
to get off the deadly target altogether. For if Jellicoe could range
round the inner, at higher speed and with an overlap, they would
certainly be rounded up and crushed to death. The German light
cruisers and destroyers therefore attacked the British light craft with
the greatest fury, hoping to destroy the screen behind which Jellicoe
would form his line of battle in safety from torpedoes. As the _Shark_
charged down at the head of her line she suddenly found two lines of
German destroyers charging towards her. Nothing daunted, she went
straight on, her pulsing engines making her quiver with the thrilling
race for life or death between them. Once abreast of them she fired
her guns and torpedoes right and left, sinking two German destroyers,
one on each side, and giving the rest as good as she got, till, hit by
torpedoes on both sides together, she sank like a stone. Her
commander, Loftus Jones, was awarded the second posthumous V.C. for the
wonderfully gallant way he fought her till she went down with colours
flying. Her last torpedo, when just on the point of being fired, was
hit by a German shell and exploded, killing and wounding everybody
near. Then another shell took Jones's leg off. But he still fought
the one gun left in action, firing its last round as the waters closed
above him.

About the same time the destroyer _Onslow_ made for a German light
cruiser that was trying to torpedo Beatty's flagship, _Lion_. Hitting
the light cruiser with every gun at short range she then passed on to
try her own torpedoes on the German battle cruisers, when a big shell
scooped out most of her midships above the water-line. Retiring slowly
she again met the light cruiser and this time finished her with a
torpedo. Finding he had two torpedoes left Commander Tovey then made
for the German battle line with the last ounce of steam the _Onslow's_
engines could work off. He fired them both, and probably hit the
dreadnought that was seen to reel out of line about three minutes
later. The _Defender_, though herself half wrecked by several hits,
then limped up and took the _Onslow_ in tow till one o'clock the next
afternoon, when tugs had come to the rescue.

[Illustration: H.M.S. _Monmouth_, Armoured Cruiser. Sunk at Coronel,
November 1st, 1914.]

The strongest of all the lighter ships that cleared the way for
Jellicoe's battle fleet were the armoured cruisers, which are about
half way between the light and battle cruisers. Sir Robert Arbuthnot's
First Armoured Cruiser Squadron, speeding ahead of Jellicoe, swooped
down on the German light cruisers in grand style, sank one, lamed two,
and was driving the rest before it, helter-skelter, when, without a
moment's warning, the huge hulls of the German battle line loomed out
of the mist at almost point-blank range! In his eagerness to make
short work of all the German light craft in the way Sir Robert had lost
his bearings in the baffling mist and run right in between the two
great battle lines. Quick as a flash he fought the German giants with
every gun that he could bring to bear while turning back to take his
proper station on the flank. But he was doomed and knew it. Yet, even
at that fatal moment, his first thought was for the men whom, through
no fault of his own, he had led into this appalling death-trap; and
besides the order to turn back he signalled the noble apology to all
hands under his command: "I beg your pardon." The end came soon. A
perfect tornado of gigantic shells had struck his flagship, the
_Defence_, at the very first salvo. She reeled under the terrific
shock and had hardly begun to right herself before her sides were
smashed in by another. At the third she crumpled up and sank with
every soul aboard of her. Her next astern and second, the _Black
Prince_, and the _Warrior_, managed to crawl away under cover of the
mist. But both went down; though the battered _Black Prince_ survived
to be sunk by German battleships during the night.

[Illustration: BATTLESHIP FIRING A BROADSIDE.]

About this time, just after six, the fight was at its very fiercest,
especially between the opposing light craft. It was a question of life
or death for the Germans to keep the British light craft away and use
their own to the utmost while their battle line was turning toward the
west in a desperate effort to keep ahead of Jellicoe. This was not
cowardice, but a desire to save the German fleet from utter ruin once
victory was seen to be impossible. Not all the brave deeds were on one
side. How much the Grand Fleet's honour would be dimmed if its
opponents had been cowards or if its own commander had failed to give
the enemy his due! "The enemy," said Jellicoe in his dispatch, "fought
with the gallantry that was expected of him, and showed humanity in
rescuing officers and men from the water. I particularly admired the
conduct of those on board a disabled German light cruiser which passed
down the British line under a heavy fire that was returned by the only
gun still left in action." But of course this was well matched by many
a vessel on the British side, in a fight so fierce and a turmoil so
appalling that only men of iron training and steel nerves could face
it. Light craft of all kinds were darting to and fro, attacking,
defending, firing guns and torpedoes, smashing and being smashed,
sinking and being sunk, and trying to help or hinder the mighty lines
of battle whose own gigantic guns flashed and thundered without a
moment's pause.

As Jellicoe closed in to get the strangle-hold his mighty battle fleet
had, in very truth, to go through fire and water: the racing ships,
their slashing bows and seething wakes; the pall of smoke, stabbed by
ten thousand points of fire, together making the devil's
colours - yellow, red, and black; the leaping waterspouts thrown up by
shells that missed; the awful crashings when the shells struck home;
the vessels reeling under well-aimed, relentless salvoes; the ships on
fire beyond the reach of human aid; the weirdness of the mist that
veiled these dreadful horrors, or made them ghastlier still, or
suddenly brought friend and foe together either to sink or swim; the
summer sea torn into the maddest storm by ships and shells; while,
through and round the whole of this inferno, there swelled and
thundered the stunning roar of such a giant fight as other navies had
never seen or even dreamt of. So deafening was this roar, and so
absorbing were the changes of the fight, that when a ton-weight shell
swept overboard every atom of the bridge aboard the leading ship of a
flotilla - with compass, chart-house, engine-room-telegraph, steering
wheel, and every soul on duty there - the men on "monkey's island," just
above the bridge, never knew their ship was even hit till she began to
run amuck and rammed another British vessel!

This was the battle into which Jellicoe had to fit his own vast force
of twenty-four dreadnoughts without checking Beatty, without letting
the Germans get a clear run home, and without risking the loss of his
own best battleships by making one false move. At four minutes to six
Jellicoe sighted Beatty. Five minutes later he asked him for the
position of the German line. Nine minutes later he asked again. The
smoke and mist were so bad at first that it was not till 6.14 that
Beatty could say exactly. At 6.16 - just two minutes later - Jellicoe's
plan was made and his orders had gone out. There, in the conning tower
of the _Iron Duke_, within those two short minutes, he had calmly
thought out every chance and change and way of going into action under
conditions which could not have been worse for him or better for the
Germans.

His twenty-four battleships were in six divisions, side by side, each
division in line ahead, and all numbered off from port (left) to
starboard (right). The leading ship of the 1st, or port wing, division
was the _King George V_. The leading ship of the 6th, or starboard
wing division, was the _Marlborough_. His own flagship, the _Iron
Duke_, led the 3rd division.

[Illustration: Jellicoe's Battle Fleet in Columns of Divisions. 6.14
P.M.]

The supreme moment had now arrived. There was not a second to lose;
for the fleets were covering more miles in an hour than armies do in a
whole day. But if he formed line on the starboard wing, the nearer to
the Germans, he would have had to wait some time till Beatty's battle
cruisers had drawn clear. During this dangerous pause, while his own
fire would have to be blanketed by Beatty, the German battle line would
have had a double British target to make hits on, and the German light
craft would have had the best chance of catching him with their
torpedoes while he was in the act of forming line. Moreover, the
German line might have concentrated on the starboard wing before the
port had taken station, and might have overlapped the whole line
afterwards. Jellicoe therefore decided to form on the port wing,
giving his own line the chances of the overlap, and then fit in astern
of Beatty. But, being ready by the time Beatty's battle cruisers were
drawing ahead, he fitted in his own line between these and the four
fast _Queen Elizabeths_ that formed the rear of Beatty's line. Thus,
in the very worst of this gigantic battle, the twelve miles of the
final British line were formed. Three battle cruisers had been sunk:
the _Indefatigable_, _Invincible_, and _Queen Mary_. One fast
battleship, the _Warspite_, had fallen astern with a damaged helm. But
six battle cruisers still led the van. Twenty-four fresh battleships
followed. And three fast _Queen Elizabeths_ brought up the rear.
Jellicoe then personally commanded a single line-ahead twelve miles
long and dreadnoughts all. Every part of every change was made as
perfectly as if at the King's review. You could not have made the line
straighter with a ruler, nor placed it better if the Germans had been
standing still. For as Beatty's overlap kept turning them from north
to east and east to south, to save their T from being crossed,
Jellicoe's whole line had now worked to the landward side of them, that
is, between them and their great home base on the German coast.


Fourth Round: Jellicoe Victorious: 6.50 to 9.00 P.M.

Driven to desperation by being overlapped and turned away from Germany,
the Germans made a supreme effort to escape toward the south-west, thus
completing their circle round the bull's-eye, as Jellicoe began to
round them up from the inner. Their destroyers spouted forth an
immense grey smoke screen; the mist helped them to hide; and the sun
went into a bank of clouds. As they ran they fired shoals of
torpedoes, which are much deadlier for the chasers, who go toward them,
than for the chased, who go from them. The battleship _Marlborough_,
flagship of Sir Cecil Burney, Jellicoe's Second-in-Command, was hit and
began to list over. But she was so strong and so well handled that
within ten minutes she was at it again. She had already fought two
battleships and a cruiser while the British line was forming. Now she
caught another German battleship with fourteen salvoes running and
drove her out of line.

[Illustration: THE BATTLE OF JUTLAND - PLAN II. Jellicoe's battle line
formed and fighting. 6:38 P.M.]

The Germans fired every torpedo they could bring to bear; and nothing
but Jellicoe's supreme skill, backed by the skill of all his captains,
saved his battleships from losing at least a third of their number.
Observers aloft watched the enemy manoeuvring to fire and then reported
to Jellicoe, who, keeping in line as long as possible for the sake of
the guns, turned the fleet end-on, away from Scheer, just in time to
prevent the torpedoes catching it broadside on, and then left each
captain free to work his own ship till that shoal of torpedoes had
passed. The torpedoes arrived at about thirty miles an hour, shoals of
them together, and showing no sign but the little line of bubbles from
their screws. But most of them were spotted and not one got home. The
_Revenge_ worked her perilous way between a couple, one just missing
her rudder and the other almost grazing her bows.

During the whole of this fourth round the fight went on by fits and
starts. Whenever any part of the enemy's line showed up through the
thickening mist the British guns turned on it with shattering salvoes.
The _Iron Duke_, whose gunnery was simply perfect, caught a big German
battleship for a few minutes only. But by the time the mist had shut
down again the German was like a furnace, seething with a mass of
flame. Meanwhile the battle cruisers were crumpling up their opposite
numbers in the German line, which thus became shorter and more
overlapped than ever. The _Lion_ and _Princess Royal_ each set their
opponent on fire, while the _New Zealand_ and _Indomitable_ drove
another clean out of line, heeling over, and burning furiously fore and
aft. (The _Indomitable_ was King George's Flagship at the Quebec
Tercentenary in 1908, and the _New Zealand_ was Jellicoe's flagship on
his tour of advice round the oversea Empire in 1919.)

At 8.20, somewhere behind the mist which then veiled the German line,
there was a volcanic roar that shook every keel for miles around.
Scheer was losing heavily, running for his life, and doing his best to
hold Jellicoe back by desperate light craft attacks with hundreds of
torpedoes. But Jellicoe countered this with his own light craft, which
sank four enemy destroyers before the night closed in.


_Fifth and Last round: The Germans in Full Flight: 9.00 P.M. 31st of
May, to 4 P.M. 1st of June, 1916._

Jellicoe now had another hard question to answer, a question, indeed,
to which there could not be a perfect answer. The Germans were broken
and flying. But they still had many light craft with hundreds of
torpedoes; they were not far from home and near a swarm of their best
submarines; and their whole coast was full of mines for many miles off
shore, while the shore itself and the string of off-shore islands were
defended by a regular chain of gigantic forts armed with enormous guns.
Following them home was therefore out of the question altogether; for
you _can_ sink a fleet, while you _can't_ sink a coast. But even
trying to run them down at night was out of the question too; for their
strongest point was night fighting, which is much fuller of risks and
chances than day battles are. Besides, there was the chance of missing
them and losing the best position between them and their base. So
Jellicoe and Beatty separated again and steamed, parallel to each
other, south-south-east to within a hundred miles of the German coast.
They could not possibly cover more than a quarter of the whole way into
the Danish and German coasts; and so most of the Germans managed to
slip in behind them, round by the north.

The night fighting was done by the light craft; and it was here that
Jellicoe had so much need of Tyrwhitt's flotillas from Harwich.
Harwich was very handy to the battlefield and Tyrwhitt's light craft
were as keen and ready as any one could be. But the Government were
afraid to let them go, for fear lest some Germans might raid the
English coast. There was very little chance of a raid at all. It
could not have been a bad one in any case. No mere raid can change the
course of a war. The best way to stop raids is to win the war by
destroying the enemy's means of destroying you. The best way to do


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Online LibraryWilliam Charles Henry WoodFlag and Fleet → online text (page 16 of 19)