(Introduction) | (1910) | (1911) | (1912) | (1913) | (1914) | (1915) | (1916) | (Epilogue) | (The Ship) | (Battle Cruiser) | (Design) | (Protection) | (Ordnance) | (Machinery) | (Miscellaneous) | (Sources) | (Artwork) | (Photos - Build) | (Photos - Pre-War) | (Photos - On board) | (Photos - WW1) | (Photos - Beatty’s Battlecruisers) | (Photos - Miscellaneous)
in early 1914, Lion complained of insufficient frying capacity in the galley for preparing breakfast. A call was made for reports from her sisters and other battle-cruisers to determine whether this was a serious problem.
31st January 1914
Based at Portsmouth, a period during which nothing of any great significance occurred, out with personnel changes and the arrival of some new drafts. Finally on the last day of the month she left Portsmouth arriving at Portland shortly afterwards, preparatory to her first foreign cruise to France and Spain. Although this was to be an important goodwill visit for the squadron, it has been noted only as an unwelcome intervention to her proposed general training programme in at least one source.
1st February 1914
Routine work even in harbour could be demanding for some as the squadron prepared for this important cruise. This is quite well noted by one midshipman, when providing the duty steamboat for the squadron in a busy naval port, a trying experience for one so young:
On Wednesday, when the ship went to sea at 6.15am I took the umpire to the Hercules, the postman into Weymouth, the butcher into Portland, and then I went and lay alongside the Achilles till 12.30pm. Queen Mary came into harbour at 1.30pm. I started off, brought off butcher and launch in tow with provisions, got alongside ship at 2pm went to Monarch, returned to ship. Off again to Hercules and Assistance, back to ship, off to Lion with immediate letter, in to Weymouth with stewards, back to Portland for postman, and so on till 10.30pm from 12.30pm one continuous run. I slept on the floor of the cabin till 5am when we went off on an immediate letter trip to the St. Vincent, and then back to the ship to fetch the postman, and so on till 11.30pm. Last night to Weymouth for naval patrol. Yesterday, as we were duty steamboat for the fleet, we did a continuous run from 5.30am till 8.00am from 9.30am till 12.30pm from 1.30pm till 6.30pm from 7.30pm till 11.30pm but today we shall have a little less work. That is our life on-board: I must say this life of rush is quite fun in a way, and reminds me of London, though at times it is hard to keep awake. (Midshipman Tennyson)
Undoubtedly the command of one of the ships’ boats loomed large in the training of the midshipmen, with the charge of one of Queen Mary’s pair of 50 feet steam picket boats being regarded as an important episode in their career.
9th February 1914
Tuesday, and Queen Mary left Portland for Brest late in the day, in company with the hands of the recently re-organised 1BCS, brought about because the Indefatigable was now refitting, and being replaced by her sister the New Zealand: The general scene of this evening departure has been well captured:
We formed rather an imposing sight, leaving Portland and steaming out of the breakwater, Lion leading, followed by Queen Mary, Princess Royal, and New Zealand and leaving the harbour deserted. (Midshipman Tennyson)
10th February 1914
As this midshipman goes on to relate the passage was not to be all that kind, but apparently this struggle was to be worthwhile, as he goes on to relate the striking visage obtained from a commanding bridge position and their arrival at Brest:
It was a lovely moonlight night when we left, but when I came on watch at 4am on Wednesday morning it was blowing very hard and raining in heavy squalls. I literally at one time got blown back down the ladder while trying to get up to the compass platform. It was a head sea, and the ship was as steady as a rock, pushing through it at 15 knots, and every time sending up a huge cloud of white spray and wave over the fo’c’sle, a very fine sight when looking down on from the compass platform. The seas were breaking right up to the turrets, like waves against a breakwater. They say that with these long ships a head sea is the most dangerous, as they May break their backs, being so long, and reach over the waves. Two things occur, ‘hogging’ and ‘sagging’, but I don’t think we need worry about them in Queen Mary. I was only telling you as a matter of interest. We sighted Ushant at 7am and then altered course and steamed down along an awful coast strewn with hungry looking rocks and boulders, many of them far out at sea. We arrived in about 10.30am. This channel comes out into an enormous bay, which looks like a lake, and beautiful in the bright sunlight. I went ashore about 4pm wandered about with McMaster, talked French to everybody I saw, and then came off again at 6.30pm. It had just begun to blow, and the wind was rapidly getting up. We were all lying at single anchor, and of course when these squalls come on one is liable to drag, and it means no end of what I call ‘flap’. (Midshipman Tennyson)
This showing the flag visit to this important French naval bastion was to cover the following week with official visits, calls and exchanges to be undertaken with their French counterparts.
11th February 1914
A stormy Thursday, and as for the weather the Rear-Admiral of the squadron himself recollected in a letter home to his wife that:
It is blowing like blue fury with heavy rainsqualls, which they tell me, is the prevailing type of weather here. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
But this adverse weather was not to spoil Tennyson’s night however, as he dined in the wardroom that evening and had a memorable time in good company, sitting between Commander James and Commander Llewelyn. He went on to write his impressions of the latter, and of his own duties on-board, along with a mention of the recent famous comparison shoot between the new super-dreadnought director equipped Orion, and her conventionally provided sister Monarch.
On Thursday I dined in the wardroom with the commander, and sat between him and the gunnery lieutenant. I think the gunnery-lieutenant one of the finest officers and nicest men I have ever met, he takes so much interest in everything, and known about everything from aeroplaning down to naval history and Greek sculpture. I have made friends with him, and he has made me range-finder operator, which is the most interesting position in the ship when firing. They say that when the Orion did her battle practice her good firing was entirely due to her lieutenant operating the range-finder, and so you see a good deal depends on it. There is much rivalry about the business, which makes me all the more pleased to have got it. (Midshipman Tennyson)
12th February 1914
While at Brest Beatty and his captain’s, including Hall from Queen Mary, were to attend a heavy round of banquets and functions with local dignitaries. But this Friday was to be yet another poor day as regards the continuing adverse weather, as was to be well appreciated by one who had a part to play in keeping the ship secure:
I spent the whole of my watch upon the bridge taking anchor-bearings to see if the ship was dragging, and all sorts of things going on the whole time which is not what one expects when one is in harbour. (Midshipman Tennyson)
14th February 1914
A Sunday and the football team from Lion played a local one raised by the Mayor, the Royal Navy side just winning. That afternoon it had stopped raining so the massed bands of the squadron-boarded Lion for a concert, as others preferred their entertainment ashore:
The music in parts was very fine, the French acting marvellous, and they’re staging good also. I enjoyed it enormously, especially the music. (Midshipman Tennyson)
15th February 1914
That Monday Queen Mary practised what would soon become a familiar and important evolution, that of deploying and then getting in her defensive nets. After this memorable undertaking another sporting encounter between the visiting Royal Navy and French was duly recorded:
During the morning, we got our torpedo nets out, which we have not done since we were commissioned. The commander sent me out to the far end of the lower boom, which is a long pole sticking out from the ship’s side about 60 feet from the waterline, over which the boats’ crews go out, slide down a rope, and man their boats. The object of my being out there was that I could watch the whole length of the ship to see if everything was clear, and to work flags directing the motion. Heaving up the nets instead of taking half-an-hour it took three hours, and as one cannot move and has to hang on by the skin of one’s teeth, I was very glad to get inboard again. It was nearly as bad as being mastheaded. Getting out nets is a dangerous evolution, and people often are hurt, but we got through without a mishap. In the afternoon the midshipmen of the squadron played the French cadets at ‘Rugger’, and we got beaten, sad to say. They have 160 to pick from up to the age of 20, and we have about 30 up to the age of 19 to pick from. They played a wonderful passing game and their forwards flick the ball back to their three-quarters the whole time, their quarterbacks are marvellous, some of the best I have ever seen. We had to go and eat cakes with them after the game, which was an extraordinary proceeding. (Midshipman Tennyson)
16th February 1914
The 1BCS eventually left Brest and headed southward bound for the supposedly warmer climes of Vigo on the Spanish Atlantic coast, but even this to be undertaken as an exercise and a demanding passage over the next couple of days:
Tuesday, we left Brest at 5pm and went to night-defence station all night. I control two 4 inch guns in the port battery. (Midshipman Tennyson)
17th February 1914
Wednesday, it came on for a bit of a blow and it was pretty rough all day, with pouring rain and a gale blowing, which continued ever since this morning. (Midshipman Tennyson)
19th February 1914
The squadron arrived at Vigo that Friday; here Queen Mary in company with the rest of the squadron was now due for a prolonged stay:
At the entrance are two curiously shaped islands (Islas Cies), while the harbour at the back merges into the Minho River and goes curling away among the hills. Vigo looks lovely through the fog all surrounded with mountains, with the ‘Papier-mâché’ multi-coloured town with its high citadel close to us. Owing to stormy weather we had to spend the night in Vigo. (Midshipman Tennyson)
20th February 1914
Friday, and the generally poor weather dogging the squadron was to continue to disrupt the following day’s programmes.
22nd February 1914
A blustery Sunday and some of those on-board Queen Mary temporarily escaped from her confines under somewhat trying circumstances:
It was blowing very hard, but we managed to go off the ship after a very rough passage, and we got on-board over the lower boom as it was too rough for any gangways to be lowered. It was very funny to see some of the older officers trying to get in over the boom in a funk of the lives, it is really nothing very terrifying, and I am used to anything now after my three hour stunts at ‘out nets’ at Brest. (Midshipman Tennyson)
1st March 1914
A rather uneventful and restful week passed at Ria de Vigo without any important episode of note occurring. It was Sunday again and Tennyson attended service aft, noting a brief appreciation of the on-board facilities provided by Hall. He goes on to relate how this day was to turn out to be a moderately nice one, therefore he and his friends McMaster, Slayter and Aitchison all went ashore for a memorable picnic:
I went to early service, our Chapel makes a great difference. We had a tremendous stone fight with the natives of the land, who persisted in molesting us while we had tea. We put one fellow into the sea, and he lost his temper and whipped out a knife, so we held him under until he regained his temper again. (Midshipman Tennyson)
2nd March 1914
After work was over we went away pulling in the gig and playing stump-cricket. To tell the truth, except for weekends we get very little time off, and as for doing any lectures, there is far too much seamanship and upper-deck work going on. (Midshipman Tennyson)
3rd March 1914
Obviously exercises and evolution’s occurred during this period, but the crew did enjoy a degree of relaxation as well, which was primarily through sailing within the safe confines of the wide anchorage at Ria de Vigo as the weather improved:
After 3pm when it cleared up, six of us go away every day in a gig, in which we are practising for the June regatta, it was perfectly glorious. Brilliant sunshine, clear blue sky, very warm, and the sea like a lake. The harbour looked gorgeous surrounded by low hills, dotted about with little villages nestling in the valleys. We had a fleet sailing race that afternoon. I was the only midshipman from Queen Mary and went in the commander’s gig with a crew of Boys, one of whom had never been in a gig before. It was blowing like smoke and only six boats finished the course. Two of our cutters and the pinnace broke their masts, some of the Boys were rather dickey. It is excellent exercise and I like it very much, after which we do gymnastics over a horse, which I also enjoy. We do these in the dogwatches, i.e. 4pm to 6pm when work is finished. (Midshipman Tennyson)
4th March 1914
On Wednesday we had a general drill, which is one evolution after another, all ships of the squadron racing against each other, a most dangerous operation. We did ‘out all wire-hawsers’ Queen Mary first, ‘away all boats pull round the fleet’ Queen Mary second: ‘Out nets and in nets’, this last Queen Mary has never excelled at, as I told you before, and our nets are not all in yet!, all our gear is much heavier that the other ships, and consequently we are bound to take longer over it. The general drill takes about 6 years off every one’s life, and how on earth more people are not killed heaven only knows. (Midshipman Tennyson)
An interesting mention of the different torpedo net defence installed on-board, but no specific details concerning this have been discovered. It has been recorded that it was from here that the New Zealand left the squadron bound for Bantry Bay, leaving the trio of 13.5 inch gunned battle-cruisers to now form the core of the 1BCS for the hands of the southern cruise.
6th March 1914
Friday, and the 1BCS set sail from Vigo heading just to the northwards, arriving at Ponte Vedra that evening after a very short passage.
7th March 1914
With only a brief call to this port possibly just to coal, the 1BCS set sail from Ponte Vedra arriving at Villagarcia that evening, the next natural harbour up the indented north-western Spanish coast at Ria de Arosa. For the men of Queen Mary and her two consorts what did Villagarcia hold in store, well a contemporary account of such a visit to this port has survived from this era, and it certainly paints a rather ‘Colourful’ picture. The town itself was on the shores of the impressive natural anchorage of Arosa Bay, a bay much frequented by the Royal Navy over the years. This large indented bay had a few blue tinged hills in the distance, but in general it was a low lying arid looking country along the coastal strip, dotted with a few small white painted houses here and there, with a grey stone church or two also visible.
The town of Villagarcia itself was a straggling affair at the head of the bay, possessing a long pier, many fishing-boats, and a strange tang in the air, a pungent and overpowering one from the many sardine-preserving factories ashore. A visit to the town was an ‘experience’, with the principal impression to the lower deck being that its streets were badly paved, with ‘odoriferous’ heaps of nameless garbage in many places, fierce dogs, perambulating pigs and goats, along with prowling poultry, shared the streets with the seemingly dirty and ‘ill-favoured’ inhabitants. Many barefooted urchins would pursue ‘Jack’ ashore, with a view to obtaining handouts, and the bluejacket was always free with his hard earned money, which encouraged them still further. Overall the town was not attractive, with only the dubious delights of the local taverns stock of vinegary ‘Vino Blanco’ perhaps offering the only welcome to the average sailor.
22 March 1914
With the above pen picture in mind it might be assumed that the 1BCS’s departure from Villagarcia that Sunday morning was not too sad an occurrence to those on-board: With this Beatty’s command now set out into the Atlantic and shaped course northwards towards home waters.
24th March 1914
The detached New Zealand, which had left Bantry Bay to rejoin the 1BCS at sea, today successfully carried out her union with her consorts. The squadron was now complete again.
25th March 1914
All four ships of the 1BCS exercise together, probably taking the form of tactical evolution’s, with Beatty controlling his charges in various squadron manoeuvres. After this series of evolutions the squadron headed towards the English Channel and their homeports.
26th March 1914
Queen Mary duly arrived at Portsmouth with the Princess Royal were she was destined to remain until the middle of the following month: While Lion and New Zealand arrived back at Portland for their prolonged post cruise stay.
15th April 1914
After this period of routine maintenance and servicing of machinery, Queen Mary left Portsmouth along with the Princess Royal and set course to the west.
16th April 1914
All four members of the 1BCS join up together at Portland.
17th April 1914
From Portland the united squadron sailed early that Friday, a departure which for one witness has left an impressive image to posterity:
We left Portland that morning at 6.30am and had a glorious race, we four Lion, Princess Royal, New Zealand, and ourselves up Channel; Queen Mary just touched 30 knots. It was the finest sight I have ever seen in my life, these four ships racing along, with a continual cloud of spray coming high up over the fo’c’sle. After two hour’s the New Zealand was completely out of sight and Queen Mary about two miles ahead of the rest. I was on watch all day, and so had a splendid insight into the whole thing. (Midshipman Tennyson)
This youth obviously had an unmistakable pride in his ship and her capabilities, which he just might have overestimated on occasions, as is evident in his comment about her achieving an impossible 30 knots.
18th April 1914
The 1BCS was now on a planned rapid passage up the Channel, and thence northwards past the east coast of Britain onto the Cromarty Firth, throughout that Saturday and following Sunday:
I do wish you could have seen our full-speed trial, as it really was an extra-ordinary sight. We kept it up for eight hours, and we walked away from the other ships, after which we finished at 23 knots, doing the whole distance of 612 miles in 30 hours. They simply got our contractors’ horsepower, 75,000 shp, without the least trouble, and they say with forcing they could have got 120,000 shp and beaten all records. (Midshipman Tennyson)
20th April 1914
Arriving at Invergordon that Monday, one of the first evolution’s Queen Mary and the squadron undertook was to coal after their fast passage, entailing as it would have a matching high consumption of fuel depleting their bunkers. She was destined to be based here in this superb natural harbour nearly a month:
It was looking lovely with the snow-clad hills and peaks at the back of the long stretch of water forming the Cromarty Firth: We arrived at 1.30pm a glorious day, warm as summer, with no wind, in fact the most gorgeous day we have had this year. (Midshipman Tennyson)
Again this was to be a period of frequent departures from their moorings off Invergordon, to undertake squadron evolutions and other practices in the Moray Firth and upper North Sea.
1st May 1914
An insight into what the 1BCS was engaged upon during this period can be gauged from an entry in a journal:
Friday, we shall do a lot of experimental firing, all this next month our days are full up with it. (Midshipman Tennyson)
16th May 1914
This prolonged spell at this frequently visited northern base drew to a close that Saturday, as the 1BCS departed from Cromarty and headed southwards again.
17th May 1914
Sunday, and the squadron of was en route to the English Channel on passage down the east coast of Britain.
18th May 1914
The 1BCS arrived at Portsmouth were Queen Mary coaled to top up her bunkers prior to sailing again by herself while her three squadron companions remained behind.
19th May 1914
Thankfully the object behind her solo departure has again been covered in detail in a very informative fashion:
On Tuesday and Wednesday we were out range-keeping with the Centurion all day from 6am till 7pm no dinner, no tea. I was up in the control tower all day, the 13.5 inch guns all those hour’s taking ranges continuously, and in between Aitchison and I read each other a story alternately, for we were the only two people up there. We have had committees, Admiralty officials, and Admirals on all day, as we have been doing all experimental firing with all the different apparatus we have got. The Captain is splendid with them. He locked Aitchison and myself in the control tower, so that they could not come in and worry us and ask questions. It is most amusing to hear them come up on the bridge and ask the Captain questions, which he always answers in the most courteous manner. (Midshipman Tennyson)
This reference to their ‘different apparatus’, must relate to the unique Pollen installation with which she was provided, as opposed to the standard Dryer plotting table for gunnery control. The above note also gives a clear indication of Hall’s well deserved reputation for consideration and kindness, in not only his handling of high ranking officials, but in his care for his junior officers as well.
20th May 1914
Wednesday evening saw Queen Mary arrive back at Portland after another day’s important series of gunnery control trials.
21st May 1914
An additional range-taking exercise was undertaken this day, the last in the series of exercises embracing her ordnance and its apparently effective control. Now at their respective ports the battle-cruisers of the 1BCS were instructed to set about a program to correct any defects and perform any necessary maintenance, basically to prepare themselves for future service abroad, an employment soon to be hinted at in a newspaper release.
22nd May 1914
On-board Queen Mary that Friday leave was granted, one fortunate individual again being Tennyson, who set out for his family at on the Isle of Wight, were he arrived by the 7.50pm boat that evening. On this day The Times carried an Admiralty announcement that four squadrons of capital ships were to undertake an extensive series of cruises in the Baltic the following month in this Major deployment all the principal ports of that area were to be visited, including Kiel, Kronstadt, Copenhagen, Christania and Stockholm. The last time a British naval force had been in the Baltic was in the autumn of 1912. In which just the four armoured-cruisers of the 2CS took part, this year’s cruise was on a significantly grander and more impressive scale:
Vice-Admiral Warrender commanding the 2BS in the King George V, with the Ajax, Audacious and Centurion, and the Commodore 1LCS in the Southampton, with the Birmingham and Nottingham will visit Kiel from June 23 to 30.
Plans for the future employment of Beatty’s 1BCS important visit to Russia would also have been drawn up at this time, with suitable orders dispatched and preparations undertaken by the Admiral and his staff.
23rd May 1914
The hands of the 1BCS join Queen Mary at Portland today, with the sole object of preparing the battle-cruisers to the very highest standards expected for such a high profile deployment. On-board the work deemed necessary would obviously have entailed a high degree of ‘Spit and polish’, with painting ship, and bringing out the best of every aspect of the ship to an immaculate level to impress and awe her future visitors.
24th May 1914
Meanwhile that Sunday one young midshipman was at home relaxing after his recent cruise preparing in his own way for the next, the perfect picture of a sailor at rest ashore, home from the sea:
It is too lovely for words, the last time I left here nothing was out. Now everything is a mass of beautiful fresh green, I have never seen anything so lovely. The park and lawns are smothered in little white daisies. (Midshipman Tennyson)
12th June 1914
On the itinerary for this cruise, it was envisaged that the four battle-cruisers of the 1BCS would visit the Russian Baltic ports of Riga, Reval and Kronstadt:
We left Portland on Friday morning and steamed up the Channel, and thus across the North Sea and round the top of Jutland: (Midshipman Tennyson)
14th June 1914
Sunday. We had the most glorious weather the whole way. (Midshipman Tennyson)
15th June 1914
We sighted land again on Monday morning, after we had rounded Jutland we went through the Skagerrak and Kattegat, and then through the Little Belt and the Great Belt. We did not go through the Sund or Sound, which is the passage past Copenhagen, as we draw too much water. All through the Belts the sea was like a glass and the sun beat down fiercely on the decks, I spent all my time off watch asleep in the fresh air on deck, which is what one misses so much being down below. (Midshipman Tennyson)
It has been mentioned that some regarded this phase of the cruise as a very interesting navigational experience, passing as it did through shallow confined waters not often frequented by capital ships of the Royal Navy.
16th June 1914
We got through the Belts by Tuesday night and set out to make our way across the Baltic, and so into the Gulf of Finland, near the mouth of which Reval is. (Midshipman Tennyson)
Note his Reval, is now known as Tallinn, the capital of an independent Estonia.
17th June 1914
The 1BCS arrive at the port of Reval and commenced its good will visits to Russia, with a spectacular perspective and a warm welcome:
We arrived here on Wednesday afternoon in glowing conditions, it is a very fine city from the sea, there being innumerable church spires everywhere. The whole is surmounted by a citadel on the top of which is the Russian Church, like a big mosque, with five colossal gold balls on pinnacles at the top. The English ‘nuts’ (midshipmen) went to see the Russian ‘nuts’ and then vice versa, salutes being fired continually by every ship. (Midshipman Tennyson)
18th June 1914
The socially demanding and memorable period to follow has been described by one un-named officer from the flagship as:
One continuous round of gaiety punctuated by rigid ceremonial.
The Russian Fleet is here with their latest dreadnought ship the Rurik and she looks too tiny beside us. The Russians say they are perfectly astounded at the size of our ships. Three of their ships which were badly damaged in the Russo-Japanese war of 1905 war are here. I went ashore at 1.30pm and started a round of churches, the first one we went into was a German church, I imagine Lutheran. We then walked round the citadel, which has a very fine massive old wall, by a zigzag path, eventually getting to the top, where the Russian Church is, that is the church with the huge golden emblems on the top which blaze and glitter in the sun, never have I seen such vestments. From 3pm to 6pm there was a reception on-board the Rurik, needless to say I did not go, I hate all these dinners and receptions, for they are nothing but drinking-matches. (Midshipman Tennyson)
It is small wonder that the Rurik looked small in comparison to Queen Mary, since she was a 15,190 tons armoured-cruiser completed in September 1908. That night there was the first social engagement on-board Lion, at which Beatty and all the squadron captain’s attended.
19th June 1914
Friday, the Governor of Estonia gave a luncheon party to the ‘nuts’ today, and tonight we are dining our opposite ships. There is also a dance at the summer club at 10pm which nothing would have induced me to go to, but Mrs Beatty asked a lieutenant and myself to dine on-board the Sheelah (the Beatty’s yacht) and then go on to the dance, so I suppose I shall have to go. Our sailors and marines are being entertained on-board the Tsesarevich this afternoon and we are inundated all day by a continual stream of officers and men to see over the ship. I had very amusing dinner on the Sheelah, Lady Randolph Churchill being there, as well as two lieutenants, we all went to the dance afterwards. It was frightfully crowded. The nights are perfectly lovely, the sun shining all the time, except from midnight to 1.30am and it is deliciously cool, the whole night long the colouring of the sky is perfectly magnificent. (Midshipman Tennyson)
20th June 1914
This youth eventually arrived back on-board at 6am with the sure knowledge that there was more socialising expected of him soon to follow. That afternoon a reception was held on-board the squadron flagship and Queen Mary gave a dance that evening. One other very interesting entry in this midshipman’s journal for this day concerned Captain Hall:
Every one said (our show) was much better done that Lion’s show. I have a dreadful piece of news, and that is that the Captain is leaving the ship to go to the Admiralty as soon as we get back. It really is too sad, as he is the finest captain in the Navy, and I have more admiration for that man than any other naval officer I know. I believe that we are getting a first-rate fellow called Phillpotts in his stead, the Commander told me he is worth serving under. (Midshipman Tennyson)
21st June 1914
That Sunday evening the first successful phase of the squadrons visit drew to a close when the 1BCS set sail at 6pm in a spectacular fashion:
With the ships ‘manned’, i.e. sailors posted all the way round the rails, it was a fine sight, the whole fleet formed up in line ahead and shot out at 20 knots, and the Russian ships cheered us as we went out. One Russian naval officer told me he had never seen an evolution so well done in his life, that they never dared leave harbour at more than 8 knots. (Midshipman Tennyson)
22nd June 1914
Just after eight o’clock that morning Queen Mary and her consorts arrived at the entrance of the principal venue of their cruise, Kronstadt (St Petersburg’s main seaport):
Many forts on islands dotted about at the entrance, but for present day warfare a stone fort is useless. In olden days I can imagine it’s being very strong, but now it’s only strength depends on the channel, which is only 150 yards wide. Piloted in by the youngest captain in the Russian Navy, we were met by Russian destroyers and thousands of pleasure-boats with flags flying and bands playing, also by an aeroplane and an eagle, the latter not having been seen here since the arrival of Peter the Great. Kronstadt itself is some way up the River Neva and consists of nothing but docks and one magnificent church, as fine as any I have seen out here. We are all anchored in a line; tied up to buoys head and stern, a stone’s throw from the wall of the basin, and we look perfectly enormous. (Midshipman Tennyson)
23rd June 1914
Far to the south of the 1BCS, the 2BS arrived off the important German naval harbour of Kiel to begin their part of the Royal Navy visits to the Major Baltic ports. Here as fate would decree, in this German visit there was to be appointed to the flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir George Warrender on-board the King George V as an aid, was one German staff officer who was to have a significant part in the destruction of Queen Mary at Jutland: Commander George von Hase, who would be by May 1916 the gunnery officer on-board the battle-cruiser Derfflinger.
At Kronstadt there was a series of social rounds and visits to important facilities:
There were the usual exchanges of visits and salutes and a dinner to the captains, etc., on the Minister of Marine’s magnificent yacht the Neva. I pulled round the docks, both merchant and naval, in a skiff with McMaster, and nearly all the merchant shipping was English. (Midshipman Tennyson)
24th June 1914
For the 2BS that Wednesday at Kiel the busy programme matched that of the 1BCS at Kronstadt, with the arrival of the Kaiser in the Imperial yacht Hohenzollern and her subsequent passage past Admiral Warrender and his dreadnoughts being well recorded:
The red-coated marines were drawn up on the quarterdeck of the English ships. The crews manned ship, and every ship gave three loud hurrahs, the men waving their caps at each hurrah. The bands of the Royal Marines struck up the salute. It was a magnificent sight, which I shall never forget. (Von Hase, SMS Derfflinger)
Although no comparable evocative pen picture has emerged from a Russian source concerning the visual impact of Queen Mary and her crew, it is safe to assume that they did create a similar favourable impression. For their ten-day stay at Kronstadt most officers in the 1BCS found it a heavy strain, while the men were treated to the same lavish hospitality:
Most of them could not stomach the caviar which they called ‘Fish jam’, vodka, however was more to their liking. (Midshipman Tennyson)
For the officers there were banquets and theatres at St.Petersburg, with the usual time of returning on-board around 5am. These visits were accomplished by use of the various small craft placed at the squadron’s disposal, ferrying the officers and men along the River Neva to the capital. Tennyson and his friend Aitchison travelled to St.Petersburg to conduct a personal tour on their own, visiting churches, museums, squares and buildings in their trip ashore. This cultural side of their stay ended by a very enjoyable evening spent doing a round of the ‘cafes chantants’.
25th June 1914
They have four huge dreadnoughts completing and four battle-cruisers building on the slips. On Thursday morning at 8am 100 officers from the fleet went up in the marine yacht to Peterhof, the Tsar’s summer palace, personally I think it is far more beautiful than Versailles, the fountains beat anything I have ever seen. (Midshipman Tennyson)
100 officers in uniform from the fleet left Kronstadt at 8am for St.Petersburg, in a magnificent steam yacht called the Strella, belonging to the Admiralty. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
These ‘dreadnoughts’ must have been the four battleships of the Gangut class later commissioned in 1914, and the four Borodino class battle-cruisers laid down on the 19 December 1913, but destined never to be completed with the coming turmoil in Russia following the outbreak of war. As this interesting visit took place Beatty and his captain’s lunched ‘En famille’ with the Tsar at his country palace of Tsarskoye Selo. Being driven there in gilded coaches with coachmen and footmen in golden livery and cocked hats, in what can be regarded as one of the last such functions of the Imperial Court.
This was to prove to be a memorable day for Tennyson, when he and two companions from Queen Mary, met up with six officers from the ‘Imperial Tsarina’s La Garde’ (possibly the 1st Guards Cavelry Division’s ‘Her Sovereign Majesty Empress Maria Theodorovna’s Chevalier Guard Regiment’, based at Fontanka, St Petersburg), ‘the’ crack cavalry regiment, with one Russian officer in particular, Baron Tiesenhausen (from German Baltic nobility) the aide-de-camp to the General taking charge of the British party. After the main formalities Tennyson, Commander Llewelyn and one other un-named midshipman were then taken to the regiment’s barracks for luncheon. There to listen to the impressive band, and to finally witness a fine display drill by the massed 1,000 mounted lancers on the parade ground: He concludes his recollections for this memorable day with what for him could only be regarded as the highest compliment to the friendly Russian Baron he could think of:
Looks exactly like an Englishman and is one of the best. I had the best time of any one, as he let me choose the band programme, and took me out to see the instruments and everything, being the aide-de-camp. (Midshipman Tennyson)
26th June 1914
This hospitality was returned that Friday afternoon, even though by this stage the strain of this pleasurable duty was beginning to show, as he noted:
Helped to entertain the lancers on-board: There is an enormous programme of dinners arranged, but as far as I can make out they drink a lot, which I can’t stick, and the dinners last for hours. The weather is delightfully warm and delicious. I gave Tiesenhausen an English cigarette to smoke, the first one he had ever had, and he liked it so much I have sent him 100. (Midshipman Tennyson)
An extract from the diary of Lieutenant R. Schwerdt of Lion, concerning his visit to a Russian ship goes some way to describing this hectic period:
The first thing is ‘Grace’, which the funny old ship’s Pope says facing the Icon, the Zakuska ‘a colossal buffet’. Then we sat down to dinner, soup, junket, cheese pates, salmon, crayfish, chicken and ices. Drinks were champagne, claret, hock and sherry, every five minutes everyone clinked their glasses and had to empty them.
From this it is apparent that off Kronstadt and Kiel, the two widely dispersed British capital ship squadrons were experiencing very similar rounds of demanding social duties. This was almost as if the German and Russian Imperial Courts were vying with each other to see who could entertain their guests the best.
27th June 1914
This Saturday was of the most important days of the entire 1BCS’s programme. Also one which all who participated in it would have cause to remember, the last days of peace for the House of Romonov:
At 10am the captain sent for me and told me I had been one of the four midshipmen selected by the Admiral to show the Princesses round Lion, there being one ‘snotty’ from each ship. I went on-board Lion at 10.30am and helped the Tsar (Emperor Nicholas II), Tsarina (Empress Alexandra), four Princess (Olga, Tatiana, Marie, and Anastasia), two Grand Dukes, and two Grand Duchesses out of the Imperial launch, which brought them from the yacht the Strella. I have never seen such launches, all the boiler casing, fittings and cylinders silver-platted. At the top of the ladder we were all introduced, and we proceeded to inspect the ship, the four midshipmen showing the girls around: I showed round Princess Olga, who is extra-ordinarily pretty and most amusing. They were the most cheery and pretty quartet I have met for some time. (Midshipman Tennyson)
The impressions must have been mutual, because after luncheon the Princess’ requested that the same midshipmen show them round Lion again. During this the Russian royal family was honoured by Beatty at this luncheon on-board the flagship, with his wife and Lady Churchill also present. Before and after the luncheon, the Tsar had inspected the ships company and requested to visit the turrets, magazines and shell rooms, showing the greatest interest in all he saw:
The Tsar was in splendid spirits, and the aide-de-camp said he had not seen him like that for months. The yacht went back to Peterhof at 4pm and I must rush off now for the fleet ball. (Midshipman Tennyson)
That evening it was the turn of the 1BCS to entertain in grand style. For this glittering squadron social event the upper decks of both the adjoining Lion and New Zealand were encased by red and white striped awnings, while specially built covered gangways connected the two battle-cruisers:
Flowers, flags, and even fountains completed the illusion that the dance was taking place in some fairy palace, and not in a battle-cruiser. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
The assembled carpenters and artisans of the squadron had made about two hundred circular tables from rum casks, and banks of seats each suitable for six people were arranged around Lion’s quarterdeck. A detailed perspective of this glittering social event to be again drawn from the account left by our observant midshipman:
I couldn’t have imagined anything got up so perfectly, the vast clear deck of the New Zealand divided in two by the turret formed two spacious ball-rooms, all lit up with brilliant coloured lights. Broad gangways went across to Lion, were there were supper tables and refreshment tables in every direction. On the side of Lion adjoining the New Zealand was built the royal box, with sofas and easy chairs, were the admiral entertained the various grand dukes and duchesses. There were over two thousand guests on-board: There was a countess ‘R’ famed for her beauty, who goes to London every season. I only danced the first six dances the whole evening. I got hold of Tiesenhausen, that first-rate fellow and talked to him till 1am. During the evening the flag-lieutenant told me the Grand-Duke Cyril wished me to be presented to him, ditto the other three midshipmen, he thanked us for showing the Princesses round, and said it was their wish that we should be each presented with a signed photo, which was very nice. (Midshipman Tennyson)
That evening there was also a ball at Kiel, at the Marine Academy, held by the officers of the German Baltic Squadron for their distinguished, but ‘secretive’ visitors of the 2BS. Here it should be noted that while in Russia the 1BCS had allowed an open degree of inspection on-board their ships, similar requests of a technical nature however were not encouraged or complied with during the German visit. Throughout the visit of the 2BS to Kiel, Von Hase was aware that there was marked degree of mutual mistrust:
The English were extremely anxious to know all about the modern ships and craft of our fleet. But for the visit of the German officers, they either removed or covered with wood all-important apparatus, particularly all fire-control apparatus and sights. (Von Hase, SMS Derfflinger)
From this it is apparent that while there was undoubtedly a lot of goodwill displayed during the German visit, the underlying rivalry between these two North Sea naval powers was very much in evidence.
28th June 1914
At the closing stages of the auspicious fleet ball in the early hours of that distant Sunday morning, Tennyson again encountered Baron Tiesenhausen talking to him until the early hours, on what was to prove to be a fateful date for everyone present.
St.Vitus’ Day, also known as Vidovdan, commemorating the telling Battle of Kosovo fought in 1389 between the Serbs and Ottoman Empire, a Serbian holy festival in the distant Balkans which even although they lost the battle, marked their first fight for freedom and was duly celebrated. Upon this day, an event of considerable future importance to Queen Mary, and Europe occurred, even though at the time there was no great appreciation of the events great significance on-board: Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian thrown, and his wife the Duchess of Hohenberg were assassinated in Sarajevo, at the time a rather obscure little know provincial town in the southern Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia, at 10.45am local time. Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian Nationalist (but a documented Austrian citizen), dispatched just two rounds from his Browning automatic, in what has been described as the first shots of the Great War.
H.B.M. Consul in Sarajevo to Sir Edwin Grey, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs: Telegram 28 June, 12.30pm. According to new received here, heir apparent and his consort assassinated this morning by means of an explosive nature.
At Kiel with this momentous news the entire atmosphere of the visit dramatically changed. Admiral Warrender and the British Ambassador Sir Edward Goschen returned from a visit to the Hohenzollern:
Both looked very serious and the Ambassador was in great agitation. The character of the Kiel week was now revolutionised at a blow. The reception at the castle and the ball at the Base headquarters were cancelled. (Von Hase, SMS Derfflinger)
But despite these historic events stirring in Europe, today saw Tennyson and Wilton, go to St.Petersburg by the 10am boat up the Neva, to lunch with the Hill family whom Wilton knew. Before driving onto Peterhof that afternoon, ending off their day by a dinner at the Astoria, ‘The Ritz’ of St.Petersburg, before the squadrons scheduled departure that evening:
At 10pm the Strella left the Pont Nicolas for the last time with English officers, and it was too sad for words. The entire embankment was lined by crowds, who gave us a great send-off, and we steamed slowly off back to Kronstadt. It is easily the best week I have ever had in my life, and St. Petersburg and the Russians will live long in my memory. All our mails have been lost, and I have not heard from either of you, these wretched Russian mails are so erratic. (Midshipman Tennyson)
29th June 1914
Monday, we start today for Biorco Sound, about 50 miles off, were we coal. (Unknown)
We left Kronstadt on Monday at 10am and arrived at Biorco Sound at noon, it only being a distance of 40 miles. (Midshipman Tennyson)
Arriving at their temporary new moorings, in the days to follow final preparations for the return trip were made.
30th June 1914
That Tuesday at Kiel the 2BS’s visit drew to a close as well, as the dreadnoughts put out to sea Warrender sent a fateful farewell message from his flagship to the German Fleet:
Friends in past and friends forever.
In just over one month they would be at war. Some of the ship’s which had so recently played host to each other would soon actually exchange fatal fire just two months hence, in the Heligoland Bight.
1st July 1914
While at Biorco Sound Tennyson and seven other midshipmen still managed to get ashore despite the preparation. When they boarded an attendant Russian destroyer at 8.30am, bound for the Finnish port of Viborg some 30 miles off. From here they caught a train to Imatra 40 miles away, a rough two-and-a half-hour journey, returning to Queen Mary later that Wednesday afternoon.
2nd July 1914
The visit to Biorco Sound was primarily to undertake a full coaling evolution that morning, involving some 1,400 tons to be taken in during this major task. Afterwards:
At 4pm nearly all the officers went ashore for a bathing picnic for tea and dinner. I have never seen such lovely birches, great white stems, with here and there the sunlight stealing through the thick branches of the taller pines, playing on them with a tinge of red light. These pines grow to an enormous height, as straight as a die and I can see now where they get these great high yachts’ mast from. I walked for miles in the woods, and shot an enormous heron, quite the largest bird I have ever seen, we are bringing him back home in the ice-room to have him stuffed. (Midshipman Tennyson)
3rd July 1914
Beatty’s battle-cruisers now suitably prepared had one final performance for the Tsar before returning to home. He was to witness a high-speed tactical exercise at sea from the Standardt, witnessing for the first and only time in his life, the spectacle of heavy ships doing tactical exercises in close order at high speed:
You have no idea what lovely weather we have had since we have been out here, day after day with a clear blue-sky and brilliant sun and very hot too. We left this morning at 10am and carried out manoeuvres at 27 knots before the Tsar in his yacht. (Midshipman Tennyson)
5th July 1914
Unknown to those on-board another significant step in the path to war was taken today. Germany assured Austro-Hungary of its support in the event of war with Russia, the champion of the Balkan states including Serbia.
8th July 1914
After a slow uneventful five-day passage, Queen Mary arrived back at Portland along with the New Zealand and Princess Royal, Lion having returned to Portsmouth.
10th July 1914
Operational orders were issued on this day, to assemble at Portland under the command of Admiral Sir George Callaghan, the Commander in Chief of the Home Fleet.
15th July 1914
Naval reservists were called up for a test mobilisation, to participate in the grand manoeuvres for that year, and fully man the fleet for the forthcoming royal review.
16th July 1914
Lion arrived to join the rest of the squadron at Portland, in preparation for the coming review off Spithead.
17th July 1914
That morning the four battle-cruisers of the 1BCS set out for the short passage to Portsmouth and the final preparations for the coming regal inspection. In this impressive gathering of naval might there were to be 219 British ships present manned by some 70,000 men, with 13 vessels from other powers. In the lines Royal Navy lines there were 24 vessels of the dreadnought type, from the first of the type the 12 inch gunned Dreadnought herself, to the 13.5 inch gunned Iron Duke the Home Fleet flagship. There were also 25 older battleships, 20 armoured and 35 other cruisers, 75 destroyers, 16 submarines, 7 minelayers, 6 auxiliaries and 11 minor craft. Above this assembly on the review day itself would fly 35 aeroplanes, and 2 rigid airships.
18th July 1914
This was to be a memorable Sunday, with the Fleet Review held off Spithead, which for Queen Mary was to be especially distinctive due to some royal praise. Encountered on-board today, was an officer of potentially some importance, if the appointment had been made:
The King inspected us and said we were the cleanest and smartest ship he had seen in the navy, and he would tell the Queen what a splendid ship her namesake is. I met Captain Phillpotts, the new captain, and I had not the foggiest idea who it was, and told him the names of several of the ships for which he asked. Sunday night I dined in the Clementina with the Harrison’s. (Midshipman Tennyson)
This mention of Phillpotts on-board during the review is interesting, since his appointment must by then have been well advanced. But Captain Hall was to remain in command for a couple of more months, before ill health moved him to the Admiralty ashore, and another officer assumed command: To close this full day the anchored fleet performed a striking searchlight display that evening.
19th July 1914
Upon the conclusion of the review the entire fleet put to sea for combined exercises, a majestic procession seeing as there was some 40 miles of capital ships, cruisers and light-craft to pass before the King. Before commencing a week of tactical exercises in the Channel:
We went out on Monday, every ship cheering as they passed the Royal yacht. Lion led the line and we came second, came into Cowes at 7pm and land our cadets. (Midshipman Tennyson)
20th July 1914
The 1BCS set out at 6am from its anchorage off the Isle of Wight, to undertake a gunnery exercise. In this the track of Queen Mary was to pass close to Tennyson’s home:
I do wish you could have seen us, the 1BCS as we went past Yarmouth (Isle of Wight) for the first time this commission at 20 knots, a fine sight. I shall be home either Monday night or Tuesday; it depends how long the New Zealand takes over her firing. The gunnery staff find they can’t do without their range-finder, and so the Captain has given orders that I am to come up from down below for the day when we do gunnery. (Midshipman Tennyson)
23rd July 1914
The reservists manning the Third Fleets two BS’s were due to begin paid off this day, and Admiral Callaghan informed the Admiralty that he was beginning to disperse the assembled fleet. But the serious international situation now delayed this, as Austria presented her harsh and peremptory ultimatum to Serbia on this day. The 1BCS was on exercise today, arriving back at Portsmouth that afternoon as the clouds of war darkened with the opening presentations of demands, with the Hapsburg Empire’s dispatch of humiliating conditions to its little neighbour noted:
Austro-Hungary gives Serbia 48 hour’s ultimatum regarding assassination of Archduke Ferdinand: (Midshipman Bagot)
This is the first entry in the wartime journal to be kept by this midshipman. During his time on-board Queen Mary he endeavoured to maintain a detailed journal of significant events, covering both the evolving international scale of what was to transpire, to happenings on-board, and some personal observations of considerable insight.
24th July 1914
That Friday, as Britain urged Germany to mediate with Austria, to extend the 48-hour time period, Queen Mary and the 1BCS now coaled and provisioned at Portland, as the situation in Europe deteriorated:
Austrian ultimatum to Russia, ultimatum to Serbia postponed. (Midshipman Bagot)
25th July 1914
Although the Serbs now accepted most of Austria’s intolerable demands, with just enough reservations to save a scrape of her honour, Austria desiring war immediately broke off relations, beginning her slow and cumbersome mobilisation on the Serbian front.
26th July 1914
At 4pm a telegram was sent out to the C-in-C from the First Sea Lord, to the effect that no ships of the First Fleet were to leave Portland until further orders, the demobilisation was effectively halted. However men on leave were not yet to be recalled.
On this day the Austro-Hungarian Government ordered partial mobilisation against Serbia, as the Montenegrin Government ordered mobilisation, while the Kaiser returned from his Norway and Baltic cruise to Berlin.
27th July 1914
Monday, Sir Edwin Grey proposes ultimatum with Germany, consulting France, Russia and Italy, proposing a peace, France and Italy accept. (Midshipman Bagot)
The German High Seas Fleet was recalled from Norway to its war bases.
28th July 1914
From the Admiralty, the First Lord, Winston Churchill and First Sea Lord, Prince Louis of Battenburg, told King George that the Royal Navy was now on a preparatory and precautionary basis for all eventualities. Austria-Hungary formally declared war on Serbia, which was seen as a purely violent diplomatic manoeuvre, since her full mobilisation would take weeks to complete. The Kaiser returned to Berlin, and news was received that the Hochseeflot, the formidable High Seas Fleet (HSF) had orders to concentrate off the Norwegian coast.
With all of these telling international events then underway, it is interesting to record a minor, and seemingly trivial human incident which had occurred while Queen Mary was preparing herself for war. An incident which clearly displays Hall’s care and concern for his men, even when he must have been under some pressure at this time.
One of his Stokers fell into a dry-dock and was seriously injured. In hospital it was found that the man’s skull had been badly Fractured, and as the doctors were of the opinion that he would only last a day or so at the most he was reported to the captain as being ‘In extremis’. The latter, deeply concerned, went up to the hospital, but the nurse refused to allow him to see the patient, who was unconscious. Captain Hall, however, persisted, and having pointed out to the medical superintendent that, as the man could not possibly recover, his seeing him could do no great harm, he was admitted to the bedside. As the captain looked down at the bandaged head and ghastly face of the dying man, the latter slowly opened his eyes, stared at him blankly for a few moments, and then with the light of recognition dawning, said, ‘Oh, it’s you, you blighter, is it!’ And, turning over, the Stoker went comfortably to sleep and defied all medical opinion by making a speedy recovery. (H.C. Hoy)
What truth there is in this anecdote is impossible to say, but it seems in character for Hall, and the familiar reaction of the Stoker seems likely as well for this much-respected officer and gentleman. On an operational note the 1BCS was then poised for short notice at Portland completing its final preparations as belated news about the international situations deterioration into open conflict was received.
Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia, Russia declares war on Austria-Hungary. (Midshipman Bagot)
Austria declared war on Serbia. (Midshipman Tennyson)
This latter included in a letter home on this day, his feelings and mood in a more revealing and intimate fashion. From this one document, perhaps the impressions and feelings of his contemporaries on-board Queen Mary that war was expected and imminent can also be readily gauged:
I thank God that at last our chance has come of showing and proving the strength of the British Navy. All yesterday we coaled hard and today and all to night every ship in the fleet is drawing stores, ammunition, etc., and we leave to-morrow morning at 7.30am. I am writing this little line off to you at 1am as I have got an hour’s ‘stand off’ while another watch is working, tomorrow if there is no change in the situation, we shall throw over all our woodwork and prepare for war. You were wrong in saying you were aFraid England was in an awful state of unpreparedness; it could not have come at a better moment for the fleet, we are all ready to fight and we have not been caught napping. You May rest assured that I am fighting in the best ship and under the best Captain and with the best ‘guns’, but we can only trust in God, and with His help we shan’t have much to fear. I have come up from the engine-room for gunnery purposes, and the others are still below. Russia has put out all lights on her coasts, Germany has refused to negotiate with any other power, and by to-morrow night we May be at it. If war is declared, please be sensible and move up to London, Farringford there on the coast of the Isle of Wight is in a very dangerous position if things go badly. Well, good-bye, don’t be anxious, Queen Mary will be all right, I shall often think of you both, and I send you both my best love, goodnight, ever and always your very loving son. Harold (Midshipman Tennyson)
At 5pm an order was received for the First Fleet to proceed the next morning, to its preliminary war station at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. With this move north combined with the latest intelligence that the German HSF was concentrating off Norway; the chance of a contact on the eve of war was in view.
29th July 1914
That morning at 7am as Austro-Hungarian monitors on the Danube bombarded Belgrade, and Russia mobilised, Admiral Callaghan travelled to London to confer at the Admiralty, as his four dreadnought BS’s and the 1BCS, steamed out of the harbour and headed north via the English Channel under Sir George Warrender. According to an entry in H.W. Wilson’s, ‘The Great War’, this departure was quite an occasion that Wednesday morning, with their massed crews dressing ship and cheering, the bands playing, as they steamed forth to war. Preparing on passage for any possible German treachery:
Having coaled and taken in stores yesterday, with all dispatch, likewise the hands of the fleet, at 7.30am the BF weighed and sailed, 8am the 1BCS sailed from Portland under sealed orders. Set course southwest, but the day being misty we were soon out of sight of land, when we set the Channel course, 9am Divisions. Commander read out stations for clearing ship for action, commenced doing same and got ammunition ready. The fleet sailed line ahead speed 15 knots, in the afternoon reduced to 6 knots so as to pass through the Channel by night. Passed the Jean Bart, French Battleship conveying President Poincare back to France from Russia. Increased speed to 20 knots while going through the straits, missed colliding with a collier by about 10 yards. All ships were darkened, searchlights from Dover swept channel all night. (Midshipman Bagot)
This sighting of the dreadnought Jean Bart is of some interest, as she and her sister the France, returned President Poincare from his visit to Russia. At their meeting the respective Flagships exchanged salutes on the eve of war.
The whole fleet put to sea for unknown destination at 7am except Iron Duke, which waited behind for the C-in-C. We steamed west until out of sight of land and then did a 16 point turn, during forenoon preparing ship for war, lashing down all booms, derricks, etc., and Frapping all boats. 2.10pm sighted one of the new Italian battleships hurrying off to the Mediterranean (actually the French Jean Bart). Prepared for night defence, from the very first we have adopted the utmost precautionary measures, as we strongly suspect Germany of firing before war was declared. 9pm darkened ship, we had waited all day to pass through the straits at night. I had the first watch at the guns, and it was quite exciting feeling that you were there for the real thing and might be attacked at any minute. (Midshipman Tennyson)
We steamed slowly away and turned east in the Channel when out of sight but, of course, ran into a cross-channel steamer, who would have reported us certainly. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
The British Admiralty sent a ‘Warning Telegram’ to the Fleet, while British War Office sent out telegrams ordering a ‘Precautionary Period’ at 2.10pm.
30th July 1914
As Imperial Russia commenced her mobilisation, from on-board his darkened flagship at the head of the battle-cruisers, the Admiral noted:
Last night we bolted through the Straits of Dover with lights out, all the fortresses round the coast are mobilised and we watched with interest the big searchlights at Dover. Mercifully the weather is very fine and our visibility extraordinary. We were alarmed during the day by telegrams from the Admiralty, and last night we made certain that this morning would see us at war, but it has not come, it has got to come sooner or later. But I fear we are too well prepared this time for it to happen, we could not be in better circumstances, and I feel that luck would be too great to permit of me going to war in this ship and in command of this fine squadron, no one could be better placed. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
Thursday, at daylight fleet formed cruisers ahead, line abreast, then battle-cruisers, in the rear the BF, destination still unknown. (Midshipman Bagot)
With intelligence still confidently placing the German HSF off Norway, the British fleet had adopted an aggressive and alert stance from the very start, by setting a course up the middle of the North Sea, heading directly towards the Skagerrak. When abreast of Terschelling at noon, the fleet altered course for Scapa Flow, with the Iron Duke which had caught-up with the fleet, heading towards the Firth of Forth to pick up Sir George Callaghan. Around this time a German cruiser had been sighted on the horizon, and this was the only contact with the HSF, the rest despite intelligence reports, all being secure in homeports. The Empire responded, the Australian Government placed its Navy at disposal of the British Admiralty.
31st July 1914
The fleet was on passage to what was to be the principal northern wartime base of the Royal Navy during the early phase of the war, Scapa Flow, which Queen Mary and her consorts entered that afternoon along with the dreadnought BS’s. Immediately afterwards she got out her protective anti-torpedo nets on one side, while alongside the other a collier arrived to begin the vital task of coaling:
Friday, making course for Scapa Flow, arrived at same at 4pm. Got torpedo nets out, coaled all night finishing next day took 2,200 tons. (Midshipman Bagot)
6.45pm came to with starboard anchor in 16 fathoms at Scapa Flow, the whole fleet was here! (Midshipman Tennyson)
Developments on the continent had by this date now taken on an unstoppable momentum of their own, with the mobilisation of all the principal powers in Europe into two opposing camps. The pace of the various forces at work within Europe began to be dictated by precisely calculated railway timetables and schedules, calling up huge numbers of reservists conforming to involved and interlacing pre-war plans. In these a partial mobilisation was virtually out of the question, only a full mobilisation by each nation could cover all of their perceived eventualities, moves however which only increased the overall tension. On this day the Belgian, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian Governments all ordered general mobilisation. Germany sent an ultimatum to Russia, presented at midnight, as a State of ‘Kriegsgefahr’ was proclaimed in Germany, while further afield the Turkish Government also ordered its mobilisation to commence on the 3rd August.
1st August 1914
The coaling which had begun the previous day was now completed. In this Queen Mary had filled her bunkerage to a full war status, in her single largest coaling ever noted, after which she was now readied for war, as a mobilised Germany declared hostilities upon Russia.
In preparation for hostilities, all surplus boats were land in the endeavour to be as cleared and uncluttered for action as possible. In this exercise it was also desirous that as much in the way of superfluous wooden or inflammable fittings and non-necessary stores were land. This would have included a quantity of stored paint and varnish, lengths of timber, balks, spars, and various other wooded items such as furniture, along with personal trunks and treasured effects also embraced in this extensive gutting of the ship.
All this time Queen Mary and her consorts had deployed their torpedo net defence to protect them against any sudden surprise attack before any official declaration of war. This act alone could be seen as a clear measure of the high level of alert and preparations then being undertaken on-board.
10pm got out net-defence and darkened ship, it was a very foggy night, the fog-bells rang. (Midshipman Tennyson)
2nd August 1914
Germany invaded and occupied Luxembourg without warning, and Britain assured France that she would deny the German Fleet access to the Channel. On-board Queen Mary that Sunday the labours continued, with the crew stripping out more inflammable items, while excess furniture was land ashore. In the 13.5 inch turrets and 4 inch mountings, live ammunition was placed at the ready in the gun-loading cage, waiting trays located beside the breech of each gun, in the trunks, ready use racks in the casements, as well as the auxiliary hoist, were all loaded with their wartime outfit.
Extra lifts and tackles were put upon the yards on the foremast to prevent them crashing down onto the bridge from aloft if struck and severed by a shell or splinter. While the taut standing rigging was snaked down with hawsers to stop it flying away if parted. Further to these precautions, additional protection in the way of tiers of tightly rolled-up canvas awnings and hammocks, thick enough to stop a substantial shell-splinter, were improvised round the upper exposed bridge platforms and fire control positions aloft.
Fire, first aid, and stretcher parties, were told off and organised, along with the ships damage control teams. In fact everything was being done to bring the stripped and prepared battle-cruiser ready for immediate action if called upon. Which apart from the final wetting of the decks, emptying her few remaining powered boats of all fuel, and filling them with water, meant that Queen Mary was in all respects now ready for any eventuality, well in advance of the commencement of hostilities. Upon this day Rear-Admiral Beatty, promoted to the rank of acting Vice-Admiral, wrote to his wife:
We are enveloped in fog with our nets out ready for most things. We spent all yesterday getting rid of superfluities and still preparing. My Captains are splendid and are not easily rattled. We are at 4 hours’ notice and consequently ready to move. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
Held Divine Service on upper deck. Midnight ‘alarm’, the 1BCS were the outside ships, and so we were responsible for the guarding of the harbour. Boadicea arrived bringing Sir John Jellicoe, who hoisted his flag in Centurion as Second in Command: (Midshipman Tennyson, journal)
Unaware in the fleet at large, Admiral Sir John Rushworth Jellicoe on-board the light-cruiser arriving in the Flow, was the Commander-in-Chief designate, ready to assume command of the by now keyed-up BF from Admiral Sir George Callaghan in the Iron Duke. While these great moves were taking place, some others further down the chain of command were taking a pragmatic and fatalistic view of events:
I went to Holy Communion today, which I enjoyed, and we also had a short stand-up service on the upper deck, I am really looking forward to fighting, as it is a feeling of fighting for one’s God, one’s King, and for those one loves that I shall go into action. For those who get through it will mean certain promotion, three month’s leave and a rattling good time, for those others, well, after all one has got to die some time, and what more glorious way of dying. (Midshipman Tennyson, letter home)
3rd August 1914
A state of war was declared between Germany and France, with the Germans now also demanding a free passage through non-combatant Belgium. This was to facilitate their sweeping Schlieffen Plan assault through northern France, and towards Paris. With Great Britain a guarantor of Belgian neutrality, the game of bluff and counter bluff being played out was now crossing the threshold of diplomacy, slowly embracing all the great powers of Europe in a war of unprecedented magnitude:
11.30am exercised physical drill, 11.50am signal to raise steam for full speed, 1pm steam for 17 knots, and full speed at half hour’s notice. Vice-Admiral Beatty came on-board Queen Mary that afternoon at 1.15pm and gave the assembled crew a rousing speech about ‘The War’, and was loudly cheered on leaving. (Midshipman Bagot)
I tested range-finder all the forenoon., 6.30am we were under banked fires with steam for full speed at two hours’ notice. 1pm Vice-Admiral Beatty came on-board and made a very fine speech to the officers and ship’s company, in which he said we had all been waiting for this great opportunity, and that it had come at last. It was up to us to uphold the great tradition of the British Navy and to defend Great Britain and the Empire. The people who had devoted their lives to building up the British Navy during the last sixty years were now to see their dreams realised. We were to reap were they had sown, and we must reap what they had sown, and reap it to the full, so that not a blade was left standing. He then wished us the best of luck, reminded us of our battle practice, and told us we must make the honoured name of Queen Mary doubly honoured and grave in the annals of history. With that he said ‘Good-bye’ and I have not heard such cheers as the ship’s company gave him. Signal came through, steam for full speed, 2.45pm, 7.15pm we heard firing going on outside, and so we weighed and went out at full speed, a splendid sight, sounded off ‘General Quarters’. (Midshipman Tennyson)
I went on-board the ships and harangued them. The enthusiasm was immense, I have never seen such a magnificent and cheerful spirit. War was a certainty at the time and we all knew it. We dashed out and spent the night, which mercifully was short, at the guns, as we shall for the next months. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
That night the 1BCS was ordered to sea, Queen Mary weighing anchor at 7.40pm was immediately placed at general quarters with four forward 4 inch secondary battery guns loaded, two on each beam. Ominously the sound of the Orkney garrison shore batteries training was heard in the distance. It was Beatty’s intention to cruise to the south of the Fair Islands channel to search for two reported German transports. His orders had also mentioned the possibility of a German raid on the Shetland Islands, an unlikely occurrence, but all eventualities had to be countered:
Out in search for two German transports. Manned the 4 inch guns day and night, three watches. (Midshipman Bagot)
Invincible - Portsmouth. / 9.00am, commissioned ship, drawing Stores etc., dockyard parties working on board in day and night shifts.
4th August 1914
Upon receipt of an Admiralty signal that morning Jellicoe opened his official orders appointing him as the Commander-in-Chief of the GF, after which he boarded the Iron Duke, an assumed command from Admiral Callaghan. The GF under Jellicoe numbered 21 dreadnoughts, 8 pre-dreadnoughts, 4 battle-cruisers, 21 cruisers, and 42 destroyers. Opposing this was the German HSF under Admiral Von Ingenohl, of 13 dreadnoughts, 16 pre-dreadnoughts, 4 battle-cruisers, 18 cruisers, and 88 destroyers.
On-board Queen Mary at sea, the epic events of this day appear to have gone unrecorded, with no specific mention of the change of command apparent in any personal document. During that day the 1BCS and the supporting 1CS swept towards the Norwegian coast, intending to intercept the now reported to be three German transports:
Cruising about at 20 knots, weather misty. (Midshipman Bagot)
The BF had sailed under its new Commander to provided distant cover for his cruisers, with Beatty now sweeping a wide area to the eastward of the Shetland Islands towards Norway until 4pm thence to the southeast until 5am the following morning. At 5.35pm that evening the fateful message that war was to commence at 11pm Greenwich Mean Time (employed throughout this book), midnight Central European Standard Time was received on-board, a declaration so worded as there was to be no confusion between British summer and European time. The subsequent confirmation of War being declared against Germany was greeted on-board by a general feeling of welcome acceptance, if not indeed elation by some. In the first entry of his war diary Major Gerald Rooney in charge of Queen Mary’s Royal Marine detachment quoted what he thought was an appropriate passage.
I have in my hand two gifts’ said the envoy,
Peace and War, which will ye.
Give us which thou wilt’ replied the senators.
Then take war’ said the envoy.
We accept the gift’ shouted the people. (Major Rooney)
King George’s message to Admiral Jellicoe and the fleet, was received by the wireless office at 11.30pm which was then circulated and generally welcomed by all on-board:
At this grave moment in our national history, I send to you, and through you to the officers and men of the fleet of which you have assumed command, the assurance of my confidence that under your direction they will revive and renew the glories of the Royal Navy, and prove once again the sure shield of Britain and her Empire in her hour of trial.
Midnight, war declared on Germany, commence hostilities, I welcomed the news as I kept the first watch. (Midshipman Bagot)
Beatty composed his own note to the units of his squadron to accompany the royal message:
We must not forget at this moment how much we owe those who have gone before us and have created the fleet as it now is, those who worked so arduously and so long, to be ready for such a moment as has now been forced upon us. How they would have wished to be here. We are indeed fortunate, as we are proud, to be where we are, and to prove ourselves worthy to use the great weapons they have forged.
The great weapons that he referred to were the vessels of the 1BCS, with the composition of this impressive force during the initial phase of the war being his flagship Lion, along with the battle-cruisers Princess Royal, Queen Mary and New Zealand: Supporting this capital ship core at the outbreak of the Great War were the two attendant armoured-cruiser squadrons of the 2CS Shannon, Achilles, Cockrane and Natal, along with the 3CS Antrim, Argyll, Devonshire and Roxburgh, backed up by the light-cruisers of the 1LCS Southampton, Birmingham Lowestoft and Nottingham.
Screening and covering this assembly of capital ships and cruisers, there was a phalanx of forty-two destroyers from two Flotillas’. The 2DF Active, Acorn, Alarm, Brisk, Chameleon, Comet, Fury, Goldfinch, Hope, Larne, Lyra, Martin, Minstrel, Nemesis, Nereide, Nymphe, Redpole, Rifleman, Ruby, Sheldrake and Staunch. Along with the 4DF Swift, Acasta, Achates, Ambuscade, Ardent, Christopher, Cockatrice, Contest, Fortune, Garland, Hardy, Lynx, Midge, Owl, Paragon, Porpoise, Shark, Sparrowhawk, Spitfire, Unity and the Victor.
One interesting little piece of incidental information about Queen Mary’s entry into war was her thoughtful fabrication that day of a prominent sign:
Large piece of tin with the message ‘War with Germany’ boldly painted on it, so as to show any fishing vessel that had not yet got the news. (Midshipman Bagot)
Invincible - Portsmouth, North Railway Jetty. / 6.25 commenced basin trial. / 7.30am finished trial. / 10.30am secured to North Railway jetty, drawing stores, landing peace fittings, etc., dockyard parties on-board working day and night shifts. / 11.45pm orders to commence hostilities against Germany received.
5th August 1914
Wednesday, the first day of the Great War for those of Queen Mary, found her and her consorts at dawn, off the Hangesund light to the north of Stavanger on the Norwegian coast. The eastern most ship of Beatty’s deployed sweeping formation, was by then just some 20 miles from this neutral coast. Here the Admiral has left a very interesting note concerning this particular sweep:
Had a scare last evening, Queen Mary of course started it, and reported two enemy cruisers in sight. Away I went with Queen Mary top speed to find it was only ‘Old Packs’ (Rear-Admiral Pakenham) pottering off to coal. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
In this entry it appears that Beatty did not like the bother caused by Queen Mary’s sighting of two armoured-cruisers from the 3CS. But vigilance and caution could never be regarded as negative points in a ship at war, and in this respect Queen Mary’s sharp lookout surely deserved praise not censure. That morning they sighted and stopped their first merchantman:
9am heave to a Norwegian steamer for information. Orders to capture German trawlers, and destroy wireless sets of other nationalities. (Midshipman Bagot)
This last act would have been called for to allow the squadron to patrol and sweep the seas without being observed by light German fishing craft, and reported by hostile neutrals. Later that day the 1BCS returned to Scapa to coal. Queen Mary commenced her coaling from the collier Valegarth, while at 10pm she together with her attendant collier shifted their billet further inshore. This operation however was to be further disrupted when the warning of an imminent torpedo-boat attack was raised; the first in what was to be a series of such warnings experienced by the GF in the weeks to come:
Returned into Scapa Flow 4pm and started coaling at 4.30pm overnight, finishing at 5am (on the 6th). About midnight there was an alarm, and it was stated that an attack was imminent. White watch instantly manned all 4 inch guns, while an effort was made to carry on coaling in the dark. Ships further up the harbour continued to burn their lights, which showed us up very effectively, indeed all vessels lying outside of these lighted up ships must have fallen an easy prey to any torpedo attack. Coaling operations became excessively trying in the rain, which made the dirt indescribable, altogether a poor show. (Major Rooney)
Minelaying in the open sea was commenced by the Germans east of Southwold, during which the minelayer Konigin Luise was sunk.
Invincible - Portsmouth. / 5.00am provisioning ship, drawing torpedoes etc. / 10.20pm coal lighter alongside
6th August 1914
This interrupted coaling evolution during the early hours of the morning was completed after taking in 1,800 tons, and then the ship prepared for another sortie. Here the Major again mentions the events of the previous night, and outlined the objectives of the sweep to follow:
Filled to war stowage. (Midshipman Bagot)
White watchman the 4 inch guns, were they remained until we sailed at 8am. All lights doused at once, and coaling tried without, finally holds in collier re-lit, hands of fleet at anchor did likewise. Destroyer in St Mary’s passage signalled she was on fire. Finished coaling about 6am and immediately brought to the starboard net defence, the blue and red watches sent to rest. Left harbour at 8am and followed Lion out, Beatty with 1BCS 3CS and 2TBD Flotilla ordered to cruise of Norway to search between 60 and 62 degree parallels for a reported German base, 1BCS to lie off and support other vessels carrying out search. (Major Rooney)
On this day the cabinet authorised the dispatch of the four Divisions of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to France. For this the BF would provide distant support for this move from the North Sea, covering it from intervention by any enemy surface force. On this sweep a unit of Jellicoe’s fleet was to be observed the in the distance, effectively testing her guns against an enemy target:
Iron Duke captured German trawler, after taking the crew off the Marlborough used it for battle practice target. (Midshipman Bagot)
This minor incident has been covered by H.K. Oram of the Orion from the 2BS, in his book ‘Ready for Sea’. In which he graphically relates how this mighty squadron of super-dreadnoughts split up into pairs for a planned sub-calibre independent gunnery practice, came across the diminutive German sailing trawler Aue. Obviously not equipped with wireless and out of touch with land, she had no idea of the commencement of hostilities, the first indication being the dispatch of a 4 inch round over her mainmast that brought her to a stop. Two super-dreadnoughts were to take a part in her demise, as she was boarded, her identity quickly established, and her small crew taken off, along with a sample of her catch, prior to the Thunderer taking her in tow. She opened out to some six miles, slipped the tow and allowed the Orion to undertake a full calibre shoot against this target, which was effectively dispatched with the third salvo.
During the day a number of enemy sighting ‘reports’ were picked up on-board Queen Mary. These included the reports that two German cruisers had been observed off Trondheim, and four torpedo-boats had been seen off the Shetlands. Even that the German liner Kronprinzessin Cecilie had passed through the Stronsay Firth, cutting through the Orkney’s on the night of the 5/6th, and there was the rumour that the enemy had established a secret base on the Norwegian coast. None of these reports proved to be true, but they do graphically indicate the confused series of possibilities that that the Admiralty, Jellicoe and Beatty had to contend with and reply to.
The naval war was exacting its first casualties, and movements were taking plsace in distant weaters. The light-cruiser Amphion was sunk by a mine off Yarmouth, while there was a clash between the opposing light-cruisers Bristol and Karlsruhe in the West Indies. The German armed merchant cruiser Prinz Eitel Friedrich left Tsingtau, as Admiral von Spee's squadron left Ponape (Caroline islands), with Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Nürnberg, leaving the light-cruisers Dresden and Leipzig to join on the 12th and 14th October respectively.
Invincible - Portsmouth. / 4.00am preparing for coaling ship, torpedo party drawing stores, ammunition etc. / 6.30am commenced coaling. / 12.30pm coaling and ammunitioning ship.
7th August 1914
The day was spent in this soon to be routine exercise off the neutral coast. All appeared relatively quiet until late in the afternoon, when a chance encounter brought some excitement:
Closed Norwegian coast, while 3CS and 2TBD Flotilla examine, 1BCS cruised out of sight of land in support examined trawlers. At 5pm Queen Mary had an alarm, sounded off general quarters and the report was that a German battleship was in sight, we came down on her at full speed, all crew to quarters, but to everybody’s disgust she turned out to be a timber vessel bound for Rotterdam. Leto (Dutch), all was correct so we let her go and packed up general quarters. She appeared quite distinct on cutting in range of 14,000 yards, transmitting station had a great deal of latitude in getting a rate, range-finders varied very much. Floor trap in ‘A’ (gun-house) difficult to place. 1BCS reformed at 7pm. destroyers (half flotilla) rejoined and all moved westwards. (Major Rooney)
8am 1BCS at a position 60 miles from supposed German base in Norway, while 3CS and 2DF are reconnoitring, 7pm 2DF joined up. (Midshipman Bagot)
The First units of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) were successfully land in France. In the Mediterranean there was an inconclusive action between Gloucester and the detached Goeben and Breslau off the coast of Greece.
Invincible - Portsmouth. / 9.00am hoisting in ammunition, drawing stores, etc. / 12.30pm ammunitioning ship etc.
8th August 1914
A welcome return to harbour was now due, even if it did involve another big coaling evolution. But any prospects of undertaking this in peace were to be shattered with an alert within the Flow:
Saturday into Scapa Flow at 1.30pm and immediately prepared for coaling. Blowing and raining a gale from the north, collier came alongside dropping an anchor; she experienced some difficulty in making fast being blown off by the force of the wind: This collier kept us waiting for a considerable time, as the arrangements and orders were apparently not very explicit, and resulted in a delay of two or two and a half-hours. Over 1,000 tons taken in, a fine days coaling, our derricks and gear difficult to rig, at nightfall lights were rigged in hold of collier only, Queen Mary got out nets upon the starboard side. A surgeon joined us from the Oxfordshire hospital ship, and our surgeon transferred to the Cyclops. At 7am a destroyer came in and raised a false alarm by reporting by flash lamp, an account of Monarch’s beating off a ‘submarine attack’, these two words being taken literally. Man and arm ship, red watch was sounded off, immediately followed by general quarters, coaling instantly ceased, and the men scrambled out of the holds to man all guns in every conceivable rig and covered with coal as they were. There was a certain amount of confusion before it was discovered that it was a false alarm, when coaling was resumed. Mail came aboard with papers ‘Chronicle’ and ‘Daily News’ publishing a very reprehensible report that Marlborough, Iron Duke, Lion, Queen Mary and Princess Royal had been sunk., this caused a great deal of indignation aboard: At 11pm blue watch was sent away from coaling to clean and keep man and arm stations on 4 inch during middle watch. A report came in that a submarine periscope had been seen in Hoy Channel about 9 miles off, thus the squadron was in an excessively dangerous position, as it was a calm overcast night with full moon at intervals. (Major Rooney)
Hostilities commenced in East Africa, as Astræa bombarded German held Dar es Salaam.
Invincible - Portsmouth. / 9.30am barracks working party on-board. / 1.00am Whale Island experimental party on-board. / 1.00pm paid monthly money.
9th August 1914
The squadron weighed about midnight and moved out through Hoxa sound were three destroyers were on watch at anchor, it struck one that their position was very uncertain. Moved to join BF to eastwards, shortly after joining the fleet the Birmingham spotted a periscope on her bow and with commendable speed and judgement altered course and struck the submarine, which undoubtedly sank. Moved southward with fleet, about midday a periscope of a submarine suddenly appeared and a certain amount of confusion in the fleet ensued. It was impossible or undesirable to fire into the supposed area on account of liability of striking other Divisions, whole fleet altered course to port and increased speed away from the danger area. (Major Rooney)
7am joined up with 1BF, 11am news that Liverpool (Birmingham) sunk German submarine U.15 off Fair Island: The fleet was constantly zigzagging, the ships altering course by ‘blue pendant’ turns, that is turning together by signal, 4pm St Vincent sighted two submarines. (Midshipman Bagot)
In these light-cruiser verses submarine action mentioned above, the Birmingham could not safely open fire upon the visible upper-works of the submarine, because a sister from the 1LCS was fouling the range beyond: So she manoeuvred and rammed the U-boat, inflicting fatal damage upon it. The GF retired on a course away from the scene of this submarine activity, on a defensive track.
These various contacts with U-boats in the upper North Sea held an ominous possibility in the mind of Jellicoe, that the Germans had indeed established a secret submarine base on the Norwegian coast. This consideration was to result in more futile sweeps and patrols off the indented Norwegian coast over the weeks to come, in an attempt to discover this facility. Later that day a signal arrived ordering the fleet to take station off the Orkney Islands, it was common knowledge discussed in the wardroom that the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) would be sailing to France any day, perhaps even that very evening. Therefore the wisdom behind this move north was questioned on-board, since a supportive sweep to the south had been confidently expected.
A telegram believed by some people to be bogus, arrived from the Admiralty ordering the fleet to northwest of the Orkney’s, no reason assigned, a very curious move as we judge that our Expeditionary Force is about to cross to Dunkirk, Calais and Havre, and will be thereby uncovered. The Captain thinks that possibly the Germans May have captured ‘Code C’ and sent bogus message. Captain gave us an appreciation of movements, that they would try to prevent our Expeditionary Force crossing at all costs. As for Norway, they had seized the railway between the Fjord inside the Lofoden Islands and the Gulf of Bothnia, and that they intended transporting stores and commerce to and from the Atlantic, to me the idea seems a little unworkable. (Major Rooney)
This Sunday at sea marked another important point in the research into this subject. Private Walter Stevens RMLI of No.34 Mess on-board Queen Mary started his little diary with a rather pugnacious statement:
Ready to open fire and hurl steel and Lyddite, the weight of each projectile being 1,400 pound. (Private Stevens)
Invincible - Portsmouth.
10th August 1914
At least one individual noted the significance of the date, along with an accurate appreciation of the broad German naval strategy. The Major’s entry for the events for that day and on the morrow is revealing, especially regarding the deteriorating weather, apparently penned while he was experiencing a rather uncomfortable time later that night.
Anniversary of Togo’s fight for Japan (his successful action off Port Arthur on this day in 1904), will history back up and repeat itself, doesn’t look like it to my mind: I don’t think the HSF will try conclusion for some time, or until they have reaped some success from torpedo and mine warfare, or are driven to sea by popular clamour. We loafed about with the fleet all day nothing doing, moved to northwards, at 4pm 1BCS sent out to sweep the northern flank. Getting very rough, raining, wind etc, heavy seas covered ‘A’ turret and flooded cabinet out in several inches of water, coming through range-finder ports, also through sighting ports in turret, all of which were off, and ready for action. Result, very disconcerting, all bedding wet in vicinity, a lot of water came down through closed roof hatch, in fact the whole state of affairs was damnably uncouf. Now decided to close ports during rough weather, and trained fore and aft, with everything plugged up, very little water however found its way into the cordite cages, the charges of which remained fairly dry and still fit for use, all primers escaped. (Major Rooney)
The 1BCS and the attendant cruiser squadrons were now deployed ahead of the dreadnoughts in their sweep off the Orkney Islands. There was now with a possible underwater explanation for the move away from supporting the BEF.
Still with BF going west of Orkney’s till North Sea had been swept clear of mines, 7pm off north of Shetlands and going west. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather rather windy steaming about North Sea looking for submarines. Canteen sold out, Admiralty sending store ship, wind increasing to a gale, a little motion on ship, but nothing to make it uncomfortable. (Private Stevens)
Invincible - Portsmouth. / 11.30am exercised Collision Stations and General Quarters. / 12.30pm preparing ship for sea. / 9.50pm weighed and proceeded into harbour. / 11.00pm secured alongside North Railway jetty.
11th August 1914
Kept a very uncouf morning, all wet on bridge, 1BCS moved, spread to north of Orkney Shetland line and close to Faeroe Isle, looking for a German submarine parent ship. There is an idea that this vessel May be at Stavangar, Faeroe or Shetland: Weather very rough still, cabin furniture being dismantled and burnt, goodbye chest of drawers, goodbye. (Major Rooney).
Evidently one other aspect of the day’s events heightened the Major’s discomfort as they searched for the elusive enemy. The opportunity taken to complete the stripping of the ship of all combustible furniture and fittings, even from his already Spartan cabin.
4pm rendezvous with BF west of Shetlands. (Midshipman Bagot)
The 1BCS had met up with the dreadnoughts at sea, but this was only temporary, being detached at 10pm to return to Scapa to refuel that evening.
Weather very rough and cold, raining, proceeded into harbour to coal at daybreak. (Private Stevens)
In the Middle-East a profound naval development had occurred, the isolated German barrel-cruiser Goeben and light-cruiser Breslau, had entered the Dardenelles, where there presence would greatly influence a hesitant Turkey.
Invincible - Portsmouth. / 2.00pm Boys working parties from R.N. Barracks on-board. / 6.25pm collier Tees secured alongside, rigged coaling gear.
12th August 1914
Closed the Orkney’s from northwest in the middle watch, and entered Hoxa Sound from southwest, passing close to Dunnet Head, arranged so as to anchor at Scapa at dawn for fear of submarines. Anchored close in at 4am, got out starboard nets, collier Clifton Hall alongside at 5am and coaling commenced forthwith, 1,360 tons to come in, continued till 3pm. Crew of collier reported rumour that there were a lot of floating mines in the North Sea, they however saw nothing along the West Coast. When the collier shoved off, nets were brought to starboard side to replace a broken net boom. 1BCS remained at anchor with nets out, furled at 11pm a very still night. (Major Rooney)
Colliers came alongside, coaled 1,400 tons till 3pm finished, Scapa has been made a base; two of the entrances are mined leaving one for use. (Midshipman Bagot)
Arrived at Scapa Flow about 3.30am started coaling at 5am taking in 1,360 tons, finished coaling at 3pm in the afternoon. (Private Stevens)
Despite the trials the crew had just encountered in their last sweep, this coaling was remarked upon as being a fine performance. Cleaning ship would have followed, as well as some necessary maintenance as Queen Mary again prepared for sea.
Invincible - Portsmouth. / 6.15am commenced coaling and ammunitioning. / 9.30am finished coaling, received 250 tons. / 12 Midnight Instructions to commence hostilities with Austria received.
13th August 1914
As the main dreadnought BF returned to Scapa and the pre-dreadnoughts of the 3BS went to Loch Ewe; the 1BCS embarked upon yet another patrol to continue the blockade of Germany. During this departure the strengthened defences at the main entrances to the Flow were clearly observed.
Left at 1am passed out to northwest of Orkney’s on patrol again, main object being to avoid submarine menaces, and watch trade route. The Magnificent has taken up her position as guard ship in the Long Hope Channel from Hoxa Sound, and was passed lying there with lights out, several destroyers were passed as they guarded the entrance. Auxiliary cruiser Vaterland with 8,000 German reservists aboard expected to pass from America bound for Hamburg. At 10am Queen Mary and ships of the 1BCS shipped sub-calibre and towed pattern 3 targets, and carried out a squadron firing. This took from 10am till 12.30pm and was apparently very well carried out, a great deal of time was spent in adjusting sub-calibre and unshipping it subsequently. I could not but think in what an awkward position the squadron would have been found, had a German ship or squadron of any size encountered us doing this practice. (Major Rooney)
This 54,000 tons crack German liner was surely a much prized objective for the battle-cruisers, and some time and effort was to be committed towards intercepting her in the coming days, though to no avail.
2am War declared on Austria. (Midshipman Bagot)
German Fleet will not come out to fight us, so we put out targets and fire at them. (Private Stevens)
There was now to be some noted naval and diplomatic activity in the Mediterranean with the declaration of war between Britain and the Austro-Hungarian Empire on the 12th, linking the cruise of the German squadron in these waters. However of more immediate interest and concern to those on-board at that time was the passage of the BEF to France, which was by this date well underway. As for Queen Mary’s crew structure and organisation adopted by Captain Hall, here is a generally favourable appreciation of this system under the test of actual war conditions.
10pm off Sule Island, west of Orkney’s and are apparently heading south: England has declared war on Austria, Goeben and Breslau have escaped from Messina to the Dardanelles or Levant, there must be some connection. Rumoured that BEF is crossing to the continent at present, fleet supposed to be coaling at Scapa. The three watch system is working most admirably, nothing apparently could work so satisfactorily, and men are afforded ample time to rest, two watches only are frequently called on to finish a coaling, get nets out, and so on, leaving one watch free for defensive duties at 4 inch pieces. Turret working for defensive purposes in four watches however, during daylight hours, from 7am till 10pm, coaling however strikes watch keepers, especially officers very hard, as an officer who has kept a middle watch is called upon to commence coaling at 4.30, and probably finish at night, will be required for another watch straight on end: (Major Rooney)
Invincible - Portsmouth.
14th August 1914
Queen Mary sighted BF about 6am and joined up with them about 2pm when PZ exercises were carried out, ship sub-calibre and squadron firing, two runs took place, firing went off well. The fleet got into line ahead formation about sunset, about twenty dreadnoughts, eight King Edward’s, and two Prince of Wales’ reported as Russell and Albermarle, so poor old ‘B’ is in the fleet after all. The battle-cruisers disposed on port beam some miles, a couple of the ships have attempted various alterations by use of paint, a white bow, not approved by the C-in-C, also masts and funnels with a view to enhance the difficulty of range-finding. 10.50pm an order to 1BCS to have speed for 21 knots, looks like action of some sort about dawn, so my middle watch promises to be interesting. So to turn in, to lie down for an hour before the witching hour of midnight. (Major Rooney)
Rendezvous with BF 10.30am squadron sub-calibre firing, steaming with BF west of Orkney’s, an impressive sight, seeing the line of battleships, thirty in number, also mosquito fleet ‘destroyers’. (Midshipman Bagot)
Steaming slow all night, weather fine and very clear. (Private Stevens)
These ‘PZ’ tactical fleet exercises were to become quite a familiar undertaking to the 1BCS over the coming months. This designation being derived from the flag sequence flown by the flagship, which indicated that they were about to be performed. Again it is left to the Major to paint a telling pen picture of such a striking scene, along with the noted arrival of a familiar pre-dreadnought, a close individual, and the promise of some action. On the continent the 110,000 strong BEF under Field-Marshal Sir John French, after their successful transportation to Boulogne, now began to concentrate to the south of Maubeuge in northern France, facing the German First Army.
Invincible - Portsmouth. / 8.30am barrack working party on board. / 12.30pm embarking ammunition, cleaning out boats etc.
15th August 1914
Novelty in middle watch, very dark, a vessel on port bow 8 miles, burning searchlights, cruisers, no firing nor reports, the First Fleet ahead of us all night in very wobbly order, bad station keeping. Orders to 1BCS to have steam at 1 hour’s notice for 28 knots, wonder what is in the wind, probable chase of a convoy or German liner, if it was only the Vaterland dawn, 1BCS detached and cruised eastwards with half a flotilla of destroyers in advance, scouting for submarines. On starboard beam 7 miles off steamed the Albemarle, till 9am, then she altered course and retired on BF, wonder what she was doing. (Major Rooney).
This interesting event involving the old pre-dreadnought was one which none on the bridge could explain away at that time. She was obviously in a potentially very exposed and dangerous position, well away from the mutual security of the main BF.
At 11.30am control, was sounded off and all instruments, range-finders and gear tested. Orders came about afternoon for a grand sweep southward, into the North Sea, to cover the landing of our Expeditionary Force in France. As it is expected that the Germans will probably, 1/ Put to sea with their HSF to fight us early tomorrow, or 2/ Send out all their available torpedo craft and light-cruisers to intercept the transports. About 4pm Queen Mary stopped and interrogated a large British steamer, but got no news. (Major Rooney)
At dusk Beatty took up station 15 miles ahead of Jellicoe, with the 2CS and 3CS ahead of them on either bow, and the 1LCS dead ahead some 15 miles in the van, with other light vessels also close by. The line of advance called for 15 miles between each cruiser, allowing a swath some 110 miles wide to be covered in its track.
Positions were taken up at 6pm, I could see the funnels, masts and smoke of the BF astern, it was very calm and a good sunset. A squadron of minesweepers together with the 3CS and apparently 2CS were visible ahead, a half flotilla of destroyers about 5 miles way upon our starboard beam, and a squadron of four light-cruisers, old type was on our port quarter, and steamed slowly past us to some position ahead as dusk fell. Speed was slow, about 9 knots, increased as per orders about 11pm. Very little was seen, only one steamer with lights trying to cross the line, but there was a good moon, and she evidently saw us plainly about 6,000 yards off, and altered course twice, eventually passing astern, apparently no one boarded. (Major Rooney)
Course southeast, with BF, broad formation for general sweep 120 mile front, with CS and BCS, 6pm stopped a British vessel for information. (Midshipman Bagot)
Steaming south all day to protect our troops crossing the Channel to France, very clear day, took ranges on cruiser at 40,000 yards. Stopped and examined tramp steamer, she was empty and flying British flag, expect a submarine or torpedo attack tonight. (Private Stevens)
Distant developments effected the naval war. The Japanese Government send an ultimatum to Germany demanding its evacuation of Tsingtau. A joint British and French squadrons effected a blockade at the entrance to the Adriatic.
Invincible - Portsmouth. / 12.30pm striking down shells, preparing ship for sea. / 9.00pm Excellent’s Experimental party arrived on board.
16th August 1914
The 1BCS was by then deployed some 40 to 50 miles to the southward of Jellicoe’s dreadnoughts, in what was to become a standard sweep and covering arrangement for the massed GF in both its advance, and retiral:
1BCS moved south till about 10am and the fleet retired northwards pretty much in the same order as it had come, leaving the 1BCS and LCS’s to cover the rear. New Zealand encountered a submarine about noon, and we intercepted her signal to Lion, she escaped by altering course away from the danger, and then passed through the submarine’s wake. The Captain and Lieutenant Scholtz on the bridge spotted what they took to be a reflection or flash of a periscope to starboard, and immediately altered course to port, I could see nothing personally. 7.30pm 1BCS steaming north towards Norwegian coast, we ran south and east today apparently to within 80 or 100 miles of the Danish coast. (Major Rooney)
Arrived within 50 miles of German coast in battle formation, 9am nothing doing so turned 16 points and returned, New Zealand sighted submarine. (Midshipman Bagot)
Sunday, still steaming south until noon when we turned and went north, many submarines reported, but run on. (Private Stevens)
This underwater danger was by now quite apparent to all, and those on-board kept an extra vigilant watch. Around one o’clock that afternoon another sighting was made, and shortly afterwards during discussions amongst those involved in the sighting, it was concluded that this was probably a false report. But nevertheless an increased lookout and bridge watch was still mustered while Queen Mary cruised on a defensive zigzag track in these dangerous waters.
Naval action in the Southern Adriatic, the Austro-Hungarian light-cruiser Zenta was sunk by the Allied squadron.
Invincible - Portsmouth and at sea. / 7.00am slipped from North Railway jetty and proceeded out of harbour. / 10.10am connected up conning tower steering gear. / 11.00am exercised General Quarters. / 2.25pm ship not under control due to shifting over steering engine. / 2.57pm resume control. / 6.50pm connected up bridge steering gear. / 7.10pmc onnected up conning tower steering gear.
17th August 1914
Queen Mary closed and interrogated a Swedish vessel about 5am no information, vessel from Newcastle. 1BCS Closed up at 7am and joined BF, moving in westward direction. Control 10.40am to 11.45am, most of the ships of the BF had made use of paint in various forms, to improve their invisibility. Some funnels painted light grey, some chequered, or in strips both horizontal and diagonal, bows in many cases painted white, and turrets and superstructures as well, one quaint turret bore the legend ‘OXO’ in white paint. (Major Rooney)
An interesting aspect concerning this union with the GF that particular morning has been especially noted, and that was the striking appearance of quite a number of its ships. Here was a practical demonstration of quite a number of experimental camouflage ideas and concepts, with a number of different schemes being in evidence on this occasion, producing what must have been a memorable scene to any observer:
Several of BF painted deck work and masts and funnels chequered, returning to harbour to coal. (Midshipman Bagot)
Cruising all day at a very slow speed and widely separated, Fleet assembles, done tactics and dispersed again, stopped and examined tramp steamer, then steamed towards Scapa Flow at various speeds. (Private Stevens)
It was officially reported on this day that the BEF had land safely in France. This had been accomplished without the loss of a single life or pound of stores, an achievement later acknowledged on-board as a significant victory for the Royal Navy. Given the fact that the principal German naval bases were but a few hours’ steaming from these vital supply lines across the Channel.
Invincible - Portsmouth to Dale Roads. / 2.05am alter course to avoid fishing boat. / 2.10 resumed course. / 9.34am course and speed as requisite for firing. / 10.20am entering harbour. / 10.50am anchor in 10 fathoms, banked fires, Excellent party left ship.
18th August 1914
The night was exceedingly dark and nothing could be seen for the greater part of the middle watch, while passing Fair Island, but the luminous wake of Lion, our next ahead. The 1BCS moved in line ahead formation with four ships of the 1BS, the hands of the fleet moving in Divisions somewhere to the rear. Light-cruisers well disposed somewhere on port bow, and destroyers to starboard: About 3am 1BCS detached to Scapa, while the 1BS moved south: 1BCS anchored about 5am and re-coaling started, Queen Mary from Wooton at 6am, 1,500 tons, not a bad collier, good derricks and winches, coaling finished about 6pm. About 1.30pm I saw a picket boat pass with my very excellent brother on-board, so bellowed loudly to attract attention, he came alongside and spent about 4 or 5 hour’s with me, quite a treat and quite unexpected. News of the 1TBD flotilla being chased back from Heligoland by a German cruiser. (Major Rooney)
Arrived at Scapa Flow, prepared for coaling, started coaling at 8am taking in 1,750 tons, also taking in about 200 tons of oil fuel, out net defence at 6.30pm. (Private Stevens)
6.30am arrived Scapa, 7.15am commenced coaling took in 1,500 tons, 6pm finished coaling. An RNVR surgeon in Cyclops shot for spying. Bullfinch destroyer sunk in collision with steamer. BF gone to Loch Ewe a new base because of the spy, BEF land at Boulogne with General French in command: (Midshipman Bagot)
There is no record of a ‘Spy’ being encountered; it was just an unfounded rumour. Obviously today saw a welcome surprise for the Major, and a revealing one at that, when this visitor now helped to solve the observed peculiarities of the old Albermarle, witnessed on the morning of the 15th, detached in apparent isolation away from the mutual security of the main fleet. In passing it was mentioned that this particular vessel had taken her war preparations to the ultimate extreme, with her captain stripping out all wooden fixtures and fittings, even including her teak decking planking, along with her cortisone deck covering elsewhere, and even scrapping her paintwork down to the very minimum surface coat possible.
This veteran had already been called upon to perform a number of independent duties away from the fleet, ranging from lone patrols in the Fair Island passage for enemy mine-layers, to the observed role on the 15th, that of a ‘Stalking horse’ for the 1BS. In this she preceded them effectively clearing a safe path: It was mentioned that she was there to ‘test and locate’ mines, which might have been missed in any previous sweeping. The implications to her in locating any mines was obvious, it was in her very likely sinking. But if this preserved a valuable dreadnought then the exchange would have been deemed worthwhile by those in command.
Later when it became impossible to take the sweepers to sea as their presence was more necessary in the vicinity of the bases. The practice was introduced of placing one of the older battleships of the 6BS ahead of each squadron of the dreadnought fleet in order that these less valuable ships might first discover the mines instead of the dreadnought battleships. The officers and men of the 6BS named their squadron the ‘Mine Bumping Squadron’ on this account. (Admiral Jellicoe)
Rooney’s brother serving on-board the Albemarle raised a pertinent point concerning this role when he contested that a suitably loaded collier or merchantman could have filled such a role. Such a vessel would then possess the pre-dreadnoughts draught and approximate speed of around 17 knots, and was a more expendable lightly manned unit in place of the Albemarle and her large crew. This idea was obviously presented by one individual with more than a passing interest in this subject.
My Darling Mamie. - This is to wish you very, very many happy returns of your birthday, and this is the proudest birthday of your life, when you have three sons fighting for their country, I congratulate you from the bottom of my heart. I got your fifth letter this morning, they have been a joy to me, and I have so far received every one. Did father get the pipe I sent him? I cannot say anything I want to, as all one’s letters are read by officers of the ship, the Chaplain, Surgeons, etc. as censors. Oh, I do wish the Germans would come out of their beastly harbours and let us get at them, they write a lot of insulting stuff about our Navy in their papers and call it ‘The self-confident Armada’, and yet they are aFraid to come out and fight, and by Jove if they do we will give them something they won’t forget. I honestly should not be a bit surprised if we did not fire a single shot the whole war, I don’t have any fear about submarines at all. The people who are going to bear the brunt are the Expeditionary Force. The only thing that troubles me is the cold. I give the war till Christmas; in fact I hope to be at home at Christmas, you know I have never missed one yet, and I cannot afford to break my record: We certainly have been a most happy family, and I pray God that we May all be spared. ‘Lord, while their darts envenomed they are hurling, Thou can’st preserve us. Hymn 214’, I read this every day and put my trust in the God of Battles. One does not know what the next hour May bring, I always hope an action, but it seems a myth, I like to think that I am fighting for you both: ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’. I thank God that I am your son and an Englishman. Your very loving son. Harold (Midshipman Tennyson)
Invincible - Dale Roads (Milford Haven, SW Wales). / 1.30pm hands preparing for coaling. / 8.30pm commenced coaling.
19th August 1914
Today while lying in Scapa Flow, Queen Mary took on provisions, cleaned her boilers and embarked additional ammunition up to her maximum capacity. This routine day was however to prove to be something special, since the hands were soon called upon to clean and paint the ship. As with the dreadnoughts seen in her last sweep, she was to now adopt an experimental deceptive and concealment camouflage pattern to her structure. From his perspective the Major could see the practical purpose behind such an undertaking, and welcomed a deeper appreciation of the move.
All sorts of vivid designs in grey and white, ‘Q’ turrets guns looked like zebras, in all the glory of their stripes, ‘A’ turret like crocodiles, ‘X’ like a chess board, while the funnels look like nothing on earth: Remained in harbour all day, good rest. So the straight line is gradually being eliminated, and the enemy’s range-finders will find only an amorphous mass to deal with instead of the once upon a time trim outline, I think all this is decidedly good and a move in the right direction. It is pleasant to see the old idea of British unbending rigid and conservative formality give place to the dictate of modern common sense, some other little details want altering too, from their antiquated idiotic stereotyped form, let’s hope in time. (Major Rooney)
Still lying at Scapa with nets out, painting ship a light grey and funnels and masts stripped so to make range-finding more difficult. Six aeroplanes arrived, making a base at Scapa. (Midshipman Bagot)
Disfigured ship by painting turrets, funnels masts etc., also bow and stern with light grey paint, when finished cleaned ship. (Private Stevens)
On the continent more significant events where occurring, as the Belgian Army retreated from Gette to Antwerp, and Mulhouse was again retaken by French forces.
Invincible - Dale Roads. / 10.30am finished coaling. / 12.30pm cleaning ship, preparing ship for sea. / 3.55pm weighed and proceeded.
20th August 1914
In harbour all day, Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty came aboard in forenoon, Officers allowed ashore in afternoon, what a treat, 1.30pm to 6pm. An alarm, gunfire and patrol messenger arrived about 3.50pm. All to return to ship, so road was crowded with officers hurrying back, on foot, in motors, buggies, drays, lorries, and bicycles. All unwarranted, saw a smashed Farman biplane on the beach by the new aerial station, smashed to atoms and the pilot pretty well shaken, lucky not killed. Reported that one of our ships he flew over, fired at him, served him right, when will staff learn sense, a distinguishing mark or flag would be so easy to arrange. I returned to Kirkwall and had tea, coming off at 6.30pm with a crowd of somewhat indignant stampeders. Nets to come in at midnight, and 1BCS to sail at 3.45am (21st), I wonder who really is responsible for such unreasonable evolutions. (Major Rooney)
A pen picture of this quite Orkney capital of Kirkwall to emerge has described it as something of a boomtown since the arrival of the fleet, with the local shops well provisioned with all manner of supplies and the streets particularly busy, with civilians, naval and marine officers, along with detachments of Territorial’s Marching through the streets. But on this occasion though, this suspicious unmarked aircraft ashore soon interrupted this desirable leave. This machine could have been one of those, which had so recently arrived at the Flow. Perhaps brand new with obviously no markings yet applied, with its keen young pilot taking his ‘kite’ up for a spin over the fleet, with the unfortunate consequences above.
Leave to officers, not to go out of sight of ship and blue peter general recall. Went ashore to Kirkwall and returned owing to blue peter hoisted, only 3BS sailed. (Midshipman Bagot)
Harbour routine in the forenoon, and went to control drill about 10.30am watch preparations for night defence, all hands piped down, a very foggy night. (Private Stevens)
The 1BCS was destined not to remain at Scapa much longer. It was instructed to leave, and join up with the main BF for exercises.
As Brussels was occupied by German forces, the epic Battle of Gawaiten-Gumbinnen (East Prussia) was enacted.
Invincible - Milford Haven and At sea. / 2.00pm swing ship for adjustment of compasses.
21st August 1914
Midnight, day started by getting in nets, there were many hitches, and it took two-and-a-half hours. At 3.45am the 1BCS weighed in dense fog, blue watch on bridge about 3.55am just as the squadron moved off, Lion leading, only a faintly looming mass was visible ahead, as Lion led the way through Hoxa Sound, at times she was blotted out completely, there were no lights, no noise, no foghorns, only still impenetrable fog. The Captain himself handled the ship, finally Lion turned to port, and Captain Hall gave order ‘10 Starboard’ and immediately after Lion swung away into fog to port. Captain glanced at helm indicator which showed 10 port, the quartermasters’ mistake. We saw no more of Lion that night, and moved independently out of Hoxa. Finally Lion ordered 1BCS to anchor, which was done in thick fog, nets were got out again. New Zealand to be detached to go down to join Invincible on East Coast for some special service, Humber. (Major Rooney)
The dreadnoughts had managed to put to sea from Loch Ewe on the clear West Coast of Scotland the previous evening, but the Orkney based battle-cruisers were now to experience some difficulties in getting out of the Flow to join up with Jellicoe. What happened to the quartermaster on duty has not been recorded, but it is assumed that a ‘talk’ from Captain Hall would have been richly deserved. During the early part of the day the fog did clear sufficiently for Hall to see Lion close ahead and the Princess Royal away to port with land beyond her. After this the fog again closed in for the rest of the day, holding the 1BCS in this awkward limbo just outside Scapa Flow’s defences.
Midshipmen in nets, 3am proceeded in thick fog, 5am anchored with nets out, fog to thick. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weighed anchor at 3.40am with the intention of going to sea, but came over foggy and dropped anchor again at 5am. Was going out to do target practice, fog lifted at 4pm but not clear enough to sail. (Private Stevens)
Invincible - Milford Haven to Deal. / 4.30am entering harbour. / 6.55am stopped, port anchor 6 shackles in 9 fathoms. / 9.00am read articles of war.
22nd August 1914
Eventually the weather slowly improved to enable the 1BCS to continue on her way to her exercise:
Weighed Anchor about 5am and proceeded to sea, towing target for squadron. (Private Stevens)
5.30am proceeded at 18 knots to do full charge 13.5 inch firing, 12.15pm Lion and Princess Royal carried out 13.5 inch and 4 inch firing, shooting very good. (Midshipman Bagot)
In this shoot the practised eye of the Major was to note down some professional points, a projectile phenomenon, and his extreme disappointment at not joining in:
Got in nets during the night, and went to sea about 6am to do full charge firing, the 13.5 inch were very good, four rounds per gun, in each ship however one gun appeared 500 to 800 yards over pretty frequently. Still at a range of 7,000 to 8,000 yards practically all hits, first time I have actually seen the projectile passing before it struck, I only spotted it on one occasion. Remarkably low flight after ricochet, which was frequently visible, and made me inclined to think that a 150 to 200 yard short must have a pretty fair chance of getting aboard a ship somewhere. Signal from flag, that Queen Mary had delayed the firing half-an-hour, and that she should not fire in consequence, but was to pick-up targets. This when all was quite ready, seemed un-necessary, besides there was no apparent cause, as a delay to hoist the blue ensign by Queen Mary was due to Lion being foul of range. Anyway, packed-up, and wandering off now, goodness knows were. (Major Rooney)
Invincible - Deal. / 1.00am watch at Night Defence stations. / 4.45am weighed and proceeded. / 10.30am exercised action. / 6.07pm came to anchor. / 6.45pm collier Kilmato alongside. / 8.40pm commenced coaling.
23rd August 1914
in Belgium the BEF undertook its first major clash against the German First Army at Mons. Prior to its stubborn and dogged retreat to the Marne lasting until the 5th of the following month: Jellicoe’s dreadnoughts were in the North Sea in support of the various cruiser patrols, as Beatty’s battle-cruiser operated with light-cruisers from the 1LCS, and armoured-cruiser of the 2CS and 6CS.
Sunday, moved out towards Norwegian coast, then up and down a sweep course north and south, with a patrol line of light-cruisers to southward: Blowing very hard till nightfall then became very calm. Submarines reported to be about 60 miles to east of Pentland Firth, a spot to avoid. (Major Rooney)
Cruising all day but nothing sighted, weather clear and fine. (Private Stevens)
Position east of Scotland: Noon Japan declares war on Germany, BEF in action, held ground against Germans at Mons. (Midshipman Bagot)
In the southern North Sea the Germans again carried out a sortie by light-craft. It was this and their similar sweep on the 21st that now decided the Admiralty to adopt a plan of retaliation to raid the enemy’s patrols. The first move in what would eventually evolve into the Battle of Heligoland Bight, and bring Queen Mary into her first action had been taken.
The Battle of Mons, and Battles of the Western Front began. The German airship Z.8 was shot down in the Vosges. The epic Battle of Tannenberg began. As Japan finally declared war on Germany.
Invincible - Grimsby. 12.25am commenced coaling. / 5.00am finished coaling recd. 800 tons. / 9.00am New Zealand arrived.
24th August 1914
Calm morning, so Queen Mary aired bedding, then went to control, course to southward 1BCS line abreast, and zigzagging course every 15 minutes. A signal made at 3pm stated that some ‘move’ was contemplated by someone or other, and that coal was to be husbanded as much as possible, and recourse to oil fuel to insure this. (Major Rooney)
Bright clear day cruising all day in a northern direction, later turned and steamed south: (Private Stevens)
Patrolling North Sea backing up light-cruisers which are shadowing Alsacian / Alsatian (armed merchant cruiser) which is close to Norwegian coast trying to draw German ships. (Midshipman Bagot)
The British Army retreated from Mons, as the Battle of Charleroi and the Battle of the Ardennes ended.
Invincible - Grimsby.
25th August 1914
The Rooney now gives a good account of the general squadron deployment and sweeping routine undertaken by Beatty. Before he joined up with Jellicoe that evening, all in rather markedly pleasing weather conditions:
Moved southward into North Sea, all three battle-cruisers spread but encountered nothing, dead calm, a beautiful sunny day very unlike war. Steam for 18 knots and for 24 knots at one hour’s notice, so undoubtedly in hourly expectation of meeting with large game. Lieutenant Cowan was sent to board a Norwegian steamer. Sat atop ‘A’ and wrote letters and diary in the afternoon sun, 1BCS slowly closing for the night bound northwards again. Expect to coal if nothing happens shortly, our present duty consists of sweeping southwards during the day and lumbering north again at nightfall. Nothing at present disturbs the monotony, a very fine evening, very nearly dead calm, 1BCS closed the BS about 7pm two trawlers were also in sight, and apparently were not examined, no further interest, moved away to westward: (Major Rooney)
Early on there had been the expectation of something special with the move south, but all they had confronted that day had been the neutral merchantman:
Still steaming south during forenoon, altered course and steamed northeast, 3.20pm stopped and examined steamer. (Private Stevens)
3pm heave to Swedish steamer sent out a boarding party in cutter to inspect her, boarding party armed with cutlasses and revolvers, found correct, told to carry on. 11pm I kept lookout on foc’le owing to thick fog, had to follow Lion by her wash, used megaphone to direct Captain on bridge. (Midshipman Bagot)
Again the wisdom of such a stop and search policy, which could have been undertaken by a destroyer instead of a valuable battle-cruiser was openly discussed. After what had proved to be a remarkably fine day the North Sea again proved capricious, as the visibility deteriorated later that evening.
Invincible - Grimsby. / 9.00pm watch to Night Defence station.
26th August 1914
As the BEF in France making a stand at Le Chateau, on-board Queen Mary early this Wednesday morning, the crew were soon to experience sudden drama during an encounter in the blanketing fog. In this the Major’s diary captures the sight and sounds of the event in a very graphic fashion:
About 1.30am having run into impenetrable fog, we encountered a number of the fishing fleet, British. It was next to impossible to follow Lion next ahead, in spite of her towing fog buoy. She narrowly missed ramming a trawling steamer and altered course just in time, as the steamer was passed close on the starboard beam and got in astern of Lion and across her towing buoy, bleating dolefully on her siren. As Queen Mary loomed up suddenly into view, the most pitiful cries of terror arose from the trawler and wakened everybody up in ‘A’ turret. Answering shouts came from our fore bridge, orders to ‘Go ahead, Go ahead’ which the trawler with her net in tow failed to do effectively. She had two lights glowing brilliantly enough in the fog and a mainsail set, which flapped about in the open panic which had overtaken her. It seemed impossible to avoid cutting her down and in the searchlights rays, now switched on, showed her dead in our path, as Queen Mary crept up closer and closer. Apparently the helm of Queen Mary did just answer in time, and the trawler scraped down our port side, a screaming, shouting, praying jumble, men falling over one another like ants. It was only just clear and from where I stood, I could have sworn it would have been finished for her. The Captain was on the bridge and took charge, apparently saving the situation with consummate skill. Tooting now came from all directions as other lights loomed by, but thank goodness nothing so close. Shouts and sirens in the middle of the night do not have such a disconcerting effect now as one might suppose. We turned in rather grumbling that trawlers should have been such fools, and they’d got off dammed cheap, and that it would have served them right if they had had some paint knocked off for being so stupid. (Major Rooney)
This personal account of this potentially serious encounter in the fog is also noteworthy because of its praise of Hall’s handling of his charge, in yet another achievement by this fine officer.
3am still thick fog, squadron nearly ran down three trawlers which had passed along the ship’s side. Crew got quite excited and engineer came on deck, so (trawler) Captain could not work his engines. (Midshipman Bagot)
With the situation now resolved, those on-board could now afford to be detached from the scene and present a caustic conclusion, since no serious damage had been done. The Major turned in, but he was soon up again for the morning watch as the squadron closed upon the difficult waters approaching Scapa Flow, a fact which might have flavoured his choice comments above. Now related was to be the arrival of a welcome addition to the GF, a powerful vessel of unusual lines and features.
To the bridge at 3.55am a raw wet foggy morning, three BS ahead. The new purchase hove in sight about 5am, Agincourt a weird looking structure, seven turrets on the centre line, 12 inch and a secondary armament of twenty-four 6 inch, also a third military mast amidships. We now joined up with the dreadnought squadrons of the First Fleet and moved to Wick, which we passed, then on up the swept channel to Hoxa Sound: Close under the imposing cliffs at Duncansby Head we passed the collier Cedar Tree ashore, back-broken and apparently quite hopeless, no one aboard and not the place to lose a ship. The current was ferocious and threw all our squadron out of station in turn, as they arrived in the race. Got into Hoxa, pursued by a cloud of fog only just in time. We anchored at 6am and the collier Knightsgarth came along almost at once, she was a large roomy 4,000 toner, single derricks so we had some rigging to do, took in about 1,600 tons, finished about 6pm. (Major Rooney)
The mate of the collier from Cardiff, apparently a well filled gentleman, had much information and gossip to impart. Ranging from his experiences in actually getting to Scapa by hugging the East Coast, to how well or badly other ships coaled and their crew’s abilities in this evolution.
Arrived Scapa Flow 6am very foggy, started coaling at 8am taking in 1,600 tons finished at 6pm out nets. (Private Stevens)
7.30am arrived at Scapa, 8am coaled 1,600 tons, finished coaling at 7.30pm. (Midshipman Bagot)
After their recent spell of sweeps in a wide variety of weather conditions, as well as the days coaling, the crew of Queen Mary might have welcomed a rest. This was not to be:
Hopes of a night in harbour dashed by signal at 8.50pm to 1BCS, to move out and prepare for action at once. (Major Rooney)
The 1BCS, attached 1LCS, and one-half of the 4DF, were to begin preparations to set out, arriving at a point latitude 54.6 north and longitude 6.30 east by 7am on the 28th, deep into supposedly German home waters:
It looks as if something was in the air, anyhow we all hope so. (Midshipman Tennyson)
Naval action off the Aaland Islands, the German light-cruiser Magdeburg was run-ashore by a Russian squadron, with the subsequent salvaging of her codes proving to be of inestimable value to British Naval Intelligence. There was an action between the old light-cruiser Highflyer and German armed merchant cruiser Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse off the Rio de Oro, the latter being sunk.
Invincible - Grimsby. / 5.00am weighed and proceeded. / 9.30am carried out firing with practice and three-quarter change from all 12in guns. Carried out firing with service practice from 4in guns. / 2.46pm came to anchor. / 5.30pm weighed and proceeded, entering Humber River. / 6.14pm came to anchor.
27th August 1914
In net defence at 3am left harbour at 5am steaming 12 knots southeast, should have taken in more Lyddite but cancelled. (Private Stevens)
Since the outbreak of war British submarines had been observing the routine enemy patrols in the Heligoland Bight. A plan was now launched to manoeuvre the 1/3DF from Harwich, to a point some thirty miles southeast of the Horn Reefs lightship off the Danish coast under cover of night. Then at 4am head south towards Heligoland, and at 8am commence their westward sweep of the Bight on a deployed seven mile front, rolling up the German trawlers and torpedo-boat screen.
Although this operation had been arranged to bank upon the heavy ships of the HSF being tide bound behind the River Jade’s outer bar until noon, capital ship involvement was deemed necessary. So the Invincible and New Zealand (Cruiser Force K) from the Humber, along with Beatty’s three strong squadron were called upon to provide close cover, with Jellicoe at sea in distant support, just in case elements of Von Ingenohl’s BF were at sea. The Major by reading through all the information he was privy to, or written-up afterwards, arrived at his journals version of the operation then unfolding.
General sweep to southward, the 1BCS in support of the light-cruisers and destroyers. This is a reconnaissance in force of the Heligoland Bight, with the object of covering a landing operation of a Brigade of Marines under General Sir George Astor RMA, which has been ordered to land tonight at Ostend: It appears to me that the German outpost vessels off Heligoland are to be engaged in force by the 1BCS under Beatty, to keep them employed during operation. (Major Rooney)
This 3,000 strong marine expedition mentioned above was to be covered directly by the elderly pre-dreadnoughts of both the 5/7BS, and attached supporting ships from the Channel Fleet and Dover Patrol.
Gunnery Lieutenant gave small lecture on distinguishing enemies’ ship’s, as probably we will meet them tomorrow. Austria declares war on Japan. (Midshipman Bagot)
Jellicoe’s dreadnoughts put to sea that evening, to provide distant cover for the 1BCS in case enemy capital ships had venture out. While on-board Queen Mary preparations for the by then confidently expected clash progressed, as the North Sea showed its kinder face that day to Beatty’s advancing battle-cruisers.
A glorious day, we steamed along at 19 knots for Heligoland, with the light-cruisers and destroyers ahead. We got a signal to say no shaded light-signals were to be made at all during the night, as it is of the utmost importance that the Germans should not find out our position. At 5pm the Captain had all the officers, turret-layers and trainers in, and explained to them the plan of attack. We were to steam south southeast for Heligoland; when within 15 miles of it i.e. at 8am turn up and steam parallel to the German coast. Meanwhile the submarines, followed by our latest and fastest destroyers were to go and try to draw out their cruisers towards us, our light-cruisers being 10 miles ahead of us. It really looks at last as if we are going to get some fun. (Midshipman Tennyson)
This detailed note of the overall operation by this individual in a pre-battle briefing is of interest, especially in his mention of friendly submarines, general deployment of forces and envisaged scope of the operation. By all accounts on the day itself, confusion and recognition problems were to be the norm, with the British battle-cruisers, cruisers, destroyers and submarines, quite often in ignorance of each other’s participation in the foray, compounded by some serious mistakes being made in the basic execution of the operation.
The British Royal Marines land at Ostend, accompanied by a RNAS unit, as Lille was occupied by German cavalry.
Invincible - Grimsby and At sea. / 10.10am shortened in. / 10.30am weighed and proceeded. / 10.35am formed single line ahead. / 5.15pm mine reported from aft.
28th August 1914 - Battle of the Heligoland Bight
Dawn of a day of no small adventure. (Major Rooney)
Shortly to follow saw Queen Mary’s intervention in what was to become a mist shrouded and confused close-in action, fought off the fortified German island of Heligoland: It should be emphasised here that I will not repeat this already well known story in any great detail again, instead it is desired in this work to try and present these events as seen from the often obscured and impaired perspective of principally Queen Mary, with all its accepted restrictions and confusion about what was to actually transpire, for those on-board her on this memorable day.
In this approach obviously some witnessed events, times and their relationships are in error in different accounts. But this was afterall how her crew perceived these incidents at the time, and not with the clarity bestowed by hindsight granted to later authors, covering the ebb and flow of this confused clash at a much later date. Coverage here will endeavour to deal primarily with the human side of this meaningful event, and in this respect Major Rooney, Midshipmen Bagot and Tennyson, along with Private Stevens, and some other participants in accompanying ships. Can all be relied upon to now provide some fascinating images and impressions about this jumbled encounter in the mists off Heligoland.
The following accounts from these various active participants are now presented here in chronological order, breaking up each overall account and merging them together to envelop specific events from various angles. From this one can now draw upon to see how bewildering a melee this encounter actually was to those who fought in it. This bafflement is quite apparent in these contemporary diary and journal entries, which were evidently filled in just after the event. All completed after a certain degree of subsequent talk with colleagues and composed with the inevitable rumours concerning certain aspects of the clash included. But this basic material is the stuff from which a very human empathy about this action can be efficiently gauged.
New Zealand and Invincible join 1BCS at dawn, making five battle-cruisers, night pitch dark. (Major Rooney)
4am rendezvous with New Zealand and Invincible also destroyers. (Midshipman Bagot)
4am Invincible, New Zealand, and submarines joined up. (Midshipman Tennyson)
3.59am: Sighted first Battle Cruiser Squadron.
4.45am: Took station on starboard beam of Lion 17kts. (Invincible’s Log)
After this union with the Humber Force, the battle-cruisers altered course to the southeast from their rendezvous point and increased speed to 17 knots. An hour later a more south-westerly track was undertaken and the speed reduced to 16 knots again, then at about 6.15am; a defensive zigzag course was commenced during this waiting phase. As an indication of the poor conditions then prevailing the noted maximum visibility at the time was in the region of 5 miles, but more usually it was just around 3,000 yards.
It was under such conditions on-board Queen Mary just before 7am, and one presumes every other ship in the squadron, wireless transmissions were picked up from the raiding Harwich Force under Commodore Tyrwhitt to the south, indicated that his light units were then engaging German torpedo-boats. The fight was on.
To the south, the Arethusa and Fearless expanded this early action with a sharp engagement around 8am against the German light-cruisers Stettin and Frauenlob, supporting their torpedo-boats. Close to the fortified island of Heligoland, behind which and under whose guns the Germans now quickly retired.
8am hands shift into fighting rig, I had a good breakfast as perhaps my last, news that destroyers are in action with enemy. (Midshipman Bagot)
8am I went on watch at the fore control, it was a lovely day, and now that our line has been made up to five we ought to be able to settle anything except mines. piped ‘hands clean into fighting rig’. (Midshipman Tennyson)
8am found us at the appointed rendezvous, commenced to cruise along to the eastward, with a screen of our light-cruisers ahead, and destroyers, which by this time must be getting very close to Heligoland: (Major Rooney)
8.15am: alter course S1/4 E Course and speed as requisite for bringing enemies vessel to action. Noon Firing heard to eastward. (Invincible’s Log)
By 8.26am the 1BCS was in a line ahead formation some 600 yards apart, with their anti-submarine zigzag track over the next hour undertaken at a speed of 18 knots. But they were not advancing towards Heligoland; instead the battle-cruisers continued marking time to the northwest of the light ship action in the Bight, ready at an instant to support their exposed nimble units if required. Another participant in these slowly unfolding events, the author of ‘A Naval Digression’, serving on-board the Invincible, has left his impression of this early waiting phase of the day.
Meanwhile we with our four consorts had remained in the background, the time passed slowly and though everyone was itching to know exactly what was happening, all we could do was to possess our souls in patience. At a quarter to eight the action bugle had sounded and we dashed to our fighting stations, hoping that the next half-hour or so would see us in the thick of the ‘real thing’. But in that we were doomed to disappointment, it was only a routine practice; the stage manager was merely making a final survey of his properties. Round and round we went in circles, a feather of steam from the quivering safety valves showing that nothing more than the order would be needful for us to be off at full speed and into the Fray, the waiting was maddening. (Franklin)
About an hour later the squadron was moved slightly southward at 20 knots, closer into the area of operation, with the vanguard screen of the 1LCS’s deployed ahead. Well in advance of them a picket line of destroyers was strung out across the battle-cruisers expected line of passage. Now with this move south, the envisaged underwater threat began to assume considerable significance in virtually every account. Soon sighting reports from various units were to both highlight the concern felt by all to this threat, and the desperate measures such reports instigated.
Queen Mary went to general quarters about 9am, a submarine or report of or an attack by submarines was evidently made about 9,30am for the whole squadron altered course in various directions. The New Zealand and Lion fired promiscuously but I could see nothing. Lion zigzagged in a marvellous manner, giving one the impression that she was not under control. One spread of torpedoes passed close to Queen Mary, drifting mines also encountered and a great deal of skill required to pass the same. Lion, Queen Mary and Princess Royal now moved at speed to westward, while the New Zealand and Invincible to eastward, all were on the lookout for submarine craft. (Major Rooney)
Six bells had just struck when we got our first thrill, suddenly and most unexpectedly to the group of officers on deck, the 4 inch guns on the superstructure opened fire and the Padre, who was standing close by and nearly underneath one lost his hat, his hearing almost, and altogether had a shock of his life. Submarines had appeared, but all their attacks were frustrated, though we ourselves had one anxious moment when a torpedo passed under our stern, so very close. (Franklin)
10am sounded off ‘action’, New Zealand and Invincible sight submarines, we were apparently among a hotbed of them and we increase to full speed, periscopes were being seen all over the place. They fired torpedoes and I saw one break surface and float on our port hand: The destroyers were chasing them like rabbits, Lion firing a 4 inch at one. We got news that our destroyers ahead were engaged in a destroyer action, 10.30am got clear of submarines, secured turrets and manned 4 inch, kept a sharp lookout for submarines and mines. (Midshipman Tennyson)
9.30am general quarters, full speed chasing two German cruisers, 10.30am formed up with LCS going full speed to avoid submarines, New Zealand fired at submarine, New Zealand and Invincible detached to chase submarine. (Midshipman Bagot)
On-board Lion, Lieutenant Sullivan RM was to pass on a good description of the observed mine menace now detected, and the measures the flagship now arranged to counter it:
Encountered many mines on the approach south and sixteen Marines forward opened fire with rifles upon the buoys, the mines were suspended from these. They sank about seven of these spherical green buoys, sea coloured so difficult to see, passed about twenty floating fairly buoyant.
Reports from the now hard pressed Harwich Force off Heligoland, now began to indicate the deteriorating situation to the south, resulting in Beatty now detaching the 1LCS from the 1BCS to render immediate support to Tyrwhitt. One of these urgent signals appeared to have identified the presence of the large armoured-cruiser Roon, which if this was the case, made it seem very likely that she was an advance unit of a powerful enemy heavy force. If this was so, only Beatty could now prevent the Harwich Force from being overwhelmed and annihilated by the presumably heavier enemy one now closing upon the scene. Repeated urgent calls for assistance from off Heligoland were received as the Harwich Force encountered stiffening German cruiser and torpedo-boat opposition soon decided the issue. At 11.35am Beatty’s battle-cruisers headed towards the action, now ready to deliver the Harwich Force from the envisaged growing German threat.
A splendid day, spirit of everyone extraordinarily good, all excitement. An impressive sight to see the 1BCS steaming 27 knots cleared for action, water on the decks, everyone on top of the turrets looking for enemy, 11.30am closed up again, 11.45am loaded 13.5 inch and brought to ready, chasing German cruisers two in number. (Midshipman Bagot)
The weather now got very hazy and we could scarcely see our screen. Presently firing to port was heard and flashes showed up through the haze, were destroyers were evidently heavily engaged, signals confirmed this, that they were in contact with light hostile cruisers. (Major Rooney)
11.40am firing ahead, sounded off ‘Action’, a thick haze seemed to close in all round and we lost sight of our light-cruisers ahead, most sickening luck this haze and for coming on. (Midshipman Tennyson)
The perceived action ahead was centred around the enemy light-cruiser Mainz, which now found herself heavily engaged by several units of the advance 1LCS. This solitary German unit had been caught in a very exposed and unenviable position, with British units apparently all around her closing in for the kill. But she was to display a degree of stubborn resistance that was to be the hallmark of the German cruisers that day. From an un-named officer on-board the beleaguered Mainz:
Masses of smoke were suddenly seen from three Birmingham class cruisers (1LCS), the Mainz turned hard a starboard as their salvoes fell close aboard, but she soon received her first hit. Our fire was directed on these new opponents as we headed south-sou-west at 25 knots making heavy smoke.
Further light German reinforcements were by then arriving piece-meal in the waters off Heligoland: By around noon the light-cruisers Koln, Stralsund, Danzig, Ariadne along with the Kolberg and Hela, were all gathering in the general area, individual and dispersed but still a potentially serious threat to the now damaged ships of the Harwich Force.
But now closing from the north lay the Harwich Force’s salvation, when at 12.04pm ‘action’ was sounded off in Queen Mary. The 1BCS now advanced cautiously at a speed of 18 knots, with the ships in line 600 yards, 3 cables, apart, in the order of Lion in the lead, then Queen Mary with the Princess Royal in the rear. The slower Invincible and New Zealand had by then fallen some 2 miles behind the 1BCS, but they were still in touch, and would soon make their own contribution to the destruction that was to follow. To the Major ensconced within the silent cabinet to the rear of ‘A’ turret, the confused scene began to resolve itself through his periscope.
Eventually line was formed, and the 1BCS entered the scene of action about 12.58pm, haze was very thick and there was extreme difficulty in distinguishing friend from foe. Three distinct centres of action were apparent, on either bow and ahead. Presently a double line of destroyers with clearly distinguishable bow waves, bore down on the 1BCS out of the mist to port; it looked distinctly like an attacking force. But it turned out to be some of our flotilla at full speed, evidently retreating before a superior force of the enemy, they altered course and passed astern of us. (Major Rooney)
In a further supplementary diary entry in the week that followed, he expanded upon his impressions about this first encounter.
First views of the fight were flashes from guns on port bow, and a number of destroyers in two columns bore down on us from about red four-zero. I had to ask the transmitting station for an object, as these vessels appeared from their course and speed to be attacking, however Lion did not fire and the transmitting station answered ‘no object’, so I kept them in view and trained towards them for a time, until I realised they were our flotilla of destroyers being driven in. They now altered course along our port side and passed astern in fair order, I looked in vain for a long time for signs of damage, until I found one blown in bridge and another with a steam pipe shot away. (Major Rooney)
To these hard-pressed British destroyers the arrival of the 1BCS was memorable, as Lieutenant Oswald Frewen on-board one of them later wrote:
There straight ahead of us in lovely procession, like elephants walking through a pack of ‘Pi-dogs’, came our battle-cruisers, great and grim and uncouth as some antediluvian monsters, how solid they looked, how utterly earth-quaking. We pointed out our latest aggressors to them and they passed down the field of battle, and we went west while they went east, and a little later we heard the thunder of their guns.
Queen Mary now came upon the final act in the demise of the gallant Mainz:
We could scarcely see 4,000 yards but we trained on the port bow, and I saw one of our cruisers fighting the enemy, so I imagined, as I saw the flashes of two ships firing at each other. Soon there were two lots of flashes coming in our direction, a ship was chasing three of our destroyers, who were leading her on to us, I could see no ship but just flashes through the range-finder as it was so hazy. We steamed at full speed in their direction (of the 1LCS), and soon a hull of some sort loomed on the starboard bow, she was a two-funnel German of the Eclipse class, her mainmast and her after-funnel had gone and she was belching with flames amidships, the light-cruisers had settled her, he had surrendered. (Midshipman Tennyson)
To starboard, a derelict German light-cruiser with one funnel standing, the other two had fallen in a mass over on one beam, likewise the main mast had gone over the portside, and lay on the crumpled fighting top. The vessel was on fire amidships and appeared to be uninhabitable and plainly in a sinking condition. (Major Rooney)
From another contemporary British account from an unnamed witness, a different perspective of the Mainz’s demise brought this telling scene:
The fire amidships had made two of the funnels red-hot and flames and smoke poured out of her, her port side was like a sieve, every gun was smashed and bent, some looking round corners, some on their sides, in fact her whole upper deck was chaos. The fore-bridge was a tangled mass of ironwork, while the wire stays from the foremast were swinging in the air, what she was like inside, heaven knows.
This light-cruiser and destroyer barrage had swamped the crippled Mainz, but not before she had inflicted damaging hits to the destroyers Laurel (later to play a significant part in rescuing Queen Mary’s survivors at Jutland), Liberty and Laertes in return. A sure sign of the quality of her crew under such an onslaught, an aspect of her capabilities that was to be fully recognised and noted by her attackers.
We passed within a couple of 100 yards of her and the only living beings on the upper deck were one man on the quarter deck and what looked like a couple of officers standing under what had been the fore-bridge. (Young, Lion)
The Mainz was immensely gallant, the last I saw of her absolutely wrecked alone and aloft, her whole amidships a fuming inferno, she had one gun forward and one aft still spitting forth fury and defiance, like a wild cat with wounds. (Frewen)
Two cruisers stood by to fire the ‘Coup de Grace’; the German ensign still hung from the stump of the foremast. We did not waste a shot on her, but passed on to the further scene of action, I did not observe any persons on-board Mainz when passing; there were apparently many who were afterwards taken prisoners when vessel sank, she was torpedoed twice. (Major Rooney)
Her fire had now ceased and her colours were invisible, we did not open fire, as she burst into flames. We were ordered to turn round and we heard Lion fire. (Midshipman Tennyson)
Queen Mary sped past the floundering Mainz at a range of about 800 to 1,000 yards, without expending a single shot on the wreck. Unlike Lion, which apparently had thought it necessary to dispatched a salvo into the Mainz as she passed. From an account of this encounter related by Seaman Bowen on-board the Princess Royal, in conversation later with the ship plumber who had been in the blacksmith’s shop during the action. The Mainz had a sting in her tail for the flagship, which might have just brought about Lion’s mighty response.
It was very misty and at first I could see nothing but flashes of their guns, and then out of the mist came one of the enemy cruisers in a sinking condition, we left her on our starboard side; she fired a parting shot at us as we passed. (Bowen)
Passed Mainz in sinking condition on starboard side with destroyer in attendance. (Midshipman Bagot)
From a seaman on-board one of the British destroyers now descending upon the wreck to save the cruiser's crew:
We went alongside the Mainz just before she sank and it was an awful sight, we got 224 prisoners in a most terrible state and most of them died, our decks were red with blood. The worst job of all was getting them out of the sea, some of them had legs and arms shot away, battered to pieces, the Captain remained behind, having both legs shot away.
It was a matter of some ironic coincidence that the Birmingham of the 1LCS closely involved in this phase of the action, had met the Mainz just a month before in very different circumstances:
Birmingham was the light-cruiser which did so brilliantly, by a strange chance of fate the vessel she sank, happened to be her chummy ship of a month before, during the BS visit to Kiel. Among the prisoners taken some nine officers, were their hosts of Kiel, all dammed good fellows, they were indeed a sad remnant. (Major Rooney)
Shortly after passing by the Mainz Queen Mary was to open fire in anger for the first time:
A cruiser with three funnels, two masts and colours flying, came steaming into view on the port bow, evidently intent on pursuing some British destroyers. Upon sighting the 1BCS however she at once turned her guns on and engaged Lion, our next ahead. (Major Rooney)
A graphic indication of what it must have been like for those striving deep within Queen Mary’s armoured-citadel as she now opened fire, can be gauged from an account of this phase of the action in the Princess Royal’s ‘A’ turret magazine:
We had not long to wait, bang went our right gun and with a rattling clatter down came the carriage for another round: Bang went our left gun and a terrible din followed, which I then took to be our funnels and masts clattering down on the deck, but which I found later was caused by the descending gun cage of the left gun and the cage and rammer of the right gun. Bang, bang off went both guns almost simultaneously, the shaft trembled and a rush of air swept through the handling room. Then shots began to fall on our port side, a good deal short at first, but gradually nearer, till some fell between ourselves and Queen Mary. (Bowen)
This new enemy vessel was initially identified as the Augsberg, but she was in fact the 4.1 inch gunned Koln the flagship of Konteradmiral Leberecht Mass, the commander of the cruiser and torpedo-boat patrols in the Bight.
Her shots fell remarkably short, Lion answered with 13.5 inch, and Queen Mary quickly got her bearing and opened fire with ‘A’ and ‘B’ turrets. The German at once altered course and headed straight for us, a mad course to pursue, although it made her a very difficult target, I was uncertain at first in the mist, as to whether she had altered course away from us. (Major Rooney)
1pm we fired our first salvo with a range of 8,000 yards and a cheer went up with our first gun, one seemed to take it in the spirit of a football match. We never saw that salvo fall, it must have gone over the German coast somewhere. (Midshipman Tennyson)
12.58pm first gun fired, salvo commenced, 1pm right gun out of action owing to lock jam, 1.05pm right gun all right again, 1.10pm check fire, shift target, one cruiser sunk. (Midshipman Bagot)
12.50pm: Lion opened fire, passed cruisers out of action, nationality not known. (Invincible’s Log)
It is noted that Commander Llewelyn praised Petty Officer Francis, in ‘X’ turret aft, for achieving a hit against the Koln with his third round in local turret control. In Lion Lieutenant Sullivan RM stated that the Marines in ‘Q’ turret performed their duties very efficiently:
As if it were an ordinary battle practice.
But from a later conversation with this officer, Rooney was also able to make a note about the flagships gunnery:
With reference to shorts, it transpires that one turret in Lion got constant shorts owing to gun layers using periscope stops down instead of having it up, so as to use the sighting telescope for aiming. (Major Rooney)
Another contemporary account from Lion describes her gunners scribbling on their shells such messages as ‘One for the Kaiser’, ‘Love from England’, and other such pleasantries. One can also see those of Queen Mary being similarly treated, before their point blank dispatch into the soon to be floundering wreck of the Koln.
All the time she was firing at a tremendous pace, flash upon flash, with her quick-firing guns, before our next salvo I got a range out 6,000 yards and as we came down 2,000 yards, she kept on firing but I saw none of her shot’s fall. (Midshipman Tennyson)
The Koln’s course of action was to have only one result as she was now effectively caught between Beatty’s BCF and the Humber force. The Invincible did managed to fire at the Koln for a brief spell with eighteen rounds without observed results, but now chased her onto the guns of the 1BCS and certain destruction.
Smoke haze and spray now completely obscured her and through the murk her guns kept up a fire, for the most part falling short of Lion. As we rapidly closed from an opening range of 5,700 yards to 4,000 yards, many of our gun layers apparently fired at the flashes of her guns. The Princess Royal astern now joined in and her salvo falls to target right from our point of view, she now swung round and her guns opened on Queen Mary falling short, but approaching by degrees. Some of the shells burst in a black cloud upon striking the water a few apparently passed overhead. Their shorts explode prettily upon striking the water, throwing up a plume shaped splash, with a black jet core, very much like our Lyddite when properly detonated. One shot from ‘A’ turret fell on base of fore bridge, burst with terrific effect, setting fire instantly. Immediately afterwards a terrific salvo from Queen Mary pitched on her side amidships and evidently hulled by four out of the five shells. She disappeared from view for a long time, the blast of flame produced by the Lyddite shells was succeeded by a great mass of black and yellow smoke which covered her like a pall for several minutes. (Major Rooney)
Our fist shots passed her forward turret clean over the side, the second and third passed one of her funnels over the side. After this two or three struck her under the bridge and she commenced to burn fiercely amidships and then settle down. For the next ten minutes they kept us going as hard as we could go, everyone was merry and we were singing ‘See them shuffle along’ which was most inappropriate. We were singing I know, because I felt my mouth moving, but what with the discharge of the guns, the clang of the hoists, cages and rammer’s and the medley of voices shouting up and down various voice pipes, which, by the way sounded very hollow and uncanny, we could not hear a word we were singing. (Bowen, Princess Royal)
Her shells were whistling over our heads and seemed to pass about a foot off the control tower, while several quick-firing guns dropped short. One pitched short of Queen Mary and seems as if it must hit, but it ricocheted straight over us. We were now going full speed and we checked fire until we could see and I could get another range and I got one 5,000 yards, then we let drive. The guns went off practically as one and we heard a sort of deep thud as the whole lot hit her amidships, God knows what they must have suffered, poor devils at that range getting a broadside of 13.5 inch, it must have gone half through them. Before this when I got the range out, I saw her distinctly, she looked like a Drake class, only with three funnels but she May have had four to start with: After this she only had two and the fourth turret, I believe was knocked right out of her. I was surprised to see her still going on firing with five or six guns, I got the range and we opened another salvo. The third salvo land on her fo’c’sle and enveloped it in flames as they burst, bridge and conning tower had ceased to exist, she was steaming now straight for us instead of running away as at first and the range was about 3,600 yards, as her steering gear had evidently gone. (Midshipman Tennyson)
Simultaneous with the last broadside from Queen Mary a curious detonation shook the ship, as if one of the enemy’s shells had struck home somewhere. If so this was apparently her only hit upon Queen Mary and must have expended itself harmlessly against her armour with minimal visible results, and inflicting no material damage. Possibly it was the received pulse of a nearby underwater detonation, perhaps a detonating magazine or bursting boiler of her opponent:
Various remarks were made about it below, to the effect ‘That’s got us’, ‘Its put out lights’, but apparently exaggerated. (Major Rooney)
The valiant Koln had hit Lion with negligible results, upon her stoutly armoured structure. But as if seeking to continue this one-sided exchange, the floundering elderly light-cruiser now swung around to starboard to present her up until then disengaged side, continually lashing out at the mighty battle-cruisers with her few remaining guns.
Still firing gamely, when a 13.5 inch from ‘A’ struck her below her forecastle turret and instantly set her on fire, leaving a glowing rent very visible. Another waterline hit followed and she commenced to settle by the stern, her main topmast went over, followed by two funnels, the foremost two leaning together like drunken men. She was now a pitiable sight, and the 1BCS steamed on and firing ceased. The gallant little craft reopened fire with a single gun from somewhere upon our overwhelming force, Lion responded with a simple ranging 13.5 inch which fell slightly, short, this was immediately followed by an overpowering salvo which fairly broke the vessel in two. When the smoke cleared her stern was deep in the water and she slowly lifted her ram turning over ever so slowly on her starboard beam and sank stern first at an angle of 30 degrees, with her ensign bravely fluttering to the last. Very quickly she sank, there was no explosion of boilers, she must have been riddled from end to end, no life, no movement, only a few bubbles, never was anything so infinitely sad. (Major Rooney)
We were now within 3,000 yards, she had one gun left and she had fired it, and her colours were there nailed to the mast, Lion gave her three shots. The foremast slowly fell over, she seemed to ‘yaw’ over by the foremast, as the decks must have been cleft open to let the mast go from the step as it did. Her bows got lower and lower and then she slid forward and gradually disappeared, her colours still flying. Her stern remained above water a few seconds, with the propellers still going round, there were a lot of bubbles as she disappeared, the was a second Revenge. They could have surrendered without firing that last taunting shot at Lion and hoisting her colours again at the main with five battle-cruisers round her. She sank in less than two minutes after Lion’s third shot and I could never have believed a ship of 5,000 tons could sink so quickly, I watched her go down and it was a most awful sight, those brave, brave fellows, their name should live forever. (Midshipman Tennyson)
With the dramatic demise of this valiant opponent, a number of those on Queen Mary detected the presence of a new underwater threat, which could still greatly influence the contest:
Lion just sunk second cruiser, a torpedo fired from submarine just missed our stern by about 10 yards owing to manoeuvring of ship. Position of action is 20 miles southwest off Heligoland, enemies firing was very quick but bad range, our range was 7,000 yards owing to mist. (Midshipman Bagot)
Upon termination of the action, spotted a submarine awash upon the port quarter, which gradually turned to get her tubes to bear and then fired a torpedo. Informed fore bridge and conning tower forward, Queen Mary was under helm at the time and as she swung round the torpedo passed parallel to port side. (Cowan)
Foretop saw two mines, one of which we passed 30 yards off, also one torpedo passing by. (Major Rooney)
The turret reported a submarine on the port quarter and we went ahead full speed, and a torpedo passed 25 yards under our stern. We could not afford to stop any longer in the vicinity, as owing to the fog we could not tell what might be coming, and so not one of those poor fellows can have been saved. (Midshipman Tennyson)
As fate was to decree there was destined to be only one survivor from the Koln, a leading Stoker out of her gallant company of 380 souls. Even before the Koln had finally succumbed to this terrible onslaught, the flagship had sighted another light-cruiser, the luckless Ariadne off her starboard bow, and rapidly dispatched a telling salvo.
During the termination of this action, Lion engaged some vessel invisible to us upon the starboard bow, apparently a third cruiser, which by all accounts was set on fire and escaped, through only three rounds had been fired at her. (Major Rooney)
We then turned our attention to the second, and fired several rounds at her, scoring six or eight hits along her sides from forward to amidships. We lost sight of her in the mist, but I believe she sank eventually. (Bowen, Princess Royal)
1.00pm: New Zealand observed to open fire at German cruiser visible on Port Bow. 1.10pm: Opened fire engaged German light cruiser Lat. 54-7N 7-10E.
1.25pm: Ceased fire.
1.30pm: German observed to be sinking, probably the Ariadne, or possibly Koln. (Invincible’s Log)
One individual, who has passed on a firsthand account of this particular incident, was Theodor Plivier, from his unique perspective on-board the fated Ariadne. He relates how after steaming about for three hours at full speed, the Koln was observed straight ahead, under a withering barrage. With the presence of ‘A gigantic grey colossus’ emerging from the bank of fog, a battle-cruiser, a searchlight recognition was instantly flashed from the Ariadne, to which Beatty’s reply would follow immediately.
Ariadne is a bundle of nerves. Below at the ventilator shafts and ammunition hoists are tense upturned faces. ‘What’s up on deck’ ask voices from bunkers, engine rooms and stokehold. ‘A big Englishman. Four turrets’. A second battle-cruiser of the same class comes into view, Tiger (actually the Princess Royal). Sixteen heavy turret-guns are trained on the little Ariadne. Ariadne swings around, attempting to withdraw at full speed under cover of the mist. Lion opens fire with her foremost turret, smoke belches from the muzzle of the guns. A second and a half, two fountains rise from the sea a few 100 yards from the ship. ‘Six thousand’ announces the fire control, ‘Salvo fire’. Thirty-two pounds of iron from each gun, against the thick armour plate of the battle-cruisers, they are mere peas which bounce off without effect. The next shots fall astern, the enemy has got his bracket correct, has found the range, now a ring of flame flashes out round the two armoured ships, the brown cordite smoke of their charges rises like a wall. The shells fall close to the ship, columns of water, green, translucent, rise high in the air, like crystal cupolas, then collapse over the deck, the shell had gone through the deck and exploded in the bows, a rush of air howls through the hole it has made. Coal-dust, Smoke, the dust subsides, a sparkling black cloud, the smoke rises high, a heavy ochre brown. Through passages, manholes, at last even through the shot hole itself streams a flood of half-naked black bodies. The Stokers, they are leaving the lower decks, the coalbunkers are on fire, the stokeholds are full of smoke, five boilers are out of action, Ariadne can only steam half-speed, salvo fire. At the foot of the bridge and round the bases of the funnels, in huddled heaps, the Stokers who have left their posts. Everywhere hands clutching each other, jaws set so tight that the bones show white through their cheeks. The shells are coming now with a flat trajectory and tear the sides out of the ship. From every pore and hole steam boil-s up, black smoke clouds pour. Now the light has failed in the after boiler rooms. Compartments are smoked out, decks swept clear. All who can still move leave the stern, the wounded are taken forward: Bridges, funnels, masts are invisible, enveloped in a thick screen of smoke which drags astern of the riddled ship in a wide wake. The sky, which for half an hour has hung over the ship and crew like an enormous rumbling sheet of metal, suddenly stops vibrating and it is quiet again, Lion and Tiger have ceased fire, they cannot see anything through the smoke. All that remains of the crew is in the bows, bloodshot eyes, hoarse voices, on armoured decks I and II there are still men, in the after magazines, too, the magazines are under water. Petty Officer Weiss has gone with a couple of men to get them, the charges and shells by the guns explode, the lower part of the ship is one glowing furnace, the thin armoured decks under foot gets hotter and hotter. A shadow breaks through the red tinted chaos, a huddled clump of figures, supporting each other, dragging each other forward: Paul Weiss and his men, driven back, exhausted, they come towards the bows, the men from the armoured deck are not with them. The Captain gives the order ‘On lifebelts. Abandon ship’. (Theodor Plivier)
To the British this mortally damaged enemy cruiser had retired into the obscuring haze her immediate fate unknown to those manning the battle-cruisers. But on-board Queen Mary at this time, the predicament of this cruiser was a mystery to most, as was indeed exactly what had so recently transpired to the earlier contacts:
What happened to the ship which got on fire, or what other ships were engaged, we shall never know. (Midshipman Bagot)
By then there was a certain amount of mystification to those with a view to what was happening. Imagining what it was like for those closed off below can be accurately fathomed from the Princess Royal:
We had not the slightest idea of the number of ships we were fighting, what they were, or how our own ship was getting on, we might have been sinking for all we knew. From time to time the men in the gun-house shouted down scraps of news, such as ‘First ship afire amidships, second ship sinking, etc.,’ but this did not convey much. Our surgeon came down and told us that we were badly holed in six places, but as far as we could feel there was no list, so we forgot about it till things should begin to fall sideways. At the end of about ten minutes of this rushing about there was a lull, presumably when we had finished off the first of the enemy ships. Off we went again and the pace kept hot for about fifteen minutes. (Bowen)
This account seems to relate to the distinct engaging of the light-cruisers above after a gap in the action, as now another enemy vessel came into close proximity to the now blooded battle-cruisers. She was the Strasbourg, and as fortune was to dictate she was very lucky to escape the fate of her consorts. She owed this survival not only to the deteriorating visibility, but also primarily to her appearance, which was revealed through British sights as a four-funnel silhouette to observers on-board the battle-cruisers, as opposed to the usual German three-funnel arrangement. giving her a very similar silhouette to the ‘Town’ class cruisers of the 1LCS then in the immediate area. At around 1.30pm she was detected from Lion at 8,000 yards but no action was taken, while on-board Queen Mary Lieutenant Inston in the foretop observed a four-funnel cruiser 5,000 yards off the starboard beam. Again because of the uncertainty of her positive identification, no order to even track this contact was made, let alone open fire. Just as she was nearly hidden again in the mist, the Strasbourg impertinently opened fire upon the 1BCS with her after 4.1 inch guns, to which Lion belatedly replied with a salvo from her aft and amidships turrets in the way of a parting gesture, as noted from Queen Mary’s foretop just before the close of this brief clash.
Some of these vessel’s projectiles passed over our forecastle, making a screeching noise, but apparently nobody bothered about it, till we were ordered to train green nine-zero. (Inston)
I never even saw her. (Major Rooney)
1.18pm finished action. (Midshipman Bagot)
After this last enemy cruiser had disappeared into a bank of fog and mist, thickened by the funnel emissions of the ships and gun smoke, the general scene was now a very confused one. Beatty had no overall view of where the various British forces lay, and a major part of the initial objective, that of destroying a portion of the German patrols off Heligoland had been achieved. There did however still remain the perceived threat of submarines and mines, therefore an orderly retiral from the scene was now warranted.
As the squadron reformed and Queen Mary passed close aboard Lion, the formers’ crew manned the upper deck and upper works, turrets and shelter decks, and cheered madly. As the great vessels passed, it seemed a natural and yet in view of the poorness of our enemy’s offensive force, that it was a trifle curious, or one might say unnecessary, but who is to judge. The 1BCS had encountered grave hidden dangers all the forenoon, and relief of tension in any shape or form could only be expected. (Major Rooney)
We all came and stood on top of turret again and as we passed Lion and Princess Royal we all cheered each other. We were not hit once, but Lion was hit three times and Princess Royal once, but no damage or casualties. (Midshipman Bagot)
We then passed Lion, and she cheered us like anything. (Midshipman Tennyson)
On-board Lion the Royal Marine band released from its duties below, now formed on deck and struck-up ‘Rule Britannia’, while the men cheered the Admiral loudly as they emerged from the turrets and batteries:
Then the order ‘Cease Fire’ came down, and we knew that we had whacked them, whatever they were. We stood easy for a short time, and then the order came down to pack up, and we returned all un-fired charges and went up to see the damage. (Bowen)
But even at this late stage it seemed that the battle-cruisers retiral was to be contested:
1.35pm submarine sighted, and a great alteration of course became necessary. (Major Rooney)
Submarine attack was successfully repulsed also avoided, 1.30pm floating mines. General retirement covered same. (Midshipman Bagot)
Admiral Beatty decided to withdraw his forces, covering their retirement with his powerful battle-cruisers, and it was while doing so that Captain Reginald Hall of Queen Mary executed one of the smartest manoeuvres of the day. Watching from his bridge, and travelling at the time something approaching thirtykts and hour, he saw an enemy torpedo tenkts faster, that in a matter of moments, would strike him amidships. The destruction of Queen Mary, had the submarine achieved it, would have more than outbalanced all the German losses, but, by very sharply turning full helm, the impact was just avoided in time - the battle-cruiser and torpedo, till the latter sunk, actually travelling side by side. (Hurd and Bashford, Sons of Admiralty)
Again the one word signal runs down the line like lighting. The retirement evidently is not to be carried out without a parting effort by the enemy, and it is a rotten feeling to know that any minute you May be blown sky-high without having seen your antagonist. (Franklin, Invincible)
Here now lies one of the great clouding issues of the entire Battle of the Heligoland Bight. Throughout every contemporary account, this underwater threat from enemy submarines and mines is very much in evidence, as is oft mentioned in all original source material included here. Sometimes being noted down in graphic detail, like the above passage from Sons of Admiralty, penned in 1919 with an air of authenticity through their intense revelation. But reference to all official records and documents reveals that no enemy undersea craft were present off Heligoland during this action. Indeed only eight British submarines were in the immediate area, with their contribution to the Fray amounting to no more than initially acting as a lure, carrying out a mistaken attack upon the Southampton, and the rescue of some British seamen cast adrift.
It is now a hard fact that certainly throughout that day no U-boat was ever in a position to approach let along attack Beatty’s battle-cruisers. If indeed torpedo tracks had actually been seen, then Lieutenant Inston after the battle renders a very plausible explanation as to the many sightings of passing torpedoes; they were just rogue devices. He contested this was not unreasonable seeing that about thirty-six had up until then been discharged by their own destroyers, and an unknown number by the enemy torpedo-boats in the early stages of the battle. Some could have been faulty ones, or over-shoots, inadvertently reaching the battle-cruisers. While as for submarines, even the sighting of a shot way yard or spar, could to a keyed up lookout appear to be a periscope, while any mass of wreckage was open to various interpolations in the poor visibility experienced. Despite this supposed submarine threat, shortly afterward the retiral was ordered, Queen Mary’s 20 knots passage was rung down to 16 knots, as the status of the ship was reduced, allowing the hands to leave their action stations, mix and exchange views with their colleagues.
2.30pm hand to dinner, ‘A’ turret remaining on duty, as well as a 4 inch gun watch. A fair amount of pow-wow resulted from this small action, many various points discussed. The Commander and Hanly essay a torpedo drifted by the ship, whether ship was struck or not. Captain inclined to think it might have been a submarine, which ran foul of us. Whether the Koln sank by the head or the stern, opinion equally divided. Hanly states that he distinctly saw her rudder, and that her propellers were still slowly revolving. One had to turn away from the sight, as he did not quite like to witness it, and says the cheerfulness on the part of some of the men, made him feel hurt, seeing what a gallant little ship it was, and anything like a cheer would have disgusted him. (Major Rooney)
2.20pm: Closed Lion. (Invincible’s Log)
An indication of the lower decks regard for the action can be gauged by an incident noted by Major Rooney, in the contents of a censored letter home by a bluejacket after the battle. Here this un-named individual conscious of the ship’s censor’s need for security referred to the action in a colourful fashion:
For dinner yesterday, had sausage and sauerkraut, and by gum we served them up hot. (Major Rooney)
Obviously opinions and feelings varied amongst Queen Mary’s complement of individuals, but upon reflection the general consensus of opinion on-board ranked this day’s work as a relatively minor one in the overall scope of the war. This battle was certainly not ‘Der Tag (The Day)’:
The 1BCS and 1LCS remained some time in vicinity to cover withdrawal of Amethyst and the destroyers (all damaged), which the 1BCS, New Zealand and Invincible saw clear and turned over to Euryalus. (Major Rooney)
In fact it was the Hogue from the 7CS, which was to see the damaged light-cruiser home. On-board the flagship there was great deal of competition in obtaining any shell Fragments, but in this there was little to be collected with all hits being very ineffective, only staining the paintwork. While the single visible hit had been one spent shell, which had ripped up about 4 feet of deck planking. There were certainly no souvenirs to be had on-board Queen Mary, their hit, if indeed that’s what it was, must have been very minor indeed and left no visible trace on her structure. But there was a little more to see on-board the Princess Royal.
It was disappointing, one shell only having hit us, this had entered on the starboard side, presumably a parting shot from the cruiser that first passed us in a sinking condition. It burst in the engine room of the picket boat, completely wrecking it. (Bowen)
One aspect about this battle, which was to raise a few questions, was in the number of shells fired to dispatch these three enemy light-cruisers:
Rather a lot of ammunition expended owing to mist. But when range was clear it was very good firing. (Midshipman Bagot)
A prodigious amount of ammunition was expended, which the Gunnery Lieutenant said was only to be expected seeing the great invisibility of the target. (Major Rooney)
This individual also goes on to give an excellent account of his turrets performance during the action, as well as a good resume of Queen Mary’s overall gunnery ability:
My ‘A’ turret fired four common and twenty-two Lyddite AP shells, and the other turrets a similar amount. ‘A’ turret had no breakdowns, though a rammer motor cylinder cap worked loose and delayed the turret each time rammer went ‘home’, this was easily adjusted. ‘B, Q and X’ turrets had various delays, a jam in loading cage, a bent door, jammed tube, and consequently strained breech in ‘X’. (Major Rooney)
In reply to the signal from the flagship after the action at 3.45pm requesting the number of rounds expended and casualties, Hall had simply replied:
Seventy-eight and Nil.
For the entire BCF the expenditure of ammunition needed to rout the German light-cruisers had been heavy, with no less than 284-13.5 inch and 101-12 inch projectiles, required to sink two cruisers directly, assist in the demise of another, and chase away a fourth:
By signal from Lion. The two vessels sunk turned out to be Mainz and Augsberg cruisers, one escaped on fire, two German torpedo-boats sunk, hands damaged, 90 or 100 prisoners taken. (Major Rooney)
But others appeared to have a more optimistic source of information and a balance of the action:
Result, four German cruisers of Mainz class, two German destroyers sunk. One British cruiser Arethusa and one destroyer badly damaged. (Midshipman Bagot)
In the final reckoning the entire British force had lost 35 men with a further 40 wounded, and none of their ships had been sunk, but a number were indeed damaged. On the German side it was identified later that three light-cruisers and one torpedo boat, the V187, had actually been sunk. The cruisers being the Mainz, Koln and Ariadne, along with 712 men killed, a further 149 wounded, and 381 taken prisoner, with damage inflicted to a number of other units.
A signal from Lion timed 2.55pm interrupted the crew’s late dinner, when it ordered Queen Mary to investigate a suspicious vessel off the flagships starboard bow, observed to the northwest of the squadron. She altered course and closed the contact at full speed, but upon interception, her boarding party discovered she was harmless neutral. Queen Mary then returned to the squadron and resumed station at 3.50pm taking the lead position as ‘Guide of the Fleet’. The squadron altered course to the northwest, its role of covering the withdrawal of the Harwich Force was now accomplished, as what daylight there had been slowly diminished with the dusk. However this evening passage towards home was destined to be eventful, as it was ready appreciated that there was the very distinct possibility of a night attack by German torpedo craft, in a final effort by the defeated foe to redress the balance after their disastrous day.
Whole force withdrawal nightfall, and 1BCS and light-cruisers swept north: About 10.20pm just as I was writing this page, the alarm sounded off and we found ourselves in the midst of shipping of sorts. A searchlight was playing on a strange vessel some miles ahead; there were lights to either beam or a dark mass of some vessel on our starboard bow. Turret crews jumped to their stations at once and guns were ‘ready’ in an incredibly short time. Remained at quarters for about an hour and then alarm subsided and crews returned to rest. It was apparently a fishing fleet, a couple of steamers, and the extended arc of cruisers falling back through the line of advance. (Major Rooney)
4.35pm: Alter course S45W parted company from Lion. (Invincible’s Log)
This last incident closed an epic day for Queen Mary, her first clash with the enemy. But by way of a conclusion the diary of Private Stevens, who usually put down only basic information in his personnel diary, was afterwards given to document this action in what was to him considerable detail. Including it here in its entirety, seeing as it reflects his ‘lower decks’ impressions of that day’s confused and obscured happenings, perhaps from his station in a 4 inch secondary battery.
Friday, torpedo-boats reported to be in action off Heligoland with Germans cruisers, sounded off action at 9am all guns loaded but no ships sighted, could hear distant firing, and disperse at 10.30am. Action was sounded again at 12.20pm orders open fire. Stop at 1.30pm we fired twenty-nine 13.5 inch shells. Sighted German submarine off our port quarter in the engagement, three German cruisers we sunk and another got way all-afire in the fog and in a sinking condition. Lion steamed after her but was lost, reported sunk later, one German cruiser sank about 900 yards off our ship, it was a very fine sight to watch as she went down stern first. We could hear shells flying over our ship expecting every minute to get one burst by our gun, but we went through without a hit. Lion was hit three times, Princess Royal once. At 1.45pm we steamed line ahead through the battle field, at 2pm we steamed away at 20 knots, during the action we were steaming at 29.7 knots, we were about 25 miles of Heligoland, nearly within range of the German forts. (Private Stevens)
Later on each of the ships which took part in this action went on to have the words ‘Heligoland, August 28, 1914’, painted in gold letters in a conspicuous place in commemoration of the battle. Queen Mary was subsequently to be so provided with such a device.
29th August 1914
Thick mist about 7am, in the morning watch, still moving north at 12 knots, leisurely, examining various craft. Overtook and hailed the Danish steamer Diana at 4.40pm. The Captain had a pow-wow with her from the bridge. Moving north to Scapa once more to coal, about 7pm arrived in Scapa, and commenced coaling from Agnus Duncan. Very badly annoyed, we had to take in 1,900 tons, and Agnus Duncan was short of coal by 200 tons. (Major Rooney)
Not recounted by the Major was the greeting the veterans pre-dreadnoughts of the 3BS gave the victorious 1BCS at Scapa that evening. The squadron was cheered in by the ships present; much to the annoyance of the Vice-Admiral who did not believe such a small action warranted a welcome on this scale. Beatty’s annoyance at this display must have increased when Lion over-ran her designated berth, because an anchor was jammed in a damaged hawse-pipe. She had to go around again passing the deck lined ships, an encore, which invited more cheers to echo around the Flow. But Beatty’s displeasure might have been lessened by a signal from another flag officer:
It seems that your anchor was rammed home as hard as your attack.
Telegram from Admiralty: ‘Please convey to Admiral Beatty, officers and men, our warmest congratulations on brilliant and successful enterprise yesterday, which sustains and amplifies the highest traditions of the British Navy.’ (Midshipman Tennyson)
Returning to Scapa to coal, 7.30pm arrived Scapa. Lion’s anchor hung-up owing to being hit in action, so Lion had to sail round through 3BS anchored there, which all cheered squadron, 8pm commenced coaling. (Midshipman Bagot)
Steaming 21 knots for Scapa Flow, a calm day, arrived 7pm commenced coaling at 8pm. (Private Stevens)
Invincible - At sea. / 5.00am War routine / 2.27pm stopped, lowered sea-boat and fetched one German and two men.
30th August 1914
The demanding over-night coaling evolution which Queen Mary was to undertake was proving to be a tiresome one in a number of respects, and the efforts of the crew were not to be limited to this prolonged coaling, following this a store ship arrived alongside.
Finished about 3am or 4am and then had to stand by to relieve foretopmen in hold No.2, so the coaling was intolerably slow, and lingered on till 9am when we were still 200 tons short. This was Sunday and an effort was made to clean ship, but in forenoon another collier was sent to us, so we had to rig gear again and coal till about 2.30pm or 3pm, after which ship was partially cleaned down. At 6 or 7pm the store ship Muritai came alongside starboard, and all hands had to turn to, to rig whips, to get ammunition, Lyditte AP, Lyddite common and AP common aboard: Also some hundred charges of cordite, provisions also came in, and every soul in the ship worked till 2am. (Major Rooney)
Ammunition and stores to come in at night. Inflexible and store ship arrived, and come alongside at 6.30pm started getting it in at 8pm stopping at midnight for cocoa for half an hour, started again at 2am then piped down for the night. (Private Stevens)
2am red watch piped down, red watch turned to again and coaled till 9am. 1.30pm second collier came alongside, 3pm finished coaling took in 1,800 tons. (Midshipman Bagot)
This midshipman had been keeping a total of the coal taken in over the past month, and after this days efforts he noted with some satisfaction, that Queen Mary had loaded 11,300 tons of coal into her bunkers since leaving Portland the previous month: Also taken at this time, was the opportunity to land a large quantity of .303 ammunition by the units of the squadron. This was to provide the BEF, Royal Naval Division, and Kitchern’s ‘New Army’ with additional material due to a shortage at the ordnance works.
Invincible - At sea and Rosyth. 5.20am May Island. / 6.30am preparing for entering harbour and coaling. / 8.17am came to anchor. / 9.10am collier Moto(?) secured alongside. / 10.30am commenced coaling 1,490 tons, 126 men shore labour. / 4.30pm discharged one German officer to hospital and two prisoners to station.
31st August 1914
Some of Queen Mary’s shell room parties were still engaged until 3.30am in stowing their ponderous 1,400 pound loads. The ship was due to sail again for yet another sweep that evening, with the old battleships of the 3BS, armoured-cruisers of the 3CS and 10CS, and a destroyer screen for a sweep to the southeast. The Major was to comment upon this brief stay in Scapa Flow in some detail, with his feeling concerning the load of work and lack of rest after a prolonged and active operation mentioned in an explicit fashion, along with an outline of the coming sweep.
Hands turned in for a spell, and started again about 8am to complete getting in ammunition. All dummy rounds practice projectiles, empty cases, had to be whipped up and stowed away in store ship. The last charges were shipped aboard Queen Mary about 4.15pm about 20 minutes before ship sailed. The work entailed in this coaling and ammunitioning ship, complete, did away with any chance of rest in harbour. Thus the amount of labour, dirt, and discomfort was very great, especially as the ship had been previously engaged in an arduous operation on the 28th: Shell-room parties in particular, who had to work extra time to get ammunition stowed, a heavy labour in a confined space. Screen of destroyers and light-cruisers ahead, like the Heligoland action. BF to support this time, then move south towards Heligoland, the HSF is expected to be on the move, as the Admiralty report wireless call signs and signals are in full swing in the North Sea. Captain stated before dinner today that he imagined the place of operations was to reconnoitre the Skagerrak, and surprise any of the enemy on patrol there, mop them up, and proceed southwards towards the Heligoland Bight, backed up by BS’s. (Major Rooney)
8am carried on taking in ammunition and stores, 5pm store ship left, 1BCS sailed. (Midshipman Bagot)
8.30am continued with the ammunition and finished at 4.30pm weight anchor. (Private Stevens)
Despite their demanding pre-sailing preparations, patently some on-board had time during this busy period to write home:
How splendid you have both been about writing, it is good of you and you have no idea what a joy your letters are. By Jove you hit on the right thing when you sent me the lovely woollen helmet, it is exactly what one wants at night, for when the ship is going at high speed one feels it round one’s neck and ears. If you would make two more for Humphrey and Aitchison I know they would love them. Our little escapade on the 28th was exciting, my word, that sort of sight makes one think. I got a good view of it all, and saw everything from my little rabbit hutch I showed you (4 inch director). I got a long letter from you forwarded by Aubrey and two from father. What a splendid account of Lionel, I do pity him, as I know what his feelings must be with reservists. It really is rather hard being taken away from his company and platoon, is there any reason for it. Our soldiers seem to be fighting gallantly, but all the same I fear the Germans are gradually gaining ground: I love your card, and have put it in my prayer book, the hand of providence was with us the other day, and we must not forget to thank God for it as well as to pray for His protection in the future, I read Hymn 379 after it. If you hear from Lionel or Aubrey, or want news from me at any time, a wire will go straight through. Please thank father for his little bits of news, these with the headlines on the papers are about as much as I have time for, but I think the war is very hard to follow and news often untrue, if only one reads all the details. (Midshipman Tennyson)
Invincible - Rosyth. / 12.25am cast off Collier. / 1.00pm cleaning paintwork, sponging out guns etc.
1st September 1914
3.30am the ‘Alarm’ went, and all turrets to quarters and loaded. A searchlight had apparently been seen ahead. Three guns fired, and a few minutes afterwards our own light-cruisers were made out. Seems a curious matter to me, that the challenge and answer should be so ineffective in proving vessels identity. Met many vessels in forenoon, evidently Baltic bound, most of which were examined. 4 inch Lyddite, which had been in the guns for a long time, was discharged, and guns sponged out and reloaded. (Major Rooney)
11am heave two steamers too for inspection, cruising about in North Sea. (Midshipman Bagot)
After this nocturnal episode, brought about by a communications failure between elements of Beatty’s command, a quiet day followed in which only a number of harmless merchantmen were routinely stopped and examined. During the afternoon the secondary battery, which was kept at a state of instant readiness while at sea, underwent the above interesting ‘clearance’ evolution. After this today must have been relatively uneventful, because the Major went on to consign some additional interesting material to his growing diary. These included a number of impressions and thoughts very relevant to Queen Mary’s overall story.
The novelty of war has by no means worn off during the last month, or let’s say the first month: Largely due to the sustaining knowledge of having fought a very successful little action, and to this ship at all events it is looked upon as having been real good fun. It is important enough in this way, the Captain calls it ‘Having Blooded’ the men, one feels that one has been put in ones place, the ships Raison d’être assured, and there is tangible proof that Queen Mary and her crew are of some consequence after all. So there is a settling down to it, and a feeling of assurance that at any rate there will be some tangible result. To review pinpricks however, the first great drawback appears to be the want of sufficient sleep and rest, at times one is rather badly had, a case in point shows a balance of four successive nights practically out of bed or hammock, during which time very severe labour was the order of the day, this is the rub of war. There is such a thing as making men to comfortable, for instance voice pipe men on the bridge are cuddled up in a windproof shelter, were they invariably go to sleep if not rousted out periodically. Their mates, the lookouts are expected to stand the same four-hour’s with a glass to their eye in wind and rain. However I should suggest that men on watch not actually standing by, or looking out, be allowed to make themselves as comfortable as possible for their hour or so, and play games, or musical instruments if they feel inclined. Lately such an attempt as a cigar box violin, and gramophone in the transmitting station, have been sternly repressed. I should think it a very excellent way of passing a watch to all concerned, so long as it is carried out in moderation, and to no one’s annoyance. (Major Rooney)
Invincible - Rosyth. / 5.00am cleaning ship. / 7.15pm darkened ship.
2nd September 1914
The bulk of the GF was now destined to remain ‘safe’ at sea until the 5th, cruising in the waters between the northeast coast of Scotland and the coast of Norway. Here Jellicoe’s dreadnoughts were deployed to offer distant support to the Beatty’s battle-cruisers and various CS’s sweeping to the south, carrying out their important blockade and interception patrols.
Nothing of interest in the first, middle or morning watches, very fine, boarded and examined two steamers, Danish, nothing. Control exercised during forenoon and ranges and local rates practised on Invincible on port beam. At noon there was an alarm and general quarters sounded off, everyone dashed to quarters, guns loaded and brought to the ready, and ranges and rates commenced to hum through. A cloud of smoke lay on the horizon, out of which presently loomed ‘The Enemy’, a heartily cursed tramp, two funnels and pained grey, she was Danish and was pleased to see us. Cowan boarded her and found a voluble Captain and a cargo of eggs and butter, bound for a west of England port. The J.C. la Cour, was being bandied about by a north about Shetland course, in order to avoid mines, and so our afternoons entertainment faded away. (Major Rooney)
6am heave to Swedish collier with two blanks, 12.15pm general quarters chasing cruiser, 12.30pm turned out to be a Swedish passenger steamer, boarded same. (Midshipman Bagot)
Interestingly the captain of the tramp steamer had asked the boarding officer about the latest ‘official’ news of the Russian expedition to Belgium. This very wide spread and accepted rumour was certainly one in circulation on-board Queen Mary:
A rumour originating in the flagship, that the Russians contemplated the following brilliant and daring operation. Namely to transport by sea, a force of 70,000 men from Archangel on the White Sea, round north about to Leith, and then via English soil and across the Channel to France, this rumour was current on the 30th at Scapa Flow. If this rumour is true, it explains a good deal of our present very secret strategy. We are 30 miles to West of Bergen with the entire GF, and it is common property that we have steam for full speed, everybody for some reason expects a general action tomorrow. We are in a good strategical position, secondly, the occupation of Ostend by the Marine Brigade, is this to be the destination of the Russians, on the right rear of the Germans main army. Such strategy would appear to me to be particularly brilliant, and it does not require a very great comprehensive intellect to see that such an operation. Having for its objective the launching of 70,000 Russian troops upon the rear of the German main army, during the most critical period of the campaign. Would most certainly draw the German Fleet to sea in the hope of frustrating the plan at all costs, even at the cost of a pitched battle against the British Fleet. (Major Rooney)
But returning to more routine matters of the day, that afternoon and evening was to prove to be one that the Major could very well have done without. It is interesting to note in relation to this work in ‘A’ turret below, that the general awareness of the implications of the ‘Russian rumour’, combined with the known deployment of the 1BCS, and a feeling on-board that an action was imminent. Was now all to greatly compound the difficulties of the working party that night.
Distress in ‘A’ turret, left main cage elected to jam at the top of the hoist, and the dog watches saw the entire hydraulics’ staff intent on correcting it, but not a budge. Llewelyn, Inston and the hydraulic staff worked away on ‘A’ turrets left main cage till well into the night, and eventually stripped it down and discovered the jam. The projectile tray had obstructed lubrication, owing to the projectile constantly at rest therein, putting its 1,400 pound strain on the canting shaft and levers; also it covered up the lubrication holes, so the shaft drained stiff, there seems little else to account for it. A curious instance of orders distorted in transmission occurred during the ‘blue’ first watch. I happened to pass down an order to ‘A’ turret from fore bridge, that the repair party was to take steps at once to test the secondary cordite hoist in the trunk, as it would necessary have to be used, if by any chance we happened to go into action at dawn, before the main hoist was repaired. The transmitting station repeated order correctly, but it was eventually delivered to the sweating Lieutenant Commander and hydraulic party at work in ‘A’ trunk, that orders had been received, that we were going into action at daylight and that the hoist was to be repaired at once. This message or something similar had been passed along the mess deck, and eventually turned up in the Stokers messdeck, in the guise that ‘steam was immediately required for 30 knots, as we were going into action at 4 o’clock in the morning. (Major Rooney)
Invincible - Rosyth. / 1.00pm exercised Action, cleaned ship as requisite. / 11.30pm Night defence stations.
3rd September 1914
The anticipated encounter never of course materialised, there was nothing of credence in any of the rumours then in circulation. But the overall situation was to change dramatically that evening, with a move confidently thought to be the expected counter to a German strike against the fabled Russian troop convoy.
Spent the morning at control, joined up with the GF and carried out PZ’s and manoeuvres. Tonight, orders for steam for full speed, 30 knots, for dawn, 4am and we are now heading south, preceded by a screen of light-cruisers and destroyers, and followed some seven miles in rear by the GF in full fighting strength, the flanks are guarded by CS’s. The BS’s appear to be moving into columns of squadrons in line ahead, about four miles apart, a solemn enough sight for the weather beaten Naze. Thirty super-dreadnoughts and an Armada of light-craft, manned by such a host of sailors as the world has never seen. What a glorious night, a running sea and a full moon, with masses of cloud charging along, the evening star hanging like a lamp. A hundred sombre hulls gliding along and a good thousand hungry gun muzzles pointing southward to welcome the HSF, cheers. 10.50pm the turret floor plate was pushed up and young Hutchison’s head thrust up, ‘They’ve sounded off Action Sir’, and in poured the cabinets crew. All is orderly confusion, down hammock, out lights and on lights, messages to and fro, the ticking of the indicators and ringing of bells. Presently a calm, and then ‘What is it?’, no one knows, neither does the transmitting station and through the sighting hood and periscope, scan, see nothing, only Lion ahead. She alters course to southward, and then I see about 8 miles off dim grey shapes, mere suggestions that there is something there in the moonlight, but they are our own 1BS, whom we are dropping astern. News does not come through for a long time that a suspicious craft has been reported ahead, curse suspicious craft!, why not sink them. There is a general feeling of sickness and then comes the ‘secure’ and carry on. And so we find ourselves in the middle watch minus so much precious sleep, and the morning uncomfortably near. (Major Rooney)
8am rendezvous with BF, carried out PZ, 10.30pm sounded of general quarters, 11.45pm false alarm only fishing vessels. (Midshipman Bagot)
Yet another false alarm, there was to be no contact with the enemy, only these fishing craft in this very minor and long forgotten incident. One suspects that the Major’s entry reveals the general feelings present in the men of Queen Mary on that dawn, one which was to be experienced on a number of occasions over the following months.
On this day Lemberg was captured by Russian forces, and Speedy was sunk by a mine off the Humber.
Invincible - Rosyth. / 1.00pm refitting coaling gear, cleaning paintwork etc.
4th September 1914
Although included earlier as a Prologue, Major Rooney’s opening evocative entry for this day is repeated here to place it in context:
A glorious golden morning on-board Queen Mary, with a fresh dark blue sea and a following wind, course southeast with the mountainous coast of Norway in sight. The most glorious sunrise I ever remember, the whole coastline bathed in a golden glow, mountains, sky and all. To the north the sky becomes viridian green, and to the east floats a mackerel sky of pink fleecy clouds, which become shining gold as the sun rises, a deep bank of ruddy purple overlays the whole, setting it off above like the Frame to a picture, while below the sea is deep indigo. Mountain tops glow in the sun decked with streaks of white mist, I’d like to paint it if I could, but I can only ‘Not forget’. The sun comes up red of course, and it reminds me that it is the sailors warning, well perhaps, but what sailors, such a host of sailors as the world has never seen. (Major Rooney)
At around 5am the squadron was off the entrance to Stavanger Fjord, as a visual signal from the flagship mentioned that a powerful force of enemy cruisers and submarines had passed through the area of the Skaw at midnight. The 1BCS retired to coal at Rosyth, news which was greeted as very welcome by all concerned, while the attached cruisers headed for Cromarty. An Admiralty message indicated the presence of new minefields in the Firth of Forth approaches, so a rather tortuous route to their destination was made avoiding the new hazardous areas.
Steamed eastwards along the Norwegian Coast, investigating various ships, but no news. We do not meet our enemy and it blows up very fresh, ideal battle-cruiser weather and against submarines. But at noon, damn, we have to give it up and retire westwards; we are to coal at Queensferry, good egg. Mines reported right across our path, quite a disappointing day, and it promised so much, red dawn and all, well worse luck might befall. (Major Rooney)
8am off Norwegian coast Bergen, looking for four German cruisers and six submarines. Noon returned to Rosyth to coal. Reported that Russians passed through England: (Midshipman Bagot)
Invincible - Rosyth. / 9.00am exercised action, working about masts.
5th September 1914
As a benchmark in the overall serious war situation facing the Allies at that time, today saw the start of the epic five days on the Marne which saw the high tide of the German advance into France checked.
The middle watch sees us off Bell Rock and moving up the swept channel towards the Firth of Forth: There were quite an unusual number of trawlers met with on the way, for the most part steam trawlers. One of these had apparently no lights, and was plainly courting disaster. We rounded up at May Island and passed into the Forth, and under the bridge at Queensferry. Topmast was struck at 4.30am and in setting home, jolt carried the spar away, and brought the wreck tumbling down, so the appearance given to the ship with a wreck of a topmast was unprepossessing. (Major Rooney)
5.30am while striking topmast to pass under Forth Bridge it swayed and owing to it being a thin mast for its length, carried away, just missed going down funnel. On going under Bridge were cheered loudly, thinking it had been shot away, 7.30am arrived Rosyth: (Midshipman Bagot)
This interesting little incident in Queen Mary’s approach to her anchorage, was essential to enable her to pass under the Forth Rail Bridge, with its results ashore amongst the defensive batteries remarked upon. Immediately after coming to rest, preparations were made for coaling, which was to be accomplished from two colliers with the St.Andrew to port, and a sorry looking un-named coaster to starboard: This particular coaling evolution was however to be a memorable one on a novel point.
Employed for the first time shore labour, which turned out a miserable failure. I think the show was extremely badly managed, the gangs were fine enough men and employed at 7/6 a day, with a sandwich and a bottle of beer. But they were hopeless dawdlers, unintelligible babbler’s, out of control, with no overseer worth a curse and filthy beyond description. They sprawled and spat ill mannerly everywhere and were obstreperous when ordered about. We rigged their holds for them, and the coal dribbled in at the start at 70 tons an hour, rotten work. Finally they got it in at about 150 to 170 tph, but nothing like our usual 240 or 260 tph speed. As the day wore on, at suppertime we discarded them altogether, and they were most mutinous and wanted booting badly, so we took on the job ourselves, and finished about 11pm or 12pm. Pretty well sick of it, then out nets and retire to rest, total coal about 1,750 tons. One of the foremen of my shore labour gang was however a very respectable fellow, an ex-colour sergeant of the Cameron’s, a veteran of the Indian Frontier, Egypt of 1885, Omdurman (1 September 1898), and the South Africa War, James Findlay. He was an orderly to Lord Roberts, and was quite rich in anecdotes, Hector McDonald was his idol (He commanded a Brigade at Omdurman). The poor old fellow had ‘not bit nor sup sin five’, so I got him some ham and bread, and ship baca (tobacco). He stated it as an accomplished fact that the Russians had arrived in Ostend via the UK. He himself had seen 20 long trains passing through Cowdenbeath station, on the previous Saturday and Sunday, they had all their blinds drawn, and had not stopped. It was well known that 50 trains had crossed the Forth Bridge. His grasp of the situation was very comprehensive indeed, the man was a born strategist, though he said he was pretty certain that but for Belgium, the Germans would have invaded England, in spite of the Navy, who knows. (Major Rooney)
I had my hair cut by a man whose brother had given a Russian cigarette, so it seems it is true that the Russians are passing through. (King-Hall, Southampton)
‘The Russian Rumour’, this is an indication that besides the fleet, the civilian populace had also heard of this yarn. A tale ashore that went on to be expanded upon, with accounts of Russian soldiers being actually seen (always by others), still with snow on their boots. But like so many other stories circulating, and given an air of authenticity at this time, with even sound strategic reasoning for such a move echoing the thoughts of many, there was never any credence to this particular well-known fable. Indeed Imperial Russia was more than occupied at this time in mobilising its massive forces, embarking on its disastrous campaign in Eastern Prussia, and containing Austro-Hungary in the Carpathians, ever to get involved on the Western Front.
Arrived in harbour at 8am starting at 10am taking 1,750 tons, shore labour, but failed, finished coaling at 11pm got out net defence at 11.15pm. (Private Stevens)
9am coaled with shore labour, mostly miners, who only took in about 150 tons per hour. At 8pm we paid them off and finished hands by 10.30pm 1,800 tons. 4pm Pathfinder blown up and sunk by submarine 17 miles southeast of May Island, only 50 saved out of 300. Torpedo struck magazine and caused her to sink in five minutes, assistant Clerk Ray, late of Queen Mary saved unhurt. 11.30pm shifted billet, alarm as submarine outside. (Midshipman Bagot)
The Pathfinder with Captain Martin Leake in command, was the flotilla leader of the Firth of Forth destroyer patrol, and she had been sunk off the southern approaches to the Firth, just off St.Abbs Head. U.21 under Lieutenant-Commander Otto Hersing, soon to be one of the acknowledged German submarine aces, had three nights earlier on the 2nd, penetrated into the Firth under cover of darkness. But at around 10.30pm a lookout on the shore battery at Carlingnose, and another in a nearby machine-gun emplacement sighted his periscope, with the alarm raised Hersing retire out into the Firth’s entrance to prowl its approaches, and his subsequent encounter with this light-cruiser.
Details and wounded from the Pathfinder came in late on Saturday night, and were sent up to Edinburgh for the most part. Here it May be well to mention the difficulties attending the disembarkation and transport of the wounded. When their hospital carrier arrived at Queensferry in the dark, the water was too low to enable her to go alongside the pier. So all that could be done was to transport the unfortunates into steamboats in the dark, transhipped again into whalers, and eventually carried ashore by men wading along a slippery bottom, then put into ambulances and taxis to be jolted nine miles up to Edinburgh. It shows how badly things can be managed and was not a very creditable performance by all accounts, considering the availability of hospital ships in the anchorage, and the readiness of all possible appliances, why could they not have been used. (Major Rooney)
Beatty’s command at Rosyth now embraced the New Zealand, while the Inflexible, which had just returned from the Mediterranean joined the Invincible in cruiser force ‘K’, which had been diverted from the Humber due to a recently laid enemy minefield.
End of the BEF’s retreated from Mons, with the German advance blocked by the French at the start of The Battle of the Marne, but only after the Germans had reach Claye, 10 miles from Paris, the nearest point they reached during the war. As Reims was taken by the Germans, Lille was evacuated by them, indicative of the rapidly changing flow of the land war at this time. At sea the light-cruiser Pathfinder was sunk by submarine in the North Sea (first British warship so destroyed).
Invincible - Rosyth. / 7.10am Lion, Queen Mary, and Princess Royal arrived and anchored.
6th September 1914
Sunday at Rosyth, but it was now necessary to clean the ship after the previous days coaling, still some fortunate officers were allowed ashore between 1.30pm and 6.15pm. That evening gunfire was heard coming from the entrance to the by then foggy Firth of Forth, which brought with it some speculation that the enemy was mounting an attack upon the outer defences to the base, being engaged by the fortified islands in the Firth: But no call to action was sounded off, and nothing else was heard about the incident. In all probability it was assumed correctly, that this was just a night-time gunnery exercise being undertaken by some battery, notification of which had not been passed onto the battle-cruisers.
Took motorboat ashore, and left it at Hawes Inn, what a treat it was to get ashore, a beautiful day and went off up the Edinburgh Road to Lauriston, best day one could have spent ashore. There was fog in the evening and night, guns reported down the Forth, what on earth could be in the wind: Night watches and fog watches were kept on the bridge throughout. (Major Rooney)
Sunday, carried our Harbour Routine, at 10.30pm we shifted billet on account of being too close to flagship Lion. (Private Stevens)
Still lying just beyond Forth Bridge with nets out. Ray (from Pathfinder) came on-board and gave account of Pathfinder. Reported that Indians have land safely at Marseilles. (Midshipman Bagot)
Bagot’s report of the arrival of the first elements of the invaluable Indian Corps, was to prove to be premature, they did not arrive at the southern French port until the 26th of this month: That night unknown to those on-board Queen Mary, a German cruiser sweep into the North Sea, fell upon a British trawler fleet and sunk fifteen of them, capturing their crews and returned unscathed to port.
Invincible - Rosyth. 7.10am Southampton, Birmingham, Falmouth, Lowestoft, Nottingham, Liverpool arrived and anchored. / 4.30pm prepare ship for coaling.
7th September 1914
At Rosyth normal harbour routine was experienced on-board that day, with the opportunity taken to carry out some minor maintenance work, before the squadron was again ordered to set sail that evening. In this sweep in strength the flagship Lion was leading out the Princess Royal, Queen Mary, Inflexible, Invincible and New Zealand in that order, while to the north Jellicoe had set out in support with his dreadnoughts. Intelligence reports from the Admiralty in Whitehall had suggested that two German capital ships and twelve cruisers, had been sighted earlier that day in the central North Sea by a Dutch trawler. There was also the account that some German prisoners taken during the Bight action, had talked about a foray by their heavy ships in support of light units.
1BCS moved out from Queensferry at 4.30pm preceded by half a flotilla of destroyers, and passed the ill reputed May Island about sunset. As the battle-cruisers passed the forts at Inchgarvie the garrisons cheered lustily, and a mighty voice roared through a megaphone as we glided past, ‘Make the beggars pay for the Pathfinder’ , which elicited much joy and applause. It was a glorious night, smooth and oily, nothing of note occurred, although I’d bet five shillings we’d fire a gun before 24 hour’s had passed. What their errand could be who knows, probably running into the Baltic, if so I’m aFraid the beggars will get off scot-free. The 1BCS makes quite a fine force now of six. Oh give us a clear day on the morrow, and just a glimpse of them, and let us do the rest. (Major Rooney)
5.30pm sailed 1BCS, six in number. (Midshipman Bagot)
Still in harbour painting ship and get in provisions, at 3.30pm we prepared for sea and left harbour at 5.30pm Scottish soldiers cheered us as we past under bridge. (Private Stevens)
Invincible - Rosyth and At sea. / 4.53am commenced coaling. / 7.55am finished coaling, received 400 tons. / 5.25pm weighed and proceeded, with 1BCS.
8th September 1914
This morning we exercised control, and ‘Putts’ the pointer tries his hand as a range-finder expert. He seems a clear and accurately eyed fellow, so I hope to take him on, and he is keen, hoping to see something from his new perch. 8.30pm news at last, that enemy’s wireless is clearly heard strength 7, 8 and 9, about 50 miles off. So steam is raised for 20 knots and full steam probably later, and we head southward, shall we have any luck on the morrow. (Major Rooney)
Tuesday, patrolling area of North Sea. (Midshipman Bagot)
Steaming towards Heligoland expected to be attacked by German airships. Capture trawler in the morning watch, about 11.30pm order came through that German ships reported in vicinity, steaming 20 knots. (Private Stevens)
That afternoon was to mark a significant change of duties to the squadron, when they were joined by the elderly cruiser Sappho and four destroyers of the 4DF. These ships where greatly welcomed, since it was now confidently expected on-board that they, and not the battle-cruisers were now to act as boarding ships. No longer would such a valuable ship as Queen Mary, have to stop and remain near a merchantman during an inspection, or so it was thought at that time. That evening the prospects of an encounter on the morrow seemed to increase.
Invincible - At sea. / 5.15am formed single line ahead. / 11.12am formed on line of bearing from Lion NE by E. / 4.00pm Flag alter course South forming on her port beam. / 4.35pm in station on port beam of Lion 2 miles. / 6.50pm formed single line ahead.
9th September 1914
Throughout the GF’s sweep south into German home waters certain precautions were strictly enforced to conceal any hint of the sortie to the Germans, as well as the usual preparations for all eventualities:
Joined up with BF, and a plan of operations issued at 4am, 1BCS to be 54.36 north by 6.25 east supporting LCS and 3DF, BF will be to north of us at 6am. It is apparently a venture down in the direction of Borkum, I wonder what luck awaits us. No wireless to be used, so there will be no give away. German wireless messages continue, apparently a couple are close at hand, we apparently have got hold of their call signs. Cheers, full steam for dawn and all preparations made for a general action next day, turrets provisioned and watered up, lest we are engaged all day, various other arrangements made. I have a whole night in as ‘guns’ works out for the morning, it is apparently however a five minute night, and a night to sleep in ones clothes. So we move south ‘Finger on trigger’, goodnight. (Major Rooney)
Still patrolling, orders to raise steam for possible action tomorrow. (Midshipman Bagot)
Steaming south expected a German torpedo but nothing happened. (Private Stevens)
Invincible - At sea. / 5.20am took station astern of Lion. / 6.30am investigate steamer. / 6.35pm closed Inflexible. / 6.49pm rejoin squadron.
10th September 1914
Queen Mary and her companions were at a high state of alert, again in support of the aggressive Harwich Force and its current sweep into the Heligoland Bight, commencing at 2.30am that morning, and narrowly avoiding the German 3rd Flotilla in its track. Before another routine day developed as Beatty retired northwards at 7.30am joining up with Jellicoe at 10.45am and carrying out combined fleet manoeuvres from midday, sweeping north on a wide front in the last chance of intercepting any hostile force.
What a clear horizon, and nothing stirring. We come across our lumpy BF and a shoal of destroyers about midday, and wander away to westwards. (Major Rooney)
8am in Heligoland Bight backing up destroyers and light-cruisers, BF is backing us up. Enemy did not come out. (Midshipman Bagot)
Expecting to go into action north of Heligoland but nothing happened, joined up with BF at noon. (Private Stevens)
Throughout the day no contacts or sightings had been made, not even of a submarine real or bogus. Towards evening the Major supervised the taking out of the sub-calibre fittings from ‘A’ turret in preparation for an exercise the following day.
The German light-cruiser Emden made her first capture in the Indian Ocean, the Greek collier Pontoporos.
Invincible - At sea. / 5.00am zig-zagging 2 points to port and starboard alternately. / 8.00am exercised General Quarters. / 10.45am course and speed as requisite for forming ‘Grand Fleet’. / 2.25pm minesweepers took station one mile ahead in line abreast.
11th September 1914
All on-board now expected the sweep to be yet another abortive operation. The Invincible and Inflexible were detached to carry out an independent sweep to the west, towards the Firth of Tay and Dundee, from which they were then to proceed onto Scapa Flow:
Nothing met with so retired northward: About noon we altered course south again, but no news nor any sight of any craft what so ever, disappointing. Wind and sea getting up and a deal of rain. (Major Rooney)
After a general sweep of the North Sea right into the Bight, no German flag was to be seen, so proceeded to sweep back. (Midshipman Bagot)
As an indication of how slowly some news was received on-board, in Private Stevens’s diary entry for this day there is a belated mention of the German sweep, which took place on the 6th against British trawlers as the 1BCS lay at Rosyth:
Cruising about all day with BF, intercepted German messages but nothing happened as we had no code books. While in harbour German cruisers destroyed our fishing fleet. (Private Stevens)
Invincible - At sea. / 10.15am alter course to investigate trawler. / 10.25am stopped and lowered cutter. / 11.00am proceeded. / 11.45am stopped, lowered boat and investigated Danish steamer. / 1.26pm closing SS Alfred Stage for investigation.
12th September 1914
In the middle watch we had a small alarm, as out light-cruisers started using their searchlights to discover something or other. Control exercised in forenoon. News that we are to proceed into Scapa to coal and rest for 48 hours. I suppose the Firth of Forth is considered too dangerous. (Major Rooney)
8am rendezvous with BF off Shetlands, carried out PZ. Noon returned to Scapa to coal. (Midshipman Bagot)
Cruising about all day doing exercises, going into coal at 5pm prepared for the same. (Private Stevens)
As Jellicoe’s dreadnought BF headed towards Loch Ewe on the northwest coast of Scotland to coal. The battle-cruisers now shaped course for Scapa Flow, there to rejoin their two earlier detached sisters, and to refuel.
Invincible - At sea and Scapa Flow. / 2.30am alter course to starboard to avoid fishing vessel. / 5.25am taking station astern of 3BS. / 6.45am entered swept channel. / 9.26am came to anchor. / 10.50am collier secured alongside. / 11.45am commenced coaling. / 8.40pm finished coaling. / 9.45pm cast off collier.
13th September 1914
Sunday, arrived Scapa Flow 6am and proceeded to coal from two colliers’ 1,800 tons, Westgarth rather rotten on port side and Agnes Duncan on starboard did a very good coaling, averaging 200 tons or more, one hour about 270 tons, started about 8am and finished about 5.30pm. The Albermarle and 3rd Division went out, no view of Baloo, but a letter from him to say they had sunk a whale by gunfire. Sounds very creditable, only hope it is really a submarine. Got out nets, and got in a fair mail. (Major Rooney)
5.30am arrived Scapa, 8am coaled 1,800 tons, 5pm finished coaling, his is our second best coaling. (Midshipman Bagot)
Arrived at Scapa Flow at 5.30am started coaling at 8am from two colliers, taking in 1,800 tons and also taking in about 200 tons of oil fuel, finished at 5.30pm out net defence at 7pm. (Private Stevens)
Invincible - Scapa Flow. / 2.40am Sappho weighed and proceeded. / 5.55am 1BCS and 1LCS arrived and anchored.
14th September 1914
For Queen Mary at Scapa it was to be a routine day in harbour, a welcome rest from the rigours of the North Sea. Here as some of the officers land, the battle-cruiser took in stores and carried out some maintenance.
Went ashore from 1.30pm to 6pm and walked to Kirkwall and did some extravagant shopping. Rained a deal. (Major Rooney)
Cleaned ship and carried out harbour routine, got in stores etc., fine but misty. (Private Stevens)
Went ashore, ships are all painted light grey and have stripped masts. Australian navy captured Bismarck Isle in Pacific. (Midshipman Bagot)
This last entry mentions the successful capture of this archipelago by Empire forces on the 11th, one of a string of such ventures undertaken at this time to occupy isolated German colonies. The noted action between the British armed merchant cruiser Carmania, and German armed merchant cruiser Cap Trafalgar in the South Atlantic, saw the latter sunk.
Invincible - Scapa Flow and At sea. / 6.35am weighed. / 6.45am proceeded. / 10.00am zig-zagging every quarter hour. / 11.30am helm jammed. / 11.35am zig-zagging as before. / 3.30pm Inflexible took station astern.
15th September 1914
The above remarks about rain and mist where the portents of a spell of poor weather to come, since Queen Mary’s departure for planned exercises with the squadron in the North Sea, was now postponed due to adverse weather:
Manoeuvres orders cancelled, we remain in Scapa instead of leaving at 11.30am. Blowing great guns, cannot go ashore. (Major Rooney)
Was going to sea at 11.30am but operation postponed in the North Sea. Remained in harbour till further orders, weather showery and gale of wind, blowing all night. (Private Stevens)
News that Hela, German cruiser was sunk by submarine E.9. (Midshipman Bagot)
Tidings of an early British underwater success, carried out by Max Horton in enemy home waters on the 13th.
Invincible - At sea. / 6.55am investigate steamer. / 9.00am lost overboard by accident 4in gun. / 11.39am investigate trawler Exporter of Aberdeen. / 3.00pm investigate sailing trawler Etna / 4.08pm board Swedish cargo steamer Carl.
16th September 1914
In Scapa, calm morning, no signs of movement. The Albemarle and Russell apparently returned, met JHR on shore. (Major Rooney)
My annual training for the RNR finishes today. Germans having got to within 20 miles of Paris, no retreat along the whole front (Battle of The Marne 5th to 10th). I went ashore. (Midshipman Bagot)
Still in Harbour carrying out harbour routine, painting ship and went to evening quarters first time since war being declared. (Private Stevens)
During this enforced stay Tennyson had time to write a rather aggressive letter to one of his brothers, Aubrey then in Kitchener’s Army training at Sheerness:
My word, I do sympathise with you enormously in your present surroundings, mud flats are not pleasant at any time, let alone when you have a lot of slackers there as well. By Jove, you must be longing for the front!, I have tasted gunfire (Heligoland) and am longing for more of it. We have made every possible attempt to have some more fun, but the will not come out. When all our 13.5 inch go off at once, like the other day, all the time hundreds of German 4.2 inch are whistling over your head, and even if one of them does hit you it is just like a potato. Of course that was only because we were up against light stuff. We always live on a war-footing and so there is really no difference at all, except that we are more at sea, and it gets a bit boring, especially when cold or wet, I expect you are the same. Well, the Germans seem to be on the run at last, and I hope we shall wipe every man of them off the face of the earth, and then turn their own guns on the fleet from shore and drive them out. The best of luck, and take my tip and rag as much as you can if you are getting a bit fed up. Your very loving brother, Harold (Midshipman Tennyson)
Invincible - At sea. / 10.15am commenced 15 min zig-zagging. / 11.30am closed steamer Fantoft, lowered sea-boat, circled. / 12.10pm stopped and hoisted sea-boat. / 4.35pm investigate trawler Ocean Queen.
17th September 1914
The squadron remained at Scapa were a harbour routine ruled the day, with only a report of submarine activity in the immediate vicinity adding some interest. Further to this was another clear indication of why rumours and inaccurate stories circulated, when the Major included in his diary entry for that day, the first definite news of an action on the 9th, between the pre-dreadnought in his brother’s squadron and a U-boat.
A couple of hundred to come in, Agnes Duncan came alongside about 7am and marines and foretopmen rigged two holds, commenced coaling at 8.30am and finished in a couple of hours. Rumoured approach of some German submarines, so steam for two-and-a-half hours and all ready to shift billet. All leave stopped and so could not get ashore, or to Albemarle. Wind and rain. Report of submarine sunk by Albemarle, Hibernia and Zealandia on 9th, Albemarle saw periscope heading for them and opened fire with 12 pounder, and it is reported that periscope was shot away. All vessels headed for submarine, the Zealandia ramming it apparently, and a certain amount of woodwork, oil, and petrol, seen passing astern. Account appears to be authentic. Zealandia just returned from dock, a scar was found all along the vessels side and bottom, in region of bilge keel, terminating in two indentations, supposed to have been made by propeller of submarine, which it is imagined was rolled over and over. (Major Rooney)
Although this happened just off the Orkney’s by ships on her station, Queen Mary’s crew did not hear of it for over a week. From this it is appreciated that if ‘Official’ news did not circulate effectively, rumours, were a good substitute for men starved of enlightenment.
Hands called at 5.30am one watch coal ship, 117 tons, hands painting ship’s side, finished coaling about 10.30am cleaned ship, rather showery. Band playing while coaling and went to Liverpool in the evening. (Private Stevens)
Coaled 230 tons to complete, ship under sailing orders. (Midshipman Bagot)
Invincible - At sea. / 7.00am board SS Bretagne, lowered sea boat. / 8.00am picked up sea boat. / 9.30am stopped: dropped target for gunnery practice. / 12.20pm picked up target. / 3.27pm lowered sea-boat for investigation of Danish cargo steamer Snorvaldsen. / 4.12pm hoisted sea-boat.
18th September 1914
For those on-board Queen Mary, this all to brief stay in harbour, for maintenance and repairs was drawing to a close, but before her departure one interesting minor structural change took place:
Still anchored in Scapa, find it distinctly agreeable to be in harbour for the last few days, even though one cannot go ashore, we are in no hurry to leave our haven, unless there is a definite object in view. Queen Mary busy building galvanised penthouse to shelter control night defence crews. Corrugated iron seems very suitable and will look OK painted grey. Left Scapa Flow about 6.30pm and proceeded into North Sea, a very dark moonless night with things aslide and on the run. Thank God for being in a fine fat ship and not in a destroyer or bug trap of sorts. (Major Rooney)
Harbour routine till noon, hands piped down till 3.30pm in net defence at 3.45pm prepared for night defence at 6pm, up anchor at 6.45pm, weather fine but foggy. (Private Stevens)
6.45pm Sailed 1BCS also LCS, sweeping east for merchant vessels. (Midshipman Bagot)
This saw the start of yet another North Sea sweep by Beatty’s four battle-cruisers and screening units.
Invincible - At sea. / 10.00am exercised General Quarters. / 6.00pm investigate steamer. / 8.10pm alter course to avoid steamer.
19th September 1914
Control 11am, nothing of interest all day. Moved eastwards at nightfall and into the Skagerrak, eight cruisers spread out on line of bearing. Met with a good number of vessels passing in and out. Last night a very dark night in spite of very brilliant display of stars, as well as a magnificent comet which attracted instant attention, it appears to be plunging seaward in this direction, the tail being very pronounced, close below Ursula Major. (Major Rooney)
This sight appears to have been just one of the visual wonders, and images that this observer seems to have been very aware, and appreciative of during his watches, as is noted by other inclusions in his diary in a similar vein:
Particular notice to be taken of certain suspected fishing vessels, the Scottish fishing buoys which are bottle shape have been found to support petrol tins for enemy submarines. Rounding up steamers, too rough to inspect same. (Midshipman Bagot)
Invincible - At sea. / 10.14am investigate steamer Else of Allburg.
20th September 1914
Keeping watch on the bridge during the early hours, there was an interesting incident, in which despite excellent visibility prevailing, observations and perceived contacts could still be greatly in error.
Kept middle on the bridge, very dark, many passing ships and many flashing lights visible off Norwegian coast. Our course lay up the Skagerrak and about 20 miles from Naze light. Danish light of Hantzholm was visible at a distance of 65 miles, so it must have been a clear night. It lightened a little about 3.40am and a dark shape resembling a submarine appeared on port beam. So I trained the guns on it and waited to observe closer, it appeared to be moving on a parallel course, and drawing slightly ahead, I made it at first as about 2,500 yards off, and ascertained from signalmen if they had the challenge ready. It turned out later to be Lion at a distance of five-and-a-half miles. A very good object lesson, as at first glance one felt actually disposed to sound the alarm, very close shave. A quantity of shipping passing through. Maxim busy firing at fishermen’s buoys and barrels encountered on our course, poor practice, give me my revolver. Are we in wait for German merchantmen returning, and intend to frustrate any attempt of Germans to escort them home, or we expect to meet a detached force. (Major Rooney)
Off Jutland coast, destroyers are inspecting steamers. (Midshipman Bagot)
The squadron altered course about 9am when north of Skaw and moved to the westward during this phase the 1BCS was assisting destroyers in examining trawlers in the vicinity of Little Fisher Bank, and sinking any objects passed by machine gun fire. That afternoon the squadron now under strict wireless silence was still deployed to the westward of the Skaw, the overall objective of the sweep was uncertain to most, although speculation was rife. Further to these possibilities, it was discussed on-board that they might be there to cover the passage of a couple of British submarines, the E.1 and E.5, which were being towed across the North Sea to undertake either a penetration of the Baltic or an attack upon Kiel. To the north the supporting GF was also under strict radio silence, all wireless signalling ceased at 4pm and was not to be used again until 4pm on the following day.
In order that the enemy should not become aware of the movements of the fleet, as such knowledge might prevent the HSF from putting to sea and possibly deprive us of our opportunity of catching it. (Admiral Jellicoe)
The veteran light-cruiser Pegasus was sunk by the German light-cruiser Konigsberg at Zanzibar.
Invincible - At sea and at Scapa Flow. / 7.55am came to anchor. / 10.00am Roman Catholics arrived on board for service. / 5.05pm collier alongside.
21st September 1914
There was consequently only one satisfactory means of communication between these two commanders. Beatty reported to Jellicoe by passed on visual means, transferred along the line of linking cruisers, that at 6.20am his squadron was to the northeast of the Dogger Bank. Cruising in these waters Queen Mary and her consorts were soon to experience the effects of a strong gale, a telling impression of which the Major managed to capture under severe conditions.
Somewhere to westward of Sylt off Danish and German coast, very rough and blowing fresh. The winter appears to have set in already, and ‘A’ turret in its exposed position is gradually becoming a hall of the winds and spray. It is very often necessary to batten down, closing all orifices, such as gun muzzles, sighting ports, sighting hoods, range-finder ports, upper manhole and even the back door. The cabinet manhole floor plate lets in enough air and brine to last a consumption hospital for a year. It is gradually becoming a fine art to reach the isolated ‘A’ without wading, or the assistance of a boat. The plan of operation appears to have fallen through on account of the bad weather, seems doubtful to me if our submarines can do anything in it, at any rate the enemy’s apparently can’t. 11am to 2pm held a ‘get on’ aim competition. The Achates has apparently lost herself, and is signalling to find our position. Hanly was to have gone to a destroyer today to act as interpreter while the flotilla carried out a boarding sweep to search all trawlers in North Sea, the exact objective and orders for boarding officers for this duty I do not know. (Major Rooney)
The sweep continued, with the battle-cruisers and light-cruisers together now engaged in examining mined areas. The expediency of doing such an exercise with first class ships appearing to be rather doubtful to all involved, it could have been better performed by lighter units. The Admiral noted his impressions on this bleak day.
This roaming about the North Sea day after day with no prospect of meeting an enemy vessel, I think is the heaviest trial that could be laid on any man. Here have I the finest striking force in the world, six battle-cruisers and six light-cruisers, and for all we can do, they might be Thames barges under any circumstances. We can never do anything because we are never in the right place. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
To rough for destroyers, operation postponed. (Midshipman Bagot)
Invincible -Scapa Flow. / 5.30am commenced coaling. / 2.40pm finished coaling.
22nd September 1914
At 2am the alarm sounded off, and all guns were manned, the orders come to train red 135 degrees. ‘A’ turret cleared away at once, a hand doubled out to remove muzzle covers and sighting port covers. It was very dark and still blowing, spray coming truly over the forecastle. On training round nothing was visible to me whatsoever, through either periscope, nor glasses. Trained now red 90 degrees, still nothing visible. No orders as to any object, guns crews stood by for some time after stowing away their hammocks. Searchlights had been seen ahead, battle-cruisers were spread on a line of bearing from flag. Belay alarm, now passed, and turret crews trained home again, and reslung hammocks, turning in about 3.25am. 4.20am a fresh alarm, train red 90 degrees, a repetition, this time a long low white looking craft was visible to port, but only through my glasses. All 4 inch were loaded and laid upon her. This was followed by the belay for the second time. The suspicious craft having been challenged and answering Nottingham. We had over-run the light-cruiser line of bearing in the dark and were threatening one of our own vessels. Just a little shake-up so to speak, as we certainly expected to open fire and that action of sorts was imminent. (Major Rooney)
2.30am alarm, only the Falmouth (or her consort above) out of station. 4am alarm, supposed submarines. 8am off Norwegian coast. A destroyer flotilla is going to night attack. German cruiser Emden sunk six merchant vessels in Bay of Bengal. (Midshipman Bagot)
There is a page missing from our Marine private’s diary covering the past couple of days, with only a partial entry remained covering this episode:
.... but did not fire, after which happened to be one of our light-cruisers showing her searchlight on one of the fishing trawlers. (Private Stevens)
Despite these disruptions to his much-needed rest, the Major was to find great satisfaction in one aspect of these events, namely his turret crews fast response and excellent performance. That dawn saw the GF deployed on a sweeping front covering a 104 mile wide track southward: This swathe extended from just off the Norwegian coast well out into the North Sea.
How quietly and methodically the guns crews go about their quarters now-of-nights, none of the panic laden hurry that characterised the earlier night alarms of the war. The men fly to their posts with a silent grim alacrity, there is no fumbling, no confusion, they know the ropes, the right levers are moved, the phones dictate their orders, and the ponderous turret moves to the appointed bearing with the precision and regularity of clockwork. The range and deflection dials tick out their orders, and the engine of war feels its way to the mark in the dark, it is in other words efficiency brought by weeks of training, the greatest asset of a fleet in being. Daylight showed us the Norwegian coast again, a group of lofty islands. A number of our ships in sight, including 1CS and a couple of Irresistible class, all on the look-out for a reported force of German cruisers and submarines reported to have put into Stavanger. It is a glorious fresh day, a dashing blue sea, and scurrying clouds, a world very much alive in more ways than one. The officers and men’s morning run around for exercise, to the beating of the drum is full of life today. As many flat footed, panting Dorandos, all padding around for dear life in the sunshine, like a vast crowd of school Boys running to a tea and cake treat, give me my India rubber shoes. Control at 10.50am. Initiated pointer Frost in rapid range taking. A good stolid chap, with an eye like a micrometer gauge, he’ll do. A game of draughts after lunch relieved the paymaster of tuppence, good egg. Now for a close down, and May the devil take the submarines. Shipped sub-calibre after tea, to carry out an exercise next day. Squadron moved to westward of the Orkney and Shetlands. (Major Rooney)
Unknown to all on-board Queen Mary at that time, off the Dutch coast that morning a terrible indication of the power of the submarine had been enacted. When the solitary U.9, under the able command of Captain Otto Weddigen, encountered three un-escorted armoured-cruisers of the 7CS, on blockade duties. The armoured-cruisers Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy, were all sunk with heavy loss of life.
Invincible - Scapa Flow.
23rd September 1914
It was not to be until the early hours of this morning that those on-board Queen Mary heard of this catastrophic incident, concerning the fate of the cruisers of the 7CS temporarily without a destroyer escort. They had been completely routed by what was initially thought to have been a well co-ordinated attacked by a pack of submarines. Whereas in fact this disaster was to be inflicted by only one, which then escaped unscathed. The first hint of the grievous news of the loss these three cruisers gradually spread through Queen Mary. This was to be an event of considerable concern on-board, as is clearly reflected in the detailed diary entries covering the event, and over the days that followed.
Weather dull and raining, and very foggy, steaming very slow in a northern direction, about 1.30am a wireless message came through reporting that the armoured-cruisers Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy, were sunk off the Mass lightship about 20 miles to the north most of the Hook of Holland: Went down with nearly all hands, only 287 were saved out of about 2,500 (1,459 actually perished). The crews consisting of manly all Naval Reserves, it was reported that during the afternoon the Dutch steamer Flora was sighted, Aboukir stopped her and was about to examine her when she was struck by a torpedo from a submarine. The Cressy and Hogue going to her assistance were also torpedoed and sunk. The survivors were taken into the nearest Dutch port which happened to be Yminden about 25 miles south: About 5.30pm we turned and steamed southwest, reported later that Cressy sunk two German submarines and light-cruiser, heard two other German submarines reported sunk by Cressy. (Private Stevens)
From the amount of detail and insight into this event in this particular individuals usual basic diary entry, it is safe to assume that he completed it well after the actual event, possibly upon return to harbour, when such information as above was then in general circulation. The sweep went on, with the dreadnoughts and battle-cruisers attempt to undertake a gunnery practice that morning, but thick weather greatly interfered with this endeavour. Upon the cancellation of the exercise the battle-cruisers shaped course towards the northeast and a return to Scapa Flow that evening. In comparison to Stevens’ entry, Rooney’s relatively obscure note about the 7CS has a distinct impression of being written down that day, while still at sea.
Stood by most of the forenoon and afternoon to carry out squadron sub-calibre at target towed by the New Zealand, but even she could hardly be distinguished owing to the thick banks of mist, so practice had eventually to be abandoned. Rumour of two British cruisers sunk in North Sea. (Major Rooney)
News that Cressy, Hogue, Aboukir have been sunk by submarine. Churchill in speech gave a threat that if German Fleet will not come out to sea, he will drag them out like rats in a hole. Shipped sub-calibre but it was too misty to fire. (Midshipman Bagot)
Invincible - Scapa Flow.
24th September 1914
News of Aboukir, Cressy, Hogue, sunk by submarine off Hook of Holland: 1BCS entered Scapa about 5am and immediately prepared for coaling, 1,500 tons from the Remembrance of Sunderland: Marines have a single derrick hold, not a bad collier, finished well about 5pm. Ammunition ship alongside, about 70 shells to come in, ‘X’ did the business. Also shrapnel shell. (Major Rooney)
Weather rainy, proceeded to Scapa Flow to coal. Ship arrived at 6am started coaling at 8.30am taking in 1,520 tons, finished at 6.30pm prepared for net defence at 7pm out net defence at 1.30am (25th). Changed a few 13.5 inch Lyddite shells, two 3 pound aeroplane guns arrived. (Private Stevens)
7.30am arrived Scapa. 9am coaled 1,500 tons. 7pm finished coaling. Ammunitioned ship took in shrapnel 13.5 inch, 2am (25th) finished. (Midshipman Bagot)
Invincible - Scapa Flow. / 7.15am: 1st, 2nd, and 4th BS’s arrived. / 8.25am 1LCS arrived.
25th September 1914
Quiet day in harbour, with only some extra storing and cleaning ship from the previous days efforts being apparently the only items of note:
Went aboard Drina, saw Sutton, in Scapa all day. (Major Rooney)
Weather fine, in harbour all day, cleaned ship, took in four rounds of 13.5 inch shrapnel shell per turret and also a little clothing, plates and basins. BF left harbour at 6.30pm in net defence 2.30am (26th), weighed anchor at 4.15am. (Private Stevens)
Rumour that Admiral Beatty is going to bombard Heligoland: (Midshipman Bagot)
The refuelled BF sailed to station itself to the west of the Orkney Islands that evening, leaving the battle-cruisers following early the ensuing morning.
Invincible - Scapa Flow and At sea. / 11.30am 3BS arrived. / 5.20pm weighed and proceeded out of harbour.
26th September 1914
This departure and its perceived reasons were noted by the Major, as was the first hint that the Princess Royal and other ships had now been earmarked to cover a special operation. Unknown to him at the time, it was the passage of the Canadian Expeditionary Force across the Atlantic:
To sea at 4am get in nets, not much catch apparently, moved eastwards. News from C-in-C German HSF, thirty-seven large ships, in the Baltic, moving eastward from Kiel. Our Channel Fleet returns to Portland: I wonder what HSF is up to, probably to exercise crews, let’s hope that they have some initiative at least, and do something. Rough, cold, windy and wet. Princess Royal appears to be detailed for some little adventure, together with certain other ships, a polyglot little fleet, wonder what is up. First watch on bridge was pretty rough, and at times dark as pitch, when several rain storms swept down on us from northwards and came down like so many bullets. (Major Rooney)
Weather fine, rough but not enough to make it uncomfortable, steaming at half speed, 1BCS and LCS steaming in an eastern direction, passed minesweeper at 6.30am and Doris with a steamer at 6.45am. Turned south at 1.30pm till 6.30pm then turned east again. New Zealand left us to take steamer, Dutch, into nearest British port, taking her place in line again at 8.45pm. (Private Stevens)
Another journal entry for today was brief to say the least, but interesting in its mention of a cancelled air strike, due perhaps a mistaken understanding of events:
4.30am sailed 1BCS and LCS. Operations postponed as too rough for use of aeroplanes. (Midshipman Bagot)
Invincible - Scapa Flow to Faroe Isles. / 1.00pm came to anchor. / 2.30pm Consul visited Admiral. / 2.40pm Consul left with Admiral. / 4.03pm weighed and proceeded.
27th September 1914
Sunday, and a day to remember by all, since Queen Mary and the ships of Beatty’s and Jellicoe’s command were now to experience the full effects of a tremendous 70 mph North Sea gale. In the rapidly deteriorating weather, which was to inflict some structural damage even to Queen Mary aft, and the upper-works of her consorts. They were called upon to render close support for the armoured-cruiser Drake, the light-cruisers Nottingham and Falmouth, along with two destroyers encountering trouble. This force had been sent to the vicinity of the Naze to escort to safety two British submarines, the E.1 and E.5 from their exposed station off the Skagerrak.
A considerable amount of damage was done to wireless masts, topmasts, etc., and several ships had boats damaged or washed away. The ships of the Iron Duke class took in large quantities of water through their 6 inch gun ports, due to these guns being mounted at such a low level. (Admiral Jellicoe)
Out somewhere in direction of Danish coast, a very rough day, Princess Royal still in company with BCS, also some light-cruisers, which have been ahead of us all night. About noon in extremely rough weather which we have been running before all night, we came across our two submarines, with destroyer escort, battling with the heavy seas, poor little craft. They were like submerged rocks in the breakers, the surf breaking right over them so they were difficult to see even trimmed for surface running. One was evidently in distress. The attendant destroyer was on her beam-ends most of the time. BCS alters course at 11.50am and I saw Lion take a glorious green sea over both ‘A’ and ‘B’ turrets, which were completely submerged. So I took the hint and rushed forward to see if there was anything left on our forecastle. The cold has increased considerably, at 4pm we appear to be running up north: (Major Rooney)
Sunday, weather rough and rainy. Cruising all day but seen nothing of enemy. Drake and Nottingham reported found two British submarines, E.1 and E.5, and have taken them into port. New Zealand stopped steamer (26th) and has taken charge of her till destroyer arrives to take her into harbour. (Private Stevens)
Off Norway. 2.30pm passed submarine E.5 with destroyer, rather rough. 6pm wind increasing to gale. During night our wireless carried away and a lot of stanchions and wood was washed off quarterdeck. Sternwalk smashed. (Midshipman Bagot)
Invincible - At sea.
28th September 1914
Morning broke on a fearfully rough day, seas running mountains high, unusually so for the North Sea. It was something like the Bay of Biscay at its worst. Queen Mary was rolling and pitching to it a treat, and taking green seas overboard at many points, particularly the forecastle, which was washed down regularly. I was awakened by a cascade of water squirting like soda water through the range-finder ports, the periscope socket, and through the sighting ports of the turret, which drove me out of my hammock in double quick time. I did not dally but lashed up and stowed at once, the cabinet being flooded out, and remained so throughout the day. Between decks the decks were pretty wet underfoot. Water having got down onto main and lower deck levels, into the gunners store, handling rooms, working chambers, and magazines, all through ventilators. All the bag racks on the port side were thrown into this mess, and the Stokers were breakfasting noisily, squatting bare legged on mess tins, buckets and boxes, amid the confusion. While the water washed to and fro at will, their language was certainly cheery, but riper that I’ve known it before. Forenoon watch in ‘A’ turret was like a sojourn under Niagara Falls, the turret being submerged at times. Enter one brawny red bearded Stoker, who wanted to get out on to the deck. So thinking to deter him I lifted ‘A’ floor plate to show him the water sluicing below. But he gaily nipped out into it to shut down the screw top ventilator to ‘A and B’ magazines, and returned much refreshed, but minus his topper, which had been whisked off the moment he touched the deck. (Major Rooney)
This forward mounting’s experience is a good representative of how the rest of the ship must have fared. With a good deal of water appearing to have got down through various openings in the ships structure, although not without some comic relief.
The Princess Royal was now detached for her special duty, as Queen Mary punched northwest all day, proceeding slowly into the creaming seas, which continually sprayed the bridge some 60 feet up. She turned south again about 6pm with the light-cruisers still on station ahead of the squadron, which were observed to be hidden in plumes of spray at regular intervals.
Very strong wind and sea very rough, all mess decks flooded out, washing down fore and aft, lost all timber and accommodation ladder off quarterdeck stern walk washed away. Lion lost two life buoys, Princess Royal left us at 9.30am to escort transports across Channel to France. Passed Swedish steamer at 10am. Lion’s top gallantmast and wireless carried away. Our wireless broke, only leaving one, now wind dropped a little at 6.45pm but still a strong sea. (Private Stevens)
Lion and Princess Royal both carried away their topgallant masts. 8am Princess Royal proceeded to Scapa. Squadron heave too as too rough, sea about 20 feet. Washing down everywhere. New Zealand taking sea badly. Roughest sea Queen Mary has been in. (Midshipman Bagot)
Off the Naze, we encountered the heaviest gale I have ever met in the North Sea. We were obliged to heave-to for sixteen hours, and the seas in the Norwegian Deep were truly mountainous. The wind blew from the northwest, and the whole surface of the sea was white with streaks of foam and froth (King-Hall, Southampton)
As concern grew for the deployed light-craft, the Major eventually managed to discover a dry position at the base of ‘A’ mounting. From where he was to later find time to ponder over the various reasons for the extent of the water entry into the ship, and his mountings possible efficiency under such conditions.
No news of E.1, which hasn’t been seen which has not been seen for four or five days, don’t know how E.5 managed to live through it. The Princess Royal it appears is to escort the Canadian Contingent, so after all we don’t envy her luck. Am swinging in ‘A’ magazine handling room tonight, as I find ‘A’ turret cabinet quite untenable, and there is no other sleeping billet. Besides, leaving my hammock swinging I can be in ‘A’ turret in two minutes up the shell hoist. It is an ill wind, ‘A’ handling room is quiet compared with the groaning turret, and is not so stuffy as I imagined. A good deal of water appears to have got down through ‘A’ turret, most of it through the space between the wall and the turntable of the turret. I hear the water now, rushing about over the bilge below the shell room floor, and more is coming down by the bucket load. We are evidently heading into it again. I do not think that there would be any difficulty in fighting our guns in even this rough weather, so long as one could ensure the guns being clear of water, the turret would be duce unpleasant, but after all water is only water. The cordite does not appear to have suffered. The periscopes are of course badly blurred by water, and the gun-layers and trainers positions awash. I do not know if any short-circuiting results, apparently the circuits as tested this evening, wet as they are, are all right and efficient. So let’s have a scrap. (Major Rooney)
Invincible - At sea.
29th September 1914
After his much deserved brief rest in the snug confines of the lower mounting the Major had the middle watch, the first of his three stints that day all on the bridge. The others being the afternoon and first dogwatch, 10 hour’s in all.
On the lookout for German cruisers and armed merchantmen, we encounter none, but passed numerous merchant vessels. Shortly after taking over the first. Queen Mary altered course to avoid a merchantman showing no lights on starboard bow. Captain ordered the alarm, and all watches manned guns, turrets cleared away. One of the buglers made a mistake, and sounded off action, bringing everyone in the ship out of their bunks. The vessel was discovered to be Lion, distant three-and-a-half miles or more, which we had approached upon altering course. Captain required a second officer upon the bridge during the day on account of proximity to mines, and likelihood of encountering a reported submarine parent ship, supposed to be somewhere close at hand: The sea was still coming aboard pretty freely forward, and deluging ‘A’ turret. (Major Rooney)
It was still very rough as the squadron spread out on an extended line of advance towards the Norwegian coast, the severe weather conditions were equally felt on-board the flagship, as was concern for the little ships. Earlier very strong enemy wireless signals had been picked up by the cruisers Drake and Nottingham, which was passed on to Beatty, reporting the suspicious transmitter in a position roughly halfway between the Firth of Forth and the Skagerrak. This instigated a message from the flagship that evening.
Blowing very hard with a bad sea. Sunday night and Monday morning it was a full gale and it was not pleasant. I haven’t a dry spot in my cabin. The decks leak like a sieve, and it’s like living under a perpetual shower bath: We lost a topgallant mast with the wireless, and a gun went overboard, so it has been no joy, and this is the fourth day. It has been bad for some of the destroyers and two of our submarines. I don’t know what has happened to them, but I hope they will turn up all right. ... Large steamers are to be examined under searchlight, small obvious tramps left alone. Good lookout to be kept for vessels steaming south without lights. Enemy’s armed merchant ships or cruisers May be met with during the night. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
Column still patrolling. 8pm general quarters, suspicious steamer. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather stormy, sea rough, cruising up and down the North Sea, light-cruisers joined with us at 11.15am fired one round from each 4 inch gun at 7.45am 8.35pm we went to action stations, thought it was German armed liner which had been reported, but did not come to anything. Dispersed at 8.55pm nothing more happened during the night. (Private Stevens)
Invincible - At sea. / 8.50am sighted 1BCS and LCS. / 10.45am close Pedro Christian of Stockholm.
30th September 1914
Still involved in the sweep to intercept the expected enemy vessels, but with no luck, and nothing encountered. As for one of the ‘missing’ submarines there was soon to be positive news, combined with the fate of a seaplane, by way of a postscript a single float from this seaplane was discovered the following month by the Lowestoft, however its two crewmen were never seen again.
Searching spread for armed merchantmen. Control at 11am the gun-loading cage of ‘A’ jammed this morning. Prepare for coal, and to return to Scapa tomorrow. The sea moderated somewhat, but still at 9pm blowing pretty hard: Missing submarine E.1, poor little craft upon such a dangerous errand down the Kattegat in such terrible weather, I suspect that she will not be heard of again. (Major Rooney)
Weather calm and fine, land sighted at 6.30am reported to be Norwegian Coast, steaming southeast at 5 miles apart, proceeded to Scapa Flow to coal, arriving at 5.30am (on the 1st). (Private Stevens)
Column returning to Scapa to Coal. (Midshipman Bagot)
E.5 caused us some anxiety by disappearing for twenty-four hours. We found out afterwards that she had only got so ‘fed-up’ with the gale that she had decided to dive for a day. On our way back to Scapa we searched for a seaplane, No.77, which had been missing for twenty-four hours, but without any success. (King-Hall, Southampton)
Invincible - At sea. /. 6.22pm in station astern of 1BCS.
Habitability in October 1914
such capital ships as the Queen Mary were given twelve Pattern 1582 Electric Radiators to warm cabins whose stoves could not be used for heating them.
1st October 1914
Returned to Scapa Flow about 5am or 6am anchored and prepared for coaling. Mercedes came alongside about 7am and hands rigged collier and went to breakfast. Took in 1,350 tons, a very good coaling, averaging over 200 tph, one hour 259t. Signalmen taken away out of the marines hold, but we did it nevertheless, the eleven strong band working forward as the seventh gang. Finished by 2.30pm or 3pm. Marine draft of reservists and enlisted, thirty-four all told came aboard about 10am they included four G.L’s II, and were mostly old. At 5.30pm told them off into day action station crews for 4 inch guns, and for 3pdr aeroplane guns. Some of the marine newcomers were at Ostend, but had little to report beyond having been land with maxims (machine guns), and busy for some days entrenching to cover Ostend: A semi-circular work, breast high, with emplacements for the maxims, about 6 miles out of Ostend: (Major Rooney)
Thursday. 6.30am arrived Scapa. 8am coaled 1,500 tons. 2.30pm finished. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather rainy, coal ship started at 8am taking in 1,350 tons, finished at 2.30pm dropped at 7.30am. More marines arrived on-board: (Private Stevens)
This excellent coaling was also due to the collier above, capable of carrying 1,603t, and handling it rapidly with her excellent rigs and specialised features. Here besides Queen Mary lay Lion and New Zealand, along with the Princess Royal, cleaning her boilers, and preparing herself for her future Atlantic deployment. There was also the Invincible and Indefatigable present, in a fine gathering of the GF’s battle-cruisers.
As a further insight into the general movements of the latter pair of ships, and the BCS, brief extracts of there activities over the following month, before their urgent dispatch to the Falklands, will be entered from this date, beginning with Invincible.
Invincible - Scapa Flow. / 6.20am came to anchor. / 8.50am commenced coaling. / 6.20pm: Finished coaling.
2nd October 1914
Muratai came alongside took in ammunition and stores. Lion and Princess Royal shipped stump masts. (Midshipman Bagot)
This midshipman’s note of the alterations to her squadron mate’s rig was as a direct result of their recent storm damage. Off duty officers were allowed ashore later that day, and here the Major was to confer with a marine colleague from the flagship about the squadrons recent action in the Bight. It was to be from this source that he obtained some new details, and perceptions, which he subsequently included within his contemporary notes of the event.
Muratai came alongside to ammunition ship, eight practice projectiles per turret, and several AP Lyddite from a tank on starboard side for ‘B’ and ‘Q’ turrets. Got a walk ashore in the afternoon into Kirkwall. Met Sullivan RM and he told me some details of Lion at Heligoland: Walk ashore very acceptable, wish we were staying a couple of days at Scapa. Our anchorage to be shifted into Longhope directly. Seems to be a rotten place by comparison to Scapa Flow. (Major Rooney)
Why this reluctance to the seemingly more enclosed and protected arm of water at Longhope, over the relatively open and exposed Flow, he does not elaborate upon.
Weather fine, we took in stores and ammunition from store ship Muritai, twenty rounds per turret. Hands called at 5am signal from Admiralty reporting mails that left London the night of the 1st was burnt coming from London to Scotland: (Private Stevens)
There was a change in the ship’s principal engineer officer today. Lieutenant-Commander Johns was replaced by Lieutenant-Commander John M. Murray, officially listed on the ship’s books from the 3rd: Apparently something had gone, or had been going wrong with the boilers was all that the Major and his colleagues knew of the reasons behind the move that day. No further details emerged concerning this move at that time, but on the 12th of the month it emerged at an enquiry into the state of Queen Mary’s boilers, that they had been allowed to become pitted and damaged due to neglect, Johns being held responsible.
On this day there was positive news of the apparently floundering submarine encountered in their last storm tossed sweep was reported to be safe, news welcomed by all on-board: At 5pm Beatty received orders to set sail at daybreak on the morrow. Before this Tennyson took the opportunity before departure, to write a brief note to his brother Aubrey, indicating his position on-board in a 4 inch secondary battery director.
I realise now what it is to be in the Navy. Although I have grumbled at it in peacetime, I have always said it is a wonderful profession in wartime. If I was ashore now I should not be allowed to enlist in the Army, the age limit being from 19 to 35. But here I have charge of a battery of 4 inch guns, which is a colonel’s command in the Army, and a young lieutenant of about twenty-five has two 13.5 inch guns, capable of doing more damage and killing more men than a whole regiment put together. Father talks about my ‘turret’. I am not in a turret. I am in that funny little rabbit-hutch place I showed you. I read several yarns in the papers about our Heligoland show, really the most awful bunkum, and also about the Gloucester and Goeben (chase in the Mediterranean 6th/7th of August), about the men at the guns, absolute nonsense to a service man, but appealing to the public. (Midshipman Tennyson)
It appears that Tennyson’s brother, the Hon. Alfred Aubrey, was to be killed in France on the 23 March 1918, while serving as a Captain in the Rifle Brigade, he was 26 at the time of his death.
At the close of his diary entry for this day, the Major had just cause to vent his anger at yet another seemingly dangerous incident similar to one noted in August, that of an un-marked aircraft over flying the fleet anchorage.
Six weeks after the last occurrence, the same machines pass to and fro overhead without any identification marks, personally I’d like to bring one of the beggars down, simply to prove the folly of it. A few disasters are necessary to bring it home to them that some simple distinguishing mark such as a flag painted on the planes visible from below is needed. (Major Rooney)
Around this time Union Jack markings were being applied to Royal Flying Corps (RFC), and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). Unfortunately in some conditions the Union Jack was liable to be mistaken for the German Iron Cross. On the 26 October over the Front, two airmen named Hosking and Crean of No.4 Squadron RFC, were mistakenly shot down by British ground fire. Gradually the introduction of wing roundels in the national colours came into favour, however it was not to be until the 16 May 1915, when the RFC issued official instructions to standardise this practice, by outlining the application of red, white and blue vertical stripes to the rudders of their machines. Followed on the 23 June by guidance on roundels painted to the sides of its aircraft, as well as to the upper and lower flying surfaces. These outlines on clear national recognition markings, adopted by the RFC, were also finally approved by the RNAS on the 1 November 1915.
Invincible - Scapa Flow. / 1.55pm half speed ahead for leaving harbour and navigating swept channels.
3rd October 1914
This morning’s departure, without the Princess Royal, was apparently to be not very well executed. The Major indicates a possible reason, as well as painting a beautiful pen picture of the terrific winds which they were to encounter yet again.
Hands on deck in the rain from 3am till 5am getting in nets, delay due to certain petty officers who did not know their jobs. Commander James was very scathing upon the subject. Went out to sea at 5am and passed Westward by the Island of Hoy, and up north: A fierce wind was blowing, and two small rivers, or streams, that pour over the great cliffs south of Rackwick, were blown back over the cliff tops after they had fallen a few feet. It was a remarkable sight, as the water streamed away like white smoke from a fire. Weather is blowing up again, and we are steaming to meet it, up into the cold north: I do not know what is in the wind: (Major Rooney)
5am 1BCS, ney Princess Royal. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather stormy. Hands called at 2.45am for in net defence, finished at 5am weighed anchor at 5.10am to proceed to sea. (Private Stevens)
Once at sea the Major assembled the newcomers, his ‘Old Guard’ as he called them. And exercised 4 inch gunnery drill. Speculation as to why the squadron has put to sea deemed it quite likely that they had sailed to cover the northern approaches of the Atlantic, and support the passage of the Canadian Contingent. For once the rumour was right, the BF had already taken up its intended position to provide distant cover for this vital Canadian troop convoy, then crossing the Atlantic. All these fleet movements had been brought about by Admiralty intelligence reports that the armed German liners Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm, a North German Lloyd liner of 8,865t, capable of 17 knots, and Brandenburg, where preparing to sail from their Norwegian ports, along with no less than twenty-two German based armed trawlers, to attack this vital troop convoy en route. As was only later discovered, there was no such German surface venture planned, but the British Admiralty could not discount any potential threat directed at this valuable convoy.
The first units of British Royal Naval Division (Marine Brigade) arrived at Antwerp. While the first contingents of the Canadian and Newfoundland Expeditionary Forces left for England. Minelaying in the open seas between the Goodwins and Ostend was commenced by the British.
Invincible - At sea. / From 3 to12 October, Invincible was at sea, patrolling to the NNE of the Shetland Islands, zig-zagging much of the time. / 5.45am sighted SS Alsatian / 4.14pm lter course to avoid black object. / 4.15pm stopped, fire two 4in shells and maxim at object. / 4.25pm proceeded.
4th October 1914
The might of the GF was now positioned to cover the approaches to the Atlantic, and it was to be shown that even on station in these waters, the demands of practice and exercise were not to be ignored. As the 1BCS watched the Fair Island Channel from the west of the Shetland’s, the 2BCS patrolled to the northeast of these Islands. Jellicoe’s dreadnought BF was on station in the upper North Sea, while the detached 3BS lay further northward, and the 6BS was utilised to watch the waters between Jellicoe and Norwegian territorial waters.
Out to westward of the Shetlands. Apparently in a position to support torpedo craft guarding passage of Pentland Firth: Probable objective of whole manoeuvre is to safeguard passage of Canadian Expeditionary Force, and prevent any chance of German interference. Rather rough all day, and wet towards nightfall, sea seems to be decreasing under the rain. A programme of firing made out for the next few days, New Zealand to fire full charge tomorrow, and Queen Mary three-quarter charges, three rounds per gun, and sub-calibre upon the following day. (Major Rooney)
North of Shetlands. Protecting Canadians coming across. Princess Royal gone across Atlantic to escort same. Admiralty announced laying mines in area north of Channel. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather showery, cruising all day but seen nothing of the enemy, supposed to be escorting our troops over to France. Princess Royal left us with a few destroyers for the Atlantic in search for German cruisers supposed to be sinking our steamers. (Private Stevens)
Invincible - At sea. / 2.05am sighted steamer with lights on horizon.
5th October 1914
Firing abandoned upon account of bad weather, very misty. Range-finder exercises carried out, but ranges very limited. (Major Rooney)
Weather windy and raining, still cruising, reported to be in the Atlantic on the lookout for German cruisers, sighted steamer at 5.30pm British, reported later to be escorting Canadian troops to France, but have not seen anything of them. (Private Stevens)
With the practice cancelled, the 1BCS continued to patrol a line to the west of the Orkney and Shetland Islands, covering the passage of the Canadian convoy.
Invincible - At sea. / 3.35pm sighted Teutonic. / 8.30pm observed searchlight.
6th October 1914
The delayed gunnery shoot from the previous day was now to be undertaken, witnessed by the Major from a novel vantage point:
Firing carried out. Spend 8am to 9am clearing all service projectiles and charges out of hoists, and getting ready three practice rounds and charges per gun. Practice commenced about 10am New Zealand fired, Lion towing, No.3 pattern target. Queen Mary started about 11,000 yards range, shooting good. ‘A’ turret left gun, failed to run out once, but ran in and then it ran out all right. Watched firing from top of ‘A’ turret, not so much blast as expected. (Major Rooney)
Weather showery, cruising all day, went to general quarters at 10.20am and fired three rounds per Turret, practice, Lion was towing target for us, came over very foggy at 5pm. (Private Stevens)
Still patrolling, sea calm. (Midshipman Bagot)
Invincible - At sea. / 5.47am investigate SS Felicana. / 7.48am investigating Russian schooner. / 1.40pm dropped target, carried out sub-calibre practice. / 3.30pm picked up target. / 8.30pm Night Defence Stations, dropped target, carried out night firing from 4in and ‘A’ and ‘Y’ turrets sub-calibre. / 9.30pm pick up target.
7th October 1914
After a rather predictable day at sea, that evening, detected enemy wireless transmissions were picked up by a number of ships in the squadron. A possible encounter looked very likely:
Too foggy to do sub-calibre. Ships, Lion and New Zealand fired at a kite target with their high angle fire guns. I had all marines not on watch up to infantry drill. German wireless very close, expect to encounter them at daybreak. (Major Rooney)
Intercepted very strong coded German signal on ‘Q’ tune. (from Princess Royal to Lion, 8pm)
German signals becoming very strong, as close as possible. (New Zealand to Lion, 9.02pm)
Weather dull, cruising line abreast all day, but seen nothing. Marines went to drill during the forenoon. (Private Stevens)
No explanation was to be forthcoming concerning these wireless transmissions, which more than likely was simply an atmospheric phenomenon, since there were certainly no enemy surface ships in this area at the time, and no contacts were to be made. The detached Princess Royal from the 1BCS and the pre-dreadnought Majestic from the 7BS of the Channel Fleet arrived at the pre-arranged rendezvous point out in the Atlantic to meet the convoy today, while the GF covered this movement from the east.
Invincible - At sea. / 5.15am commenced zig-zagging 8.5 knots
8th October 1914
Today the opportunity to give the recently joined reserves some experience with the 4 inch battery was undertaken. In this the Major was to note down a number of adverse remarks concerning the poor results of this shoot:
Four inch crews, lately joined reserve ratings, fired a practice at a towed target. Rather interesting and amusing firing carried out by crews who had not seen a gun for some time. New Zealand fired first, and the practice appeared poor, many rounds falling close alongside the ship, with the new crews decidedly shaky. Queen Mary then fired at the target towed by the New Zealand, and the result was laughable, the rounds falling short, over, and miles off for deflection, some hitting the New Zealand: (Major Rooney)
A record of this shoot kept by Commander Grace on-board the New Zealand graphically indicates the experience of coming under Queen Mary’s ‘random’ 4 inch fire, with in his telling record there are such comments as:
Four shots fell short ... well off rate... 1000 over, 1000 short... ricochets passed over port side of New Zealand fore part. A series of very short shots, several ricochets passed over after deck, one hit starboard quarter. Shots not marked whilst team was being shifted behind armour.
All in all not a very satisfactory performance by Queen Mary, a ship with the distinction of being the best shooting ship in the crack 1BCS. This marked deficiency in her defence was to be emphasised again that evening, this time its control which on this occasion Lieutenants Ewart and Scholtz played an important part.
At 8pm night firing was carried out independently by ships spread about 7 miles apart, 4 inch guns only fired, and the usual night defence system was put in action. Fog was very thick indeed at intervals, and stopped the firing once. Targets were casks with flags, the shooting was good so far as the gun laying went, but it strikes me every time that our night defence system is faulty. There are too many cooks, too extended a chain of control, the intermediate links of control being a waste of valuable time, liable to error very often. Requires much careful supervision. Takes a great number of officers and men, and I should think quite unsatisfactory and unworkable in high wind or noise. In fact far too complicated, and to my mind hopeless. The officer on watch should be in direct voice pipe communication with either controls, or guns, have one officer per group if necessary, and do away with stupid repeaters and transmitters, which at present are stationed as far away as possible from the officer of the watch. Squadron rejoined and steamed southwest, to clear fog on conclusion of practice. Past through several thick belts of fog. Princess Royal has apparently not met Canadian Contingent yet. We are at present to westward of Shetlands guarding any movement of enemy from east to west. Two submarines, one reported as far north as 61 degrees takes the bun. Also submarine reported off Loch Ewe, which makes the place untenable for the main fleet, if this is true. The Germans are reported to be making vast preparations to equip an Armada of dirigibles to take part in fleet action, and to be adept and bombing, and laying mines therefrom. (Major Rooney)
In these remarks by a professional ‘in the trade’, brings to the fore a defect in the directing and control of the ships 4 inch outfit. This point should be born in mind when reading about the coming events which were to occur later in the month at ‘The Battle of Cromarty’. The Major concluded his entry for the day with the latest worrying reports of not only the enemy’s undersea craft, but now the possibility of the Germans using their giant airships as well to contest mastery of the seas.
Weather fine but foggy, four inch day action, guns crews fired five rounds during forenoon, after guns also fired one inch aiming rifle. By signal from Iron Duke, two German submarines have been seen in Loch Ewe, all ships have been withdrawn from that base. An Aberdeen ship reported to have seen a ship laying mines. Two German airships were seen last night flying over Cromarty. Princess Royal reported last night that she has not seen anything of the Canadian convoy. 4 inch gun crews fired four rounds each gun at night defence. (Private Stevens)
Noon, 4 inch day action crews carried out firing. 8pm carried out 4 inch night firing. Picked up German wireless within 50 miles. (Midshipman Bagot)
Invincible - At sea. / 4.22pm sighted Latona, alter course to close.
9th October 1914
On patrol to the west of the Shetland Islands, where the opportunity to train his detachment through a demanding days programme of gunnery, to sharpen them up after their last shoot was undertaken:
Exercised marines at shooting at casks with flags, opening rapid fire, and using both windage and aiming off. Turrets crew very good. Marine’s 4 inch crews exercised at 4 inch aiming rifle in forenoon. Range keeping exercise at 5pm. The turrets dripping very badly, No.1 reports being unable to sleep in his cabinet owing to drip. It certainly is devilish. The Canadians have got in wireless touch with Princess Royal at last. Go into Scapa tomorrow, hope good watch has been kept on all approaches as it strikes me a dangerous business entering the anchorage without attendant destroyers, when enemy’s submarines are reported so far north: (Major Rooney)
Weather fine but dull, cruising but nothing in sight, 4 inch gun crews fired one inch during forenoon. Message from Princess Royal reporting to have received a message from convoy with Canadian troops. Reported that two German battleships and fifteen cruisers and torpedo-boats, at Emden, northwest coast of Germany. Proceeding to Scapa Flow to coal ship. (Private Stevens)
Princess Royal in wireless touch with Canadians convoy. 1pm Submarines supposed within 60 miles. (Midshipman Bagot)
To emphasise the considerable importance of this particular convoy one has only to note the nature of its size, with its thirty-one transport ships carrying 31,000 men, therefore it was no wonder the GF had sailed in strength to cover its passage. Further to this welcome news that the convoy and escort was at last in wireless contact, there was the signal that the squadron was due to be relieved and return to Scapa.
Invincible - At sea. / 9.50am closed Teutonic.
10th October 1914
The Princess Royal and Majestic spent two-and-half days waiting at the rendezvous, all due to the assumption that the convoy would sail on October 1st at tenkts, as signalled by Rear-Admiral Wemyss before sailing. In fact it sailed on the 3rd and proceeded at nine-and-a-half knots, but nothing appears to have been done to correct the information. He was finally in touch with both ships by W/T on the 7th, and sighted them at dawn on the 10th.
Entered Scapa about 5am turrets crews to prepare to coal. Coaling commenced about 5.30am from the West Castle, collier double derricks, took in about 1,550 tons in two spells, before and after dinner, working till 5pm for teatime. Reserves in No.4 hold worked very well, the band, a gang of eleven all told, doing the best work as usual, sending up 15 bag hoists throughout. Albemarle, Russell and Duncan, came into harbour and started coaling. Quite a good mail came aboard: The situation at Antwerp appears to me desperate. (Major Rooney)
Weather fine, arrived in Scapa Flow at 6am to coal, started coaling at 8.30am taking in 1,550 tons, finished at 5pm, out net defence at 7pm and wash down upper deck. (Private Stevens)
6.30am arrived Scapa coaled 1,500 tons, 5pm finished. (Midshipman Bagot)
This mention of Antwerp by the Major, ringed by its many forts and redoubts was of a very current nature. It had been under an intense siege since the 28 September, with a continuous bombardment taking place from midnight on the 7 October until noon on the 9th effectively breaking up its defences. Leaving the towns military governor to surrender on the afternoon of this day at Fort St.Marie.
Invincible - At sea.
11th October 1914
While the bulk of BF remained at sea to the west of the Orkney Islands, the 2BCS was dispatched to patrol off Sule Skerry, as the 1BCS now rested quietly in harbour:
In Scapa, cleaning ship. Bad news from Antwerp, am not surprised. JHR came aboard 3.30pm till 8.30pm. (Major Rooney)
Weather fine, hands cleaned ship, clean guns, went to store ship, number nine for winter clothing, piped down in afternoon. (Private Stevens)
Invincible - At sea. / 5.00pm Teutonic took station astern.
12th October 1914
With the dreadnoughts return to Scapa, that evening the 1BCS along with the 1LCS and two Divisions of destroyers prepared to sail. With the full extent of the defeat at Antwerp obviously still not known, along with the internment of the Naval Brigade in neutral Holland on the 9th after their retreat from Belgium. That evening, the squadron was to set out again, but as was to be recorded, this particular departure was to bring with it a very sad event for Queen Mary. Their much-respected captain was leaving.
Ordered out to sea again, I wonder what our orders are likely to be this time, and if the evacuation of Antwerp has any bearing on the naval situation. It seems to have been a very serious and luckless predicament for our poor Naval and Marine Brigades, which German telegrams state retired into Holland: It seems to have been, and to be, a position of extreme jeopardy, into which to thrust troops without guns or transports, and apparently unsupported. Captain Hall suddenly called away to take over Director of War Staff, or Naval Intelligence Division at the Admiralty. He had all hands hurriedly fallen in, in the waist, and made them a short speech, saying how sorry he was leaving the ship, and regretted leaving the ship he had been in action with, in the middle of his career. And he promised to keep an eye on all his crew who had served him so well. And if any of them found their dependants in difficulties during the war, and wrote to tell him, that he would make it his special duty to see that everything possible should be done for them. He left half-an-hour afterwards. Captain Bentinck took over. (Major Rooney)
On Monday we had a very sad day, as Captain Hall left the ship at an hour’s notice for the Admiralty. It was a terrible wrench for him, and you see it in the nice little speech he made to all the ship’s company. He thanked them for the way the ship’s company had made it so easy for him to carry out his duties as captain. They had got a first-class name for character and gunnery in the fleet, and he was sure they would uphold both under his successor. He had seen them fight, and he knew every man of them would fight to the last and uphold the traditions of the British Navy, and he hoped they would return in due time to enjoy the blessings of the land and the fruits of their labours. He was not good at speech making, but one thing more. If any man at any time needed help in any matter, great or small, and if they would apply to him, he would do his utmost for them, and would follow daily Queen Mary’s career throughout the war. ‘Good-bye’. And then he ran off quickly, as it really must be a terrible thing for a man to have to give up a command like this, although he is going a step higher. He said good-bye to all the officers on the quarterdeck, and had a nice word to say to all of them. As he went away the ship’s company, of their own accord, gave three tremendous cheers, and I shall always remember seeing the little figure, with his head bared, standing in the stern sheets of the picket-boat as she was I never hope to serve under a finer captain. Our new captain is, who do you think? Captain Bentinck. I never dreamed that day at West Hill, nor did he, that he would command Queen Mary. He had me into his cabin on Wednesday, and wished to be remembered warmly to you both: He was very kind and nice, and asked all about our comfort, food, etc., in the gunroom. I will also write you a postcard when we get in, as it will reach you quicker. (Midshipman Tennyson)
This speech, and its sentiments, was a clear indication of the high importance he placed on providing his men with as much help, guidance and support as possible, and this message was gratefully appreciated by all who had served under him. Beatty noted the passing of this much-respected officer from his command, indicating that the health of Hall was by then a very serious concern.
Hall has been appointed Director of Naval Intelligence at the War Staff. I am very sorry to lose him, but it will save his life. He could not last if he continued as he is. I think he has reached the limit of human endurance. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
5pm Captain R.W. Hall left, appointed to Admiralty Staff. Captain Bentinck arrived in his stead. 5.30pm 1BCS, LCS and destroyers sailed, course east. (Midshipman Bagot)
Raining, hands at 6am cleaned guns and supplied ammunition at 7.30am went to breakfast at 8am in net defence at 1.30pm piped down for the afternoon, up anchor at 5.45pm proceeded to sea. (Private Stevens)
On the 12th the Princess Royal dropped back and then cleared for action, and, with her band playing ‘O Canada’ and ‘The Maple Leaf Forever’, steamed up between columns Y and Z at 22 knots. In what must have been a most stirring sight. The total figures for the First Canadian Contingent are well worth remembering, being a telling 1,547 officers, 29,070 men, 7,679 horses, 70 guns, 110 motor vehicles, 705 horsed vehicles, and 82 bicycles in total.
Invincible - At sea. / 4.50pm Teutonic took station ahead. / 4:54pm Inflexible took station astern.
13th October 1914
Moving south most of the day, then to east-nor-east, the idea being to sweep as far south as the Long Forties and Dogger Bank, to locate mine laying craft, and then to sweep up the coast of Norway during the day. From time to time where ‘tracks’ were encountered, a zigzag course was steered in order to avoid submarines. Destroyers preceded us most of the day, and moved ahead with some light-cruisers during the night. (Major Rooney)
Weather fine but foggy. Cruising. Torpedo-boats reported German submarine during forenoon. French torpedo-boat reported German submarine disabled, morning searching for two oil boats keeping in close to Norwegian coast, passed a sailing ship at 1.45pm. (Private Stevens)
6pm light-cruiser and destroyers detached. Looking for minelayers and oil ship. In submarine area. (Midshipman Bagot)
As fate was to dictate today an event of considerable future importance to Hall in his new post at Intelligence, and indirectly Queen Mary’s story occurred. A copy of the German naval codes discovered by the Russians on the body of a dead signalman from the light-cruiser Magdeburg, which had been wrecked in the Baltic that September, arrived at the British Admiralty, having been brought back from Russia by the Theseus. From this date British naval intelligence had a clear advantage over the Germans in deciphering naval messages. It is expected that one of Hall’s first duties at his new post would have been the thorough inspection and assessment of this important document.
Invincible - At sea and Scapa Flow. / 6.55am came to anchor. / 9.15am commenced coaling.
14th October 1914
Weather foggy, cruising, after two of enemy ships loaded with mines, reported yesterday to be going north by Norwegian coast. German submarine sighted off port bow at 5.30am but was lost in fog. Came in touch with light-cruisers and torpedo-boats, passed Danish boat at 4pm but seen nothing regards enemy. (Private Stevens)
Wednesday. Heave too, two vessels. (Midshipman Bagot)
The day was to prove to be yet another relatively routine one, but that evening there occurred a curious sequence of events of some note in this otherwise regular day at sea in wartime, one clearly revealing the confused nature of encounters during the night.
Very uninteresting middle watch, passed only one sailing ship. Very calm, quarter moon for some time. Following Lion at 3 cables, only three ships, Lion, Queen Mary, and New Zealand: Poldhu reports that Belgian Army and British troops made their flanking March to Ostend successfully. German cavalry at Ghent, it must have been a close thing. Mustered confidential books with Hart during afternoon watch. Very stuffy job aft. First watch full of interest. At 9pm searchlights seen to port. At 10pm after lookout reported that a strange vessel was closing New Zealand on her starboard: Later vessels reported ahead. Then a light suddenly switched on about 2 miles on port bow, and gradually drew aft till red 70 when it abruptly disappeared. It May have been a vessel in fear of being rammed by Lion, curious thing. Two stray vessels reported from aft to be closing New Zealand on port hand, I could not make them out at all. A destroyer about 4 miles ahead now called up Lion by flash lamp, signal unintelligible. (Major Rooney)
No call to quarters were deemed necessary at that time. While the destroyers signal to the flagship apparently passed on some satisfactory clearance message about the mysterious events witnessed. However these perplexing and baffling sightings would soon be cleared up with the coming of dawn.
Invincible - Scapa Flow. / 6.15am cast off collier.
15th October 1914
Thursday. Control 10.30am. We shall move into Scapa on Saturday next. New Zealand reports that last evening she sent an oil steamer that she had overhauled into port, with a prize crew of one officer, two petty officers, and fifteen men. Good work. 9pm we are sweeping up Norwegian coast, floating mines with ‘Horns’ reported to be afloat in area. Has been a glorious day, but wind now rising. (Major Rooney)
New Zealand captured German oil steamer. (Midshipman Bagot)
Thursday, weather fine, Cruising all day but seen nothing. New Zealand captured oil boat and has taken her into harbour. Received a wireless from C-in-C, saying we must report ourselves in harbour on Saturday morning. New Zealand to go to Cromarty. (Private Stevens)
A general message to the squadron was broadcast today from Beatty, warning of the presence of a newly discovered minefield off the Udsire Light. One other cautionary note was mentioned in this message, stating that it was now expected that enemy submarines were following neutral steamers, and that great caution was now to be exercised in closing such vessels to investigate them. This possibility had however long been appreciated by all on-board Queen Mary, and the wisdom of stopping to inspect such vessels.
The Belgian coast-line was reached by the Germans in their dash to the sea, and they occupied Zeebrugge and Ostend. The First units of the Canadian and Newfoundland Expeditionary Forces land in Britain. At sea the light-cruiser Hawke was sunk by a German submarine in North Sea.
Inflexible - Scapa Flow. / 10.00am landed all boys and men under 20. / 12.30pm landing parties returned.
Invincible - Scapa Flow. / 8.00am landing party landed for route march, contractor’s men discharged to shore.
16th October 1914
Nothing much of interest all day. Told of one NCO and six men, to go with naval boarding party if required to act as a prize crew to any vessel captured. Playing ‘medicine ball tennis’ for an hour in the afternoon with commander, Ewart and Mason, very strenuous game. Afterwards spent much time over confidential books. Rumour has it, through the skipper that the marines were badly cut up at Antwerp, and were called upon to fight a rearguard action. So one’s worst expectations are realised, what a damnable proceeding, apparently due to Winston Churchill. Moved most of the day spread, and on the lookout for submarines, a zigzag course steered at times, passed through fog about 1pm. Running back to harbour at 6pm our destination is Broad Bay, Isle of Lewis, near Stornoway. Change of base is apparently due to submarines making Scapa untenable, or to some reason requiring us nearer the Atlantic. (Major Rooney)
An obviously bitter period for the Major, with the latest news from the front, soon to be compounded by a success by the enemy, against a member of the blockading 10CS confirmed today. Only twenty survivors of the cruiser Hawke’s 545 man crew were picked up that morning from her sinking the day before, to the renowned U.9, fresh from her success against the cruiser patrol off Holland the previous month: This underwater threat was now to greatly influence the deployment of the GF’s squadrons. In this the 1BCS, with their depleted bunkers now sought a secure haven well removed from attack on the west of Scotland in this individuals were to mention differing possible destinations.
Weather dull and cold, cruising on the lookout for oil boats, captured one and have sent her into harbour under escort, but there are several. German submarines reported, one fired a torpedo at Theses (of the 10CS, attacked 15th) but missed. Trawler passed us at 2.45pm have been watching her all afternoon. (Private Stevens)
6.30pm returning to coal, going to Broadford Bay Isle of Skye because four submarines got into Scapa. All supposed to be accounted for. 11.30pm going to Loch na Keal Isle of Mull as a submarine is reported in The Minch. News that Hawke has been sunk. (Midshipman Bagot)
Inflexible - Scapa Flow. / 6.00pm secured four colliers alongside. / 8.30pm weighed and proceeded in company of Invincible. / Number on sick list 13.
Invincible - Scapa Flow and At sea. / 9.50am party landed for route march. / 6.45pm secured four colliers alongside. / 8.30pm proceeded.
17th October 1914
The aforementioned sighting report of a submarine/s off Switha Sound, forced Jellicoe to vacate the Flow of all capital ships that night. Sailing the BF to the relatively secure waters to the west of the Orkney’s because of these erroneous reports. The Major summed up the general reasons for the move, and subsequent change in their final destination.
Squadron was to have entered Scapa, and anchored as usual, but this was suddenly countermanded, as information or an inclining of some sort was received that submarines were in the vicinity, and were expected to enter Scapa. Our destination was Broad Bay, Isle of Lewis. This destination also altered to Loch na Keal, in the Isle of Mull, as a submarine is reported to be in the Minch between the mainland and the Hebrides. Thus our course in the middle watch was round the Hebrides, making Butt of Lewis light about morning watch. Range keeping and control carried out. I mustered confidential books all the afternoon. Passed Barra Islands headlands about lunchtime, magnificent mass of rock, something like Gibraltar from the sea, a wireless signal staff on top of the highest, shrouded in mist. About 4.30pm entered Loch na Keal in Mull, a magnificent harbour enclosed by high mountains. Ben More to the south: Entrance blocked partially by an island: The mountains look very beautiful and imposing, patched with many coloured heather’s, crowned with dark rock outcrops, and patches of trees here and there. No signs of our colliers, not till tomorrow. (Major Rooney)
Weather rainy, proceeding to Scapa Flow to coal. But was delayed owing to German submarines. Orders was received to go to Broadford Bay, but one of our submarines reported a German submarine was waiting for us, orders was then given to proceed to Isle of Mull, arrived at 4.45pm out net defence at 5pm. (Private Stevens)
Acting as a guard ship was the pre-dreadnought Illustrious, which had just been transferred from similar duties at Loch Ewe. This employment was by then quit a common one for these veteran capital ships in home waters, as has already been witnessed by the deployment of the Magnificent and Hannibal to Scapa Flow that August. To the south the first units of the BF arrived at Lough Swilly in Ireland that day as well. Now both the dreadnoughts and battle-cruisers had bases well removed from the possible scene of action, the North Sea, due primarily to the submarine threat upon its facilities there. The Admiral at this time in communications to Churchill at the Admiralty, put down on paper a number of telling points concerning his squadrons recent deployment.
The feeling is gradually possessing the fleet that all is not right somewhere. The menace of mines and submarines is proving larger every day, and adequate means to meet them are not forthcoming, and we are gradually being pushed out of the North Sea and off out own particular perch. ... We have no base where we can with any degree of safety lie for coaling, replenishing, and refitting and repairing, after two and a half months of war. We have been running now since the 28th July, small defects are creeping up which we haven’t time to take in hand, The question arises how long can we go on, for I fear very much, not for long, as the need for small repairs is becoming insistent. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
This clearly reflected his deep concern about the underwater threat then ever present, not only in his mind, but that of Jellicoe as well. The shifting of the GF from the strategically important fringe of the North Sea bases, to the west of Scotland was regarded as a necessary, but undesirable result of this threat. This then was the mood of the squadron commander as it came to its temporary moorings in the relative security of Loch-na-Keal, as far removed from the U-boat threat, as it was deemed possible to be based.
5pm arrived Loch na Keal. Undaunted with four destroyers sunk four German destroyers of Dutch coast. (Midshipman Bagot)
This noted action in the North Sea involved the new light-cruiser Undaunted accompanied by the destroyers Lance, Lennox, Legion and Loyal, engaging the four German torpedo-boats S115, S117, S118 and S119, off the Dutch coast that afternoon, and sinking all of them, in a successful little ship action, in one glimmer of good news at least.
The first British submarines (E.1 and E.9) entered the Baltic, as German submarines attempted a raid on Scapa Flow.
Inflexible - At sea / 6.45am commenced zig-zagging. / 9.40am keep station 5 miles on Invincible. / Number on sick list 13.
Invincible - At sea. / 5.15am alter course to avoid steamer. / 9.30am dropped target, carried out aiming rifle practice from starboard 4in. / 10.30am ceased fire, closed Inflexible. / 5.20pm closed Sappho.
18th October 1914
Sunday, and while at Loch-na-Keal Queen Mary and her consorts took the opportunity to carry out a much needed boiler cleaning, and limited maintenance programme in rotation. It should be noted that despite the oft mentioned pessimism in high circles, it is equally well chronicled that below this there was a prevailing optimism:
To their undying credit, this state of depression and hopelessness did not extend to the lower deck. Moral remained high among the men. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
But as is noted from such sources, sometimes the scene the crew witnessed could strike home in a telling and depressing fashion, especially when compounded by an example of extreme folly in the attempts at providing protection for the anchorage, despite the welcome return of one vital squadron unit.
Towards dusk some of our dreadnoughts (2BS) came slinking in, in a very pathetic manner, the great ships looked sombre, mean and almost insignificant, creeping up the loch in the unearthly silence as if ashamed of themselves, a squadron in fact beaten off the sea by the dreaded submarine. One can almost imagine the indignity keenly, as they crept in under the shadow of the mountains they had set forth to protect. So we have been hounded out of Scapa by the German submarine, oh the indignity of it, there is no haven of rest in all the north coast. News of Hawke torpedoed by submarine. 1,800 tons of coal to come in, our collier came about noon, started coaling in afternoon, and went on till supper time when coaling was instantly stopped, and all lights doused. So men were fallen out, and told they could turn in, or wash, as they pleased, but coaling was to recommence at dawn. A very sensible move now taken, and two picket boats fitted out to patrol entrance to harbour, armed with 3 pound, maxims, and a cleverly arranged wireless set. One little bit of recorded stupidity. A cruiser guard-ship at anchor, lit-up. Could anything possibly be arranged to advertise and give away our whereabouts more successfully. This ship remained brilliantly illuminated for two or three hours. During which time we darkened ship, and even our picket boats went to and fro between the battle-cruisers and battleships without showing any lights whatever, a curious anomaly. (Major Rooney)
Sunday, weather fine, to coal, off port nets at 8.30pm. 1BS (actually the 2BS), LCS arrives, with four torpedo-boats. Princess Royal arrived at 10.40am collier arrived 12.30pm commenced coaling at 1.30pm taking in 1,850 tons, stopped coaling at 8.30pm. Kept first watch at after station, coaling again at 6.30am. (Private Stevens)
Princess Royal joined up. 1.30pm commenced coaling. 10pm ceased coaling darkened ship, kept watch at 4 inch gun. Two submarines reported in the Minch. Picket boats been fitted with maxim and 3 lb. (Midshipman Bagot)
Inflexible - At sea / 7.50am investigated Steam Trawler Aguerra. / 12.20pm entering Stornoway Harbour. / 12.56pm anchored. / 1.30pm weighed and proceeded. / 3.40pm station 2.5 cables astern of Invincible. / 8.46pm investigate Danish SS / Number on sick list 8.
Invincible - At sea. / 7.18am stopped, lowered sea-boat to receive six ratings from Sappho. / 3.45pm Inflexible took station astern.
19th October 1914
With the coming of sufficient daylight, coaling recommenced. All in all this particular evolution was regarded as not a bad coaling for a single derrick collier:
Romeo alongside with provisions. Petroleum with oil, and Larne came alongside on its opposite side, and Sub-Lieutenant Pulford came aboard, a brother of the ‘Ghurka man’, a very nice fellow. He had to beat a hurried retreat however and could not stay to supper, as his destroyer was suddenly pushed off. (Major Rooney)
6.30am carried on coaling took in 1,850 tons. Noon finished. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather fine, finished of coaling at 12.30pm cleaned ship, taking in oil fuel. All colliers and ships left Scapa Flow for Isle of Mull, owing to German submarines. (Private Stevens)
A general signal arrived on-board Queen Mary that afternoon, and warranted a suitable postscript by one who appreciated a full blackout:
Should King George V (flagship of the 2BS) fire two guns and hoist a green flag or a red light at night, all available steamboats are to proceed at utmost speed to entrance and hustle submarines. The flag and lantern are to be repeated by all ships. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
Why should the enemy’s submarine be assisted in her attack, by her prey hoisting a red light to guide her. A pitch dark night, and Queen Mary’s decks are almost impossible in the dark, even to those who know them. (Major Rooney)
Inflexible - Stornoway to Cromarty. / 11.45am investigate Danish SS Botrua of Copenhagen. / 1.42pm position 5 cables from Invincible. / 4.15pm close to 4 cables. / Number on sick list 6.
Invincible - At sea.
20th October 1914
Muratai alongside with projectiles, practice for each turret. Painted turrets and some of side. A boom appears to be in course of construction, good move at last, though the material seems inadequate so far as can be judged at present. What could beat a rope net moored across a channel, with contact mines every ten feet or so, quite a small mine, and quite a large mesh say 8 inch would suffice, wire for choice, and made in sections, would deter and baffle any submarine attack. (Major Rooney)
During this painting exercise, it is very likely that some of the experimental patterns applied the previous month were painted over, in a more sedate as a whole, light grey finish.
Painted ship. Splendid natural harbour this, two narrow entrances, guarded by guard boats. High hills all around: (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather fine, store ship Muratia arrived alongside at 10.30am taking in three months provisions, finished at 6.30pm. Cannot sent any mail between October 3rd and 17th, delayed in harbour. Keeping night watch round gun, by night only. (Private Stevens)
First merchant vessel sunk by a German submarine, the British SS Glitra.
Inflexible - Cromarty. / 5.50am course for entering Cromarty Firth. / 6.26am anchored. / 7.20am collier Grantley came alongside. / 8.00am commenced coaling. / 2.20pm finished coaling, received 1,050 tons. / Number on sick list 6.
Invincible - At sea and at Cromarty. / 6.25am came to anchor. / 8.12am commenced coaling. / 10.00am ceceived 400 gallons of oil. / 1.45pm finished coaling.
21st October 1914
But the battle-cruisers time at Mull was now drawing to a close. An urgent message from the flagship to the squadron indicated that a mixed German force had been reported leaving Danzig on the 17th, bound for the North Sea. Possibly to counter the British light force victory fought on that day. Now the belated hunt was on:
4am raise steam with all dispatch. 6.30am sailed 1BCS. News that German cruisers, destroyers and submarines reported left Danzig making for North Sea. Squadron going the Skagerrak, to be at Skaw on 23rd: (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather rough, signal came through to proceed to sea at once, in nets at 4am left harbour at 5.30am suppose to be after German cruisers in Skagerrak, are steaming in that direction. (Private Stevens)
Hurriedly weigh and left harbour in the morning watch, passed half constructed harbour defence on the way out, and steamed northwest round Barra Head and the Isle of Lewis, this island looked a marvellous sight in the rays of the sun. A signal came, that German cruisers, a considerable force apparently, torpedo-boats and submarines had left Danzig steering west, so we are off to the Norwegian coast and the Skagerrak and Kattegat to cut them off. Give us some of the fresh weather that is blowing up, and we’ll settle their hash, whoever they are. But perhaps it is a ruse, a strong force of the now redoubtable submarines, with a decoy force of cruisers to draw us into an ambush. I do not think much of our manoeuvre unless we are accompanied by a force of destroyers. A very poor time of it in ‘A’ turret. It was like a diving bell, repeatedly submerged under green seas, the noise of both wind and sea was terrific, besides torrents of water came sluicing through the badly fitting range-finder ports and washed about with every roll of the ship. The noise of the waterfall on the outside was disconcerting. (Major Rooney)
The above entry clearly reflects the growing worry felt on-board for the underwater threat. Along with the possible German tactics to use them in a set piece battle, nevertheless the 1BCS, 1LCS, and all available destroyers of the 4DF, had now departed and headed towards the North Sea, via a route around the western Isles and northern Scotland: While the 2BCS which had put into coal at Cromarty was put on standby. The overall plan for the operation now embarked upon, was for the 1BCS and company to sweep a track on a wide front, from Fair Isle to the entrance of the Skagerrak. Arriving off the latter at daylight on the 23rd during this passage to the west of the Hebrides, and the north of Orkney, the weather was rough, typical sweep conditions.
Inflexible - Cromarty
Invincible - Cromarty.
22nd October 1914
The 1BCS’s movement towards the Skagerrak encountered heavy weather on passage, sufficient to force the return of the 4DF later that day to harbour:
Jolly old ‘A’ turret, not a dry spot anywhere, so all ones clothes which one was silly enough to take off were just so-so in the morning. What an aquarium, ‘A’ is clearly untenable, at least the cabinet part until things are fitted properly. So I must see where I can arrange to sleep. Handling rooms and shell rooms, fans are broken down, so there is nothing but stifling air down there, and the doubtful smelling ozone from the bilge’s. Someone omitted to close all ventilators forward, so green seas came down the shafts and wrecked the fans, so I don’t suppose they’ll be on the buzz again for a long time. Eight inches of water on the forward mess decks, and much pleasantry on the part of the Stokers, tipping out into the cold briny and stowing hammocks, water right down in places to magazine and store rooms. I do not see very much efficiency in the duty turret this morning. It is too rough to open ports without being swamped out, the sea occasionally comes cascading into the cabinet, and calls upon the range-finder, switches, transmitter, and plays about with the Dumaresq and range clocks. Won’t ‘Guns’ be pleased. (Major Rooney)
Eased down owing to strong head winds. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather rough and raining, steaming slow in an eastern direction towards Skagerrak. Captured steamer at 3.10pm sent her into harbour. Supposed to come in touch with German cruisers tomorrow. (Private Stevens)
The early confident expectation of coming to grips with the enemy vanished in the storm. As the Major eventually found a dry billet for himself that evening, in the starboard schoolroom, after his sixteen hour spell in ‘A’ turret, a tired man.
Inflexible - Cromarty / 3.00am Torpedo Party left ship in Trawler No.114. / 3.00pm divers employed on underwater fittings. / 11.40pm weighed and proceeded. / Number on sick list 3.
Invincible - Cromarty. / 1.20pm store ship Calder alongside. / 11.34pm weighed and proceeded out of harbour.
23rd October 1914
Middle watch, very uneventful, although we expected to encounter many things. The wind roared over the bridge all night, a crescendo howl, and every moment seeming louder and shriller, hard to speak to anybody or give an order, dark as pitch at times, and occasional showers of what seemed like iron filings, but I suppose it was rain. So how Bob Ewart kept station through it all, upon nee invisible Lion, I don’t know, cos I had to keep my head down most of the time. Lion which showed about as much light as a dyspeptic glow-worm, and what there was of it was invisible blue. Down below on the forecastle, ‘A’ and ‘B’ were still taking it over. And above the winds war whoop came the smack of a heavy sea, as it came aft with a rush against the turrets. And presently out of the phosphorescent swelter below came streaks of spray streaming away over the bridge like so much whipcord, and so on to the Kattegat. Poor old ‘A’ turret was a bit off colour today at control. The range-finder has the devil of a chill, its glassy eyes are all bunged up internally, so he will have to come down. The periscope has had his neck wrung by a heavy sea, and his bearing ring bust, besides being full of nebulous matter, and as little use as a pocketful of soapsuds. So guns, self, armourer, and hydraulics, held a council of war. There is much to be done to make ‘A’ seaworthy, ‘A’ in fact is a difficult matter. Lion’s nets have been giving trouble, nearly washed away apparently. No sign of our prey. So now we are disappointed again, how dull and uninteresting. (Major Rooney)
This individual entry again paints a graphic pen picture of the storm, and insight into his apparent affinity with his action station, personifying its structure, despite its rather damp habitation properties. Along with giving a good indication of how effective the squadrons darken ship procedure was. Needless to say this drenching affected the highest as well as the lowest.
We got very wet and shipped of water. It did not blow nearly so hard, but we got very wet and shipped of water, principally because we had to steam through it. My cabins were again flooded out. It drips everywhere. It’s just like living in a large wet case with water dripping from the roof. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
6am at the Skaw going southeast. No luck, enemy evidently put into Kiel to coal. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather rough and rainy, steaming at 18 knots all day in the Skagerrak, but seen nothing of supposed German cruisers. Sighted LCS at 3.45pm. (Private Stevens)
That day while the 1BCS patrolled off southern Norway without success in the storm, the 2BCS along with four destroyers sailed from Cromarty to operate in the Heligoland Bight. All of this was to support the Harwich Force, in what transpired was an abortive attempt to strike at the German airship sheds at Cuxhaven.
Inflexible - At sea / Spent the day zig-zagging around and maintaining ship routine. / Number on sick list 4.
Invincible - At sea. / 5.30pm destroyers took station astern.
24th October 1914
Quite a respectable day, most unusual, seas calmed down. The captain gave orders that a submarine watch was necessary, so lieutenant-commander had to arrange how it was to be done. Cowan being ineligible since his turret ‘X’ is too remote, to get to in case of alarm from the fore bridge. Great controversy, and much love lost, it doesn’t seem to fit anyhow. Result I visit fore bridge for one-and-a quarter hours. (Major Rooney)
Operation cancelled. Patrolling. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather fine but cold, cruising all day but seen nothing except different steamers, proceed to Cromarty, returning at 5am 25th: (Private Stevens)
The 1BCS was now ordered to head for the supposedly secure Invergordon facility in the Cromarty Firth to coal. Also the New Zealand was due to enter the large floating dock here for some work to be done to her lower hull.
Inflexible -At sea. / Number on sick list 4.
Invincible - At sea. / 5.00pm destroyers took station astern.
25th October 1914
Sunday. Entered Cromarty in morning watch, and moved up to Invergordon, where we anchored collier Holmpark came alongside and we took in 1,600 tons of coal, 8am to about 5pm. Large mail came aboard: (Major Rooney)
6.30am arrived Cromarty. 7.30am coaled 1,600 tons. 4pm finished. New Zealand went into floating dock. The entrance is guarded by boom defence. Searchlights burning all night. (Midshipman Bagot)
Sunday, weather stormy, arrived in Cromarty, started coaling at 8am taking in ... (Private Stevens)
This last passage is another missing page in his old diary, and one, which would have been of considerable interest. Since it would have covered the soon to be enacted extraordinary events of the following day, from an enlightening lower deck perspective.
Inflexible - At sea. / Number on sick list 3.
Invincible - At sea. / 5.25am Action stations. / 5.40am destroyers took station ahead. / 8.10am sighted Fearless and destroyers. / 8.20am Fearless and destroyers took station astern. / 9.05am sighted enemy seaplane. / 9.45am sighted Arethusa, Undaunted, destroyers and two seaplane carriers. / 5.30pm destroyers took station astern.
26th October 1914 - The Battle of Cromarty
On this distant Monday afternoon in the early phase of the Great War, there occurred an obscure incident long forgotten and as far as I know one never before related. An incident which clearly demonstrated the nervousness, and indeed reflected the feeling of vulnerability, that the mighty capital ships of the British GF had about one arm of the elusive German Navy. It’s U-boats. In this ‘Incident’ paradoxically both the vigilance of the ships involved, and their very real concern and recognition of the potential threat of the dreaded submarine was to be fully displayed. When the anchored ships of the 1BCS opened fire at a ‘sighting’ off Invergordon, in what would later become known to a select few as, the ‘Battle of Cromarty’.
On-board Queen Mary hands had been called at 6.10am to clean ship, in preparation for what was thought to be yet another routine day in harbour. Lion secured the store ship Calder alongside at 6.20am ready to commence embarking supplies, casting off again at 10.20am. The general scene inside the expanse of the Cromarty Firth on that day saw the three battle-cruisers of the 1BCS, secure and at peace within the protected confines of the defended Firth: From the perspective of Queen Mary, the New Zealand was in dry-dock, floating about half a mile away just to the west of Invergordon Ferry. Lion lay astern of her in the deep water channel, to the southeast of the town of Invergordon. The morning for the moored squadron had been an uneventful and routine one. But all of this was to alter just after midday. Opening with a marked discrepancy in time between two official, and private sources.
0.57pm opened fire with 4 inch guns at an object which appeared to be a submarine. 1.03pm ceased fire. as required. (Logbook, Lion)
12.30pm open fire with 4 inch guns on supposed submarine. (Logbook, Queen Mary)
About lunchtime, 12.15pm a signal came from Lion, that a submarine was in the harbour, so preparations were made to man the after guns. Nobody thought very much of it, in fact luncheon went on quite as usual, just a few of the officers going on deck to see about arrangements. The nets were out. Red watch was piped to man the after 4 inch battery, that nearest the entrance, which they did. Being my afternoon watch proper, ‘A’ turret, I went up to fore bridge, but found nothing manned forward, the captain came up and ordered blue watch to man the forward guns. There was a great deal of delay in getting these guns manned, I sent two messages to the quartermaster to have this piped without any effect, so finally had to send for quartermaster, and inform the gunnery lieutenant, and eventually the guns were manned. But devilish slowly. (Major Rooney)
Still lying at Cromarty with nets out. 12.30pm submarines reported to have followed steamer into harbour. Closed up 4 inch guns. Every small boat got under way, about forty, and searched harbour. (Midshipman Bagot)
This mood was in contrast to the usual reaction such a sighting occurring in Scapa Flow had, and the inevitable disruption it produced there, a fact gleaned from more than one source. Leaving this slow reaction at Cromarty on that day strange to note. The most obvious sign of a stirring within the Firth, was the raising of steam in the some forty supporting trawlers and drifters in the anchorage mentioned above.
I gave the 4 inch guns a range of 1,000 yards, zero deflection, the gunnery lieutenant came up and decided to put everything to zero, so as to get a flat trajectory. About 1.30pm or 1.20pm the signalman of watch called out, ‘There’s a submarine sir’, the lookout reported it at the same time, and there was a general shout from below of ‘There she is.’ Over on the south side of the firth, about 900 to 1,000 yards off, and heading straight up towards New Zealand in the floating dock. Appeared some submerged object, or a submarine, moving at about 10 knots speed, throwing up a jet of water from her periscope or conning tower, presumably to a height of three or four feet. About 20 feet abaft this another spurt of spray was being flung up. Through glasses I could not discern any periscope, but the upper portion of a conning tower appeared to be throwing up the water in a forward direction. I gave the order to the signalman to fire the spotting maxim at it, and immediately gave the order to sound the alarm, with the bearing ‘red 90’, and about 10 seconds afterwards open fire. The fore battery opened almost at once, also the after battery, under the first lieutenant. The rounds fell about halfway, 500 yards off, and the guns got the range by degrees, but the firing was undoubtedly very bad, the ranges given being by no means good, so fire was much scattered. (Major Rooney)
1pm wave seen moving up harbour abeam of us at 200 to 300 yards about 12 knots. Opened fire, ditto Lion. Maxim gun hit straight away. Shots ricocheted into village and wood opposite. Fired about three or four rounds from each gun. (Midshipman Bagot)
This individuals observations however appear to have had underestimate the range. Nevertheless it indicates the approximately thirty 4 inch shells, which were dispatched by Queen Mary’s portside secondary batteries alone at this target. Obviously the poor performance revealed in the secondary armament shoot earlier that month, with the New Zealand, had still not been corrected in the short span of time granted their crews. By this time the flagship had also opened fire. Though like Queen Mary this was seen to be poor as well.
Lion also opened fire lamentably short at first, all the firing seemed wild. The maxim also jammed, but its spotting duty was complete. The shots from the 4 inch ricocheted in shore, and commenced to burst on the beach, in the woods, and on the hillside, in a dangerous manner, especially when the wash passed abeam. The shells apparently passed over or through the little village of Jemimaville. (Major Rooney)
On the bridge of Queen Mary Captain Bentinck, Commander Llewelyn, Lieutenant’s Scholtz, Cowan and Ewart, along with Major Rooney, where witnessing this dangerous ‘friendly’ fire landing onshore.
The captain ordered cease-fire, Lion continued to fire. The ‘submarine’ had now disappeared, but the wash rose again to the westward, a bit higher up the Firth near Invergordon Ferry, and we lost sight of it in the sun’s rays. The captain was inclined to think it was the wash of a destroyer which had passed up some time previously, but the Majority were certain that the object was a submarine. The commander took it for a torpedo fired up harbour at the New Zealand in the floating dock. (Major Rooney)
A query now came from Lion to ascertain what had actually been fired upon. The vice-admiral himself stating that he considered that it had looked like the wash of a destroyer, immediately confirming Bentinck’s impression.
An alarm was now raised from the upper deck, that the ‘submarine’ was visible again, still to the southward, passing down harbour, and the guns were trained in that direction, but the captain gave the order, very wisely, not to open fire without his permission. Invergordon pier was now crowded with town folk, and all the shipping crowded with men, picket boats were swarming around, and tugs and destroyers stood by the floating dock to beat of any attack. But nothing more appeared. (Major Rooney)
Queen Mary now dispatched her own picket boat with Lieutenants Ewart, Cowan and O’Manny, to the area of the observed track, to make an on the spot investigation. The findings of which were only to confuse the issue.
The case now stood as follows. Captain said it was a wash, as he saw no periscope, the engineer-commander says he saw one foot of periscope from the pier, commander a torpedo, O’Manny and Ewart in picket boat only wash on a bank, Cowan was certain it was a submarine. Signalmen, lookouts and crew certainly a submarine. (Major Rooney)
Thoughts where now directed towards the southern shore, especially where the ricochets and over’s from the fire had appeared to have fallen in and around the hamlet of Jemimaville. A landing party from Queen Mary was soon mustered and sent ashore. Here they found a few of the villagers and quickly established what had actually happened.
1.04pm ceased firing, wave disappeared. Supposed to have been wash from destroyer breaking on beach as only 4 feet of water there. One child injured on shore and house damaged. Swept harbour for submarine. Results not known. 3.30pm went ashore. (Midshipman Bagot)
The village although hit, had miraculously escaped serious damage, and more importantly there were no fatalities. A couple of the houses had perforated roofs, in one case a 4 inch shell had gone through the apex of the roof, passing out the other side causing slates to fly everywhere. This rogue device finally detonated over the road, showering the area in Fragments, holing walls and breaking every window in the vicinity. Another couple of wayward shells had ploughed their way into the fields about 100 yard south from the village, cutting up furrows in their impact before bursting. One of the most striking effect of a 4 inch shell happened when one hit a beech tree to the east of the village, which had cut the tree in two, the severed ends being Frayed out like a shaving brush. Fortunately the Majority of the wayward shells fired in the ‘action’ appeared to have land likewise. That is harmlessly in the woods to the south, or on the edge of the village.
Another 4 inch round had burst in a bank 200 yards to the south of the village. From this device and other impact craters inspected, it appeared that the effects of a typical 4 inch Lyddite shell upon hitting the ground was very limited. The consequences appeared distinctly local, with the bursting charge seeming very insignificant. These technical points where quickly appraised by the interested gunnery professionals on-board Queen Mary. From these no Fragments could be found by the initial inspection parties. It was soon discovered that relic hunters had already descended upon the scene after the bombardment, and had collected every single piece to be found.
As for the only serious casualty of this involuntary bombardment, and herein lies a very personal tragedy. A single individual whose life was to be inexorably changed through the events of that day, and the effects of that one shell, which it had not been for the consummate skill of the local doctor, would have ended then.
The baby who was my mother, was in some measure affected for the rest of her life. This is the story of that day. My mother Alexandria McGill aged 10 months, was lying in her cradle which had a wooden hood, beside the fire. While her mother and father were working outside the croft. They were frightened out off their minds when the battle began and their house feel down onto their child. The whole second floor of the house fell in so that the hearthstone was lying across the cradle when the baby was found: My grandparents were only held back from entering the house by their neighbours, and it was the male members of the village who found Alexandria buried under the masonry. They found her and thought her dead. One of her legs was hanging off. The local doctor took charge and cleared her lungs and later that day sewed on her little leg just below the knee. She had a scare all her life and one leg was shorter that the other. She never danced, wore a swimsuit or went bare legged, and was very self conscious of this scare. As a small girl Alexandria was very delicate and had to be carried to school. The only acknowledgement from the Navy was a small silver rattle shaped like a ship’s bell, inscribed ‘A present to Baby McGill Lion, October 1914’. Which I still have in my possession. (Miss Jennie Cardery)
So ended the incident for the Royal Navy, now for the verdict. In this the Major is very candid in his overall summary of the incident as seen from his perspective, noting down some of his pertinent impressions afterwards.
My own conclusions now are, that it was a somewhat unaccountably like a submarine, but that circumstances more likely to point to it being a wash. Although it was 4 feet high, 10 knots, and rose and fell, and never occurred again under similar conditions. Subsequent experiments, and effects produced by destroyers passing up and down the Firth, failed to produce a similar occurrence. I should like to hear the first evidence from Cromarty entrance if reliable, otherwise it appears to me now to have been a very remarkable shoal water wash, which has deceived two or three thousand men, in fact everybody. A general consensus of opinion that it was correct procedure too open fire in the circumstances, and that Beatty admitted this even though he had his doubts about it being a submarine. (Major Rooney)
To all concerned the poor level of accurate 4 inch defensive gunnery was also readily accepted. To correct this, an improved degree of gunnery training, and practice shoots, was to be arranged to correct this defect as soon as possible. Given this day’s events the story continued in the squadron, especially on the lower deck. Endless yarns arose, all based upon a supposition that ‘the submarine’ was imbedded in the mud bank to the south in Udale Bay, and would eventually come to light one day. While such rumours where tolerated within the squadron, it became known to all service personnel concerned, that as far as possible, the general public was to be kept in the dark about this particular embarrassing naval episode. Nothing was to be said about it. Even in the C-in-C’s usually detailed coverage of the early Great War, he has only dedicated a brief passage to this event.
On the 26th a submarine was reported inside Cromarty harbour, but Sir David Beatty, who was there with the battle-cruisers, stated, after investigation, that he did not consider the report was true. (Admiral Jellicoe)
Indeed the two very brief log book entries from Lion and Queen Mary, opening up this coverage, is all that was official penned by the bridge personnel. But obviously such highly visible goings on could not be completely covered up, especially amongst its many civilian witnesses. That very evening in the stop press column of the ‘Inverness Courier’, there appeared the first public mention of the event. In a piece headed ‘Cromarty Sensation’,
A number of reports have reached us from Invergordon and Dingwall to the effect that German submarines to-day broke into Cromarty Firth, and were heavily engaged by British warships. It is also believed that two of the hostile submarines have been sunk. It has so far proved impossible to obtain official confirmation of the report, but there was undoubtedly heavy firing going on in Cromarty Firth for several hours to-day, and great excitement reigned in Invergordon and all the towns and villages along the Firth, whence the firing was distinctly visible. We have elicited these facts from several independent eye-witnesses, one of whom adds that he understands considerable damage was done to buildings on the Cromarty side of the Firth by the firing.
A reporter from the Courier was immediately dispatched to Invergordon to clear up the details of this important local story, and by the following day the Courier had a revealing piece on the incident, titled, ‘Rumoured Submarine Attack - Excitement in the North’, primarily as seen by local first hand witnesses. Although no definite confirmation of any mention of submarines could be made, there was general praise and pleasure amongst the inhabitants that the squadron had proved to be so vigilant, and apparently effective in the manner in which they had performed. Obviously the confused and inaccurate firing by the squadron was not apparent to those on shore. Only the general impression of the ships beating off the enemy in an effective fashion, through their rapid and seemingly telling fire, as seen by these distant civilian observers.
Great excitement was caused all over the north yesterday afternoon by a report, which spread like wildfire, that several German submarines had got into Cromarty Firth and had been heavily engaged by British warships. It was stated on the authority of various eyewitnesses that one or more of the submarines had been sunk, and it was also said that one had been beached. None of these stories, however, stood the test of investigation, and enquiries failed to elicit and confirmation of the report. All that is certain is that several of the war vessels in the Firth suddenly began to fire furiously, and for three or four minutes concentrated their fire on some mark in the water, which was said to have been a ripple such as is caused by a submarine. At the same time the other warships in the Firth showed great vigilance, but the whole episode was over in a few minutes. While it lasted, however, it was sufficiently alarming, and, as it quickly drew the inhabitants of Invergordon and the surrounding towns and villages to the beach, it is not surprising that all manner of rumours quickly spread. We have received from a gentleman who witnessed the whole occurrence, and who is well qualified to speak to the facts, the following description of what actually occurred. His story is confirmed by the evidence of several other eyewitnesses:
I left Invergordon by the steamer for Cromarty at noon. As we sailed down the Firth there was considerable activity amongst the numerous war craft, and I asked the captain of the small steamer what it meant. He replied. ‘Perhaps by the time you reach Cromarty you will know what it means’. We reached Cromarty, and had hardly gone twenty yards from the pier when a loud explosion was heard in the direction of Invergordon. We all hurried back to the pier. Terrific and continuous firing was heard for almost four minutes, after which it ceased suddenly. It seemed that from the war vessels there was a concentrated fire on an object, which it was impossible to discern from Cromarty. The shots seemed to strike a limited circle, and the water was in an eruptive state, and splashed high in the air. Some of the shots ricocheted from off the water on to the land and caused a great deal of earth to rise. It was said that a house was struck. It was freely said that the object which the guns were directed at was a submarine, and that others had been seen in the Firth: No confirmation of this could be obtained. The story was about that on Saturday a fisherman had seen four German submarines outside Cromarty. What is supposed to have drawn the attention of the ships’ guns fire was said to be an object which was moving near the surface, causing a wash, and making towards some of the battleships. The object whatever it was, soon found its way to the bottom. I returned to Invergordon in the evening, but so far as the war vessels were concerned it would seem as if nothing unusual had occurred. The glimpse we got of the power of their guns was thrilling, and whatever the object aimed at, demonstrated the vigilance of our first line of defence.
All in all a rather interesting and detailed perspective of the event as witnessed by an unnamed local, which was included in the Courier’s coverage of this interesting local occurrence. However there was by then some understandable official discomfiture over the event. From this one can read into the missing page in Private Stevens’s diary some ominous official censorship, but as already mentioned, this original booklet is rather Frail, and this page could very well have fallen out by itself during its life.
A full and wonderful account appeared in the ‘Inverness Courier’, headed ‘The Battle of Cromarty’, which was promptly suppressed. Also a tacit understanding, that the less said about it the better. But who knows. (Major Rooney)
From this concluding passage, this individual appreciation that one day the details of what occurred in the Firth on that one autumnal day so long ago. While being shrouded in secrecy at that time for obvious service considerations in war, should be related in some fashion one day. It now has, due mainly to a couple of invaluable private diary entries.
After the events of the day, the squadron slipped into a harbour routine again very easily, when at 5.15pm the store ship Calder came alongside to port after the nets had been taken in on that side, leaving one hour later when the nets where re-deployed. The fires in the second picket boat where drawn at 8pm as Queen Mary resumed a low status of alert. While on-board the flagship, 5.30pm saw darkened ship, her three picket boats fully prepared, while at 11pm a draft of 18 rating joined her from the depot.
Inflexible -At sea. / Number on sick list 2.
Invincible - At sea. / 4.30pm destroyers took station.
27th October 1914:
From Queen Mary, the arrival of the Inflexible and Invincible to join the squadron at 6.45am was a noted occurrence. While apparently the draw to witness exactly what had transpired ashore was irresistible to those on-board, and it will come as no surprise to hear of further landings that day:
Land seaman battalion for March. (Logbook)
Land marines and seamen for exercise upon south bank of the Firth at Invergordon. Marched about 3 miles inland, men played football in a field. I walked over to the village of Jemimaville to look at the damage done by the shelling of the previous day. We found a few of the villagers out in the street and stopped to talk to them. One man in a garden produced some Fragments of a shell he had picked up. Some of the women had apparently been made frightened by the noise. One man said he had seen three vessels firing, and that he knew the New Zealand was one, in dry-dock?. So far as effect of 4 inch Lyddite on the ground went, the burst seemed very insignificant, and distinctly local. On the whole the bursting power seemed very insignificant. (Major Rooney)
Land a party of seamen for route March. Rumour that Audacious has been mined, taken in tow, but while making for port turned turtle and sank. (Midshipman Bagot)
The store ship Calder again made an appearance alongside later that day at 3pm. This time to starboard, leaving one hour later with the ship’s nets re-deployed at 4.40pm. As noted briefly above, today the first news was received on-board that the new super-dreadnought Audacious (2BS) completed the month after Queen Mary, had sunk. She had struck a single mine, some 20 miles off Tory Island, just to the north of Ireland, in yet another confirmation of the threat now posed by the underwater menace.
Inflexible - Cromarty / 5.30am entering harbour. / 6.04am anchored. / 6.55am collier Greenhill came alongside. / 7.30am commenced coaling. 3.45pm finished coaling, 1,350 tons. / Number on sick list 7.
Invincible - At sea and Cromarty. / 6.04am came to anchor. / 7.51am commenced coaling. / 1.19pm weighed and shifted to No.19 berth. / 6.49pm finished coaling.
28th October 1914
Queen Mary again land a number of men ashore, but nothing specific about their activities has been recorded down. The 1BCS remained at anchor now effectively reduced to just two ships, Lion and Queen Mary in its lowest status to date.
Land marines and seamen, south side of Loch. (Major Rooney)
Land Stokers for route March. A rebellion started in South Africa, the leader being De Wet. (Midshipman Bagot)
This news of a revolt by the Boer supporters of General Christian de Wet in the Orange River Colony on the 21st had obviously just arrived. This was to be a brief enterprise, ending with the Generals surrender at Waterburg on the 1 December. Further afield, the German cruiser Emden raided Penang Roads and sank the old Russian cruiser Zhemchug.
Inflexible - Cromarty / 2.00am hands make and mend. / Number on sick list 11.
Invincible - Cromarty / 9.00am provisioning ship, store ship Norman alongside. / 10.00am: Received 12 pounder high angle gun. / 11.00am store ship Mersey and trawler Winchester alongside.
29th October 1914
Unexpectedly Queen Mary was now to undergo another change of command: After a very brief tenure Bentinck was to relinquish command of his charge:
Thursday. Cleaning ship for Admiral’s inspection tomorrow. New captain, Prowse came aboard: (Major Rooney)
Rebellion in South Africa being suppressed. (Midshipman Bagot)
Turkey commenced hostilities against Russia, as their warships bombarded Odessa, Sevastopol, and Theodosia. Prince Louis of Battenberg, the First Sea Lord, resigned (appointed 9 December 1912).
Inflexible - Cromarty. / 1.00pm landed funeral party. / 3.10pm funeral party returned. / Number on sick list 11.
Invincible - Cromarty. / 7.10am Chesterfield alongside with stores.
30th October 1914
in a letter to his wife dated this day, the Admiral gives vent to his feelings about his enforced relative inactivity at Cromarty. But gives no mention of any other general happenings within his command:
I have 5,500 men and four magnificent machines pining for something to do and we can do nothing. All our time is taken up avoiding submarines. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
Admiral Beatty inspected the ship and ships company at Divisions, 10.30am and asked several questions, mostly about clothing. The new captain took over command, and Captain Bentinck left to return to Iron Duke. (Midshipman Bagot)
That day a 3 inch high angle anti-aircraft gun arrived on-board from a lighter and it was mounted on the after superstructure, with Lance Corporal Ryan and a crew of marines detailed off to man it. Later that day the Major had cause to muster what comprised Queen Mary’s very basic anti-aircraft detachment.
At 9.30pm information arrived from Lion that a raid from zeppelins was imminent, so maxims and the 3 pound were manned, and a squad of marines told off to standby with rifles, to open fire from aft shelter deck in case of need. An immense amount of time was spent as usual before guns were manned. There seemed to be nothing ready, beyond the maxims. (Major Rooney)
But it transpired that the Admiralty warning was a general one for the East Coast in general, and not specifically for Invergordon. The men were later stood down but it was obviously a much needed anti-aircraft practice run for Queen Mary’s crew. On a broader scale, reference to the continuing Royal Navy support given to the Army along the Belgian coast, mainly by shallow draught vessels, and old pre-dreadnoughts of the Channel Fleet, was also noted by one on-board:
Germans being heavily bombarded from sea. (Midshipman Bagot)
The Press Association, Dover correspondent details have reached here of the extraordinary fighting of our naval men off the Belgian coast. I have it on good authority that the crew of one of the monitors, not one of the new ones, watched the Germans bring up one of their big guns. They allowed them to get it in position, range, etc., and even to put the shell in the breech. When one of the 6 inch guns let drive. The first shot told, and other 5 shots told every time, the gun and men being smashed to pieces. It is also stated that our destroyers are ‘having a fair picnic’, as it was put. They go up the river at Nieuport, give a broadside, turn round, let drive with the opposite guns, and, as a parting, fire the stern gun. The Germans must have lost terrible. It is estimated they left 2,000 dead in one field alone. whilst the naval fire has swept the trenches, and caused enormous loss. (Chronicle)
Inflexible - Cromarty. / 9.00am Marines and band landed for route march. / 2.00pm make and mend clothes. / Number on sick list 12.
Invincible - Cromarty. / 8.50am landed party for route march. / 11.45am landing party returned. / 4.20pm Sapphire arrived and anchored.
31st October 1914
As for what was actually happening to the BEF at the front, well it was by then heavily engaged with the advancing German Army at Ypres, and in particular the Battle of Gheluvelt. It is recorded that on this day the 1st Battalion Queen’s Royal Regiment of 850 officers and men entered the Fray, later the 31 effective survivors were brought out by a lieutenant.
Land marine’s forenoon and afternoon, I walked to Cromarty. Met friends who were motoring, and gave self and Mason a lift back. The institution of guard and band revived, wartime, to play for the colours. (Major Rooney)
Saturday, weather fine but cold. Landing parties during the forenoon and afternoon. New Zealand came out of floating dock. At 2.45pm message arrived from Admiralty, to commence hostilities against Turkey at once. (Private Stevens)
The earlier flight of the German Mediterranean squadron to Turkey, had now swayed her into entering the war on the side of the Central Powers. In a letter Beatty gave a very good indication of how well employed his ships had been since the outbreak of war. By mentioning that on average, the ships of his squadron had steamed 5,400 miles at sea during August, and around 6,000 miles during the each of the following two months. He also commented upon how his ‘Great Coal Eaters’ had required to undertake coaling evolutions on average every four days because of this time at sea.
Inflexible - Cromarty. / 9.30am landing party landed for route march. / 11.45am landing party returned. / 1.00pm hands make and mend clothes. / 10.00pm Sapphire proceeded. / Number on sick list 9.
Invincible - Cromarty. 8.40am landed party for route march. / 11.30am landing party returned. / 1.30pm party of marines landed for exercise. / 3.50pm: Marine landing party returned. / 4.25pm New Zealand came out of dock.
1st November 1914
Sunday. Went aboard the New Zealand to Mass, Reverend ‘WB’ came to Queen Mary for evening service. Very busy with confidential books all day long. Battenbey’s chart with track kept by New Zealand’s and 1BCS’s wanderings was most interesting. (Major Rooney)
Captain Prowse started his spit and polish. (Midshipman Bagot)
This entry certainly implies that the new captain was more demanding in this area than his predecessors.
Weather cold and stormy, carried out Sunday routine, church etc. Received message reporting Hermes sunk in Straits of Dover by German submarine. Prepare for coaling. (Private Stevens)
Yet another noted U-boat success. This time one which did not exact a high price in lives lost, only twenty-two men were lost with this seaplane carrying light-cruiser conversion, off Ruylingen Bank to U.27. However that evening, off the coast of distant Chile, in the eastern Pacific, a far greater tragedy was to be enacted. When a British CS under Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher Craddock, flying his flag in the armoured-cruiser Good Hope, accompanied by the Monmouth of a similar type, and attached units. Engaged the crack German China CS commanded by Admiral Maximillian von Spee, off the South American port of Coronel.
There was destined to be no survivors from the two British armoured-cruisers. Due to a lethal combination of the intensity of the battle, the approach of night, the intense cold, and storm tossed seas, which claimed their entire complements. In all 919 men from the Good Hope and 715 from the Monmouth lost their lives. Amongst the former was to be someone very close to the Major. News of this loss was to be considerably delayed, before the surviving Glasgow managed to arrive in port, and relay her message to the Admiralty. The story would break on the 5th.
Inflexible - Cromarty. / 10.00am held Divine Service. / Number on sick list 9.
Invincible - Cromarty.
2nd November 1914
Coaled 300 tons from Porthkerry at 8am a beastly cold day, it rained throughout coaling. Immediately we finished I started on confidential books till 11pm. (Major Rooney)
Coaled 300 tons to complete. Went ashore. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather raining all day, started coaling at 8am finished at 11am taking in 300 tons. Got paid in the evening, received photo from Weymouth: (Private Stevens)
That particular Monday evening an event of considerable importance to Beatty and his squadron occurred. This was the departure of Hipper’s battle-cruisers from their lair at Wilhelmshaven, embarking upon their first ‘Tip and Run’ raid of the East Coast. In this enterprise, and in subsequent similar ventures, the underlying basis for such an operation was very simple indeed. Here with the proximity of the principal German bases some 330 miles from say, the mouth of the Tees. A fast raiding CS could make this passage under cover of night, appearing suddenly at dawn off the unsuspecting coast.
Inflexible - Cromarty. / 11.30am paid monthly money. / 1.00pm hands make and mend clothes. / 4.30pm Quarters physical drill. / 9.00pm two guns crews closed up, sentries placed fore and aft. / Number on sick list 8.
Invincible - Cromarty.
3rd November 1914
The German landfall, off the low lying, mist shrouded east coast, proved to be a uncertain affair, and accurate navigation became difficult. Since important buoys had been removed upon the outbreak of war, and no accurate bearings could be taken. Despite these problems the raiders closed upon the general area of Great Yarmouth and Gorleston. The German group then commenced to shell in the imprecise direction of the town about 7am. But owing to the prevailing poor conditions, they were unable to accurately judge the range and most of their shells went harmlessly into the sea. Or upon reaching the shore buried themselves harmlessly in the sand without doing any damage. To the Germans however the entire enterprise seemed more daring and destructive.
Seydlitz engaged the three coastal batteries, the coast-guard station and the aerodrome at Great Yarmouth: The closest distance was 13,000 metres, out of range of the batteries, which nevertheless answered though no hits resulted.
Hipper broke off the raid upon this unprotected town after a 20 minutes bombardment, of what had virtually amounted to the just the deserted beach, and retired east at full speed. In his raid he had encountered only the veteran British gunboat Halcyon, and the two old destroyers, Lively and Leopard on fishery patrol duties, who had earlier clashed inconclusively with the fringe of the enemy formation. This had been Hipper’s only serious opposition, as news of this daring raid slowly spread.
Service, Roman Catholic, aboard at 8am ‘WB’ from New Zealand: Afterwards at confidential books, all now in readiness to throw overboard, should we get the worst of it in action. Signal from Lion at 9.55am to raise steam at one hours’ notice. What’s up. News now arrived that the enemy’s vessels are on the move, and out at last. Good old Germans, I knew they were neither fools nor laggards, but we’ll give them gyp if David Beatty is only given a free hand: Some of our fellows were away shooting and were recalled in haste. 1BCS moved out of harbour preceded by 4th flotilla to search the approaches, at 2.30pm. (Major Rooney)
Urgent Admiralty signals to Jellicoe at Scapa Flow and thence onto Beatty were arriving:
9.07am four enemy’s cruisers and at least one battle-cruiser off Gorleston steering south. 9.55am exercise your discretion, proceed in region north of Heligoland with all dispatch to intercept enemy’s squadron on their return. Now reported definitely as four dreadnoughts and four cruisers. (Admiral Jellicoe)
The ‘black gangs’ deep in the bowels of Queen Mary commenced their strenuous task of feeding her demanding furnaces, to build up the required steam pressure. Above them the crew began to prepare the ship for sailing, and a very possible interception of the enemy. The general orders were to proceed with all dispatch towards the Heligoland Bight, and to cut off the enemy’s line of possible retreat. Nearest to the scene the Harwich Force gave chase to the enemy formation, the composition of which was still not fully known, before the belated nature of their possible interception dawned:
10am two Roon type and two other four funnel cruisers, latitude 55 degrees North, longitude 3 degrees 30 minutes east, steering north, chased Undaunted, gave up chase. (Received from the Admiralty at 11.55am)
The enemy’s force which approached the coast has retired at speed in a northerly direction, in consequence all battle-cruisers return to Cromarty. (Admiralty 3.50pm)
5.15pm senior officer 1BCS to Senior Naval Officer Cromarty. 4th flotilla, Southampton are returning, please have gate open 7.30pm. Order mails to Invergordon. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
1BCS returned to Cromarty. This result is doubtless very comfortable, seeing the weather is so bad, but it is very disappointing, as things appeared to hold out promise of a scrap. (Major Rooney)
A midshipman’s and our marine private’s diary entries for this day sums up the salient points in a curt manner. Reflecting their disappointment at what had occurred:
11am signal 20 knots at one hour’s notice. 11.30am BCS unmoor, steam for full speed. 2pm 1BCS LCS and destroyers sailed. News of four German battleships and cruisers of Norfolk coast. 5.30pm signal to return to Cromarty. 8.0pm arrived Cromarty, news that Undaunted and destroyers slowed enemy. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather stormy and cold. In net defence at 11.15am weighed anchor at 2pm left harbour to meet supposed German battleships off Heligoland, reported by Undaunted. SBO reported enemy retiring to port 1BCS returned into harbour, arriving at 8pm at Cromarty, dropped, anchored ship at 8.10pm out net defence at 8.25pm. (Private Stevens)
The accounts above encompass within their scope all the important points of the day. From these events it was obvious to all concerned, that the fast battle-cruisers had simply been deployed to far north at Cromarty for any successful interception of a German raiding squadron on the east coast. For Beatty’s battle-cruisers it was too great a distance to travel between the time granted by the message of a raid on the coast, prepare for sea, to then sail, and intercept a fleeing enemy during its expeditious retiral. Upon Queen Mary’s return to Cromarty that evening, she was placed at a high level of preparation. Prowse undertook some appreciated precautions while in harbour.
Steam is now for 20 knots at 1 hour’s notice. Nets are out. Captain Prowse orders sentries to be posted fore and aft, a very wise precaution, which I wonder was not carried out before. A guard boat also detailed by Lion to patrol the harbour. The plot thickens. (Major Rooney)
The return passage of the raiding German squadron was however not to be without incident, with the armoured-cruiser Yorck striking a mine in the supposedly swept channel of one of their defensive fields. She rapidly foundered with considerable loss of life, settling in such a position where she actually blocked the waterway until another swept passage around her wreck was contrived. The only significant British loss in this operation had been the submarine D.5. Which had put out from Yarmouth to purse the German squadron, before running foul of a mine, thought to have been released by the retiring Stralsund or Kolberg, and was lost with most of her crew. However latter considerations also speculated that this device, and others to be encountered in these water, just might have been a rogue British ones from the Dover Straits. Cast adrift by the recent autumnal gales. In balance though, the sinking of the 9,350 tons Yorck and 177 out of her crew of 630 men more than compensated for this British loss.
But all evidence pointed to the successful employment of these devices by the Germans. This last aspect of the raid was indeed to prove to be the most telling in a number of ways. Not only did it claim the D.5, but also the steam drifter Fraternal at 10am some eight miles off the coast, then shortly afterwards the fishing boat Copious. This potential for the release of mines, in the wake of their retiral from the scene, was obviously seen as one intended to hinder and sink any pursuing vessel. Undoubtedly thoughts about this German tactical capability were to be given some serious consideration, with one suspecting, that this potential was to be very much in Beatty’s mind the following January, during the clash between the respective battle-cruiser squadrons off the Dogger Bank. The exact reason behind the German raid, and other movements, was obviously to be a topic for some discussion, and thought on-board Queen Mary that evening. Major Rooney has put down his ideas on this subject in detail.
It is difficult to appreciate the German course of action. (A) They appear close to our coast, show themselves ostensibly and then retire. Also very decidedly (B) they lay mines in various areas. (C) Their submarines show themselves, also very ostentatiously of Esbjerg, an out of the way place, steaming north: Their course May be one of the following:
1. To draw the 1BCS south into a trap.
2. To get us to cross a submarine or mine area.
3. To draw, and distract attention from another area.
4. To put in an appearance in the North Sea, and move south through the Straits in the dark.
5. Merely a demonstration, but this would be pointless. Our action in returning to Cromarty looks as if our reasoning expects No.1 or 2, and our move appears to me to be most rational. (Major Rooney)
If any lessons had to be learnt about these morning’s events, it was that the principal BF at Lough Swilly, and to a lesser extent the battle-cruisers at Cromarty, were far to remove from the immediate scene of operations to effectively intervene. As if in answer to this, Jellicoe received Admiralty orders this day to proceed with his dreadnought BF to Scapa Flow. Returning to its now suitably protected and defended northern base.
Inflexible - Cromarty. / 2.12pm weighed. / 2.50pm proceeded. / 7.32pm: entering Cromarty Harbour. / 8.10pm anchored in no 18 berth. / 10.00pm two guns crews closed up, sentries posted fore and aft. / Number on sick list 9.
Invincible - Cromarty. / 10.00am: Captain Beamish joined ship. / 2.10pm weighed, proceeded out of harbour with 1BCS. / 8.05pm came to anchor.
4th November 1914
As the squadron topped up its bunkers, a very rare event for Queen Mary occurred on-board, a noted death:
Started coaling at about 8am from Mercedes, and got in about 300 tons. Very gentlemanly coaling, a little misty rain, and not much dust. Confidential books during afternoon, completed U2, and got it signed and sent off. Petty Officer McLoughlin died after operation. Luckily we were in harbour, so ‘WB’ was able to come on-board and administer, so he was very well off. (Major Rooney)
Weather fine. Coaled ship, 300 tons. Reported submarine D.5 lost by mine. One of our petty officers died this morning. Minerva bombarded Turkish forts and has taken possession of Akaba. (Private Stevens)
Yesterday morning enemy attacked Halcyon, but owing to naval activity enemy steamed away at full speed. Submarine D.5 gave chase and got blown up by mines, which were thrown overboard by enemy. Petty Officer McLaughlin died of natural causes. News that Yorck, one of the enemy’s cruisers was blown up by her own mine when entering Jade Bay. (Midshipman Bagot)
The German light-cruiser Karlsruhe was sunk in the Atlantic by an accidental internal explosion, while the German cruiser Yorck was sunk by a mine off the German coast.
Inflexible - Cromarty. 7.20am collier came alongside. / 7.45am commenced coaling. / 9.50am finished coaling, received 380 tons. / Number on sick list 9.
Invincible - Cromarty. / 7.15am collier Restormel secured alongside. / 9.04am commenced coaling. / 11.15am finished coaling, received 400 tons.
5th November 1914
To begin with, this Thursday in harbour at Cromarty was to all appearances to be an uneventful one. With all hands painting ship, and with steam at first one, then two, and finally four hour’s notice with the prospects of a trip ashore appeared good for some. One appointment ashore was already planned, the funeral of McLoughlin, which was due to take place that afternoon, at Rosskeen Parish Churchyard close to the north shore of Cromarty Firth, between Invergordon and Alness and half a mile from Invergordon railway station. An occasion which raised an out of character caustic entry by Rooney, but there was very shortly to be news that was to greatly affect him, the loss of his close friend, or relative, off the coast Chile at the Battle of Coronel fought four days previously. Apart from the purely service or strategic considerations, his later diary entry for that that day was to reflect a very real personal concern at is close.
Quite a number of men going to it, what a fuss over one corpse, and very possibly none of them ever stood the poor man as much as a drink when he was alive. Just before lunch the most incredibly bad news arrived, of the disaster to the South American squadron under Craddock. It seems to be an unaccountable disaster. One must however await confirmation, of what seems to me the most deplorable affair of the whole war, for more reason than one. Everything seems to have gone to the dogs, and for me at any rate, I feel it’s just the limit, for if there was one ship I thought and hoped would come safe through the war, it was the Good Hope, and now - nothing else will matter. (Major Rooney)
This grievous news obviously had a personal aspect on others within the squadron as well:
My first lieutenant in Queen was in the Good Hope, and poor Peter Willoughby and the Musgraves’ boy were in the Monmouth, which I hear went down with all hands. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
Buried Petty Officer McLaughlin. Took in Lyddite in exchange for common. News of naval action in Pacific, Good Hope and Monmouth sunk by Von Spee squadron. Glasgow escaped. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather fine. Taking in four rounds of shrapnel per gun. Received message at midday, reporting the loss of Monmouth, sunk. Good Hope all on fire, Glasgow in a very bad condition, but May be able to reach nearest port off South America. German cruiser sunk by a mine off Wilhemshaven. (Private Stevens)
The above mentioned nimble light-cruiser Glasgow, along with the previously detached armed merchant cruiser Otranto were undamaged, and did evade von Spee. Upon reaching Montevideo, the cruiser had eventually passed on the tragic details of this distant clash. On-board the Invincible the news, which was soon to bring about her dispatch to the South Atlantic to avenge Coronel soon arrived.
This morning we heard of the four days’ old Coronel action. Everything was very vague, and all the news we had on the subject started, ‘It is reported’, but there seemed little room to doubt that the Good Hope and Monmouth were lost, and that a gallant Admiral and his crew were no more. ‘Ashore and on fire’ was the first description of the Good Hope’s fate, and for a space we held out hopes that some of that ship’s company might have been saved, but time soon dashed them to the ground: So the morning of November 5th, as regards naval news, was not a very bright one. We were right, before noon we had hauled down the flag. For once we became a private ship. Why, well that was the second half of the conundrum. The afternoon passes and still we have no definite news. The powers that be know, of course, we can only guess. But soon the half-solved riddle is answered for us by a wireless from the Admiralty, which is posted on all the notice boards. ‘You will proceed to the tropics’. (Franklin)
Invincible and Inflexible ordered to Plymouth right away, to fill up with ammunition and stores of all sorts, together with stores and ammo for one County class cruiser. They must be off to South American station right away, and carrying stores for either Cornwall, Suffolk, Essex or Hampshire, most probably the first or the last. (Major Rooney)
Inflexible - Cromarty. 11.15am ammunition lighter alongside, took in 4in ammunition. / 2.00pm hands make and mend. / 7.00pm weighed and proceeded. / Number on sick list 6.
Invincible - Cromarty and At sea. / 8.40am store packet Cossack alongside. / 12 Noon Rear-Admiral Sir A.G.W. Moore left ship with staff for New Zealand. / 6.55pm weighed and proceeded.
6th November 1914
in the morning a party of marines and bluejackets from Queen Mary were land at Invergordon at 10.30am to undertake a March for a couple of hours, then returned on-board: Even this basic activity was welcomed by the Major, simply because it took his mind of the events of the previous day. As the first unofficial versions about the action off Chile arrived, and were avidly read.
Newspaper account, unofficial of South American disaster. What a pitiful story, for me well nigh intolerable. Everyone appears to have lost somebody from one or other of these two ships, Monmouth and Good Hope. Land in afternoon for a wet and miserable walk, solo. Came off very low in spirits at 6pm and found things once more on the move, so much the better, anything to keep one from thinking. Great stress by Admiralty on the fact that certain ‘Cipher C’ information had leaked out, apparently something to do with destination, or supposed destination of Invincible and Inflexible. That May be, but anyone seeing visual signals, might have guessed their destination. I know I thought so at once, the minute I heard of their move. Consequence is that no more information of any sort to leak out, so we don’t even know where, or when we are going out. Weighed in fog about 8pm and started out, great confusion at the gate, apparently Lion made for wrong entrance, silly when entrance is supposed to be marked. Much whistling, siren, cries, going ahead and astern, silly, left harbour 10pm. (Major Rooney)
The 1BCS accompanied by the 1LCS and the 4DF set sail that evening. Unaccountably in this departure there was plainly some untypical complication:
Went ashore. 6pm prepared ship for sea, secret sailing orders. 9pm 1BCS sailed, thick mist, Lion nearly collided with gate. Princess Royal sailed to unknown destination. (Midshipman Bagot)
This mention of the Princess Royal being detached was premature, she was not to leave the squadron until the 12th: While the new battle-cruiser Tiger arrived at Scapa Flow to commence her final work-up, after she had completed her preliminary one at Bantry Bay.
Weather fine. Some landing party, but returned again at noon. Unmoored ship at 6pm in net defence at 6.30pm weighed anchor at 8.15pm. (Private Stevens)
It was felt that she would prove a very welcome reinforcement when effective, since the departure of the Invincible and Inflexible had left us in a questionable position with regards to battle-cruisers as compared with the Germans. (Major Rooney)
7th November 1914
Besides the middle watch, the Major had another spell of the bridge later that day. During which his worst fears were realised in a conclusive signal:
Very light night, very tiresome, terrific noise, damp, wind etc., so very bad lumbago in morning, damn everything. The longest watch I’ve ever known. A press message arrived, stating Admiralty authority, that it was the Good Hope which sank, and not the Monmouth, such news is intolerable, the last hope of poor ‘S’ being saved seems gone, oh what a miserable afternoon watch. The minutes seem to drag by, and now the first, how very little it would all matter, if only my dear old pal were safe - on the other hand, I don’t suppose anything else matters if the poor boy is dead. I am very selfish, but how can I help it, it was the only thing I was aFraid of in the whole war, and to come so soon and unexpectedly, the pity of it all. Sweeping south and east all day. Screened very ineffectively it appears to me by destroyers. Zigzagging. What the deuce is our particular screen doing only one mile ahead, perhaps I am wrong, it must be for submarines, and nothing else. Beatty doesn’t make such mistakes. Weather hazy, and very little horizon seen, not quite the day to bump into a ‘line’ (of dreadnoughts) provided with directors. (Major Rooney)
Whoever ‘S’ was, a friend or relation, the impact upon Rooney was quite marked, his meticulously kept diary now reflecting his inner anguish. But he still noted Queen Mary’s movements in a professional fashion, as if to occupy his troubled mind.
Weather rainy and cold. Cruising all day but seen nothing. With torpedo-boats of the ‘K’ class. (Private Stevens)
Destroyers joined up. Unknown destination or operations. (Midshipman Bagot)
At this point it is welcome to now incorporate edited Log entries from Queen Mary’s 1BCS close consort, Princess Royal, to provide both analogous details, as well as conversely some differing views of shared experiences. These entries also give an excellent account of ship routine during both sweeps and in harbour, and provide a telling insight into life on-board such a battle-cruiser off this period.
Princess Royal - North Sea, SE of Orkney Islands. / 0.12am streamed patent log. / 6.54am took station 2 miles astern of Lion. / 3.01pm 16.5 knots, commenced zig-zagging to frustrate submarine attack. / 3.45pm sighted steamer, destroyer investigated, zig-zagging every 15 minutes. / 4.54pm altered course SE, formed single line ahead, 15 knots.
8th November 1914
For the first time since the outbreak of war there was no entry in the Major’s comprehensive and well kept diary, reflecting undoubtedly his inner torment.
Sunday, weather rainy and cold. Cruising all day expecting every minute to meet enemy. Proceeding to harbour, to coal on arriving at daybreak. (Private Stevens)
Light-cruisers joined up. Speed 17 knots, submarine near. (Midshipman Bagot)
Princess Royal - North Sea, ESE of Orkney Islands. / 6.20am opened to 2 miles apart. / 9.10am exercised action. / 11.20am sighted three steamers off the starboard bow / 4.30pm formed single line ahead. / 7.10pm passed three steamer vessels.
9th November 1914
The battle-cruisers returned to the harbour early that morning, and immediately set about coaling:
6am entered Cromarty. Coaled from Queensgarth, about 1,500 tons finished 1.30pm. Had to shift billet. (Major Rooney)
Weather stormy. Prepared to coal, arrived in harbour at 7am started coaling at 8.45am taking in 950 tons, finished at 1.45pm. Out net defence at 2pm. Received cigarettes and books. (Private Stevens)
8.30am arrived Cromarty. 9.0am coaled 900 tons. 2pm finished. (Midshipman Bagot)
Again interestingly it should be noted that the above personal diary entries are more than a little divergent on a number of common points.
Finally, the Emden was destroyed by HMAS Sydney off the Cocos Islands, removing this effective raider from the naval scene, while the German gunboat Geier was interned at Honolulu.
Princess Royal - At sea and at Invergordon. / 4.45am altered course to avoid steamer. / 5.55am 15 knots, altered course for entering harbour. / 6.20am passed through gate, 8 knots. / 6.45am stopped engines. / 6.50am moored in No.22 billet. / 7.45am collier Porthskerry alongside. / 8.40am hands coaling ship. / 12.20pm finished coaling. / 3.20pm hands to tea. / 4.15pm darkened ship and closed ‘B’ doors. / 10.42pm hailed guard boat.
10th November 1914
Tuesday, weather fine but cold. Harbour routine, oil ship came alongside with oil fuel. Reported German cruisers Emden and Koningsburg sunk by Sidney, and Chatham. (Private Stevens)
This is an interesting version of the latest news from East Africa and the East Indies. A good indication of how difficult it was to receive accurate information by the means then available.
Truly the Emden had succumbed to this Australian light-cruiser off the Cocos Islands on the 9th: But the Koningsburg, blockaded up the Rufiji River, by the Chatham held out until the 11 July 1915. Another noted a corruption of this news:
Tuesday. Emden sunk by Sydney and Koningsberg bottled by Glasgow. (Midshipman Bagot)
Princess Royal - Invergordon / 6.40am aft starboard nets. / 2.00pm to 3.40pm oil ship Ottawa alongside, received 113 tons of oil fuel. / 4.15pm out starboard nets, hands darkened ship and closed ‘B’ doors. / 10.15pm 2nd picket boat sent inshore, 1st picket boat kept steam all night.
11th November 1914
Weather stormy and cold. Harbour routine. Piped down in afternoon, served out winter clothing. (Private Stevens)
A heavy gale was experienced in the northern part of the North Sea and in the waters surrounding the Orkney’s and Shetlands from November 11th to 13th, and all work in the harbour had to be suspended. Ships lying with steam up, whilst at sea most of the cruisers were obliged to lay to. (Admiral Jellicoe)
At Scapa Flow all the newly erected seaplane sheds were wrecked by the gale. Along with the Fragile aircraft stationed they’re being damaged. On-board notice was taken of developments on the Eastern Front:
Wednesday. Russians have entered Germany. (Midshipman Bagot)
West of the Vistula and north of the Pilitza the Germans have been thrown back on Lowicz, Skierniewice, and Rawa, which have been carried by the Russians at the point of the bayonet. South of the Pilitza, in the direction of Radom, there has been keen fighting between the Russian and the Austro-German forces, the latter losing prisoners and guns. South of Solec Russian troops have forced the passage of the Vistula, driving back the Austrians on the San, and south of Przemysl there has been stubborn fighting favourable to the Russians. An Austrian column coming from the Carpathians towards Dolina has been routed. (Official communiqué issued in Paris, 26th October 1914, Inverness Chronicle)
This midshipman’s diary entry, and typical official communiqué presented in newspapers of the day, were in error here, since after the Russian defeat at the Battle of Tannenberg fought in East Prussia between the 26th to 30th August. Followed by their reverses at the Masurian Lakes, and subsequent Austro-German victories, no Russian Army was to penetrate German territory again until 1945.
Princess Royal - Invergordon / 1.00am kept anchor watch. / 2.10am sent 1st picket boat inshore to moor up. / 7.00am clean guns. / 9.20am exercised General Quarters. / 10.30am secured. / 10.40am Ordinary Seamen and Boys to instruction / 4.10pm darkened ship and closed ‘B’ doors, in nets, worked in 2nd picket boat. / 11.00pm secured, cleared away for night defence and worked main derrick in.
12th November 1914
Another valuable cut to Beatty’s command occurred today. One of his best units departed into this North Sea gale bound for the Atlantic, and Halifax Nova Scotia, as a temporary attachment to the North American squadron. A move to counter the possibility of Von Spee either using the Panama Canal, or heading north up the east coast of South America after his victory off Coronel:
Princess Royal, left upon a special mission. (Major Rooney)
Weather stormy and cold. Princess Royal weighed anchor at 2am and left for unknown destination. Reported Niger (an old torpedo-gunboat) sunk off Deal, all hands saved. (Private Stevens)
Had lecture on war. Niger torpedoed and sunk, all saved. (Midshipman Bagot)
This removal of the potent Princess Royal, had been strongly opposed by both Jellicoe and Beatty. Since it now effectively left the British BCF markedly inferior to their German equivalent, after the earlier departure of the Invincible and Inflexible. It had been suggested that the New Zealand would have been a better compromise choice. Which owing to her more economical fuel consumption figures was better suited to the envisaged prolonged North Atlantic patrol duties. This temporary loss of three battle-cruisers, one 13.5 inch gunned, was keenly felt in the squadron.
I naturally made some reference to her mission in the Atlantic. It was my first lesson. A dead silence followed my remark. Someone said. ‘We are not supposed to know that’, and the conversation was as soon as possible changed. But the effect had been produced. Yet the absence of the Princess Royal was at that moment by far the most vital concern of the BCS. (Young, Lion)
The glass was falling rapidly and if she (from Princess Royal) had started out last night she would have been ‘lying to’ all day today. ... I will not reiterate the arguments I used in my telegram No.15, and those sent to day, but merely point out how unsuitable the Princess Royal is for this service. Her coal expenditure for the distance run is not far from double that of New Zealand, and she will be useless on arrival until coaled and oiled. ... Whilst I am sure no one will dispute the evils of dispersion of force, Admiralty telegram No.244 of tonight (11th) is a very direct reprimand to me for not sending Princess Royal at once. (Admiral Jellicoe to Fisher)
Order issued for all British aeroplanes on Western front to bear clear distinguishing marks.
Princess Royal - Invergordon and at sea to Halifax, Canada - Wind NNE to W by N, force 2-7; sea state 3-6; air temp 46-56F; sea temp 42-51F. / 1.00am commenced unmooring. / 1.50am weighed and turned ship. / 2.05am proceeded, 100 revs. / 2.26am passing through gate, 150 revs. / 2.32am searchlights on land defences switched out.
13th November 1914
The heavy gale sweeping the North Sea did not greatly trouble those on-board Queen Mary at Cromarty. Within the secure confines of the Firth, routine painting and maintenance undertakings were tackled.
Friday. Went ashore and played golf at Allness. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather raining and cold. Harbour routine, landing parties, nothing happened, only Southampton came out of floating dock. (Private Stevens)
Princess Royal - At sea, Invergordon to Halifax - Number on sick list 10 - Wind NW to W by N, force 3-7; sea state 4-6; air temp 46-55F; sea temp 44-50F.
14th November 1914
Another possible explanation for the missing, or brief entries in the Major’s diary was indicated in his note today, his obvious time with service routine, and commitment to administrative duties on-board:
Landing party, marines. Spent much of this time in harbour exercising men in landing duties, and painting. Very busy throughout with confidential books. Much snow at times, and weather changeable and distinctly bad at times, very cold indeed. (Major Rooney)
Weather snowing all day. Landing parties and a football match between Queen Mary and Cameron Highlanders, result Queen Mary 7 Cameron’s 0. Harbour routine. Reported that two German submarines have been sunk off Dover. (Private Stevens)
Lord Roberts died. Two German submarines reported sunk in Channel. (Midshipman Bagot)
The reports of enemy losses was inaccurate, but the death of the elderly Field-Marshal Lord Roberts to natural causes while serving in France was factual.
Princess Royal - At sea, Invergordon to Halifax - Number on sick list 11 - Wind variable, force 2-7; sea state 2-5, confused; air temp 47-54F; sea temp 44-51F. / 8.30am reduced to 100 revs to secure nets and gear on fo’csle. / 9.15am exercised General Quarters. / 12.15pm cleared patent log.
15th November 1914
Sunday Cromarty. Went aboard Lion to return transmission table, met Flag Captain Chatfield and Admiral Beatty going to church. Met Seymour RM. Ashore with Murray for a jolly good walk, no end of snow. (Major Rooney)
Sunday, weather stormy and cold. Routine as usual. Served out more winter clothing. Lance went into floating dock. (Private Stevens)
Sunday. Snowed. (Midshipman Bagot)
Princess Royal - At sea, Invergordon to Halifax - Number on sick list 13 - Wind NW to W by N, force 8-10, decreasing to 2-4; sea state 8, decreasing to 3-4; air temp 45-53F; sea temp 43-48F. / AM lost log line, governor wheel and rotator overboard, carried away. / 10.45am re-streamed patent log.
16th November 1914
Started coaling after breakfast at 7.30am quite a small coaling, a couple of hundred from Fernhill, quite a good double derrick collier. Bitterly cold morning, so took about at and a half of clothes to keep warm. Land some marines in afternoon for exercise, interviewed the captain about gunner ‘W’, whom I hear is returning to the ship. No success. Letter from JHR at Portsmouth in Albemarle, don’t quite know what she is doing. (Major Rooney)
Weather stormy. Prepared for coaling, taking in 200 tons, started at 8am finished at 9.30am cleaned ship. Landing parties during afternoon, searchlight practice in the evening. (Private Stevens)
Coaled 210 tons to complete. (Midshipman Bagot)
By this date, the tally for such evolutions had totalled 24,590 tons of coal taken in, since the outbreak of the war. At this stage Beatty’s command was effectively centred on just three battle-cruisers, Lion, Queen Mary and New Zealand: To Beatty the present strength of his reduced squadron was a considerable worry, as was noted by an observer on-board the flagship makes quite clear.
The Admiral was deeply concerned at the withdrawal of the Princess Royal, and I soon understood why. As far as we knew, the Germans had four battle-cruisers ready, we had for the moment only three to meet them with: They were expected to come out at any moment. In fact the Admiral could not understand why they did not come out, for in those days, if they had only known, they had the opportunity such as was never to be vouchsafed them again. (Young, Lion)
If they come out, I shall consider it my duty to engage them irrespective of odds, and shall possibly lose my squadron. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
Princess Royal - At sea, Invergordon to Halifax - Number on sick list 13 - Wind W to NNW, force 2-4, increasing to 12; sea state 6-10; air temp 43-52F; sea temp 41-47F.
17th November 1914
No shore leave or exercises to day, something in the wind: (Midshipman Bagot)
Left Invergordon about 6pm passed the gate and out to sea, by a northerly passage, preceded by destroyers. Moved east of north: Three submarines reported outside, nothing else of any interest. All intimation of sailing was kept a dead secret, no one being allowed ashore that day. (Major Rooney)
Weather fine but cold. Landing parties during the forenoon. In net defence at 4pm weighed anchor at 6.15pm. (Private Stevens)
The 1BCS, along with the 2CS, 1LCS, plus half a DF, embarked upon a sweep to the east of the Shetland Islands. The latest naval intelligence, gave all on-board the distinct impression that there was considerable U-boat activity off the Scottish East Coast. But there was undoubtedly the feeling, that now at least they were performing their appointed task. Concerning the departure of the battle-cruisers from Invergordon that winters evening, an emotive, and revealing account has survived.
A fortnight’s inactivity in harbour was at that time, for the battle-cruisers, the equivalent of being put into the reserve, and the great topic of conversation was always the possibility of going to sea, for with that was coupled the possibility of a fight. ... The orders had all been given before. Nothing could be seen in the blackness except, perhaps, the blinking of one very subdued signal light from the flagship; and at the appointed hour the capstan engines began their work and amid a row of dim silhouettes on the fo’c’s’le of each ship, the huge cables would come creeping home link by link. Lion, which had led the way in and was anchored furthest up the harbour, led the way out, and so had to pass the other ships. There was no quiver or sign from the turbine engines when they began to move; no shouting or utterance of orders such as herald the getting underway even of small craft. Only, in that cold night air, a colder air began to flow and blow upon one’s face; the air became wind; so one knew that the ship was in motion. Presently in the darkness ahead showed a denser blot of darkness, un-illuminated by any gleam from scuttle or war-light, and with only the glimmer of a pocket torch on the fo’c’s’le head to suggest that the mass was inhabited at all. This dark shadow passed and was received into the darkness astern, while another emerged out of the darkness ahead. This also was passed, with a sense of incredible stealth and secrecy, the wind on one’s face increased, and the darkness ahead was not broken. As we passed between the Souters, the entrance to Cromarty Firth: The speed had increased; the blackness flowed and pressed upon one’s body so that one had to lean forward against it; and so in the November night the battle-cruisers went forth upon their terrible quest. (Young, Lion)
To support Beatty, the 2BS had also set sail from Scapa Flow. It now transpired that this was an operation to forestall a possible enemy plan to send ships into the Atlantic. The 2BS were to work to the west of the Shetlands, while the Cromarty force was to be deployed to the east of these islands.
Princess Royal - At sea, Invergordon to Halifax - Number on sick list 13 - Wind NNW to SW, force 3-7; sea state 4-6; air temp 42-54F; sea temp 45-50F.
18th November 1914
With this departure of the greatly reduced squadron, there was to be a favourable enlightenment, the timely arrival of a very welcome addition, with her escorting screen to Beatty’s squadron, an event duly noted in a significant number of accounts:
Signals drifted in bearing on various matters connected with the fleet; not all concerning us. There was a great chart of the North Sea behind me with the ship’s eight o’clock position to be marked upon it and other tracks that recorded the whereabouts of enemy submarines to be plotted out. There was a little flag for every squadron in the GF, which showed were the fleet was disposed, and there was another little flag, signifying the Tiger, which had been slowly moving around the chart from the west of Ireland northwards and was now approaching our own position from the direction of the Shetlands. (Young, Lion)
Thursday. 8am Joined up with Tiger and destroyers. Turned in with temperature. (Midshipman Bagot)
Steamed northerly course. Tiger and light-cruisers joined flag at 9am. Tiger took No.2 in the line. A fine looking vessel, though not very like Queen Mary, looks a tremendous torpedo target. She appears to steer a little clumsily at present, new to it I suppose. Her 6 inch guns make a tremendous difference apparently. News leaks through that something is on, eventualities, so let’s hope. Passed to westwards of Orkney Shetland line. (Major Rooney)
Weather stormy and cold. Light-cruisers and Tiger joined us at 8.30am. Cruising all day in a northern direction, but seen nothing. (Private Stevens)
At noon on that day, after a great deal of wireless talk about our respective positions, the Tiger joined us and fell in astern of Queen Mary, Her unfamiliar rig and formidable appearance being viewed by us with much curiosity. (Young, Lion)
Princess Royal - At sea, Invergordon to Halifax - Number on sick list 10 - Wind NW to WSW, force 2-4; sea state 3-4; air temp 40-52F; sea temp 35-45F. / AM washed overboard at sea in rough one hawser reel pattern 10 and two 3 inch wire hook ropes each 25 fathoms.
19th November 1914
But this new arrival, which has subsequently been stated to have been rapidly manned by a scratch crew, having a high proportion of defaulters, depot dregs, and rapidly trained reservists, to get her into service as soon as possible, had a lot to learn of the high performance expected in the 1BCS:
The weather had stiffened and there was a heavy sea, too much for the destroyers, who were sent home to their base. The Tiger had disappeared in the night, and reappeared with rather a dissipated air in the course of the morning, alleging, in reply to urgent signals, that she had lost visual touch with the squadron. Reproof was duly administered. I even remember the wording of it, ‘Your extraordinarily bad lookout will cause a disaster’. (Young, Lion)
Tiger is at present totally inefficient as she has not yet carried out her gunnery practices, and has only one dynamo in action. ... Queen Mary very badly needs docking and refit and as soon as Tiger was efficient I propose if possible to send her to homeport. ... Tiger is absolutely unfit to fight yet. Even if trained, which she is not, her one dynamo that is effective cannot do the work of fire-control instruments, lighting, etc., and she would simply be a present to the Germans. ... I must again repeat what I have already emphasised in my telegrams and letters, that the Tiger is not yet efficient, nor can she possibly become so for some little time yet. (Admiral Jellicoe to Fisher, extracts from The Jellicoe Papers, November 1914)
For that days programme the strengthened 1BCS was to undertake a gunnery exercise. Using their main 13.5 inch and 12 inch ordnance initially, then their secondary 4 inch and 6 inch pieces afterwards.
Tiger adrift from the squadron during the night, bad watch keeping, which fully warranted a ‘Beatty reproof’. Carried out gunnery practice at Ramna Stacks, a precipitous cluster of rocks. Three rounds practice were fired per gun, by primary control. The Tiger fired separately to test her guns. The opening range was about 15,000 yards, and bearing of target about red 45. Whole thing appears to have been badly miss-managed. Orders were passed to range take on the centre island of the cluster - very ambiguous, centre island of six?, and the guns depressed to enable this to be done. Hardly any warning given when fire gongs rung, ‘salvo’ was ordered by gong only, no orders received as well, and no bearing given. The salvoes missed in consequence. Everything was very slack. After first salvo was fired, independent was resorted to. Personally I could not judge the results of the firing at all, as the first salvo falling short, very short to my idea, the spray of splash quite obscured the centre islands. Some turrets, whether our ship or New Zealand, aimed at one of the outer islands. Idiotic mistakes were made. (Major Rooney)
Weather foggy and cold. Lost Tiger during the night, but picked us up again in morning. Fired four rounds a gun in afternoon. (Private Stevens)
12.30pm Carried out 13.5 inch, squadron shoot at rock off Shetlands. (Midshipman Bagot)
Regarding that days shoot, the Major had a number of adverse points concerning the functioning of his usually efficient team. Indeed a catalogue of errors in the actual execution of the exercise itself:
No.1 left gun, said he didn’t get the order to come to ready, a proper idiot, order given full pitch three times. Gun loader left gun, reported miss fire three times, no notice or unheard by No.1. Midshipman in charge loading didn’t see it carried out although he heard the order. Misfire in right gun, unaccountable, interrupter switch cannot have been ON. Voice pipe full of water, so some say they did not hear officer of the watch’s first order. Notes: Range taking a badly described object, Turrets and range-finders differed, no target given, inaccurate bearing. Insufficient time and warning to open fire, thus no time to elevate guns and get on aim. The whole show appears to have been an extraordinary hustle, motto, Why hustle to get rounds off, it ought to be the most deliberate operation of the lot, and lots of warning given. (Major Rooney)
There appears to have been delays and faults in all turrets. ‘B’ turret apparently did not get a single round off. ‘X’ fired so far before the beam that its discharge splintered a cutter on the boat deck to smithereens, and blew in the commanders strong back port off, devastating his cabin with is muzzle blast. Undoubtedly this was not one of the best shoots that the crack Queen Mary and the 1BCS had undertaken. Though from these defects and faults coming to light, combined with those highlighted in earlier shoots. Valuable lessons were learnt, and such gunnery procedures subsequently refined and corrected.
Princess Royal - At sea, Invergordon to Halifax - Number on sick list 13 - Wind variable, force 0-4; sea state 2-3; air temp 33-39F; sea temp 39-42F.
20th November 1914
The 1BCS, 1LCS, and their screening destroyers returned to coal. Upon entering the Flow Queen Mary came to anchor around one mile away from the Iron Duke. Here it is of interest to record the personal impressions of one officer, regarding bleak Scapa Flow:
I had my first view of the vast wild harbour, land-locked by ranges of mauve hills, and containing an area of sea so great that even the GF with its innumerable dependent and satellite craft seemed almost lost in its fifty square miles. (Young, Lion)
7am Arrived Scapa, winter base. Coaled 850 tons. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather stormy. Proceeded to Longhope to coal, arriving at 7.45am started coaling at 9am taking in 1,100 tons, finished at 2.30pm out nets 2.50pm. Store ship arrived alongside with iron, oil etc., washed down upper deck. (Private Stevens)
Moved into Scapa Flow, and took up our billet. All BF in, except 3BS (the eight King Edward VII’s) which had gone out. Coaled 1,500 tons from Ellerdale, started about 8am. Glasgow’s official account of the Chilean battle arrived. It seems to remove any vestige of hope. Very interesting dinner party, hear a lot of news, principally the following. The Audacious affair, quarterdeck was well under water, and water was leaking aft through bulkheads in spite of all that could be done. First explosion thought to be due to oil, second explosion, to a Lyddite shell falling out of the shell bay. This latter occurred after dark, and flash seen clearly 25 miles away. Spy peril, and steps taken to suppress it. Amount of signalling carried out, by presumably native Scotch. Strange yacht with lights out, anchored off Isle of Mull when we were there. Jellicoe’s intention regarding going south in certain eventualities. Submarine menace chart. Princess Royal at New York or in vicinity. Old fogies at the Admiralty. Carpenter’s impression of Christopher Craddock and the Chilean action, a scandalous affair, like a bull at a gate as usual. (Major Rooney)
Despite the arrival of this bad news, confirmation of what the Major must have already accepted about his friend ‘S’, life continued, when he was called upon to dine on-board the Iron Duke that night, along with Commander James. Here he was to meet with some familiar colleagues from former days. Identified as Blake, Matthews, Best, Carpenter and Nicholson. In this convivial atmosphere amongst peers, a number of topics were discussed that evening.
Unknown to those sitting around the dinner table that evening, far to the south, the HSF was stirring. Elements had put briefly to sea in the Heligoland Bight, to support the work-up of the recently completed battle-cruiser Derfflinger. A ship whose career would become inexorably linked with that of Queen Mary’s one day, just seventeen months away, off the coast of Jutland.
Princess Royal - At sea, approaching Halifax - Number on sick list 12 - Wind ESE to S by E, force 0-6; sea state 3-4; air temp 41-46F; sea temp 39-42F. / PM course waiting for the weather to clear. Lost overboard, two deep sea leads; one tube guard; 300 feet of sounding wire. / 4.30pm course and speed for approaching Chebucto Light.
21st November 1914
On this day some exercises were undertaken within the secure waters of the Flow, along with the taking in of supplies afterwards, restocking after her recent shoot, and listing to tall tales. Which although doubted, were certainly interesting recollections from an individual present at one of the earlier submarine scares at Scapa:
Ran torpedoes, none too good, in forenoon. Ammunitioned ship, took in three 13.5 inch practice rounds per barrel, and passed over all empty cordite storage cases. Muratai, store ship. One of the mates told me that the firing on submarines had gone on all day, when they entered Scapa on the 18 October. Muratai left in a great hurry at noonday, with the Swift’s (destroyer-leader) shells whizzing through her rigging. Sounds a tall yarn. (Major Rooney)
Weather stormy. Left Longhope to fire two torpedoes, went into Scapa Flow and fired .303 with 4 inch (sub-calibre). Took in six rounds per 13.5 inch turret, flour and other stores. Went back to Longhope, arriving at 6pm out nets at 6.30pm. (Private Stevens)
Squadron carried out torpedo firing in the Flow. (Midshipman Bagot)
Noted in this exercise was the rather interesting behaviour of one of Lion’s underwater devices:
I remember that one of our torpedoes, after keeping its course for about a mile, turned in its tracks and came straight for us, a homing manoeuvre which, however much it facilitated the recovery of the weapon, was rather depressing in light of its destined employment. (Young, Lion)
British naval air raid on Friedrichshaven.
Princess Royal - At sea and at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada - Number on sick list 10. 3.55am made Sambro Light / 7.00am altered course to starboard up swept channel. / 7.25am cear minesweeping flotilla, 10 knots following in astern of the Glory. / 8.25am stopped engines. / 8.31am let go first / 8.35am second anchor, moored. / 10.00am collier Trinnedos came alongside. / 10.20am commenced coaling. / PM oil ship Dambian alongside, carried on coaling. / 4.40pm cast off oil steamer, received 295 tons of oil fuel. / 10.30pm stopped coaling for the night.
22nd November 1914
invariably notices and information for various departments would have frequently arrived, for example a gunnery accident which had occurred on-board an armoured-cruiser on the 20th, was now heard by the Major, and presumably passed on to his turret crew for future reference:
Sunday. Ammunitioned ship, three rounds per gun from a small steamer. Montagu aboard, to Kirk 7am. News about the Achilles, burst a 9.2 inch gun firing at Ramna Stack, a Lyddite was not properly rammed home apparently, and burst in the bore, as the gun was running out again, curious. Explosion set the gun right back, base burst and end of muzzle blew right away, leaving a trail of wire winding. One man badly damaged outside turret, all turrets crew pitted or pickled with little holes. (Major Rooney)
Sunday, weather stormy. Taking in 13.5 inch shells. In nets at 2.30pm weighed anchor at 4pm. 1BCS, 2CS, and LCS, and 2BS. (Private Stevens)
4pm 1BCS LCS and 2BS sailed. (Midshipman Bagot)
Left Scapa about 4pm dark, and steamed east, preceded by 1LCS, 2CS, and the BF in rear. Passed four vessels in first watch. (Major Rooney)
All told, the battle-cruisers of 1BCS. Dreadnoughts of the 1/2/3/4BS’s. Armoured-cruisers of the 2/3/6CS’s. Light-cruisers of the 1LCS, and the screening destroyers of the 2/4DF’s. Had now left their bases to carry out a significant sweep into the North Sea.
Princess Royal - Halifax - Number on sick list 9. / 6.00am recommenced coaling. / 10.15am finished coaling. / 11.00am collier shoved off, received 2,630 tons, hands cleaning ship.
23rd November 1914
As the fleet undertook some exercises, the general outline of the operation soon became known. To the south of the GF lay the Harwich Force, comprised of three light-cruisers and eight destroyers. So deployed as to offer close support to a planned seaplane strike upon German airship sheds. As regards this sweep, rather interesting perspectives of the impressive scene survive.
At one moment the squadron would be in line ahead, apparently steaming towards Germany. Up would go a hoist to the signal arm, repeated by every ship, and as at the single word of command the flags came down, every ship would turn at a right angle to port. And one would find oneself in a new formation. Line abreast, hurrying towards Norway, and a few minutes later we would be on a course for Scotland: I remember a second PZ Which we did on that day and in which we played the part of the enemy to Sir John Jellicoe’s force in the GF. The exercise took the form of a contest in manoeuvring for the most advantageous position in which to engage; it was most exciting while it lasted, but it was brought to an end by Beatty making a daring 16 point turn to starboard: ‘Risky but successful’, said the uninstructed; but the Admiral knew very well what he was doing. The manoeuvre was characteristic of a brilliant tactician. (Young, Lion)
Exercised at PZ’s, with BF throughout the day, it was remarkably clear, hull down ships’ masts and yards clearly visible at 25,000 yards or more. The PZ exercise was shockingly carried out. Apparently we are bound south to the Heligoland Bight in full strength this time, to support a great air raid on Cuxhaven. The seaplane mother ships will require a good deal of escorting, so the whole fleet must be prepared for just anything. About time there was a little ‘ginger’ somewhere, even if the ginger is mixed with snuff. 7pm steaming south-sou-east, Good work. An alarm at 5pm turned out and into ‘A’ turret in the deuce of a hurry, Lion was burning searchlights, but we could see nothing. It was rather poor fun. The cold was very great in afternoon strange to say. (Major Rooney)
Destroyers joined up. Carried out PZ with BF. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather stormy. At sea with hands of BS and CS, doing manoeuvres, expecting an attack from Germans. (Private Stevens)
The 1BCS, 1LCS, and a Division of destroyers, were deployed in advance of the main fleet that night. From Jellicoe came the message that all ships were to be at action stations at dawn on the morrow.
Princess Royal - Halifax - Number on sick list 10. / 5.40am hands cleaning ship. / 7.00am clean guns. / 8.15am water tank alongside. / 9.15am hands refitting net gear and painting under fore shelter deck. / 3.00pm furl nets, hoist out 2nd cutter. / 10.30pm first picket boat drew fires, second picket boat kept steam all night.
24th November 1914
6am 45 miles from Heligoland: Closed up all 4 inch guns. Destroyers and light-cruisers to draw enemy out. But German destroyers took cover under Heligoland forts, which opened up at long range. (Midshipman Bagot)
Operation against Cuxhaven. The 1BCS moved south all night to support an operation being undertaken by the Air Service. The seaplane tenders approaching the Bight at dawn, were to launch an attack at 7am. The 2CS moved south to within a few miles of Heligoland to cover the advance of the seaplane tenders. The 1BCS in support arrived within 40 miles of Heligoland at 7am with a screen of destroyers and light-cruisers advanced in pairs. The morning was beautifully clear and ideal weather for the project. The BF remained somewhere to northward: 1BCS as soon as day broke moved south in line ahead, Lion, Tiger, Queen Mary and New Zealand, zigzagging throughout. The 1BCS now stayed at rendezvous and moved about at 15 knots or so, continually altering course. The 2CS next appeared, masts and spars on southern horizon. We passed one steam trawler about 7.50am which we left unmolested. This seems a grave error, it being quite within power of such a vessel to give very important information away, I think it is silly, they May have had wireless for all we know. They ought to have been done in, or towed away to the north or westwards out of harm’s way. (Major Rooney)
There had been a chance meeting at 7.30am between the 1BCS and the Arethusa with a Division of four destroyers heading northwards, as they mistakenly pursued a detached unit of Beatty’s cruiser screen. They had apparently thought that they chased away some German light-craft, and were off station by some 40 miles. Upon confirmation of recognition signals, the Harwich detachment altered course to the south to resume their proper post. From this confusion, although all the omens had looked good for the initial phase of a successful operation, fate in the shape of a light enemy force was to intervene to cancel the actual launch of the air strike.
Commodore ‘T’ should have reconnoitred Heligoland at daylight, but presumably not knowing the disposition, chased Southampton as enemy’s destroyer. Sent back to reconnoitre rather late at 10.30am supported by 2CS. Two German cruisers found in the track of the seaplane ships. Were on earth was the escort, and why were they not driven off, or destroyed. I supposed they were missed in the dark and not discovered till too late. The 2CS approached Heligoland, were enemy’s vessels were visible, fortress opened fire. Enemy would not be drawn out, so at 11.30am retired. The force withdrew, 20 knots, and moved northwest about noon, having accomplished nothing. (Major Rooney)
Since we had come so far, however, it was considered advisable to take a look at the Bight, and the 1LCS and 2CS were sent on. It was a perfect day for fighting, with calm sea and long visibility; but I remember that the operation filled the Admiral with disgust. The 2CS was in a uselessly risky position and one in which, owing to its inferior speed, it might quite easily be cut off by the enemy. (Young, Lion)
However as outlined above, before this retiral Beatty had the cruisers close with the fortress around 10.40am. Where there was smoke seen behind the Island, and at some distant, torpedo-boats were observed steaming to the southward, also that a submarine had been sighted on the surface. But this trailing their coat tails off the fortress did not induce any sailings by the HSF. Only the aforementioned fire from the shore batteries, the bait had not attracted any other response and the sweep drew to a close. During this retiral an enemy aircraft dropped a stick of bombs which straddled the Liverpool at 12.55pm. A parting gesture as the force now withdrew, positive that they could not entice the HSF to contest their presence in the Bight. To some this aerial attack again made the point clear, concerning proper aircraft recognition and markings.
Apropos. Of the German aeroplane attack on Liverpool. The plane appeared suddenly out of cloud overhead, and swooped down on the ship, and dropped one bomb, which missed the stern, and another which fell ahead. One yarn had it that the bomb was clearly discernible and took an appreciable time to fall, enabling officer of the watch to alter course of ship. The crew of the vessel mistook the aeroplane for a Britisher and gave it three hearty cheers as it passed overhead, which must have puzzled the aviator very much. The planes had a red Maltese cross and a German cross painted on the underside, presumably copy of Iron Cross. (Major Rooney)
An unsuccessful aeroplane attack on Liverpool. 11am general retirement. Operation unsuccessful owing to Commodore ‘T’ chasing our own destroyers who were out of station. Aeroplane attack on Cuxhaven and Wilhelmshaven cancelled owing to German patrol. All 4 inch guns still closed up, expecting night attack. News of German submarine U.18 sunk off Shetlands by patrol boat, crew saved. Two German destroyers with Danish steamer sunk. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather fine. Cruising with same fleet off Heligoland all day, trying to draw them out, expecting torpedo attack tonight, on watch round the after guns. German submarine sunk off Scotland by British patrol, and torpedo sunk Danish steamer. German airmen dropped bombs ahead and astern of Nottingham no damage done. (Private Stevens)
The above two entries briefly outline the days salient points and match each other well. With the obvious exception of the unfortunate cruisers name. As for the fate of U.18, well this was unusual, in that she had been dispatched by minesweeping Trawler 96, after being damaged by coastal artillery off Hoxa Sound in the Orkney’s on the previous day.
We met the BF and joined up at 3.30pm course northwest, speed had been 20 knots all day, 6pm reduced to 12 knots. Battleships were very clearly visible today, smoke visible about 30 miles, and topmasts about 15 miles or more, a beautiful day for an action. Passed another trawler at 4pm. 6pm signal made German destroyer attack imminent, so we hope to have a bit of a warming ready for them. If we drive them off and can round them up by daylight, perhaps we shall be able to draw bigger game out from Heligoland: (Major Rooney)
That evening the 1BCS, and attendant light-cruisers, were initially stationed 15 miles to the eastward of the BF. As this warning of an anticipated attack was broadcast, for a candid assessment of the days sweep:
Such an operation should take the form of a dash in and out, but we were hanging about, a bait for submarines, from seven o’clock until eleven. And the C-in-C with the BF was too far astern of us to have been of any assistance to the 2CS it had been attacked. (Young, Lion)
Princess Royal - Halifax and at sea. / 9.00am oiling nets and painting, hands as required. / 1.15pm furled nets. / 2.00pm secured for sea. / 4.00pm commenced unmooring. / 4.55pm proceeded 12 knots.
25th November 1914
Nothing of interest occurred, middle watch pretty dark, 1BCS in line ahead, Lion, Tiger, Queen Mary, New Zealand: 2CS in rear, with a screen of destroyers, all moved north at 15 knots. BF about 5 miles to port. Guns manned by two watches, fore and aft. The expected attack, of which Admiralty had received intimation, did not find us out, we having put from 120 miles to 150 miles between us and Heligoland: If the attack was launched it evidently went astray. It was reported that steam was raised in all the German torpedo craft, with a view to a grand attack. Great PZ commenced at 11.15am and lasted till 1pm all GF engaged, destroyers practised the attack. At 1.30pm 1BCS and Shannon parted with fleet and steamed westward for Cromarty. (Major Rooney)
On-board there was some discussion about a likely enemy interception course, by way of the Horn Reef and Amrun Bank. Which would have enabled it to strike at the fleet’s east flank. This was thought to have been over ambitious, possibly leading it astray. In fact no such great German night attack had been launched.
Rendezvous with BF. Carried out PZ. News that last night all German destroyers gave chase to deliver night attack, which was unsuccessful. (Midshipman Bagot)
It struck me as a fine manifestation of our occupation of the German Ocean that, having gone to look for the Germans in their own waters and not finding them. We employed the time by doing exercises and having a sham fight amongst ourselves - since there was no enemy to fight. (Young, Lion)
Weather stormy and cold. Cruising and doing tactics all day with hands of fleet. Proceeded to Cromarty to coal. (Private Stevens)
Princess Royal - At sea off Nova Scotia and NE New England - Wind W by N to SW, force 2-5; sea state 2-4; air temp 37-58F; sea temp 45-63F.
26th November 1914
By daylight a heavy southerly gale was blowing, so the attached light-cruisers were sent ahead for shelter. As was to be noted at Sheerness on this day a veteran pre-dreadnought of the 5BS blew up, while taking on-board ammunition. There were to be only 12 survivors from her complement of around 750.
Anchored at Invergordon about 7am took in 1,350 tons of coal from the collier Fernhill. Very good collier, double derricks. Was a splendid coaling, averaging 270 tons an hour, started about 8am and finished at 3pm. News of Bulwark being blown up in Sheerness harbour. (Major Rooney)
Weather raining all day. Arrived in harbour at 7.15am prepared to coal, taking in 1,350 tons, started at 8.50am finished at 2.45pm made world’s record for cruiser coaling. (Private Stevens)
7.30am arrived Cromarty. 8.30am coaled 1,350 tons. 3pm finished coaling. Admiral complimented us, did record coaling for squadron, 295t per hour. News that battleships bombarded Zeebrugge and destroyed German naval base with submarines. (Midshipman Bagot)
This bombardment entry has to refer to the latest in a series of such actions, carried out by the shallow-draught monitors Severn, Humber, and Mersey. Later complemented by the pre-dreadnought Venerable. Regrettably on this day Bulwark was destroyed by an internal explosion in Sheerness harbour.
Princess Royal - At sea off Nova Scotia and NE New England - Wind W to W by N, force 2-5; sea state 3-4; air temp 51-60F; sea temp 48-62F. / 5.11pm altered course to examine Norwegian steamer. / 5.30pm resumed course.
27th November 1914
As the bulk of the BF arrived back at Scapa Flow. For the 1BCS this was to be the start of a quiet week at Cromarty. There was by now a strong gale blowing in the North Sea:
Nothing occurred of any note, ships company played a certain amount of football, weather very bad, and a good deal of rain and snow. Busy with turret fittings and confidential books. (Major Rooney)
Weather stormy. Oil ship alongside at 9.30am. Harbour routine, cleaned ship, landing and football parties land in afternoon, Piped down. Night before, Bulwark sunk in Sheerness Harbour by magazine explosion, between 700 and 800 lives lost. (Private Stevens)
News of Russians great victory in Poland: 7.50am Bulwark was blown up at Sheerness, only 12 saved 760 killed. (Midshipman Bagot)
If this individual was referring to the Battle of Lodz, fought over the period 18th to the 25th: Then this was in fact a decisive German victory, halting the Russian First Army’s advance into Silesia.
Princess Royal - At sea off Nova Scotia and NE New England - Wind NW to WSW, NNE, force 2-4; sea state 1-3; air temp 48-58F; sea temp 51-57F. / 4.12pm closed Nantucket Light vessel. / 6.15pm resumed course. / 5.50pm altered course to close French sailing vessel. / 6.10pm resumed course.
28th November 1914
Weather stormy. Harbour routine, divers went down went down to look to propellers, which stated in bad condition. Proposed rugby match between Queen Mary and Lion, but owing to bad weather was postponed till some future date. (Private Stevens)
Got ashore. (Major Rooney)
News that Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse and Hiatha torpedoed and sunk by Russians in Baltic. Enquiring into cause of Bulwark blowing up. (Midshipman Bagot)
The identity of these German vessels is difficult to determine, with no such action during this period, and with no reference to the second vessel discovered. Possibly it might refer to the mining and loss of the armoured-cruiser Friedrich Carl on the 17th, due to a Russian mine barrage in the Baltic.
Princess Royal - At sea off Nova Scotia and NE New England - Wind E by N to NNE, force 2-3; sea state 1-2; air temp 41-45F; sea temp 49-56F. / 11.07pm sighted Nantucket Light vessel.
29th November 1914
As this erroneous news came in about a naval success in the Baltic, and regrettably the factual loss off Sheerness. Across the Atlantic the detached Princess Royal was stationing herself off New York, prior to moving further south: Being subsequently based at Jamaica.
Sunday, weather raining all day. Sunday’s routine, band playing on the upper deck after 10am. Received news that German battleship and cruiser sunk by a Russian torpedo-boat. (Private Stevens)
Germans retreating from Russians. (Midshipman Bagot)
Sunday. Got ashore. (Major Rooney)
Princess Royal - At sea off Nova Scotia and NE New England - Wind variable, force 0-3; sea state 1-2; air temp 39-43F; sea temp 43-49F. / 0.07am steady on course, Nantucket Light vessel bore N15W.
30th November 1914
Weather raining all day. Harbour routine, landing parties and football parties during afternoon. (Private Stevens)
Monday. Battle of Lodz raging. (Midshipman Bagot)
The Battle of Lodz had been fought to its conclusion, again an excellent indication of the delay to those on-board, receiving accurate up to date information.
Princess Royal - At sea and at Halifax. / 2.45am Sambro Light buoy abeam. / 5.10am altered course up swept channel. / 6.50am stopped both. / 7.03am came to port anchor, six shackles in ten fathoms. / 8.10am collier Calcutta alongside. / 9.00am commenced coaling. / 11.12am collier Trenedos alongside, and oil tank SS Danubian alongside. / 8.30pm finished coaling, strike down coal, clean upper deck.
1st December 1914
This period was to be a ‘bustling’ one for her crew. Enabling them to now undertake a programme of maintenance and repairs, necessary after the considerable distances steamed during the past couple of months. As well as spend some time ashore:
Weather raining. Harbour routine, football parties, nothing more happened during day. (Private Stevens)
Reported German victory in Lodz region. (Midshipman Bagot)
General de Wet, the leader of South African rebellion, was captured by Union troops on this day.
Princess Royal - Halifax and at sea to Jamaica - Wind light airs, calm, ESE, force 0-1; sea state 0-1; air temp 43-61F; sea temp 42-59F. / 6.10am weighed and proceeded, courses and speeds. / 8.55am, altered course to examine derelict dory.
2nd December 1914
Wednesday. Went route March and got drenched. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather raining all day. Turret went to gun drill during forenoon, and landing and football parties went ashore. Nothing happened. Leviathan arrived to take the flag from New Zealand: (Private Stevens)
Rear-Admiral Moore temporarily transferred his flag from the battle-cruiser, to the newly joined veteran armoured-cruiser. A telling impression of the squadrons stay at Invergordon, during this quiet period remains:
That fortnight in that desolate harbour was the dark hollow of the year’s wave, the middle of the tunnel of winter through which we seemed to be journeying towards the spring and fulfilment of our hopes. Outside of the ship there was absolutely nothing to do; all our interests were within and, except for an occasional walk ashore for the sake of exercise, there was no variation of the monotonous shipboard life. It was dark at four o’clock in the afternoon, when the scuttles would be screwed down and the ship had to say good-bye to daylight and fresh air for a good fifteen hours. (Young, Lion)
Princess Royal - At sea, Halifax to Jamaica - Wind calm, S to W, force 0-3; sea state 1-2; air temp 61-71F; sea temp 60-74F. / 6.30am sighted two steamers on starboard beam, altered course to investigate. / 7.15am passed Norwegian steamer Breideblick. / 7.35am abreast of British steamer Shenandoah bound for Bordeaux. / 12.15pm altered course to examine British oil tank Orca bound for Dover. / 9.16pm in latitude 36 25N, longitude 68 38W, rammed a whale or wreckage.
3rd December 1914
Weather raining and cold. Harbour routine, went to general quarters at 10am and went to evening quarters at 4pm. More cigarettes and books arrived. (Private Stevens)
King George V arrived in France. (Midshipman Bagot)
The noted visit of the monarch to the war zone. Leaving London on Sunday the 29 November, for a three day round of meetings with dignitaries, and tours of hospitals.
Princess Royal - At sea, Halifax to Jamaica - Wind calm and SW to SE, force 0-2; sea state 0-1; air temp 70-75F; sea temp 71-73F.
4th December 1914
Weather snowing during day. Coaled ship taking in 300, started at 9am finished at 11am. Store ship came alongside at 4.30pm with flour, sugar etc., but owing to state of weather had to postpone it. (Private Stevens)
Friday. 8.30am coaled 320 tons to complete. Historic meeting of King George V, President Ponicare, King Albert, Prince of Wales, Generals French and Joffe. At a place in the firing line nearest British, French, Belgian lines. (Midshipman Bagot)
It appears that most diaries or journals include a number of entries concerning the general conduct of the war. It should be remarked upon, that this interest in any developments at the front was a universal one on-board.
Princess Royal - At sea, Halifax to Jamaica - Wind calm to variable, force 0-2; sea state 1; air temp 75-79F; sea temp 75-79F. / 11.30am aired bedding. / 11.03pm sighted San Salvador Light.
5th December 1914
out in the North Sea another heavy gale was experienced on this day, which would last until the following morning. Causing many small craft to head for shelter:
Weather rough and raining. Taking in stores, flour, sugar etc., started at 10am finished 2.30pm. Night defence and evening quarters, went to general quarters at 5pm. (Private Stevens)
Aerial raid on Krupps which damaged cannon hall. Noon, six submarines reported outside. Aeroplane went up to search for same, but unsuccessful. (Midshipman Bagot)
Perhaps the first part of this entry is a corruption of the aerial strike that had occurred on the 23 November, when three intrepid British airmen carried out a daring raid against the Zeppelin sheds at Friedrichshafen.
Princess Royal - At sea, Halifax to Jamaica - Wind SE to N, force 1-3; sea state 0-2; air temp 76-80F; sea temp 77-80F. / 10.20am proceeded to examine Norwegian vessel. / 10.50am boarded her.
6th December 1914
Sunday. Standing by at two hour’s notice. A good number of submarines reported, six at one time. Weather very bad. (Major Rooney)
Weather fine but cold. Meat and potatoes arrived during afternoon. Went to night defence and evening quarters. (Private Stevens)
Sunday. Went ashore. 6pm Sudden squall, let go sheet anchor. King returned to Buckingham Palace. (Midshipman Bagot)
It has been documented elsewhere that a significant sweep for this day had been intended. But that it had been cancelled, due to Admiralty information. That besides the reported submarine presence, there was also menacingly a very liberal number of loose mines about, rogue devices that had broken adrift from their moorings in the recent bad weather.
Princess Royal - At sea and at Kingston, Jamaica. / 8.01am came to starboard anchor in 8 fathoms. / 8.30am collier Edlington alongside. / 9.40am oil tank Camillo alongside. / 10.00am commenced coaling. / 2.35pm cast off oil steamer, received 187 tons. / 9.10pm finished coaling, unrigging coaling gear, received 1,568 tons. / 9.18pm collier shoved off. / 10.00pm washed down upper deck.
7th December 1914
Weather raining. Harbour routine, under two hour’s notice for sea. Nothing more happened. (Private Stevens)
Reduced to two and a half hour’s notice. Invasion scare along east coast. (Midshipman Bagot)
Princess Royal - Kingston, Jamaica. - AM hands cleaning ship. / 2.15pm hands painting ship, hoist out 2nd cutter. / 3.00pm hoist out whaler, out nets. / 4.00pm liberty men land. / 4.30pm painting ship’s side. / 9.00pm liberty men returned off leave.
8th December 1914
Tuesday. Ammunitioned ship, changed defective Lyddite. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather raining and cold. Turrets taking out pointed Lyddite as it is dangerous, and replacing it with new shells. (Private Stevens)
An interesting little inclusion from these two sources is the mention of the removal of tainted projectiles from the ship, but one which has not been expanded upon elsewhere. Out with these routine happenings on-board, and the knowledge of those in the squadron at this time, this day was to be a memorable one for the fleet’s battle-cruisers. The Battle of the Falklands was fought and won, in the South Atlantic on this date.
Since this review primarily deals with the career of Queen Mary within the 13.5 inch gunned 1BCS of the GF. Combined with the fact, that this epic story of the destruction of Von Spee’s squadron is already a very well related one. This momentous story will not be repeat again here in this narrative, it will suffice to say, that the consequences of this event, were to be significant in a number of respects. Paramount here has to be its subsequent release from extraneous duties, of three valuable battle-cruisers, for return to Beatty’s emasculated command: This battle can also be regarded as an important justification of the battle-cruiser type, in this classic action of hunting down, and destroying powerful German commerce raiders.
Princess Royal - Kingston, Jamaica. / 5.40am hands painting ship’s side and cleaning up upper deck. / 6.45pm land Patrol.
9th December 1914
News of Sturdee’s victory was eventually broadcast, to which there was high spirits amongst the crews of the ships based at Cromarty. This last aspect of the day is usually well documented in a number of private and published sources, while some other personal documents do not refer to it. In this it is strange to relate that Major Rooney never committed anything to paper on his impressions or feelings concerning this important naval this action. One suspects that his personal loss off Coronel, was still to close at heart to enable him to present an objective appraisal of the subsequent victory for his diary:
We all of us carried the news personally to the wardroom, were there was an immediate uproar, more champagne, people fetched out of bed who had turned in, and general high spirits. The bosun’s mates were sent round the mess decks bellowing out the news in chorus. (Young, Lion)
German cruisers sunk. Morning, news that Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Leipzig were sunk by Admiral Sturdee’s squadron ,Invincible and Inflexible etc., yesterday off Falkland Isles. British casualties slight. Giving chase to Nurnberg and Dresden. Two colliers captured. Afternoon, news that Nurnberg been sunk. British casualties all told were seven. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather raining and cold. Finished getting shell at 7am after working all night, turned in during the day. Went to general alarm night defence at 5.30pm. (Private Stevens)
Princess Royal - Kingston, Jamaica. / 5.30am hands cleaning ship. / 6.50am clean guns. / 8.15am hands cleaning mess decks and cleaning up upper deck. / 9.30am Q turret to Divisional drill, hands employed. / 4.00pm liberty men land.
10th December 1914
Weather fine but cold. Football parties. Reported German cruisers sunk off Falkland Islands. (Private Stevens)
Thursday. Went ashore all day with football parties. four hour’s notice. (Midshipman Bagot)
Princess Royal - Kingston, Jamaica. / 8.30am cleaning ship, land store working party. / 9.10am Divisions, prayers and physical drill, net gear, and scrubbing canvas. / 2.00pm: furled nets both sides. / 2.45pm: stowed nets and gear away for sea, unship torpedo booms.
11th December 1914
Weather fine but cold. Reported German cruiser sunk, another escaped (the Dresden). Landing and football parties. (Private Stevens)
Friday. Nothing to report. Kaiser said to be ill in Berlin. (Midshipman Bagot)
Paradoxically a price was about to be paid for the recent British success. News of the two British battle-cruiser off the Falklands, and very possibly some indication from neutral sources that a third unit was on station in the western Atlantic. Might just have been sufficient incentive for the reserved HSF, under Admiral Von Ingenohl, to now countenance an operation into the North Sea against a weakened GF. And to reply effectively to their defeat off the Falklands.
Here the Royal Navy manoeuvres of 1912 and 1913, had effectively shown that the English east coast was vulnerable to a surprise hit and run raid. A fact confirmed by the recent strike by Hipper on the 2 November, which had more than established this capability. At the Admiralty intelligence intercepts had been detected, indicating that another such German sortie was likely. Over the preceding days, these initial assessments had gradually formed into a good idea of the enemy’s general plan. Although not is full potential.
Princess Royal - Kingston and at sea to Halifax. / 5.30am in 1st picket boat, launch and galley. / 8.05am weighed and proceeded, 10 knots. / 3.00pm altered course to examine British steamer Ridley bound for Kingston.
12th December 1914
But for the moment a normal harbour routine was to be experienced by those on-board Queen Mary secure and sheltered at Cromarty, as yet another heavy gale swept the North Sea outside:
Weather fine but cold. Football parties land during afternoon. Went to night defence at 5.30pm. Reported that German cruiser sunk in Baltic Sea (the Friedrich Carl on the 17 November?). (Private Stevens)
Saturday. Land at 9am with P. Smith, Wynn-Edwards, and Johnson for days shooting. (Midshipman Bagot)
It has been documented that the weather was so bad during this period that ships at sea, even the dreadnoughts of the 1BS, were forced to return to Scapa.
Princess Royal - At sea, Kingston to Halifax - Wind NE to E, force 1-4; sea state 1-2; air temp 77-81F; sea temp 76-87F. / 10.53am altered course to examine Cuban steamer. / 11.35am resumed course. / 11.37am altered course to examine Norwegian steamer. / 12.15pm stopped to examine SS Dagland, allowed her to proceed. / 3.45pm altered course examining the island of Samana. / 4.10pm altered course, fired 4 inch at rock
13th December 1914
Weather snowing all day. Band playing during forenoon. Went to night defence. (Private Stevens)
Sunday. (Midshipman Bagot)
In the GF some necessary work to improve the watertight integrity of a number of dreadnought’s 6 inch casements, and those of the Tiger, was ordered today. During recent sweeps these upper deck located positions, had been greatly affected by the entry of water. In this respect Queen Mary and her kind, were better served by their lighter 4 inch secondary batteries. While although also casement mounted pieces, they were all located on the forecastle deck level, in high commanding positions well above the waterline.
Princess Royal - At sea, Kingston to Tongue of the Ocean, Bahamas - Wind NE to E by S, force 2-3; sea state 2; air temp 79-83F; sea temp 75-81F. / 0.55am course N71W, 24 knots, Karlsruhe reported in the Tongue of the Ocean. / 5.15am altered to starboard to avoid vessel. / 5.26am resumed original course.
14th December 1914
News of British submarine B.11 sunk Messudiyeh, Turkish battleship in Dardanelles. Having dived under five rows of mines, being submerged at one time for nine hours. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather stormy. Football parties land. Meat and potatoes arrived. Turkish battleship sunk by submarine B.11. (Private Stevens)
These entries refer to the success of B.11, under Lieutenant-Commander Norman D. Holbrook in the Dardanelles, to successfully torpedo the obsolete ex-German pre-dreadnought on the previous day. Further to the initial indication of a possible enemy sortie passed on to Jellicoe by the Admiralty on the 11th, they now sent him a more positive message. This signal, No.523, sent at 9.30pm gave Jellicoe the appraisal that only the German battle-cruisers of the 1SG, with a cruiser and torpedo-boat screen. Would leave the Jade early on Tuesday evening, returning on Wednesday evening. Significantly there was no indication that the bulk of the German BF was also to sail in support of Hipper.
Apparently the objective of this move was expected to be yet another cruiser raid on the east coast. Jellicoe was instructed to now dispatch Beatty’s 1BCS, a BS, and a CS, to intercept this enemy cruiser force, at first light on Wednesday in the lower North Sea. As it was to transpire the initial British intelligence, concerning no mention of German battleships in the coming operation was greatly in error. In reality a powerful force of dreadnoughts was to accompany the 1SG in this venture. Thereby forming an enemy force considerably stronger than the envisaged British one, then preparing to sail against it.
Princess Royal - At sea, Tongue of the Ocean, Bahamas - Wind S by E to S by W, force 2-4; sea state 1-3; air temp 76-84F; sea temp 75-80F. / 9.24am sighted Beacon west of Pigeon's Cay, Dolly Cay 9,000 yards. / 3.03pm stopped both engines, hoisted out second picket boat rigged with two torpedoes and dropping gear for search for Karlsruhe on Bahama Bank. / 4.11pm second picket boat left ship.
15th December 1914
2am orders suddenly came to put to sea. So in nets, Unmoored and put to sea, a heavy sea running, and an unpleasant swell, misty weather and uncomfortable. (Major Rooney)
Called hands at 1.30am to get in net defence, weighed anchor at 5am left harbour. (Private Stevens)
2am all hands furl nets, raise steam with all dispatch. 6am 1BCS, CS, and LCS and destroyers sailed. News of probable action tomorrow. (Midshipman Bagot)
Received orders to weigh and proceed to sea. (Midshipman Tennyson)
We encountered a very heavy sea which caused even Lion, usually but little affected by the weather, to roll and screw in a somewhat disquieting manner. (Young, Lion)
In relation to the story of Queen Mary, the events now unfolding were of considerable importance. Therefore a look at the respective forces to be involved in this operation, and their general deployment is warranted, to place this battle-cruisers part in what was to follow in perspective.
Supporting Beatty’s four battle-cruisers were to be the 13.5 inch gunned super-dreadnoughts of the 2BS, from Scapa, comprising of the King George V, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir George Warrender. Orion, flag of Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot, along with the Ajax, Centurion, Conqueror and Monarch, the squadron was without the refitting Thunderer. Besides these powerful units, sailed the four members of the 1LCS, but a destroyer escort was unable to set out, since the weather in the Pentland Firth was deemed far too rough for them.
The attached light-cruisers of the 2BS, the Blanche and Boadicea, clearly confirmed this, when they were seriously damaged, and compelled to return to harbour, only after the latter had her bridge washed away, and losing several men overboard: Hoping that conditions off Cromarty might be better, Jellicoe ordered all available destroyers to sail from there with the 1BCS. From here seven boats from the 4DF were ready. Which upon reaching the rendezvous between the capital ships around 11am were stationed some 10 miles ahead of the 2BS. It was to be this light destroyer screen which was destined to first encounter the enemy the following morning.
Joined up by daylight with three King George V’s and two Orion’s. About 1pm a third Orion joined. Sighted our own light-cruiser screen, four, about 6 miles ahead at 1.30pm visibility about 12,000 yards. Signal intercepted, that four battle-cruisers, five light-cruisers, and two TBF’s, left the Jade River. They are coming out. Our course has been roughly southeast, towards the Bight. It was summarised that either a raid was underway, or that these light-cruisers were to be sent out into the Atlantic for raiding work. (Major Rooney)
The three available armoured-cruisers of the 3CS under Rear-Admiral Pakenham had also set sail from Rosyth, with a light escort, to join up with the heavy squadrons coming down from the north: While the eight old pre-dreadnoughts of the 3BS at Rosyth, were placed at short notice, in reserve. There was to be a general rendezvous of these various elements at 2.30pm in the central North Sea. Beside the Harwich Force also destined to set out at daylight on the 16th, to join up with the main force. However this aspect of the overall plan did not materialise, the Harwich Force was to remain to the south throughout the coming encounter. Effectively sealing off the southern flank in the future area of operations.
As for the German naval movements, which were to be enacted well after the departure of the British Force, which had set out a full twelve hours before. Here was involved the battle-cruisers of the 1SG, comprising of the Seydlitz, Moltke, Derfflinger and Von der Tann, along with the armoured-cruiser Blucher. While accompanying this potent squadron, would be the 2SG, formed around four modern light-cruisers, and two nimble TBF’s.
But significantly further to this, Von Ingenohl’s BF of fourteen dreadnoughts and eight pre-dreadnoughts, was also sailing that evening, in support of Hipper’s raiding force. With its attendant two armoured-cruisers, light-cruisers, and three TBF’s. There was now a number of separated German and British squadrons at sea by that evening. All heading for the English east coast, and what to Beatty must have seemed like, excellent prospects for the first clash between the rival battle-cruiser in the war. That night the fleet swept south, encompassed by heavy seas and high winds, in great expectation of a battle the following morning.
1BCS took station ahead of battleships at dusk, with 3CS and LCS on either beam with some destroyers on port beam a Division of light-cruisers ahead. All preparations made to fight an action at daylight. Breakfast to be early, and general quarters at 6.45am or 7am. (Major Rooney)
Weather rough and raining. At sea with LCS, expecting to meet German squadron. Go to general quarters at 4pm. (Private Stevens)
In spite of the disadvantages in the composition of our forces, we were in high spirits and full of anticipation of a fight the next morning. Great preparations were made in the way of stripping cabins of all movable gear, removing as much woodwork as possible and generally preparing for action. (Young, Lion)
There was to be one vital governing factor influencing British strategy and tactics in what was to follow. This was the appreciation that the shallow waters off the east coast were dangerous. Ever since the successful German mine-laying venture of the 25th and 26th August, and subsequent hostile acts. Jellicoe had declared that the waters between the Tyne and Humber, for a depth of some sixty miles offshore, were to be regarded as out of bounds to his capital ships. With the shallow waters of the Dogger Bank also suspect.
Further to this, was the fact that while the British knew an enemy operation against the east coast was very likely. They did not know exactly where the blow would land, since it could take place at any number of points. Therefore the British force was to concentrate in a position on a line joining Heligoland and Flamborough Head. About 100 miles off the English coast at 7.30am on the morrow. Well off the swept ‘Whitby Gap’ in the minefields, which as fortune was to decree was just fifty miles to the southwest of the designated German rendezvous point. This British deployment, although it would not prevent the coming bombardment, was a commanding central location. One which would effectively allow the Royal Navy once alerted, to straddle the escape path of the enemy, and bring them to action upon their retiral.
Piped hands will shift into fighting rig by tomorrow. (Midshipman Bagot)
A German airship was sighted off the East Coast of England on this day, the first appearance of hostile aircraft in vicinity of British Isles. It is possible this was an advance scout for a foray by the High Seas Fleet.
Princess Royal - At sea, Bahamas area - Wind SE to N and light airs, force 0-5; sea state 0-3; air temp 73-84F; sea temp 75-81F. / 9.12am stopped both, cutter examined schooner, belongs to the Bahama Patrol. / 1.03pm sighted Berwick. / 1.25pm sent away cutter with Captain to Berwick. / 2.12pm hoisted cutter. / 2.14pm proceeded.
16th December 1914 - East Coast Bombardment
Kept middle watch on the bridge, and passed several merchant vessels, fishing craft etc. Nothing exciting occurred, very light night, with a deal of wind: Rifle shots reported from New Zealand apparently. Turned in about 4.30am. (Major Rooney)
Seemingly a relatively quite night, except for this report from her squadron mate. It was only realised afterwards, by comparing the respective forces navigation tracks. That at around midnight, Hipper heading east, had passed a few miles ahead of Beatty’s southward advance. Both were then steering courses at right angles to each other. A night encounter had just been narrowly avoided.
It is now a matter of some speculation, as to which side possessed the superior night fighting abilities. And what the outcome of such a sudden, confused, close-in action would have been. However, not appreciated by all concerned at this time, the course of events just enacted had now placed Queen Mary and the entire British force in a potentially very dangerous position. To their west at this time lay Hipper’s powerful raiding group, while to the east was the approaching might of the German BF. Beatty and Warrender were now entering waters, were they could be effectively caught between two strong enemy formations.
But now fate, and temerity, were to resolve this predicament in favour of the British. Here despite the Major’s earlier note of it being a very light night, during the hour’s of darkness the supporting 4DF lost touch with the main body of the British force. These destroyers gradually fell behind the advance of the heavier units, eventually taking station astern of them, to the north: It was to be in this separated position, when they suddenly encountered a detachment of German torpedo-boats with dawn still hour’s away. In the first of a series of brief, confused, actions that were to typify that chaotic day.
Turned out at 5.45am and ran off down to the wardroom to bag what breakfast one might. Action was piped about 7am and the men moved quickly to their stations, everything was cleared away and tested, quite a busy time before it got light. The report ‘Destroyers in action’, soon came through, and created a little stir, and faces began to look a little more eager, and brighten up considerably. Action stations sounded off. Tested all instruments, gear, etc. Loaded with AP Lyddite. 7.20am spread for lookout duties. Lynx reported to be chasing enemy’s destroyers towards northwest. Large cruisers reported to be astern. (Major Rooney)
6.45am it was a lovely clear day, with a calm sea, and we eagerly awaited any news. 7.30am got news, our destroyers being chased and leading enemy towards us. Victor reported large cruisers astern of her. 7.35am altered course to avoid a black floating object which looked like a mine. (Midshipman Tennyson)
On-board Queen Mary, strong Telefunken, German wireless signals, were also reported, and several indecipherable enemy messages were intercepted. Obviously this action astern had stirred up something big. But exactly what was certainly not clear at that time. It was only later to transpire, that this 4DF destroyer contact was actually with the screening elements of Von Ingenohl’s approaching BF. Hipper’s force was by then well to the west, closing upon the coast through the ‘Whitby Gap’.
All that was apparent at that time from the wireless transmissions picked-up, was that their wayward destroyers had encountered enemy torpedo-boats and cruisers. It was confidently thought that this could only be screen of the long sought after Hipper. This basic idea about a more powerful force beyond these sparing light units was evident to Von Ingenohl as well, but now with markedly different reactions. Whereas the British squadrons swung around to speed to the scene of action, and the sound of the guns, the German response was the reverse. Believing that the destroyers engaging his torpedo-boats to be no less than Jellicoe’s advance screen, Von Ingenohl now turned his main BF away to the east with this first contact. On a retiral course back towards the sanctuary of the Jade, his actions were governed by the Kaiser’s restrictive warning, to avoid any direct confrontation with the numerically superior GF at all costs.
In complying with this restrictive policy, Von Ingenohl obviously wanted to avoid any possible encounter between the respective BF’s. This move now, not only deprived him of the opportunity to overwhelm a weaker detached British force. But it also drastically altered the situation, and effectively left Hipper well to the west, now potentially very exposed. The overall tactical advantage had been dramatically reversed.
For Beatty and Warrender, a powerful force, quite capable of destroying them, was now retiring from the scene. The distinct possibility of being enveloped between the enemy battleships from the east, and battle-cruisers from the west, had now gone. Further to this, they now stood astride Hipper’s line of retreat. But with this improvement in the overall British position, the balance of fortune again shifted, with the visibility conditions which had seemed to be improving, now actually beginning to worsen.
We were now a very considerable force, with a few ships of the 2BS to back us up. The day was disappointingly misty, and it would be a case of hard knocks all round, and rapid fire at point-blank range, if we encountered the enemy. Squadron now speeded up considerably. (Major Rooney)
With what little information he had digested, from the series of signals in his possession. Beatty made his first move; he assumed that he was now in contact with Hipper’s force. Speed was increased, and the squadron turned 10 point to port. Heading onto a course to the northwest, and the general area of this reported action between destroyers and torpedo-boats, some thirty miles away. In fact this course was towards Von Ingenohl’s retiring BF, and away from Hipper’s raiding squadron, then approaching the coast.
7am general quarters. Loaded guns. News of destroyers in sight of enemy. 8am reported Hardy got wireless shot away and been damaged. Another destroyer holed and one wants assistance. Destroyers being chased by cruisers bringing them in our direction. 8.15am speed 25 knots. (Midshipman Bagot)
At this time the light-cruisers were spread to the northward at a distance of five miles, and the 3CS spread five miles astern. (Young, Lion)
7.56am steering north: Six ships of 2BS in sight on port beam alter course 8 points to port. 8am Destroyers have been in action. The firing interval for today will be four seconds. Course northwest. From the transmitting station. 8.12am speed 20 knots. 8.15am speed 21 knots. 8.17am speed 22 knots. 8.25am speed 23.5 knots. 8.27am speed 25 knots. (Major Rooney)
In this clash of screens, the British destroyers were now closely engaging their German opposite numbers. When suddenly a four funnelled enemy cruiser falling back to render heavy support to the tormented torpedo-boats, resembling an element of the armoured Roon class, appeared out of the gloom of the enemy smoke screen. With this it became obvious to Beatty that a heavy enemy presence was indeed beyond the screening torpedo-boats. Presumably retiring after being sighted, and to his mind it had to be the elusive enemy battle-cruisers. Cancelling their planned bombardment, after being discovered during their clandestine approach. Now the chase was on to intercept the elusive enemy, before it could gain safety.
8.10am passed destroyer’s dingy empty. Special course to chase Roon. Speed 23 knots. Shark keeping in touch with Roon. BF on starboard beam. Increased to 25 knots. 8.30am we are 20 miles astern of Roon, and it will take four hour’s to catch her up. An ideal day for a short visibility, 24,000 yards. (Midshipman Tennyson)
8.30am 1BCS chasing Roon 20 miles ahead, her speed 21 knots. (Midshipman Bagot)
However, now to greatly complicate the issue for Beatty and Warrender, as urgent signals about serious developments to the west, were to significantly alter the entire position. With Hipper commencing his bombardment. Who by this time must have been aware of what was happening behind him. The amount of wireless traffic produced by both sides, in the initial light unit clashes, having been detected. Confirmed by a warning message from Von Ingenohl, concerning his retiral, after his momentary clash with an indeterminate opposing force.
Hipper must have been aware of the uncertain events shaping up across his line of retreat. Still it did not affect his decision to carry out his bombardment. Obviously he was made of sterner stuff than his superior. Upon negotiating the ‘Whitby Gap’, he arrived off the coast near Saltburn, he then divided his force, with the battle-cruisers Derfflinger and Von der Tann, along with the light-cruiser Kolberg, making their way south to attack Scarborough. Leaving the Seydlitz, Moltke and Blucher, headed north to raid the Hartlepool area.
Before this deployment of his main force, Hipper quite likely in response to developments to his vulnerable east, had instigated what was eventually to prove to be fortunate move. He had detached his torpedo-boats earlier, now he released his light-cruiser screen of the 2SG. Which were now to sweep the approaches to the ‘Whitby Gap’. Then retire upon Von Ingenohl’s fleet. Discovering in the process, exactly what was happening across his line of retiral. These cruisers will reappear again later at a critical point. Commander Von Hase on-board the Derfflinger, closing the coast, had time to reflect about the results of the previous November raid, noting his impressions of this current undertaking. Little knowing that he was now very close to getting the wishes expressed in this entry, fulfilled by Beatty.
Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth left us with a feeling of great dissatisfaction. After Lowestoft I was possessed by a burning desire to engage our proud Derfflinger in action with an English battle-cruiser worthy of her. Day and night this thought never left me. (Von Hase, SMS Derfflinger)
Undefended Scarborough, which Von Hase described as a fortified English port, was to receive the first attentions of Hipper’s squadron at 8am. Here the only defence which this town could have called upon, was a detachment of the Yorkshire Yeomanry, a party of the Green Howard’s, local Territorial’s, and some recruits from the 14th/20th Kings Own Hussars, at Burniston Barracks. Against this was pitted the 12 inch, 11 inch and 5.9 inch guns, of the Derfflinger and Von der Tann. Which:
Raked the place, at a distance of less than a quarter of a mile from the shore. The Grand Hotel, proving a fine mark, was struck. In thousands the people ran into the streets, carrying their undressed infants in their arms. A postman was struck down as he was delivering the first post, women and children were hurled to destruction, and for nearly half an hour an inferno raged in the town. (Unknown witness)
Obviously the people of Scarborough were quite unprepared for the 500 shell devastation which was now visited upon them. As according to one witness, Mr Arthur Dean, they closed to within half a mile of the pier. Firing initially from their starboard batteries, turning, and then firing from their port side batteries. Inflicting indiscriminate damage throughout the town. One representative individual caught up in this barrage, graphically reveal the horror of the event, was 25 year old Christopher Bennett. As his family home in Wykeham Street received a hit.
Mother was not dead went I pulled them out, but she was gone by the time I got her into the yard: I then carried George, a five year old child, into the next house but he died as I put him down. Albert was terribly injured and died about twenty to five in the afternoon. Father was cut badly about the head, neck and thigh.
If one other personal tragedy is to personify the harrowing events ashore, then the poignant story of Sergeant G.R. Sturdy must prevail. This local regular soldier was returning home that day from a posting to India, and recent active service at the front in Flanders. To see his fiancée Ada Crowe, a domestic servant in Falsgrave Road, to finalise their wedding plans. She was killed in the bombardment, and was instead later buried on her planned wedding day.
Needless to say, all of these tragic developments were not known on-board Queen Mary at that time. Here more immediate events were taking place, as she headed towards what everyone expected to be confrontation with their German opposite numbers. In ‘A’ turret the Major took the chance to scribble down his immediate impressions, and possible opponent.
Four of 3CS 5 miles to south of us, we are No.3 in BCS and shall engage No.3 in the enemy line, which will in all probability be the Moltke. Transmitting station, 9am speed 23 knots, alter course north: (Major Rooney)
By the time the Major had penned these words, the Moltke had already been in action off Hartlepool, and West Hartlepool, when she along with the Seydlitz, and Blucher, had undertaken a 45 minute bombardment, commencing their contribution to the destruction ashore shortly after eight. Just before this, they had been challenged by a light British force, comprising of the 2,900 tons ten/12 pounder armed, scout cruiser Patrol, dating from 1905, and the old destroyers Doon and Hardy, on coastal watch of the harbour. This light trio had a brief sharp action, although they never closed sufficiently for a torpedo attack against the battle-cruisers. Upon its conclusion the Patrol managed to eventually send a heavily jammed signal, about the raid, at 8.42am.
Of the three towns visited that morning, only Hartlepool could have been regarded as a legitimate target, with its tidal commercial basins, docks and facilities, shipbuilding yards. All defended by some protected batteries under Colonel Robson, which although heavily outgunned by the German squadron, maintained an artillery duel throughout the encounter. Eventually six of his men were killed, and seventeen wounded in the exchange, for achieving a number of light hits upon the raiders. But the slaughter amongst non-combatants was to be heavy. After many in the town had heard the sound of the distant Scarborough bombardment, and believing a rumour that a great naval battle was in progress out at sea. They had come down to the sea front to possibly witness something of the event.
In the half light of the winter’s morning, could be observed great, grim shapes of ships. Then came the angry spurts of flame, and gun-thunder drowned every other sound, and above the terrified spectators began to shriek steel messengers of death: The great shells burst amongst them, smashing their small homes as if they had been paper, tearing away half-dozen at a time, bursting overhead and cutting down men, women, and children as they ran in the streets. During the awful forty minutes when death and destruction held Hartlepool in their grip, five hundred houses were hit, over a hundred innocent non-combatants lost their lives, and in addition 300 more were wounded, leaving the town a torn and shattered abode of death, with the streets bespattered with the blood of women and children. (Unknown witness)
In one German account, there is an indication that here at least the British reply to the bombardment was fierce. Noting that the aforementioned light shore battery replied vigorously.
Blucher was hit by four 15cm shells which killed nine men and put two 8.8cm guns out of action. Then the Seydlitz received three hits, one causing a leak under the fo’c’sle, the next blew a hole in the forward funnel, the third damaged the superstructure aft. On Moltke a shell destroyed several officers’ cabins. Considerable damage was inflicted upon military and industrial installations. (Von Hase, SMS Derfflinger)
Whitby did not escape the attentions of the Germans on this visit, with an eleven minute 150 shell barrage into the town, by the Derfflinger and Von der Tann, as they headed north to rejoin the Seydlitz group. Damaging the ruins of the old abbey, and killing Coastguard Frederick Randell, and Trollyman William Turnmore by splinters, the latter almost being decapitated, along with an invalid lady in Spring Hill Terrace, and young two Boys. After this union of forces, the regrouped German raiding squadron headed east for home around 9am. And their passage through the barrier of defensive British, and offensive German mine-fields, located off the coast.
Upon the first intimation of the raid, a signal from Warrender to Beatty read:
Scarborough being shelled; I am proceeding towards Hull. : (This brought about a characteristic Beatty reply): Are you; I am going to Scarborough.
9.20am altered course to west-nor-west. 9.27am enemy shelling Hartlepool. (Midshipman Tennyson)
9.30am abandon chase (after the Roon) alter course to Scarborough were enemies battle-cruisers are bombarding. Passed floating mine also wreckage. (Midshipman Bagot)
9.35am Scarborough being shelled by three battle-cruisers. (Midshipman Tennyson)
The chase after the fleeing armoured-cruiser, and in effect Von Ingenohl’s BF if it was know, was now called off. And the strung out British battle-cruisers, dreadnoughts, cruisers and destroyers, all swung around and headed towards the coast. The direction of the German raiding squadron, and certain retribution, as these avenging ships headed west at full speed, the overall tactical situation favoured a resounding victory for the British.
Summarising the position. Beatty was some one hundred miles east of the English coast, experiencing reasonably clear weather. Positioned about the latitude of Hartlepool. While just to the south, and some eighty miles off was Warrender’s BS. Effectively the British lay astride any enemy route home. And a full day lay before them, in which to decide the issue. Extending some twenty miles off, and running parallel to the coast, lay a barrier of defensive minefields. Possessing restricted swept channels, at intervals of around thirty to forty miles. It was now between this barrier, and the coast lay the enemy raiding squadron, with two mighty British capital ship squadrons converging upon the most likely channel, cutting off Hipper’s escape.
The sea was flat calm, the visibility extreme. Throughout the ship was the feeling, now, my bonnie Huns, we’ve got you cold. (King-Hall, Southampton)
On-board Queen Mary there are some brief notes concerning the string of now confused and misleading messages which now arrived.
Contradictory news came through at 9.15am eventually culminating in definite news of bombardment of Scarborough at 9.31am. This was received at first as orders to return to Scapa, met with a moan. When corrected to Scarborough it quite met with applause. But what price Scarborough. We are proceeding to Scarborough to intercept the German BCS, which is leaving there. (Major Rooney)
I remember receiving this signal by the chartroom telephone, it came through the first time as ‘Scapa being shelled’, but even that could not add very much to the confusion. (Young, Lion)
At Scapa Flow itself the GF had been ordered to raise steam. But it would be noon before this was accomplished, and it could set out to support Beatty and Warrender. Before then a lot would have happened. Closer to the scene of action was the old 3BS at Rosyth, under Vice-Admiral Bradford, under short notice for steam. They now received the order to sail at 10am. With this Hipper’s possible escape routes through the minefields off the coast were all in the process of being barred. Tyrwhitt’s force lay to the south, while Bradford’s 3BS was then endeavouring to sail and the close the northern flank. This left the five mile wide swept channel of the ‘Whitby Gap’, to be closed by Warrender’s dreadnoughts, and Beatty’s battle-cruisers. They were then some one hundred miles off the coast, deployed over a thirty-five mile wide sweeping front, in its westward track, with their light-cruisers in the van, all heading towards the most likely passage that Hipper would exit from. But by then the visibility present in the immediate area of operations had begun to decrease to around just four to five miles. Very shortly it would be raining hard and blowing freshly as well.
The course of the 1BCS, and 2BS, to the entrance of the Whitby channel, cut near the area of the Dogger Bank, waters thought to be mined by the enemy, and also deemed too shallow for capital ships. Here the British force divided with the battle-cruisers going to the north of, and the battleships to the south of the Bank. The 3CS remained in the vicinity of the Bank, thereby closing off the possibility of Hipper escaping them even here. At 10am Jellicoe signalled the now separated Warrender and Beatty, that the enemy would pass through the gap in the minefields. Which existed between latitudes 54.20N and 54.40N, but this was already being acted upon by the commanders on the spot. As more confusing and erroneous messages arrived, falsely indicating that the enemy was still bombarding the coast.
From Transmitting Station 9.48am. German light-cruisers are bombarding Hartlepool. 10.19am Zeppelins reported in this area. Zeppelin is dropping bombs on Hartlepool. 11.22am reported that dreadnoughts are bombarding Hartlepool, speed 18 knots. (Major Rooney)
10am reported enemies light-cruisers bombarding West Hartlepool. Doing full speed, overtook BS. (Midshipman Bagot)
News and messages received on-board Queen Mary around this time all indicated that German battle-cruisers had been positively reported off Scarborough. With at least light-cruisers reported off Hartlepool and Whitby between 8am and 9.30am.
By this time we had heard that Hartlepool had also been bombarded, and it was obvious that forces which had been off Scarborough and Hartlepool, in the strip of clear water inside their own mine-fields, could only emerge from it by this gap in the middle, which lay exactly between these two places, and that we had only to make for this gap in order to catch them on their way out. (Young, Lion)
With the enemy so close inshore, behind the minefields, and the obscured conditions then prevailing, and the need to positively locate its presence. One of the prime directives concerning the general conduct of the force was now to be over-ruled. Beatty’s screen had to enter the mined coastal waters off the east coast to discover the enemy. Lieutenant King-Hall on-board the Southampton was direct in his recollection of the initial order to locate the enemy:
At 10.30am we had news of the Hun, and we were somewhat ‘intrigued’ to get a signal. ‘Light-cruisers must penetrate minefields and locate enemy’.
The 1LCS was ordered to pass through the swept channel in the minefields, and ascertain the composition of the enemy. However as they advanced the light-cruisers Southampton, Birmingham Nottingham and Falmouth, now sweeping further and further ahead of the battle-cruisers. Began to encounter poor weather, and reduced visibility ranges of barely a mile.
So the vanguard light-cruisers embarked upon their primary role in a fleet action, to be the eyes and ears of a commander trying to bring his enemy to action. Shortly after they disappeared into the mist. Deployed in a widely dispersed sweeping front, some eight miles ahead of the battle-cruisers, they encountered the enemy. This initial diffused, and obscure opening exchange was witnessed ahead in the gloom, from the bridge of Lion.
At about 11.30am a sudden and most unwelcome change came over the weather. Heavy squalls, with thick mists and driving rain, came down from the northwest, whipping up the sea into white foam and sometimes blotting out the light-cruisers were they drove into it five miles away ahead and on our port beam. A great flash of gunfire lit up the murk, and the deep note of the report was carried to us upon the wind: Here was the real thing at last, the long expected, long hoped-for collision with the enemy. (Young, Lion)
The southernmost unit in the light-cruiser screen the Southampton, some 6 miles off Lion’s port bow at 11.25am, had suddenly come across Hipper’s retiring and sweeping light-cruisers dispatched earlier. The agile enemy immediately broke away to the southwards, and a running fight developed. Due to the poor conditions then being experienced, hits were practically impossible on both sides. From the bridge of the advanced Southampton, it initially appeared that two distinct enemy formations were emerging from the ‘Gap’, some 6,000 yards distant. There seemed to be three light-cruisers, and a dozen torpedo-boats off her starboard bow. Compounded by the impression of two light-cruisers, along with the armoured-cruiser Prinz Adalbert and torpedo-boats off her port bow. All of this would have rendered her, and the 1LCS outnumbered. But still apparently game to scout for Beatty, and firing each gun independently at the seeming wealth of targets:
We went straight on at 25 knots, head into the sea, and spray flying over the ship in sheets. (King-Hall, Southampton)
This obscured exchange off the battle-cruisers port bow continued, with the identity of the ships involved being invisible to those spectators on-board Queen Mary. Proceeding at 18 knots, fully alert and prepared, but blindly steaming along. As speculation on-board conjectured that at last Hipper was close.
11.46am heavy firing ahead. Turret crews closed up, red 30 degrees. By holding on our westerly course for a few minutes longer we should run into the heavy ships themselves and take them, as we hoped, by surprise. 11.50am passed a fishing boat adrift upon port beam apparently with dead man. 11.58am very misty, fishing fleet visible, Green 20 degrees, distance 5,000 yards. 11.59am four funnelled light-cruisers took station on port bow, speed 18 knots. (Major Rooney)
Noon, closed up again, firing seen, passed more wreckage, got noon position of enemy, chasing same at full speed with following sea, horizon getting misty. (Midshipman Bagot)
Unfortunate contact between these two opposing light-cruiser groups was now inadvertently broken. Due partly to a thick squall, which came down suddenly, in which both sides lost sight of each other at 11.50am. But primarily because of a regrettable error, through Beatty signalling the Nottingham closing upon the Southampton and Birmingham offering support, to resume her correct screening position in the picket line ahead of the battle-cruisers, so as to render some warning of what lay before him in that direction, from her designated station.
But Commodore Goodenough in the Southampton, at once assumed that his entire force was being recalled, clearing the range. A move deemed very plausible, since it was assumed that this move was tactically sound: Allowing the battle-cruisers to deal with the enemy cruisers, unhampered by the 1LCS in their line of fire. Further to this was the very real threat posed by the reported number of enemy torpedo-boats. Which since Beatty was without a counter screen of his own destroyers, called for the attached light-cruisers to fall back upon him, and protect the battle-cruisers. Goodenough altered his course away from the enemy, and in three minutes he had lost touch with the opposing formation. Beatty drove on for a half-an-hour to try and regain contact but nothing came of this.
What have you done with the enemy cruisers. (Vice-Admiral Beatty to Goodenough) - They disappeared steering south when I received your signal to resume station. (Goodenough)
The nimble enemy light formations had put on speed, and taken a diverging course in the gloomy conditions. A further message timed at 12.20pm from the flagship, finally gave Goodenough, Beatty’s desired intention. By then all contact with the slippery enemy had been broken. Here the Major renders an interesting account of the moves immediately after the loss of contact, and some detected activity.
12.01pm: Alter course 4 points to port.
12.07pm: Passed close aboard a fishing boat, starboard beam.
12.09pm: Steaming south with wind on starboard quarter, misty.
12.10pm: Alter course west-nor-west, 18 knots.
12.12pm: Two light-cruisers (1LCS) closing on port hand.
12.14pm: Range 6,000 yards, take ranges of light-cruisers.
12.15pm: Light-cruisers on port bow and beam are our own. Transmission station
12.17PM enemy’s cruisers signalled from Southampton to be steering south-sou-west. One of our light-cruisers opened fire, the flashes of guns just visible.
12.22pm: Range 5,500 yards. (Major Rooney)
Now the fully alert German light-cruiser force was endeavouring to discover a safe passage for Hipper trailing behind them. Through the formidable British barrier confronting them, and successfully retreat east unmolested. But in this they ran into the 2BS at 12.16pm. Here they were briefly sighted at a distance of five miles, bearing north-by-west from the dreadnoughts in the haze, steering east, then to the north once detected. This was signalled immediately to Beatty, ominously this report appeared to place the enemy to the east of him. Outwardly indicating to him the 1SG had indeed somehow slipped past him. It seemed as if they had fortuitously managed to come through the southern edge of the gap, guided on a safe, unopposed passage, by the superbly lead 2SG.
But this enemy formation was only the 2SG, which now continued to perform their vital guiding task, when they continued to send out interception reports to Hipper well astern. Thereby allowing him to now access the deployment of British forces confronting him, and shape a track to avoid both the 1BCS, and now the 2BS.
Upon receipt of the signal from Warrender, Beatty turned the 1BCS 16 points, and now headed east, away from the 1SG. This was subsequently altered to a more northerly track, in a final attempt to locate the enemy units last seen heading in that direction. But the 1BCS was destined to never sight the enemy at all.
he mist completely sold us in the afternoon, and we missed the enemy by a Fraction, four miles and two flashes at 12.17pm which I saw was actually gunfire and not searchlights. There appears to me to have been an error or blunder here, which I hope to see cleared up one day. 12.25pm from the captain, he thinks the flashes were searchlights and not gunfire. 12.27pm train on port beam and keep periscopes dry. Why did no definite news reach us by visual signal from the Southampton. After closing Scarborough, we apparently sheared off to avoid minefields of which there was every indication. And which afterwards proved to be the case, two to three miles out was heavily laid. (Major Rooney)
Captain Prowse was indeed right, as there was no recorded exchange between any units at this time. It must have been a searchlight in the all obscuring haze. As for a blunder in the British force, this has to be the documented fact, that when the Orion, flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot, sighted the suspect enemy. The Admiral refused to engage these contacts, even though his Flag Captain, F.C. Dreyer, asked him to put their guns on the leading unidentified contact. He would not do so until specifically ordered by Warrender. Before this was given, the enemy had hauled away to the north, and was soon lost in the banks of fog that so effectively hid their retreat. A misguided belief in rigid obedience of superior orders had very possibly robbed the British of at least a partial victory against the 2SG.
The escape of the enemy’s force was most disappointing, seeing that our own squadrons were in a very favourable position for intercepting the raiders. Low visibility was the main reason for their escape, but the absence from the BS through bad weather of its destroyers was a contributory cause as well as the fact of our light-cruisers having, by mischance, lost touch with the enemy at 11.50am. (Admiral Jellicoe)
Had this (weather) for not arisen, we should of course have seen the Hun battle-cruisers behind their light-cruisers. But war would not be what it is if it was not for the might have been’s. (King-Hall, Southampton)
12.30pm range 6,000 yards. Weather has come on really nasty, and great difficulty experienced in keeping glasses dry. 12.36pm range 8,000 yards.
12.39pm range 6,000 yards. 12.41pm green 90. 12.50pm apparently steaming south once more. 1.01pm speed 20 knots, we are steaming north, chances of meeting them seem to be diminishing fast. They have bombarded Scarborough and Hartlepool in turn. (Major Rooney)
All in all, the effective result of these encounters between the 2SG, and the two British forces in turn. Obviously indicated to Hipper that at least two powerful concentrations of capital ships from the GF were astride his escape route, as Beatty and Warrender chased after these elusive light-cruisers in the mist. Hipper emerged unchallenged from the southern edge of the mine swept ‘Whitby Gap’ around noon. Making a clearance turn away to the southeast, away from the immediate area of possible interception, thereby avoiding any likelihood of an encounter between the capital ships. However on the British side, although it appeared that the enemy had evaded them. There was still a prevailing mood within the 1BCS, of the distinct possibility that something just might occur to alter the situation. So the chase continued, and preparations made.
In the course of the afternoon the men were busy with the eternal drill of guns and ranges in their turrets and their gun-stations. Down in the fore transmitting-station, that telephone exchange were the mathematics of fire control are worked out by men and machines, I found the officer in charge of it and his assistant anxiously waiting for news of the world above decks, sceptical yet hopeful that things might still happen. (Young, Lion)
2.07pm received new position and enemy’s course from Admiralty, and so we have still a chance of catching them, and we are all praying for a fight, as we have not left our stations for a minute. 2.17pm all destroyers afloat. Casualties very small. (Midshipman Tennyson)
1.50pm speed 16 knots. 2.04pm speed 22 knots. 2.08pm test all instruments. 2.10pm passed Antrim (armoured-cruiser of the 3CS) to port. A good deal of disappointment ensued, as we altered course to chase a cruiser, which had been reported. But sometime previously, the Roon, so there was no chance of overhauling her by daylight. So the chase was soon abandoned, especially as the HSF came into the question, which was a serious matter with so low a visibility. The spray and mist made it very difficult to keep the lens dry today. (Major Rooney)
2pm news that German HSF has come out to cover retreat of battle-cruisers and cruisers. (Midshipman Bagot)
It was only now, that the Admiralty signalled Beatty and Warrender at 2.25pm. That intelligence intercepts belatedly indicated, that the bulk of the HSF was then in fact at sea. Its role and designs however were unknown. But their mere presence in the equation posed a potentially serious threat to the weaker British squadrons. This news of so powerful a German forces at large in the North Sea, would now obviously temper any desire to continue the pursuit of the enemy too far east. However while there was a chance of intercepting a detached group or unit, Beatty was apparently determined to continue the chase.
2.23pm speed 27 knots. Enormous bow wave, flowing slowly over the deck forward and aft, going overboard again at breakwater, evidently crossing a shallow patch. Quarter-deck of the Tiger, just ahead, awash also. 2.36pm turn, 6 points to starboard: 2.38pm turn, 6 points to port. Zigzagging for fear of submarines. 3pm The HSF is out. 3.11pm speed 25 knots, we have been chasing the Roon. 3.56pm alter course 16 points. 3.59pm speed 18 knots. 4.03pm turrets crews fall out. (Major Rooney)
We continued our eastward chase until dusk, or nearly 4pm. I shall not easily forget those four hours of rushing through the mist and storm on that grey December day. (Young, Lion)
2.50pm German HSF at sea, and so they have come out at last. Visibility now very bad due to rain, about 6,000 yards. 3.52pm gave up chase, altered to north: It was too thick to follow. We had let them slip through our fingers after all that splendid information. We missed a tremendous chance, as we should have been four to three, and due to their previous engagement and bombardment with hand-loading the men would have been tired, perhaps a gun or two out of action, and a low supply of ammunition. The chance of a lifetime. The weather was our enemy. (Midshipman Tennyson)
Abandoned chase closed up 4 inch guns. Heated arguments criticising day’s operations. News that Jellicoe is out with BF. (Midshipman Bagot)
It was with considerable depression that the chase was finally called off, late in the afternoon. It was to be even more heartfelt afterwards, when it became known that the casualties amongst the inhabitants of the bombarded towns was heavy:
Our failure when at one period everything had looked so promising was made the more bitter by the subsequent list of women and children killed in the bombardment. (King-Hall, Southampton)
At Scarborough 17 had been killed and 99 wounded. At Hartlepool 103 had died and 344 were wounded. Leaving Whitby with its 5 fatalities. To compound this catalogue of misfortune, as was noted afterwards in an appraisal of the deployment of forces present, Beatty had been unlucky. The tracks undertaken by the opposing forces meant that they could have encountered each other on at least two occasions.
We cannot have been far away from one another at two o’clock in the morning, and our tracks must have come very close again sometime between three and four in the afternoon. The two forces on this day May be likened to two men fumbling for each other in a dark room and occasionally even brushing together in their search, or we May say that one of the men was searching and the other was trying to avoid the search. (Young, Lion)
But with hindsight, it is also seen how exposed these detached squadrons of the GF had been at one stage. The entire enterprise might very well have turned into a disaster. If Von Ingenohl and the bulk of the HSF, had held on to the west that morning, instead of retiring at the first sign of a contact between screening forces. Afterwards a brief resume of this important days salient points as seen from a 4 inch battery was noted by a member of the lower deck in his little diary, a brief entry summing up the entire episode.
Weather rough and raining. Went to action stations at 7am reported torpedo-boats in action at 7.30am. Chasing German cruisers all day, but seen none. About 2pm we seen guns firing off port side, but seen no enemy. (Private Stevens)
Queen Mary and her companions reduced speed to 18 knots, on a northerly heading by around 4pm, the chase well over, allowing the turret crews to finally fall out. Ashore the mood was one of shock. Invasion was the expected follow-up act. With this prospect imminent, reinforcements were soon dispatched to the area to bolster the light forces already there. In this the West Yorkshire Regiment’s 8th Battalion, and the Leeds Rifles, were quickly sent to Scarborough, to offer a first line of resistance.
In Scarborough, people drew out their life savings from banks and offices. The roads to Ayton, Forge Valley, Seamer and Scalby were thronged with scurrying crowds. Hundreds of the town’s inhabitants were leaving by motorcar, carts, and on foot. While the station was busy with others travelling further afield to London, York, Hull and Leeds to get away from the perceived danger.
A degree of undue haste might also be detected in the retiring German force later that day. The return passage of Hipper’s squadron was again to be eventful, when the battle-cruiser Von der Tann, rammed the light-cruiser Frauenlob, damaging her stem and nearly sinking the smaller vessel. Both ships eventually made it to safely to port in their damaged conditions.
Admiral Jellicoe, now at sea with the GF, in distant support of Beatty and Warrender to the south, made his plans for the morrow. Signalling at 6.30pm that he proposed that the various widely scattered elements should combine at 6am on the 17th: Were it was expected that the 1/4BS’s, 1/2/6CS’s, and 2DF, from Scapa should combine with the 1BCS, and 2/3BS’s, along with the Harwich Force, before then sweeping south.
One final aspect about this raid should be emphasised. That was that it aroused a great feeling of indignation throughout the nation. There was a general public clamour for revenge, retribution, and justice against these raiders, especially in the jingoistic press coverage of the time. Headlines such as ‘German Ghouls gloating over murder of English schoolboys’ in the Daily Mirror, and ‘German Kultur means shells on Churches’ in the Daily Sketch, are representative of this. Prominent individuals also loudly voiced their resentment and outrage:
Whatever feats of arms the German Navy May hereafter perform, the stigma of the baby killers of Scarborough will brand its officers and men. (Churchill)
Holding especially strong views on this were the men of Beatty’s battle-cruisers. Here there was a genuine desire to come to grips with these ‘murders’, and repay them for their atrocities at the earliest opportunity. As a direct result of the great public outcry that was to follow this bombardment, a decision was now made to bring about a significant re-deployment of the GF. Plans were now undertaken to base the fast battle-cruisers at Rosyth.
Here they were to perform one of Beatty’s desired roles. That of a forward deployed scouting force, located where it was in a better strategic position to intercept any subsequent German cruiser forays. In way of concluding this episode, the Major compiled an interesting list of the possible reasons behind the enemy ‘Tip-and-Run’ operation, which again includes his mention of the underwater threat and German moves regarding the Atlantic, with interestingly enough the real motive for their operation, given short shrift.
Probably the enemy’s intentions in raiding Scarborough and Hartlepool, were as follows.
1. Draw us south across minefields.
2. Entice us over submarines. 3. A diversion to get light-cruisers into Atlantic.
4. To cover vessels getting home from Atlantic.
5. To draw BCS into HSF, using Roon as a decoy.
6. Raid only, very unlikely. (Major Rooney)
One final deadly legacy of this German raid was to be felt long after the event. As with the November raid, this was to be in the shape of the minefield successfully laid by the Kolberg off Filey, intended initially to seal off the southern channel from possible interference by the Harwich Force. The 100 mines laid, soon claimed the collier Elterwater, and steamer Princess Olga, in the weeks that followed. Along with two minesweepers sent to deal with this field, the Garno, and Night Hawk. This deadly underwater threat had again made itself felt in the track of the German raiders, and was duly noted by Beatty, and the Admiralty.
Princess Royal - At sea, Bahamas area - Wind NE to ESE, force 2-4; sea state 2-4; air temp 76-88F; sea temp 74-81F. / 11.32am altered course south to close American steamer Nereus, US Navy Auxiliary. / 1.20pm altered course to close steamer.
17th December 1914
With the generally held feeling on-board the squadron early that morning, one of anticipation. The desire to close with the elusive foe, and avenge what had just happened, any report, or even a hint of an encounter, was immediately acted upon:
Started the morning by going to ‘action stations’ at 7am remaining closed up till 2.30pm. We worked up to high speed during the day, apparently in expectation of encountering some of the enemy’s cruisers away to northwards. But the excitement gradually subsided, and we realised we were had. I ended the day by falling down the bridge ladder. Not all joy I can tell you on a dark night. (Major Rooney)
7am general quarters. Our operations not known. Position about the middle of North Sea. 3pm rumours of HSF still being out. No news except one destroyer was sunk yesterday. Closed up 4 inch guns. Heated arguments still go on as to out tactics of yesterday. At Scarborough 20 people killed 70 wounded, two churches destroyed. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather rough and raining. Closed up for day action at 7.20am cruising in different directions, about 9.10am sighted enemy but missed them again. Had a little anxious time waiting for the Germans, so had the gramophone up in the Battery. (Private Stevens)
On this point the private was in error. The contested North Sea belonged entirely to the massed GF. During that afternoon the Admiralty was able to ascertain and confirm this by direction finding wireless signals, and inform Jellicoe, that the ships of the HSF were now apparently back in harbour.
Princess Royal - At sea and at Kingston, Jamaica - Wind E to ESE, force 2-3; sea state 2-3; air temp 78-87F; sea temp 72-82F. / 4.20am altered course to close steamer. / 4.34am the vessel was a US Gunboat. / 2.17pm Morant Point Light House on the bow. / 4.30pm courses and speeds for entering harbour. / 5.42pm stopped. / 5.45pm came to starboard anchor, 6 shackles in 7 fathoms. / 6.30pm collier Milby. / 7.20pm oil tank alongside.
18th December 1914
As the fleet headed north, the various units detached themselves to return to their respective bases. Eventually leaving Queen Mary and her consorts, to carry out a practice shoot in the upper North Sea. Obviously there was now a considerable improvement in every department, over earlier shoots, now evident to this expert eye, and others:
Parted from BF during the night, and steamed off north, were we carried out a squadron firing, and also fired our 4 inch at a target towed by New Zealand: Firing was good at the start, but the target was too small and hard to see, 4 inch fired very well. Tested the new 3 inch high-angle quick-firing at the box kite, quite a success. (Major Rooney)
Friday. 12.30pm carried out 13.5 inch firing which was very satisfactory, also 4 inch firing and anti-aircraft gun at kite. 4pm returning to coal. (Midshipman Bagot)
We in the battle-cruisers did target practice with our 13.5 inch and 4 inch guns. (Young, Lion)
Weather fine. Cruising but nothing seen. Went to action stations at 1pm fired four rounds per 13.5 inch gun and six rounds per 4 inch, during the afternoon. Reported German torpedo-boat sunk, when German battle-cruisers bombard Scarborough, but not much damage done. German HSF was out on Thursday for the first time since war. (Private Stevens)
The squadron then closed up into a line ahead formation, and moved northeast towards the Cromarty Firth.
Princess Royal - Kingston. / 6.15am oil ship cast off, received 575 tons. / 10.30am finished coaling, received 2,214 tons. / 11.00am collier cast off, hands cleaning ship.
19th December 1914
Very still night, and all stars out. Eventually ran into Cromarty at 7am. Coaled from Hooton, 1,700 tons, starting at 8am and finishing about 6pm. (Major Rooney)
Weather fine. Arrived in harbour, prepared for coaling, started at 9am taking in 1,620, finished at 7pm. (Private Stevens)
7.30am arrived Cromarty. Got news ashore that we had been sunk. Coaled 1,650 tons. 7.30pm finished. (Midshipman Bagot)
Across the Atlantic an event which would have pleased Beatty occurred. The Princess Royal left Kingston, bound for home waters and a reunion with the 1BCS.
Princess Royal - Kingston and at sea to Halifax - Wind light airs and ENE to NE, force 0-4; sea state 2-4; air temp 78-83F; sea temp 79-81F. / 6.00am weighed and proceeded, speed 8 knots.
20th December 1914
Sunday. Cleaned ship, a lot of confidential books kept coming. (Major Rooney)
orning, captain read out to ships company from Vice-Admiral Beatty, saying that at noon on the 16th we were actually within an ace of sinking the German squadron, being only four miles from same, but owing to rain and mist which had come on, the horizon was only two miles, and so they escaped us. The firing seen was from our light-cruisers who caught sight of them. The Doon, a destroyer is said to have attacked the Roon and disabled her bridge, in the mist. We lost two mine sweepers who were on the scene. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather fine. Harbour routine, cleaned ship, went to night defence at 3pm. Black Prince, Duke of Edinburgh (both armoured-cruisers) arrive from Malta. (Private Stevens)
Princess Royal - At sea, Kingston to Halifax - Wind E to ENE, force 1-4; sea state 1-3; air temp 75-81F; sea temp 75-79F. / 5.30pm English steamer passed ahead.
21st December 1914
On this day Beatty’s command was now destined to move further south, as a direct result of the two recent raids:
2.01am sudden orders to raise steam. A midnight scramble, in nets, un-moor, and out of harbour at 4am. Kept morning watch as Lieutenant ‘G’ had a bad knee. It was very cold and clear, and everything was coated over with ice. Steamed east for quite a long way, exercise control etc. (Major Rooney)
Midnight, morning, in nets raise steam with all dispatch. 2.30am sailed 1BCS and LCS. Destination Rosyth which is to be a base. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather fine. midnight, in net defence, get steam for 20 knots, left harbour at 3.30am with LCS. Cruising, went to control during forenoon. (Private Stevens)
The First German air raid on England, an aeroplane dropped bombs into the sea near Dover.
Princess Royal - At sea, Kingston to Halifax - Wind E to S, then WSW, force 2, increasing 4-5; sea state 2-3; air temp 73-78F; sea temp 70-74F. / 9.15am ship’s company aired bedding.
22nd December 1914
Queen Mary finally moored, in the deep water channel between Rosyth on the north shore, and Queensferry to the south, where she proceeded to just top-up her bunkers:
Tuesday. Very calm, steamed west to Queensferry. Passing May Island of evil repute about 4am. Coaled. (Major Rooney)
Weather foggy. Arrived at Rosyth at 8.15am to coal, started at 9.30am finished at 12.30pm taking in 420 tons. Cleaned ship and went to night defence, out net defence at 8.10pm. (Private Stevens)
Tuesday. 8am arrived Rosyth: 10am coaled 450 tons. 1pm Finished. (Midshipman Bagot)
Accompanying Beatty’s capital ship, there were light supporting units. In one of these a very good impression of the approach to their new base can be gauged:
When we arrived at Rosyth we passed under the Forth Bridge, and I gazed up in amazement at this monument of engineering. The great bridge, with its perfect proportions and wonderful span, that seems to be supported as much from above as from below in its airy flight, became to us the door of our home. When we were going our people said, ‘What time do we pass under the bridge?’. When we are at sea, and the signal came to return, it was, ‘What time do we pass under the bridge?’. (King-Hall, Southampton)
It is interesting to observe German intelligence’s reaction to this purely defensive move, by the GF’s battle-cruisers. To them this southern deployment was immediately interpreted as an offensive movement. Specifically designed to place Beatty’s powerful force, within closer striking distance of the German coast.
Further to this, at this time the enemy’s identification of a number of elderly steamers, whose sole intended employment, was to be expended defensively as block-ships at Scapa Flow. Did produce some uncertainty and confusion in the German Admiralty for a time as to their potential ‘active’ role against them. Adding these factors together, the German naval command concluded that a British blocking operation against their North Sea harbours was deemed quite likely. Indeed something was then being planned for execution on Christmas morning, but along quite different lines than what the enemy envisaged.
Princess Royal - At sea, Kingston to Halifax - Wind WNW to NW by N, force 4-7; sea state 3-4; air temp 42-72F; sea temp 49-70F.
23rd December 1914
To the north, the 2/4BS of Jellicoe’s GF, sailed to the west of the Orkney’s, undertaking some exercises. As for the 1BCS now secure in the upper Firth of Forth, Christmas was approaching with the arrival of special provisions. But this would be served at sea:
The huge scale on which things were done on-board a large ship struck me anew. I remember that I watched the arrival of 250 turkeys on-board, accompanied by other festive material. (Major Rooney)
Weather foggy. Painted Ship etc. went to evening quarters and night defence. (Private Stevens)
Painting ship. (Midshipman Bagot)
Tennyson managed to write a letter home today, explaining to his father a couple of factors governing the seemingly poor performance of the battle-cruisers off Scarborough. Revealed here were his frustrations about the apparent lack of coming to grips with the Hun:
feel I must write and wish the happiest of Christmases possible under the present conditions for all at Frankford: I sent you a wire, which I hope you got, and I should have liked to send you both presents, but I fear that is impossible. Please thank father ever so much for his interesting letter. They are a perfect joy, and I always look for them. Everyone was surprised to see us when we got back, as there had been a rumour that we had been sunk. Father’s idea has always been in force, but you must remember two little points. 1/ We have 750 miles of east coast to defend: 2/ On that day you could barely see two miles. I cannot tell you anything about it, but remember we are in God’s hands, and this ship came through Heligoland untouched, and I May say He looked even better after us the other day. Please thank Sophie, Link, Emily, and Kitty Waters ever so much for knitting the woollies, also Carrie Hamond-Graeme. Thanks to you, all the ship have got mufflers. I can assure you that if we get any leave, which I do not think is the least likely, I shall spend every second of it at home, probably in bed. I am inclined to think that we have much longer hours than they have in the trenches, especially at night. What an interesting account of the Sydney and Emden you sent me. I only wish ours was going to be a 40 pound shell contest instead of 1,600 pound. Will you get a copy of the Daily Sketch, and cut out the articles called, ‘A Reply to the Kaiser’, ‘An Article on the Raid by the Man in the Street’. Keep them for me, and show them to anyone who talks about the raid, and let me have your opinion on them. The part in black italics beginning ‘The Admiralty has not been caught napping’ is the best. Oh, how one wonders what the coming year has in store for us!. I hope the end of the War anyhow. But, come what May, I think Kipling’s words make a splendid motto: ‘If you can meet Triumph and Disaster, and treat these two impostors just the same’, etc, I do wish I could have been with you at Christmas (Midshipman Tennyson)
Princess Royal - At sea and at Halifax - Wind WSW to NNW, force 4-6; sea state 4-5; air temp 11-38F; sea temp 30-50F. / 4.10pm altered course up Swept Channel. / 5.18pm came to starboard anchor in ‘D’ billet. / 6.30pm collier secured alongside.
24th December 1914
Weather foggy. Harbour Routine till 3.30pm then got in net defence. 3BS and 3CS left at 6pm 1st BCS left at 7pm. Japanese Officers arrived on-board: (Private Stevens)
6pm sailed 3BS and 3CS. 8pm sailed 1BCS and LCS. Thick fog. King George V sent Christmas greetings to the fleet. (Midshipman Bagot)
dense fog enveloped the Firth of Forth, but with much blowing of sirens, shouting through megaphones, and narrow shaves, we got under way at 11pm and crawled out of harbour, under the bridge, through the boom which had just been fitted, past Inchkeith, May Island, and so out into the North Sea. (King-Hall, Southampton)
The first aerial bombs were dropped on Britain on this day, when a single pear-shaped 20 pound device was dropped by a German machine over Dover. The Royal Navy was even then setting out to return the visit.
Princess Royal - Halifax. / 6.30am commenced coaling. / 9.00am SS Danubian, oil tank, alongside, received 321 tons. / 4.15pm finished coaling, received 1,620 tons. / 4.55pm collier shoved off. / 5.30pm hands cleaning ship.
25th December 1914
Christmas day and Queen Mary with a team of Japanese naval observers on-board: Along with her squadron companions, the 3BS, 3CS and 1LCS were now all at sea. Forming part of a Major fleet operation, heading towards the Heligoland Bight at 15 knots:
Christmas day at sea suggests all kinds of rigours, icicles hanging from the yards, frozen blocks, decks covered with snow, and so forth: But none of these picturesque visions was realised. On the contrary, I woke up on Christmas morning to find the ship steaming towards a sunrise of liquid amber. The air was delicious, without a trace of that shrewish bite which the hills ashore impart to it, and the sea, after the sun had climbed up into a cloudless sky, was of an almost Mediterranean blue. (Young, Lion)
The 1BS, 6CS, 2DF had also departed from Scapa, along with the 1/2LCS and 4DF from Cromarty, all to embark upon this sweep of the southern North Sea. This force was to rendezvous with 2/4BS, after their period of exercises that afternoon. These sailing’s were in support of a significant aerial strike upon the German airship facilities at Cuxhaven, and enemy vessels in the Elbe estuary, by the Harwich Force that morning. The launch force itself consisted of the cruisers Arethusa and Undaunted, a flotilla of destroyers, and the seven float equipped hydroplane strike force, was to be unleashed by their three attendant carriers, the Engadine, Riviera, and Empress.
The 1BCS’s involvement in this operation was to be only on the fringe. With the main part of the GF stationed well to the north of the Bight in distant support. All of this was just in case the HSF sailed, which it never did. For Queen Mary and her kind, that Christmas day at sea, was destined to be a relatively quite one, with only the ever present submarine threat to contend with.
Friday. Xmas day, course east-sou-east. 7am general quarters. Dispersed, backing up cruisers and destroyers with aeroplane ships. Making aeroplane raid on Cuxhaven, damage done unknown, only six of the seven airmen returned. (Midshipman Bagot)
During the day submarines had been sighted, forcing the dreadnoughts to altered course to the northeast until 3pm when they changed to a northwest track. It was not until 9.15pm that the BF again turned southwards, with its advance now slowed down by the heavy seas restricting the performance of its screening destroyers:
Weather stormy. Cruising all day at various speeds. New Zealand sighted two German submarines, but lost them again, and also a mine, which the torpedo-boat destroyed. Was at action stations all day. (Private Stevens)
The only thing lacking to our comfort on this delicious day was the enemy. There was no sign of him. Although our light-cruisers searched far and wide, the enemy did not appear. (Young, Lion)
Princess Royal - Halifax and at sea to Scapa Flow - Wind NE to NNW, force 2-3; sea state 1-2; air temp 4-18F; sea temp 27-31F. / 8.00am Gun Quarters. / 8.30am in boats. / 10.00am prayers in Post Office and WO’s lobby. / 10.45am weighed and turned ship. / 11.00am proceeded.
26th December 1914
That morning Queen Mary was proceeding at 11 knots, with the rest of the 1BCS, 1LCS, and screen, some 40 miles to the south of the BF. Throughout the day rough weather was experienced, with a gale from the southeast blowing. As early as 8.10am the accompanying destroyers had to be detached to their respective bases for shelter.
By 10am a full gale was blowing from the southeast, and the operation was abandoned. It blew up from the south during the night, and by lunchtime on the 26th it developed into a gale with a strong, heavy sea, in which the gunroom and the wardroom were both washed out. (Young, Lion)
7am general quarters till noon, weather getting rough. Rendezvous with BF also Indomitable. Returning to coal. Submarine reported in the Firth: (Midshipman Bagot)
The Indomitable, recently arrived in home waters from the Mediterranean Fleet, now joined Beatty’s squadron at sea. An event not without incident, when in poor visibility, the dazzle camouflaged Indomitable, still in her Dardanelles paint finish, was almost fired upon by the alert New Zealand: Who had failed to recognise her lines in her unfamiliar appearance. This ship still retained her very striking ‘Speckled-hen’, two tone mottled grey, camouflage scheme. Further to this, she carried her topmasts and full rigging, in order to obtain the best wireless reception as possible during her long passage. All other British battle-cruiser of this period had struck theirs to allow passage under the Forth Bridge. The captain of the alert New Zealand, seeing what he rightly considered to be a strange ship closing the squadron, immediately ordered his ship to open fire on her at once. Luckily her commander overheard the captain, and correctly identified the strange vessel to be a friend.
Weather rough. Cruising, went to action stations at 7.15am. Indomitable joined us at 3.13pm and Liverpool fired two 6 inch guns. (Private Stevens)
The fleet headed north that evening. The 1BCS was later to detach and go to Rosyth while the dreadnoughts return Scapa. During this operation undertaken in exceptionally heavy weather the fleet had lost four men. These being three men from the 2DF and one man from the cruiser Caroline, washed overboard and drowned.
Princess Royal - At sea, Halifax to Scapa Flow - Wind NNW to NW, force 2-4; sea state 2-4; air temp 21-30F; sea temp 26-34F.
27th December 1914
Sunday. Passed May Island and the two supposedly waiting submarines at 20 knots. It was a very light night, with a three-quarter moon, so if they wanted their chance, they had it. But I suspect our speed and zigzagging must have puzzled them a bit had they been about. Got into Queensferry about 1am and started coaling from Brierton at daylight, 750 tons, got in great style, about 275t in one hour. Signal from flag, ‘excellent work’. The 3BS came up later, and arrived in the grey dawn of early morning, as we had got our coaling in full swing. Fine sight, the grim looking 3BS winding solemnly and majestically up in single line under the vast span of the Forth Bridge, with the first streak of dawn throwing the giant portal in relief, as another, and another of the gaunt King Edward’s steamed slowly through the gate. Busy all day with confidential books, after finishing coaling. (Major Rooney)
1.30am arrived Rosyth: 8am coaled 800 tons. 11,30am finished coaling. Finished before any ship in squadron by 40 tons, all started together, record coaling for single derrick collier. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather stormy. Arrived in harbour at 1.30am coaled ship, starting at 8.30am taking in 800 tons, finished at 12 noon, cleaned ship. Went to night defence, out net defence at 5.45pm under short notice. (Private Stevens)
After the ship had been cleaned, and all the equipment stowed away, Bagot apparently had time to get out his journal, and put down some detailed observations of recent events:
News of German aeroplane seen over Sheerness on Xmas day. Enemy having been hit retired in fog. The combined raid on Cuxhaven on Xmas day by our naval forces was the first of its kind known. Our attacking force consisted of aeroplane ships, accompanied by Arethusa and Undaunted, light-cruisers, also destroyers and submarines. Destroyers circling round the larger ships avoided all enemy’s attempts made by submarines. Two Zeppelins and aeroplanes attempted to drop bombs on our ships, but were driven off by the anti-aircraft of the light-cruisers. Reported to have damaged a Zeppelin and sheds, other damage unknown. Since there was a submarine reported outside waiting for us, and twenty five ships had entered within six hours, it shows that a submarine at night is no good, even with a full moon. (Midshipman Bagot)
My Dearest Father. Both Commander James, and Captain Hall when he left, said they were trying their hardest to get me promoted, but the Admiralty say it is impossible without some special qualification. Now this forced inactivity is nearly driving me mad, with all our brave fellows laying down their lives, fighting their hardest at the front, and in a big ship like this there will never be any chance of doing anything for a long time yet. What I want to do is to get into the submarine department, or the Flying Corps. They are both doing their duty splendidly and having heaps of chances. Poor Commander James has lost his brother and is terribly sad about it, though he does not show it. I am aFraid this war will last a good two years. Your letters and Mamie’s are a perfect joy and Godsend: Harold (Midshipman Tennyson)
Princess Royal - At sea, Halifax to Scapa Flow - Wind N by W to NW, force 4-5; sea state 4-5; air temp 23-28F; sea temp 29-33F.
28th December 1914
A relatively quiet day off Queensferry, was to be disturbed by report of a U-boat entering the Firth of Forth that evening. Which caused an understandable stir on-board for some. Our marine private on the other hand, seems to have either ignored the event, or had not heard of it, concentrating instead on routine matters:
Weather foggy. Harbour routine. Oil-ship Clearfield alongside at 10.15am with oil fuel. Piped down at 2pm went to night defence at 3.30pm in net defence at 4pm. (Private Stevens)
Had the red watch to drill and arm inspection. Signal from outside at 10pm ‘At 9.30pm Torpedo-boat No.30 was fired at near Elie, to westward and inside of May Island, by a hostile submarine’. The torpedo missed its mark, so our German friend is still hanging about our gates. Steam ordered for half-an-hour, 20 knots by dawn. Are we going out tomorrow or not. My word the enemy seem desperate keen to scoop a ship of the BCS. (Major Rooney)
Reduced to two and a half hour’s notice. Reported that two submarines outside, and a destroyer has been fired at. (Midshipman Bagot)
On-board Queen Mary her black gang were busy that evening. Steam had been ordered for 20 knots for the following dawn. There were expectations for another sweep amongst the crew that night. Off the Firth of Tay, just to the north, two U-boats had been definitely sighted off the entrance by observers. End of the organised rebellion in South Africa.
Princess Royal - At sea, Halifax to Scapa Flow - Wind NW to W by S, force 4-7; sea state 5-6; air temp 27-40F; sea temp -XF.
29th December 1914
The BCS was destined to remain at Rosyth, the expected orders for sailing did not arrive. While today King George V’s and Queen Mary’s seasons cards to the fleet were served out to the ships company, and the crew were mustered by open list to receive their gift from their Royal namesake.
Tuesday. White watch to drill. Spent day at paperwork. (Major Rooney)
8am seven hour’s notice. Kings Xmas cards distributed. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather foggy and cold. Harbour routine. Hospital ships arrived in Harbour at 4.15pm. (Private Stevens)
Princess Royal - At sea, Halifax to Scapa Flow - Wind N to WNW, force 2-7; sea state 4-6, heavy confused swell; air temp 32-36F; sea temp 37-44F. / 12 noon heavy rain squall.
30th December 1914
One midshipman was to write home today noting his general impressions about the enemy during this season of goodwill. Despite what had so recently happened off the east coast:
It is really wonderful the way the Saxons and our fellows are such friends. The way they behaved on Christmas Day just shows how ridiculous the war is. The Saxons appear to be good specimens. I know for a fact that the Majority of German sailors are perfectly splendid fellows, and several cases I could quote, especially that of the Emden, were they have played the game nobly. I have the highest admiration for them, and their bravery has been magnificent. I shall never forget it at Heligoland: (Midshipman Tennyson)
That night there occurred one of those unforeseen incidents, which could happen in any great concourse of ships:
Reduced to one hour notice, later to four and a half hours. 9pm on swinging to the tide we were swung in opposite direction to the Tiger, and missed colliding by about 10 yards. (Midshipman Bagot)
Weather foggy. Harbour routine. Went to night defence at 5.30pm. Tiger dragged her anchor at 9.15pm. (Private Stevens)
Wednesday. King’s and Queen’s cards served out to ship’s company, who mustered by open list. Tiger drifted down upon us about 9pm. Quite an episode, got very close, and we only just shortened in, in time. (Major Rooney)
The Tiger upon the failure of her anchor to hold in the tide had advanced upon Queen Mary, who had reacted quickly by using her cables, the wayward Tiger barely missing her before eventually releasing other anchors to check her passage towards the shore, but she did however lightly run aground.
Princess Royal - At sea, Halifax to Scapa Flow - Wind NW to W by N, force 6-8; sea state 6-8; air temp 35-43F; sea temp 42-47F.
31st December 1914
Thursday, and the first New Years Eve of the Great War, and the 1BCS’s status at the close of the year stood as, Lion, Queen Mary, Tiger, New Zealand and Indomitable. While the detached Princess Royal, would rejoin them very soon, to bring it up to a potent strength, for the struggle to come:
Weather fine but a little foggy. Harbour routine, went to night defence stations at 5.30pm and then to action stations. Princess Royal arrived at Scapa Flow to coal, after which joining with the squadron. (Private Stevens)
Still the greatest task of all we have before us is this, that, having attained the highest possible standard of drill and efficiency, we have got to maintain it through all these weeks and months of forced inactivity. That is our fight at present, and it is a good deal harder than the real thing. (Midshipman Tennyson)
Thursday. Went up to Edinburgh with Strutt, Pino and Murray, very nice afternoon, got back by taxi, ten shillings, 25 minutes. Came off by 5pm boat, gave Bonene a passage off to Tiger, stranded. Dined the warrant officers, eighteen of them in wardroom, very jolly evening. (Major Rooney)
Thursday. In the evening the warrant and gunroom officers assembled in the wardroom. Had a very cheery evening. Saw the old year out, singing Auld Lang sain, while the commander hit the mess milk jug sixteen times, as the bell was not allowed to be rung. (Midshipman Bagot)
And so an eventful 1914 drew to a close for those on-board Queen Mary. By comparison a relatively stagnant and harbour bound 1915 was about to begin. A year for her which was to be predominantly occupied by various fruitless sweeps, missing a battle, no enemy contacts, all finished off by extended periods of waiting for ‘The Day’, laying secure in harbour, at varying degrees of notice for steam.
Princess Royal - At sea, Halifax to Scapa Flow - Wind W by N to SSW, force 5-9; sea state 7-9; air temp 41-48F; sea temp 43-47F. / 7.57am reduced to 8 knots and altered course 16 points to starboard, head to sea, speed reduced and course altered due to high wind and sea. / 12.45pm altered course 16 points to port.
(Introduction) | (1910) | (1911) | (1912) | (1913) | (1914) | (1915) | (1916) | (Epilogue) | (The Ship) | (Battle Cruiser) | (Design) | (Protection) | (Ordnance) | (Machinery) | (Miscellaneous) | (Sources) | (Artwork) | (Photos - Build) | (Photos - Pre-War) | (Photos - On board) | (Photos - WW1) | (Photos - Beatty’s Battlecruisers) | (Photos - Miscellaneous)