(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)
1st January 1916
There was a intake of six new midshipmen today, along with some positive New Year messages posted:
Received a messages from C-in-C to ships at Rosyth, and King to C-in-C. A brighter outlook for the future. (Midshipman Bagot)
By Command of the Commissioners for Executing the Office of Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, &c. To Mr Thomas M. Field RN. The lords Commissioners of the Admiralty hereby appoint you Midshipman RN of His Majesty’s Ship Queen Mary. And direct you to repair on-board that Ship at Rosyth: Your appointment is to take effect from the 1st January 1916. (Serles Hill, Twyford: Near Winchester. By Command of their Lordships - IWM archive)
5th January 1916
10.30am one hour's notice. 1.30pm prepared for sea. 3.45pm 1/2/3BCS’s sailed, preceded by 1/3LCS’s. (Midshipman Bagot)
It was with no surprise that we went out to our northern ground and did three days exercise in bad weather. (King-Hall, Southampton)
6th January 1916
Course northeast. I kept watch in control shelter. 1am alter course south: 9am carried out PZ, and range keeping exercise. 4pm alter course north by east, misty weather. Warrant Officer Recce got concussion so could not carry out firing programme. (Midshipman Bagot)
7th January 1916
9.30am misty weather. 10am squadron carried out 4 inch day action, negative Queen Mary. Noon, position east of Shetlands. Returning to coal. (Midshipman Bagot)
To their west, steps to divert ships away from the waters off Cape Wrath were implemented. This was due to a new enemy minefield claiming the pre-dreadnought King Edward VII, of their chummy 3BS, on the 6th.
8th January 1916
Very rough sea, too rough to fire sub-calibre, so carried out range keeping exercise. 10.30pm Arrived Rosyth: British submarine sunk off Denmark. (Midshipman Bagot)
Reference to the wreck of the E.17, off Texel in Holland, two days previously. Further afield, the evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula was completed.
9th January 1916
With her return to base after this prolonged exercise Queen Mary made preparations to coal. This was to be her sixty third such evolution since the outbreak of the war, and as calculated, her total taken in was now 57,285 tons:
8.15am coaled 1,630 tons. 3.15pm finished coaling. Do not know what we went out for. (Midshipman Bagot)
10th January 1916
King Edward VII reported having struck a mine 60 miles west of Scapa, while going round for a refit. She was nine hour’s sinking, had to be abandoned as was too rough to tow her to port. Everyone was saved. She was struck in engine room. I saw her sail from Rosyth for the last time. (Midshipman Bagot)
The first cruise of the famous German raider Mowe had scored its first success, with the loss of this pre-dreadnought.
16th January 1916
Indomitable sailed for dock. (Midshipman Bagot)
17th January 1916
Having very bad weather. Coaled 400 tons. 9am One hour’s notice. Noon, two and a half hour’s notice. (Midshipman Bagot)
19th January 1916
Montenegro has succumbed. (Midshipman Bagot)
20th January 1916
Montenegro have decided to fight on. (Midshipman Bagot)
Obviously there was some confused and conflicting reports coming out of the Balkans at this time, but the issue was never much in doubt. After sweeping through Serbia the previous November, the Austro-Hungarian forces, greatly supported by German elements, descended upon little Montenegro. Forcing the elderly King Nicholas (1841-1921) to flee, after the resignation of the cabinet on the 4th: He and his family arrived at Lyons in France on the 24th of this month to begin their exile, as his little country was overwhelmed, with the remnants of his 50,000 strong army was finally routed and defeated on the 25th.
22nd January 1916
At Rosyth the vital routine of constantly topping up her bunkers was maintained, In Queen Mary’s 64th wartime coaling, now totalling 57,525t taken in:
Coaled 240 tons to complete. (Midshipman Bagot)
24th January 1916
On-board Queen Mary today a missed opportunity might have been on everyone mind: Since it was the Anniversary of Dogger Bank action, but it was nevertheless celebrated in the fleet:
Big concert held on-board Lion. Played hockey, verses New Zealand: (Midshipman Bagot)
25th January 1916
One of the Dogger Bank veterans belatedly rejoined the 3BCS. It is assumed that the date had been marked by her crew:
Arrived Indomitable. (Midshipman Bagot)
26th January 1916
The three Indefatigable’s set sail with an escort. While the hands of the BCF went to short notice for steam in case they were required:
8am Sailed 2BCS, 1LCS and eight destroyers. The above squadron carried out extensive sweep into Skagerrak. (Midshipman Bagot)
27th January 1916
1.30am steam for 22 knots at one hour notice after 7am. 8am thick fog came on, still at one hour's notice. 8pm fog lifted, four hour’s notice. (Midshipman Bagot)
28th January 1916
The 2BCS force was joined by the 4LCS, and three destroyers from Scapa. This impressive cruiser screen was spread on a line 210 degrees from Udsire Lighthouse, and swept into the Skagerrak. On-board Queen Mary at short notice it was time to top up her bunkers again. Her 65th such evolution, now totalling 57,875t handled:
7.40am coaled 350 tons to complete. (Midshipman Bagot)
29th January 1916
As the battle-cruisers from the Skagerrak sweep returned to Rosyth, Queen Mary and her squadron, now prepared to sail for north waters, and a series of shoots:
9am arrived 2BCS. 1BCS raise steam for 22 knots. Noon, sailed 1BCS, 3LCS and destroyer escort. 1.30pm carried out sub-calibre firing. Queen Mary and Tiger firing at Lion and Princess Royal, and ditto at splash target. The targets were a great improvement on last ones used. Commenced run in director, changed over to ‘X’ turret directing, then into main control, and back into director. Very good control, fairly good firing, improved towards end: Course East. 6.30pm alter course north, making for Cromarty. (Midshipman Bagot)
30th January 1916
This midshipman records her passage that morning, the arrival of the battle-cruisers and screen at Cromarty, along with his observations about the wreck of the Natal, and her 66th coaling with 58,395t now taken in.
4am steering south along the coast, beautiful weather. 11.15am arrived in reverse order, 1BCS and 3LCS, at Cromarty. The remains of the Natal can be seen about 5 cables away. After part of ram and keel in station with hands of squadron. Divers have been down, but have gone mad on seeing the sight of all 300 bodies closed in after part where the concert was being held. Jellicoe had been on-board only 20 minutes before she blew up. Several families from Cromarty went down in her. The cause of her sinking is that they were changing ammunition and a fire broke out, and before it could be got under she blew up amidships and both ends turned turtle, so the Majority were drowned. In harbour is the 1BCS, and CS, ships at half hour’s notice. Noon, coaled 520 tons. 3pm Finished coaling, it was a bad collier. 6pm Two and a half hour's notice. (Midshipman Bagot)
As regards the loss of this armoured-cruiser from the 2CS, this event had been as sudden as it was unexpected. Within a minute of an initial detonation, there began a series of violent explosions, effectively tearing the stricken Natal asunder in their cataclysmic extent. The entire episode from start to finish, had encompassed just five minutes. A brief span of time in which a 14,500 tons armoured-cruiser had been reduced to a total loss, taking with her 415 member of her crew in its execution. The official court of enquiry into the loss of the Natal, considered the destruction of the ship to have been caused by an accidental internal ammunition or propellant detonation, and not by any external explosion inflicted by enemy action. The initial explosion appeared to them to have occurred in either the 3 pound and small-arm magazine, or the quarterdeck 9.2 inch magazine aft, with the spontaneous combustion of defective cordite the only possible cause.
As was to be all to painfully born out during the Great War, the Natal experience was destined not to be unique. Also embraced in a very similar fatal sequence of events where to be the aforementioned pre-dreadnought battleship Bulwark, on the 26 November 1914, at Sheerness, when only 12 out of her crew of 750 survived. The dreadnought Vanguard, on the 9 July 1917, at Scapa Flow, with the loss of 804 men, and the monitor Glatton, on the 16 September 1918, in Dover harbour, with over half her 305 man crew either killed or injured. Obviously British propellant possessed a fatal property. One that could be unleashed even while safe and secure in harbour. Which as events were to more than graphically reveal in four months time, compounded still further under enemy action.
31st January 1916
8am unmoored. 9am steam for 23 knots, sailed 1BCS. 10.15am carried out 13.5 inch firing, three-quarter charges, at range 12,000 yards, at battle practice target, director firing. Result satisfactory. 11am arrived back Cromarty, two and a half hour’s notice. Went ashore and played golf at Nigg. During afternoon Colossus and St Vincent carried out 12 inch firing. 6pm Botha and 1st Flotilla arrived. Dined in Colossus. (Midshipman Bagot)
1st February 1916
Because of her successful series of squadron shoots, some maintenance was required before she left for Rosyth:
Repairing battle practice target alongside. Had been hit on waterline and several times on her work. 12.45pm unmoored. 1pm sailed Lion. 1.45pm sailed 3CS and 1BCS, with four destroyers. (Midshipman Bagot)
2nd February 1916
The 1BCS returned to its main base. Seeing her 66th coaling evolution, now totalling some 58,935t handled:
8.30am arrived Rosyth: Australia had left to dock. 9.30am coaled 340 tons. 11.30am finished coaling. 4pm sailed 3BCS. 10.30pm 1BCS half hour’s notice. (Midshipman Bagot) ===3rd February 1916: As the status of Queen Mary was gradually reduced, that day Bagot found time for an entry that is unusually comprehensive in its description of general events. As for the belated mention of the fated L.19 below, she had taken part in a six Zeppelin raid against the Midlands on the night of the 31 January and 1 February, in which 379 bombs were dropped, killing 70 civilians.
2pm two and a half hour's notice. 4pm four hour’s notice. Weather very bad. News received that Appain, a British steam passenger, which had been reported as missing, had been captured by German auxiliary cruiser Mowe in South Atlantic, and had been taken to American port with Prize crew. The Mowe is said to have escaped from Kiel in disguise of a Swedish tramp. A Zeppelin raid been carried out over five counties in England, doing no military damage, but several houses suffered. A Zeppelin, L.19 reported by trawler King Steven, seen drifting in North Sea, half submerged and about 20 to 30 of crew on top of Zeppelin asking to be rescued. As the trawler only had 9 hands she left them to their fate. Zeppelin had been hit by Dutch gunfire. (Midshipman Bagot)
10th February 1916
This relatively uneventful period at Rosyth came to a dramatic close in the early hours of the morning:
12.30am one hour’s notice. 3.30am raised steam with all dispatch for 22 knots. 4am arrived 3BCS, negative Australia. 4.30am prepared to weigh, got signal, negative weigh. Two hour’s notice. 3.30pm four hour’s notice. 6pm two hour’s notice. Zeppelins reported over Scarborough heading north: 8pm sailed destroyers. 10pm raised steam all dispatch, steam for full speed by midnight. 11.30pm sailed BCF. Midnight, steam for full speed. Steaming for Dogger Bank 22 knots. (Midshipman Bagot)
After a day of alerts and various notices for steam apparently directed by Intelligence intercepts concerning enemy movements, it was only that night that the battle-cruisers set out with a definite objective. Units of the 10th Sloop Flotilla, operating from the Humber, had been attacked by enemy torpedo-boats in the vicinity of the Dogger Bank, the Arabis being sunk in the ensuing action. The 5LCS had also sailed from Harwich, while the BF had sailed from its northern bases in distant support of these movements.
11th February 1916
As Queen Mary and her consorts worked up to 22 knots, news came through and was noted down:
2am signal to say ‘Don’t be surprised if you have to open fire, as a suspicious vessel is in proximity, and if she challenges we are to open fire’. News that mine-sweepers have been attacked off Dogger Bank. 8am Expecting to go to action stations. 9am excellent, general quarters. Position, Dogger Bank, east of Scarborough. News that mine-sweepers were attacked last night by German destroyers, who made good use of our signals. Noon, Position east of Newcastle. Expecting to stay at sea for a day or two. Steering north: 6pm Destroyers returned to refuel. 10.30pm alter course, south again. (Midshipman Bagot)
This had been an abortive expedition; the British minesweeping flotilla had been overwhelmed the previous evening by the German raiding force before any assistance arrived, the enemy torpedo-boats had then retired earlier from the scene without hindrance:
We very nearly had an action. Unfortunately the German battle-cruiser force, which was out, and thought to be coming over a certain distance, had some destroyers ahead of it who encountered the Tenth Squadron of sloops, who were sweeping off the North Dogger. They sank the Arabis, and I suppose, fearing this would give a general alarm, they abandoned whatever they had in hand and went back to the Hunneries. We were probably nearer to them than they thought, a few more hour’s and we might have bagged them. (King-Hall, Southampton)
12th February 1916
The fruitless moves and countermoves of the past two days drew to a close as the sweep was concluded. With her return to Rosyth, the required coaling evolution produced an excellent per hour rate:
1.30am alter course, west, making for Rosyth: 7.30am arrived Rosyth: 8.15am coaled 980 tons. 11.30am finished coaling, average 327t. One hour’s notice. 3pm two and a half hour’s notice. Germans report that their destroyers attacked four minesweepers on the Dogger Bank, and sunk one. The Arabis, saving 22 men and 3 officers, the other ships escaped. The Arabis is one of the new minesweepers, she carries about 75 crew all told. (Midshipman Bagot)
13th February 1916
Still at two and a half hour’s notice. (Midshipman Bagot)
14th February 1916
Still at two and a half hour’s notice. Cold weather, snowing. (Midshipman Bagot)
15th February 1916
Movements of colleagues from Queen Mary, and of other vessels within the 2BCS where recorded, along with a new anti-submarine device, and the ever potent threat posed by mines:
4am sailed Indefatigable for dock. We expect to go next. MacCausland appointed to Genta, to communications, mine-sweeper. A new device for attacking submarines, if missed by ramming, a bomb on end of stick to be thrown at submarine when passing by side of ship. I do not think it will be much good. Still at two and a half hour’s notice. News that Arethusa has been mined in North Sea, 10 killed. She is liable to become a total wreck. (Midshipman Bagot)
This light-cruiser had been lost on the 11th off Folkstone.
16th February 1916
With the deteriorating weather in the North Sea the squadron’s status was reduced:
Four hour’s notice. Blowing a gale. (Midshipman Bagot)
18th February 1916
Changed all the cordite in ship from four lighters. The Briton one of them, was delayed from leaving the dock, so Admiral Commanding Rosyth, threatened to send a destroyer to there to force her release. Hudson and Hutchison left to join TBD 16 and 24. (Midshipman Bagot)
An interesting note here is that the ship’s magazines had been purged of all their old stock, in preparation for her planned refit. Her outfit would subsequently be replenished with a fresh supply of propellant.
23rd February 1916
The name ship of the 2BCS rejoined the BCF after her short refit. Now permitting Queen Mary to set sail soon for hers, at Jarrow on the Tyne, escorted on passage by destroyers:
3am arrived Indefatigable. (Midshipman Bagot)
24th February 1916
Preparing ship for dock. 11pm sailed for Newcastle. (Midshipman Bagot)
25th February 1916
5.30am arrived Newcastle. 9am ship docked in floating dock. 9.30am preceded on six days leave. (Midshipman Bagot)
26th February 1916
Well remembering that the last time they were in dockyard hands in late January 1915, and that they had missed the epic Dogger Bank clash. One wonders what the feeling of the crew was at the possibility of again missing an encounter. This was more than likely with the departure of the Harwich upon yet another sweep into the Bight, accompanied this time by a seaplane carrier. In support of this the BCF left Rosyth early that afternoon, minus Queen Mary, while the BF had left its northern bases, since it had been reported by Admiralty Intelligence, that the HSF had been ordered to intercept the Harwich Force. However the prevailing bad weather and collision damage between two ships in the Harwich Force cancelled this original plan. So by that night, the situation had resolved itself into just another sweep by the BCF. The elusive HSF had remained in harbour throughout the operation.
27th February 1916
A union between the BF and BCF at dawn marked the start of a series of battle exercises and fleet deployment evolution’s, before the various elements returned to base the following day. The refitting Queen Mary had fortunately missed nothing of any great importance after all, but the opportunity had been there.
29th February 1916
Action in the North Sea between the German raider Greif and British auxiliary cruiser Alcantara, both sunk.
1st March 1916
Queen Mary began the month still under refit at Jarrow, but war events were still noted:
New German submarine campaign started. (Midshipman Bagot)
2nd March 1916
5pm Arrived back on-board Queen Mary, which had been half floated owing to a flap last night, when she got ordered to leave dock and make room for a damaged ship. (Midshipman Bagot)
3rd March 1916
2pm undocked. 3pm sailed for Rosyth: Many people watched us depart, it being the first time Queen Mary had been to Newcastle since being launched. 9.30pm arrived Rosyth, rejoined 1BCS. Midnight collier came alongside. (Midshipman Bagot)
Despite this public interest, it should be remarked upon here, that no photographic image exists of Queen Mary’s only wartime return to the Tyne. Obviously security and censorship considerations forbade this, and it would also explain the lack of any newspaper account of this return to Jarrow. At Rosyth the routine continued:
A dull sweep. (King-Hall, Southampton)
4th March 1916
0.30am coaled 900 tons. 5.30am finished coaling. This is the first night coaling we have done for some time. 68th coaling, 60,815t of coal during 19 months of war. Provision ship. Rumour, that the BCF sailed on Saturday night and where just returning on Monday when LCS put to sea again. One of our armed merchant patrols had met a German auxiliary cruiser trying to break out. An engagement followed, with result British ship sunk, and German auxiliary cruiser disabled, and caught by light-cruiser, who took of prisoners and rescued our men from armed merchant ship, bringing all and landing same at Leith. (Midshipman Bagot)
This is a fair notification of the encounter between the British armed merchantmen Alcantara and Andes, and the German commerce raider Greif, which had been attempting a break out through the Royal Navy blockade, on the 29th of the previous month.
5th March 1916
The pre-dreadnought squadron left Rosyth, for a watching and exercise cruise in the centre portion of the North Sea. Admiral Sheer set sail that evening under strict wireless silence to sweep the southern North Sea, intercepting any traffic on the trade route between Lowestoft and the Netherlands:
Sunday. 6pm sailed 3BS. (Midshipman Bagot)
This initial German move was undertaken without British naval intelligence detecting it, simply because of the new policy of enforced wireless silence adopted by Sheer. However intelligence detected various intercepts and their assessment soon indicated that some German operation was stirring, so the GF prepared.
6th March 1916
On-board Queen Mary, the events unfolding appeared initially to be very promising, but eventually the weather and the return of the HSF to base, combined to class this sortie amongst the many futile undertaken:
8.30am half an hour’s notice, prepared for sea. Strong rumour of ‘Der Tag’ (The Day) coming off. 10.30am steam for 22 knots by noon. 10.45am unmoor, steam for full speed by 12.30pm. Noon, sailed 1DF, 2/3LCS’s, 2BCS. 12.30pm sailed 1/3BCS’s, 3CS, that is every ship in Firth has sailed. Steam for full speed. Set course southeast, i.e. for Heligoland: Speed 16 knots. 7pm alter course north: Midnight, alter course southwest. (Midshipman Bagot)
The bulk of the GF had put to sea, with the BS’s from Scapa and Cromarty, along with the BCF from Rosyth: However the weather had become very unfavourable for destroyers, and the speed of the fleet was reduced to such an extent that the sweep was abandoned with the news of the German retiral.
7th March 1916
4.15am BCF arrived Rosyth: 6.15am coaled 450 tons. 8am finished coaling, two and a half hour’s notice. (Midshipman Bagot)
8th March 1916
Recorded in the press were the latest neutral reports, concerning information about the last sweep:
News in the papers that twenty-one large ships of the German Navy put to sea and cruised about off the Friesian Isles. Reported by Dutch fishermen that several of the large ships had their after funnels painted yellow. They were escorted by destroyers, submarines, and trawlers, evidently mine-layers, also a couple of Zepps. (Midshipman Bagot)
9th March 1916
The recent spell of heavy seas had produce the inevitable result:
Reports of several floating mines being seen in the North Sea, and several merchant ships have been mined. (Midshipman Bagot)
10th March 1916
A floating mine drifted in here today, it was reported at Inchkeith and again passing under the Bridge, and eventually was seen by a picket boat when it entered harbour. Having very bad weather again. News of TBD No.11, and Coquette, being mined off East Coast. Rumour Arethusa is being salved. (Midshipman Bagot)
The old torpedo-boat and destroyer had both been mined off the east coast on the 7th, while the aforementioned light-cruiser was by then a total constructive loss on the Cutler Shoal.
11th March 1916
7am sailed 1LCS and destroyers, battle-cruisers at two hour’s notice. 9am raise steam 22 knots, prepared for sea. 9.15am signal proceed at 11.30am, sailed LCS and destroyers. 11.30am sailed 2BCS. 11.45am sailed 1/3BCS’s, set course northeast. 4.30pm turned 16 points. 8.15pm arrived Rosyth, 11.40pm coaled 350 tons. (Midshipman Bagot)
The BCF had briefly set sail for a position south of the Naze, with a screen to offer support to the light units.
12th March 1916
1.10am finished coaling. Sunday, cleaned ship. (Midshipman Bagot)
Light forces were still on station out in a hostile North Sea, but now and again a minor event raised spirits, before routine labours dampen them:
At sea in wretched weather, everything seems wet, the only bright spot in like is afforded by the misfortune of the sub, who came down of watch to find his cabin flooded out, with six inches of water in all his drawers. Tomorrow will be our fifteenth coaling in thirty-nine days. Query, shall I join the coal-miners’ union. (King-Hall, Southampton)
13th March 1916
News of auxiliary merchant ship being mined, probably same ship as one that fought the German raider. (Midshipman Bagot)
The Alcantara had indeed succumbed to damage from her battle on the 29th of the previous month.
14th March 1916
Acting Sub Lieutenant Wynne Edwards appointed to Glouscester (light-cruiser). Gun room mess gave farewell dinner to Commander James on leaving the ship. (Midshipman Bagot)
The Harwich Force put to sea, with the Roxburgh and two destroyers from Rosyth, for another sweep off the Norwegian coast, from the Udsire Lighthouse, to the Naze.
15th March 1916
Commander James left ship, appointed to Benbow. (Midshipman Bagot)
16th March 1916
Commander Blane now succeeded James. The routine on-board continued, with two of Bagot’s contemporaries and friends sitting papers for promotion:
Wilton and Seymour examined for lieutenants. (Midshipman Bagot)
19th March 1916
Coaled 300 tons. (Midshipman Bagot)
Not appreciated at the time was the fact that this was to be this individuals last coaling evolution on-board Queen Mary.
22nd March 1916
9.30pm my appointment to Pentstemon arrived. Spend my middle watch packing. (Midshipman Bagot)
23rd March 1916
11.30am commenced rounds saying goodbye. 12am W.R. Slayter appointed to Pansy, and myself left ship in Indomitable’s picket boat. 1pm had farewell lunch with Peirson-Smith at North British Hotel, Edinburgh. 5pm said goodbye to Peirson-Smith and others in bus. 6.30pm took train to Glasgow. 8.30pm arrived Glasgow. 11.30pm left Glasgow for 12.30am steamer across to Belfast. (Midshipman Bagot)
The Pentstemon and Pansy above were newly commissioned sloops. With this last entry departs yet another invaluable contributor of on-board opinions and views. The next set of personal accounts to arise, all deal with Queen Mary’s end at Jutland.
24th March 1916
The Harwich Force set out for a planned aerial strike upon the Zeppelin sheds at Tondern (Hoyer). As usual the BCF sailed early that morning to provide heavy support.
25th March 1916
in this expedition there was contact between opposing light units, and in this a number of German outpost trawlers were sighted, engaged and destroyed. The British forces then retired, but not uneventfully, due to a collision between two destroyers, and a brief but sharp encounter with enemy torpedo-boats later. From these actions the Harwich Force now had a number of damaged ships with reduced speed. Unknown on-board at this time was the detected departure from the Jade estuary of a sizeable part of the HSF that night, with Hipper’s 1SG and two of Sheer’s BS’s putting to sea.
26th March 1916
due to the perceived sailing of the HSF, the BCF closed with the slowed Harwich Force that morning, rendering it close heavy ship support during its retiral, with Jellicoe’s BF also advancing upon the area from the north: But by early afternoon the overall situation had been appraised, the HSF had not advance beyond the region off Sylt, some 60 miles to the south of the closest British track off Denmark. All units returned to their respective bases the following day.
29th March 1916
The 1/2/4/5BS’s, along with the 1/7CS’s, 4LCS, and destroyer flotillas, again proceeded to sea for a watching and exercise cruise in the northern part of the North Sea. The BCF remained at Rosyth were a party of four new midshipmen joined Queen Mary.
30th March 1916
The GF at sea carried out battle exercises, before returning to Scapa and Cromarty on the 31st.
31th March 1916
German airship raid on England (east coast), Airship L.15 brought down by gunfire near mouth of the Thames.
2nd April 1916
The Zeppelin L.14 (under the command of Bocker), part of a four strong attack along with L.13, L.16, and L22 from their bases at Nordholz and Hage. They were to raid Rosyth and the Forth Bridge, but only the L.14 and L.22 (under Martin Dietrich) succeeded in reaching the general area, and dropping some bombs in and nearby Edinburgh and Leith, although the BCF and its vital base facilities at Rosyth further up the Firth of Forth, which would have been clearly visible to the airmen, were not attacked.
In reply to this raid, the 2LCS was immediately dispatched from Rosyth, to see if they could intercept the airship on its return passage. Presumably with just their 6 pounder anti-aircraft piece’s, maxims and rifle fire, but there was no contact, indeed the only direct response to these two airships was from just two machine guns over the city.
The L.14 dropped approximately twenty bombs on Leith, with as further string of twenty-four over Edinburgh itself, with damage on a telling scale and a casualty list to match, with thirty-five killed or seriously injured. It should be noted that LZ.88 and LZ.90 attempted to unsuccessfully bomb London that same night.
3rd April 1916
The armoured-cruiser Devonshire and two destroyers left Rosyth, heading for the Norwegian coast, for a two day sweep in the vicinity of Udsire Lighthouse. L.11 and 17 left Nordholz that afternoon to raid London, no great success was achieved.
5th April 1916
L.11 (Schutze), L.13 (Mathy, returned with engine trouble), and L.16 (Peterson), left Nordholz and Hage for the last raid in this series, did not achieve any great success, and killed or injured six civilians four of whom were children.
6th April 1916
The Roxburgh left Rosyth with two destroyers, to repeat the earlier sweep down the Norwegian coast to the Naze, which again was to prove to be unproductive.
15th April 1916
The 1BCS with Queen Mary departed from Rosyth, bound for a gale swept Scapa Flow, arriving there the following day.
18th April 1916
After a days’ preparation in harbour, and presumably re-coaling, the 1BCS put to sea from Scapa, to undertake an exercise. Returning to the Flow on the 20th.
21st April 1916
The HSF had put to sea in the erroneous belief that the Harwich Force, was undertaking a repeat of the Tondern raid. This was to be a brief German foray, since before he reached the Skagerrak, Sheer had summarised that the raid had been cancelled, and he soon returned to the Jade. But before that, the entire effective strength of the GF had moved south to the vicinity of the Horn Reef, with the information of the HSF’s movements obtained from Room 40.
22nd April 1916
The BCF and BF concentrated east of the Long Forties, with the BCF stationed in its fleet deployment position some 40 miles ahead of the main BF. At 2.30pm the 4LCS and three destroyers, were detached to proceed to the Skagerrak, with orders to arrive in the vicinity off the Skaw at daylight the following morning. Beatty was instructed to advance, to render close support to this probing sweep, for any elements of the HSF still at sea.
23rd April 1916
The dreadnought BF with its scouting CS’s disposed ahead, steered for the Horn Reef to close with the BCF by daylight. There was to be no contact with the elusive HSF on this occasion. Further that evening in heavy fog the Australia and New Zealand collided, both had to then return to Rosyth screened by destroyers. Three destroyers, the Garland, Ardent and Ambuscade, were also to be involved in collisions in the poor conditions then prevailing. It has been noted that Queen Mary arrived back at Rosyth on this day to coal, provision, and store, ready to sail again at a moment’s notice. It is possible that she had been detached from the 1BCS to escort home her two damaged companions. Besides the above series of mishaps, during the night the dreadnought Neptune collided with the Dutch merchant ship SS Needvall in thick fog, though both ships only received superficial damage.
24th April 1916
The various squadrons returned to base to refuel, in preparation for yet another fleet operation later that day. At 7pm the BCF was ordered to raise steam and to prepare for sea. Despite their recent care in such matters, intercepted wireless signals indicated that the HSF had sailed from the Jade at midday. On this occasion the 1SG was under the command of Rear-Admiral Friedrich Boedicker, due to Hipper being ill, Sheer’s BF following the battle-cruisers in support. Room 40 summarised that a raid on the English east coast, possibly of Lowestoft was underway. However while passing through a supposedly swept channel in a British minefield, the Seydlitz was mined. The crippled flagship returned to harbour as Rear-Admiral Boedicker transferred his flag to the new battle-cruiser Lutzow. The BCF left Rosyth at 10.50pm in the order of Lion, then the 1BCS, 3BCS and the Indefatigable. The dreadnought BF at Scapa and Cromarty put to sea in support at 11pm into a North Sea gale.
25th April 1916
Just after midnight saw the BCF ploughing south at 20 knots into the teeth of another gale. The BF was some 165 miles astern, and there were high hopes of intercepting elements of the HSF due to this fore warning intelligence. At 3.50am the scouting elements of the Harwich Force sighted units of the 1SG, at latitude 52.24 north longitude 1.57 east, and the GF advanced upon the scene. At 4.10am the enemy battle-cruisers bombarded Great Yarmouth, of which Jellicoe and Beatty were informed ten minutes later by the Admiralty. By 4.42am the German Fleet was off Lowestoft, were 200 houses were destroyed, in their brief, but destructive bombardment of this defenceless town. After this audacious dual bombardment Boedicker and Sheer began to retire eastwards at 5.20am.
By 11am the GF was well strung out, with its dreadnought bulk some 100 miles off the Firth of Tay. The Rosyth based 3BS and 3CS about 35 miles to their south, with the well armed and fast 5BS, another 35 miles distant from them. Leaving the powerful but exposed eight strong BCF, by then well to the southeast in the direction of Terschelling, intent on cutting off the enemy raiders from their base. At 11.45am ‘action’ was sounded of in the BCF, with the imminent prospect of intercepting the 1SG. However the German force had already crossed the BCF’s line of advance by some 50 miles, thereby avoiding a clash. At 12.30pm all hope of cutting of the 1SG vanish, with Admiralty wireless intercepts, confirming the enemy’s position relative to Beatty, and the chase was abandoned. An interesting German perspective of the bombardment appears in ‘Kiel and Jutland’, by Commander Von Hase on-board the Derfflinger. In which the spirited defence of the town, by the light-craft based there was remarked upon.
As soon as our bombardment of the harbour began, two small English cruisers and about twenty destroyers ran out of Lowestoft, and after the bombardment was over a short running fight developed between us and these light units. Unfortunately this action, in which we could easily have destroyed a large number of enemy ships, was broken off after a few minutes, as the approach of a superior enemy force was reported by the light-cruisers sent out to secure our flank in the south: Thus we did not get much satisfaction out of this action, though in the few minutes at our disposal we had set a small cruiser on fire and sunk one or two destroyers. The report of our light-cruiser subsequently turned out to be false. In spite of our small military success against the English force our raid against the English coast was nonetheless a very heartening experience. I shall never forget the moment when the high shores of England emerged from the grey mists of dawn, and we could make out the details of Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth, and fire mighty salvoes from our great guns at the harbour works.
On the BCF’s return passage north, the Invincible was in collision with the patrol vessel Goissa just before midnight, killing four of the latter’s crew. This incident occurred due east of the Farne Islands in thick fog.
26th April 1916
BCF returned to Rosyth, while the New Zealand, damaged in the previous sweep, entered the new No.2 dock at Rosyth, the first capital ship to do so. It was suggested upon this day that the pre-dreadnoughts of the 3BS, should be based at the either the Thames, or Humber, to act as a deterrent for any future raids on the east coast.
27th April 1916
The Invincible was docked for repairs to her recent collision damage, while Admiral Hood transferred his flag from her to the Inflexible.
29th April 1916
As would have been seen from Queen Mary, their ‘chummy’ pre-dreadnoughts of the 3BS and the armoured-cruisers of the 3CS sailed from Rosyth that day. Being transferred from there to the Humber, en route to the Medway, to be based at Sheerness, as a barrier against any further coastal raids.
1st May 1916
Specific details, concerning what actually transpired on-board Queen Mary during this month, are now difficult to accurately determine. This is due primarily to the fact that her logbook, covering her final month in service, was lost with her sinking at Jutland. Compounded by the certainty that any surviving personal document relating to this month concentrates upon her demise, not about the day to day routine. Still it is safe to assume that her general movements for this period would have conformed to those of the rest of the 1BCS and BCF. There is no indication otherwise.
2nd May 1916
The BCF, and the bulk of the GF, sailed from its bases that afternoon, to provide heavy support for a planned mining operation in the vicinity of the Horn Reef. This operation was also to include a proposed seaplane strike upon German Zeppelin facilities at Tondern.
3rd May 1916
It was confidently thought on-board Beatty’s battle-cruisers, that this concentration of British forces in the North Sea might be sufficiently provocative to draw out the reluctant HSF. As a possible trap, no less than nine British submarines had been so deployed, as to intercept any German vessel venturing out into the Bight.
4th May 1916
dawn found the two seaplane carriers, along with the 1LCS, and sixteen destroyers proceeded to a position just north of the Horn Reef. Having the BCF in the immediate vicinity, with the dreadnought BF well to the north in distant support.
Although sea conditions were deemed suitable, in the event only one seaplane managed to take off successfully, the hands of the Fragile craft were damaged by the sea, and this part of the operation was cancelled.
At 10am the scouting Zeppelin L.7, was sighted by the 1LCS screening the British force. The airship was subsequently engaged and damaged by anti-aircraft fire from the covering light-cruisers, which caused her to descend near to were the British submarine E.31 was positioned, and she completed her destruction, leaving seven survivors from the airship to be picked up by the submarine. Because of the lack of any response by the HSF, it is doubtful if the Zeppelin had managed to make a sighting report before she was brought down.
The fleet cruised in the vicinity of the Horn Reef during that day endeavouring to attract the attention of the enemy. Nothing was sighted, so orders were passed for the massed squadrons to return to their respective bases. It was only late in the day that Sheer belatedly ventured out, and headed towards the Horns Reef, after he realised that at least part the GF was out, by which time the various elements had begun their withdrawal from the Bight.
5th May 1916
Queen Mary and BCF returned to their secure moorings off Rosyth, to immediately undertake a primary coaling evolution, to replenish their depleted bunkers after the previous days extensive steaming.
10th May 1916
That day the 2LCS left Rosyth for Scapa, heading eastwards initially, searching the central portion of the North Sea en route. For Queen Mary this quite time off Rosyth would have invariably seen her ‘coaling to complete’ on a regular basis to top-up her bunkers. While the opportunity to carry out some routine maintenance, and machinery overhauls, would have been undertaken during the periods when there was a sufficiently long notice for steam.
17th May 1916
This day is noteworthy in two respects; firstly it appears that on this date Queen Mary received her final draft, with the appointment of four midshipmen. Secondly, across the North Sea sixteen U-boats had set sail for positions off the principal British bases, the first move in Sheer’s next operation, one that would eventually culminate in the Battle of Jutland.
22nd May 1916
At Rosyth the flagship of the 3BCS, the Invincible, left dock following repairs to her collision damage. She re-hoisted the flag of Admiral Hood. The three battle-cruisers of this squadron then headed to Scapa Flow, for a planned nine day period of gunnery and torpedo practice. To more than replace them, the 5BS, composed from the five super-dreadnoughts of the 15 inch gunned Queen Elizabeth class, steamed south: Upon their arrival the class name ship was docked at Rosyth for a refit, leaving this still powerful squadron four strong.
24th May 1916
The 4LCS, with destroyers that had been at Rosyth, left for another sweep up the Norwegian coast, which was again to prove to be unproductive. It is possible that units of the BCF might have been placed at short notice during this sweep, to provide support if intelligence had so warranted it.
27th May 1916
One of the last personal documents to survive the passage of time was dispatched on this day. A simple routine letter from a recently arrived midshipman, writing home to his family, for what was destined to be the last time.
My dear Dad. - How did the tennis party go off on Monday. I hope you had fine weather. I only wish to goodness I had been there. Although the weather is quite decent here of course its nothing like as warm as you having it over there. I was speaking to a chap from one of the ships round here and he said that when his old ship, the Carnarvon, paid off, he and all the other snotties got seven weeks leave. Seven weeks just think of it! I think that must have been an oversight on the part of their Lord Commissioners of the Admiralty. Goddard is now permanently back in the Service. He is endeavouring at present to purchase a second-hand motorbike for as little as he can. He already possesses one which is at present in London, but which he is trying to sell and so he is trying to get hold of another one which he will be able to use here and which will come in awfully handy as we are about 7 miles from Edinburgh. I got ashore the other day and went along to Gieve’s where I purchased numerous articles of clothing, including a mack. Edinburgh isn’t half a bad place; anyhow it’s better than Metylene (Methyl in Fife, auth). The Scottish people talk in a most extraordinary sort of way that it is quite hard to understand them sometimes. A company runs large motorbuses from the landing stage into Edinburgh which takes you there in about 20 minutes at an outlay of a bob. If you miss the bus however you can always go by train. You ought to see the scrum for the last bus leaving Edinburgh for Dalmeny; it is simply packed with naval officers. Ordinarily built to carry 34 including driver and conductress, the last one I went in contained 67! They were hanging on anywhere, packed like sardines in a tin while the company raked in the shekels. Queen Mary is a most up to date ship. Among the many luxuries are a bathroom with hot water constantly laid on, and two long baths. Also a cinema show, to which I went last Thursday and it was quite decent. The gunroom is well above the water line, in the Canopus you could scarcely have the scuttles open at sea for fear of the water coming in, and contains a gramophone and a pianola. There are 23 of us in the Gunroom, including 2 subs, an Engineer sub and 2 clerks. All the rest are snotties, some junior and some senior to us. We played a game of hockey the other day against the wardroom. As a matter of fact the wardroom couldn’t raise a team by themselves so we made it commissioned officers verses junior officers. That meant that both our subs played against us. Even then we licked them 4-3 after a very good game. All the wardroom are a very sporting crowd and rag about like anything. No Admirals have come cringing round to me yet, although I have seen several since being here. However I live in hope. My chest and trunk arrived quite happily the same day as I did. Considering the amount of buffeting they had had they were in quite good condition, the only damage being a hinge knocked off my parallel ruler box, my sextant was happily intact due to the careful way I had padded it with old. Has Guy’s gramophone been mended yet? They seem to be taking their time about it. Tell us all the news when you write back. Are you able to get plenty of tennis? How are the gooseberries and other fruit getting on? I suppose Jack has left to join his ship again. Hoping you are all quite well, with much love from Your affectionate son. Philip. (Midshipman Malet de Carteret)
29th May 1916
Across the North Sea, a significant change to the operation proposed by Admiral Sheer now came about, due to various delays experienced in its execution, and the removal of the vital scouting Zeppelin component, due to poor weather. It was decided that the proposed bombardment of Sunderland would be left for another occasion, instead a general sweep towards the entrance of the Skagerrak would be undertaken. Sheer’s basic plan was simple. It was thought that if the presence of Hipper’s advance force became known to the British, then Beatty’s BCF according to past form, would respond immediately. Advance upon the 1SG, as it had done so often in the past, but there now to be trapped and overwhelmed, by the massed guns of the entire HSF, before Jellicoe could intervene. Further to this, the U-boats which had already been dispatched, to lie off the principal GF base. To attack its capital ships as they left, as well as report their passage, and finish off any cripples as they limped back, were now all in position.
30th May 1916
A routine Tuesday in harbour, which for all concerned on-board Queen Mary, and indeed the rest of the GF, must have started out as a seemingly predictable one, identical to so many others during the prolonged period of waiting, following the Dogger Bank clash. But in Wilhelmshaven there would have been quite a different scene in evidence. Since on-board the ships of the HSF, final coaling had been undertaken, loose gear stowed, and preparations made for sailing the following morning.
However some of this activity, despite German precautions, was being carefully monitored and noted by listening wireless operators, and cryptographers at the Admiralty. Queen Mary’s first captain, Hall, now at naval intelligence, was now drawn inexorably into the final act of this battle-cruisers’ life.
Fate was to now decree that this individual was to hold a governing place in the overall flow of events. That forenoon, Hall’s latest intelligence intercepts were sent to the Naval Operations Division, headed by Admiral Jackson, alerting them with its preliminary warning of enemy movements. By noon this had been forwarded by Jackson to Jellicoe and Beatty, as an alert of possible enemy naval developments. These initial messages, suggesting some abnormal activity in the Jade River, were soon to be sufficiently sound, to have effect on-board the anchored Queen Mary.
As related by Petty Officer Ernest Benjamin Francis, in the opening entry of his telling narrative, composed after Jutland, indicating how his initial scepticism, gradually gave way to acceptance, and response.
I had a class under instructions in field training in the starboard waist abreast ‘Q’ turret during the forenoon, when the engineer writer came along, and as he passed he whispered ‘Short Notice’. Shortly afterwards I noticed that all ships were getting up steam for all they were worth: Mr Strut, our chief gunner, came along and said ‘Francis, if I were you I should get the aiming and dotter apparatus un-rigged and stowed away, as we are under very short notice, and May be off at any time’. Well I did not take very much notice of this because I had to do this many times before and then nothing had turned up and I had to rig it all up again, an operation which took nearly half a day in order to adjust the apparatus properly. It made one rather careful unless one was nearly certain we were going to sea. What finally decided me was our fine gunnery officer, who came along and said ‘All the gear un-rigged Francis?’ I said ‘Not yet Sir’, to which he replied, ‘I should get on with it if I were you, we May be on the move any moment.’ That decided me and I took the class and un-rigged the two 4 inch aiming teachers, the two 4 inch dotters and the 13.5 inch dotter on ‘X’ turret. By this time it was twelve o’clock dinner time, and I went to dinner. Whilst there Mr Strut came along and wanted me to go round my own turret (‘X’) magazine and see whether top cases had their lashings on, and asked me to tell other gunner’s mates to go round their turrets, which I did. After seeing to my own turret I went to the 4 inch magazines, shell rooms and ready use magazines to see if everything was clear, this being my ordinary routine when under short notice, not that I had any special idea that we were going to sea, but when I came on deck afterwards and found we were under way I felt pleased to think that everything was nicely squared off and un-rigged. (Petty Officer Francis)
Before this departure, returning to the slowly unfolding events of that afternoon, at 3.40pm the British monitoring service picked up a German signal reading 31 Gg 2490. Indecipherable at first, but it was strongly suspected that this was a signal for the execution of an operation. Hall understood it to be thus, an order to implement a plan for the following day, the 31st, fleet instruction number 2490. This was indeed the implementation signal for Sheer’s alternative Skagerrak plan. At 5.40pm the Admiralty sent a signal to both Jellicoe and Beatty, ordering them to leave harbour with all their forces, and to concentrate off the entrance to the Skagerrak, northwest off the coast of Jutland.
Germans intend some operations commencing tomorrow. You should concentrate to eastward of Long Forties, ready for eventualities. (Admiralty)
All throughout these orders and responses, individuals were still conduction themselves as if their future could be as simply organised.
Queen Mary was one of my ships. I lived there from time to time, and a couple of nights before the battle, the first lieutenant came over to the Tiger after dinner. I asked him if he had a spare cabin for me as I might have to leave the Tiger in a day or two, my cabin was wanted certainly on June 3rd, possibly earlier as two or three officers from France were expected. Major Rooney, a great favourite in the ship was a Catholic. He was going to have his marriage arranged or rather he asked me two or three days before the battle if I could let him know what civilian and religious formalities would have to be gone through. His case was rather complicated, as he wanted to be married to a non-Catholic from Wiltshire. He himself had no fixed residence. I went up to Edinburgh the day before the battle and made all the necessary enquiries and met him on the Hawse Pier whilst waiting for my boat. I told him that I had made all the enquiries and would be on-board the next day to hear confessions and that I would talk things through with him. That was 6.45pm. Not quite twenty-four hours later the ship blew up. (Chaplain Bradley, New Zealand)
Jellicoe signalled to Beatty, the general opening moves of the coming operation.
Available vessels BCF, 5BS and TBD’s proceed to approximate position latitude 56.40 north, longitude 5.0 east. Desirable to economise on destroyers’ fuel. Presume you will be there about 2pm tomorrow 31st: I shall be in about latitude 57.45 north, longitude 4.15 east, by 2pm unless delayed by fog. If no news by 2pm stand towards me to get in visual touch. (Admiral Jellicoe)
At Rosyth, a flag signal was soon to be seen running from the masthead of Lion.
Senior Officer BCF, to 1BCS, 2BCS, 5BS, 1DF, 9DF and 13DF, raise steam for 22 knots and report when ready to proceed. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
The boiler fires were soon being raised, with banked fires at half an hour’s notice. Soon in the stokeholds of Queen Mary, the temperatures would rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. As the black gang toiled to feed the forty-two demanding boilers, striving to raised the required steam pressure. On a personal note, the recollections of Midshipman John Hugh Lloyd-Owen, on the eve of battle, captures the overall scene in the Firth in an evocative fashion.
Any strangers present on the little stone pier at South Queensferry between 6.30pm and 7pm on the evening of Tuesday, May 30th 1916, must have been greatly interested in the lively scene spread out before them. Some three or four miles up the Firth of Forth the huge grey shapes of the British BCF, under the command of Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty, could be seen looming indistinctly against the westering sun. Their funnels emitting dense volumes of smoke which hung around them on the still evening air as though intending to hide them from the view of any too inquisitive eye. On the intervening stretch of water many far smaller craft, mostly destroyers, lay at anchor. Here and there too lay light-cruisers and flotilla leaders, looking for all the world like hens guarding broods of inexperienced chicks. While rapidly approaching through the smooth water were many picket boats and one or two Admirals’ barges, the latter easily distinguishable by their highly polished brass funnels and smart blue enamelled hulls. The little jetty itself was the scene of great animation. On it were assembled naval officers of every rank and branch, the Majority of them, in white or grey flannel trousers, were carrying golf clubs or tennis rackets. During their brief spells ashore most naval officers keep themselves fit by taking part in various forms of sport. Two Rear-Admirals were chatting together, probably about their afternoon round of golf; their names, already familiar to the public, were in the course of the next few days, to become household words in all parts of the world. It was with difficulty that we managed to push our way through the crush, but when the picket boats reached the pier, the crowds thinned rapidly and we were soon able to find our own boat. Twenty minutes later we were alongside Queen Mary. Although at the time we did not know it, this was the last day that most of us would spend ashore, or Queen Mary would be above water. On our arrival on-board we learned that the BCF was at short notice, and was expected to go to sea that evening. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - The Great War - I Was There)
It should be emphasised here that Midshipman Lloyd-Owen will contribute a significant number of vital points and essential details about Queen Mary’s demise at Jutland, from four perspectives. (A) From his account in The Great War - I was there. (B) His account in Sons of Admiralty. (C) His official report, obtained from the IWM. And finally (D) an undisclosed private account.
The engineers below worked to meet the set timetable, eventually achieving sufficient steam by 8.45pm. On Queen Mary’s forecastle, men weighed the western anchor, shorten in the cable to three shackles, all ready to finally unmoor when ordered. A general message that the BCF, and attached ships were to proceed out of harbour at 9.30pm was made, soon followed by a further signal regarding communications.
Ships denoted to take W/T (wireless) guard on wavelength denoted at 9.15am. Lion ‘S.D.X’. Princess Royal ‘X’. Queen Mary ‘W’. Tiger ‘Q’. Indefatigable ‘U’.
Upon departing, all squadrons and flotillas were to pass through the channel to the north of May Island: Then steer 60 degrees, with a speed from the outer gate of 16 knots. In this passage the 5BS was to take station astern of the battle-cruisers.
At 9.45pm the bugle call ‘cable officers’ was sounded. Although I had no part in this evolution I went up on deck to watch it, and was just in time to see the 2BCS, under the command of Rear-Admiral W.C. Pakenham and its escort of light-cruisers and destroyers, getting underway and proceeding majestically to sea. I joined a small group of officers on the quarterdeck, who were speculating upon our chances of meeting our ‘Friends from Kiel’, a topic fully discussed every time we put out to sea. Most of us I am aFraid, were convinced that brother Fritz would never dare to show himself and were consequently inclined to be downhearted as far as our chances of a scrap were concerned. There were a few optimists amongst us however, who considered ‘Der Tag’ to be inevitable, and on this occasion at least they were justified. Shortly after ten o’clock we were under way. Setting an easterly course, we steamed onwards throughout the night at a speed of more than twenty miles an hour. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - A)
Midshipman Jocelyn Latham Storey, from ‘Q’ mounting amidships, destined to be the senior surviving officer, will also be called upon to provide some details from three sources. (A) His subsequent letter to Midshipman Robert Kirk Dickson in the Benbow. (subsequently Rear-Admiral), the brother of the late Midshipman Archibald William Dickson. (B) Obtained from another private source, I believe a letter home. And finally a published account (C) included within ‘More Sea Fights of the Great War’.
We went out of Rosyth at 9.30pm GMT on Tuesday night, the ten ships whose names of course you already know. All the snotties were in three watches, day and night. All through Tuesday night we steamed at 17 knots towards the Horn, roughly speaking. (Midshipman Storey - A)
After this it was just ordinary routine, i.e. both 4 inch batteries were well looked to, ammunition placed, watch set in the foremost battery, and we just talked as usual. Of course the usual buzzes were started, but I know that nobody had any idea we were on a big errand: The night of the 30th went off very quietly, with no spasms of any description except that the order was passed to the gunner’s mates that a very special watch was to be kept in the batteries that night. (Petty Officer Francis)
From Scapa Flow, Invergordon, and Rosyth, inexorably the massed might of the British GF was putting to sea. In its full effective strength of twenty-eight battleships, nine battle-cruisers, eight armoured-cruisers, twenty-six light-cruisers, five flotilla leaders, seventy-three destroyers, one seaplane carrier and one minelayer. All told 151 ships of war. In this departure of the GF from its bases, only one U-boat was to launch an unsuccessful attack. The U-boat trap, and early warning screen, of which so much had been expected by Sheer in his overall plan had failed. The three main elements of the GF had slipped safely, silently, and unreported, out into the North Sea, soon adopting their oft practised night-cruising formations, covered by their phalanx of screening cruisers and destroyers.
On the German side ready to set sail the following morning, Admiral Sheer had his main BF comprising of sixteen modern dreadnoughts, accompanied by six pre-dreadnoughts, six light-cruisers, and thirty-one torpedo-boats. It was intended that upon leaving the Bight, Hipper’s force of five battle-cruisers, screened by five light-cruisers, and thirty torpedo-boats, should take up an advance position some 50 miles ahead of the main BF. All told, the ninety-nine vessels attendant in this operation represented the elite of the HSF.
But due to the interception of enemy wireless traffic, the GF was acting well in advance of German moves. Not belatedly responding to them, as Sheer had intended in his original plan. Captain Hall, and his expert team had effectively allowed the GF to gain a significant strategic advantage over the HSF, through its earlier departure, and indeed material advantage, in its ability to concentrate its principal forces in the soon to be contested waters off Jutland.
31st May 1916 - THE BATTLE OF JUTLAND
The HSF sailing early that morning, soon slipping past Heligoland, and into the Bight, with at this initial stage in the operation, Hipper’s force deployed some 35 miles ahead of Sheer’s, with the distance between them slowly opening. On-board Queen Mary, the morning was forming up for what promised to be a relatively pleasant days sweep. Despite some underwater threat, as was noted in an entry obviously evolved from information later on.
I went on watch at 4am and saw the sun rise with every promise of a fine day. The weather was perfect and the sea smooth, but a heavy swell gave the ship, usually quite steady, a slow rolling motion. On the horizon ahead a number of light-cruisers could be seen, spread out fan-wise. They formed our screen, and it was the unsuccessful attack about 5am on one of them, the Galatea, by the German submarine U.32 that gave us our only excitement during the early part of the day. Much closer were our destroyers. They could be very plainly seen as they were only a few 100 yards away, one stationed on either side of each battle-cruiser. On the horizon astern four separate columns of smoke, clearly visible, indicated the presence of four ships of the 5BS, our latest and finest battleships, each one carrying a main armament of eight 15 inch guns. We steamed along quietly during the morning and afternoon. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - A)
Between 10am and 11am on the 31st, I met the Gunnery Officer and he said, ‘Francis, I want to see all the Gunner’s Mates in my cabin now’. So off I went to get hold of the other three, and we all went in. Mr Llewelyn said, ‘Now look here, I sent for you to ask each one to go to his turret and examine it from top to bottom to see that everything is up to date. I know that everything is all right, but I want you to do this and come and make your reports afterwards. My reasons for doing this is that I believe that they are out, and we have a grand time in front of us’. Well we had heard this before so many times that I suppose we must have smiled or done something to show that we didn’t think much of it, because he said to Harrison, our chief gunner’s mate, ‘Don’t you believe it Harrison?’ to which Harrison replied, ‘Well sir, seeing is believing, and if they really come out I will take back one or two of the remarks I have made about them at different times.’ So off we went and had a good overhaul. In the case of ‘X’ turret I knew before I went around that I should find everything all right because Lieutenant Ewart was wrapped up in his turret, and many an hour have I spent with him, explaining the working of the various machinery. His one aim was efficiency, if at any time a new man came into the turret he would worry about him until I reported to him that the new man knew his job and could be trusted to fill up any casualties in action. I shall have more to say about this smart young officer later on. I went over ‘X’ turret from top to bottom, and I really felt quite pleased with everything. It was complete down to spare lengths of flexible piping, urinal buckets, biscuits and corned beef, drinking water and plenty of first aid dressings. I went back to the commander (Llewelyn) and made my report. He thanked me and repeated again that he thought they were out. I said ‘I sincerely hope they are sir, as it is uphill work keeping the men up to the idea of meeting them again. If we can only manage to get a few salvoes into our old opponents the German battle-cruisers, it will put new life into the crowd.’ The conversation then drifted back to the Heligoland Bight scrap, and he said, ‘If we do have a smash, I hope it will be your luck to repeat your previous performance’. He was referring to the damage my guns did in the third round of local control. I quite agreed with him, as I hoped for such luck again. The hands of the gunner’s mates made their reports I know, and made quite a joke about ‘Old Guns’ trying to make us think they were out. At any rate we didn’t think much about it, but went to dinner, and after dinner we went down to the diving room, which belonged to the gunner’s mates and made our arrangements for a sleep. The only thing we were sure about was a ship full of coal waiting to have about 2,000 tons taken out of her. (Petty Officer Francis)
Fate was now to play its first hand in events. When at 12.40pm Jellicoe received what was to prove to be a misleading signal from Admiral Jackson at the Admiralty operations room. Stating that there was no definite news of the enemy BF having actually sailed, had been picked up. At this stage it was thought that perhaps a detached component of the HSF had set out, possibly just Hipper’s battle-cruisers. But directional signals still placed Sheer’s flagship, and her wireless call sign in the Jade estuary at 11.10am. Therefore signals were made, that the GF was to continue its economical and leisurely pace, towards the rendezvous point arranged for that afternoon, with no undue haste. Throughout the morning of the 31st, the principal units of both the massed British and German fleets, had been advancing inexorably towards the same general area, the waters off the northwest coast of Jutland.
What had happened at the Admiralty? From various sources, it appears that Admiral Jackson held the workings of Hall’s cryptographic and intelligence centre section, in what has been reported as thinly disguised contempt, and this feeling might just have been mutual. In what has been described as an abrupt manner that morning, Admiral Jackson had enquired, were directional wireless receivers had placed the German flagship’s call sign ‘DK’. On being informed properly to this specific question, that this was located in the Jade, he immediately understood it to be that Sheer, and therefore his BF, was still in harbour. But due to the improved German awareness of detected wireless transmissions, it was now standard practice for this call sign to be transferred ashore, to conceal Sheer’s departure for as long as possible from British wireless intelligence. This was a ‘ruse’ well understood and known to Hall and his experts in ‘Room 40 OB’. If Jackson had asked Hall of his full appraisal of the situation, instead of his curt general request, before his hurried departure, then the situation now forming up off Jutland could have been drastically altered.
Indeed at the time that Jackson was making his erroneous signal to Jellicoe, Room 40 was by then deciphering a detected signal, which now positively indicated that elements of the HSF BS’s were then indeed at sea. It is now a matter of pure conjecture, but this mistaken signal at 12.40pm could very well have been a significant factor in the sinking of Queen Mary, and the heavy British losses at Jutland: A bold statement, but if Jellicoe and Beatty had been fully informed just after midday, of the distinct possibility of a Major part of the HSF sailing earlier that morning. Then they would have consolidated their overall superiority, by concentrating their forces earlier, and prepared to meet Sheer and Hipper, in a greatly advanced state of alert, and deployment.
If a warning signal had allowed Beatty to concentrated the big gunned forces immediately under him. That is his six battle-cruisers and four fast-battleships, then he would have had a telling 2 to 1 superiority over Hipper’s five strong vanguard: The old maxim that numbers annihilate could have been very apt in such an encounter. And in this scenario, if the two opposing advance elements had come into contact under these conditions, then it is reasonable to assume that the 1SG could have been soundly defeated, before Sheer intervened. Besides Beatty’s big cats, the superb performance of the 5BS, at their belated entry during the ‘Run to the South’, and subsequent ‘Run to the North’, gives a clear indication of the full potential under his command.
Under this overwhelming superiority, Beatty’s force would have been able to direct a telling application of shot and shell into Hipper’s line. A concentrated and overwhelming barrage from 15 inch to 12 inch main ordnance, from which it is likely that the German response would quickly have been considerably reduced, through hits, and accumulated damage. It is pure conjecture, but from this weakened reply, would the fatal damage upon Queen Mary, by the Seydlitz and Derfflinger have been achieved, one wonders.
But because of this erroneous signal stating that the main HSF was not at sea, to Jellicoe and Beatty, there now seemed to be no urgency to concentrate their forces. And their steady advance across the seemingly empty North Sea continued, at a slow economical fuel consumption 15 knots passage. It should be noted that in the German camp, a similar mood prevailed. With neither Sheer or Hipper, aware that the GF was by then closing from the east, due to their lack of submarine, or Zeppelin sightings, or intelligence reports.
By 2pm with the visibility conditions by then beginning to turn hazy, the advance elements of each sides advance battle-cruiser squadrons were only some 60 miles apart. With units of their respective deployed scouting cruiser screens closer to each other than that. For Queen Mary, and the greater part of her 1,286 strong complement, there was just hour’s of life left, as she approached the seas off the entrance to the Skagerrak. For those who had been transferred from her previously, there was soon to be a period to reflect upon their own personal losses, in sometimes brief but telling entries in their journals.
May 31st Jutland, Queen Mary sunk. In total ships company numbered 1,300 of which only 21 were saved. Peirson-Smith and Seymour both went down with the ship. (Midshipman Bagot)
This was to be the curt and brief entry in this individual’s journal, which was to mark the passing of his first ship, and many of his friends, at the epic clash of the dreadnoughts at Jutland.
The scene immediately before the opening phase of the action saw Beatty deployed his force, prior to heading north, to join up with Jellicoe. This would have revealed one so typical of the many sweeps that Queen Mary had participated in over the previous twenty months. As observed from her bridge, directly ahead of her lay the flagship of the 1BCS Princess Royal. With the BCF flagship Lion beyond at the head of the line, while directly astern was the Tiger. At that time, the 2BCS flagship New Zealand, with her sister the Indefatigable, were on stationed three miles to the northeast. In the distance the temporarily attached four fast battleships of the 5BS could be seen six miles to the north, off Queen Mary’s port bow, ready for the turn towards the BF. A precautionary zigzag course was being employed, within the surrounding screen of destroyers from the nine strong 1DF, ten strong 13F, and eight strong combined 9/10DF’s. Supporting these were the twelve light-cruisers of the 1LCS, 2LCS and 3LCS with four units in each, deployed in a scouting formation flung out on the forward fringes of the fleet. For some, the afternoon was seemingly shaping up to be yet another routine sweep of the North Sea.
I had the first dogwatch in the 4 inch battery so I made arrangements with the gunner’s mate on watch to send a man down and let me know when it was 3.30pm. I lay down and had quite a comfortable sleep, having nothing much to keep us awake. (Petty Officer Francis)
But as destiny was to decree, before he could finish his little nap, events were even then shaping up into the greatest naval clash of the First World War. A chance of fate now intervene just after 2pm with the spotting of the Danish tramp steamer N.J. Fjord, by the light-cruiser Galatea of the 1LCS, on the extreme eastern edge of the BCF’s screen. Suspiciously the stopped steamer was blowing of a very noticeable plume of steam. Upon closing, the Galatea observed the first signs of the enemy. Two torpedo-boats were also investigating the steamer, with an unidentified light-cruiser in support. Recognition challenge signals soon identified the vessels to be hostile. A fact confirmed by their stump foremasts, and tall mainmasts ‘Unmistakably Huns’. And an opening exchange of fire commenced at 2.28pm between these light units. It will not be hard to imagine the reaction to the Galatea’s initial, and follow-up urgent wireless transmissions, would have made on-board Queen Mary, with the news that an action on some scale was now actually in progress. But would it develop into something bigger, there had been so many false dawns of ‘The Day’ in the past. On-board the New Zealand, an officer, soon to be called to his position in her gun control tower, describes this initial mood. One probably matched on-board the rest of the BCF.
The news was received in the wardroom with cold suspicion, and although one or two officers came on deck to have a look round, the general attitude was one of scepticism. Then came the report of a large amount of smoke, and we started to sit up and take notice. The Huns were in sight.
At 2.32pm Beatty signalled to the now alerted vessels of the aroused fleet under him:
Alter course leading ships together the rest in succession to south-southeast.
This was a move designed to now place his force astride the German squadrons track back to its base. This signal was soon followed by a general communication from the flagship to the squadron timed at 2.38pm:
Hands are to be stationed at action stations. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
I got up, took off my jumper, and had a wash in a bucket of water, and just as I finished I heard in the distance a bugle sound of ‘action’. I was so surprised that I could hardly believe my ears, but the rush of feet by the door forced it upon me. I called Harrison and Petty Officer Clarke and told them they had sounded off ‘action’. Poor old Harrison said ‘What’s the matter with you, can’t you sleep?’ but before I could answer another bugle sounded off and no more words were necessary. It was a scramble to get away. Harrison said ‘Good luck Ernie, the transmitting station will back you up.’ I said ‘Righto Governor’ and we were gone. (Petty Officer Francis)
Like the gunner’s mates in their diving room cubby, a number of the crew were below at this time, with those off watch either grabbing a little rest, or something to eat and drink. Seemingly conducting themselves as normal during a sweep, and not with any marked degree of appreciation of what was then forming. But with the call to ‘action’, and the dawning of what was afoot, they reacted. Those fortunately destined to serve in ‘X’ turret aft, in what was to transpire to be a veritable island of survivors from Queen Mary, recall this period of routine preparation now undertaken within their own particular mounting.
I took the first hatchway up, as doors were closing, and came up to the foremost 4 inch battery, starboard side, and raced for ‘X’ turret. When I got inside everyone was there. I yelled out, ‘Turret’s crew, number’. They were correct from top to bottom, and I reported to the lieutenant of the turret. He said, ‘Test loading gear, but for goodness sake do not let them be to rash. I would not miss one round in this smash for worlds.’ The loading gear and machinery were tested, and immediately afterwards came the order to load all cages. As soon as the cages were loaded, it was reported to the transmitting station, and then came the order to load. The guns were loaded and brought to the half-cock and reported, and then came the order to bring the right gun to the ready, director laying and firing. (Petty Officer Francis)
At about 2.50pm we sounded off ‘exercise action’ and we all went to our turrets and tested through everything. We were then told that ‘A’ and ‘Q’ turrets’ crews could go and get their tea. ‘Q’ turret was my turret, the one amidships in the waist between the funnels. (Midshipman Storey - C)
At 2.45pm while gunroom tea was in progress, the bugle call ‘action stations’ was sounded. This was quite the usual routine when we were off the coast of Jutland, and we went to our action stations little dreaming even then, that we were about to meet our hitherto shy friends, the enemy. On reaching my action station in the gun-house of the quarterdeck turret, were I was responsible for the loading of the two 13.5 inch guns, I tested the loading gear and firing circuits, and having reported them correct awaited further instructions. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - A)
We went to general quarters at 20 minutes to 3 o’clock on Wednesday afternoon, May 31st: We were not expecting anything to happen and thought it an ordinary ‘stunt’, like we have often done before. We had all our cages loaded, 2 crew cages, 2 gun loading cages, and 2 awaiting cages, with armour piercing Lyddite. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - C)
Each gun-house had its crew of 9 men. The officer of quarters was located in his silent cabinet at the rear of the mounting, with its access to narrow observation slits and brass rimmed repeaters, that relayed data from the transmitting station, would gave the order to load. In the gun-house the number one’s were at the loading cage levers, facing the breeches, the number two’s were in line with their breeches and facing the muzzles, with the number three’s in front alongside the number four members of the team facing inwards to the breeches. Inside the steel cavern of the mounting all would soon be noise, as the deafening clatter of the twin shell and propellant hoists rose to the rear of each breech, followed by the hiss of hydraulic rams. The entire operation and functioning of the mounting was now governed by a skilled team of breech operators and loaders, sight setters, trainers and layers, under such men as Major Rooney, and Lieutenant Ewart.
Below each gun-house, to serve such a main armament mounting, required a disciplined team on several deck levels labouring in a sealed, confined cavern. From the shell-room at the base of the entire structure with its 14 men, magazine above this with a further 14 men (although one source does mention both of these compartments each having a petty officers and eighteen men), and working chamber with its 12 man crew.. The second captain of the turret and numbers five and six of the gun loading team were below in the working chamber.
Testing the loading gear would have entailed the number one yelling down to the working chamber crew, with the number six passing the instructions down to the magazine and shell room below. The number two meanwhile grabbed the breech levers and open it, number three roared in unison, competing with each other for sheer noise and exuberance, ‘Gun run out, breech open’, tripping the air blast levers, since nothing had obviously yet run out from recoil. While the number ones were trying perfunctorily to raise the cages while the telegraphs showed ‘not ready’ and the pedals were pressed down, testing the various checks and cut outs in the system. After the main loading gear had been run through, the secondary gear was tested, then the firing circuits, training and elevation receivers lined up with the director and transmitting station.
Commander Llewelyn would be controlling the ship’s fire from his central command; all four main gun-houses would conform to his directions and corrections. The crew of Queen Mary, upon the bugler sounding off ‘action stations’, followed by the ‘double’, had evidently reacted quickly, to an often practised, and well rehearsed routine, on that fateful afternoon. The general mood now prevailing in the battle-cruisers can be gauged from the recollections, of an un-named individual on-board the New Zealand.
All turrets and stations were reported cleared away and correct in record time. But it was still hard to realise that a battle was actually commencing. I had great difficulty in convincing myself that the Huns were in sight at last, it was so like battle exercise the way in which we and the Germans turned up on to more or less parallel courses and waited for the range to close sufficiently before letting fly at each other. It all seemed very cold-blooded and mechanical.
All this time, as the guns crews, control and spotting personnel prepared their devices, and instruments, Queen Mary was working up to a squadron speed of 25 knots, as her engineers and stokehold commenced their efforts to propel their ship into action. On a broader scale, while the BCF which had served under Beatty for some time, as one well exercised entity, had manoeuvred instinctively to cut off the German line of retreat. Due to a failure in flag communications, the four temporarily attached super dreadnoughts of the 5BS continued northwards. Believing in the absence of any direct observed instructions, that their designated role in the slowly developing drama, lay in cutting off the Germans from that direction, trapping them between two forces. However through a belated light signal, they shortly conformed to the battle-cruisers move southwards. But they were at this early stage, well to the rear of the ensuing action.
To Beatty the tactical position was forming up into what must have appeared to be yet another hard steaming, prolonged stern chase after a fleeing enemy, another Dogger Bank. He was confident that his battle-cruisers could do the job without the 5BS. And since time was now of considerable importance so late in the day, he had to close as fast as possible with this evasive enemy formation, before conditions deteriorated with the coming dusk. If he could just close the fleeing enemy, he might somehow check its headlong retreat, or cripple and slow down some unit, to execute a Blucher style sinking, upon one or more of its nimble members.
Beatty’s scouting and screening light-cruisers, were now in contact with their opposing numbers in Hipper’s fleet. They soon detected the first impressions of the rival battle-cruisers presence, and signalled Beatty throughout their continuing encounter with this vital intelligence. However it was not to be until 3.31pm when Beatty at last sighted the heavy smoke plumes of five enemy capital ships, to realise the full nature of his potential prize, and opposition:
Faintly distinguishable a very long distance away. (Vice-Admiral Beatty)
Lieutenant Chalmers also on-board Lion, has noted the conditions now encountered:
The visibility as it happened, was extremely patchy. It was one of those typical North Sea summer days with a thin white mist varying in intensity and having too much humidity for the sun to break up. Unfortunately the western horizon was clear, so to the enemy the British ships were sharply silhouetted against a blue sky, and so also would be the splashes of German shells falling around them.
The two 12 inch gunned units of the 2BCS, took station astern of the three 13.5 inch gunned 1BCS, with the similarly gunned flagship in the van. Forming a powerful battle formation of six battle-cruisers in line, 600 yards apart. With Queen Mary, deployed as the third ship in the line, centrally placed to observe all the important events now unfolding. On-board, the final checks to test all communication and gunnery control systems, instruments, etc., would have been performed and completed as in the innumerable drills which had gone before. Francis’ pre-battle inspection of ‘X’ turret, already noted, is an example of the through fashion of such proceedings. By now all the decks and ships boats would have been hosed down, splinter mats, leak-stopping gear, shoring-up spars, fire hoses, boxes of sand, stretchers, medical facilities, spare electrical, hydraulic, and engineers’ gear would have been got ready. All within the span of a couple of minutes, as nearly everything necessary would have been kept permanently ready for action whilst she was at sea.
Steaming hard Queen Mary would now have presented an impressive sight to an observer, with her funnels belching forth billowing plumes of smoke, which were rapidly drawn away in her 25 knots advance. As she now hoisted her large battle ensigns, to her fore and mainmasts, to complement those flags and signals already streaming taught under the wind of her passage. With Union Jacks at her after struts, and masthead yards, completing what must have been a striking visual image, of a mighty battle-cruiser in pursuit of its prey, and ready to pounce.
At 3.25pm ‘action’ was sounded and we all went to our stations and at 3.40pm the order was given ‘load all guns’. We all realised that the real thing had come at last. (Midshipman Storey - C)
It was not until about ten minutes to four that they (orders) came through. The order I then received was to load both guns with Lyddite shell. I passed it on to the guns’ crews, and as soon as the breech-blocks of each gun had swung open, the two great gun-loading cages came crashing up from below, each of them bearing a huge yellow projectile, weighing 1,400 pound, and 400 pound of cordite, sufficient to hurl it a distance of 24,000 yards, or rather more than thirteen-and-a-half land miles. A few moments sufficed to ram the projectiles and charges into their respective guns, and the two cages disappeared below to receive a fresh supply of ammunition. As the cages dropped out of sight the two great breechblocks, on the movement of a lever, swung forward into place. I then reported to the small control cabinet in the rear of the turret that both guns were loaded. As we did not as a rule load our guns, I inquired from Deardon, the midshipman in the control cabinet, if there was any news. He informed me that the enemy were in sight and that we were to be prepared to engage them at any moment. I conveyed this unexpected though welcome information to my men, who received it with great enthusiasm. This, at last, was the chance we had waited so long and for which we had scarcely dared to hope. We had the greatest confidence in our leaders, our ship, and ourselves, and when one of the gun-house crew remarked, ‘So much the worse for the bloody Uns’, I felt that he had put into words the feelings of us all. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - A)
At a quarter to four the order came through ‘both guns load, enemy in sight’. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - C)
On-board the Derfflinger in Hipper’s line, a battle-cruiser soon to play a telling part in the final phase of Queen Mary’s story, there was a similar mood prevailing:
Enemy battle-cruisers have been reported; I passed this message on to the guns crews. It was now clear that within a short time a life-and-death struggle would develop. For a moment there was a marked hush in the fore-control. But this only lasted a minute or so, then humour broke out again, and everything went on in perfect order and calm. (Von Hase, SMS Derfflinger)
After an hour and a quarter’s hard steaming, the range had closed sufficiently for the antagonists to finally manoeuvre into their respective deployments, for the main action to commence. Beatty’s six battle-cruisers verses Hipper’s five. At 3.45pm Beatty’s flagship hoisted a stream of instructions. The first formed his force into a staggered line, en echelon, to minimise the effects of the banks of obscuring smoke, now being emitted from his charges funnels, on a line bearing northwest from Lion. He also directed the distribution of fire. With Lion and Princess Royal to concentrate upon Hipper’s Lutzow in the German van, while the hands of the squadron were to engage their opposite numbers, in the enemy line in succession.
But in this critical signal there was to be a fatal error, either in transmission from the flag, transfer by the Princess Royal, or receipt by Queen Mary’s personnel. However this grievous error was not apparent at that time, it would only reveal itself upon commencement of the gunnery duel.
Instead of any outward show of confusion, on-board the Derfflinger the powerful impression created of Beatty’s steady advance was very marked indeed. As a suitable counter to these leviathans, armour-piercing shells were specified by Commander Von Hase in the Derfflinger, as ‘Take targets from the left’, was ordered from their flag. Which meant that each German ship was to train on its corresponding British number in the line, reckoning from the van.
Suddenly my periscope revealed some big ships. Black monsters; six tall, broad-beamed giant steaming in two columns. They were still a long way off, but they showed up clearly on the horizon, and even at this great distance they looked powerful, massive. The six giants recalled to my mind the day on which I had gone out to meet the English squadron in the Kiel Bight to welcome the English squadron (the 2BS under Admiral Warrender) approaching, but this time the welcome would be different. How much bigger and more menacing the enemy ships appeared this time, magnified fifteen times. The six ships, which had at first been proceeding in two columns, formed line ahead. Like a heard of prehistoric monsters they closed on one another with slow movements, spectre-like, irresistible. 3.48pm 15,000 metres, as my last order rang out there was a dull roar. I looked ahead. The Lutzow is firing her first salvo and immediately the signal ‘open fire’ is hoisted. In the same second I shout ‘salvoes-fire’, and like thunder our first salvo crashes out. The ships astern follow suit at once and we see all round the enemy jets of fire and rolling clouds of smoke. The battle has begun. (Von Hase, SMS Derfflinger)
At 3pm the message ‘enemy in sight’ came in, bugles and drums sounded the general March to call all hands to battle stations. Within minutes every station reported to the bridge that it was ready for action. Soon the British light-cruisers came in view, and behind them dense clouds of smoke. Then tripod masts and huge hulls loomed over the horizon. There they were again, our friends from the Dogger Bank. At 3.45pm we opened fire. (Kapitan zur See von Egidy, SMS Seydlitz)
In Beatty’s line with its mighty 13.5 inch and 12 inch ordnance trained off the port bow in its closing approach, with the ‘gun ready’ lamps aglow in the transmitting station and director tower. An immediate reply to the Germans opening salvos, at a range of around 16,500 yards fire was opened at 3.48pm from Lion, announced with the inoffensive ‘ding-ding’ of the firing bell.
At 3.53pm we opened fire at eight-and-three-quarter miles range at the third ship in the enemy’s line. (Midshipman Storey - C)
Three minutes after we had received the order to load, Lion, flagship of Sir David Beatty opened fire, and a minute or two later our own foremost turrets followed suit. As soon as my turret would bear on the enemy I was told to bring the right gun to the ‘ready’, and we began, firing each gun alternately. The general noise of the battle now became deafening and it was quite impossible to obtain any idea of what was happening outside the turret. When we first opened fire the enemy’s range was about ten miles and the German ships must have been nearly out of sight. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - A)
3.45pm About three minutes afterwards we opened fire on our extreme port bearing, at a range of 17,000 yards. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - C)
The first salvo was fired, and we had started on the great game. I had no means of telling what time it was, and if I had I probably should not have looked, because getting a turret started is an anxious rushing time for a captain of a gun, once started it is easy to keep going. Taking everything into consideration, I put it as about 3.45pm or 3.55pm that’s as near as I can go. (Petty Officer Francis)
The awful concussion of such a discharge would have shaken the senses, as the entire turret lurched, with the 75t gun/s recoiled back, to be hydraulically subdued and slowly slide forward again, were the breeches crashed open, emitting a hot blast of cordite fumes that filled the chamber, stinging eyes and throats, ready for fresh shells and charges as the hoists rattled up on their greased glide rails from below. Llewelyn, was beginning his opening exchange against the third ship in the enemy line, the distant Seydlitz, with four gun salvoes ranging in on his selected target.
As witnessed by gunnery personnel on-board her squadron mates just astern, and ahead, the arrival of the first German shells and their own replies received professional appraisal:
The first salvo I saw drop was quite 200 yards short of us, and did not seem to have a very small spread. 3.50pm Lion opened fire, and we opened fire. Target fourth ship from right, range 18,500 yards. (Tiger)
Their shells seemed to throw up a much smaller splash than ours although they were firing from 12.2 inch turrets, and we from the only slightly heavier 13.5 inch turret. Their salvoes then gradually came closer, until just as we saw the red-black burst of one of our shells hitting on the leading enemy ship. The Majority of the enemy’s shells appeared to fall short throwing up columns of water nearly 100 feet high, but doing no harm. (from Princess Royal)
About 4pm our battle-cruisers opened fire, they were about 8 miles on our starboard bow, at the German cruisers who were about 12 miles ahead. It was a most thrilling and stupendous spectacle, the ships shrouded in mist, smoke and spray, belching forth great sheets of flame, while all around them great fountains of water between 200 feet and 300 feet high, spurted up higher than the mastheads, as the projectiles weighing over half-a-ton struck the water. (Falmouth)
But haze, growing smoke, and poor light-conditions, were even at this early stage to have a considerable influence on the exchange. Difficult ranging conditions, to which those on-board Queen Mary, and the rest of the BCF, would have had to endure:
Smoke and a decreasing visibility to the eastward now became two important difficulties. Our destroyers were between us and the enemy, and their smoke, together with the smoke from Lion’s guns which was drifting across our range, was becoming a serious nuisance to our gun control. (from Princess Royal)
The submarine screen of destroyers on our engaged bow were causing great interference with their funnel smoke, and the enemy line was covered in cordite smoke from their guns firing. The smoke and flashes of the enemy salvoes when coinciding with our fall of shot made spotting very difficult. The enemy were firing very rapidly. The top reported that the funnel smoke of our battle-cruisers ahead made their view very bad, so I did not shift my position to the top. I think that at this time all our battle-cruisers except the Princess Royal had under-estimated the rate, we had. (Tiger)
From the relative security of the heavily armoured-conning tower of this battle-cruiser just astern of Queen Mary, another observer recorded a memorable impression of the enemy gunnery.
The German shooting at this time was very good, and we were repeatedly straddled, but funnily enough were not being hit very often. I remember watching the shell coming at us. They appeared just like big blue-bottles flying straight towards you, each time going to hit you in the eye, then they would fall, and the shell would either burst or else ricochet off the water and lollop way above and beyond to, turning over and over in the air. (Tiger)
But in reply, at this stage, the initial distribution of British fire was greatly in error. As outlined earlier in Beatty’s 3.45pm signal, Lion and Princess Royal were to concentrate upon Hipper’s Lutzow. Leaving the rest of the squadron to engage its opposite number from the van, rendering the Derfflinger to Queen Mary in Beatty’s envisaged deployment. But a very different distribution was now being enacted abaft the leading pair of battle-cruisers. The understanding in the trailing four ships appeared to indicate that the dispersal of fire was to be between Lion/Lutzow, Princess Royal/Derfflinger, Queen Mary/Seydlitz, Tiger/Moltke, with finally both the 12 inch gunned New Zealand and Indefatigable, bring up the rear of the British line, concentrated against the trailing Von der Tann.
In reality as Lion and Princess Royal were correctly engaging the Lutzow. Queen Mary was firing upon the Seydlitz. The Tiger upon the Moltke, soon to be joined by the New Zealand, as she interpreted the distribution to mean working up the line as she and her sister closed, while the trailing Indefatigable would soon engage the Von der Tann alone. It is obvious now, that on-board Queen Mary, the understanding had been that each ship was to have paired off with its opposite number in the enemy line, counting from the van, which for her was the Seydlitz.
Exactly were had this vital communications breakdown occurred is now impossible to determine. Whatever the cause this Fragmented distribution in effect left the second enemy battle-cruiser, the Derfflinger to carry out an undisturbed shoot against the Princess Royal during the early part of the battle. Combined with this error, the initial German gunnery was superb, with Lion hit twice, along with the Princess Royal, and the Tiger hit four times, all within the first three minutes of action.
3.52pm the Germans were firing rapidly and getting our range; I saw splinters fly from our fo’csle past the gun control tower. 3.53pm ‘Q’ and ‘X’ turrets did not come to the ‘ready’. I had felt the concussion from hits on our armour, though I did not know for some minutes that both these turrets had been penetrated. Spotting was very difficult, but I increased the rate of fire as much as possible, firing double salvoes. We received several more hits. (Tiger)
On-board the Derfflinger this faulty distribution of British fire, was soon noted with grim satisfaction by Von Hase:
What astonished me was that so far we had apparently not been hit once. Only quite rarely did a shot stray near us. I observed the gun-turrets of our target (from Princess Royal) more closely and established that this ship was not firing at us. She too was firing at our flagship (Lutzow). I observed the third enemy ship (Queen Mary) for a moment, by some mistake we were being left out. (Von Hase, SMS Derfflinger)
Communications were not the only problem. Sometimes even the smoothly working machine of war, that was Queen Mary in battle, could still stumble in its stride. But quickly recover:
The gun’s crew were absolutely perfect, inclined to be a little swift in loading, but I gave them a yell and pointed out to them that I wanted a steady stride, and after that everything went like clockwork, until suddenly both rammers gave out, my gun going first. This was caused through No.3 opening the breech before the gun had run out after firing, the carrier arm part of the breech must have hit the rammer head and slightly metal-bound it. I dropped the elevating wheel, got hold of a steel pinch bar, forced the end in behind the rammer head, at the same time putting the rammer lever over to ‘run out’, out went the rammer, and I rushed it back again, and then out again, and it went all gay once more. Then the lever was passed over to the right gun, and both rammers were once more in working order. I was pleased to get them going again, as it would have been such a damper on the crew if we had had to go into hand loading. (Petty Officer Francis)
All went smoothly in the turret for about twenty minutes, went a slight mishap put the left gun temporarily out of action, but the damage was quickly repaired. About this time there was a brief lull in the fighting and, taking advantage of it, Lieutenant Ewart, the officer in charge of the turret, came into the gun-house. I asked him how we were getting on. He replied that he could not say for the moment but would talk it over with me later. We soon re-opened fire, and Lieutenant Ewart returned to the control cabinet. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - A)
It is a fact that most of Queen Mary’s crew were manning positions behind armour, and deep within her structure. With no sight of the enemy, and little or no information passed down to them concerning the flow of the battle, or their contribution to its outcome. The great Majority of the men fighting a modern naval battle were not aware of what was actually happening.
My No.3 said, ‘Petty Officer Francis, can you see what we are up against’. Well, I had been anxious to have a look, but could not spare the time, but as soon as my gun had fired and while the loading was being completed I had a quick look through the periscope, and it seemed to me there were hundreds of masts and funnels. I dropped back into my seat and laid my gun pointer, being in director firing, and while the loading was being completed again I told them there were a few battle-cruisers out, not wishing to put a damper on them in any way; not that I think it would have done so, as they were all splendid fellows and backed me up magnificently. (Petty Officer Francis)
The men in the turrets, and the crew of each turret amounts on an average to 60 or 70 men, the men between decks stationed for secondary ammunition supply or as fire and repair parties, and all the engineering complement of the ship stationed in the engine rooms and in the boiler rooms, are all carrying on with their work, hearing the noise of the enemy’s shells as they splash in the water near the ship, hearing the noise of their own turrets firing, hearing occasionally the noise of an enemy shell hitting the ship, but neither seeing the enemy whom they are fighting nor knowing the detail results of their work. Certain small scraps of news circulate round the ship, and certain deductions can be made from orders that are given. But it remain a fact that the Majority of the men fighting a modern naval battle are not aware at the time of what is happening, who is winning, or whether other ships than their own are being damaged or not. (The Fighting at Jutland)
To further illustrate this point concerning the lack of information to those encased behind armour, or who were deep in the bowels of the ship. A telling account of the action passed on by a medical officer of the Princess Royal can be related to:
On thinking over the experience of being in action at Jutland and elsewhere, I have been struck with the distinct manner in which a modern ship in action is divided into two separate worlds; the one stationed in the conning tower, control positions, and turrets, directing the actual fighting and movement of the ship. The other between decks in the engine-rooms and stokeholds, in the shell-rooms or magazines, and here and there between decks working as fire parties, repair parties, or first-aid parties, serving as it were the other world of the ship. As far as my experiences go, the one world is much cut off from the other, and nothing impressed itself more on my memory that the absolute absence of authentic news reaching us between decks. At the Heligoland and Dogger Bank actions I heard nothing till the action was over. At Jutland the only news was bad news, whispered to me about half-an-hour after the action had commenced. The absence of news and the enforced idleness at the commencement of an action, when one can simply hear the ship firing and neither know what enemy is being engaged nor what course the action is taking, is undoubtedly very trying to all concerned. (from Princess Royal)
It was now down to Queen Mary at 3.55pm to clearly display her superb gunnery. By hitting, and inflicting telling damage upon the Seydlitz, at the close-in range of 12,900 yards. In rapid succession she was directly hit by four 13.5 inch shells, in chronological order it seems that the first holed her side plating forward of the foremast, and detonated over the 1 inch thick upper deck, scouring a roughly 10 feet diameter hole in it. Considerable damage to the surrounding light structure was caused, resulting in subsequent flooding of the main deck near ‘A’ (Anton) barbette, and thence to ‘A’ magazine and the ship’s control room. The second struck and holed the 9 inch armour of ‘C’ (Caesar) barbette, at approximately 14,750 yards range, causing Fragments of plate and shell splinters to ignite two main and two fore charges in the working chamber, but with no fatal chain reaction, although the turret training, elevating and hoists were effectively now all out of action. The third shell from Queen Mary was a very near miss amidships, bursting underwater near the skin plating and flooded some 36 feet of her outer wing compartments. The fourth and last telling device from 18,000 yards range, struck the joint between the 8 inch to 9 inch port sill plate and the aft battery bulkhead, detonating upon holing, and extensive damage was inflicted, with Fragments travelling across the ship, putting No.6 starboard 5.9 inch gun out of action.
We had not gone unscathed. The first hit (fourth) we received was a 13.5 inch shell that struck the number six 6 inch casement on the starboard side, killing everybody except the Padre who, on the way to his battle-station down below, had wanted to take a look at the men and at the British, too. By an odd coincidence we had, at our first battle practice in 1913, assumed the same kind of hit and by the same adversary, Queen Mary. Splinters perforated air leads in the bunker below and smoke and gas consequently entered the starboard main turbine compartment. (Kapitan zur See von Egidy, SMS Seydlitz)
But once having cut the range accurately, Queen Mary was soon required to re-direct her telling fire, now against the Derfflinger as the above mistake in fire distribution became glaringly apparent. During this exchange of fire, Hipper’s ships were by then replying to Beatty’s fire with effect:
I had now found the target (from Princess Royal), and that meant that Midshipman Stachow in the transmitting station was to give the order ‘salvoes-fire’, to the heavy guns once every 20 seconds. And the word ‘wirkung’ meant that after each salvo of the heavy guns the secondary armament was to fire two salvoes in quick succession and thenceforward fire in conjunction with the heavy guns. Then began an ear-splitting, stupefying din. And now the battle continued. Our shots raised water spouts from 80 to 100 metres high, twice as high as the enemy’s masts. Our joy at being immune from fire was short lived. The other side had noticed the mistake, and now we were often straddled by salvoes. (Von Hase, SMS Derfflinger)
As Queen Mary spotted the error in the distribution of fire, after 10 minutes of the action, she shifted her attention from the damaged Seydlitz, onto the Derfflinger. In this the ‘X’ turret would have slowly trained to the right, further off the port beam forward, its elevating and probing barrels, nearing the quarter-deck screen. It is now a matter of pure conjecture, but what would have been the outcome of the gunnery duel, if Queen Mary had settled down to engage the Derfflinger right from the start in a steady exchange. She had already proved her effectiveness against the Seydlitz, and if this have been directed at the Derfflinger throughout, to an extent were she could not accurately dispatch the fatal salvo against Queen Mary half-an-hour later, could the conclusion have changed. Pure speculation, but one does now wonder at the outcome. Von Hase now saw the effects of this change, and like other observers, he now witnessed the phenomenon of 13.5 inch shells dispatched by Queen Mary in flight, direct at his ship.
I again fixed the enemy gun-turrets with my periscope and watched them carefully. I now saw that they were directly trained on us. I made a further discovery which astonished me. With each salvo fired by the enemy I was able to see distinctly four or five shells coming through the air. They looked like elongated black spots. Gradually they grew bigger, and then with a crash they were here. They exploded on striking the water or the ship with a terrific roar. After a bit I could tell from watching the shells fairly accurately whether they would fall short or over, or whether they would do us the honour of a visit. The shots that hit the water raised colossal splashes. Some of these columns of water were of a poisonous yellow-green tinge from the base to about half their height, these would be Lyddite shells. The columns stood up for quite five to ten seconds before they completely collapsed again. They were giant fountains. Dense masses of smoke accumulated round the muzzles of the guns, growing into clouds as high as houses, which stood for seconds in front of us like an impenetrable wall and were then driven away by the wind and weigh over the ship. In this way we often could see nothing of the enemy for seconds at a time as our fore control was completely enveloped in thick smoke. Naturally such furious rapid fire could only be maintained for a limited period. It made almost superhuman demands on the gun-crews and ammunition men. (Von Hase, SMS Derfflinger)
Mention of the different fire, and target acquisition methods employed by the rival navies should be made here. It had long been understood in the Royal Navy, as far back as 1914, that any action would be fought at long range, with 15,000 yards envisaged for the 13.5 inch gunned units, and 13,000 yards for the 12 inch ones.
Fire was to be opened through single shots falling short of the estimated mean range-finder reckoning, producing a ‘short’ which could be clearly observed, as opposed to an obscured ‘over’. This fall would then be used to then correct the next single round for a correction for range and line, a slow and deliberate process, until the target was observed to have been ‘bracketed’. Only when this range had been established did alternative co-ordinated salvoes from the left and right guns of each mounting occur, with the fall of each individual four to five shell salvo land, was spotted, and corrected. Even then rapid fire was not commenced, until the enemy had been either straddled, or hit. When full broadsides might then be called upon to then deluge an enemy. All in all a slow, deliberate, and methodical allocation of accurate fire, designed to conserve ammunition in the opening long range phase of an action, were hits were expected to be few.
German gunnery philosophy however was markedly different to this. Primarily in their desire to acquire their target in as rapid a manner as possible, even at the expense of a high shell consumption in the initial stage. Here the initial estimate of the range-from their excellent optical instruments, was used to fire three salvos in quick succession, around 400 yards to 600 yards apart, the first short, the second at the estimated range, and the last over it, in a ‘ladder’ of salvos around 1,000 yards in length: The fall of this spread of salvos was then spotted, corrected, and repeated until the target was straddled or hit, when rapid fire was commenced.
It is remarked by Lieutenant-Commander Smith from the New Zealand, from his observations, that if such a ladder straddled a ship, the enemy had a very good approximation of range and line within a minute and a half of opening fire, where upon a telling, and effective barrage followed. The British system required time, waiting for the correction to single ranging shots. While the German procedures was very effective in quickly finding a target. Effectively countering the British advantage in gunnery control equipment, and heavier ordnance.
Indeed this very impressive rapid gunnery of the HSF had already been noted at the Dogger Bank action, when the German salvos were in the ratio of three to the BCS’s two. This had subsequently resulted in Beatty’s command then adopting an excessive concentration upon the training of gun mounting crews in rapid handling, loading and firing. The unforeseen consequence of this was in the eager crews then bypassing some standard safety procedures, in their desire to achieve rapid fire.
One final point about the differing gunnery practices employed lies in the actual spread of the salvos themselves. Whereas German thinking favoured very concentrated and tightly grouped spreads, where a successfully cut fall could achieve two or three direst hits from a single salvo, which when combined with their swift acquisition, and rapid fire techniques, could spell serious trouble for an enemy, through a series of expeditious hits in quick succession. The British desire was for a relatively wide spread of fall, with spreads of over 300 yards being deemed desirable, primarily to facilitate the straddling of a target, but which could achieve perhaps one direct hit.
The last phase of Queen Mary’s was about to commence. But before the detailed investigation into what happened to her, it is essential to now look at the fates of three of her sister in this battle and gain some insight into their experiences. It is from such a look into the experiences of similar vessels, something about the reasons behind the loss of Queen Mary herself can be derived. Here perhaps the single most revealing hit to be fully investigated after the battle, and passed on, has to be the telling effects of one on-board Lion at 3.52pm. In this a 12 inch shell from the Lutzow pierced the front of ‘Q’ turrets armour, at the junction of the heavy faceplate and thinned crown. Entering the gun-house before detonating, killing or wounding the entire marine crew manning the gun-house, under Major Harvey. In this explosion the front roof plate and the hands of the central face armour were blown away.
There was a flash of red flame alongside Lion’s amidships turret and a great piece of steel, half the turret roof, flew in the air:
So noted the Lutzow’s Commander Paschen, observing the flagship through his sighting periscopes twenty-four times magnification. After this hit a fire had been instigated in the upper mounting, but this was not to prove to be immediately critical. A 28 minute gap was now to occur, before the full impact of this hit was felt. This important point is never fully appreciated by some, who usually link the hit, and cordite detonation, together into a simultaneous event.
The fire within the mounting was thought to have been extinguished, by the nearby fire and repair party who had rushed to the turret. Playing hoses upon the gun-house interior, through the now open roof. This initial fire was thought to have been effectively put out. But hidden away from view, within the darkened confines of the wrecked mounting, smouldering embers lay in recesses. Inside the ravaged interior, it appears that both loading cages were charged, in there waiting positions beside the breeches, as well as in both intermediate waiting positions in the working chamber below. Further to this, both of the lower hoist cages, and both magazine hoppers in the handling room were also loaded. In total a cordite chain of no less than eight full charges extended from the now damaged gun-house to the entrance of the magazine below. Within ‘Q’ turret itself, the controls for working the left hand gun, had been blown to the open breech position, and accordingly it was ajar. Since the piece was loaded, with the movement of the ship, the 1,400 pound shell became unseated, dislodging the cordite charges behind it, which eventually slid out of the opened breech and down into the well below.
Here some glowing material lay, probably smouldering remnants of the gun-house crews clothing. Ignited the exposed black powder charge at the base of a cordite charge, causing it to detonate violently. In an brief moments just as the charge flared, before this cataclysmic explosion, in the first hint of what was to come, Major Harvey, posthumously to be awarded the Victoria Cross, ordered the flooding of the magazines below, and sealing off the mounting. The closing off of its lower magazine compartment, from the primary gun-house blast to follow, undoubtedly saved Lion, and her 1,300 man crew. This flash explosion in the gun-house well, caused a chain reaction amongst the exposed charges in the ammunition supply throughout the upper mounting. It also passed through the gas escape ducts, venting into the surrounding structure, cutting down damage repair, and medical parties in its searing path: The results of this were striking, as was noted on the Lutzow some 15,000 yards away. The violently exploding mass of incandescent cordite gases vented itself through the yawning gash in the blown away turret roof:
A flame higher than the flagship’s mast leaped up, burned a while and then died down.
The detonation of these eight full charges, had been so violent, that ‘Q’ magazine bulkheads had been seriously buckled. And a venting plate had actually admitted a sheet of flame to enter the sealed off magazine, but due to the previous rapid flooding no fatal explosion resulted. It was also of considerable importance that the eruption had been able to vent itself spectacularly through the opening in the turret roof, thereby dissipating and relieving the tremendous pressures within the mountings structure. Although the bodies of the unfortunate members of ‘Q’ mounting were terribly burnt, those caught in the path of the vented flash in the surrounding structure were not, as was noted by Lion’s gunnery officer after the action:
It is to be remarked that the clothes and bodies of these men were not burnt, and in the cases were the hands had been raised involuntarily, palms forward, to protect the eyes, the backs of the hands and that part of the face actually screened by the hands were not even discoloured. Death to these men must have been instantaneous.
There is now also the fate which befell the Indefatigable to consider. During the battle she had been engaging the Von der Tann, receiving a hit by a single 11 inch shell around 4pm but not with any serious damage inflicted. But at 4.03pm she was hit by two or three shells, out of a four round salvo fired at 16,000 yards. It was observed that these devices had appeared to pierce her un-armoured upper hull aft, in the region abreast ‘X’ turret. There was no immediate indication that this was a fatal blow, to those now watching her actions. But the wounded battle-cruiser staggering out of line to starboard, as the hands of the squadron changed course to port. An indication of her damage aft, possibly effecting her steering in its extent. Despite these hits, externally the smoke wreathed battle-cruiser appeared relatively undamaged to observers, who were now watching her move away from the line with some concern. Then she was hit again by the phenomenally accurate gunners of the Von der Tann.
She had been hit aft, apparently by the mainmast, and a good deal of smoke was coming from her superstructure aft, but there were no flames visible. We thought it was only her boom boats burning. We were altering course to port at the time, but her steering gear was damaged as she did not follow round in our wake, but held on until she was about 500 yards on out starboard quarter in full view from the conning tower. Then she was hit by two further shells, one on the forecastle and one on the fore turret. Both shells appeared to explode on impact. Then there was an interval of about 30 seconds, during which there was absolutely no sign of fire or flame or smoke, except the little actually formed by the burst of the two shells, which was not considerable. Then the ship completely blew up, commencing apparently from forward: The main explosion started with sheets of flame, followed immediately afterwards by a dense, dark smoke, which obscured the ship from view. All sorts of stuff was blown into the air, a 50 feet steam picket boat, for example, was blown up about 200 feet, apparently intact although upside down. (New Zealand)
The pertinent point here is in the perceived interval, between the hits forward, and the initial detonation, a period of some 30 seconds. If the forward magazine had been directly penetrated by one of these shells, then the effects would have been instantaneous. Therefore it is assumed that something along the lines of what happen on-board Lion’s ‘Q’ turret occurred. That is, the hit instigated a delayed chain reaction somewhere within the damaged ‘A’ mounting, eventually embracing the magazine below in its extent. Regrettably there was to be no action the equivalent of Major Harvey’s on-board the fated Indefatigable, to counter or check this cataclysmic event. A 20,000 tons battle-cruiser had gone, along with 57 officers and 960 men in a shattering instant, leaving just 2 of her company to be later picked-up later by a German torpedo-boat.
The sinking of the Invincible that evening was credited to the Lutzow and the Derfflinger, who both registered hits upon the British battle-cruiser at 9,000 yards. On the bridge of the trailing Indomitable, personnel witnessed a salvo hit the British 3BCS flagship at 6.42pm but apparently without causing serious damage. A minute later a salvo from the Derfflinger hit home amidships. Twenty-one year old Marine gunner Bryan Gasson, the range-finder in the Invincible’s ‘Q’ turret, was a very fortunate individual, who has left a valuable personal account of the Invincible’s last battle. He observed the Derfflinger’s salvo heading towards his turret, one shell of which penetrated the 7 inch face armour of the gun-house to detonate inside, over the guns blowing the roof off. All the marines manning this turret except Gasson were killed or seriously wounded. Commander Dannreuther, the Invincible’s gunnery officer stationed in the foretop, saw ‘Q’ turret hit, and its roof blown off and hurled over the side. Then there was a definite gap in which nothing was evident to indicate fatal damage. But within the shattered remains of ‘Q’ gun-house, the train of events leading to the ships eventual destruction had been instigated. As in Lion it now appears that flames ignited charges in ‘Q’ mountings cordite supply chain, but not in the 28 minute interval experienced by the flagship. The Invincible’s demise came more rapidly, well within a minute, duplicating more the end of the Indefatigable. A flash detonation of an charge caused by a fire or ember within the gun-house, passed down the 60 feet central ammunition hoist and into the main magazine amidships, feeding both ‘P’ and ‘Q’ mountings:
The force of the explosion seemed to lift the centre of the ship right out of the sea, and it was only a matter of thirty seconds before I found myself struggling in the water. I had barely time to realise there had been an explosion before the ship was gone. (Dannreuther, Invincible)
Rear-Admiral Hood, Flag Captain Cay, and 1,021 officer and men, were to be lost in this event, leaving a mere 6 survivors. One of these, Marine Gasson must be considered to be one of the luckiest men to survive that day, with his post in ‘Q’ turret, hit and the mounting the observed heart of the mighty final magazine detonation. His survival was miraculous:
I didn’t hear the explosion; I can’t remember it at all. It was too much for the mind to comprehend: The next thing I knew I was deep down in the water entangled in wreckage. Freeing myself I braced myself by standing to attention, so to speak, and surfaced in an air bubble. I saw the two ends sticking out of the water, and looked around for other people and to my surprise saw no one. (Gasson, Invincible)
The entire central section of the Invincible was blown away, rent asunder in a gigantic ball of crimson fire. This broke her back and her structure, funnels, bridge and tripod masts collapsed inwards, leaving the extreme stern and bow sections standing above the water:
Stuck out of the sea like half-tide rocks, grim and awful in their separation.
With these three telling examples of what had, and was to occur, to her kind during the flow of the battle, the fate of Queen Mary, and the events immediately leading up to her loss, will be investigated. At this time just after 4pm the passing of the Indefatigable was briefly noted by those on the ships ahead, by then fully engaged, as is evident by the Tiger’s gunnery officer, as the battle continued to rage on.
4.05pm Indefatigable blew up. We continued rapid fire. About 4.10pm I had the greatest difficulty in making sure of my target, as the enemy had a ship ahead of their line, probably a large light-cruiser, which was sometimes there and sometimes not, and was making volumes of smoke. For some minutes about now, we counted her as a battle-cruiser, and so engaged No.3 instead of No.4 of the enemy line. I thought we were doing well. The enemy fire slackened as far as we were concerned, but the smoke and gun-flashes of the enemy still made spotting difficult, and the decreased visibility had made the range-finder readings few and far between. (Tiger)
We altered a point to starboard, to south, to try to avoid the smoke, and for 10 minutes the range opened, until we were firing at ranges between 18,000 yards and 19,000 yards, or about 11 land miles. (from Princess Royal)
But despite this oft mentioned deteriorating visibility, during this phase of the exchange between the opposing lines, Queen Mary’s contribution was considerable. She was undoubtedly the best shooting British ship at that stage, with hits on the Seydlitz, and now since 3.58pm seemingly on-board the Derfflinger as well.
A mutual opening of the range occurred around 4.10pm. Both sides slackened their intense fire for a brief period, before again closing to decide the issue. A dominant factor in Beatty’s decision to now close upon Hipper, for what was thought to be the decisive phase, was the arrival on the scene of the 5BS, which had by cutting corners and advancing at full speed, caught up sufficiently to engaging the rear of the enemy line. At 4.12pm as noted on the Princess Royal, she had to actually check fire for a while until the turn back 20 degrees towards the enemy on to a south-sou-east course, enabled her to close the range sufficiently to again open fire. Witnessing at this time one of Queen Mary’s earlier successes:
When we had closed the enemy again slightly, to about 18,000 yards, it was pleasing to observe the third ship of their line (Midshipman Seydlitz) heavily on fire. (from Princess Royal)
The battle re-commenced with increased fervour, but with the clouds of billowing funnel smoke from these coal burning leviathans, continually dispatching salvoes, wreathing the disputed waters in cordite smoke, and increasing the background haze. It has been noted that around this time, the Moltke had the opportunity to unleash four torpedoes against the British line, and specifically a long range deflection shot against Queen Mary, from her bow and forward starboard tubes, but all ran wide. The deteriorating visibility conditions were by then also affecting the German gunnery observers, and spotters. To them the head of the closing British line was soon obscured, by columns of water from their near misses, and an impenetrable shroud of gunnery, and funnel smoke. Sufficient to now cause some confusion on-board the Derfflinger as to what ship she was supposed to engage.
At 4.17pm I again engaged the second battle-cruiser from the left. I was under the impression that it was the same ship that I had engaged before, the Princess Royal. Actually, however, it was Queen Mary, the third ship of the enemy line. This was due to the fact that, just as I was finding my target, Admiral Beatty’s flagship Lion, was obliged to fall out of the enemy line for a time, and owing to the heavy smoke covering the enemy line, could not be seen by us. (Von Hase, SMS Derfflinger)
This fierce exchange at the head of the line, which had temporarily obscured Lion from view, behind a blanket of smoke and spray. Had now brought about a significant re-distribution of enemy fire, and effectively sealed the fate of Queen Mary. Von Hase mistaking the discernible Princess Royal as the British flagship at the head of the line, now moved his fire onto what he thought was the second ship in the line, his designated target. But which was in actual fact the third ship in line Queen Mary, already heavily engaged by the Seydlitz. She was now to be hard pressed by this second battle-cruisers attention, as the range decreased, from around 16,000 yards to 14,500 yards.
From 4.17pm therefore, I was engaging Queen Mary. Certain difficulties in the fire control now occurred, as a result of the dense smoke from the guns and funnels, which continually blurred the lenses of the periscopes over the deck of the fore-control, making it almost impossible to see anything. When this occurred I was entirely dependent on the observations of the spotting officer in the foretop, Lieutenant-Commander von Stosch. This excellent officer observed and reported the fall of shot with astonishing coolness, and by his admirable observation, on the correctness of which I had to rely absolutely, he contributed very considerably to the success of our gunfire. At this stage of the battle, when the enemy had got our range better, it frequently occurred that these waterspouts broke over the ship, swamping everything, but at the same time putting out any fires. The first hit (splinter or Fragment) that I observed struck us just over the casement. It first pierced a door with a round glass window, behind which an excellent petty officer, Boatswain’s Mate Lorenzen, had taken shelter to watch the battle. His curiosity was severely punished; the shot severing his head clean from his body. (Von Hase, SMS Derfflinger)
While on-board the New Zealand the effects of the German bombardment was observed as:
Their shots also fell short and went ricocheting overhead, some with a whiz sound, as a recorder in the director tower noted, or others with a sharp crashing sound, whilst splinters seemed to creak through the air, and we heard several small splinters strike the outside of the tower.
Despite this concentration of fire, from the Seydlitz and Derfflinger directed at her, Queen Mary’s concentrated salvoes constantly straddled her target, drenching the enemy’s control periscopes with their columns of obscuring spray.
In this phase of the battle, when from time to time the columns of water raised by the enemy broke over the ship and the smoke continually drove down onto the lenses, he (Midshipman Bartel) had to clean them after nearly every shot. At last, however, the mops became too dirty, and I was reluctantly forced to send a man frequently on to the roof of the fore-control to keep the lenses clean. In this exposed position he was unprotected from the enemy fire. This duty was carried out for the most part by my messenger from the gunnery department, Artificer Meyer, who, throughout the battle, remained on the forebridge near the fore-control, until at last fate over-took him and a splinter smashed his leg below the knee. Queen Mary was firing less rapidly than we, but usually full salvoes. As she had an armament of eight 13.5 inch guns this meant that she was mostly firing eight of these powerful ‘coffers’, as the Russians called the heaviest guns during the Russo-Japanese war, against us at the same time. I could see the shells coming and I had to admit that the enemy were shooting superbly. As a rule all eight shots fell together. But they were almost always over or short, only twice did the Derfflinger come under this infernal hail, and each time only one heavy shell hit her. (Von Hase, SMS Derfflinger)
Here lies a quandary, whereas the hits Queen Mary achieved upon the Seydlitz can be reasonably accurately assessed, from a number of different sources, as four effective ones amongst her closely grouped salvoes, her hits upon the Derfflinger cannot be so exactly appraised. Certainly her closely straddling salvoes produced Fragments and splinters which swept the German ship, as is evident in the fates of crewmen Lorenzen and Meyer. But the authoritative ‘Warship Special: Battle-cruisers’, from Conway, states that the Derfflinger was not hit during this phase of the battle. Although as mentioned above, Von Haze comments upon two direct 13.5 inch hits in his authoritative account.
The same confusion can also be said of the actual number of direct hits and potent near misses that Queen Mary actually received. A fair estimate can be gauged in the early stages of the action, with the above Conway publication crediting the Seydlitz with achieving 4 hits, and the Derfflinger 3 hits. But in the later three sided exchange the issue becomes rather unclear, but an investigation of this will be attempted.
Although no specific time has been recorded, early in the battle one of the first rapid four gun salvoes, dispatched very possibly by the Seydlitz, straddled and hit Queen Mary. As was perceived by Francis aft in his armoured gun-house, along with the fate of one of her first casualties in a very personal manner.
Up until now I had not noticed any noise, such as being struck by a shell, but soon afterwards there was a heavy blow struck, I should imagine, in the after 4 inch battery, and a lot of dust and pieces were flying around on top of ‘X’ turret. My attention was called by the turret trainer, Able Seaman Long, who reported the front glass of his periscope blocked up. This was not very important, because we were in director training, but someone in rear heard him report his glass foul, and without orders dashed on top and cleared it. He must have been smashed as he did it, for he fell in front of the periscope, groaning, and then apparently fell off the turret. I wish I knew his name, poor chap, but it’s no use guessing. (Petty Officer Francis)
It is inconceivable that this individual was a member of the fully occupied gun-house crew, who were all closely known to Francis. Who this casualty from possibly the rear cabinet was is unclear.
After we had fired about ten rounds per gun, a German salvo hit the quarterdeck, setting it on fore. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - B)
A salvo of German shells hit the quarterdeck, setting the whole of that part on fire. (Deardon)
Does this reference to the quarter deck actually imply a hit on the area near ‘X’ mounting, or as more likely from other accounts, this was on the aft superstructure, from where some flaming debris might have rained down on the surrounding quarter deck. Or were there indeed two hits received aft at this time.
Some five minutes before the end, Queen Mary was again straddled, receiving a hit on her amidships mounting, credited to the Derfflinger, but this could also possibly have been from the Seydlitz. Which although it did not penetrate the gun-house armour, did inflict serious internal damage through the concussion of its tremendous impact.
Everything went beautifully till 4.21pm when ‘Q’ turret was hit by a big shell and the right gun put out of action. (Midshipman Storey - C)
In the opening 38 minutes of battle, Queen Mary is thought to have expended some one hundred and fifty 13.5 inch rounds, and made four definite hits upon the Seydlitz, and an unspecified number upon the Derfflinger. In return, she had certainly received three, and possibly four direct hits, compounded by numerous near misses. Two of these which struck home can be identified as hits in the area of the after 4 inch battery, wrecking this lightly armoured area. With a third the aforementioned hit of ‘Q’ turret amidships, not defeating its armour but causing some impact damage, with possibly a fourth in this central area as well.
The hits on the after superstructure, and the 4 inch secondary battery located there, in a region which housed Queen Mary’s boats in its well. Was noted from the Seydlitz, to have raised a serious fire. Fed presumably from the splintered boats, decking and surrounding flammable material, along with the pulsing effect of detonating 4 inch ready use ammunition, clearly discernible in its glare.
Despite this accumulation of damage, it was obvious to Francis that the gunnery exchange was a two-sided one. Through overheard messages, and his own observations from his post, he noted the earlier success against the Seydlitz, detected the shift right onto the Derfflinger, and now the apparent damage in the enemy line through his limited observations.
Another shock (the hit/s amidships, auth) was felt shortly after this, but did not affect the turret, so no notice was taken. The transmitting station reported that the third ship (Midshipman Seydlitz) was dropping out. First blood to Queen Mary. The shout they gave was good to hear. I could not resist taking a quick look at her at their request, and I saw the third ship of their line was going down by the bows. I felt the turret training a bit faster that she had been, and surmised we must have shifted on to the forth ship of the line (actually the second) being in director firing no orders were required for training. I looked again, and the third ship of the line was gone. I turned to the spare gun-layer, Petty Officer Killick, who was recording the number of rounds fired, and asked him how many rounds the left gun had fired, and he said thirty something odd figures. I did not catch the exact number. A few more rounds were fired, and I took another look through my periscope, and there was quite a fair distance between the second ship, and what I believe was the fourth ship, due I think, to the third ship going under. Flames were belching up from what I believe to be the fourth ship of the line. (Petty Officer Francis)
Unfortunately for Queen Mary, the Derfflinger and Seydlitz were still very much in action. Bracketing her in a forest of tall columns of tormented exploding water. Splinters and Fragments from these near misses, along with direct hits aft and amidships, were cutting through her exposed positions, killing and wounding personnel. It is summarised that Commander Blane fell at his action post, in the after control during this phase. On both sides, as the range decreased, the battle-cruisers rapid firing secondary armaments began to be employed to effect as well, turning the zone between the lines into a turmoil of exploding waterspouts, as the 4 inch, 6 inch, and 5.9 inch shells added their contribution to the overwhelming barrage. Endeavoured to dispatch any observed light-craft, before they launched their torpedoes against them, and even engage their opposite numbers as the range decreased further. While all the time the main armament lashed out.
Lieutenant-Commander von Stosch reported the exact fall of each shot with deadly accuracy. Straddling! Two hits. Straddling! The whole salvo in the ship. I was trying to get in two salvoes to the enemy’s one. Several times I was unable to attain this, as for full salvoes the enemy was firing with fabulous rapidity. I observed that the gunnery officer of Queen Mary was firing the guns himself with central fire-control, using the famous Percy Scott ‘firing-director’, for all the guns fired, and the shots fell absolutely simultaneously. The English gunnery officer was probably stationed in the foretop, were he was above the smoke, and firing the guns electrically from there. (Von Hase, SMS Derfflinger)
Llewelyn’s experienced team was obviously performing magnificently under this trial, one which they had so long desired and practised for. While in ‘A’ turret forward one can now only wonder at the feelings of Major Rooney at this moment, with his ‘gingered-up’ Marine crew replying with consummate skill. The culmination of their numerous practice shoot, trials and exercises over the past twenty months of war under his leadership.
We had been in action for nearly half an hour and my two guns had fired nearly fifty rounds. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - A)
And so Queen Mary and the Derfflinger fought out a regular gunnery duel over the destroyer action that was raging between us. But the poor Queen Mary was having a bad time. In addition to the Derfflinger she was being engaged by the Seydlitz, and the gunnery officer of the Seydlitz, Lieutenant-Commander Foerster, was our crack gunnery expert, tried in all the previous engagements in which the ship had taken part, cool-headed and of quick decision. The good functioning of our hit-indicator prevented any danger of Lieutenant-Commander von Stosch or myself ever confusing our own shots with those from the Seydlitz’s 28cm (11 inch) guns. (Von Hase, SMS Derfflinger)
Further hits were about to be received, with the arrival of more salvoes from the Derfflinger, Seydlitz duo, which were certainly witnessed, but too numerous and intense all to be counted accurately. But some of the accounts included here can be used as a gauge of their telling impact. During the last four minutes of Queen Mary’s life, the Derfflinger’s salvoes began to hit home, through this excellent gunnery observations and corrections of the German ship’s team ably supported by the Seydlitz. With an angle of training of between 51 to 52 degrees of the bows, and as the range slowly reducing from 14,000 metres to 13,200 metres, in these four minutes, no less than ten four gun salvoes were dispatched by Von Hase.
Attributed to an individual in the conning tower, and a gun-layer on-board the Tiger, are graphic accounts of this onslaught. And an indication of the dreadful sounds of this intense bombardments effects against her squadron sister just ahead.
Queen Mary was next ahead of us, and I remember watching her for a little and I saw one salvo straddle her. Three shells out of four hit, and the impression one got of seeing the splinters fly and the dull red burst was as if no damage was being done, but that the armour was keeping the shell out. (Tiger, conning tower)
The German squadron again came ahead, their guns being concentrated on Queen Mary. They had been poking about for the range-for some minutes without effect, when suddenly a most remarkable thing happened. Every shell that the Germans threw seemed suddenly to strike the battle-cruiser at once. It was as if a whirlwind was smashing a forest down, and reminded me very much of the rending that is heard when a big vessel is launched and the stays are being smashed. (Tiger)
Queen Mary, engaging these two powerful German adversaries, had performed superbly well under their concentration. Still replying with effect from her seven remaining guns. But under this crippling compression of fire, the eventual conclusion could never have been in doubt. Von Hase, and the acknowledged crack gunner Foerster, were now engaged in a telling duel to the death with Llewelyn.
In the Derfflinger’s gunnery log covering this period, a number of these four gun salvoes were noted for their success in landing near, or actually hitting Queen Mary. With those dispatched at 4hr 22min 40sec pm at 13,900 metres, landing with two observed shells splashes short, and the other pair over, a straddle. With that from 4.23.45pm at 13,700 metres also a straddle with one shell observed short. The 4.24.20pm at 13,500 metres salvo, earned the noted remark ‘good, rapid’ in the log, obviously another well placed fall of shot, which caused von Hase to now dispatch a salvo every 20 seconds against Queen Mary, until the final telling 4.25.50pm one at 13,000 metres.
Suddenly at around 4.26pm after this salvoes flight of some 16 seconds, she was straddled, and presumed to have been hit by at least two shells from the Derfflinger. The first of these is reputed to have struck her forward, in the region of ‘A’ and ‘B’ mountings. Here it appeared to penetrate this areas medium hull and deck armour. Detonating inside the ships structure, with the vented external presence of its internal blast. The second shell was observed to have struck amidships, on or near the already damaged ‘Q’ turret, now effectively putting that mounting out of action. However it was to be the hit forward, which was to prove immediately telling, with the second one amidships just the Coup de Grace.
Dispatched from the distance encountered at this time, an AP shell would have had a decent angle of some 12 degrees. Sufficient to allow it to avoid the main stakes of hull armour forward, defeat the deck plates, and finally expend itself against the reduced weights of armour granted to the lower barbettes of ‘A’ and ‘B’ mountings. Which even if not directly defeated, might have been compromised enough to allow for the entrance of just a portion of the shell, dislodged section of plate, or splinters, accompanied by the venting of the withering flame of the explosion into the lower turret structure. Adequate to damage equipment and neutralise safety devices, start fires within, and incapacitate the crew. All through its fiery blast, concussion, and scatter of deadly Fragments.
Such an occurrence led in a very short space of time to the detonation of at least one cordite charge in the supply train, extending from gun-house to magazine, instigating a sympathetic chain reaction. As neighbouring cordite filled silk bags, with their exposed black powder detonating pads were embraced in this primary combustible flash. Without time for any surviving personnel to act, to prevent its path of destruction to the magazine below. Through the closing of hatches and ports, or flooding the lower compartments, as had fortunately been the case in Lion’s ‘Q’ mounting.
There was a perceptibly short span of time after this hit, as the chain of cordite detonations within one of the two superimposed mountings forward raged, before it embraced a magazine. A mighty follow-up explosion renting asunder the area of ‘A’ and ‘B’ turret now occurred, sending Major Rooney and his men to oblivion in one searing instant, as both magazines now sympathetically detonated, setting off the neighbouring 4 inch magazine as well.
All seemed to be going well with us, when suddenly I saw a salvo hit Queen Mary on her port side. A small cloud of what looked like coal dust came out from where she was hit, but nothing more until several moments later, when a terrific yellow flame with a heavy and very dense mass of black smoke showed ahead, and Queen Mary herself was no longer visible. (New Zealand)
About 4.26pm was the historic moment when Queen Mary, the proudest ship of the English fleet, met her doom. Since 4.24pm every one of our salvoes had straddled the enemy. When the salvo fired at 4.26.10pm fell, heavy explosions had already began in Queen Mary. (Von Hase, SMS Derfflinger)
At 4.26pm I felt a concussion ahead, and looking forward saw an enormous sheet of flame and a cloud of black smoke, Queen Mary had blown up. (Tiger)
Following this initial tremendous blow forward, there was now a frozen moment in time for those in ‘Q’ and ‘X’ mountings aft, sufficient for their crews to perceive distinct impressions and sensations of the cataclysmic event which was overtaking them. Although the fatal extent of the damage their ship might have been suspected, it was not openly voiced. As they watched their relevant gauges and instruments, before power and pressure failed, as these vital lines were ruptured and severed, due to the massive shock and concussion produced by this detonation forward.
After 4.21pm we continued firing with the left gun for two or three minutes, and then a most awful explosion took place which broke the ship in half by the foremast, it was I believe a torpedo into one of the fore-turret magazines. When the explosion took place our left gun broke off outside the turret, and the rear end fell into the working chamber. The right gun also slid down. (Midshipman Storey - C)
At 4.26pm there was a terrific explosion close by. I thought that the turret had received a direct hit, as it gave a sudden lurch and actually seemed to have been knocked off its roller-path, anyhow, I could feel the lurch was not due to any natural movement of the ship herself. All our machinery had at once been put out of action, as the hydraulic pressure had immediately and completely failed. To make matters worse, the electric light had gone out and we were in almost complete darkness. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - A)
Nothing else happened till 4.20pm when there was a terrific explosion in the fore part of the vessel. I asked the working chamber if they had anything to report. They answered all pressure had failed. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - C)
Then came the big explosion, which shook us a bit, and on looking at the pressure gauge I saw the pressure had failed. (Petty Officer Francis)
The structure of the ship forward was completely devastated in this combined explosion of these two main, and one secondary magazines, and conceivably a component of her torpedo outfit. While not breaking her back, effectively destroyed ‘A’ and ‘B’ mountings. Along with the conning tower, bridge, and embracing the forward boiler rooms in its devastation:
The foretop was knocked right off and fell into the sea at some distance. (Chaplain Bradley, New Zealand)
The destructive pressure of around 230 pound per square inch, contained in these boilers, might have contributed greatly to the holocaust forward, if they were breached, as can be expected with their proximity to the nucleus of the initial explosion. The compartments for these pressurised vessels, extended from a bulkhead aft of ‘B’ magazine, to the forward bulkhead of ‘Q’ magazine amidships. In a clear path of ruin to this second massive storage of cordite, that was to now instigate a second shattering eruption, this time in Queen Mary’s waist, a blast that was to spare few in its embrace.
In discovering at first hand exactly what happened in this mounting amidships, only one source is available, through the noted recollections of Midshipman Storey in his three accounts. Which all merge together into a series of views, impressions, and memories about a shattering personal event. Of some interest in the comment about the early absence of the officer of the turret, possibly injured in the initial rush to man the mounting. And the revelations about severe damage and cordite fires within the mounting.
For the first 30 minutes we had no OOT (Officer of the Turret ?). As he had hurt himself and only turned up ten minutes before the end: At 4.53pm we opened fire and were going splendidly on the third ship in their line. At about 4.20pm a heavy shell hit our turret and put the right gun out of action, but killed nobody. Three minutes later an awful explosion took place which smashed up our turret completely. The left gun broke in half and fell into the working chamber, and the right one came right back. A cordite fire got going and a lot of the fittings got loose and killed a lot of people. Those of us who were left got open the cabinet door and we got into the silent cabinet. Of course the lights all went out, main and secondary. I managed to get my pad over my face and those of us still alive got out on top of the turret, only to find the foremost portion of the ship blown off and to bits, and the after part rapidly sinking. We got close to the water and I had got off my coat and one shoe when the after magazine went up and blew us into the water. When I came up the ship was gone and there were very few swimming in the water. (Midshipman Storey - A)
The officer of the turret told me that the ship was sinking rapidly and I was to get the turret crew out as quickly as possible, which I did. The officer then told me to carry out the usual routine, ‘every man for himself’. I left the turret through the hatch on the top and found the ship was lying on her side. She was broken amidships, with the stern and bows both sticking out of the water at an acute angle. I sat on the turret for a few moments, and while there I thought I saw several men fall into the water. The stern was on fire and red hot. Then an explosion blew the whole bow right out of the water, causing the after part of the ship to give a tremendous lurch, and throwing me off the turret into the water. (Midshipman Storey - B)
The turret was filled with flying metal, and several men were killed. A lot of cordite caught fire below me and blazed up, and several people were gassed. The men left and myself got to the ladder leading out of the turret and climbed quickly out. There was no panic or shouting at all, the men were splendid heroes. Just as I got out the turret and climbed over the funnels and masts which were lying beside the turret, and had got off my coat and one shoe, another awful explosion occurred, blowing me into the water and the remaining part of the ship, the after part, ‘X’ turret magazine going off. (Midshipman Storey - C)
A secondary confirmation source of this very fortunate individuals narratives above, derived from an unsigned published account is also revealing, indicating how he was finally and violently blown clear of the ship:
A midshipman in an after-turret stated that he felt the tremendous shock, and both the enormous 50 tons guns appeared to stand on end and sink breech first into the ship. How he got out of the turret seems doubtful, but he found himself standing on the after-funnel, now lying flat upon the deck. Realising that it was a case for swimming, he took of his coat, and was stooping down to unlace his boots when there came a second explosion. He does not remember going up, but only the sensation of falling, falling, falling that is known so well in dreams. It ended in a splash as he arrived in the embrace of the North Sea.
These accounts from the waist of the ship jump ahead somewhat. In chronological order there was indeed a perceptibly brief pause, between the detonation of ‘A’ and ‘B’ magazines well forward, and that of ‘Q’ magazine amidships, before the inevitable end during which a shocked crew in ‘X’ had time to collect their shattered thoughts, as the battle lanterns cast their limited glow within the armoured-confines of the gun-house. Then occurred the second mighty explosion.
After that (first explosion) came what I term the big smash (second explosion), and I was dangling in the air on a bowline, which saved me from being thrown down on to the floor of the turret. These bowlines were an idea I had brought into the turret, and each man in the gun-house was supplied with one, and as far as I noticed, the men who had them on were not injured in the big smash. Nos.2 and 3 of the left gun slipped down under the gun, and the gun appeared to me to have fallen through its trunnions and smashed up these two numbers. (Petty Officer Francis)
A few minutes afterwards, a terrific explosion occurred in the second magazine. Both our guns were then right back on their slides and out of action. The general opinion was that the whole turret had been unseated by the German salvo. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - B)
This clearly describes the devastation within ‘X’ turrets darkened interior, through the enormous follow-up concussion of ‘Q’ magazine detonating just forward: With one of the mighty 76t guns being fully unseated, and falling into the well below, with tragic results for two crewmen. Interestingly enough, at this point as observed from the Tiger, there is a precise and descriptive narrative, diverging from the generally accepted accounts involving the forward then the amidships magazines. From this witness, the initial explosion emerged amidships, and was followed by further observed detonations forward.
The next salvo I saw straddled her, and two more shells hit her. As they hit I saw a dull red glow amidships, and then the ship seemed to open out like a puffball, or one of these toadstool things when one squeezes it. Then there was another dull red glow somewhere forward, and the whole ship seemed to collapse inwards. The funnels and masts fell into the middle, and the hull was blown outwards. The roofs of the turrets were blown 100 feet high, then everything was smoke. (Tiger, conning tower)
Perhaps the exact sequence of this shattering event, upon this particular observer had become confused by the time he had put pen to paper after the battle. Von Hase however has clearly recorded his impression, of three distinct detonations taking place. Renting asunder Queen Mary, in what is generally regarded as the accepted sequence. Of a fatal hit forward setting of ‘A’ and ‘B’ magazines, then ‘Q’ amidships, followed later by ‘X’.
First of all a vivid red flame shot up from her forepart. Then came an explosion forward which was followed by a much heavier explosion amidships, black debris of the ship flew into the air, and immediately afterwards the whole ship blew up with a terrific roar. (Von Hase, SMS Derfflinger)
But before this final explosion aft we must look back at the experiences of the crew in ‘X’ turret. Now incarcerated within their severely damaged, heavily armoured-chamber. After the big explosions forward, and amidships, everyone in the mounting must have known that situation was beyond hope, and that the ship was lost. But by all accounts, order and discipline still reigned within Lieutenant Ewart’s wrecked command: Who was by then very possibly, the most senior surviving officer left on-board the rapidly settling remains of the once proud battle-cruiser.
Everything in the ship went quiet as a church, the floor of the turret was bulged up, and the guns were absolutely useless. I must mention here that there was not a sign of excitement. One man turned to me and said, ‘What do you think has happened’. I said ‘Steady everyone, I will speak to Mr. Ewart’. I went back to the cabinet and said, ‘What do you think has happened sir’. He said, ‘God only knows’. ‘Well sir’, I said, ‘Its no use keeping them all down here, why not send them up round the 4 inch guns, and give them a chance to fight it out. As soon as the Germans find we are out of action they will concentrate on us, and we shall all be going sky high’. He said, ‘Yes, good idea. Just see whether the 4 inch guns aft are still standing’. I put my head up through the hole in the roof of the turret, and I nearly fell back through again. The after 4 inch battery was smashed right out of all recognition, and then I noticed the ship had an awful list to port. I dropped back inside the turret and told Lieutenant Ewart the state of affairs. He said, ‘Francis, we can do no more than give them a chance, clear the turret’. ‘Clear the turret’, I called out, and out they all went. (Petty Officer Francis)
By contrast with the noise that had preceded it the silence that filled the turret was ominous and uncanny. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - A)
This witnessed total destruction of the after superstructure, can be attributed to an accumulation of severe damage. Extending back to the potent shell hits received earlier. These had not only destroyed a fair portion of this light un-armoured structure, but had instigated the aforementioned serious fire, amongst the ships boats, and 4 inch ready use ammunition stowed there as well. Which must have greatly contributed to the devastation here, effectively gutting the area. Indeed as the ‘X’ 13.5 inch guns had been trained around to near the port quarterdeck screen, the blast from their discharges must have disturbed this ‘damaged’ area. But needless to say the searing and sweeping blast from the unmerciful explosions forward, and then amidships, would have been the principal factors in the utter devastation witnessed here, finally stripping and shearing away what remained of the funnels, masts and aft superstructure. Forcing the remains into an unrecognisable mass of twisted, blackened steel and burning splintered wood.
However, one passing witness at least has spoken of the remains of the aftermost funnel still standing. But if this was the case, by then this must have been a barely recognisable structure. Overall it was a scene of utter devastation that had confronted Francis as he gazed forward out of the gun-house roof’s manhole. It now seemed as if Ewart required confirmation of this scene, by dispatching two others to appraise the grim spectacle. From which he came to the inevitable conclusion, that the ship was now indeed irretrievably lost, and those that could be saved, must clear the turret immediately.
There was a terrific explosion forward and I was sent out on the top of our turret to see what was happening, and had to put on a lung respirator owing to clouds of smoke and fire. I could see nothing for a minute and then all cleared away as the foremost part of the ship went under water. I then told the officer of the turret that the ship was sinking rapidly and so as many as possible were got out of the turret. (Deardon)
It was clearly impossible for me to do anything further in the gun-house, and I went into the control cabinet to ask for instructions. Lieutenant Ewart told me to find out if possible what had happened and then to report to him. I accordingly climbed halfway through the hatch in the roof of the turret. An appalling scene greeted my eyes. I could see neither funnels nor masts. A huge column of black and yellow smoke shot with flame hung like a funeral pall over the forepart of the ship, casting a lurid glow over the scene. The masts and funnels had fallen inwards, but fortunately the ship had remained on an even keel. A rapid glance showed me that Queen Mary had been heavily hit, and I climbed down into the turret and told Lieutenant Ewart that she was on fire. He ordered me to clear the gun-house as quickly as possible, and I sent all the men I could see up on deck. The petty officer in the working-chamber below the gun-house asked me through the voice pipe what had happened and I ordered him to send his men up on deck as quickly as possible. This order could never have been carried out, for soon after it had been given the ship began to heel slowly over to port, and the men below, with no chance of escaping, must have been drowned. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - A)
Both guns being out of action, I reported to the officer of the turret, Lieutenant Ewart. He told me that the ship was going down, and would probably sink in a few minutes. I asked him for orders, and he told me to send up the gun-house crew on deck, which I did. After all the men had gone out of the turret I went up myself and found the ship lying on her side. She was broken amidships, her bows were sticking up in the air, and the stern was also sticking out at an angle of about 45 degrees from the water. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - C)
The officer of the turret told me that the ship was sinking rapidly and that I was to get the turret crew out as quickly as possible, which I did. The officer then told me to carry out the usual routine, ‘Every man for himself’. I left the turret through the hatch on the top and found the ship was lying on her side. She was broken amidships, with the stern and bows both sticking out of the water at an acute angle. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - B)
Obviously Lloyd-Owen afterwards could not recollect accurately if he had been ordered to investigate, or if he observed the scene upon escaping, quite understandable confusion in the grim circumstances. On the settling, listing remains of Queen Mary’s stern, the orderly clearing-out, of all those who could still evacuate the mounting, was then undertaken.
‘Clear the turret I said’, and out they went Petty Officer Stares was the last I saw coming up from the working chamber, and I asked whether he had passed the order to the magazine and shell room, and he told me it was no use, as the water was right up the trunk leading from the shell room, so the bottom of the ship must have been out of her. Then I said, ‘Why didn’t you come up?’. He simply said, ‘There was no order to leave the turret’. (Petty Officer Francis)
This paragraph clearly holds some interesting points. The first involving a conflict of accounts between Francis and Lloyd-Owen, concern the passing of a direct order to evacuate the lower levels of the mounting. There also appears in Petty Officer Stares comments, an assessment of the extent of the hull damage and extensive flooding below. With this in mind, it is very likely that the men in the shell and magazine rooms were by then already dead. Stares himself was not to be later numbered amongst the survivors.
The evacuation of ‘X’ turret was now obviously a matter of some urgency, given the reported extent of the flooding in the trunk below, as well as the growing list to port, and bows down attitude of the ship. The tilting wrecked Queen Mary, with her forward structure devastated, and her central section rent asunder, rapidly settled by the bows. And as recent underwater investigation has revealed, she had neither broken her back, or had her forward section blow off, her hull structure although devastated and tortured, was still its 700 feet length: So as her stern rose majestically with her four propellers still slowly revolving, her stem hit the 150 feet deep bottom with this plunge. Holding her from increasing this bows down angle, but not the list, as she began to pivot on her imbedded bows. Irredeemably continuing her capsizing to port. It was now obviously time for Francis to leave.
I went through the cabinet and out through the top and Lieutenant Ewart was following me, suddenly he stopped and went back into the turret, I believe he went back because he thought there was someone left inside. I cannot say enough for Lieutenant Ewart, nothing I can say would do him justice. He came out of the turret cabinet twice and yelled something to encourage the guns crew, and yelled out to me ‘All right Francis’. He was grand, and I would like to publish this account to the world. It makes me feel sore hearted when I think of Lieutenant Ewart and that fine crowd who were with me in the turret. I was halfway down the ladder at the back of the turret when Lieutenant Ewart went back; the ship had an awful list to port by this time, so much so that men getting off the ladder went sliding down to port. I got on to the bottom rung of the ladder, but could not by my own efforts reach the stanchions lying on the deck from the starboard side. I knew if I let go that I should go sliding down to port like some of the others must have done, and probably get smashed up sliding down. Two of my turret’s crew, seeing my difficulty, came to my assistance, they were Able Seaman Long, turret trainer, and Able Seaman Lane, No.4 of the left gun. Lane held Long at full stretch from the ship’s side, and I dropped from the ladder, caught Long’s legs, and so gained the starboard side. These two men had no thought for their own safety, they saw I wanted assistance, and that was good enough for them. They were both worth a VC twice over. When I got to the ship’s side there seemed to be quite a fair crowd, and they did not appear to be very anxious to take to the water. I called out to them, ‘Come on, you chaps, who’s coming for a swim’. Someone answered, ‘She will float for a long time yet’. But something, I don’t pretend to understand what it was, seemed to be urging me to get away, so I clambered up over the slimy bilge keel and fell of into the water, followed, I should think, by about five other men. (Petty Officer Francis)
As Queen Mary listed further. He then walked down the inclined wall of the starboard side, avoiding the torpedo net on its shelve, the booms and their rigging, then finally the propeller shafts and brackets, of the now exposed lower hull. As others made their own escapes, with mentions of further explosions, and fires within the ship being noted:
The whole foc’sle was almost blown off and I immediately took off all my gear except my shirt and vest. As soon as in the water I swam clear and astern of the ship about 30 yards. (Deardon)
When all the gun-house crew had left the turret I returned to the control cabinet, and following them up the ladder, was about half-way out of the turret when the ship suddenly rolled right over on her port side, her stern high in the air. I then climbed on to the back of the turret, which in the ordinary way would have been vertical, but now had become horizontal, and saw several of my men slide down the deck and fall into the sea. Some of them struck the port rail and were probably killed before they even reached the water. As I stood on the back of the turret the stricken ship plunged deeper into the sea. To prevent myself from being sucked down with her I jumped into the water, intending to swim clear of the vortex. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - A)
I was standing on the back of the turret which was practically level. The turret still being trained on the port fore most bearing. The vessel lying on her port side. I looked towards the stern and saw that it was very hot, and that all the plates had been blown away, nothing but the Frame work remaining. All around the men were falling off into the water. A few moments afterwards a tremendous explosion occurred in the fore part of the vessel, which must have blown the bows to atoms. The stern part gave a tremendous lurch, throwing me off into the water. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - C)
I sat on the turret for a few moments, and while there I thought I saw several men fall into the water. The stern was on fire and red hot. Then an explosion blew the whole bow right out of the water, causing the after part of the ship to give a tremendous lurch, and throw me off the turret into the water. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - B)
The edited second-hand account of the experiences of Stoker Arthur Bower Clark, renders another vital insight into personal survival against the staggering odds, of survival from positions below deck, one of just seven Stokers to be delivered from the interior of the ship.
He was one of the fire party on the starboard side. Many of the Stokers off duty were on the mess deck. The doors on the flats were open starboard side, that being away from the enemy. A shell came through the port side and burst on or near the mess deck. Water poured in and the ship began to list. They saw the water rushing in. Many of the men rushed forward and tried to get up the hatchway onto the cabin deck. But the hatch was battened down and they tried to force it with their heads. Clark and a carpenter hand made off to the starboard side. The ship after listing to port righted herself. They went right off to the quarterdeck hatchway. This was still open with the awning over it. The carpenter went up first but a second later his head came rolling down severed from his body. Clark ran up and stepped over the dead body, ran to the side and jumped overboard: He saw the air full of wreckage, and was hit on the leg whilst in the water.
As seen from different perspectives on-board her passing consorts, the entire sequence of events overtaking this rapidly floundering battle-cruiser, were recorded in detailed accounts. Capturing as they do her demise in telling fashion:
At about 4.35pm the stern of a ship projecting about 70 feet out of the water, with the propellers revolving slowly, drifted into the field of my glasses (in the gun control position), clouds of white paper were blowing out of the after-hatch, and on her stern I read Queen Mary. (New Zealand)
Then everything was smoke, and a bit of the stern was the only part of the ship left above water. The Tiger put her helm over hard a starboard, and we just cleared the remains of Queen Mary’s stern by a few feet. (Tiger)
The Tiger was steaming at 24 knots only 500 yards astern of Queen Mary, and hauled sharply out of the line to port and disappeared in this dense mass of smoke. We hauled out to starboard, and Tiger and ourselves passed one on each side of Queen Mary. We passed her about 50 yards on our port beam by which time the smoke had blown fairly clear, revealing the stern from the after funnel aft afloat, and the propellers still revolving, but the for’ard part had already gone under. The most noticeable thing was the masses and masses of paper which were blown into the air as this after portion exploded. (New Zealand)
Another witnesses, about two miles ahead of the BCF line of advance, on-board the flagship of the 2LCS, the Southampton, renders this distant account of the scene:
In the flickering of an eyelid, the beautiful Queen Mary was no more. A huge stem of grey smoke shot up to perhaps a thousand feet, swaying slightly at the base. The top of this stem of smoke expanded and rolled downwards. Flames rose and fell, in the stalk of this monstrous mushroom. The bows of a ship, a bridge, a mast, slid out of the smoke, perhaps after all Queen Mary was still there. No! it was the next astern, the Tiger. Incredible as it May sound, the Tiger passed right over the spot on which Queen Mary had been destroyed, and felt nothing. The time interval between her passage over the grave of Queen Mary and the destruction of the latter ship would be about 40 to 60 seconds. Just before the Tiger appeared, I saw some pieces of debris go whirling up a full 1,000 feet above the top of the smoke, it might have been the armour plates from the top of a turret. I remember that I found it impossible to realise that I had just seen 2,000 men, and many personal friends, killed; it seemed more like a wonderful cinematograph picture. (King-Hall, Southampton)
From time to time messages of varying import reached us from the upper deck. The loss of Queen Mary was marked by the filling of the engine room with dense clouds of smoke, as the Tiger steamed through the area where she had been. (Tiger)
The Tiger, which had all to recently been on station some 600 yards astern, rapidly closed with the settling Queen Mary, hauled sharply out to port, and steamed right into the thick bank of the awful pall of smoke then covering the area. Leaving her to pass close to her foundering sister, with falling Fragments of debris raining upon her decks in the darkness. Captain Pelly on-board the Tiger has stated that initially this smoke column had stood up like a solid wall before his ship. And as he entered this bank of smoke it seemed to drift northwards, exposing the stern of Queen Mary standing high out of the sea. The propellers still turning, with the water around her boiling fiercely. For to him the between decks appeared to be a mass of flames. He also relates how a skylight had been blown open aft, and up the hatch a great wind from below was whirling a column of papers high into the air. As the Tiger evidently drew alongside there came the final explosion aft, and shattered Fragments were thrown in all directions.
These mentions above of a great mass of papers, being witnessed at this time, before the third Major magazine explosion, is a very common one. With many observers making a special note of seeing vast quantities of official forms, and sheets of documents, whirling about in the smoke shrouded air. Which must have been explosively released from a suddenly ruptured air pocket formed in the ships’ offices, situated in the stern of the stricken ship. The Tiger’s executive officer, Commander E.R. Jones goes on to note his impressions of the final explosion in his diary:
The Tiger being astern of Queen Mary saw their accident closely and a horrible sight it was. First an enormous height of dull red flame, followed by a great mass of black smoke amongst which was the wreckage thrown in all directions. The blast was tremendous. We passed through the smoke and it was very unpleasant for the moment, however no effect to us seemed to result. (Tiger)
While from an un-named gun-layer on-board that same battle-cruiser passing to port of her stricken companion, concentrates upon the rapid settling, rather than any mention of explosions. Although his mention of witnessing a massive opening in her side, possibly caused by the explosion of ‘Q’ magazine amidships, could explain the rapid nature of her floundering:
Queen Mary seemed to role slowly to port, her masts and funnels gone, and with a huge hole in her side. She listed again, the hole disappeared beneath the water, which rushed into her and turned her completely over. A minute and a half, and all that could be seen of Queen Mary was her keel, and then that disappeared. (Tiger)
In every detail we could see officers and signalmen with others as the ship, already doing twentykts with the fore section blown forward, caused a higher bow wave than before only listing slightly to Port, then skidding round to starboard towards Dublin. We actually ported out helm to avoid her hitting us but it proved unnecessary; with increasing list she dived, her fore turret guns at full elevation hot with firing, giving off a loud hissing as they met the water. It was terrible to see those poor souls so near yet so far and being unable to help. (William Cave, Dublin)
I can appreciate that the above description might refer to the aft, not the fore part of the ship as she sank. I can fully appreciate and relate to the traumatic experience as perceived by William Cave as being a faithful and true account of what he thought he saw. But I believe the fore part, especially the bridge, to have already been destroyed. Nevertheless his graphic narrative renders a telling picture of human tragedy.
Another two perspectives, from the trailing ship in the British line, which had now come upon the scene. Graphically describe the striking image of the battle-cruisers death throws. The first as seen by the passing New Zealand’s navigating officer:
There was no sign of fire or of cordite flame, and men were crawling out of the top of the after turret and up the hatchway. When we were abreast and only about 150 yards away from her, this after portion rolled over and, as it did so, blew up. Great masses of iron were thrown into the air, and things were falling into the sea round us. There was still up in the air, I suppose at least 100 or 200 feet high, a boat which May have been a dinghy or a pinnace, still intact but upside down as I could see the thwarts. Before we had quite passed, Queen Mary completely disappeared. (New Zealand)
She passed us about 100 yards on our port beam and a moment later there was a blinding flash, a dull heavy roar, which ceased as suddenly as it began, followed by a few seconds’ silence, and then the patter of falling debris. (New Zealand)
The stern part exploded when abreast of the New Zealand and the stern broke in two pieces long ways. (Chaplain Bradley, New Zealand)
For those who had just managed to escape from the foundering vessel, this final detonation was obviously to be shattering, given their close proximity to its withering heart:
As I struck the sea I heard a heavy explosion above my head and felt myself being sucked down, when I came to the surface again, except for some small pieces of wreckage and a great quantity of oil, all trace of the gallant Queen Mary had disappeared. Another great battle-cruiser, the New Zealand, was passing close by me. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - A)
Just before I struck the water, I heard another terrific explosion above my head, as apparently the after magazine exploded. When I came to the surface of the water, nothing of Queen Mary was to be seen, except a lot of wreckage, spars, and that sort of thing. The Tiger was steaming behind us during the action, and probably passed right over the spot where Queen Mary had gone down. Queen Mary took only about a minute to sink. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - B)
Just before entering the water another explosion occurred, apparently just above my head. I sank a considerable distance, and on breaking the surface could see nothing of the ship. Only a great deal of wreckage and oil fuel floating on the surface. The Tiger which was next in line steamed in over the spot where Queen Mary had just sunk. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - C)
She suddenly blew up completely. I was luckily sucked under water and so all the wreckage chucked about did not come with its full weight on my head. I held my breath for a long time and at last came to the surface and started looking round for something to support me as much as possible. (Deardon)
Just before I struck the water, I heard another terrific explosion above my head, as apparently the after magazine exploded. When I came to the surface of the water, nothing of Queen Mary was to be seen, except a lot of wreckage, spars, and that sort of thing. The Tiger was steaming behind us during the action, and probably passed right over the spot were Queen Mary had gone down. Queen Mary took only a minute to sink. (Midshipman Storey - C)
Remaining part of the ship, the after part, blew up, X turret magazine going off. I was sucked down and down in the water, and swallowed pints, and a lot of oil, and gave up hope; but eventually got to the surface again, and got hold of a floating life belt. When I reached the surface there was nothing left of the ship, except some wreckage and a few heads bobbing in the water. (Midshipman Storey - B)
I struck away from the ship as hard as I could, and must have covered nearly 50 yards, when there was a big smash, and stopping and looking round the air seemed to be full of Fragments and flying pieces. A large piece seemed to be right above my head, and acting on an impulse I dipped under to avoid being struck, and stayed under as long as I could, and then came to the top again, when coming behind me I heard a rush of water, which looked very much like a surf breaking on a beach, and I realised it was the suction or back-wash from the ship which had just gone. I hardly had time to fill my lungs with air when it was on me, I felt it was no use struggling against it, so I let myself go for a moment or two, then I struck out, but I felt it was a losing game, and remarked to myself mentally, ‘What’s the use of you struggling, you’re done’, and actually eased my efforts to reach the top, when a small voice seemed to say, ‘Dig out’. (Petty Officer Francis)
Exactly what had happened aft is now impossible to explain in a definitive manner. Certainly while most on-board mention fires aft, there was no visible conflagration within the confines of ‘X’ gun-house, or working chamber. And as has already been stated, the lower levels of the mounting, embracing the shell-room and magazine, had been flooded before the explosion. Therefore why this violent final detonation in this region, well granted the factors which can be derived from the various accounts above, a plausible reason for this occurrence can now be arrive at. Centred on the earlier devastation wrought to the aft superstructure.
Paramount here is the emphasis that the area of the aft 4 inch secondary battery, and boat well, had been devastated and set on fire by a number of hits, which had been expanded by the fatal magazine explosions forward, and amidships. Certainly towards her end, an inferno instigated amongst the splintered wood, debris, and ranks of 4 inch ready-use ammunition, in that shattered structure, was raging forward of ‘X’ mounting. This was obvious and apparent, but how deep into the heart of the structure below, this conflagration had reached is however impossible to determine.
From a number of narratives, there certainly was a significant holocaust aft. Although a witness on the passing New Zealand, has remarked upon the lack of any visible fire. But from this perspective Queen Mary was capsizing to port. That is with her smashed and distressed superstructure, toppling away from this observer, effectively hiding any visible fire, with the smoke from her fires being blanketed and merged with her earlier magazine explosions.
Captain Pelly’s account, as seen from the more revealing prospect of the Tiger passing to port of Queen Mary. With the devastated upper works listing towards him, is quite emphatic about fires raging within the sinking battle-cruiser. It is pure speculation. But perhaps the effects of this fire, started in the aft superstructure, had been feed, and spread, by the exploding charges in the 4 inch ready-use lockers located here, detonating in the intense heat. Devastation penetrating to the decks immediately below, were another witness, has spoken of the plates glowing red, under the heat of the hidden fires deep within her bowels.
Could this inferno have been extended to encompass the still sealed and watertight region of the aft 4 inch magazine? Either through explosively breached bulkheads and decks, or flash defeated hatches. Were eventually it detonated its contents, and its effects embraced the adjoining 13.5 inch magazine for ‘X’ mounting, and its cordite charges in their sealed containers, despite the noted deluged nature of this area. Even considering the extensive flooding in this region, could this scenario account for the oft noted series of minor detonations, perceived by a number of witnesses, just before the final explosion? As these light 4 inch charges were ignited, before a combined sympathetic detonation of the secondary and main magazines aft. Which in light of what was perceived by some, is quite a reasonable explanation for what happened, despite this reputed submergence of certain compartments.
But getting away completely from the obvious and generally accepted source of these massive explosions, the massed charges of propellants within her magazines, and even the devastation that could have been wrought by her ruptured high pressure boilers. There is one other rather obscure possibility, a potential Major contributing factor that should be briefly raised, for both the initial explosion, and all the succeeding ones. This concerns her fuel medium, coal. A seemingly doubtful consideration into any account of this ships loss, but one which just might have played a significant part in the disaster. Impossible as it May seem today, this fossil fuel in bunkers, held a terrible potential for fatal destruction in its usage. Recent surveys, of the remains of two large ocean liners from that era, give rise to this candid theory. That coal, and in particular, the volatile nature of its billowing cloud of residual dust particles, contained within sealed bunkers, especially once disturbed and agitated, then suddenly exposed to a source of ignition. Gives rise to one novel consideration.
Evidence for such a fatal explosion can be seen in the Britannic. Serving as a hospital ship during the Great War, she had rapidly succumbed to a single mine in the Kea Channel, in Aegean. The renowned underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau dived upon this wreck in December 1975, summarised that the single mine which had struck her, undoubtedly caused a simultaneous explosion of coal dust in her bunkers. That had blown away a telling portion of her structure in the bows, causing her rapid loss. But perhaps the best example of a bunker explosion has to be that of the Lusitania. Which Robert Ballard explored in 1993. The conclusion of his in depth survey and research discovered conclusively, that the single torpedo she received instigated a massive secondary coal dust detonation. Ripping open a fatal underwater breach in her hull, which effectively caused her speedy demise.
Could a similar scenario have contributed to the loss of Queen Mary in some measure? Either through itself instigating the catastrophic chain of events by the hit forward igniting the dust in a forward bunker, setting of a neighbouring magazine. Or once began, was the dissemination of this ruin assisted by the progressive breaching, ignition, and series of bunkers deployed right along the ships side extending almost from ‘A’ to ‘X’ mounting in their extent.
But whatever the cause of any of these explosions, it effectively marked the end of the already lost Queen Mary. Casting a towering column of smoke and steam over the site of her sinking. An area were the few remaining survivors were now struggling for life, in the wreckage strewn, oil covered waters. Which appeared to Von Hase, looking upon the scene through his periscope, in an unforgettable image:
A gigantic cloud of smoke rose, the masts collapsed inwards, the smoke-cloud hid everything, and rose higher and higher. Finally nothing but a thick. Black cloud of smoke remained were the ship had been. At its base the smoke column only covered a small area, but it widened towards the summit and looked like a monstrous black pine. I estimate the height of the smoke column at from 300 to 400 metres. (Von Hase, SMS Derfflinger)
Queen Mary, our target as tactical number three, The spectacle was overwhelming, there was a moment of complete silence, then the calm voice of a gunnery observer announced ‘Queen Mary blowing up’, at once followed by the order ‘Shift target to the right’ given by the gunnery officer in the same matter of fact tone as at normal gunnery practice. (Kapitan zur See von Egidy, SMS Seydlitz)
On emerging from this all obscuring cloud of smoke, fumes and steam that was the funeral pyre of Queen Mary. The Tiger resumed her place in the now depleted line, as was recorded in her conning tower. To continue the action in Beatty’s ‘Run to the South’:
On coming out of the smoke of the explosion, we went on to full speed and got into station astern of the Princess Royal. I noticed about this time that the shooting of the Germans was getting steadily worse, and I put it down to their being badly hit by our squadrons, because we saw several fires on-board their ships, and one ship hauled out of line. (Tiger)
We steamed on into the cloud. It was pitch black; we could not fire, so I used the opportunity to ‘line up director’. Before this was finished we were clear of the smoke cloud, and got the order to shift target to the third battle-cruiser from the right (Midshipman Seydlitz again leaving the Derfflinger un-allocated), as we were now third ship in the line. (Gunnery Officer, Tiger)
All that was left of Queen Mary was a great mushroom shaped cloud of smoke about 600 feet to 800 feet high, which temporarily obscured our view of the enemy, but a few seconds later we drew clear, re-sighted the enemy, and opened fire again (against the Moltke). (New Zealand)
The battle was obviously far from over. For Von Hase in the victorious Derfflinger, was now to record, how the obscuring banks of spray and smoke, which had hidden the head of the British line. And which had directly led to his concentration upon Queen Mary, now suddenly cleared.
Scarcely had Queen Mary disappeared in the cloud of smoke when I began to find a new target with my periscope. I veered the periscope to the left and saw to my astonishment that there were still two battle-cruisers there. It was not until this moment that I realised that hitherto I had been engaging the third ship in the line. Lion, then, had meanwhile taken station again at the head of the enemy line. Our target was once more the Princess Royal. (Von Hase, SMS Derfflinger)
However, the high moral of the BCF in the face of this second disaster was unchecked. As has been noted by the navigating officer on-board the New Zealand, which had now been a close witness to the sudden demise of her two companions.
This second disaster was rather stunning, but the only sign from the flagship was a signal. ‘Battle-cruisers alter course two points to port’, i.e. towards the enemy. The spirits of our men were splendid. In spite of the fact that they had all plainly seen Queen Mary blow up, the idea of defeat did not seem to enter their heads. (New Zealand)
Beatty’s four remaining battle-cruisers, and four super-dreadnoughts, continued to engage Hipper’s five capital ships. Which were in spite of their pounding, now achieved their principal German aim. Of drawing a detached British force inexorably to the south, onto the might of Sheer’s BF. The ebb and flow of battle would again sweep over the waters of Queen Mary’s demise shortly afterwards. As Beatty in turn lured the HSF north, onto the massed might of Jellicoe’s GF, in the ‘Run to the North’ phase of the battle. Further ships would be just as suddenly lost, others would succumb later to their wounds, and the epic duel of the dreadnoughts wound run to its seemingly inconclusive close during the early hours of the following morning.
But for the fortunate small band of midshipmen, Francis, and their all too few fellow survivors, now cast adrift into the cold inhospitable waters of the North Sea. The greater issues of the battle were now secondary; their very survival came first. This involvement with Jutland will now concentrate upon this small band of individuals, with their future looking bleak in the extreme, as the squadron passed them by heading to the south: Leaving their only hope of salvation, resting in the chance of being seen, and picked up by the screening destroyers. Here now enters two indispensable light-craft in Queen Mary’s story. The destroyers Laurel from the 9F under Commander John C. Hodgson, and Petard from the 13F under Lieutenant Commander Evelyn C.O. Thomson.
The Laurel at this stage of the battle was positioned at the rear of Beatty’s line, and she was well placed to be dispatched to the scene of the sinking, locate the major group of survivors, lower a whaler and rescue them. Namely, Albert Matthew Williets, Marshall William Taylor, Frank Smith, Albert Ralph, Frederick William Meads, George William Manners, John Hutchinson, Herbert Ernest Hughes, Stanley Foster Ford, Albert Henry Brand, Arthur Bower Clark, Albert Edwards, Thomas Charles May, John H. Lloyd-Owen, Jocelyn L. Storey, Voltelin St. J. Van Der Byl, and Humphrey M.L. Durrant. But regrettably she was forced to leave before she could gather all those sighted. This was to be her most significant contribution to the battle, her rescue of the bulk of Queen Mary survivors.
Not so the Petard located with the massed destroyers of the 10/13F at the head of the British line. She was to be credited with the sinking of the torpedo-boat V.27, and a telling torpedo hit upon the Seydlitz during the fierce destroyer attack against the German line, causing a 40 feet by 13 feet hole to be blasted in her side, flooding 98 feet of her wing compartments forward, which was to almost result in her loss, as she later settled bows down after receiving more hits, 22 heavy ones in total throughout the battle.
As the British light-craft retired Petard closed with the crippled Nestor, under fire, offering a tow, which was gallantly refused by the doomed ship’s captain, under the very guns of the advancing Germans. Not for the last time that day the Petard would be forced to leave comrades to their fate. Now racing after Beatty in the ‘Run to the North’, she retraced her earlier course during the ‘Run to the South’, reaching the spot were Queen Mary had sunk over an hour before. Observed Laurel in the oil covered water, she joined her, finding Ernest Benjamin Francis (and possibly Air Mechanic Wilson, a contested name in the list of survivors) in the water. She just had time to pick him up, before she was forced to move off, leaving around an estimated twenty men in the water. In the subsequent letter from Deardon penned on the 5 June, this ‘desertion’ was bitterly noted, and not fully understood. Still until this prospect of rescue he and his few companions had to survive:
The surface of the water was simply covered in oil fuel which tasted and smelt horribly. I smothered myself all over with it which I think really saved my life as the water was frightfully cold. (Deardon)
I could see only one man in the water, which had been disturbed by the rapid passage of British ships, making our plight even worse than it otherwise would have been. I swam towards him, but on seeing that he was having no difficulty in keeping himself afloat, I swam off in search of a piece of wreckage large enough to support me. Most of the wreckage was too small to be of any use, and I was wearing no life-saving apparatus. After a time I found a piece of wood, about three feet long and 3 inch square, which enabled me to keep myself afloat. My method of holding it May be of interest to the reader, and might prove useful to him should he be unfortunate enough to find himself in a similar predicament. I grasped this piece of wood upright between my hands and knees, something after the fashion, as my unkind friends have since remarked, of a monkey on a stick. This method at least enabled me to keep my head for a time above water without much difficulty. When I had been in the water for some time I saw two British destroyers, which I learnt later were the Laurel and the Petard, coming up towards me. They were still some way off when they suddenly turned and steamed away at high speed. The reason became clear a few minutes later when the 5BS, under Rear-Admiral Evan Thomas, passed some 250 yards off and the German shells intended for them fell into the sea all around me. The wake of the squadron washed me off my support, and it was all I could do to keep me head above water until I could find another. At last I found a large piece of wood, which May have been a cabin door, about 7 feet long and 3 feet wide. I clung to it with great difficulty as I was gradually becoming unconscious. The middle of the North Sea, even in May, is bitterly cold, and it was probably only the oil fuel which covered the surface of the sea that kept us from dying of exposure. After a while I became aware that the two destroyers were again approaching, although I could scarcely see them. I heard the man whom I had seen in the water, and who had remained close to me, calling for help. I tried hard to raise myself and call also, but found that I had no strength to do so. A few minutes later I was delighted as I felt myself being lifted out of the water into a small boat. As we went alongside the destroyer I became totally unconscious. When I recovered I was lying on the deck in the forecastle of the Laurel. For a while I could not make out where I was or what had happened to me. Gradually my memory came back, but even the sinking of Queen Mary seemed more like a nightmare than a terrible reality. Even when I had been in the water my feelings had been strangely impersonal. I remembered how the most trivial events had either consoled or annoyed me. How annoyed I had felt when, as I jumped off the back of the turret into the sea, my cap had fallen off; how pleased I had been to know that I had been wearing an identification disc; and how anxious I was that my family should know of my bad luck when the Laurel and the Petard had steamed away from me on the approach of the 5BS. About 9.30pm the Laurel’s doctor, a surgeon probationer, RNVR, seeing that I had recovered, came over to me and asked how I felt and what my rank or rating was. Learning that I was a midshipman, he had me removed on a stretcher to the wardroom, were I spent the rest of the night on a settee. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - A)
I remained in the water a long time, clinging to a spar, and I saw a destroyer come up, and saw her turn round and make off again. A few minutes afterwards, the 5BS, steamed past at about 23 knots and firing continually. The enemy shots were mostly falling short. One enemy shell exploded in the water close to where I was, and the concussion knocked me off my spar, causing me to lose consciousness. The next thing I remember was finding myself, about four hours later, in the forecastle of a destroyer. I was told that I had been picked up by their whaler about thirty-five minutes after Queen Mary had been blown up. I was found on a large hatch which was floating in the water. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - B)
A short time afterwards the 5BS steamed past in perfect order at about 25 knots, firing continuously. The enemy’s shells were falling a good deal short of this squadron. One of them apparently exploded in the water close to me. Causing me to lose consciousness. I have no more recollections of what happened until I found myself in the forecastle of the destroyer Laurel at about 5.30pm. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - C)
After half an hour the Laurel picked us up and when the fight was over took us back to Rosyth: I think a torpedo into ‘B’ turret magazine did for us. I think that is about all the actual story. (Midshipman Storey - A)
After about five minutes the 5th BS passed us firing grandly, and all the German shells were falling short, and near us in the water. The swell they made in passing washed me under again and I then got hold of a plank. About two minutes later a Division of our destroyers passed, and appeared not to see us. In reality they did and signalled for help being unable to stop themselves. This was the worst part, and a lot of people gave up hope and sank. I was again washed clear of my plank by the swell of these destroyers and went down a bit, but eventually got two bits of wood under my arms and was kept up. Laurel then turned up and lowered a boat and picked a lot of us up. Just before she had got all who were left she was ordered to make off at full speed, as enemy’s cruisers and destroyers were closing in on her. We had to leave, and there were still about six left in the water, it was terrible having to leave them there. We only got away just in time however, not a minute to spare. When we were on-board they were all very kind to us. The time was 5pm. We had been just half an hour in the water, oh how cold it was. From the time we were picked up till 1.40am the next morning we were having German shells dropping near and round us. I was lying down almost too weak to stand: It was awful waiting and wondering whether we should be sunk. (Midshipman Storey - B)
I started afresh, and something bumped against me. I grasped it and I afterwards found it was a large hammock, but I was felt I was getting very weak and I roused myself sufficiently to look around for something more substantial to support me. Floating right in front of me was a piece of timber; I believe the centre balk of our pattern four target. I managed to push myself on the hammock close to the timber, and grasped a piece of rope hanging over the side. My next difficulty was to grasp on top, and I was beginning to give up hope, when the swell lifted me nearly on top, and with a small amount of exertion I kept on. I managed to reeve my arms through a strop, and then I must have become unconscious. When I came to my senses again I was halfway off the spar, but managed to get back again. I was very sick, and seemed to be full up with oil fuel. My eyes were blocked up completely with it, and I could not see, I suppose the oil had got a bit dry and crusted I managed, by turning back the sleeve of my jersey which was thick with oil, to expose a part of the sleeve of my flannel, and thus managed to get the thick oil off my face and eyes, which were aching awfully. Then I looked around, and seeing no one else, believed I was the only one left out of that fine ship’s company. What had really happened was the Laurel had come up and picked up the hands, and not seeing me lying on the spar had gone away out of the zone of fire, so how long I was in the water I do not know. I was miserably cold, but not without hope of being picked up, as it seemed to me that I had only got to keep quiet and a ship would come for me. After what seemed ages to me some destroyers came racing along, and I got up on the spar, steadied myself for a second, and waved my arms. The Petard, one of our destroyers, saw me and came over, but when I got up on the spar to wave to them the swell rolled the spar over, and I fell off. I was nearly exhausted again getting back. The destroyer came up and a line was thrown to me, which, needless to say, I grabbed hold of for all I was worth, and was quickly hauled up on to the decks of the destroyer. The first words I heard spoken were English, not German, and I must have managed to convince them that I was English. I remembered no more until I came to and found I was lying on what seemed to be a leather settee, and someone was telling me that I was all right and not to struggle. I could not see the faces round me, so concluded I was blind, but did not feel then that it mattered much, my thoughts flew to the fine crowd who had gone under. I cannot speak to highly of the way I was cared for on-board the Petard, and I thank them one and all. (Petty Officer Francis)
After leaving Nestor, we came across a huge patch of oil fuel on the sea, and Laurel stopped nearby with a whaler down picking up men. We also stopped on the edge of this patch and picked up one man who was swimming about. When we got him on-board we learnt that he was the captain of the after turret of Queen Mary. We then noticed in the middle of this patch of oil that there was just showing a portion of the bilge of a ship, which was floating about a foot out of the water. (Petard)
Now on-board the two rescuing destroyers, the survivors of the lost battle-cruiser were still not exempt from the terror and uncertainty of battle. As the Laurel and Petard, joined up with the rest of the GF, in an endeavour that night to cut off the HSF from is bases. The 31 May drew to its inconclusive close, with the GF intent on bringing the HSF to action, but with the by then pounded and contained enemy equally intent on evading a continuation of the battle, endeavouring to avoid any encounter.
Very shortly after the battle, it appears that in a subsequent conversation with Lloyd-Owen, the salient points of Francis’s account of what had happened to him was briefly noted down by the midshipman, who was very possibly endeavouring to gain a better understanding of what had occurred, by talking to his fellow survivors from ‘X’ turret. Here there is now some evidence as to the exact fates of Lieutenant Ewart, and Midshipman Thomas Mostyn Field, along with Chaplain George Kewney, and a member of the medical team
31st May 16. According to Francis, captain of X turret, Queen Mary. Wednesday afternoon - action stations: Francis and Ewart (control officer) in X turret, on the quarterdeck. Tom below in the working chamber. Chaplain and Doctor also below. BCF overhauls and engages enemy’s BC’s to port, and Queen Mary concentrates upon her first object. Francis entirely occupied with his guns, following the pointer. Pointer moves on to second object in the course of forty rounds from both guns. Explosion interrupts, and the whole ship is shaken, then all still. Engines stop, power goes from the turret, and the guns drop. Francis goes up to investigate and sees all before the after screen in a mess, with turrets shifted and mast damaged, though the quarter-deck and X turret are unhurt except for some scratched paint. There is a distinct list to port. Francis then confers with Ewart- Bob, and they decide to clear the turret, and possibly fight 4 inch guns in the battery. Orders given to clear the turret. Meanwhile Tom remains in the working chamber, is puzzled at the failure of power, and tries to investigate (?) in the shell room. The list to port increases and the shell room and working chamber fill with water. Water is half way up the shaft when the last man gets out of the turret. Tom never gets out, and Ewart goes back to him. Francis with some others climbs on to the topside of the ship and considers. Finally walks down the side and swims for it. Others follow but do not reappear. A second explosion follows shortly, and Francis just avoids a large piece of armour by diving. He comes to the surface with a midshipman’s hammock and sees no more Queen Mary, except for a little wreckage. After about a quarter of an hour, picked up by Petard: Remains in Petard during night fighting, and has his eyes damaged by oil fuel attended to. Narrow escape from projectile at one point. Captain of Petard announces that Jellicoe is going for them, and has tea. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - C)
1st June 1916: As the two well dispersed rival fleets, stumbled through the night, various clashes between separated units were to occur during the early hours of this fateful morning, as screens touched, or stumbled across rival units. Shortly after 00.30am a twelve strong line of destroyers, with the Laurel fourth ship, and the Petard second last unit in the strung out combined 9/10/13F, steering southeast, crossed the path of the retiring HSF. As the lead ships swept on, the German concentrated upon the trailing ones.
I have no very great recollection of what went on during the night, but I remember seeing the guns’ crews passing ammunition to their guns, and occasionally the vivid flash of a gun, or the reflection of a searchlight. I did not know at the time whether the flashes and lights were from British ships or from the ships of the enemy. I had been unconscious about two hours when we passed close ahead of the German Battle Line. So close were we that the Petard had to alter course to avoid being rammed by the leading ship. The Germans switched on their searchlights and opened fire. Fortunately we were not hit, but the Petard was struck by two or three shells, and the Turbulent, following her at the rear of the line, was sunk with all hands, either by ramming or gunfire. (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - D)
For the Petard as is hinted above, the confused and close quarters action of that nights encounters were to involve her flotilla in a telling action. She had already expended her four torpedo outfit to great effect that day, being credited with a hit on torpedo-boat V.27, and one on the Seydlitz, but now her tubes were empty. This little destroyer broke clear of the German line, missing the scanning enemy searchlights for a moment before.
She stood luminous against the night. In six seconds six shells hit her while her little guns stabbed defiance at that monstrous attack.
For Francis temporarily blinded, with his eyes bandaged, was to be more than aware of the hits to the Petard: The 5.9 inch secondary armament of the leading two German dreadnoughts unleashed their fire at her, with the nearest, the Westfalen firing at virtual point blank range, and she was hit aft six times in as many seconds. The after 4 inch gun was smashed, along with its crew, with splinters cutting through her light hull and superstructure, fires started, and all the officers cabins wrecked, leaving 2 officers and 7 men killed, and a further 1 officer and 5 men wounded.
I was given some spirits of some sort, and then must have gone to sleep, someone came over to me and said, ‘Don’t get excited if you hear any shooting, but we are going to carry out an attack on a big German.’ I wasn’t in a fit state to worry much about attacks on Germans. My eyes were very painful, and I must have said something about them, for I believe a young doctor came down and started to bathe them, when suddenly there was a big smash, and I was told afterwards that a shell came through, killed the doctor and eight men, and I never received a scratch. I couldn’t see, and, being a gunnery man, I took the smash to be a 4 inch gun being fired; I had no idea it was a German shell. I must have gone off to sleep again, when I was wakened by some of the chaps who were taking me down to the petty officers’ quarters, as by this time they had found out I was a gunner’s mate. I believe in the first place I told them I was a Stoker. Nothing happened after this of any importance, only I was in awful agony with my eyes. Nothing happened after this of any importance, only I was in awful agony with my eyes. (Petty Officer Francis)
As for this unfortunate doctor who was killed whilst attending to Francis, he can now be positively identified as Surgeon (Probationary) Hugh John Dingle RNVR aged just 23. He was the son of the Rev. Arthur Trehane Dingle and Beatrice Dingle, of Eaglescliffe Rectory, Co. Durham. He was brought back and was buried at Dalmeny and Queensferry Cemetery overlooking the Firth of Forth.
The Turbulent, last in the line, bathed in a blaze of searchlights from the Westfalen, was destined to receive the concentrated might of the now aroused battleship. As subsequent investigation was to show, she was rent asunder by a concentration of fire, and finally rammed amidships. There were to be 13 survivors, 90 others were lost.
Took the wrath of the enemy. Fire ran the length of her, smoke and flames took her, for one awful moment she blazed in the furious night and then, while the flames leapt higher, she was rammed amidships, trampled over, cut in half and stamped underfoot.
With this series of events in mind, the survival of Francis from the events encompassing his part throughout the Battle of Jutland are indeed extraordinary. This particular individuals evocative account of this epic day, draws to a close with due praise to his colleagues and shipmates, a worthy epitaph, for not only those whom he knew in ‘X’ turret, but the entire crew of Queen Mary.
I can only write about the splendid behaviour of my own turret’s crew, but I am confident, knowing Queen Mary as I did, that the highest traditions of the service were upheld by the hands of the ship’s company, from the captain to the youngest boy. Everyone was so keen on being in a big fight, and each member of our ship’s company knew he was one of the small cog-wheels of a great machine; it was part of a man’s training as laid down by our gunnery commander, and due to his untiring efforts to make Queen Mary the splendid fighting unit I knew her to be. (Petty Officer Francis)
The HSF, through superb handling, and a generous quantity of good fortune, evaded the encircling GF, which had expected the issue to be finally resolved in a second ‘Glorious First of June’. The disappointed units of the GF now retired. The survivors from Queen Mary, seventeen in the Laurel, and Francis in the Petard, now headed back towards Rosyth: While Midshipman Deardon and (Seaman) Alfred Thomas Sherwood, had been rescued by the German torpedo-boat G8, headed for captivity. Deardon destined to spend the rest of the war in the officer prisoner camp at Mainz, while the location of the camp Sherwood was sent to is unrecorded
An hour later we altered course to the westward to close the Castor, and at 5.35am we were ordered to return to Rosyth as we were running short of fuel. About 8.30pm on the evening of June the 1st, we passed once more under the great railway bridge and crept up the Firth of Forth: The Firth was quite empty, but the Warspite, one of the battleships of the 5BS which the day before had followed so closely on the heels of the BCF, and which had borne much of the brunt of the earlier part of the battle, was already in dry dock. She was one of the ships which the Germans in their report of the battle claimed, with some justification perhaps but quite inaccurately, to have sunk. On-board the Laurel were four midshipmen and thirteen men, who, with the exception of one petty officer picked up by the Petard and one midshipman and one seaman picked up by the Germans, were the sole survivors of Queen Mary. One of the midshipmen and some of the men were severely injured or burnt. The midshipman, poor Durrant, who had been in Queen Mary only a few days, died of wounds a few hours after landing at Rosyth: The Laurel went straight alongside an oiler to replenish her fuel supply, as she had orders to go out to sea again when her oil tanks were refilled. As soon as she had made fast to the oiler an hospital drifter came alongside and the survivors of Queen Mary were transferred to her. A little later we land not at South Queensferry where we had embarked so light-heartedly only forty-eight hours before, but on the opposite side of the Firth: (Midshipman Lloyd-Owen - A)
The Petard with Francis, arrived shortly after the Laurel.
I was told we were steaming at greatly reduced speed to Rosyth, and arrived as near as I can guess, about midnight on the first of June. (Petty Officer Francis)
2nd June 1916
The first official news about the Battle of Jutland became known to the general public this Friday. The wording of the initial communiqué left much to be desired, concentrating upon the British losses which were readily known at the Admiralty, and not yet upon the strategic and moral victory over the German Navy which had been achieved. Now the post-battle experiences of Francis, gives a good impression of the aftermath concerning Queen Mary’s loss in very human terms.
The hospital boat came over, and I was very quickly taken to Queensferry Hospital, where I was soon made nice and comfortable in bed, feeling that my troubles were over, and thanking God, Who I feel was very near me on that great day, and Who pulled me through. I fell asleep and woke up to find the doctor waiting to clean my eyes; he would not disturb me before. After my eyes had been seen to I felt much relieved; the doctor told me to keep the bandage on and my eyes would be all right again soon. (Petty Officer Francis)
As the senior surviving officer, it fell upon the young shoulders of Midshipman Storey, to draft out the official ‘Captains Report’ on the loss of his ship today. This was duly submitted to Rear-Admiral Brock, of the 1BCS, who in turn passed it on to Sir David Beatty. Routine, regulation, and red tape, can appear to be a soulless thing, but the contents of this document were apparently eloquent in describing these events. Although the details of this narrative have not been discovered, it has been mentioned in the publication ‘Twenty Years After’. That this report began with a business like statement, deeply regretting to report that Queen Mary had been lost. But the concluding paragraphs where presented in such a fashion, that it had raised a pretty big lump in the throat to its readers by its close.
3rd June 1916
On this day Rear-Admiral Brock, on-board the flagship of the reduced 1BCS, the Princess Royal, completed an initial tabling of all the known Queen Mary’s survivors, to Vice-Admiral Beatty and their status. The unwounded contingent was by then being housed aboard Crescent, an old cruiser of the Edgar class, employed as an accommodation ship off Queensferry. While the wounded and shocked men, were being cared for in hospital. On-board the Crescent where:
Jocelyn Latham Storey, Midshipman RN, picked up by Laurel - Born 19/3/1898, later Captain.
John Hugh Lloyd-Owen, Midshipman RNR, picked up by Laurel - Born 12/4/1895.
Stanley Foster Ford, Petty Officer 1st Class RN (203681), picked up by Laurel - Born 2/12/1882 died November 1940.
Albert Harry (Henry) Brend (Brand), Able Seaman RN (J22156), picked up by Laurel - Born 10/10/1895.
John Hutchison (Hutchinson), Able Seaman RN (J20122), picked up by Laurel - Born 25/5/1897.
Frederick William Meads, Able Seaman RN (J.20095), picked up by Laurel - Born 28/2/1897.
Marshall William Taylor, Stoker Petty Officer RN (295746), picked up by Laurel - Born 10/5/1889
Herbert Ernest Hughes, Leading Stoker RN (K.6445), picked up by Laurel - Born 1/4/1889.
George William Manners, Leading Stoker RN (308014), picked up by Laurel - Born 27/8/1886.
Albert Ralph, Leading Stoker RN (K.4), picked up by Laurel - Born 4/12/1887.
At the Royal Navy Hospital at South Queensferry where the following wounded individuals:
Voltelin St John Van der Byl, Midshipman RN, suffering from shock, picked up by Laurel - Born 23/11/1897, later Lieutenant-Commander.
Humphrey Mercer Lancelot Durrant, Midshipman RN, wounded severely (with a badly-smashed thigh and burns and scalds.), picked up by Laurel - Born 16/3/1898, died 6/6/1916.
Ernest Benjamin Francis, Petty Officer, Gunners Mate RN (178395), picked up by Petard - Born 20/8/1878.
Ernest Cunnah, Able Seaman (J20438), suffering from shock, pick up not recorded - Born 12/6/1897.
Thomas Charles May, Boy 1st Class RN (J42494), picked up by Laurel - Born 14/07/1899.
Arthur Bower Clark, Stoker 1st class RN (K25655), wounded in leg, picked up by Laurel - Born 10/1/1896.
Albert Edwards, Stoker RNR (2924T), picked up by Laurel (no date of birth).
Two names have been also ‘mentioned’ as being survivors: Air Mechanic Wilson R.N.A.S., pick-up by not recorded, and Stoker 1st Class Frank Smith, RN (K17778) - Born 3/03/1894.
As has been noted, according to the recollections of Lloyd-Owen, regrettably Midshipman Durrant died of his severe wounds shortly after being land at Rosyth, and is buried in Dalmeny, South Queensferry, the only casualty of HMS Queen Mary to have a known grave.
The fate of Midshipman Peregrine Robert Deardon (Born 30/11/1897, later Lieutenant-Commander in his RN career), and his Able Seaman companion Alfred Thomas Sherwood (Born 9/12/1893), both picked up by the German destroyer (torpedo-boat) G8, where by this date, on their way to incarceration in separate German prisoner of war camps should also be remembered, to spend the next two-and-a half years in captivity.
Besides these twenty individuals, two other names appear on the fringe of those who survived the end of the battle-cruiser. This time, through a measure of good fortune, in being away from the ship. Royal Marine Private Albert E. Pool RMA (1084.S), who had arrived at Queensferry on the morning of the 31 May, had been destined to join Queen Mary’s marine detachment. While the ships’ canteen manager, Edward G.H. Hopkins, was on leave at the time of the battle. In the final reckoning of Queen Mary’s dead. The Chatham register has 101 men listed. The Plymouth register holds 83 names. Leaving the Majority of those lost with her, 1,082 men included within the Portsmouth register, her homeport, for a total of 1,266 lost all told.
Altogether the singular clash of the dreadnoughts at Jutland, claimed from the Royal Navy, 6,097 killed, 510 wounded and 177 men made prisoners of war. Admittedly shocking figures in individual human terms, but ones which still pale against the continuing attritional slaughter on the Western Front. This was to be again brought to the fore in the soon to be enacted debacle of the first day on the Somme, just a month later on the 1 July. Seeing 19,240 killed, 35,493 wounded, 2,152 missing and 585 taken prisoner, totalling 57,470 men during just one mad day amongst so many others in the trenches, in an all too graphic tale of waste. By the time the offensive petered out that November, 420,000 British and Empire troops, would have become casualties. Another perspective of the Jutland losses can be gauged from the ten month extended battle between the French and German, along a fifteen mile front at Verdun. As Queen Mary sank, this appalling grinding down slaughter, intended to ‘Bleed France white’ was in its 101st day. It was to cost in the region of 700,000 men in total between February and November 1916.
4th June 1916
Another touching aspect of Queen Mary’s end had also to be concluded upon this day. An event noted by Lady Beatty shortly after the battle. This was a mention in an article for ‘The War Illustrated’ concerning a ship’s concert, which her crew had planned to present at Rosyth later that week.
It is sad to think of the splendid men of Queen Mary. Not long before the recent naval Battle of Jutland, the officers and men of this fine battle-cruiser had been rehearsing for a special performance to be given in the hall of the Royal Institute. A contingent of blue jackets from several ships had been invited to the performance. It had been arranged for Wednesday afternoon, 31 May. The final rehearsal had been a success. Special costumes had been supplied by a London firm, and appropriate stage fittings, including electric footlights, installed. At the time the performance was to have been given, she was at the bottom of the sea. And for more than three days none felt disposed to dismantle the hall.
5th June 1916
due to the grievous losses it had suffered the BCF was re-organised, with the damaged Lion, remaining as the flagship of Vice-Admiral Beatty. The 1BCS now consisted of the Princess Royal (flag), New Zealand, and Tiger, with the 2BCS of the Australia (flag), Indomitable, and Inflexible.
I left the hospital on the Monday, having previously on two days running asked the fleet surgeon to let me go south, I felt the groans of the burnt and wounded would have driven me mad. He told me that if I could get some clothes I could go. I met a ward master whom I had known some years ago, and he fitted me out with clothes gathered from the hospital staff, and made me look quite presentable. (Petty Officer Francis)
The men in ‘Q’ turret behaved splendidly and from the report of other survivors the same is true of the men in all the turrets. (Note from Captain Hall)
The 3rd saw Deardon arrive at ‘Kriegsgefangenensendung, Ableilung 3, Stube 31, Offieyieigefangenenlagen, Mainz’. A letter setting out to obviously inform his parents of his recent predicament, reassure them about his safety, and his new circumstances.
Dearest Mother. We arrived in this camp the day before yesterday, and are looking very ragged at present, having no money or clean clothes. There being myself and six officers from two destroyers. We left harbour as usual not expecting anything special to happen. About 2.45pm on the 31st we went to action stations and had everything ready, and about 3.45pm we opened fire, and after about an hour and half of enjoyment there was a terrific explosion forward, and I was sent out on top of our turret to see what was happening, and had to put on lung respirator owing to clouds of smoke and fire. I could see nothing for about a minute, and then all cleared away as the foremost part of the ship went under water. Then told the officer of the turret that the ship was sinking rapidly, and so many as possible were got up out of the turret. The whole foc’sle was almost blown off, and I immediately took off all my gear except my shirt and vest, everyone else going in all standing. As soon as in the water I swam clear and astern of the ship about 30 yards, when she suddenly blew up completely. I was luckily sucked under water and as all the wreckage chuck about did not come with its full weight on my head. I held my breath for a long time, and at last came to the surface and started looking round for something to support me as much as possible. As you know I have never had a ‘Gieve’ waistcoat, and am now glad I had not. The surface of the water was simply covered with oil fuel which tasted and smelt horrible. My presence of mind, I smothered myself all over with it which I think really saved my life as the water was really frightfully cold. I should say that about 50 hands went over the side, but about half of these were killed during the second explosion, most of the hands of us held out on two or three spars and other wreckage on the surface. Shortly afterwards several of our destroyers came up but only one stopped, and you know as well as I do how many were saved by her. This was about half-an-hour after we had been in the water and it nearly drove one Frantic when she steamed off when I was only about 25 yards or 30 yards away from her. She would not even leave her whaler behind to pick up the remaining 15 or 20 of us in the water, although I shouted to them to do so. Afterwards it was terrible seeing everyone else collapse and drown, and I had not the strength to help any of them. I only saw two officers in the water, an RNR Assist Paymaster MacGilp, and an RNR Sub-Lieutenant. Percy. The people with Gieve waistcoats on were the first I noticed to drown, as they were held a little too high out of the water and when they became weak their heads fell forward in the water. After a while I thought everyone else had given up as I could see no one else apparently swimming. In the end I was picked up more or less unconscious with an AB from my turret also in the same state. The others were not to be seen, except one dead in a waistcoat. I was put to bed and had a good 10 hours sleep, after which I got up and had breakfast feeling somewhat revived. I was between one hour and 10-15 minutes in the water. ... (Deardon)
This opening portion of Deardon’s letter is very interesting on a number of points. Firstly, just like the three earlier entries, to three different recipients penned by Lloyd-Owen, it renders another account of the events which overwhelmed him, and it also provides some information as to the fate of some other individuals. But strange to note here is the actual name of his lower deck companion in adversity, the identity of this rating whom he knew from ‘Q’ turret. One would have thought that Deardon at least might have referred to him by name at some time in his writings. In light of no hard facts, perhaps one would like to speculate that it was either Long or Lane, who had helped save Francis, being ‘rewarded’ for their unselfish deed.
Secondly, the reference to his not being rescued by the British destroyers, and the number of men that were left behind to die. The most obvious consideration here to remember was that as near as can be estimated this took place around 5pm the ‘Run to the North’ had commenced, Beatty’s force was being pursued by both Hipper’s and Sheer’s, which had just opened fire upon the tail of the retiring British line. To the Petard and Laurel in such an exposed position at the rear of Beatty’s formation, time was a telling consideration, they simply stopped and picked up as many men as humanly possible, under the guns of the advancing Germans. That men were left in the water as they set off to rejoin their retiring flotillas is as inescapable, as it was unavoidable, leaving some 20 of their comrades could not have been easy for Laurel’s Commander John C. Hodgson, and Petard’s Lieutenant Commander Evelyn C.O. Thomson. But the effective survival of their vessels in the developing action was vital, as was the safety of their crews of paramount consideration. One can fully appreciate Deardon’s indignation and frustration at being left behind, and seeing those round him die, but upon reflection it was unavoidable in the circumstances prevailing at that time. But Hodgson and Thomson still had to fight a battle.
The concluding part of his letter deviates onto mundane and necessary matters to contend with his new circumstances. Which besides giving a very good indication of what he would now require from his parents, in some considerable detail, also endeavours to put his affairs in some sort of order.
... I am at present in the citadel fortress at Mainz and really had a most interesting journey down the Rhine. When you write to me I believe you must not put any stamp on my letters. I think postage is free but do not know for certain. I think I ought to have about £10 to start with and I will write when I want more, you had better send it in two letters, and send this by American Express. We are only allowed to write two letters and four cards every month here and so I am trying to tell you everything I can now. In my next letter I will tell you all the gear you must put a claim in for, and you had better get a price list of it from Gieve and put in for most things of a fairly good quality and they May not give everything you put in for, and at the same time I had several things that could not be claimed. I will now make a list of gear I require and also know is necessary: One cap size 6.7/8. - One serge uniform suit, with low cut front preferred to second button and trousers turned up. - Two pair - Grey flannel trousers. - Six white shirts unattached size 15, eight collars. - Six thin white vest and drawers, the short loose sort. - Two pair plain clothes shoes 9.1/2 with socks. One pair gym shoes. - One pair braces and one leather belt, stud and links. - Nine handkerchief (Exalda). - Four pair very thin pyjamas. - Four long Turkish towels. - One nail brush and bag. - One 7 o’clock razor. - One shaving brush and a book of Gieve soap, hair brushes (very hard), and comb. - Tooth brushes. - One wool waistcoat, no sleeves. - Six indelible pencils, and cakes of soap. - One clothes brush. - One scribbling block. - Two packs of cards. - One pair bedroom slippers. - One housewife. - One waterproof. This seems a very long list of clothing, but it will really need it all as I am sure to be here for some time to come. Will you send my gear off as soon as possible, in 10 pound parcels I believe. I am not certain whether postage has to be paid on any gear but no stamps I am certain. I am still due for pay and allowances for March 13th/30th, and month of May. You must apply for all this from The Admiralty. I am aFraid I have recently bought one or two things which I meant to pay for myself, but now am aFraid I cannot. A tennis racket from Thornton’s, they have your address and so will send the bill into you. In my next letter to you I will enclose a note to some other fellow in my term about my stick bike and ask him to settle up about it. I do hope you are all keeping well at home and have not been so terribly upset at having no news from me for such a long time. I think Aunt Mabel.s fortune telling about a lucky hand must have been true. Will you let me know how many officers and men from QM saved and also the names of the officers. Could you also send me tins of Gold Flake cigarettes when convenient as I want to try and smoke them always. I was really very well treated in the German destroyer in which I was picked up and was given an egg for breakfast. I hope that Jim is still keeping well and will continue to have good fortune. With very best to you all. Your loving son. Peregrine (Deardon)
The old armoured-cruiser Hampshire was sunk by a mine off Scottish coast, Field Marshal Earl Kitchener and his Staff all drowned.
6th June 1916
I left Edinburgh on the midnight train, and on arrival at London went to the Union Jack Club, where I had a good breakfast. And after a wash and a shave went to see Captain Hall by appointment, but he was called away and I was very disappointed at not seeing him. He had commissioned Queen Mary with Commander James and started a routine that made her the smartest and most comfortable ship afloat. I left London and arrived at the Royal Naval Barracks, Portsmouth, where I reported myself, and was allowed to proceed home the next day. (Petty Officer Francis) ===7th June 1916: I was given some clothes, and saw the doctor who advised me what to do about my eyes, and very kindly allowed me to go home on 14 days’ leave. (Petty Officer Francis)
10th June 1916
in an Admiralty circular M.05220, carrying this date, the final chapter in Queen Mary’s service was officially terminated:
I am commanded by my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to acquaint you that the following ships are to be paid off on the 13th June, and that the survivors, officers and men, are to be formally transferred to the books of the depot to which the ships were attached for manning purposes, viz....
Queen Mary’s name headed the inventory of the three battle-cruisers, two armoured-cruisers, and eight destroyers that had been lost at Jutland: The circulation list of interested parties included all the relevant commanding officers in the squadrons involved, and was signed by Beatty’s secretary, W. Nicholson.
12th June 1916
A Memorial Service was held that Monday at St. Paul's Church, Knightsbridge, to commemorate the passing of Captain Prowse and the Officers and Men of Queen Mary killed at Jutland. The service ended with National Anthem being sung.
13th June 1916
As from the note of the 10th above, Queen Mary was now officially ‘Paid off’.
18th June 1916
in the first official estimate of the results of the battle presented by Jellicoe to the Admiralty on this day in letter No.1395/HF.0022, the loss from the GF, were ostensibly more than balanced. By the apparent loss of up to five capital ships, five cruisers, nine torpedo-boats, and four submarines, from the HSF. In actual fact, only one new German battle-cruiser, one veteran pre-dreadnought, four light-cruisers, and five torpedo-boats were lost, along with 2,551 men killed and 507 wounded.
21st June 1916
When I returned off leave I was given a kit of clothes and sent off to Whale Island, my depot, being a gunner’s mate. When I saw the doctor again, and he said, ‘Your nerves are gone, you want a rest’, and sent me home for another 14 days. (Petty Officer Francis)
30th June 1916
One of the most important character involved in this scrutiny into the end of Queen Mary, now closes his telling personal account. Petty Officer Francis was still on his much needed leave at the close of this month, but later on he wrote down his conclusions about what had happened.
When I returned off leave I was feeling much better, and my eyes were nearly quite well again. At the time of writing they are all right, but tire very quickly, and I am now working with the store gunner of Whale Island: To finish my account, I will say that I believe the cause of the ship being blown up was a shell striking ‘B’ turret working chamber and igniting the shells stowed there in ready racks, and the flash must have passed down into the magazine, and that was the finish. This narrative represents a copy of a letter I sent to the senior surviving officer of Queen Mary, and I am asking that whoever reads this at any time will please remember that the writer is much handier behind a pair of 13.5 inch guns than behind a pen. (Petty Officer Francis)
A telling, and I suspect typical modest statement, by Ernest Benjamin Francis, late of Queen Mary. As for Midshipman Lloyd-Owen, he stated in his all to brief post-Jutland recollections, that after being land at Rosyth:
Three months passed before I again went to sea. (The Great War - I Was There) The survivors of Queen Mary, eventually recovered from their ordeal and physical injuries, and went their separate ways in the service, and life. But who amongst their ranks, and the families of the fallen, would ever forget their lost ship and shipmates.
(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)