1000 Days-Epilogue

From Battle of Jutland Crew Lists Project
Jump to navigation Jump to search

(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)


EPILOGUE

Almost un-noticed, and apparently dismissed by the mass media, on the afternoon of the 31 May 1991, on-board the Cable and Wireless Marine and Coflexip Limited ship Cable Protector. Five surviving men from the epic Battle of Jutland, all by then well in their nineties, gathered together at a ceremony, over the broken remains of a battle-cruiser, to pay their deep respects to their fallen comrades. Who had died in that historic duel of the dreadnoughts exactly 75 years before.

The circumstances which had brought them there, can be attributed to the continuing interest engendered by Jutland: And the great ships involved in that epic encounter, a fascination amongst naval enthusiasts, which has remained prominent over the intervening decades. Sufficiently so, to manifested itself in a joint services expedition, to locate and dive upon, two of the wrecks of this battle, in a venture specifically undertaken to commemorate the anniversary of this important action.

Initially this project appeared relatively simple, in the all important certitude of dive sites. Since just after the Great War, there was the desire to fix a definitive reference datum point. Upon which to base all the complex ship movements at the Battle of Jutland upon. In this it was decided to locate the wreck of the Invincible, for such a purpose, and she was eventually discovered on the 3 July 1919. From this, the final resting place of Queen Mary was initially calculated to be at 56 degrees 42 minutes north, 5 degrees 49 minutes 15 seconds east. However both of these locations were to be revised in light of the difficulties experienced by the 1991 expedition.

But before even this, no consideration about visiting these sites could be advanced with until certain vital points governing the expedition had been arranged. Paramount here was the fact that since these sites are designated war graves, official permission had to be sought and obtained, before any such enterprise was mounted. Further to this, a base ship for the expedition had obviously to be found: The service orientated make-up of the proposed diving team fully appreciated the factors concerning the sensitive nature of their request. Especially in not attempting to enter the wrecks, or removing artefacts from the scenes. Therefore permission to dive, and explore the exterior of the sites, was soon readily granted. The first stage in the plan had been passed, but what about their base ship.

As fate decreed, the Gulf War of early 1991 ruled out any direct Royal Navy involvement, in the form of a tender. With the extensive active service commitments elsewhere, ruling out any support from that area. So a search for private sponsorship was undertaken to obtain a ship, which proved to be a Major hurdle. But one which was eventually overcome, by considerable help from various interested parties and members, at the renown London maritime institution of Lloyd’s. Now with the necessary permission, funds and support raised, the team eventually set out on-board the Cable Protector in mid May, on their quest to search for, and explore two of the Jutland wrecks. In this the ships’ magnetometer, employed to locate large masses of metal, was to be the primary means of finding the wrecks. Aided by sonar, and even the ships’ depth sounder, during periods of any failures and faults with the main systems. At first sight this appeared to be a search in name only. Relying as it did on the Admiralty chart position of the Invincible. But as they were to discover, at the indicated spot there was no trace of the 560 feet long, and 88 feet beamed, 17,500 tons battle-cruiser.

It was only after adopting a sweeping search pattern of the area. That on Monday the 27 May 1991, Bombardier Connelly watching the ships’ echo sounder, noticed the first indications of a strong return from the seabed. Nearly two miles from the notified position, was the welcome tell tale impression of a large wreck. The first step now was to be in the positive identification of what lay below. So a team of divers went down to inspect the contact, lying in 170 feet of water. It was indeed discovered to be the wreck of the Invincible. Now lying in two separate sections, the after portion standing erect and upright on the bottom of the North Sea, with the broken away bow section lying upside down ahead of it. Between these two main sections was scattered a considerable debris field, made up from the shattered heart of her fatal explosion, the region of her central magazines amidships.

This separated and contorted status, might very well have been expected, upon inspecting the last known photograph of the Invincible’s broken structure, just after her fatal explosion. With her back broken, leaving her stern and bows rising high in the air, each at different attitudes to the other, with the latter in a somewhat twisted stance to port, as presumable their respective shattered amidships sections rested on the shallow bottom. Upon which they finally settled, unseen later that night. Clearly identifiable in the aft portion to the divers, was ‘X’ 12 inch gun-house, and its ordnance dominating the quarterdeck. Which incidentally still retained its wooden planking, with the basic fabric of the imposing after superstructure rising forward of it. Evocatively the guns of this one visible mounting were still pointing to the southwest, the same direction as they had been in during her final clash. Because wrecks attract fish shoals. There was also some evidence of fishing activity over the years, with her shattered structure being festooned and draped, with a number of trawls and nets, caught on projections and parts of the ship, obviously making the task of the divers even more dangerous and involved.

With good underwater visibility in the region of a maximum of 80 feet, and the divers limited to just 15 minutes on the seabed, along with war graves limitations, they could only explore the exterior the general area of the two principal sections of the Invincible. But in this, they came across in her debris field such identifiable items as bags of cordite, lavatory fixtures, her masts and spotting tops which had collapsed inwards, electrical cables and fittings, coal from her ruptured bunkers, portholes, and cutlery. At the conclusion of the dive, Warrant Officer Bert Smith, nailed a White Ensign to the after deck, together with a wreath, before returning to the surface, as a final fitting mark of respect. After this first phase of the exploration, the team moved south, to search for and locate their second Jutland wreck. Which they eventually succeeded in accomplishing, relying as they did now on their fixed point for the Invincible, and her estimated relationship to the wreck of Queen Mary, from Admiralty sources.

This achievement was again to be topped by a number of dives upon the remains of this second battle-cruiser. Here it was discovered that Queen Mary had indeed completed her capsize to port, she rests completely upside down. Her once dominating and mighty upper works and superstructure, now driven and settled deep into the yielding sea bottom, leaving only the wide expanse of her rusted growth encrusted hull and keel uppermost accessible for investigation. Besides the shoals of fish which now inhabit the ship, hauntingly prominent on this structure, are banks and fields of ‘dead men’s fingers’. An extended, outspread hand shaped marine growth, found in profusion on the surface of her upturned hull.

Although outwardly to be not as visually interesting and rewarding as their first dive subject, because of this capsized attitude, as regards distinguished features and structures to be investigated. The wreck was to prove to be a memorable subject, while a significant number of her recognisable items, such as her broken off mainmast, and other components were observed in the surrounding debris field ringing the ship, and the general area where she had met her sudden end: Upon exploring the remains of Queen Mary, the full extent of her cataclysmic sinking was graphically revealed in telling fashion, from the teams underwater images capturing the surviving structure lying some 150 feet down on the bed of the North Sea. Here the main hull was fundamentally one entity, unlike the broken Invincible. However the visual record of this latest dive clearly showed the devastation wrought by the explosion of her magazines. With especially the area of her central structure in the region of ‘Q’ mounting rent asunder, as if crushed and collapsed by a massive force. Effectively breaking up this expanse of hull plating amidships into a yawning chasm of ruin.

Working along her structure, from its distinctive ram prow. The team came across such instantly recognisable features as her bilge keels, seawater inlets and outlets. While abaft the devastated central portion, lay her propellers, brackets and shafts along with her twin rudders now pointing towards the surface. The time granted to the team on site was however limited, so with a documented record of her present status, complemented by a series of photographs and video footage. The dive on Queen Mary’s mortal remains drew to a close, and she was left in peace once again.

In the final analyse what did the 1991 expedition to Jutland, and its visit to the wrecks of both of these battle-cruisers achieve. Well in the first place, it clearly marked this battles importance in British naval history. By commemorating its 75th anniversary in a unique fashion. As well as now permitting interested naval enthusiasts, and the general public alike, the opportunity to view images of these long lost great ships. And from its investigation, perhaps discover more about how they were lost. Further to this, it had also allowed a small number of the dwindling band of veterans from this battle, to pay their last respects to their fallen comrades in a fitting manner.

At the end of the planned dives and exterior survey of the two sites, the last act in the expeditions schedule took place. When they picked up this party of veterans, and returned with them to the waters off the Danish coast. On the afternoon of the 31 May 1991, over the wreck of the Invincible, a brief service was held on-board the Cable Protector, with the British frigates Minerva and Ariadne in company, along with the German destroyer Molders, in an act of union. It was to be a relatively Spartan affair on the windswept open after deck. Nothing grand or full of pomp, but it certainly captured the mood of the occasion, better than any professionally presented, and clinically organised event ever could have done. Seven months later on Armistice Sunday 1991, the short half hour Granada documentary ‘Return to Jutland’ was shown that November morning after the Cenotaph service. Through this simple, yet touchingly conveyed tale, the story behind the exploration of these battle-cruisers remains became known to a wide audience. Along with a full appreciation of what had transpired on that day so long ago.

Ten years after this Innes McCartney, whose great-uncle was a boy-gunner at Jutland, headed Starfish Enterprise’s expedition to the site of Queen Mary and other wrecks of the battle.

During 2000 and 2001, Innes McCartney from Deep Blue Diving, embarked on four separate expeditions to the Jutland battle site. In 2001 he became the world's first paid diver guide to the Jutland wrecks and helped in the location and identification of several previously unknown wrecks, the wrecks are being located and filmed for posterity. The footage from the 2000 Jutland expedition has been used to produce Periscope Publishing's video the Shipwrecks of the Battle of Jutland: Additional pictures from the video footage taken in 2001 augment the images from the video film. Deep Blue Diving ran a five-day mixed-gas dive training courses out of Plymouth aboard the Loyal Watcher, which is the company's own live-aboard vessel. Queen Mary has been called the most beautiful ship the Royal Navy ever possessed. The loss of one of these 'magnificent cats' was a severe blow to Royal Navy prestige. Queen Mary was the only warship fitted with the 'Pollen' gunnery control system. Her 13.5-inch guns were the most accurate in the British fleet. The deepest of the Jutland wrecks, Queen Mary is mainly upside down. She is blown in half just forward of the main superstructure. Visibility on this site can be in excess of 30 metres. After first diving over the Invincible, that on Queen Mary was unbelievable. It took an hour to find the wreck and work out that it lay northwest to southeast and was around 150m long. The highest point stood up 15m, and it was here that we chose to dive. Our dive was characterised by the most spectacular underwater visibility I have seen in the North Atlantic area Ð in excess of 30m. This was helped when the sun put in an appearance from behind the usually overcast sky. At 45m, it was possible to see features on the sand at 60m. At the deepest part of the wreck, off on its port side, we located one of Queen Mary's turrets upside-down on the sand, the guns buried under the main body of the wreck. Lying beneath it at 61m were the remains of one of the vessel's tenders, the propellers clearly visible. This fitted with the contemporary account of a tender seen flying through the air 200 feet above the exploding wreck. Our second dive here took us slightly further along the wreck. I dived with Tim Elley, our first job to secure the shot line into the wreck with rope. On arriving, we saw that the grapnel had fallen down into one of the shell rooms, and I found myself surrounded by 13.5 inch armament, gingerly tying the shot to a girder and trying not to disturb anything. My reward was some great video footage of one of the warship's magazines. Tim and I came across a number of Queen Mary's 42 boilers scattered around on the lowest areas of wreckage. Visibility was again extraordinary, currents benign and the water cold! The sun broke through during the dive, illuminating the wreck 60m below Ð fantastic! Towards the end of the dive, we located a temperature sensor for one of the boilers, marked Fire Furnace No 1. This and the 13.5 inch shells proved beyond doubt that this was the British battle-cruiser we believed it to be. Many believe the North Sea to be a barren stretch of water, but during the expedition we saw much interesting marine life from the boat alone, including seals, dolphins and at least one minke whale. On the wrecks, all the divers reported seeing the largest cod they had ever seen, even larger wolf-fish and many a whopping crustacean. During the decompression phase of the dives, huge, multi-coloured jellyfish of many species surrounded us, offering fascinating close-up views and some close-up stings. (Deep Blue Diving)

One other recent survey brought to light one regrettable and disturbing fact unrecorded by other dives:

QM is largely upside down and her propellers have been stolen.

Today the gradually deteriorating physical remnants of Queen Mary, rest on the gently undulating bottom of the North Sea, 56 degrees 42 minutes north, 05 degrees 40 minutes east. Lying capsized and upturned, like some great departed leviathan of the deep, as if now intentionally hiding her cruelly tortured and contorted upper works, which had been so severely devastated in her final explosions. Marine life and growth abounds, on and around her slowly rusting hull. While within her silent structure, still lie the mortal remains of 1,266 members of her company, who died with their ship at Jutland: Leaving those few who survived that day, so long ago now, rejoining them one by one.

Daily Telegraph, April 3rd 1980 - LLOYD-Owen - On March 30, peacefully in Orpington Hospital, John Hugh Lloyd-Owen, Commander Royal Navy, of Chislchurch, loved and sadly missed by his family and friends. He was one of the few survivors of the battle-cruiser Queen Mary at the Battle of Jutland 1916. Cremation at Beckenham Crematorium on Wednesday April 9 at 10.20am. Family flowers only and donations to be sent to Imperial Cancer Research.

One of the last, If indeed not the last, surviving member of her gallant company had passed on. Leaving one to reflect, that while this ship May have died with the vast Majority of her company. And those others, who at one time served on-board her, have departed over the intervening years. Allowing what physical and mortal remains, of both this great ship, and her men, to slowly decay through time. Nevertheless one feels that despite this, simply because of her brief, but memorable and distinguished service. Along with an insight into what she was like to serve in. The undying heart and spirit, which was once Queen Mary, will remain untarnished and undiminished forever.


(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)