Battle of Jutland as seen from H.M.S. Galatea

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“Battle of Jutland”
as seen from H.M.S. Galatea
by
F. W. Newbery


This is a faithful transcription of the memoir written in
the aftermath of the Battle of Jutland, which took place
on the 31st May and 1st June 1916, by Francis William
Newbery
, Warrant Shipwright aboard H.M.S. Galatea.
The original spelling and punctuation have
been preserved, and the author’s own later insertions
are bracketed and marked (i).


“Battle of Jutland”
as seen from H.M.S. Galatea
May 31st 1916 a memorable day to us all dawned a beautiful morning hardly a ripple
on the water except the wake of our bows cleaving the water in twain. As usual we
were looking for signs of the German Fleet which except for occassional incidents has
been a very monotonous experience. The danger of mines and submarines has always
to expected at the most unusual times but we are all used to those risks without
thought now, but no one thought that day we should be engaged on the greatest battle
of the war. I had turned in the night before at about 10 P.M. with the thoughts of
having to turn out at 4 A.M. to keep the morning watch Soon all thoughts of Subs etc
were for me lost in sleep. At about 3.40 AM I awoke with the noise of the Quarter
Master calling the watch. As I prepared to go on deck to relieve the carpenter of the
middle watch I heard a warning shout and on arriving in the battery found the
submarines guns crew tense and alert ready to fire at the first apperance of a Sub:
which had just fired two torpedoes at us one of which was seen to pass about 10 yds
astern and the other seemed to skim right along our side owing to the helm being
suddenly put over by the officer on the bridge which no doubt saved us from being
struck, but the events of the day later drove all thoughts of the early morning
adventure from our thoughts. After my watch was over myself and a fellow
shipwright had a job to alter and lengthen a galley funnel a rather unpleasant and
sooty job. Things were proceeding as usual and steady as on our usual trips as we
ploughed though mile after mile when suddenly at 2.10 in the afternoon smoke was
observed on the horison. This did not excite our curiosity very much as we know that
anything suspicious is soon observed by our signalman and look-outs on the bridge
and we are soon making investigations but on getting a little nearer the masts and
funnels of a “Stranger” a man-of-war hove in sight, Us light cruisers being ahead of
the battle cruisers, we knew that a Britisher should not be ahead in her position, so
increasing speed we rapidly closed in on her making her out to be a large four
funnelled destroyer, immediately behind her were more masts and funnells and more
suspicious smoke. We at once made the challenge signal and she replied – “the wrong
answer”. The signal was immediately hoisted “Enemy in sight” for information of the
other three ships of our little squadron on of who was just astern whilst the other two
were in the immediate vicinity but could not be seen. A wireless message had in the
meantime been dispatched to Admiral Beatty on the battlecruisers who was
somewhere a little distance behind us. The bugler had by the time sounded off
“Action” Gun’s crews were at once at their posts and the supply party, Torpedo
party, Fire Brigade were soon busy, the Carpenters repair party also being ready with
their various appliances for stopping shot holes and repairing damage. A Great thrill
passed though us all as we gradually worked up full speed and the Guns were order to load.

The ranges were got by the range finders and passed though by a certain system to the
guns and these were layed on the nearest enemy ship. A few more tense moments and


then at 2.28 PM our foremost gun opened fire the first shot fired in the memorial
Jutland Battle.

By this time our squadron of four light cruisers had formed into quarter line formation
and the enemy force had been reinforced by three cruisers which made a total of 13 of
them. The enemy now fired and quickly found our range and then we were
exchanging broadside for broadside and began to hit our opponents

It is a peculiar sensation to watch an enemy ship pour salvo after salvo at you from all
her bearing guns and you find yourself wondering where they are going to pitch. To
hear the scream of shells whizzing towards you is rather a fascination

We now turned towards our battle cruisers and our other consorts joined us making 8
British Light Cruisers against 13 Germans.

Both sides now began to hit Shells were falling all around us, but by the admirable
way our Commodore kept continually zig-zagging we were able to evade every shell
except one which hit us in the focsle under the bridge it passed through the wooden
and iron deck into the seamans head passing through the fire main then pierced two
bulk-heads crashed the iron deck of the sick bay severed the electric leads and circuits
plunging the fore-part of the ship in darkness then into a marines mess passing
through the table generally making a horrible mess of the mess utensils, then tried to
bore its way out through the opposite side of the ship to which it had entered. It
managed to make a nasty bulge in the side knocking out several rivets, and succeeded
in forcing the armour plate from its proper place.

Not being able to properly pierce the armour it rebounded back to the compartment
and succeeded in tearing a large hole in the next deck to the provision room. Here
after spinning around for several seconds its cruising career ended. By a wonderful
stroke of luck this shell did not explode or I am afraid this little narative would not
have been written, the shell on its flight only wounding one man slightly.

We were now making water through the hole in the side but the chippy chaps were
already on the job with the implements of their craft and quickly had the damage
temporily repaired.

The first thing they espied on entering the damaged compartment was the shell, the
chief promptly collared to to throw it over board but found it red hot, seeing his
intention one of his staff begged that, as it now seemed harmless to be allowed to
keep it, and soon he was bearing it triumphantly to the Blacksmith shop on his
shoulder, singing out, here is a ‘B- souvenir boys Needless to say the boys gave him
plenty of room to pass it did not look healthy to be in his vicinity whilst he had such a
prize

During several lulls in the fighting afterwards men were seen stealing stealthily along
to the shop with hammers etc where they were found knocking off parts of the driving


band for souvenirs. He very promptly stop this very dangerous operation, but they
were soon at it again until it eventually had to be locked away.

The lights now being out, very lurid crisp and plentiful language could be heard
issuing from various dark corners but hanging oil lamps were quickly alight and the
electricians got busy repairing the damaged leads.

The chase was now getting extremely hot and at 4.12 P.M. we sighted the German
Battle Cruisers and Battle-ships and these started firing on our Battle Cruisers who
had now come up

By the intensity of the fire and the number of shells dropping in-on and around our
ships and Battle Cruisers proved that our Cruisers were fighting a vastly superior
Fleet as regards being out-numbered. Facts showed later that we were fighting the
whole of the Enemy Super-Dreadnought Fleet.

Although it was a rather one sided fight our ships severely punished their opponents
and whilst several enemy ships were on fire a great German Battle Cruiser was
observed to blow up and disappear in a volume of smoke and flame. But we were not
discouraged with the heavy odds against us and it gave us a grim satisfaction when
the enemy were seen to be suffering and we know that our Admiral Jellicoe was
rushing towards us with his Fleet of mighty ships, Britain’s sure shield and we knew
our Battle Cruisers would quickly by avenged.

My opinion is that the Germans thought they would quietly wipe out our Battle
Cruisers, which no doubt they would have with their superior numbers of big ships,
but the stubborn resistance they were offered proved their undoing the terrific
resistance of our ships enabling our Grand-Fleet to get in touch with the enemy.

It was very thrilling to watch the miraculous escapes of our T.B.Destroyers as they
rushed though the water at their highest speed, amids’t bursting shells, Flame, smoke
and hugh water-spouts They were hit again and again but they reached our lines after
a thrilling dash, their daring proving that the traditions of the Navy has not been
allowed to degenerate one atom.

Just before we sighted our Grand Fleet we turned towards the enemys northern
squadron which was about the same strength as ours and endeavoured to cut them off
when the Defence & Warrior appeared on the offing and then began the finest
specular fight of the battle.

They engaged three German Cruisers and opened fire upon them hitting their
opponents with remarkable rapidity and accuracy. Their firing was astounding, it
gladdened our hearts to see the Germans being shattered and bursting into flame in a
matter of a few minutes.


But alas the daring of these two ships was to great for they were immediately
subjected to the concentrated fire of a whole enemy division of Battle-ships. Just at
this moment our little ship was about to engage a big enemy cruiser our Guns were on
the very point of firing but I am afraid it would have gone very bad with us as the
enemy was armed with about 8”.2 guns but we were hoping to greet her with our
torpedoes with a bit of lick, but the Defence and Warrior at that moment dashed right
across our bows and received the salvoes of enemy’s shells which without a doubt
were intended for this ship We are all of the opinion aboard here that had not those
two ships dashed in at that moment, the “Galatea” would not have returned to base.
The two ships were fighting gamely, but the enemy salvoes seem to have exploded the
Defence’s magazine, for we saw a terrific explosion and flames and eventually sunk,
the Warrior was also badly crippled, but now the leading divisions of our Battle Fleet
were entering the fray.

It was a spectacle to stir any mans heart to see the magnificent manuivering of our
Grand Fleet to gain the most advantageous position. They opened fire with a
vengeance and a cannonade began which words fail to describe The din was terrific –
the hitting marvellous – the amount of ammunition expended on both sides being
stupendous

Up to this time the Germans had the advantage of the light our Battle Cruisers being
forced to fight from a bright-red sky line “which made them plainly discernable”, to
draw the enemy towards our Battle Fleet, but Admiral Jellicoe soon altered the
position of things, he gradually drove the enemy into the worst position, but the
visibility was getting low and the day was drawing to an end, the light growing
dimmer as the sun began to sink, and we greatly feared that the enemy would escape
in the ensuing darkness before they could be entirely anniliated From our bridge a
great German Super-Dreadnought was now seen to stop in her tracks and burst into
flames, and fall a victim to the smaller British ships detailed to attack disabled enemy
ships.

Sensation followed sensation and the remarkable part was everyone seemed to be
taking things as coolly as on ordinary tactics, for except when the mind thrilled at
witnessing some gallant deed, the human body seems to be minus all human emotions
one seems to be only filled with a grim desire of vengeance, especially when we
passed very close to the two halves of our gallant Invincible our hearts were sad just
then as not a living soul was to be seen clinging to the wreckage or in the water.

When the fight was at its highest one of our large air fans that supply the forced
draught for the boilers suddenly broke its main shaft (i.Caused by shell splinter) and
crashed down into the boiler room putting the boiler room out of action, but here
another miraculous piece of luck occurred for only one man was injured when quite a
good number of men could reasonably expected to have been killed or injured.

This misfortune caused our speed to be reduced to 18 knots just at a vital moment we
having to leave our Squadron to push on whilst we joined the Battle Fleet whom we


began helping to screen from sub: & Destroyer attacks, to the best of our ability with
our reduced speed.

It was a brilliant action action that began at 10.30 PM. The light cruisers and
destroyers of both Fleets began their attacks, the inky darkness being split up by the
glare of searchlights and gun flashes. We have good cause to know that the enemy
suffered very heavily in our attack several ships being reported sunk by our craft,
whereas the Germans attack being very feeble our Fleet went though the night intact
not being at all worried although we were all very much on the alert as night actions
are very unpleasant.

The night action lasted until about midnight and then things quietened down as the
enemy had run into the shelter of their mine fields.

As things were quiet we took the opportunity of having a few hours sleep till daylight
all of remaining at our stations. Although we had passed through a very exciting time
and fully expected to have another go at them as soon as the dawn broke, I was soon
in a dreamless sleep, with no thoughts of battles & war.

At dawn the next day nothing could be seen excepting our own fleet, and we were
kept maneuvering around wondering if the enemy would come out to certain
anniliation, but they had had enough of the British Navy, so there was nothing doing.

All the rest of that day us Light Cruisers patrolled up and down the area of the scene
of the greatest battle in naval history, passing great quantities of oil wreckage and
dead bodies and incidentally German mines having the luck not to hit one.

The sight of these bodies floating by supported by lifebelts, brought home to us with
sudden realization the marvellous escape we had had. Except for a general depression
caused by the loss of our gallant comrades for whom we shall always mourn, we were
a very cheerful and satisfied ships company. We all knew that we had gained the day
and our grieve was that only a few hours more daylight, and the world would have
received the news of the complete anniliation of the whole German Fleet. We
steamed into base during the morning watch of June 2nd and found that the hospital
ships were all waiting and ready for the wounded of our Fleet.

During the day there was very busy times, small tenders steaming from ship to ship
distributing workmen to repair damage and collecting wounded men. In a very short
space of time all the ships had coaled and oiled ready for sea again We ourselves
were temporily out of action owing to reduced speed and shell damage, but were quite
ready for sea at about 19 knots if immediate existiencies required.

After now having heard details of how we had been given up for lost by the crews of
other Light Cruisers, who had seen us in the hottest corner (i Windy Corner) I ever
want to be in, and who were quite surprised to see us come in harbour safely again,
we can hardly realize the marvellous escape we have had, and now I suppose we must


settle down again to our old monotonus duties of patrol & blockade until the Germans
venture out again.

Yours Sincerely
F. Newbery