Fergusson, James Andrew
H.M.S. Thunderer at the Battle of Jutland
Report of Proceedings
From—The Commanding Officer H.M.S. " Thunderer."
To—The Vice-Admiral Commanding Second Battle Squadron.
Date—3rd June 1916. No. 149.
Subject—Action of 31st May.
This account is almost entirely compiled from notes taken in the foretop by Commander St. Aubyn E. Wake; the view from conning tower and bridge was very limited by smoke and haze.
For the above reason I had to trust entirely to statements from aloft as to target, being able to distinguish nothing clearly myself.
5.30. Heavy firing ahead.
5.52. Sighted our armoured cruisers, 1st or 2nd C.S., heavily engaged.
6.00. Deployed to port. Cruisers above mentioned under heavy fire, being straddled frequently. They were seen severely to damage a German cruiser, setting her on fire aft.
0.17. This was thought to be either "Adalbert" or "Karl Friedrich."
Enemy shooting at our battle cruisers appeared to be very good and rapid, many hits being observed. Could only see flashes of enemy's guns.
6.25. " Iron Duke " opened fire on damaged cruiser, followed at 6.28 p.m. by " Thunderer," then by " Conqueror " and others. Range about 11,800 yards, rate 0.
This was possibly the cruiser above mentioned.
Spotting difficult owing to the number of ships concentrating.
Four enemy ships now hove in sight, " Kaiser " class and battle cruisers. Guns were layed on one of these, but we were masked by " Conqueror " before we could fire. The weather had cleared considerably at this time and ranges of 22,000 yards-18,000 yards were obtained in the foretop.
On dropping clear of " Conqueror " we were masked by " Iron Duke." This target was, therefore, not fired at by " Thunderer " at all.
Two " Kaiser " (apparently) class were now observed overlapping each other, showing between " Iron Duke " and " Royal Oak." As there was a good gap between the two latter, I ordered fire to be opened through the interval.
The first salvo fell over owing to the range of the last object being used in error. This was at once corrected and the range from the foretop rangefinder (13,000 yards) put on.
The second salvo straddled in line with her foremast. Two or three large bursts with black smoke were observed, the shell used being powder filled common.
A third salvo was fired with no correction and a similar result obtained. This enemy was blazing for the whole length of her quarter deck.
" Iron Duke " was hitting this enemy, as was probably " Royal Oak."
A. P. Shell was now ordered, but before we could fire had to check fire owing to " Iron Duke " again masking us. By the time we had cleared, enemy had disappeared in the smoke. She was firing rapidly by salvoes at first, but shortly came down to slowish fire from one turret.
No further object presented itself, though rear of line was firing for some time after this.
(1) Just before opening fire there was a very large explosion on our starboard quarter, apparently beyond 5th Battle Squadron; a column of water and debris was thrown up.
(2) No shots fell nearer to " Thunderer " than 400 yards (short). One was observed to fall over " Conqueror." Several salvoes and single shots fell short of " Iron Duke."
(3) Objects came into view and disappeared again in about 3 minutes. A quick R.F. reading, used immediately, was the only practicable method.
Most of the ranges taken were about 11,000 yards, but for a short period ranges 22,000 to 18,000 were obtained in the foretop.
(4) Not Reproduced.
(5) Firing was by Director throughout.
(6) No delays or mishaps occurred.
(7) Passed 2 British T.B.D.s on fire, one flying 6 flag. 6.59 p.m., passed also a cruiser [the battle cruiser "Invincible"] broken in two, bow and stern showing above water. This was thought to be a light cruiser, but nationality was not distinguished. " Badger " standing by her.
(8) Battlefleet ceased firing about 8.30 p.m.
Shortly afterwards observed 3 of our light cruisers on our starboard bow. They were under a heavy fire, one with two funnels being hit 6 or 8 times in a few minutes. Enemy flashes were seen.
(9) 9.15 p.m., heavy firing on starboard quarter.
(10) About 10.30 p.m. an enemy cruiser challenged three times, switching on and off 4 red lights horizontal above 4 green horizontal.
Fire was not opened as it was considered inadvisable to show up battlefleet unless obvious attack was intended. Our destroyers shortly after attacked this cruiser and a hot engagement followed. She was seen to be hit many times. She eventually turned to port.
(11) Desultory firing was heard through the dark hours at intervals.
(12) About 3.0 a.m., 1st June, heavy firing to westward.
Shortly after this a Zeppelin hove in sight. " Thunderer " fired a salvo of common at it—range about 12,000 yards.
(13) 9.15 a.m.-10.15 a.m., passed wreckage, bodies, etc., among other things a short gig with brass sailing horse—a cask painted stone colour with red, white and black bands. Bodies had cork lifebelts in some cases and Kapok waistcoats in others.
Copy of signals during action and track of "Thunderer" attached. A comparison of these may be interesting.
J. A. FERGUSSON,
- Wake, St Aubyn Baldwin