Heaton-Ellis, Edward Henry Fitzhardinge

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Captain’s Report - HMS “Inflexible”
Engagement on 31st May 1916


No. 199 W.
"Inflexible,"
2nd June 1916.

SIR,

I have the honour to inform you that "Inflexible" left Scapa Flow at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, 30th May 1916, in company with "Invincible" (flying the Flag of Rear-Admiral the Hon. Horace L. A. Hood, C.B., M.V.O., D.S.O.), "Indomitable" (Captain Francis W. Kennedy), "Chester," "Canterbury," and the four destroyers "Ophelia," "Christopher," "Shark," and "Acasta." This Squadron, which left in advance of the main fleet, which sailed shortly after, under the command of the Commander-in-Chief, was stationed 10 miles ahead of the armoured cruiser screen; speed of advance of fleet was 17 knots.

2. At noon on Wednesday, 31st May, the position of the Third Battle Cruiser Squadron was 58° 7' North, 3° 55' East. At 2.20 p.m., the first reports of the enemy were intercepted by W/T.

3. At 3.15 p.m. speed of Squadron was increased to 22 knots and at 4.0 p.m. to 24 knots, gradually working up to full speed, course being altered as necessary by "Invincible," presumably with the idea of joining up with the Battle Cruiser Fleet, reports having been intercepted that "Lion" was engaging the enemy. At about 5.30 p.m. firing was heard ahead, and at 5.40, four hostile light cruisers were sighted on the port bow, apparently engaging the "Chester." On seeing the battlecruisers, these ships turned away ; fire was opened on the second light cruiser from the right at a range of 8,000 yards, but was checked at o'clock as the ship fired at was enveloped in a high column of smoke and was not seen again ; it is presumed that she blew up. Fire was re-opened on the next cruiser, but after one salvo was fired she disappeared in the mist. Meanwhile the four destroyers in company had left the Squadron in order to attack the enemy and were last seen hotly engaged.

4. At 6.15 p.m., two tracks of torpedoes were observed; course was altered to avoid one which was seen to pass down the port side at a distance of about 20 ft. (the torpedo was going very slowly—apparently near the end of its run) ; the other torpedo passed astern. At about this time another torpedo was observed to pass underneath the ship, and emerge the other side.

5. At 6.20 p.m., enemy's heavy ships were observed ahead, course was altered about 8 points to port and fire was opened at a range of about 8,000 to 9,000 yards. Owing to the haze and smoke only one ship was visible, apparently a battleship of the "Kaiser " or "Konig" class, and some direct hits were considered to have been obtained on this vessel. At 6.30 p.m., the "Invincible" blew up, apparently owing to being hit amidships abreast "Q" turret by a salvo. About 6.35 p.m., enemy disappeared in the mist and firing ceased.
During this engagement, "Inflexible" was continuously fired at, and was straddled repeatedly, but the enemy ship fired at could not be determined owing to the mist. "Inflexible" was now leading the line and having passed the wreck of "Invincible," altered course two points to starboard, fire having ceased, in order to close the enemy. At 6 45 p.m., " Inflexible " altered a further four points to starboard, when orders were received from "Lion" for "Indomitable" and "Inflexible" to prolong the line by taking station astern.

6. At 7.25 p.m., enemy's torpedo craft approached to attack, but were driven back by gunfire ; the track of a torpedo passed 150 yards astern of the ship.

7. At 8.20 p.m., action was resumed at 6,000 yards range with the enemy's armoured ships—believed to be of the "Kaiser" Class. At 8.30, fire was checked, the enemy's ships disappearing in the mist.
At 8.35 p.m., the track of a torpedo was observed across the bows of "Inflexible."
At 8.40, a violent shock was felt underneath the ship and a large swirl of oil was observed about 100 yards on the starboard beam : this violent shock was presumably caused by the ship coming into collision with wreckage.

8. "Inflexible" remained in company with the Vice-Admiral Commanding until arrival in the Forth a.m. the 2nd June. At 2.24 p.m., 1st June, "Inflexible" passed a whaler of German pattern marked "V. 29," and later, in about latitude 57° 2' N., Longitude 6° 13' E., passed large numbers of German bodies in lifebelts and a lifebuoy marked "S.M.S." (the name of the ship being covered by a body lying over it).

9. Except for the collision mentioned in paragraph 7, which must have caused an indentation of the outer skin, no damage has been sustained, and no casualties have occurred on board "Inflexible" during the recent engagement, but the right gun of "Q" turret, which was cracked for a length of 30 ft. during calibration, was used and this appears to have enlarged the crack. [1]

10. * * * * *[2]

I have the honour to be,
Sir,
Your obedient Servant,

EDW. HEATON ELLIS.
Captain.

Captain Francis William Kennedy, Royal Navy,
Senior Officer, Third Battle Cruiser Squadron.



To Battle Reports page

  1. HMS Inflexible Crew List (updated in Real-time)
  1. Inflexible apparently fought with a 30-foot long crack in the right gun in "Q" turret for the entire battle.
  2. (original footnote) Details on recommendation, personnel &c. omitted from the Report as reproduced in the Official Despatches.