Report of HMS Indomitable's Gunnery Officer, Lieutenant Commander (G) Lachlan Donald Ian MacKinnon, signed off on 10th June 1916 by her new Commanding Officer, Captain Michael H. Hodges.
"Observations in the Control Positions, etc."
The first ships engaged were four light cruisers thought to be of the Rostock class, engaged with "A", "P" and "X" turrets off the port side. Indomitable targeted the fourth vessel owing to her position in rear of the British line. Hodges had instructed his gunners to fire in Individual and to fall back to director firing only if unable to see the target, in order to achieve the highest rate of fire possible. The first two rounds from each gun were C.P.C., followed by Lyddite common shells. It was reported that "[r]anges were difficult to take owing to mist, funnel & cordite smoke from the enemy's ships", and fire was commenced with a gun range of 12,000 yards simply because this one range was taken from the Fore Top range finder.
5.55 pm. The first salvo was long and the second was spotted down 1,000 yards. Hits were observed on the third salvo. The first target soon appeared to have blown up and fire was shifted ahead to the next cruiser which similarly seemed to be put out of action.
6.15 pm. A torpedo was seen approaching from the port beam and the Captain was notified. It passed under the ship and was seen to continue its course. A second torpedo passed under or near the stern of the ship. As the ship completed an eight point evasive turn to starboard, a third torpedo with a bright red nose was seen to end its run on the surface, running 20 yards to the side of the ship as it slowed. At this point, the enemy fleet was spotted to starboard with three battlecruisers leading battleships as the First B.C.S. was seen approaching from astern.
6.25 pm. "A", "Q" and "X" turrets opened fire on the middle enemy battlecruiser bearing 90 green as Lion seemed to engage the third enemy battlecruiser. A gun range of 9500 yards was selected based on a cut from the Fore Top rangefinder, with zero deflection and a rate of 100 closing based on estimations of enemy heading and speed applied to a Dumaresq. Straddles and hits were soon achieved. Another ship seemed to be firing at the same target, and the fall of its salvoes were found to be easy to differentiate from Indomitable's individual splashes.
6.30 pm. The enemy's fire now seemed to straddle Indomitable, but Hodges was intent on his spotting and not troubled by the spray kicked up by the shorts.
6.34 pm. The Invincible blew up.
6.42 pm. Checked fire as the First B.C.S. passed on starboard to take the lead.
7.00 pm. Line order was Lion, Princess Royal, Tiger, New Zealand, Indomitable and Inflexible.
7.12 pm. Ships at the head of the line opened fire again.
7.16 pm. Opened fire on 46 Green, range 13,800. The lead enemy battlecruiser seemed to be on fire.
7.25 pm. Enemy destroyers then appeared to attack from the smoke. The main battery was switched to the destroyers at range 6000, deflection 10 right, and rate 1000 closing, which produced a spot well short and left. "Up 3000, right 10" put the fire on line but long. "Down 800" seemed to hit the lead destroyer and perhaps blow it up, and a few more salvoes sent the attackers fleeing. Fire was checked.
8.20 pm. The enemy's battlecruisers resumed fire and a minute later Indomitable fired at the second in line on bearing 45 green, range 8800. The target appeared damaged and not returning fire, so fire was shifted to the third battlecruiser for a few salvoes.
8.33 pm. Ceased fire as the fall of shot was not longer visible in the failing light.
At 3.15 am, a Zeppelin was spotted off the quarter, well within range and at about 4,000 feet which seemed to place it within height for the main battery. To clear the A.P. shells from the guns so that shrapnel could be loaded, a single gun from "A" and "X" fired at her. She moved off before shrapnel could be loaded.
The director was used for training and the laying was done individually, but Hodges suspected that the turret gunlayers were not being entirely truthful to themselves as to how well they could see their object, alluding to their desire to see the action which they could not do if they "followed the pointer" in director laying.
The weather was called "[f]ine throughout & no interference from smoke or short shots was experienced. The light was very changeable & spotting was difficult. targets (except the Light Cruisers) were indistinct & Range Finding was most difficult. No plot was obtained."
165 rounds were fired with no breakdowns beyond some quarter charges being canted in the cage, requiring clearing in the Working Chamber. A single missfire was caused by a faulty tube.
Engineer Lieutenant[-Commander] Knothe suggested that fans should be added to the magazines to provide an air pressure gradient up the barbette to resist flash from reaching the magazine. A sketch of a double anti-flash scuttle between "P" and "Q" magazines and their handing room was also provided. Lastly, wooden battens were proposed as a means of keeping quarter charges from canting in the main cage.
Midshipman Frank Layard
Layard was on the fire control staff, operating a Dumaresq in the fore top. He offered the following comment on his ship's new gunnery director.
We had only done one test firing with our new firing system a day or two before leaving Scapa. The Gunnery Officer therefore had a difficult decision to make. Should he use the new system which, though more efficient, was virtually untried, or … revert to the old less accurate but well tested system of gunlayer firing? He decided not to risk using the new Director System and so, throughout the action, guns and turrets were individually laid and trained.
- Leading Seaman Frederick William Albert Hodges, not the soon to be appointed Captain