Report from Lion
CAPTAIN'S REPORT, H.M.S. LION
Enclosure No. 1 to Battle Cruiser Fleet. Letter No. B.C.F. 01 of 12/6/16.
4th June 1916
I have the honour to report that on May 31, 1916, H.M. Ship under my command, flying your flag, was in action with the enemy under the following circumstances.
At 3.25 p.m., G.M.T., enemy ships were reported on the starboard bow, bearing E. by N.
At 3.30 p.m., enemy ships were in sight from LION and a range of 23,000 yards obtained.
At 3.44 p.m., the enemy, who were rapidly closing, were identified as 5 German Battle Cruisers.
2. Enemy opened fire at 3.47 p.m., LION replying half a minute later, the range being 18,500, course E.S.E.
LION was twice hit by heavy shell at 3.51 p.m. At 4.0 p.m. a shell disabled "Q" turret, and shortly afterwards INDEFATIGABLE was seen to be blown up, evidently by a magazine explosion.
3. At 4.2 p.m. the range was 14,600 and as the enemy appeared to have our range, course was altered on two or three occasions 1 point to throw him out.
The enemy appeared to be hit several times by our shell. LION was firing at the leading ship, which was either LÜTZOW or DERFFLINGER.
4. At 4.12 p.m. our course was S.S.E. and range 21,000 and course was altered to S.E. to close the enemy.
At this period more than one enemy ship was firing at LION and she was hit several times, but no important damage was
done, though several fires were started, and there was a large number of killed and wounded, chiefly from a shell that exploded on the Mess Deck in the Canteen Flat.
5. At 4.26 p.m. a very great explosion was seen in the QUEEN MARY and she entirely disappeared.
6. At 4.38 p.m. the enemy Battle Fleet was sighted ahead, and course was altered 16 points to North, enemy Battle Cruisers responding so as to take station ahead of their Battle Fleet.
7. LION reopened fire at 4.38 p.m. re-engaging enemy leading ship (VON DER TANN?) shortly after we passed wreckage of QUEEN MARY, with survivors in water and a destroyer.
The ship was now hit several times, the range being 15,000 yards. The ship had fires in several places, including a cordite case in the starboard 4-in. battery, which I ordered the 4-in. crews to extinguish, but this could not immediately be done owing to their extent and to the pressure on the fire mains being lost from perforations. All fires were eventually got under.
8. About this time a fire, which had been smouldering in "Q" turret ignited the charges still in the trunks: this killed all the Magazine and Shell Room parties and reached to the Mess Deck, where it burnt some of the Ship's Company. The Magazine doors being shut, however, saved a more serious explosion.
A fire was also reported in "X" Magazine, but this proved to be an error due to smoke penetrating down from a heavy shell burst in the Sick Bay, which killed a large number of men in the vicinity.
9. At 5.1 p.m. fire was shifted to LÜTZOW class again, range, 15,000 yards. LION was hit twice by big shell, one of which wrecked the ship's galley compartment.
At 5.12 p.m. LION ceased fire owing to the enemy being obscured, and did not reopen until 5.41 p.m. The visibility at this time was decreasing, and when fire was reopened on a ship that appeared to be of the KÖNIG class Battleship, the range was 14,000 yards, the enemy being just visible.
Ship's course was now N.E. by N.
10. At 5.46 p.m. the range was 14,000 yards and the enemy was observed to be hit by two salvoes, causing him to alter course to starboard and to cease fire.
11. At 5.56 p.m. the Battle Fleet was in sight on the port bow. Altered course to N.E. by E., and at 6.4 p.m. to east, the enemy Battle Cruisers bearing S.E.
12. DEFENCE and WARRIOR now crossed LION's bow and were engaging a Light German Cruiser, who was seriously injured by them. This caused LION to cease fire and to lose touch with the enemy.
13. At 6.21 p.m. the Third Battle Cruiser Squadron was sighted, and took station ahead, and LION reopened at distant ships on the starboard beam (KÖNIG class ?).
At 6.29 p.m. course was E. by S. and at 6.32 p.m. enemy heavy ships again came into view and opened fire on the 3rd B.C.S. At 6.36 p.m. INVINCIBLE blew up.
14. Course was continued to be altered to starboard to close the enemy, and at 6.37 p.m. was altered to E.S.E.; at 6.44 to S.E., and 6.48 p.m. to S.S.E.
At 6.53 p.m. speed was reduced to 18 knots to keep station on the Battlefleet, who were leading away to port owing to a destroyer attack.
LION continued to engage the leading ship of enemy, occasionally ceasing fire when he became invisible.
Very few hits were made on the ship subsequent to this, the enemy's fire appreciably slackening.
15. The ship continued to circle to starboard.
At 7.3 p.m. our course was altered to S.S.E., and at 7.6 p.m. to South; at 7.9 p.m. to S.S.W. and at 7.11 p.m. to S.W. by S.
16. Fire was reopened on the leading ship of the enemy at 15,000 yards at 7.15 p.m. and speed was increased to 22 knots; at 7.25 p.m. to 24 knots.
At 7.19 p.m. the enemy's leading Destroyers made a heavy screen of black smoke to protect their ships from our gunfire.
At 7.32 p.m. course was S.W., and 7.50 p.m. W.S.W. The enemy was still not sufficiently visible to open fire, and this continued until 8.21 p.m. when the flashes of his guns were again seen on our starboard beam.
At 8.23 p.m. LION opened fire with rapid salvoes on his leading ship, either LÜTZOW or KÖNIG class. Our shooting appeared to be very effective, and the enemy appeared on fire at 8.27 p.m.
17. The enemy now turned away more to starboard, and the light was failing.
LION ceased fire at 8.30 p.m., our course then being N. 35° W.
18. At 8.40 p.m., a heavy bump was felt on the starboard side. This appeared to me like a heavy hit on the water-line, but this was not the case, and it has not yet been ascertained what was the cause. It is possible LION may have run over a sunken ship, and divers are examining her bottom.
Shortly afterwards, INDOMITABLE hauled out of line and reported she had been torpedoed, which was subsequently negatived, which seems to imply that she had the same experience as LION.
19. The enemy was not sighted again.
20. The damage to the ship is not serious, except that "Q" turret is wrecked, but is repairable.
The ship was hit altogether 12 times by enemy heavy shell, but the damage, which I have already reported to you separately, does not seriously affect our sea-worthiness or fighting efficiency, and the ship is now ready for sea.
Conduct of Officers and Men :-
21. The conduct of the Officers and Ship's Company was in every detail magnificent.
The ship has been in commission for so long, and the men are so highly trained, and have such a fine spirit, that even in action they can do almost anything without their officers.
The unnerving sights that occurred, with the heavy casualties which amounted to 95 killed and 49 wounded, mostly in the first two hours of the action, were a tremendous strain on the strongest discipline, yet there was never the least sign of wavering in the least degree from their duty.
On visiting the Mess Deck twice during the action while the ship was temporarily disengaged, I observed nothing but cheerful determination, zeal to succour the wounded, and thoughtfulness for the good safety of the ship to keep her efficient.
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient Servant,
A. E. M. CHATFIELD.
The Vice-Admiral Commanding
Battle Cruiser Fleet
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