Reports from Fifth Battle Squadron

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REAR-ADMIRAL'S REPORT.—5th BATTLE SQUADRON.

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Enclosure No. 16 to Battle Cruiser Fleet Letter No. B.C.F. 01 of 12/6/16.

No. 024A.
QUEEN ELIZABETH,
9th June 1916.
Sir,
I HAVE the honour to forward herewith report on the Action of the 31st May, together with reports from ships of the 5th Battle Squadron.
2. MyrecommendationsofOfficersandMenwillbeforwarded later when reports are received from H.M. Ships " Malaya and " Barham." I have the honour to be. Sir, Your obedient Servant, HUGH EVAN THOMAS, The Commander-in-Chief, The Grand Fleet.


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CAPTAIN'S REPORT.—H.M.S. BARHAM.

No. 181.
H.M.S. Barham,
6th June 1916.


Sir,
I HAVE the honour to forward herewith a report on the action of 31st May 1916, in which H.M. Ship under my command flying your flag took part.
2. The recording of details is not so full or accurate as I should have wished. This is partly due to the fact that Lieutenant Reginald Edward Blyth, R.N., Assistant Navigator, who was in the lower conning tower for the purpose, was mortally wounded about 1 hour after the engagement opened. Mr. Alec Edward Dodington, Midshipman, R.N., who worked with him, was afterwards entirely occupied in keeping the reckoning, which he did in a highly creditable manner under difficult circumstances.
3. Whilst the general trend of the action remains clearly fixed in the memory, it is impossible to reconstruct it strategically or tactically, owing to the difficulty of seeing the enemy, and to the lack of knowledge of the movements or positions of our own squadrons.
It is considered of great importance that in a squadron flagship, an Assistant Navigating Lieutenant should be permanently borne who will be able not only to keep an accurate reckoning continuously, but also to note tactical data. The importance of a reliable position after action cannot be over estimated, and during action a continuous plot of our own and the enemy's tracks may be invaluable in avoiding mines or in deciding in a tactical or strategical movement.


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4. Although the BARHAM received considerable structural damage from the enemy's shells, and the casualties were fairly heavy, the ship was in a thoroughly efficient fighting condition, and had all guns in action and fire control practically intact at the end of three hours' engagement. This reflects great credit on the Officers responsible for the upkeep of the propelling machinery and of the guns' mountings and electrical equipment.
5. During the engagement, the behaviour of the Officers and men was entirely praiseworthy, and their duties were carried out in a cool and intelligent manner, under, in some cases, very trying situations.
- * * * * *[1]
I have the honour to be,
Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
A. W. CRAIG,
Captain.


Rear Admiral Commanding
Fifth Battle Squadron.

ENCLOSURE TO BARHAM'S LETTER No. 181 OF 6th JUNE 1916.


Report of Action of 31st May 1916.
Disposition and courses prior to Action.
Noon position 56° 49' 5 N., Long. 3° 28' E.
Fifth Battle Squadron (BARHAM, VALIANT, WARSPITE, MALAYA) 5 miles astern of 1st B.C.S. (LION, PRINCESS ROYAL, QUEEN MARY, TIGER).
2nd B.C.S. (NEW ZEALAND, INDEFATIGABLE) some distances on Port Beam of 1st B.C.S.
Course S. 81 E. advancing 18 knots.
2.15 p.m. course N. by E. 5th B.C.S. 5 miles ahead of LION, ordered to look out for advanced Cruisers of Grand Fleet.
2.38 p.m. S.S.E. 22 knots in consequence of 1st L.C.S. reporting enemy cruiser S.S.E. at 2.35 p.m. The Battle Cruiser Squadron turned rather before the 5th Battle Squadron and were out of sight for some time. Hauled round gradually to N.E. following motions of Battle Cruiser Fleet, and then back to eastward, the enemy Light Cruisers being sighted at 3.50 on this course, and shortly after, two Battle Cruisers all steering to S.E. Speed now 24 knots. 2. Our Destroyer escort on the enemy side attempting to pass ahead of " Barham " prevented fire being opened until 3.58, when the two enemy Light Cruisers (Kolberg type) were engaged, range 17,000. These turned away 8 points after the third salvo and it is not thought that they were hit.


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3. At 4.11, fire was opened with director salvoes on the rear (left hand) Battle Cruiser, which had smoke issuing from her, and seemed damaged, bearing 35°, Red, Range 19,000. This ship was straddled, but hits could not be seen with certainty. 4. Fifth Battle Squadron were now following the 1st and 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadrons, about 5 miles astern of them and gradually hauled round to the southward, bringing enemy Battle Cruisers nearly abeam. About 4.16 " Barham "' sliifted to second ship from the left (" Moltke "') and the squadron were ordered to concentrate in pairs on the two left-hand ships. The enemy presented a fair target at range of 18,000-17,000 yards, and was frequently straddled. Three certain hits only were seen, but after we started using A.P. Lyddite, hits could not be seen. This would naturally be the case, however, and it was noted that the enemy hits on " Barham," though doing great internal damage, did not show outside the ship.
- * * * * * [2]
6. Towards the latter part of the southerly run, the visibiUty of the enemy got considerably worse, the ships being thesamecolourasthebackground. Twoterrificexplosionswere seen amongst our Battle Cruisers ahead at about 4.10 and 4.24 respectively, and the WTeckage of these vessels (" Indefatigable " and " Queen Mary ") was passed about ten to twelve minutes later, with a number of men in the water which were being rescued by Destroj^ers. During tliis part of the Action " Barham " was under a steady fire from the enemy, but was only hit twice, one below the water fine, doing practically no damage. 7. About 4.45 p.m. the 1st and 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadrons turned in succession 16 points to Port, and it was seen that the enemy Battle Cruisers had turned also, and that some of the German's 3rd Squadron were coming up astern of them. The " Lion " turned 16 points to Port, the other three Battle Cruisers following her and Vice Admiral Battle Cruiser Fleet ordered 5th Battle Squadron to turn 16 points in succession to starboard. This was done at 4.53 and the squadi'on hauled in again astern of the Battle Cruisers about two miles. 8. Therangewasnowabout19,000to20,000,buttheenemy could rarely be seen, though the flashes of his salvoes were very bright. These salvoes Avere very rapid ripples (almost simul- taneous), and it was not possible to lay on them, as they were gone before the sights were on the spot. Our fire was therefore intermittent, and any enemy which showed up for long range enough to lay on was selected. On the other hand, it appeared looldng at the horizon and sky behind us, that we should be very clear to the enemy and offer at times a splendid target.



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9. Shortly after turning, the ship was hit by a heavy shell which entered the glacis before No. 1 6-in. gun starboard and abreast the after end of " B " turret redoubt armour. This shell burst at the main deck over the Medical .Store, completely ^vrecking the Auxiliary W/T Office and the Medical Store, and jDutting the starboard forward Hydraulic Pump out of action. The bulk of the Medical Stores, stretchers, &c., were destroyed, and heav}^ casualties occurred amongst the Medical Part}^ and the Wireless Staff. The 6-in. Hand Ups and Dredger Hoist starboard, and the Dredger Hoist Port were penetrated, and the flash of the shell passed up to the battery deck and ignited some cartridges in S. 2 casemate, causing severe casualties. Large pieces of the shell also penetrated the middle deck, and a piece entering the Lower Conning Tower mortally wounded Lieutenant Blyth, Assistant Navigating Officer. The Platform Deck, forming the roof of the forward 6-in. Magazine was also pierced, and the 6-in. Magazine and Shell Room filled wdthsmoke. Therewerethreeotherheav}^hitsduringthispart of the Action, but the first is described in detail, as it was much more vital than the remainder, and might have easily put the Lower Conning Tower out of Action. As it was, it put the Auxifiary W/T and starboard fore Hydraulic Pump out of Action and cut a number of fire control voice pipes, and the pipes to the port steering engine Telemotor. 10. " Barham " was now without wireless communication as the Auxiliary Office was completely wrecked, and the Main W/T feeder and Action feeder had gone, consequently the position of our Battlefleet was hot known until a part of them were sighted before the Port Beam shortly after 6 p.m. Thjs turned out to be the 1st Battle Squadron who were on the right wing of the Battlefleet, and as they deployed to starboard on an easterly course, 5th Battle Squadron hauled round to a parallel course, following the Battle Cruisers. The oth Battle Squadron were now blanking the range for 1st Battle Squadi-on, and it was a question as to whether 5th Battle Squadron should endeavour to follow the Battle Cruisers to the head of the fine or form astern of " Marlborough's " Division. The Rear-Admiral decided on the latter alternative, and '" Barham " led in turning about 8 points to port and reducing speed. The leading enemy Battle Squadron (" Konigs ") seeing this, opened a terrific fire on the turning jjoint, and " Barham " was surrounded by a hailstorm of splashes, but no hits of importance were made. The " Warsjiite " was now seen to be dropping astern and reported that she had been holed several times under water and was steering from engine-room. It should be mentioned that just before turning into fine astern of our Battle Fleet, the Armoured Cruisers " Defence " and " Black Prince " came down at high speed between the 5th Battle Squadron and the enemy and al30ut 1 mile from 5th Battle Squadron steering in the opposite direction. " De-



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fence " was hit by two heavy salvoes in succession, and blowing up, sank in a few minutes. '" Black Prince " was heavily hit aft and turned out of Action, apparently in a sinking condition. 11. " Barham " formed astern of " Agincourt " and opened fire again, first at a partially disabled enemy ship believed to be a three-funnel Cruiser, and then at an enemy Battleship of " Koiiig " type, second from right of those visible. The range was partly obscured by smoke from our own Battleships' guns and funnels, and it was only possible to sight the enemy intermittently, and spotting was very difficult. It appeared, however, that several hits were obtained on a ship of the " Kaiser " class. During this period, at least four torpedoes passed through the line close to " Barham," and were avoided by turning awa3^ A submarine also attacked and was fired on by the 6-in. guns. The attack apparently failed. Enemy Destroyers made an attack from the head of their line, and fire was opened on them from 6-in. guns. One was apparently hit. About 6.50 p.m. the enemy were lost to view, and fire ceased. Fifth Battle Squadron then stood to the westward on the right wing of the Battle Fleet, and eventually turned to the southward, astern of the line. During the night there appeared to be constant attacks by Torpedo Craft on ships, first to the westward and then to the northward, and about 0.45 a.m. an immense explosion was seen totheN.N.E. Noattackwasmadeon5thBattleSquadron. A tracing shoAving the " Barham's " track^ during the Action with notations of the principal events is forwarded herewith It is proposed to forward as soon as possible a detailed account of the damage received, and further details of the Action, together with proposals for the future, based on the experience of this Action. Also the names of Officers and men who especially distinguished themselves, or who are recommended for meri- torious conduct.
A. W. CRAIG,
Captain.

ENCLOSURE No. 2 TO BARHAM'S LETTER No. 181 OF 6th JUNE 1916.


Notes on Damage to the Enemy.
1. Rear Battle Cruiser, " Seydlitz." ?
This ship was damaged before " Barham " opened fire, and was straddled once by " Barham." The foretop director officer reports that a hit was obtained at this straddle.
2. Second Battle Cruiser, " Moltke."
This ship was frequently straddled, but only hits with common shell (3 to 6) were made out with certainty.


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3. Enemy Battleships - 3 of these were observed to be under a heavy fire in the last stage of the action — one was hit simultaneously by 2 shells, and another was on fire amidships.
At this time several of the control party in fore-top independently observed an enemy battleship blow up, and a gap in the line after it. BARHAM obtained at least three hits on a battleship of KAISER class.
4. Enemy Cruiser, ROON class (?) Disabled and under heavy fire from many ships about 6.15 to 6.30 p.m.

CAPTAIN'S REPORT.— H.M.S. WARSPITE.

H.M.S. Warspite,
4th June 1916.


Sir,

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Notes

  1. (original footnote) Part omitted here, referring solely to personnel, recommendations, &c., in no way bearing on the course of the action.
  2. (original note) See note on p. 381.