Reports from First Battle Cruiser Squadron

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REAR-ADMIRAL'S REPORT.—1st BATTLE CRUISER SQUADRON

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Enclosure No. 2 to Battle Cruiser Fleet Letter No. B.C.F. 01 of 12/6/16
No. 011
PRINCESS ROYAL,
3rd June 1916.
SIR,
I BEG to forward a narrative of events of the engagement of 31st May; the times given and the sequence are approximate only. A track chart is also attached.[1] The First Battle Cruiser Squadron followed the LION during the engagement and conformed to her movements.

2. During the greater part of the engagement the conditions of light were most unfavourable, the German Fleet were


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partially obscured by mist which made spotting very difficult, whereas our own line were showing up against a clear horizon.

3. The QUEEN MARY was hit by a plunging salvo near "Q" turret which apparently penetrated the armoured deck and ignited the magazine. A bright flame was observed to shoot up as she was hit, followed almost immediately by a mass of cordite smoke in which the ship disappeared. I deeply regret the loss of Captain Prowse and an exceptionally fine company of Officers and men.

4. Further reports on the damage sustained, lists of killed and wounded will be forwarded.

I have the honour to be,
Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
O. de B. BROCK,
Rear-Admiral.

The Vice-Admiral Commanding
Battle Cruiser Fleet.

NOTES ON ACTION -- 31st MAY 1916.

The first news of the enemy being in the vicinity was a report from the Commodore Commanding First Light Cruiser Squadron, at 2.25 p.m., who reported two Cruisers. He then reported a large amount of smoke, bearing E.S.E., at 2.40 p.m., and at 3.0 p.m. GALATEA further reported that the smoke appeared to be from 7 vessels, besides Destroyers and Cruisers, and that they had turned to the Northward. Fleet then altered course, leading ships together, remainder in succession, to S.E.

At 2.59. Altered course to East.

At 3.10. Altered course to N.E., speed increased to 23 knots.

At 3.16. GALATEA reported that enemy had altered course to N.W., his own course being N.N.W.

At 3.23. PRINCESS ROYAL called attention to E. by N., from which direction Enemy were first sighted.

At 3.26. Ships were ordered to action stations, and at 3.30 speed increased to 26 knots.

At 3.42. The Vice-Admiral Commanding, Battle Cruiser Fleet, reported the enemy to the Commander-in-Chief.

At 3.45. Battle Cruisers were formed on a compass line of bearing N.W., and S.O., 1st L.C.S, reported he was leading enemy to the N.W.

At 3.45. Concentration of fire signal was made: "Leading pair engage right-hand ship of enemy."

At 3.50. Enemy opened fire and missed over, which was returned by the Battle Cruisers at 3.51 p.m. The action then became general, the enemy rate of fire being greater than ours due to the conditions of light and wind. LION was hit at 3.55 p.m. and PRINCESS ROYAL at 3.56, putting main control out of action. Enemy fire then became short, spread


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of salvoes being very small, and error for direction practically nil.

At 3.59. Hits were observed on enemy No. 3 in line. Spotting became difficult owing to smoke from Destroyers.

At 4.11. Torpedo missed PRINCESS ROYAL.

At 4.16. Argo tower was repaired and ship fired with main control again.

At 4.21. A heavy explosion occurred in QUEEN MARY, and ship sank immediately.

At 4.23. The leading ship of the enemy was hit.

At 4.27. And again at 4.32. PRINCESS ROYAL was hit.

At 4.40. Our Destroyers attacked Enemy's Destroyers, who appeared to be getting into a position for attacking Battle Cruisers.

At 4.40. Altered course 16 points to Starboard and reopened fire at 4.50 p.m.

At 5. 0. Passed an "L" class Destroyer picking up survivors from QUEEN MARY. Shortly afterwards, about 4.45 p.m., 5th Battle Squadron came down on an opposite course and were ordered by LION to turn 16 points by Compass Pendant. They were then heavily engaged by the Battle Cruisers and a Division of the Enemy Battle Fleet. After about ¼ of an hour, WARSPITE hauled out of line.

At 5.35. Course was altered to N.N.E, and at 5.40 p.m. fire was reopened at which time leading divisions of our Battlefleet were sighted on the port beam. Armoured Cruisers and Light Cruisers and Destroyers were close to, taking station for deployment. The Third Battle Cruiser Squadron came into action ahead of the LION, and apparently the INVINCIBLE was shortly afterwards hit, as her wreck was noticed with the stern and bow standing out of the water. About this time a torpedo was noticed to pass under the ship from port to starboard from the direction of our own Fleet.

At 6. 5. The First Cruiser Squadron was apparently engaging a Light Cruiser, and stood out across the LION's bows, necessitating an alteration of course of Battle Cruisers to port. ONSLOW then approached the light cruiser and apparently fired a torpedo, but was driven off and hit by enemy's heavy ships. Leading Battle Cruisers' fire was then masked by First Cruiser Squadron who were very heavily engaged by the enemy. Enemy appeared to be firing shrapnel at times. This movement of the First Cruiser Squadron appeared to cause a division of the enemy's Battlefleet who


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had been directing their fire on the Battle Cruisers to concentrate on the First Cruiser Squadron.

At 6.22. Destroyer was hit near after funnel by an over. What appeared to be an over at First Cruiser Squadron put PRINCESS ROYAL's "X" turret out of action. At this time the leading four enemy battleships appeared to concentrate on LION and PRINCESS ROYAL.

At 6.40. A torpedo passed PRINCESS ROYAL from starboard to port.

At 7.15. Enemy ship on fire, and remainder of enemy Battle Cruisers apparently had enough, making a very successful smoke screen. Ceased fire.

At 7.28. Enemy's Destroyers appeared to be launching an attack, and were driven off by Battle Fleet.

At 8.26. Enemy opened fire, PRINCESS ROYAL engaged what appeared to be a 3-funnelled Battleship. Hits were undoubtedly obtained and fire observed. About 8.32 LION and PRINCESS ROYAL were again hit.

At 8.32. PRINCESS ROYAL fired a torpedo.

At 8.40. Ship gave two very distinct shudders, which were at first thought to be a torpedo. This wa afterwards ascertained to be incorrect.

Three-funnelled Battleship had three bands round after funnel.

What appeared to be HINDENBURG had two massive funnels, wide apart and painted dull red.



REPORT OF LOSS OF "QUEEN MARY" IN ACTION ON 31st MAY 1916


Enclosure No. 3 to Battle Cruiser Fleet Letter No. B.B.F. 01 of 12/6/16.
No. 011.
II.
Vice-Admiral Commanding
Battle Cruiser Fleet.

The attached report from Midshipman J. L. Storey, R.N., the senior uninjured survivor from QUEEN MARY is submitted for information.
O. de B. BROCK,
Rear Admiral.
PRINCESS ROYAL, 3rd June 1916

H.M.S. "Crescent"
3rd June 1916.

SIR,

I DEEPLY regret to report that QUEEN MARY, commanded by Captain C. I. Prowse, R.N., was completely


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destroyed when in action with the German Fleet at 5.25 p.m. on Wednesday, the 31st May.

The total number of Officers and men saved was 18[2].

[3]* * * * *

The circumstances of the loss of the Ship are, as far as I know, as follows: -

At 4.20 p.m. the QUEEN MARY was third ship in the line of the 1st B.C.S., and action was sounded, and at 4.45 the order was given "load all guns." At 4.53 fire was opened on the third ship of the enemy's line, the range being about 17,000 yards.

The fire was maintained with great rapidity till 5.20, and during this time we were only slightly damaged by the enemy's fire. At 5.20 a big shell hit "Q" Turret and put the right gun out of action, but the left gun continued firing. At 5.24 a terrific explosion took place which smashed up "Q" Turret and started a big fire in working chamber and the Gun House was filled with smoke and gas. The Officer of the Turret, Lieutenant Commander Street, gave the order to evacuate the Turret. All the unwounded in the Gun House got clear and, as they did so, another terrific explosion took place and all was thrown into the water. On coming to the surface nothing was visible except wreckage, but thirty persons appeared to be floating in the water.

At 5.55, LAUREL saw the survivors in the water and lowered a whaler and rescued seventeen. When this number had been picked up, LAUREL received orders to proceed at full speed, being in grave danger of the enemy's ships.

All Officers and men were treated with the greatest kindness by the Officers and men of LAUREL and were landed at Rosyth at about 8 p.m., 1st June.[4]

I have the honour to be,
Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
J. L. STOREY,
Midshipman, R.N.


CAPTAIN'S REPORT. - H.M.S. "PRINCESS ROYAL."

Enclosure No. 4 to Battle Cruiser Fleet Letter No. B.C.F. 01 of 12/6/16.
No. 1/125.

H.M.S. "Princess Royal,"
8th June 1916.

SIR,

I HAVE the honour to report that PRINCESS ROYAL, flying your Flag, was in company with LION, First and Second


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Battle Cruiser Squadrons, less AUSTRALIA, on the afternoon of the 31st May, when the Enemy's Fleet was sighted bearing N.E., our position being Lat. 56° 51 N., Long. 5° 16 E., and course N.E. Fire was opened by the enemy at 3.46 p.m. and immediately returned by us, LION and PRINCESS ROYAL concentrating on the leading ship (of DERFFLINGER type), the opening range being 16,000 yards. She was straddled at the third salvo, and a hit was observed at 3.54 p.m. Course was gradually altered to southward.

2. The hit forward at 3.56 p.m. caused the electric training of the Argo Tower to fail, and the hand gear was found to be set up. Control was turned over to "B" turret for ten minutes, and then resumed by the Argo Tower, of which the rangefinder was out of action. At 4.11 a torpedo missed the Ship, passing under the midship section from starboard to port. The shooting of LION and PRINCESS ROYAL appeared good for some time before the enemy turned away at 4.26 p.m.

3. Shortly afterwards, the High Sea Fleet came in sight, and our course was altered to the northward (4.38 p.m.). On picking up the enemy again, their right-hand ship was seen to be enveloped in smoke and steering away. Four salvoes were fired at a three-funnelled cruiser steering southwards, and fire at 4.50 was opened on the second ship in the line, as LIONS's smoke interfered with our view of the leading ship ; she resembled the SEYDLITZ. The LION's smoke becoming better, fire was shifted at 4.56 to the leading ship again (also of the SEYDLITZ or similar type). At 5.8 the enemy could no longer be seen and fire was checked.

4. At 5.41 p.m. fire was opened on the left-hand ship which at 5.48 was seen to be on fire. The wreck of the INVINCIBLE was passed at 6.36 p.m. on the starboard hand. The course of the Squadron was gradually altered to the eastward. At 6.4 fire was checked, the enemy not being visible.

5. Fire was reopened at 6.12, the target being apparently a battleship (two funnels wide apart). Course had to be altered slightly to the N.E. at 6.15 to allow the First Cruiser Squadron to cross our front; the original course was afterwards resumed and then gradually worked round to the southward, and half an hour later to the south-westward.

6. The Ship came, about this time, under a heavy fire, possibly from the battleships of the KÖNIG class, which were seen abaft the beam. "X" Turret was put out of action by this fire, and the ship was holed in the starboard after reserve bunker by another shot of the same salvo, which wrecked the after engine-room casings before exploding against the upper deck on the port side. Fire was checked at 6.22 p.m., the enemy being invisible owing to smoke, and advantage was taken of the lull to check the instruments. At 6.40 p.m. a torpedo missed the Ship, passing from port to starboard under the middle section again.


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7. Fire was reopened at 7.14 p.m. for three minutes on an enemy ship which was on fire amidships, having been hit by LION.

About 8.40 p.m. a very heavy shock was felt, and everyone thought a torpedo had hit us, but this was not so, however; and therefore we must have struck and passed over a very heavy object, possibly a submarine or a sunken vessel.

8. At 8.21 p.m. fire was reopened on the leading battle cruiser, which could now be seen without any interference from LION smoke, and good ranges could be obtained for the first time. She was repeatedly hit until 8.30, when she dropped astern on fire and was hidden by destroyer smoke screen. Fire was resumed at 8.33 on a three-funnelled battleship of the HELGOLAND or POMMERN type, and hits were obtained with the second and third salvoes. Fire was checked at 8.36, the target being obscured by the smoke screen.

9. Nothing more was seen of the enemy after this.

10. After the turn northwards at 4.38 p.m. the enemy was always on the starboard side.

11. The only electrical defect which developed in the course of the action affecting the fighting efficiency was the failure of the electrical training of the Argo Tower at the beginning of the action, caused by the blowing of the fuzes in No. 1 starboard and port pipe passages (caused by the explosion of the shell which hit at 3.56 p.m.). These were replaced and the Argo Tower Motor worked correctly.

12. The gunnery interruptions were :—

"A" Turret—Right Gun.—Retractor lever bent, causing missfires. Turret Armourer and Chief Armourer away on advance leave, and considerable delay caused.

Left Gun.—Crank pinion axis broke with breech in closed position. Breech could not be opened for 11 hours. Gun out of action.

"B" Turret.—Turret armour hit without internal damage. Tubes occasionally missfired—bad tubes.

"Q" Turret.—Right gun hit on muzzle, cracked Inner "A " tube for 2 ins. and caused scoring of right trunnion bush.

"X" Turret.-12-in. hit on armour which was badly distorted. Large piece thrown through gunhouse, killingleft gun's crew, damaging sliding shaft to breech and destroying all pressure pipes on left side. Turret jambed and out of action.

Gun Control Tower.—Two 12-in. shell striking forward caused vibration which put training gear temporarily out of action and jammed transmitter gear of Argo Rangefinder. Slight damage by splinters to 4-in. gun circuits, &c. repaired by Ship's Staff.


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Voice-pipes.—Captain's, on Compass Platform to Argo Tower and between Argo Tower and Director Tower both cut by fragments of the first salvo which hit the ship. All voice-pipes in both struts and auxiliary director circuit destroyed by shell.

Rounds Fired.—
" A " Turret- 34
" B " Turret- 78
" Q " Turret- 78
" X " Turret- 40

13. The main engines and boilers were not affected by hits and steam was easily maintained for all services.

Examination of the propellers by divers shows that a very small piece has been removed from one blade, and a cone from a propeller nut has come off. This may have been caused by the collision referred to in para. 7.

The explosion of the shell which came through the starboard after reserve bunker and wrecked the casings of the after engine rooms, filled them with dense smoke, some of which penetrated to the starboard forward engine room, but this dispersed after the fire was subdued, the hole on the port side of the after deck facilitating the dispersion.

14. The electric light on the upper and main decks was cut off at the switchboard previous to the action to prevent probable causes of fire through short-circuiting of leads.

15. PRINCESS ROYAL was hit by approximately nine heavy shell, besides a constant stream of shell fragments. The principal damage was—

(a) Caused by shell exploding against upper deck in Admiral's Port cabin over "B" Turret Flat, which wrecked the cabin, killed and wounded many of the Fore 4-in, guns' crews and salvage party, put the Fore Distributing Station out of action till it could be cleared of smoke, partially gassed the men in the Transmitting Station and Lower Conning Tower, and started several fires, which were very difficult to put out owing to gas and darkness.

(b) Hole through base of No. 1 Funnel.

(c) Hole through armour in port forward reserve bunker, by which the fire main pipe and the gearing of the flood valve to "B" port magazine were shot away.

(d) Gunhouse of "X" Turret.

(e) Shell through starboard after reserve bunker, which wrecked the after engine room casings and exploded on the port side of the main deck, killing and wounding many of the After 4-in. guns' crews and salvage party, breaking the fire main and brine system, and causing several fires.

The fires were subdued in a minimum of time but under much difficulty, due to the lack of electric light, the failure of


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the oil lighting, the breaking of fire mains and valves, and the heavy smoke and gases caused by the explosions and fires.

The two holes in the Ship's side were plugged as soon as it was possible to get at them after the fires were dealt with.

16. Soon after opening fire, a shell burst in "B" Turret Flat, putting out the lights, jambing the hatch to the Fore Distributing Station, and filling the air with thick clouds of smoke, which were very irritating to the eyes and throat, especially the latter. Respirators were immediately put on, and were found most useful. Goggles were were used but were found to get dimmed. The gases, being heavy, hung about in the Distributing Station for hours afterwards. The effects of the gas on the system also became obvious by nausea, giddiness and vomiting, so that the Station was evacuated and the Port Fore 4-in. Battery used. The removal of wounded, as anticipated, proved slow and very difficult. After the action was over, the Fore Distributing Station was used for operations.

The Port After Mess Deck, the Distributing Station and the Issue Room were used for the treatment of the wounded aft.

The greater proportion of the injuries consisted of burns about the face and arms, which proved serious and led in a few hours to much swelling of mouth and eyes, and great shock.

The conduct of the wounded was steady, no complaint being heard.

* * * * *[5]

I have the honour to be,
Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
WALTER COWAN,
Captain.

The Rear Admiral Commanding.
First Battle Cruiser Squadron


CAPTAIN'S REPORT. - H.M.S. "TIGER."

Enclosure No. 5 to Battle Cruiser Fleet Letter No. B.C.F. 01 of 12/6/16.
No. F. 61/5.
H.M.S. "Tiger,"
6th June 1916.
SIR,
IN accordance with your signal 0945 of 2nd June 1916 I have the honour to submit herewith report of proceedings of 31st May 1916.
I have the honour to be,
Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
H. B. PELLY,
Captain.

The Vice-Admiral Commanding
Battle Cruiser Fleet,
(Through R.A.C., 1st B.C.S.)


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G.M.T.
P.M.

3.44. Enemy reported in sight from LION.

3.45. Observed enemy Battle Cruisers, 5 in number, which appeared to be HINDENBURG, LÜTZOW, DERFFLINGER, SEYDLITZ, and MOLTKE, in the order named from right to left, bearing North and on the Port Beam. Weather was misty in patches with varying visibility.

3.46. Target given, 4th ship from the left, probably SEYDLITZ.

3.49. Enemy opened fire ; first salvo about 2,000 yards short.

3.50. LION opened fire.

3.51. TIGER opened fire. Smoke from our own T.B.D.s on engaged side which were proceeding to take station ahead caused considerable interference. Range, 18,500 yards. 1st salvo missed for direction. 2nd over.

3.52. TIGER hit on Forecastle. TIGER's salvoes apparently short and hitting. Increased rate of fire.

3.55. "Q" turret hit and "X" turret hit.

3.56. Hit under P. 6 6-in. gun. It is of interest to note here that after 3.56 p.m. TIGER was apparently not hit again by heavy shell. Several minor hits were registered but no appreciable damage was done.

4. 4. Observed INDEFATIGABLE sinking.

4.10. T.B.D.s ordered to attack enemy. A desultory action was continued, but the enemy's fire appeared to be wild and uncertain.

4.24. I observed a salvo pitch abreast "Q" turret of QUEEN MARY this was the first time I had seen QUEEN MARY hit) and almost instantaneously there was a terrific upheaval and a dense cloud of smoke. This could not altogether be avoided as TIGER was close up (about 2 cables) from QUEEN MARY.

As TIGER passed through the cloud there was a heavy fall of material on her decks, but no sign whatever could be seen of the QUEEN MARY. She must have sunk instantaneously.

4.25. Shifted target to 3rd ship from the left, apparently the DERFFLINGER.

4.26. Established hitting.

4.34. Enemy Torpedo Boats were observed to turn and attack. Opened fire on them with 6-in. battery and appeared to find their range after three salvoes. Range 11,000 yards.

4.39. Checked fire.

4.42. Altered Course in succession 16 points to Starboard on observing 8 enemy Battleships of the KÖNIG class.


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G.M.T.
P.M.
4.45. 5th Battle Squadron opened fire.

4.50. Recommenced firing at opposite number (DERFFLINGER). Long range, 18,000 yards, and enemy very indistinct. Only two salvoes fired.

4.58. Altered Course to Port. Recommenced fire at same ship (DERFFLINGER). Light conditions improved and hitting seemed to be established and maintained. DERFFLINGER appeared to be down by the stem and to leave the line.

5.10. Enemy obscured. Speed 24 knots.

5.42. Enemy Battle Cruisers reappeared (only 4).

5.44. Engaged 3rd ship from the left, apparently SEYDLITZ. 5th Battle Squadron were also engaging the Battle Cruisers.

5.56. Checked fire as unable to spot and 5th Battle Squadron appeared to be engaging the Enemy Battle Cruisers.

6. 5. Sighted Battleships of Grand Fleet.

6. 7. 6-in. battery opened fire On Light Cruiser of KOLBERG class on Starboard bow and hit her. This Cruiser eventually drifted between the lines and 6-in. battery fired several salvoes at her and she was last seen sinking by the stern at 6.19.

6.19 to 6.29. Firing a few salvoes at opposite number, but spotting was not possible and fall of shot lost.

6.25. The DEFENCE class made a fine entry across the LION's bow into the battle, but they were met by a very heavy fire and suffered disaster. I did not actually observe their loss.

6.36. Enemy developed a very heavy smoke screen and under cover launched a T.B.D. attack on the Battle Fleet. Opened fire with 6-in. guns. The shooting appeared to be good and so the attack was not pressed home. The heavy smoke clouded fall of shot, but apparently several hits were made. Under cover of smoke the enemy turned away.

6.37. Cease Fire.

6.37 to 6.39. About this time three torpedoes passed close to the stern of the ship. Course was altered for one of them, but the others were passing clear.

6.40 to 7.17. Nothing in sight.

7.17. Enemy squadron of four ships appeared, of which two were Battle Cruisers, but I am not sure of the other two.

7.19. Opened fire on opposite number. She appeared to drop astern past Number 4 ship.

7.23. Ceased fire.


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G.M.T.
P.M.
7.27. Much smoke observed on Starboard bow, and apparently T.B.D. attack developing. Opened fire with 6-in.

7.31. Ceased Fire.

8.21. Enemy sighted, apparently Battle Ship with 3 funnels. Opened fire and hitting established.

8.29. Enemy altered away.

8.37. Felt a very heavy shock and had no doubt that ship had been torpedoed. Enquiries gave no result, so I concluded that the ship must have struck something under water.

8.40. Cease Fire.

Reports are attached which were written by various Officers in accordance with my directions, also a report in detail of the damage done.

These consist of—

Enclosure No. I.—Report by Commander A. G. Craufurd, R.N.
Enclosure No. II—Report by Lieutenant-Commander W. N. Lapage, R.N., Torpedo Officer.
Enclosure No. III.—Report by Lieutenant-Commander P. Macnamara, R.N., Gunnery Officer.
Enclosure No. IV.—Report by Engineer Commander C. H. A. Bermingham, R.N.
Enclosure No. V.—Report in detail of damage sustained during action.[6]

A separate report of recommendations is also forwarded.


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Notes

Plate 12

  1. (original footnote) Plate 12
  2. (modern footnote) Later assessed as 20 (see LFWW QM Survivors)
  3. (original footnote) Part omitted here, referring solely to personnel, recommendations,&c., in no way bearing on the course of the action
  4. (original footnote) It will be noted that the above times are "Summer Time" and not G.M.T.
  5. (original footnote) Part omitted here, referring solely to personnel, recommendations &c., in no way bearing on the course of the action.
  6. (original footnote) Enclosures detached 12/6/16 and not forwarded by V.A.C. Battle Cruiser Fleet.