Reports from Third Battle Cruiser Squadron

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REPORT OF SENIOR OFFICER 3rd BATTLE CRUISER SQUADRON.

Enclosure No. 8 to Battle Cruiser Fleet Letter No. B.C.F. 01 of 12/6/16.
No. 363/16.
H.M.S. "Indomitable,"
2nd June 1916.
SIR,
I HAVE the honour to report that H.M. Battle Cruisers INVINCIBLE, INDOMITABLE, and INFLEXIBLE, H.M. Light Cruisers CHESTER and CANTERBURY and H.M. Destroyers CHRISTOPHER, OPHELIA, SHARK, and ACASTA left the Pentland Firth at 9.35 p.m. on 30th May 1916, just ahead of the Grand Fleet, with which visual touch was kept by the late Rear-Admiral Commanding Third Battle Cruiser Squadron, The Honourable Horace Lambert Alexander Hood, C.B., M.V.O., D.S.O., through CHESTER till we were in Latitude 57.49 N., Longitude 4.42 E. at 2.23 p.m. on 31st May.

2. At 2.23 p.m. we received from GALATEA our first intimation that the enemy were actually at sea; we were then steering 115°, speed of advance 14 knots; the speed of advance during the night had been 16.8 knots. Telefunken signals of strength 10 had just previously been heard. From then onwards many signals giving various positions of the enemy were received.

At 3.13 p.m. the Rear-Admiral Commanding 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron increased speed to 22 knots; at 3.18 p.m. he ordered ships to "Action Stations"; 3.45 p.m. he altered course to 137°, the squadron was then in single line ahead with CANTERBURY ahead distant 5 miles, CHESTER on starboard side bearing 256° to 212° distant 5 miles and the four destroyers ahead of the Battle Cruisers as a submarine screen. By 4.12 p.m. we were steaming at full speed.

3. As usual, the positions of the enemy received in the W/T signals dis not agree, but they all pointed to the enemy steering 345° or 298°, and it is evident that the late Rear-Admiral acted on this; at 3.57 p.m. we received signals from the Senior Officer, Battle Cruiser Fleet: "Am engaging enemy 1500." At 5.30 p.m. the sound of gunfire was plainly heard. At this time the visibility greatly decreased owing to the mist, the density of which was various degrees; for, on some bearings, one could see 16,000 yards, whilst on others only 2,000 yards. From then till dark the visibility ranged from 14,000 to 5,000 yards, which was, in my opinion, a great handicap to us, the attacking force; in fact much more of a handicap to the attacker than the defenders.

At 5.40 p.m. flashes of gunfire were seen on a bearing about 215°, but I could not distinguish any ships. The Rear-Admiral, INVINCIBLE, altered course to starboard without signal, turning about 9 points, thus bringing the engaged vessels and CHESTER on the port bow of the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, and leaving our destroyers off our port quarter; after a short time we made


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out the engagement to be between the enemy's light cruisers and CHESTER. The Rear-Admiral led the squadron between CHESTER and the enemy's light cruisers whom we engaged; at 5.55 p.m. we opened fire on the enemy with our port guns. Shortly afterwards some more of the enemy's cruisers were seen following at some distance astern of the light cruisers which we were engaging, and I observed our destroyers developing an attack on them. At the same time these enemy vessels opened a heavy fire on our destroyers, and I am afraid that ACASTA and another destroyer were either sunk or damaged for I only saw two of them afterwards, nor did I again see either CHESTER or CANTERBURY. I desire to record the fact that, when I saw them, they were heading to make a determined attack. At this moment my attention was called to the enemy's light cruisers turning 16 points; they were at that time under a heavy gunfire from the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, and a few minutes later one was seen to be heavily on fire and apparently she blew up. There was also observed amongst them a four-funnelled cruiser, apparently of the ROON class. She was observed to lose two funnels, to be steaming and firing very slowly and heavily on fire amidships.

4. The First Battle Cruiser Squadron was then sighted on our port bow, heavily engaged with some enemy whom I could not see owing to the mist. At 6.13 p.m. INVINCIBLE turned to starboard, apparently stopped, and large quantities of steam were observed to be escaping from her escape pipes. At the same moment INFLEXIBLE turned to port and tracks of torpedoes were observed by INDOMITABLE coming from the enemy's light cruisers with whom we had been engaged. The range at which I engaged them was about 12,000 yards. I turned away from the torpedoes and increased to full speed. One torpedo actually ran alongside this ship at a distance of about 20 yards, which we managed to outrun. As we turned, two torpedoes passed close to the stern of the ship, but they had run their distance, for I managed to turn ahead of them and resume my place in the Squadron as did INFLEXIBLE astern of INVINCIBLE, which ship was then again going ahead, having turned to about 153°. In all about 5 torpedoes' tracks were seen coming from the enemy's light cruisers.

At 6.14 p.m. INVINCIBLE, while steam was escaping, hoisted the "Disregard," but hauled it down at once and followed it by hoisting 1 flag and the squadron got into proper order again. About 6.20 p.m. at a range of 8,600 yards the leading ship of the enemy's battle cruisers was seen firing at the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron. They were promptly engaged, and I realised that INVINCIBLE could have sustained little or no damage from a torpedo, as I had thought she had when she stopped at 6.13 p.m., for I had to go 20 knots to regain station in the line; 6.32 p.m. shells were falling about INDOMITABLE from the enemy's battle cruisers, which were distant about 8,000 yards.


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At 6.33 p.m. INVINCIBLE was straddled by a salvo and was hit in the after part; 6.34 p.m. a salvo or one shot appeared to hit her about "Q" turret, and she immediately blew up. Wreckage, &c. was thrown about 400 feet in the air. She appears to have broken in half immediately, for, when the smoke cleared and we had got to the position, the bows were standing upright about 70 feet out of the water and 50 yards away the stern was standing out of the water to a similar height, while in a circle round was wreckage and some few survivors. The visibility, which I have before said was sometimes up to 14,000 yards, was now generally much less than that.

5. The positions of affairs, when I took charge of the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron on the lamentable death of Rear-Admiral Hood, appeared to me to be as follows :-

We were steering 153°, as shown on attached chart. [1]. The enemy's battle cruisers were disappearing out of sight, but were still firing on INDOMITABLE and INFLEXIBLE. The Director Gunner, Mr. James H. Moore, reported that about this time one of the DERFFLINGER class fell out of enemy's line and he saw her sink. The Lieutenant-Commander (G) in the Control top at same period remarked that she was very low in the water. The 1st and 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadrons were coming up astern of INDOMITABLE ; INFLEXIBLE being about 3 cables ahead of latter. When INVINCIBLE blew up, INFLEXIBLE turned sharply to port, and I did the same and eased the speed as I wanted to continue the action in the same direction as previously and wished, if INFLEXIBLE turned 8 or more points to port, to turn possibly under her stern, or, at all events, to get the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron to resume their original course and then alter it further to starboard in order to continue the action. However, INFLEXIBLE quickly turned to starboard and continued to turn towards the enemy. By being compelled to ease my speed I had dropped astern of INFLEXIBLE. I made no signal to her as she was turning as I desired. You then ordered the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron to prolong your line, which we did. Shortly after this I saw the Grand Fleet astern of us bearing about 340°.

6. Until 7.20 p.m. none of the enemy could be distinguished owing to the mist ; but at that time it commenced to lift, and at 7.26 p.m. INDOMITABLE reopened fire on the enemy's rear ship, the range being about 14,000 yards and decreasing. Towards the head of the enemy's line dense quantities of grey smoke could be seen and out of this came a destroyer attack, which was beaten off but caused our battlefleet astern to turn away from the enemy. At 7.40 p.m. our fire was checked owing to lack of visibility. At 8.26 p.m. ranges could again be got on the enemy, and INDOMITABLE engaged the 2nd ship from the enemy's rear, which, as the range decreased, appeared to be SEYDLITZ. The enemy very quickly straddled us and


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continued to do so, even after we ceased firing. I believe that NEW ZEALAND was also firing on this ship ; at all events. SEYDLITZ turned away heavily damaged, and her fire lessened. At 8.42 p.m. we ceased fire the enemy bearing 307°, but we could not see to spot.

7. The only damage sustained by INDOMITABLE was a small hole in her middle funnel, though many splinters from shells fell on the deck, but no one was injured. At 8.44 p.m. INDOMITABLE received so severe a shock that I was knocked off the compass platform. I thought that the ship had been mined or hit by a torpedo, but no damage has so far been discovered. I assume that we either hit some wreckage or a submarine.

8. From then onwards I conformed to your orders and nothing further of importance occurred with the exception that at 3.12 a.m. on 1st June a Zeppelin was sighted on the starboard quarter coming up from the Southward. At 3.17 a.m. fire was opened by "A" and "X" turrets, the Zeppelin then turned 101°, but had not been damaged in any way. At 3.21 a.m. she turned to 10° and continued her course astern of us, but at too great a range to justify a further expenditure of ammunition. Several light cruisers stationed on our port quarter engaged the Zeppelin, but apparently without causing her any damage.

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11. The following is amount of ammunition expended by this ship during the action :-

98 rounds of A.P. Lyddite, 12-in.
66 rounds of Common Lyddite, 12-in.
10 rounds of Powder Common, 12-in.

12. I desire to emphasize the fact that, when INVINCIBLE blew up and sank, the Captain of INFLEXIBLE — Captain Edward Henry Fitzhardinge Heaton-Ellis, M.V.O. — without warning such as he would have had in the case of a wounded ship, found himself leading the squadron, and he at once followed the highest traditions of our Service by closing the enemy.

13. As the Officer left as Senior Officer of the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, I desire to record the sincere sorrow of all the Officers and men of the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron in the loss that the Nation has sustained in the death of Rear-Admiral The Hon. Horace L.. A. Hood, C.B., M.V.O., D.S.O., Captain Arthur Lindesay Cay, Royal Navy, and the Officers and men of H.M.S. INVINCIBLE, many of whom were personally known to me and friends of mine.

Of Rear-Admiral Hood's attainments it is not for me to speak, but he drew from all of us our love and respect. The Officers and men of INVINCIBLE had previously been our chums in the Mediterranean.


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13. Since compiling the above report, I have seen Commander Hubert E. Dannreuther, who was the Gunnery Commander of H.M.S. INVINCIBLE on 31st May. He states that the cause of INVINCIBLE stopping at 6.30 p.m. was that her helm jammed when put "hard-a-port."

I have the honour to be,
Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
F. W. KENNEDY,
Captain and Senior Officer,
3rd B.C. Squadron.

The Vice-Admiral Commanding,
Battle Cruiser Fleet.


Enclosure No. 9 to Battle Cruiser Fleet Letter No. B.B.F. 01 of 12/6/16.

REPORTS OF THE 3rd BATTLE CRUISER SQUADRON ON THE ACTION OF 31st MAY 1916.

REPORT OF SENIOR SURVIVING OFFICER, H.M.S. "INVINCIBLE"

H.M.S. "Crescent,"
2nd June 1916.

SIR,
I DEEPLY regret to report that H.M.S. "Invincible," commanded by Captain A. L. Cay, R.N., and flying the flag of Rear-Admiral the Hon. Horace L. Hood, Rear-Admiral Commanding the Third Battle Cruiser Squadron, was blown up and completely destroyed when in action with the enemy at 6.34 p.m. on Wednesday the 31st May.


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The total number of officers and men on board at the time was 1,031. Of these only six survived. The names of the survivors are as follows :—
Commander H. E. Dannreuther, R.N.
Lieutenant C. S. Sanford [sic], R.N.
Chief P.O. (P.T.I.) Thompson.
Yeo. Signals Pratt (Walter Maclean), 2169G3.
Able Seaman Dandridge (Ernest George), 239478.
Gunner Gasson, R.M.A.
Of the above, all are free from injury with the exception of Gunner Gasson, who was severely burnt about the head and arms. They are now accommodated in this ship except Gunner Gasson, who is in the Hospital Ship "Plassy."

The circumstances of the destruction of the ship are briefly as follows :—

The INVINCIBLE was leading the 3rd B.C.S. and at about 5.45 p.m. first came into action with an enemy light cruiser on the port bow. Several torpedoes were seen coming towards the ship, but were avoided by turning away from them.

INVINCIBLE's fire was effective on the light cruiser engaged, and a heavy explosion was observed. A dense cloud of smoke and steam from this explosion appeared to be in the same position some minutes later.

INVINCIBLE then turned and came into action at about 6.15 p.m. with the leading enemy battle cruiser, which was thought to be the DERFFLINGER. Fire was opened at the enemy at about 8,000 yards, and several hits were observed.

A few moments before the INVINCIBLE blew up Admiral Hood hailed the Control Officer in the Control Top from the fore bridge : "Your firing is very good, keep at it as quickly as you can, every shot is telling." This was the last order heard from the Admiral or Captain who were both on the bridge at the end.

The Ship had been hit several times by heavy shell, but no appreciable damage had been done when at 6.34 p.m. a heavy shell struck "Q" turret and, bursting inside, blew the roof off. This was observed from the control top. Almost immediately following there was a tremendous explosion amidships indicating that "Q" magazine had blown up. The ship broke in half and sank in 10 or 15 seconds.

The survivors on coming to the surface saw the bow and stern of the ship only, both of which were vertical and about 50 feet clear of the water.

The survivors were stationed as follows prior to the sinking of the ship :—

Commander Dannreuther (Gun Control Officer)
C.P.O. Thompson
A.B. Dandridge Fore Control Top.


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Yeo. Signals Pratt Director Tower platform.
Lieutenant (T) Sandford Fore Conning Tower, hatch of which was open.
Gunner Gasson "Q" turret, at the range-finder.

There was very little wreckage, the six survivors were supported by a target raft and floating timber till picked up by BADGER shortly after 7 p.m.

Only one man besides those rescued was seen to come to the surface after the explosion, and he sank before he could reach the target raft.

The BADGER was brought alongside the raft in a most expeditious and seamanlike manner, and the survivors were treated with the utmost kindness and consideration by the officers and men.


I have the honour to be,
Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
H. E. DANNREUTHER.
Commander.

Captain Francis W. Kennedy, R.N.,
H.M.S. "Indomitable."



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


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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 6 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 KÖNIG 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.


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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.

[3]* * * * *

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.


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Notes


  1. Plate 13.
  2. (original footnote) Part omitted here, referring solely to personnel, recommendations &c., in no way bearing on the course of the action.
  3. (Original footnote) Part omitted here, referring solely to personnel, recommendations, &c., in no way bearing on the course of the action.