Friday, May 31, 2013

The Battle of Jutland 31st May - 1st June 1916

Today is the 97th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland, two men from the memorial were killed 97 years ago today during this battle, the largest naval engagement of WW1.

The Battle of Jutland was the major Naval Battle of WW1 between the battle fleets of Britain and Germany In this battle the British lost 6094 seamen, the Germans 2,551.

Able Seaman Thomas Henry Bramwell killed when the HMS Invincible was sunk

HMS Invincible (source Wikipedia Commons, public domain photo)
The website British Losses at Jutland 31st May - 1st June 1916 has a casualty list for the sinking of the HMS invincible. Click here to open the webpage in a new window.

Leading Stoker James Dennis Wilding killed when the HMS Indefatigable was sunk 

HMS Indefatigable (source Wikipedia Commons, public domain photo)

The website British Losses at Jutland 31st May - 1st June 1916 has a casualty list for the sinking of the HMS Indefatigable. Click here to open the webpage in a new window. 

The Battle of Jutland 31st May 1916 - 1 June 1916


Before 1916 there had been no major sea battles between the world's largest naval powers, Germany and Britain. The British Grand Fleet kept to the safety of Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands while the Germany High Seas Fleet stayed anchored in their own ports. In January 1916, the Germans had a new Naval Commander, Admiral Von Scheer, and he was eager for action. Von Scheer planned to lure the British Fleet into battle and trap them. The British found out what he was planning and prepared to meet the German fleet.
Just before 6pm on 31 May, the great fleets of Britain and Germany, totalling some 250 ships, came into contact off the coast of Jutland. Fierce fighting went on all evening with high explosive shells ripping into thick armour plating. Sailors burned to death or were drowned in the icy-cold sea. As darkness came Von Scheer headed back to port and the British fleet concerned about enemy submarines and minefields refused to give chase.
Both sides claimed victory. The Germans said they sank more ships but the British claimed Von Scheer had given up first and fled the scene of the battle. However, when losses were counted Britain seemed to have lost more. Britain lost 14 battleships to Germany's 11. While Germany lost 2,551 men, Britain lost 6,077.
The German High Seas Fleet stayed at home for the rest of the war. They chose to rely on U-boats (submarines). German U-boats caused great problems for the British as they sunk an enormous amount of shipping. The British eventually defeated the menace of the U-boats by employing a convoy system where anti-submarine ships protected other ships in a group.

Details of the battle

Click here for the Wikipedia page on the Battle of Jutland which contains detailed information on the movements of the individual ships during the battle.

The Battle of Jutland Wrecksites

The 14 British vessels lost in this battle were designated as protected places under the Protection of Military Remains Act in 2006 on the 90th anniversary of the battle.  The Act makes it an offence to interfere with a protected place, to disturb the site or to remove anything from the site. Divers may visit the site but the rule is look, don't touch and don't penetrate

Unfortunately, several of the wrecks had already been subjected to commercial salvage operations.  The following extract is from an account by Innes McCartney, the diver who found the wrecks from the Battle of Jutland in 1991. (full text here )
In the case of HMS Invincible, the Royal Navy located the wreck in 1919, in order to help facilitate a post-war investigation into the Battle of Jutland. It seemed strange that such a large wreck could remain unknown. In fact, the ship’s remains are not even charted as a fisherman’s fastener or an unknown sea bed anomaly. However, several local sources in Denmark suggested a possible position. When we dived the wreck, the reason why its position was not so well known quickly became apparent – it has been heavily commercially salvaged. In fact, there is little of this wreck that is instantly recognisable and hardly any of the wreckage stood higher that 6–7m off the sea bed. Sadly, this means we will never be able to assess how HMS Indefatigable came to her end. It was difficult to identitify the wreck and it was only after studying our video footage that we could confirm that we had found the final resting place of HMS Indefatigable. The video showed the presence of both 12in and 4in guns, placing the identity beyond doubt. This wreck, which is scattered over a massive area, has been systematically blown to pieces to extract non-ferrous metal. A very thorough job has been carried out. In fact, so successful was the demolition that we had quite a difficult time being able to navigate around the wreck from dive to dive. 

Click here to visit an account of diving on the wrecks from the Battle of Jutland, by Innes McCartney.

Click here to see a video of a dive around HMS Indefatigable (youtube)

Click here to see a video of a dive around HMS Invincible (youtube)

1 comment:

Gerald said...

War is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.