Beatty's Report on The Battle of Jutland
31 May 1916
(Extracted from: The Beatty Papers, vol. 1, B.McL. Ranft, ed, Navy Records Society, 1989, p 323)
At 2.20 p.m. reports were received from Galatea, the light cruiser
stationed on the eastward flanks, indicating the presence of enemy vessels. The
direction of advance was immediately altered to S. S. E., the course for Horn
Reef, so as to place my force between the enemy and his base. At 2.35 p.m, a
considerable amount of smoke was sighted to the eastward. This made it clear
that the enemy was to the northward and eastward and that it would be impossible
for him to round the Horn Reef without being brought to action. Course was
accordingly altered to eastward and northeastward, the enemy being sighted at
3.31 p.m. They appeared to be five battle cruisers.
After the first report of the enemy the 1st and 3rd Light Cruiser Squadrons
changed their direction and without waiting for orders spread to the east,
thereby forming a screen in advance of the Battle Cruiser Squadrons and 5th
Battle Squadron by the time we had hauled up to the course of approach. They
engaged enemy light cruisers at long range. In the meantime the 2nd Light
Cruiser Squadron had come in at high speed and was able to take station ahead of
the battle cruisers by the time we turned E.S.E., the course on which we first
engaged the enemy. In this respect the work of the light cruiser squadrons was
excellent and of great value.
From a report from Galatea at 2.25 p.m. it was evident that the enemy
force was considerable and not merely an isolated unit of light cruisers, so at
2.45 p.m. I ordered Engadine to send up a seaplane and scout to N.N.E. At
3.08 p.m. a seaplane was well under way; her first reports of the enemy were
received in Engadine about 3.30 p.m. Owing to clouds it was necessary to
fly very low, and in order to identify four enemy light cruisers the plane had
to fly at a height of 900 feet within 3,000 yards of them, the light cruisers
opening fire on her with every gun that would bear. This in no way interfered
with the clarity of reports, which indicate that seaplane under such
circumstance are of distinct value.
At 3.30 p. m. I increased speed to 25 knots and formed line of battle, the
2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron forming astern of the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron,
with destroyers of the 13th and 9th Flotillas taking station ahead. I turned to
E.S.E., slightly converging on the enemy, who were not at a range of 3,000
yards, and formed the ships on a line of bearing to clear the smoke. The 5th
Battle Squadron, who had conformed to our movements, were now bearing N.N.W.,
10,000 yards. The visibility at this time was good, the sun behind us, and the
wind S.E. Being between the enemy and his base, our situation was both
tactically and strategically good.
At 3.48 p.m. the action commenced at a range of 18,500 yards, both forces
opening fire practically simultaneously. Course was altered to the southward,
and subsequently the mean direction was S.W.E., the enemy steering a parallel
course distant about 18,000 to 14,500 yards.
It would appear that at this time we passed through a screen of enemy
submarines. The destroyer Landrail of 9th Flotilla, who was on our port
beam trying to take station ahead, sighted the periscope of a submarine on her
port quarter. Though causing considerable inconvenience from smoke, the presence
of Lydiard and Landrail undoubtedly preserved the battle cruisers
from closer submarine attack. Nottingham also reported a submarine on the
Eight destroyers of the 13th Flotilla, Nestor, Nomad,
Nicator, Narborough, Pelican, Petard.
Obdurate. Nerissa, with Moorsom and Morris of 10th
Flotilla, Turbulent and Termagant of the 9th Flotilla, having been
ordered to attack the enemy with torpedoes when opportunity offered, moved out
at 4.15 p.m. simultaneously with a similar movement on the part of the enemy.
The attack was carried out in the most gallant manner and with great
determination. Before arriving at a favorable position to fire torpedoes, they
intercepted an enemy force consisting of a light cruiser and 15 destroyers. A
fierce engagement ensued at close quarters, with the result that the enemy was
forced to retire on their battle cruisers, having lost two destroyers sunk, and
having their torpedo attack frustrated. (Some torpedoes were fired by the enemy
two of which crossed the track of the 5th Battle Squadron, which had been turned
away to avoid the attacks.) Our destroyers sustained no loss in this engagement,
but their attack on the enemy battle cruisers was rendered less effective owing
to some of the destroyers having dropped astern during the fight. Their position
was therefore unfavorable for torpedo attack.
Nestor, Nomad and Nicator pressed home their attack on
the battle cruisers and fired two torpedoes at them at a range of 6,000 and
5,000 yards, being subjected to a heavy fire from the enemy's secondary
armament. Nomad was badly hit and apparently remained stopped between the
lines. (She was sunk later by the German Battle Fleet.) Subsequently
Nestor and Nicator altered course to the S.E., and in a short time
the opposing battle cruisers having turned 16 points, found themselves within
close range of a number of enemy battleships. Nothing daunted, though under a
terrific fire, they stood on, and their position being favorable for torpedo
attack, fired a torpedo at the second ship of the enemy line at a range of 3,000
yards. Before they could fire their fourth torpedo, Nestor was badly hit
and swung to starboard, Nicator altering course inside her to avoid
collision and thereby being prevented from firing the last torpedo.
Nicator made good her escape and subsequently rejoined the 13th Flotilla.
Nestor remained stopped, but was afloat when last seen. (She was sunk
later by the German Battle Fleet.) Moorsom also carried out an attack on
the enemy's Battle Fleet.
Petard, Nerissa, Turbulent and Termagant also
pressed home their attack on the enemy battle cruisers, firing torpedoes at
7,000 yards after the engagement with enemy destroyers Petard reports
that all her torpedoes must have crossed the enemy's line, while Nerissa
states that one torpedo appeared to strike the rear ship. These destroyer
attacks were indicative of the spirit pervading His Majesty's Navy, and were
worthy of its highest traditions.
From 4.15 to 4.43 p.m. the conflict between the opposing battle cruisers was
a very fierce and resolute character. The 5th Battle Squadron was engaging the
enemy's rear ships, unfortunately at very long range. Our fire began to tell,
the accuracy and rapidity of that of the enemy depreciating considerably. At
4.18 p.m. the third enemy ship was seen to be on fire. The visibility to the
north-eastward had become considerably reduced and the outline of the ships very
At 4.26 p.m. there was a violent explosion in Queen Mary ; she was
enveloped in clouds of gray smoke and disappeared. Eighteen of her officers and
men were subsequently picked up by Laurel.
At 4.38 p.m. Southampton reported the enemy's Battle Fleet ahead. The
destroyers were recalled, and at 4.42 p.m. the enemy's Battle Fleet was sighted
S.E. Course was altered 16 points in succession to starboard. and I proceeded on
a northerly course to l ead them towards the Grand Fleet. The enemy battle
cruisers altered course shortly afterwards, and the action continued.
Southampton with the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron held on to the southward
to observe. They closed to within 13,000 yards of the enemy battle fleet and
came under a very heavy but ineffective fire. Southampton's reports were
The 5th Battle Squadron were now closing on an opposite course and engaging
the enemy battle cruisers with all guns. The position of the enemy Battle Fleet
was communicated to them, and I ordered them to alter course 16 points. Led by
Rear Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas, M.V.O., in Barham, this squadron supported
us brilliantly and effectively.
At 4.57 p.m. the 5th Battle Squadron turned up astern of me and came under
the fire of the leading ships of the enemy Battle Fleet. Fearless, with
the destroyers of 1st Flotilla, joined the battle cruisers, and, when speed
admitted, took station ahead. Champion, with 13th Flotilla, took station
on the 5th Battle Squadron. At 5 p.m. the 1st and 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron,
which had been following me on the southerly course, took station on my
starboard bow; the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron took station on my port quarter.
The weather conditions now became unfavorable, our ships being silhouetted
against a clear horizon to the westward, while the enemy were for the most part
obscured by mist, only showing up clearly at intervals. These conditions
prevailed until we had turned their van at about 6 p.m.
Between 5 and 6 p.m. the action continued on a northerly course, the range being about 14,000 yards. During this time the enemy received very severe punishment, and undoubtedly one of their battle cruisers quitted the line in a considerably damaged condition. This came under my personal observation and was corroborated by Princess Royal and Tiger. Other enemy ships also showed signs of increasing injury.
At 5.05 p.m. Onslow and Moresby who had been detached to assist
Engadine with the seaplane, rejoined the battle cruiser squadrons and
took station on the starboard (engaged) bow of Lion. At 5.10 p.m.
Moresby, being 2 points before the beam of the leading enemy ship. fired
a torpedo at the 3rd in their line. Eight minutes later she observed a hit with
a torpedo on what was judged to be the 6th ship in the line. Moresby then
passed between the lines to clear the range of smoke, and rejoined
Champion. In corroboration of this, Fearless reports having seen
an enemy heavy ship heavily on fire at about 5.10 p.m., and shortly afterwards a
huge cloud of smoke and steam similar to that which accompanied the blowing up
of Queen Mary and Indefatigable.
At 5.35 p.m. our course was N.N.E. and the estimated position of the Grand
Fleet was N. 16 W., 80 we gradually hauled to the northeastward keeping the
range of the enemy at 14,000 yards. He was gradually hauling to the westward,
receiving severe punishment at the head of his line, and probably acting on
information received from his light cruisers which had sighted and were engaged
with the Third Battle Cruiser Squadron. Possibly Zeppelins were present also. At
5.50 p.m. British cruisers were sighted on the port bow, and at 5.56 p.m. the
leading battleships of the Grand Fleet bearing north 5 miles. I thereupon
altered course to east and proceeded at utmost speed. This brought the range of
the enemy down to 12,000 yards. I made a report to the Commander-in-Chief that
the enemy battle cruiser bore southeast. At this time only three of the enemy
battle cruisers were visible, closely followed by battle ships of the
At 6.25 p.m. I altered course to the E.S.E. in support of the Light Battle
Cruiser Squadron, who were at this time only 8,000 yards from the enemy's
leading ship. They were pouring a hot fire into her, and caused her to turn to
the westward of south. At the same time, I made a visual report to the
Commander-in-Chief of the bearing and distance of the enemy Battle Fleet. At
6.33 p.m. Invincible blew up.
After the loss of the Invincible, the squadron was led by
Inflexible until 6.50 p.m. By this time the battle cruisers were clear of
our leading battle squadron, then bearing about N.N.W. 3 miles, and I ordered
the Third Battle Cruiser Squadron to prolong the line astern and reduced to 18
knots. The visibility at this time was very indifferent, not more than 4 miles,
and the enemy ships were temporarily lost sight of.
From the report of Rear-Admiral T. D. W. Napier, M.V.O., the Third Light
Cruiser Squadron, which had maintained its station on our starboard bow well
ahead of the enemy, at 6.25 p.m. attacked with the torpedo. Falmouth and
Yarmouth both fired torpedoes at the leading enemy battle cruiser, and it
is believed that one torpedo hit, as a heavy under-water explosion was observed.
The Third Light Cruiser Squadron then gallantly attacked the heavy ships with
gunfire, with impunity to themselves, thereby demonstrating that the fighting
efficiency of the enemy had been seriously impaired. Rear Admiral Napier
deserves great credit for his determined and effective attack.
Indomitable reports that about this time one of the Derfflinger
class fell out of the enemy's line.
Meanwhile, at 6 p.m. Canterbury had engaged enemy light cruisers which
were firing heavily on the torpedo-boat destroyers Shark, Acasta
and Christopher ; as a result of this engagement the Shark was
At 6.16 p.m. Defense and Warrior were observed passing down
between the British and German Battle Fleets under a very heavy fire.
Defense was seen to blow up and Warrior passed to the rear
disabled. It is probable that Sir Robert Arbuthnot, during his engagement with
the enemy's light cruisers and in his desire to complete their destruction, was
not aware of the approach of the enemy's heavy ships, owing to the mist, until
he found himself in close proximity to the main fleet, and before he could
withdraw his ships they were caught under a heavy fire and disabled. It is not
known when Black Prince, of the same squadron, was sunk, but as a
wireless signal was received from her between 8 and 9 p.m. reporting the
position of a submarine, it is possible that her loss was the result of a
torpedo attack. There is much strong evidence of the presence of a large number
of enemy submarines in the vicinity of the scene of the action.
At about 6.05 p.m. Onslow, being on the engaged bow of Lion,
sighted an enemy light cruiser at a distance of 6,000 yards from us, apparently
endeavoring to attack with torpedoes. Onslow at once closed and engaged
her, firing 58 rounds at a range of from 4,000 to 2,000 yards, scoring a number
of hits. Onslow then closed the enemy battle cruisers, and orders were
given for all torpedoes to be fired. At this moment she was struck amidships by
a heavy shell, with the result that only one torpedo was fired. Thinking that
all his torpedoes had gone, the commanding officer proceeded to retire at slow
speed. Being informed that he still had three torpedoes, he closed the light
cruiser previously engaged and torpedoed her. The enemy's Battle Fleet was then
sighted, and the remaining torpedoes were fired at them; having started
correctly, they must have crossed the enemy's attack. Damage then caused
Onslow to stop.
At 7.15 p.m. Defender, whose speed had been reduced to 10 knots, while
on the disengaged side of the battle cruisers, was struck by a shell which
damaged her foremost boiler, but closed Onslow and took her in tow.
Shells were falling all round them during this operation, which, however, was
successfully accomplished. During the heavy weather of the ensuing night the tow
parted twice, but was resecured. The two struggled on together until 1p.m. 1st
June, when Onslow was transferred to tugs. I consider the performances of
these two destroyers to be gallant in the extreme, and I am recommending
Lieutenant-Commander J. C. Tovey of Onslow, and Lieutenant Commander
Palmer of Defender, for special recognition....
Here I should like to bring to your notice the action of a destroyer (name
unknown) which we passed close in a disabled condition soon after 6 p.m. She
apparently was able to struggle ahead again; and made straight for the
Derfflinger to attack her. The incident appeared so courageous that it
seems desirable to investigate it further.
Between 7 and 7.12 p.m. we hauled round gradually to S.W. by S. to regain
touch with the enemy and at 7.14 p.m. again sighted them at a range of about
15,000 yards. The ships sighted at this time were two battle cruisers and two
battleships, apparently of the Konig class. No doubt more continued the
line to the northward, but that was all that could be seen. The visibility
having improved considerably as the sun descended below the clouds, we
re-engaged at 7.17 p.m. and increased speed to 22 knots. At 7.32 p.m. my course
was S.W., speed 18 knots, the leading enemy battleship bearing N.W. by W. Again
after a very short time the enemy showed signs of punishment, one ship being on
fire while another appeared to drop right astern. The destroyers at the head of
the enemy's line emitted volumes of gray smoke, covering their capital ships as
with a pall, under cover of which they undoubtedly turned away, and at 7.45 p.m.
we lost sight of them.
At 7.58 p.m. I ordered the First and Third Light Cruiser Squadrons to sweep to the westward and locate the head of the enemy's line, and at 8.20 p.m. we altered course to west in support. We soon located two battle cruisers and battleships, and more heavily engaged at a short range of about 10,000 yards. The leading ship was hit repeatedly by Lion and turned away 8 points, emitting very high flames and with a heavy list to port. Princess Royal set fire to a three-funneled battleship; New Zealand and Indomitable report that the third ship, which they both engaged, hauled out of the line, heeling over and on fire. The mist which now came down enveloped them, and Falmouth reported they were last seen at 8.38 p.m. steaming to the westward, an explosion on board a ship of the Kaiser class being seen at 8.40 p.m.