H.M.S. Collingwood at the Battle of Jutland
Report of Proceedings
H.M.S. " Collingwood,"
10th June 1916.
IN accordance with your signal 0600 of to-day, I have the honour to submit the following report of the action of 31st May 1916.
2. At 3.15 p.m., enemy reports between the Light Cruiser Squadrons and Battle Cruisers and the Commander-in-Chief began to be received. The Grand Fleet was steering S.E. by S. in columns of divisions, line ahead to starboard, 19 knots, "Collingwood" being second ship of "Colossus" division (No. 5).
3. At 4.50 p.m., the Flag signalled that the enemy's Battle Fleet were coming North.
Our Battle-Cruisers pass to Eastward.
4. At about 6.15 p.m., our Battle Cruiser Squadron, consisting of two "Lions," "Tiger," and "New Zealand," appeared to the Southward, steering about E.N.E., and engaging with starboard guns. The weather was thick, visibility about 4 miles, and nothing was at first seen of the enemy, but soon afterwards the flashes of their guns was observed.
Grand Fleet Deploys.
5. At 6.23 p.m., deployed to S.E. by E., by equal speed method, and speed of fleet reduced to 14 knots.
6. At 6.28 p.m., "Colossus" signalled for fire to be opened at the enemy as soon as seen, and soon afterwards a cruiser was observed to the southward apparently stopped, and fire was opened on her, at a range of about 9,000 yards. The bearing was approximately abeam.
Gun Flashes only visible.
7. From time to time after this, the flashes of the guns of the enemy's ships beyond the cruiser were observed, but insufficiently clearly to lay the director or guns on, and at no time could the enemy's hulls be seen from the fore conning tower or director tower.
Enemy Searchlight Signals observed.
8. An Officer in the after director tower, Lieutenant J. U. P. Fitzgerald, Royal Navy, informed me afterwards that, on one occasion for a few moments, he was able to make out dimly the hulls of three or four ships—he thought of the "Helgoland" and "Nassau" classes—and later that he saw the enemy's line, or some ships of them, turn away apparently together. He saw a signal "FU" made by searchlight by some ships in the enemy's line, several times just before they appeared to turn away. The signalman in Collingwood's foretop also saw this, and, about five minutes earlier, our "Compass sign" made about five times. It struck him that these signals were being made to the enemy cruiser at which heavy fire was at the time being directed.
9. The hull of one ship, thought to be "Kaiser" class, was seen once in the foretop for a few moments, but disappeared before the guns could be laid on her.
10. It is to be noted here that the times of the various prominent incidents of the battle observed were not specially noted, and those given in this report (other than alterations of course taken from the signal book) are not reliable.
11. The "Defence" and "Warrior" (or "Black Prince") were observed, it is thought, about 6.40 p.m., between our line and the enemy's, steering towards our rear, firing vigorously, and themselves on fire and repeatedly struck, and the former ship was observed to be blown up.
First Destroyer attack on our Line.
12. A torpedo attack by an unknown but small number of destroyers was directed on our rear from the beam direction soon after fire was opened, and the 5th Division turned away two points by "Preparative." Fire was opened with 4-in. guns at a destroyer which approached more nearly than the others. It is believed that this attack accounted for the torpedo which struck "Marlborough."
13. Speed was increased by signal to 17 knots.
14. At 6.57 p.m., course was altered to south.
"Colossus" struck by heavy shell.
15. "Colossus" was observed to be struck forward, it is thought about 7.10 p.m.; but, with this exception, the splashes of enemy shot about our line appeared to be infrequent. One or two salvoes were observed to fall over "Collingwood," and a spent heavy yellow-coloured projectile, striking short, ricochetted and burst on striking the water between us and "Colossus." (Some apparently medium calibre projectiles were falling short at the beginning of the action, but "Collingwood" was not struck.)
Another (?) Enemy Cruiser observed.
16. Soon after this, another damaged enemy cruiser of Rostock class was observed about abeam, and fire was opened on her with lyddite common shell. I am, myself, in some doubt as to whether this was, in fact, another ship, or the same one as was being fired at previously, the fleet having, perhaps, brought her again into view by alteration of course to starboard. An Officer in the after conning tower considers that the first cruiser was sunk, and that this was certainly a different and larger one.
17. At 7.22 p.m., speed was reduced by signal to 15 knots.
Enemy's Battle-Cruisers and Destroyers appear.
18. About 7.20 p.m. (?), an enemy's battle cruiser, taken by me to be "Seydlitz," appeared on starboard beam (turned to same direction as our fleet), shortly followed by another. Other officers considered she was a "Derfflinger," and the question remains in doubt, though my impression of the central funnel is a fairly clear one. She presented a clear target, range about 8,000 yards, and fire was shifted to her. Unfortunately, the guns were loaded with lyddite common shell. She was struck at once by two salvoes which started fires and silenced all but her fore turret guns. She very shortly (and before A.P. shell could arrive at the guns) disappeared in dense smoke which was being made by a number of destroyers (not more than six) which were attacking from about 2 points before our beam. The general impression is that these destroyers turned round to starboard (i.e., towards course of our fleet) to fire their torpedoes at a range of about 9,000 yards.
While approaching, and after turning, they made dense clouds of smoke into which the battle cruisers disappeared. It occurs to me that the latter were accompanying the flotilla, probably fired torpedoes themselves, and then took cover in the smoke of the destroyers.
19. At 7.26 p.m., a general signal to turn away 2 points was made.
Torpedoes cross our Line.
20. "Colossus" now signalled the approach of a torpedo and turned away. Immediately afterwards a torpedo track was seen about 20° abaft "Collingwood's" beam, coming straight at the ship. I am under the impression that the ship was at the time already under helm. Large helm was put on and the torpedo passed very close astern. At the same time, another was observed to pass about 30 yards ahead. It is thought that the ship had turned about 4 or 5 points when these torpedoes crossed the line.
21. Fire was continued at a damaged destroyer on the quarter with 12-in. guns for a few minutes and then ceased, no hostile craft being seen afterwards.
22. On one or two occasions, fires were distinguished on board enemy's ships. It is to me remarkable that, notwithstanding the very weak attacks of the German destroyers (for whose operations the weather conditions were admirable) and the great range (about 9,000 yards) at which their torpedoes were fired, so large a number of their torpedoes passed through the rear of our line. The smooth water helped my foretop lookouts to distinguish the tracks of the torpedoes.
It is obvious to me that the fact that all but one missed is principally providential. The loss suffered by these destroyers appeared to be small; only one was observed by "Collingwood" to be put out of action. The great value of this form of attack on a line of ships is, to me, an outstanding feature of the battle fleet action.
The apparently concerted torpedo attack by battle cruisers and destroyers covered by dense smoke, and the remarkably close range to which the battle cruisers approached, is noteworthy.
Conduct of Officers and Men.
23. All ranks and ratings performed their duties to my complete satisfaction. There was a complete absence of excitement in all departments, and I am convinced that, had "Collingwood" suffered damage, the behaviour of Officers and Men would have proved to be entirely in accordance with the best traditions of His Majesty's Navy.
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient Servant,
The Vice-Admiral Commanding,
- Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. pp. 95-98.
- Admiralty (1920). Battle of Jutland 30th May to 1st June 1916: Official Despatches with Appendices. Cmd. 1068. London: His Majesty's Stationary Office.