H.M.S. Inflexible at the Battle of Jutland
Report of Proceedings
No. 199 W.
2nd June 1916.
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 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 hght 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 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 "Konig" 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.
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.
as reproduced in the Official Despatches.
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient Servant,
Captain Francis William Kennedy, Royal Navy, Senior Officer, Third Battle Cruiser Squadron.
Inflexible apparently fought with a 30-foot long crack in the right gun in "Q" turret for the entire battle.
A report from Captain Heaton-Ellis to Beatty in response to an inquiry of 7 June dated 10 June which was not included in the Official Despatches can be found in the Beatty Papers at the National Maritime Museum. Its details are summarised here.
Rough range and rate records were kept, and no record of spotting corrections was kept. Director firing was used throughout, and from Inflexible the battle was most easily described as consisting of four separate actions. Spray from enemy shell splashes did not seem to cause an issue, and no shorts fell within 100 yards of the ship.
Action against Light Cruisers
From 5.55 to 6.00 pm, Inflexible fired on light cruisers under the most favourable visibility conditions she would encounter during the battle, though no overs could be seen in spotting. This was the only phase wherein she obtained ranges prior to opening fire.
At 5.55, she fired on the light cruiser second from the right on bearing Green 70 and a range of about 8000 yards and a rate of 800 closing. The first two salvoes were short, and the rate was soon changed to 900 opening, as the enemy was on an opposite heading and moving fast. At 5.58, the target appeared to blow up and fire was shifted to the next cruiser for one salvo before it was lost in mist. She checked fire at 5.59.
Action against Battleships
From 6.18 to 6.35 pm, she opened fire on enemy battleships without first obtaining a range. No overs could be seen, and hits could only be distinguished from gun flashes if they occurred when the target was momentarily free of smoke at the position hit. The number of shorts seen was used as a measure of whether the target was being straddled.
The first target at 6.16 was thought to be a Konig class battleship, engaged on bearing Green 80 at a guessed range of 8000 yards. The first salvo hit, and the rate was low. Small corrections sufficed to keep the target in the pattern as it turned away and the entire First B.C.S. engaged her, leaving her enveloped in smoke.
At 6.28 fire was shifted to the next astern as she became distinct. The ship appeared to have five turrets and did not appear to be previously engaged. At 6.30, Invincible was seen to blow up, and the enemy was lost in mist shortly thereafter.
Action against Destroyers
At 7.25, two salvoes were fired at destroyers at 8000 yards. No ranges were taken. No overs were seen and smoke from friendly ships ahead and failing light made spotting difficult.
Action against Capital Ships
At 8.20, enemy battlecruisers or battleships came into view at Green 95. Rate was judged to be slightly opening, and no ranges were obtained. Fire was checked when the target was lost at 8.30 pm.
- Jutland Battle, at The National Archives. ADM 116/1484, Section I. ("Gunnery"). Unnumbered page.
- Beatty Papers at National Maritime Museum's Caird Library (BTY 6/6), item 4.
- Admiralty (1920). Battle of Jutland 30th May to 1st June 1916: Official Despatches with Appendices. Cmd. 1068. London: His Majesty's Stationary Office.
- Arthur, Max (1995). The True Glory: The Royal Navy, 1914-1939. London: Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0340623012.