H.M.S. Queen Mary at the Battle of Jutland

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Ship's Complement

Survived

Uninjured

  • Midshipman Peregrine Robert Dearden (Captured by the Imperial German Navy)[1]
  • Midshipman John H. Lloyd-Owen[2]
  • Midshipman Jocelyn Latham Storey[2]
  • P.O. 1st Cl. Stanley Foster Ford 203681 (Po.)[3]
  • Sto. P.O. Marshall William Taylor 295746 (Po.)[3]
  • Sto. 1st Cl. Frank Smith K17778 (Po.)[3]
  • Ldg. Sto. Herbert Ernest Hughes K6445 (Po.)[3]
  • Ldg. Sto. George William Manners 308014 (Po.)[3]
  • Ldg. Sto. Albert Ralph K4 (Po.)[3]
  • A/B Albert Henry Brand J22156 (Po.)[3]
  • A/B Frederick William Meads 20095 (Po.)[3]
  • A/B John Hutchinson J20122 (Po.)[3]

Slightly Wounded

  • A/B Ernest Cunnah J20438 (Po.)[3]

Wounded

Severely Wounded

Senior Uninjured Survivor's Report

Report of Midshipman J.L. Storey, Senior Uninjured Survivor of the Queen Mary. (as forwarded to the Commander-in-Chief)

SIR,—I deeply regret to report that H.M.S. Queen Mary, commanded by Captain C. I. Prowse, R.N., was completely destroyed when in action with the German Fleet at 5.25 P.M. on Wednesday, May 31. The total number of officers and men saved was eighteen.1

The circumstances of the loss of the ship are, as far as I know, as follows: At 4.20 P.M. the Queen Mary was third ship in the line of the 1st B.C.S., and action was sounded, and at 4.45 the order was given "load all guns." At 4.53 fire was opened on the third ship of the enemy's line, the range being about 17,000 yards.

The fire was maintained with great rapidity till 5.20, and during this time we were only slightly damaged by the enemy's fire. At 5.20 a big shell hit "Q" turret and put the right gun out of action, but the left gun continued firing. At 5.24 a terrific explosion took place which smashed up "Q" turret and started a big fire in working chamber, and the gun house was filled with smoke and gas. The officer on the turret, Lieutenant-Commander Street, gave the order to evacuate the turret. All the unwounded in the gun house got clear and, as they did so, another terrific explosion took place and all were thrown into the water. On coming to the surface nothing was visible except wreckage, but thirty persons appeared to be floating in the water.

At 5.55 H.M.S. Laurel saw the survivors in the water and lowered a whaler and rescued seventeen. When this number had been picked up, H.M.S. Laurel received orders to proceed at full speed, being in grave danger of the enemy's ships. All officers and men were treated with the greatest kindness by the officers and men of H.M.S. Laurel, and were landed at Rosyth at about 8 P.M., June 1.2

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Your obedient servant, J. L.

STOREY, Midshipman, R.N.


1:Part omitted here, concerning personnel recommendations.

2:All times above are in British Summer Time and not G.M.T.

P.O. Francis' Account

Narrative of Petty Officer (Gunner's Mate) Ernest Benjamin Francis, of "X" Turret, H.M.S. Queen Mary. Reproduced in Fawcett and Hooper.

This represents a copy of a letter I sent to the Senior Surviving Officer of H.M.S. Queen Mary, and I am asking that whoever reads this at any time will please remember that the writer is much handier behind a pair of 13.5-inch guns than behind a pen. I had the first dog watch (4.0 to 6.0 p.m.), in the battery so I made arrangements with the Gunner's Mate on watch to send a man down and let me know when it was 3.30 p.m. We lay down and had quite a comfortable sleep, having nothing on our mind to keep us awake.
At 3.30 an able seaman came down and said, "Petty Officer Francis, it is nearly seven bells." I thanked him, and said, "Anything doing up top?" He said "No." I got up, took off my jumper, and had a wash in a bucket of water, and just as I had finished I heard in the distance a bugle sound of "Action." I was so surprised that I could hardly believe my ears, but the rush of feet by the door forced it upon me. I took the first hatchway up, and came up to the foremost 4-inch battery, starboard side, and raced for "X" Turret. When I got inside everyone was there. I yelled out "Turret's crew, number." They were correct from top to bottom, and I reported to the Lieutenant of the Turret. He said, "Test loading gear but for goodness' sake don't let them go too rash." The loading gear and machinery were tested, and immediately afterwards came the order to load all cages. As soon as the cages were loaded, it was reported to the Transmitting Station, and then came the order to load; the guns were loaded and brought to the half-cock and reported, and then came the order to bring the right gun to the ready, director laying and firing. Shortly after this the first salvo was fired, and we had started on the great game.
I had no means of telling what the time was, and if I had I probably should not have looked, because getting a turret started is an anxious rushing time for a Captain of a turret; once started it is easy to keep going. Taking everything into consideration, I put it as about 3.45 or 3.55 ; that's as near as I can go.
The gun's crew were absolutely perfect, inclined to be a little swift in loading, but I gave them a yell and pointed out to them that I wanted a steady stride, and after that everything went like clockwork, until suddenly both rammers gave out, my gun going first. This was caused through No. 3 opening the breech before the gun had run out after firing; the carrier arm part of the breech must have hit the rammer head and slightly metal-bound it. I dropped the elevating wheel, got hold of a steel pinch bar, forced the end in behind the rammer head, at the same time putting the rammer lever over to "Run out"; out went the rammer, and I rushed it back again, and then out again, and it went all gay once more. Then the lever was passed over to the right gun, and both rammers were once more in working order. I was pleased to get them going again, as it would have been such a damper on the crew if we had had to go into hand loading.
My No. 3 said, "Petty Officer Francis, can you see what we are up against?" Well, I had been anxious to have a look, but could not spare the time, but as soon as my gun had fired and while the loading was being completed I had a quick look through the periscope, and it seemed to me there were hundreds of masts and funnels. I dropped back into my seat and laid my gun by pointer, being in director firing, and while the loading was being completed again I told them there were a few battle cruisers out, not wishing to put a damper on them in any way; not that I think it would have done so, as they were all splendid fellows and backed me up magnificently.
Up till now I had not noticed any noise, such as being struck by a shell, but soon afterwards there was a heavy blow struck, I should imagine, in the after 4-inch battery, and a lot of dust and pieces were flying around on top of "X" turret. My attention was called by the turret trainer, A.B. Long (A.B. B. Long, 229298), who reported the front glass of his periscope blocked up. This was not very important, because we were in director training, but someone in rear heard him report his glass foul, and without orders dashed on top and cleared it. He must have been smashed as he did it, for he fell in front of the periscope, groaning, and then apparently fell off the turret. I wish I knew his name, poor chap, but it's no use guessing. Another shock was felt shortly after this, but it did not affect the turret, so no notice was taken. The Transmitting Station reported that the third ship of the line was dropping out. First blood to Queen Mary. The shout they gave was good to hear. I could not resist taking a quick look at her at their request, and I saw the third ship of their line was going down by the bows. I felt the turret training a bit faster than she had been, and surmised we must have shifted on to the fourth ship of the line; being in director firing no orders were required for training. I looked again, and the third ship of the line was gone. I turned to the spare gunlayer, P. O. Killick (Petty Officer, 1st Class M.J. Killick, 157171), who was recording the number of rounds fired, and asked him how many rounds the left gun had fired, and he said 30 something odd figures. I didn't catch the exact number. A few more rounds were fired, and I took another look through my periscope, and there was quite a fair distance between the second ship, and what I believe was the fourth ship, due, I think, to the third ship going under. Flames were belching up from what I believe to be the fourth ship of the line.
Then came the big explosion, which shook us a bit, and on looking at the pressure gauge I saw the pressure had failed.
Immediately after that came what I term the big smash, and I was dangling in the air on a bowline, which saved me from being thrown down on to the floor of the turret; these bowlines were an idea I had brought into the turret, and each man in the gun-house was supplied with one, and, as far as I noticed, the men who had them on were not injured in the big smash. Nos. 2 and 3 of the left gun slipped down under the gun, and the gun appeared to me to have fallen through its trunnions and smashed up these two numbers. Everything in the ship went as quiet as a church, the floor of the turret was bulged up, and the guns were absolutely useless. I must mention here that there was not a sign of excitement. One man turned to me and said, "What do you think has happened?" I said "Steady everyone, I will speak to Mr. Ewart." I went back to the cabinet and said, "What do you think has happened, sir?" He said "God only knows." "Well, sir," I said, "it's no use keeping them all down here, why not send them up round the 4-inch guns, and give them a chance to fight it out. As soon as the Germans find we are out of action they will concentrate on us, and we shall all be going sky high." He said, "Yes, good idea. Just see whether the 4-inch guns aft are still standing."
I put my head up through the hole in the roof of the turret, and I nearly fell back through again. The after 4-inch battery was smashed right out of all recognition, and then I noticed the ship had an awful list to port. I dropped back inside the turret and told Lieut. Ewart the state of affairs. He said, "Francis, we can do no more than give them a chance; clear the turret." "Clear the turret," I called out, and out they all went.
P.O. Stares (Petty Officer T.H. Stares, 202884) was the last I saw coming up from the working chamber, and I asked whether he had passed the order to the magazine and shell room, and he told me it was no use, as the water was right up the trunk leading from the shell room, so the bottom of the ship must have been out of her. Then I said, "Why didn't you come up?" He simply said, "There was no order to leave the turret."
I went through the cabinet and out through the top with the Lieutenant of the Turret following me; suddenly he stopped and went back into the turret. I believe he went back because he thought there was someone left inside. It makes me feel sore-hearted when I think of him and that fine crowd who were with me in the turret. I can only write about the splendid behaviour of my own turret's crew, but I am confident, knowing the Queen Mary as I did, that the highest traditions of the service were upheld by the remainder of the ship's company, from the Captain down to the youngest boy. Everyone was so keen on being in a big fight, and each member of our ship's company knew he was one of the small cog-wheels of a great machine; it was part of a man's training as laid down by our Gunnery Commander, and due to his untiring efforts to make the Queen Mary the splendid fighting unit I knew her to be.
I was half-way down the ladder at the back of the turret when Lieutenant Ewart went back; the ship had an awful list to port by this time, so much so that men getting off the ladder went sliding down to port. I got on to the bottom rung of the ladder, but could not by my own efforts reach the stanchions lying on the deck from the starboard side. I knew if I let go that I should go sliding down to port like some of the others must have done, and probably get smashed up sliding down. Two of my turret's crew, seeing my difficulty, came to my assistance; they were A.B. Long, turret trainer, and A.B. Lane, No. 4 of the left gun. Lane held Long at full stretch from the ship's side, and I dropped from the ladder, caught Long's legs, and so gained the starboard side. These two men had no thought for their own safety; they saw I wanted assistance, and that was good enough for them. When I got on to the ship's side there seemed to be quite a fair crowd, and they did not appear to be very anxious to take to the water. I called out to them, "Come on, you chaps, who's coming for a swim?" Someone answered, "She will float for a long time yet," but something, I don't pretend to understand what it was, seemed to be urging me to get away, so I clambered up over the slimy bilge keel and fell off into the water, followed, I should think, by about five other men.
I struck away from the ship as hard as I could, and must have covered nearly 50 yards, when there was a big smash, and stopping and looking round the air seemed to be full of fragments and flying pieces. A large piece seemed to be right above my head, and acting on an impulse I dipped under to avoid being struck, and stayed under as long as I could, and then came to the top again, when coming behind me I heard a rush of water, which looked very much like a surf breaking on a beach, and I realised it was the suction or back-wash from the ship which had just gone. I hardly had time to fill my lungs with air when it was on me; I felt it was no use struggling against it, so I let myself go for a moment or two, then I struck out, but I felt it was a losing game, and remarked to myself mentally, "What's the use of you struggling, you're done," and actually eased my efforts to reach the top, when a small voice seemed to say "Dig out."
I started afresh, and something bumped against me. I grasped it, and afterwards found it was a large hammock; it undoubtedly pulled me to the top, more dead than alive, and I rested on it, but I felt I was getting very weak, and roused myself sufficiently to look around for something more substantial to support me. Floating right in front of me was a piece of timber (I believe the centre baulk of our pattern 4 target). I managed to push myself on the hammock close to the timber, and grasped a piece of rope hanging over the side. My next difficulty was to get on top, and I was beginning to give up hope, when the swell lifted me nearly on top, and with a small amount of exertion I kept on. I managed to reeve my arms through a strop, and then I must have become unconscious.

Footnotes

  1. "Eight Officers Saved by the Germans" (News). The Times. Monday, 12 June, 1916. Issue 41191, col E, p. 4.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "The King's Message" (News). The Times. Monday, 5 June, 1916. Issue 41185, col A, p. 11.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 "Navy Roll of Honour" (Deaths). The Times. Monday, 5 June, 1916. Issue 41185, col A, p. 11.
  4. "News in Brief" (News in Brief). The Times. Friday, 23 June, 1916. Issue 41201, col G, p. 5.
  5. "Twice Rescued from the Sea" (News). The Times. Tuesday, 6 June, 1916. Issue 41186, col A, p. 10.
  6. "The Navy's Roll of Honour" (Deaths). The Times. Wednesday, 7 June, 1916. Issue 41187, col C, p. 12.

Bibliography

  • Admiralty (1920). Battle of Jutland 30th May to 1st June 1916: Official Despatches with Appendices. Cmd. 1068. London: His Majesty's Stationary Office.

Williams, M W (1996). "The Loss of HMS Queen Mary at Jutland". In Preston, Antony; McLean, David. Warship 1996. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 085177685X.