H.M.S. Valiant at the Battle of Jutland
Captain's Report, H.M.S. "Valiant"
In compliance with your signal of to-day, 2nd June, I have the honour to report as follows on the action of 31st May 1916. All times shown in this report are G.M.T., and all courses are true.
2. About 3.30 p.m., from the reports of our own light cruisers and the increasing strength of the enemy's wireless signals, it became evident that we were in close contact with some part of the German Fleet. By 3.45 p.m. hands were closed up at their quarters and ready to open fire.
3. At 4.0 p.m. my D.R. position was Lat. 56° 50' N., Long. 5° 31' E., course 95°, speed 23 knots.
4. The Fifth Battle Squadron was then in single-line ahead, with our Battle Cruiser Squadron slightly off our starboard bow, distant about 4 miles, steering Easterly, and turning in succession to the Southward. The enemy, consisting of four or five Battle Cruisers, were bearing Red 40° from "Valiant," range about 22,000 yards. Our Light Cruiser Squadrons were 6 points on our port bow, distant about 8,000 yards.
5. At 4.1 p.m. H.M.S. "Valiant" opened fire on the enemy, who were steering approximately south-east, using the second ship from the right as a target. Shortly after opening fire the signal was received, " Concentrate in pairs from the rear." "Valiant" then shifted her fire on to second ship from the left.
6. At 4.2 p.m. a big explosion was observed on the starboard bow, and one of our Battle Cruisers disappeared—probably H.M.S. "Queen Mary"; about five minutes later a similar explosion was witnessed in the rear of our Battle Cruiser Squadron, and what was probably H.M.S. "Indefatigable" blew up. This ship did not appear to be undergoing heavy punishment from gun-fire and, in the opinion of Lieutenant- Commander May and two other Officers, there were two separate explosions at short intervals, probably caused by mines or torpedoes.
7. At 4.6 p.m. our course was altered to 110°. 8. Altered course to 155°. 9. At 4.14 p.m. "Warspite" opened fire. 10. At 4.17 p.m. altered course 140°.
11. At 4.21 p.m. the enemy opened fire on the Fifth Battle Squadron for the first time, and straddled H.M.S. "Barham."
12. At 4.23 p.m. altered course 164°, and at the same time "Barham" was hit.
13. At 4.29 p.m. "Valiant," who was slightly on the star- board quarter of " Barham," was ordered to take station astern.
14. At 4.31 p.m. altered course 121°. 15. At 4.32 p.m. ship swinging to starboard, course 170°. 16. At 4.37 p.m. ship swinging slowly to port, course 156°. 17. At 4.41 p.m. we observed an attack on the enemy from ahead by our fight cruisers and destroyers. Result unknown.
18. At 4.45 p.m. the Fifth Battle Squadron was heavily engaged.
19. At 4.46 p.m. the ship was severely shaken by one salvo, which burst just short on the port side aft, and plunging projectiles may have hit the ship below the water fine. On examination on arrival in harbour, it was ascertained that no internal damage had been caused.
20. At 4.47 p.m. ship turning to starboard, course 172°.
21. At 4.48 p.m. the enemy's salvoes falling astern of "Valiant."
22. At 4.50 p.m. observed our Battle Cruiser Squadron on Port bow, steering North.
23. At 4.51 p.m. passed one of our "L" class destroyers picking up survivors from scattered wreckage of a big ship. She was not being fired on at the moment, but possibly a good many shorts, intended for the Fifth Battle Squadron, fell around her shortly afterwards.
24. At 4.54 p.m. ceased fire pro tern., our Battle Cruisers blanking us on the Port side.
25. At 4.57 p.m. the Fifth Battle Squadron altered course 16 points to starboard in succession, course 360°, following in rear of our Battle Cruiser Squadron.
26. At 5.2 p.m. "Barham" was hit amidships between the funnels.
27. At 5.6 p.m. " Valiant " reopened fire at enemy's Battle Cruisers, target most indistinct on the starboard beam, the light at this period of the action was very favourable to the enemy, silhouetting our ships against the bright sky of the western horizon,thesunbeingobscuredbycloudsatthistime. "Valiant" was now firing at the second ship from the right, but due to mist and smoke this ship was occasionally obscured and the plainest target had to be fired at.
28. At 5.9 p.m. altered course 348°. " Barham " hit astern.
29. At 5.11 p.m. the enemy's Battle Squadron appeared 2 points abaft the starboard beam, consisting of about eight Dreadnoughts, but it was very difficult to determine the exact number. "Barham" again hit, amidships at this time.
30. At 5.12 p.m. "Valiant" straddled forward and aft, and the whole of the Fifth Battle Squadron was under heavy fire from the greatly superior forces of the enemy.
31. At 5.13 p.m. " Valiant " altered course to port and took up a position on the j)ort quarter of the " Barham," as the Fifth Battle Squadron at this time was altering course slowly to port to get astern of our Battle Cruisers, and it was observed that a very accurate fire was being concentrated on the turning point. By so doing, the next four salvoes intended for " Valiant missed her by 10 yards ahead. At this period the enemy was keeping up a very rapid and accurate fire, very small spread of from 50 to 100 yards, range most accurate, but in most cases missing for direction. It was observed that the splashes from the big shells were extremely small, seldom rising above the level of the hull of the ship.
32. At 5.14 p.m. course was now 295° after the turn to port.
33. At 5.17 p. in. the enemy was now on the starboard quarter. The Fifth Battle Squadron was now proceeding " all out " at 25 knots, but the enemy still appeared to be keeping up with us.
34. At 5.17| p.m. altered course 310°.
35. At 5.21 p.m. altered course 325°.
36. At 5.23 p.m. "Barham" signalled "Proceed at utmost speed."
37. At 5.24 p.m. enemy was now very indistinct, the sun shining brightly on our port bow.
38. At 5.26 p.m. the action was gradually being broken off.
39. At 5.29 p.m. one salvo landed just short of "Valiant" and one just over.
40. At 5.35 p.m. altered course 355°. It was observed that enemy was now in port quarter line bearing 135° Green.
41. At 5.37 p.m. altered course 360°.
42. At 5.40 p.m. "Valiant" engaging about fourth ship from the right, being the only ship which was sufficiently visible to fire at.
43. At 5.43 p.m. our Battle Cruiser Squadron on starboard bow had now altered course 16 points to the southward and re-engaged the enemy at long range.
44. At 5.44 p.m. altered course 355°.
45. At 5.47 p.m. the Fifth Battle Squadron altered course to Starboard, course 20°, with the idea of re-engaging.
46. At 5.48 p.m. there was a lull in the action, target most indistinct. Lined up Director, which had got out of step.
47. At 5.53 p.m. light much improved: re-engaged, one enemy's salvo landed just over "Valiant."
48. At 5.56 p.m. our Battle Cruiser Squadron was now observed turning to the Eastward with the apparent idea of heading off the enemy and crossing his "T."
49. At 6.0 p.m. fired one torpedo from starboard after tube at German Battlefleet, bearing 140° green, result unknown.
50. At 6.1 p.m. range 19,000 increasing. Altered course 30°.
51. At 6.H p.m. lost sight of the enemy in the mist.
52. At 6.2 p.m. our Battle Cruiser Squadron altered course to the E.S.E. Lull in action.
53. At 6.5 p.m. observed distant firing on starboard bow.
54. At 6.6 p.m. enemy reappeared, bearing Green 130°.
55. At 6.7 p.m. the Grand Fleet in sight. Observed "Marlborough" leading First Division, bearing Red 10° about three miles.
56. At 6.10 p.m. altered course 90°.
57. At 6.13 p.m. the Fifth Battle Squadron altering course to starboard, enemy bearing Green 38°.
58. At 6.14 p.m. "Barham" reopened fire.
59. At 6.15 p.m. "Valiant" reopened fire, action resumed, enemy firing at our Battle Cruiser Squadron.
60. At 6.17 p.m. enemy bearing Green 50°, range 19,000, visibility now very good.
61. At 6.19 p.m. observed Grand Fleet deploying to port to the North-East, weather B.C., very little mist.
62. At 6.20 p.m. Fifth Battle Squadron came under heavy lire ; our Battle Fleet opened fire on the enemy at the same time. Observed our first and second Cruiser Squadrons crossing from our port to our starboard bow. As H.M. Ships "Defence," "Warrior" and "Black Prince" came within range of the enemy, they received a concentrated and extremely hot fire; the shot were falling at regular intervals, grouped in salvoes, forming a danger zone of from 1,000 to 1,500 yards. H.M.S. "Defence" was smothered in shell fire, the after magazine appeared to blow up, shortly followed by the foremost one. All the ammunition then appeared to explode, and the ship blew up and sank. H.M.S."Warrior" also entered the danger zone. Shortly after-wards she came between us and the enemy and was overwhelmed ; but, in this case, some of the enemy's shooting was bad and about 2,000 over. A large explosion took place at one end of the ship and clouds of very dense black smoke poured out, which undoubtedly screened us but also prevented our seeing the enemy. H.M.S. "Black Prince," although under the same hot fire, appeared to come through with but little damage.
63. At 6.21 p.m. altered course to port, course 335°.
64. At 6.22 p.m. "Warspite" was observed in difficulties on the starboard quarter, steering gear evidently broken down.
65. At 6.24 p.m. several salvoes landed just over "Valiant," who was also under hot fire from enemy's shrapnel bursting short, the fore-top, ship's side and funnel being hit.
66. At 6.25 p.m. the Grand Fleet was now fully engaged and head of the line altering course to starboard with the idea of closing the range. Several fires now broke out simultaneously at the head of the enemy's battle line, four battleships and battle cruisers observed heavily on fire. An enemy Dreadnought was also observed to be stopped and disabled on the engaged side of the enemy's line; this was probably a German Flagship, as a light cruiser was seen to go alongside her. Commander (N) saw one big salvo fall exactly between these two ships just as the light cruiser ranged up alongside.
67. At 6.26 p.m. reduced to 18 knots; Fifth Battle Squadron forming astern of our Battle Fleet, now deploying.
68. At 6.30 p.m. reduced to 14 knots.
69. At 6.32 p.m. "Warspite" hauled out of the line to port.
70. At 6.33 p.m. increased to 16 knots.
71. At 6.34 p.m. decreased to 12 knots.
72. At 6.35 p.m. bad kink in rear of our line of battle; altered course slowly to port.
73. At 6.30 p.m. increased to 14 knots.
74. At 6.39 p.m. altering course slowly to starboard.
75. At 6.40 p.m. line straightened, course 105°.
76. At 6.41 p.m. observed three heavy columns of smoke on starboard bow, enemy bearing green 16° and now very indistinct.
78. At 6.49 p.m. increased to 12 knots.
79. At 6.50 p.m. increased to 15 knots.
80. At 6.501/2 p.m. increased to 18 knots, course 110°. One enemy ship observed bearing green 93°. 81. At 6.56 p.m. " Preparative " signalled. Altered course two points to port.
82. At 6.57 p.m. increased to 201/2 knots.
83. At 6.58 p.m. "Warspite" rejoined the line.
84. At 7.0 p.m. reduced to 18 knots.
85. At 7.2 p.m. altered course 175°, action recommenced.
86. At 7.3 p.m. enemy in sight bearing green 7°.
87. At 7.5 p.m. passed H.M.S. "Acasta" close to on port side, evidently badly holed, with collision mat over starboard side and some one standing by her. H.M.S. "Galatea" proceeding alongside to her assistance. Enemy reopened fire.
88. At 7.6 p.m. course 170°.
89. At 7.8 p.m. armoured cruiser bearing green 60° observed to be heavily hit. It is thought that this was a German ship of "Roon" class, but she appeared to be receiving fire of both friend and foe alike.
90. At 7.9 p.m. the Grand Fleet altered course, leaders together to south (magnetic).
91. At 7.10 p.m. "Valiant" reopened fire.
92. At 7.15 p.m. passed wreck of what was apparently a Dreadnought ship on port beam, about 3,000 yards distant. She appeared to be broken in half, resting on the bottom mth her bow and stern about 100 yards apart, cocked up at right angles out of the water. She was painted pale grey,red bottom colour, ram bow, overhung stern and balance rudder.
93. At 7.18 p.m. "Marlborough" hit by torpedo. Leading enemy's ship observed to be on fire.
94. At 7.22 p.m. reduced to 10 knots.
95. At 7.23 p.m. enemy's Battlefleet now altered course together away from us, and broke off the action, sending out a low cloud of smoke which effectually covered their retreat and obscured them from further view.
96. At 7.24 p.m. increased to 12 knots. 97. At 7.25 p.m. increased to 13 knots. 98. At 7.27 p.m. an attack was made by eight enemy destroyers, bearing on our starboard bow, on the First and Fifth Battle Squadrons. Two enemy destroyers were detached and cut off by our light cruisers and destroyed. Of the six remaining, three were beaten off and returned to the South-East, two are believed to have been sunk and one severely crippled by the rapid fire from our starboard 6-in. battery. Altered course 2 points to port, course 105°, to avoid this attack.
99. At 7.28 p.m. opened fire with starboard 6-in. battery as before mentioned.
100. At 7.30 p.m. increased to 20 knots.
101. At 7.3.3 p.m. altered course 140°. Destroyer attack beaten off.
102. At 7.35 p.m. transferred 6-in. fire to large destroyer or Flotilla Leader. Observed her to be hit at least twice and straddled frequently. This ship was shortly afterwards engaged by our light cruisers and destroyers when on our starboard quarter, and on the evidence of Chief Petty Officer Webster (aloft director layer) this vessel was observed to founder. Reduced to 18 knots, enemy battlefleet now out of sight. 103. At 7.37 p.m. altered course 80°. 104. At 7.41 p.m. altered course 190°. 105. At 7.44 p.m. altered course 152°. 106. At 7.45 p.m. our light cruisers were observed to finish off three disabled German destroyers.
107. At 7.49 p.m. altered course 205°.
108. At 7.50 p.m. reduced to 15 knots.
109. At 7.54 p.m. altered course 180°.
110. At 8.5 p.m. altered course 270°.
111. At 8.7 p.m. increased to 17 knots.
112. At 8.25 p.m. altered course, leaders together, to W.S.W. (magnetic). Remainder of Grand Fleet on port bow and beam.
113. At 8.30 p.m. observed firing one point on port bow, probably our Battle Cruisers engaging retiring enemy.
114. At 8.31 p.m. altered course 195° with Fifth Battle Squadron.
115. At 8.43 p.m. altered course 218° and increased to 20 knots.
116. At 8.55 p.m. altered course 247°.
117. At 8.56 p.m. submarine on starboard bow. Altered course as requisite. Second Light Cruiser Squadron, coming up from astern on our starboard side, all opened fire with their starboard guns, apparently on the submarine in question.
118. At 9.7 p.m. altered course south (magnetic) with Fifth Battle Squadron.
119. At 9.35 p.m. reduced to 18 knots.
120. At 9.40 altered course S.S.E. (magnetic).
121. At 9.47 p.m. altered course S. by W. (magnetic), 16 knots.
122. At 9.55 p.m. altered course S.S.E. (magnetic).
123. At 10.3 p.m. altered course 18 points to starboard. Course North (magnetic).
124. At 10.8 p.m. altered course 16 points to port. Course south (magnetic), 20 knots. First Division of First Battle Squadron now bearing 1 mile on port beam.
125. At 10.15 p.m. observed heavy firing on starboard beam about 10 miles distant, which lasted for five minutes. One big explosion was noticed.
126. At 10.24 p.m. passed drifter with nets out on starboard side.
127. At 10.29 p.m. reduced to 17 knots.
128. At 10.39 p.m. observed heavy firing on starboard quarter. From the evidence of various officers and the Chief Yeoman of Signals, who were on the Bridge at this time, this appeared to be a night attack by one of our light cruisers and four of our destroyers on a column of enemy's ships. Our light cruiser was observed to be hit by three successive salvoes from a four-funnelled German Cruiser. Also two of our attacking Destroyers were seen to be badly hit. This attack took place on the enemy's port side and they appeared to be steaming south. Several shots from this action fell close to "Valiant."
129. At 10.42 p.m. altered course S.W. (magnetic).
130. At 10.45 p.m. altered course 340°.
131. At 10.49 p.m. one light cruiser ("Southampton" class) passed us on port side.
132. At 10.50 p.m. altered course 16 points to starboard, course South (magnetic).
133. At 11.35 p.m. observed heavy night action on starboard quarter. From the evidence we surmised that there appeared on this occasion to be two German Cruisers with at least two funnels and a crane amidships, apparently steering to the eastward at a high speed. These cruisers then evidently sighted an unknown small number of British ships ahead of them, possibly a light cruiser and a few destroyers in station about two miles astern of "Malaya" (rear ship of the Fifth Battle Squadron). Both Germans switched on top searchlights and opened a very rapid and extraordinarily accurate independent fire on our fight cruiser. She replied, but was soon in flames fore and aft. The enemy, after five minutes, ceased fire and switched off.
134. With reference to night attacks, it was noticed that on each occasion German ships fired a white star shell which opened up like a parachute, before switching on their searchlights. Searchlights were already trained on the ship before being switched on.
135. At 11.38 p.m. increased to 20 knots.
136.Midnight. Reduced to 17 knots.
137. At 0.12 a.m., 1st June, heavy firing was observed astern in the distance.
138. An enemy's torpedo was observed by Lieutenant Glenny to pass 100 yards ahead of "Valiant" about 1 hour after the beginning of the action. "Warspite" reports that another torpedo also missed "Valiant" astern by 20 yards; time not known.
139. This concludes my record of the action as no further incidents of note occurred before our return to harbour.
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient Servant,
- Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. pp. 204-212.
- Admiralty (1920). Battle of Jutland 30th May to 1st June 1916: Official Despatches with Appendices. Cmd. 1068. London: His Majesty's Stationary Office.