Third L.C.S. (Royal Navy) at the Battle of Jutland
On 7 June, 1916, Vice-Admiral Beatty asked the light cruiser squadrons that had operated with him to submit a report of the recent Battle of Jutland. Rear-Admiral Trevylyan Napier of the Third Light Cruiser Squadron replied on 10 June, forwarding reports of his own Falmouth, as well as Birkenhead, promising to supply data from Chester later, presumably because she'd been so badly mauled. Chatham was "not applicable", as she had struck a mine and was under repair and so missed the battle.
- Falmouth, Captain John Douglas Edwards Rear-Admiral Trevylyan Dacres Willes Napier
- Yarmouth, Captain Thomas D. Pratt
- Birkenhead, Captain Edward Reeves
- Gloucester, Captain William Frederick Blunt
I HAVE the honour to submit the following report of the
proceedings of the Third Light Cruiser Squadron under my
command during the action on 31st May 1916.
2. At 2.23 p.m., the Light Cruiser Screen being then spread
in an E.N.E. direction, the centre bearing S.S.E. from " Lion,"
and the course just being altered to N. by E., " Galatea's "
report of enemy Cruisers was received, and the First Light
Cruiser Squadron proceeded in an E.S.E. direction at full speed,
and the Third Light Cruiser Squadron closed in support, also
at full speed.
3. I directed " Engadine " to take cover near our Battle
4. At 2.45 p.m., we sighted two or three enemy Cruisers,
about 12 miles E.S.E., firing at the First Light Cruiser Squadron,
and the shots falling mostly short. Being far outranged, we
endeavoured to keep touch without closing much, and to lead
the enemy round to the direction of our Battlefleet (N.W.),
whilst the Battle Cruisers were steering to the eastward to cut
5. At 3.33 p.m., the enemy altered to about E.S.E. and
the First and Third Light Cruiser Squadrons did the same. At
this time splashes were falling close ahead.
6. At 4.32 p.m., we passed a quantity of what looked like
large brass cartridge cases of twelve to fifteen inches diameter,
but have since been considered to have probably been smoke
boxes, as the enemy had already been much obscured by whitish
clouds of smoke.
7. We then endeavoured (at 4.30 p.m.) with the First Light
Cruiser Squadron to engage the four enemy cruisers which
appeared to be detached to the northward of the enemy's main
body, but at 4.50 p.m. we sighted our own Battle Cruisers
ahead and steering towards us (W.N.W.), and engaged with
the enemy Battle Cruisers to starboard. We accordingly altered
to keep ahead of our Battle Cruisers, and twenty minutes later
passed the wreckage of a sunken ship.
8. At 5.33 p.m., we sighted two or three cruisers approaching
from the NM., which were the first portion of our own Battle-
fleet screen, and we altered round gradually and joined in with
the Battlefleet screen steering about S.E.
9. Here we were much restricted for room, the First Cruiser
Squadron, Fourth Light Cruiser Squadron and Destroyer Screen
all moving in the same direction with us. The First Light
Cruiser Squadron managed to turn away and get clear and thus
eased the crowding.
10. We then, in common with other ships, engaged a large
3-funnelled Light Cruiser, I think " Elbing," from 9,700 to
4,600 yards ; and she was soon brought to a standstill. " Fal-
mouth " fired a torpedo at her at about 5,000 yards, but the
result is unknown.
11. Fire was then shifted to two other Light Cruisers who
were firing at our destroyers ; and after a short time they turned
away and were lost to view.
12. Two enemy Battle Cruisers then appeared detached
from the others, and steering about east, thought to be " Derf-
finger " and one other (possibly " Lützow ").
They were from 6,000 to 5,000 yards on our starboard beam,
and were engaged by the Third Battle Cruiser Squadron, who
joined from the north and turned to the eastward about 2,000
yards on our port beam.
13. No other target presenting itself, fire was directed at
the leading Battle Cruiser from 5,200 to 6,100 yards, and fire
was returned by the Battle Cruisers with 6-in.
14. " Falmouth " and " Yarmouth " both fired torpedoes
at her, and it is believed that " Falmouth's " torpedo hit, as
an underwater explosion was distinctly visible.
15. About 6.30 p.m., " Invincible " blew up in approx.
57° 8' N., 6° 17' E. My impression is that it was the result of
a shot into her magazine. There was certainly so sign of water
in the explosion.
16. Soon after, the enemy Battle Cruisers turned away to
westward, and were were left without an enemy to engage.
17. Here I should like to bring to your notice the action of
a destroyer (name unknown, thought to be marked with the
number " 59," ? " Acasta " ?) which we passed close in a disabled
condition soon after 6.0 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, as I am unable to be
certain of the vessel's identity.
18. " Canterbury " joined my squadron at 7.0 p.m., and
being ahead of our Battle Cruisers we kept that position, steering
about W.S.W., and at 7.36 p.m. reduced to 18 knots by signal
from " Lion."
19. At 7.50 p.m. I was directed by " Lion " to sweep to
the westward and to locate the head of the enemy's line before
dark; and I formed the Light Cruisers on a line of bearing South,
course West, 24 knots.
20. Five enemy cruisers were sighted W. by N. and fire was
opened at 8.18 p.m., at 9,600 yards, closing to 6,000 ; the enemy
replied, but their fire was erratic. At 8.25 p.m. the course was
S.W., 25 knots. At 8.32 the course was W.S.W. and. the enemy
altered 8 points together away from us.
21. Our course was altered to West and W.N.W., but at
8.38 p.m. we lost sight of the enemy in the mist, and fire was
22. We then found ourselves drawing across the bows of
the enemy's Battle Cruisers, who I think were being engaged
by our Battle Cruisers, and we turned to about W.S.W., and
then S.S.W. to regain our position ahead of our Battle Cruisers.
23. During the night we kept on the starboard bow of our
Battle Cruisers and Battle ships, steering South, and altering to
N. by E. at daylight.
24. At 3.15 a.m. a Zeppelin was following the rear of our
Fleet, observing, and we drove it off with shrapnel fire, although
unable to bring it down at the range, which was 14,000 yards.
It is interesting to note that Naval Airship " L. 24 " in a
badly damaged condition succeeded in reaching the coast of
Schleswig on 1st June, but then came down, and broke in two
pieces " (D.A.R. No. 83 of 3rd June 1916).
25. The remainder of the second day was spent sweeping
to the Northward with our Battle Cruisers without sighting
any enemy, and at night we returned with them to our base.
26. Although the Squadron was under fire during the afternoon
and evening of the 31st May, no ships received any direct hits
except " Falmouth " whose fore top communications were out.
Ships were occasionally struck by shrapnel and small pieces
There were no casualties.
- I have the honour to be,
- Your obedient Servant,
- T. D. W. NAPIER,
- T. D. W. NAPIER,
- I have the honour to be,
The Vice-Admiral Commanding,
- Battle Cruiser Fleet.
Falmouth's Captain's report was promptly offered on 9 June, noting that, "no consecutive records were kept in either control or transmitting stations, but notes were made when possible of ranges, rates, &c., ... The times given are taken from notes taken from the Bridge."
|6.07 pm||Bow||9700||8100||18R||28R||Light cruiser|
|Before beam||8100||5800||28R||38R||Target disabled and stopped.|
|Abaft beam||4600||5400||28R||22R||Target in sinking condition. Ceased fire.|
|Before beam||6000||9100||zero||8R||Light cruiser|
On fire aft.Enemy driven off.
Lost in mist.
|Abaft beam||5200||6100||zero||8R||Battle cruiser|
Enemy turned away.
Lost to sight.
|Beam||9600||6000||zero||8L||Light cruiser Z1|
Very indistinct owing to dusk.
|Beam||9300||9600||zero||zero||Light cruiser Z2|
|Beam||9800||10200||zero||10R||Light cruiser Z1|
Enemy turned away and disappeared.
Birkenhead's Captain replied on 9 June from records kept in Control and Transmitting Stations.
6.5 p.m. Opened fire on enemy light cruiser (probably Wiesbaden class) at about Green 55, enemy heading about NW. Visibility increased at this moment and the sun could be seen shining on enemy's starboard side. She was stopped or going slow.
|Opening Range 8000. Rate 500 closing.|
|"Straddle", in line with foremost funnel.|
Enemy had foremost gun still in action, order "Right 4" was therefore given and a "straddle" obtained in line with foremost gun. A fire broke out on enemy's forecastle. Eight or nine salvoes were fired and hits obtained at each salvo after the first two.
Several ships were firing at the same enemy, bu by the use of the time of flight watch, our own salvoes could be easily distinguished. "Overs" could be seen.
The Officer in the after control observed an enemy destroyer on the light cruiser's port quarter, firing on gun at Birkenhead. This destroyer was not noticed on Fore Bridge or on Fore Top.
Minimum range used 4500 yards.
Fire was ceased when ships astern started engaging the enemy, all her guns had then ceased firing and an officer in the battery, afterward reported seeing her flag hauled down.
6.24.p.m. Birkenhead was about to fire a torpedo from the starboard tube at an enemy Battle Cruiser, when it was observed that the range of the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron was being fouled. Birkenhead therefore altered course, thereby losing the opportunity.
6.25.p.m. Engaged enemy Battle Cruiser of Lutzow class at about Green 100, range about 8000 yards. There were two enemy Battle Cruisers in company, the second being of Seidlitz [sic] or Moltke class, and some of the guns fired at the wrong target. Both were rendered very indistinct by their own funnel and gun smoke. Only three or four salvoes were fired and fall of shot could not be seen.
Enemy ships at this time appeared to be firing at 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, which was ahead of Birkenhead — a good many shots appeared to be missing for direction.
6.34.p.m. Mined were reported on starboard bow, but it is thought they were fisherman's bladders.
6.35.p.m. Observed Invincible enveloped in a cloud of smoke. Birkenhead was at the time about 1500 yards on her port quarter. A salvo of 5 rounds had been observed to pitch over Invincible and a second one of 3 rounds just over before the cloud of smoke started to rise. Before the next astern reached the spot, the smoke had cleared away, and only the bow and stern were seen above water, the ship apparently having broken in two amidships.
8.20.p.m. While on port bow of Falmouth (3rd L.C.Squadron ahead of B.C.Fleet), observed her to be under fire. Birkenhead altered course 32 points to get in line and to get clear of the rest of the Squadron's smoke. Observed smoke of enemy's ships apparently being covered by a destroyer smoke screen.
An attempt was made to open fire, but the gunlayers could see nothing to fire at and only two rounds were fired.
The firing of Falmouth was of very short duration.
IN confirmation of my telegram 1700 and 0830 of June 1st,
I have the honour to make the following preliminary report
on the circumstances in which H.M.S. " Chester " went into
action on May 31st.
2. From daylight on May 31st " Chester " was attached to
3rd B.C.S. and stationed as a linking ship between the armoured
cruiser screen of the Battlefieet and the three ships of the
3rd B.C.S., to pass signals visually, W/T not being in use except
in cases of emergency.
3. The distance between the Battle cruisers and the cruiser
screen varied during the day from about 18 to 12 miles, " Chester "
keeping a midway position. The mean course was about S. 50 E.
after 5.20 a.m. and the Battle cruisers were from a point to two
points on the Port bow of the battle fleet. At noon they were
about 30 miles apart. Check bearings and distances were
passed through " Chester " twice during the day. " Chester's"
noon position was Lat. 58.8 N., Long. 3.36 E.
4. At 3.26 p.m. the battle cruisers increased speed and steered
E.S.E. and " Chester " had to turn towards the " Minotaur "
(S.O. of Armoured cruisers) to pass to her those signal reportini
Battle Cruisers alteration of course and speed, the visibility
having slightly decreased, perhaps to 8 miles. Having passed
the signal, " Chester " followed Battle cruisers (which were
then just visible) at full speed.
5. A W/T from C.-in-C. to 3rd B.C.S. was intercepted at
4.15 p.m. ordering the squadron to re-inforce B.C.F. At about
this time a large number of reports, some apparently contradic-
tory, were being intercepted, relative to position, course, and
speed of enemy sighted and engaged by various units of the
6. Third B.C.S. steered to the Southward at about 4.15 p.m.
(their mean course was apparently S. by E.) to carry out
C.-in-C's signal, proceeding at a high speed. " Chester " turned
with them. The bearing and distance of 3rd B.C.S. from
" Chester " was then about S. 70 E. 8 miles. On a S. by E. course
" Chester " at full speed was very slowly overhauling 3rd B.C.S.
The distance was gradually decreased to about 6 miles, and
the bearing kept about the same. The visibility was rapidly
7. At 2.23 p.m., intercepted reports indicated that enemy
ships were in the close vicinity. Visibility to the Westward
was rather less, I think, than to the Eastward.
8. At 5.30 p.m. the sound of gunfire to the S.W. was heard
and flashes of guns were seen in this direction. This was reported
to " Invincible " by searchlight, and " Chester " turned to
S.W. to investigate.
9. At 5.36 one 3-funnelled light Cruiser with one (or perhaps
two—opinions differ) destroyers was sighted dimly a little on
Starboard bow. She was challenged and made no reply.
" Chester " altered course to about West. The appearance of
the destroyer made it most probable that the ship was an enemy.
(The light cruiser had, I think, been firing at some ships to the
westward of her, but her target was not in sight from " Chester ").
As the " Chester's " course laid her open to torpedo attack by
the destroyer at once, course was altered to starboard from
about West to about North (the approximate course of enemy)
bringing enemy well abaft the port beam. The approximate
position at this time was Lat. 57.10 E.[sic], Long. 5.42 E.
10. While turning two more light cruisers were sighted
."astern of the other. The leading light cruiser opened fire on
Chester" at about the time of the completion of the turn to
Northward, and " Chester's " first salvo was fired at her at
about the same time as her (the leading light cruiser's) second
salvo.' The range was about 6,000 yards. After " Chester's
third salvo, the fourth salvo (about) of the enemy disabled
No. 1 gun portside, and killed or wounded a large proportion
of the guns' crews of Numbers 1, 2, and 3 Port. The appearance
of two more light cruisers made it desirable to increase the range
rapidly. " Chester " turned to N. Eastward, her speed and
rapid alteration of course making any effective firing from
" Chester " impracticable. The after gun continued firing
steadily in local control. By the time " Chester " had steadied
on a North Easterly course all enemy ships had apparently
opened fire and obtained an accurate range. In about the
first five minutes of the action most of " Chester's " casualties
occurred and the three guns, No. I Port, and Nos. 1 and 2 star-
board were, I believe, disabled during the same period. There
were several small cordite fires in the first few minutes ; they
were not serious, except for damage to personnel. The personnel
of all guns' crews was also seriously reduced.
12. Enemy ships turned together to North Eastward soon
after "Chester's " turn, bringing the enemy leading ship astern
of " Chester" and the two other slightly on starboard quarter.
The 3rd B.C.S. had approached from the Eastward, and when
first noticed by me were on a North Westerly course to Eastward
of " Chester."
13. From the time of altering course, to the N.E. my attention
was given to dodging enemy's salvoes by steering towards the
last fall of shot ; thus maintaining the mean course to the
N. Eastward, and keeping enemy's salvoes falling alternately
on either side, on account of the constantly changing deflections.
This was apparently successful, as regards saving the ship from
a large amount of further serious damage. In the last few
minutes I believe she was seldom hit, but the changes of ship's
course rendered it impossible for the after guns to make effective
shooting, even if the guns' crews had been in a fit state and
sufficient numbers to do so. But it was obvious to me that
" Chester " was smothered with enemy's fire, and I considered
only the best way of getting out of action, without further heavy
loss, by zigzagging and taking shelter to the North Eastward
of the Battle Cruisers.
14. After 19 minutes under fire, as observed in the trans-
mitting station, " Chester " crossed the bows of " Invincible "
and took station on her starboard bow. The last enemy salvo
was fired about the time " Chester " passed " Invincible,"
and took station on her starboard bow. The Battle cruisers
opened fire on enemy light cruisers shortly before this.
15. " Chester " remained to North Eastward of 3rd B.C.S.
for a short time, and when they went into heavy action shortly
afterwards, took station astern of " Minotaur's " squadron further
to the Eastward, remaining with them. I reported condition
of ship and casualties to R.A. " Minotaur " during the night,
and was ordered to lumber by signal from him at daylight,
16. My opinion is that all enemy salvoes were fired by
director, Considering that there were three enemy ships, the
rate of fire was perhaps not great. Spread for both elevation
and direction was small. Range was thoroughly well maintained,
but correction for deflection was evidently difficult. I do not
estimate the rate of fire of any one ship higher than one salvo
every 45 secs., and if three ships were not firing all the time, it
was slower than this. There were usually four or five shots
17. The behaviour of officers and ship's company was
admirable. I propose to forward a fuller report on this and
other matters when I have had further opportunity of consulting
with officers of the ship.
18. The principal items of serious damage to material are :—
1. Three guns disabled.
2. After control destroyed.
3. Whaler and one, cutter smashed, and some other boats
4. Forecastle deck holed and splintered in many places.
5. Large amount of electrical circuits and voice pipes
(including fire control) damaged.
6. All funnels holed, foremost funnel very badly.
7. Forebridge considerably damaged.
8. All rigging in a bad state.
9. Three holes in armour, and damage to frames behind
10. Two holes in side above armour.
11 . E.R. ventilation trunks wrecked, and forecastle deck
fittings generally much damaged.
12. Two boilers, slight damage to tubes from splinters.
13. Number of small steam and water pipes holed and
19. Since drafting the above, I am informed that Commander
Forbes (seriously wounded and in hospital) stated that he is
sure that there was a fourth enemy light cruiser engaged, besides
one destroyer. I am not yet able to confirm this.
- I have the honour to be,
- Your obedient Servant,
- ROB. N. LAWSON,
- ROB. N. LAWSON,
- I have the honour to be,
The Secretary to the Admiralty.
- Submitted for information.
I HAVE the honour to report proceedings of this ship from
30th May to Friday 2nd June, during which period I was attached
to a portion of your force, viz., first to Third Battle Cruiser
Squadron, and later to Third Light Cruiser Squadron.
Left Scapa Flow in company with 3rd B.C.S. at 9 p.m.
Tuesday 30th May, and took station five miles ahead, " Chester "
being five miles astern. Shaped course as necessary to maintain
position ahead of Grand Fleet, steaming in S. 73 East direction
until 3.45 p.m. 31st, when in latitude 57.40 North, Longitude
5.40 East, course was altered to South South East.
At 2.25 p.m. Wednesday 31st reports of enemy's vessels
commenced to be received, continuing to 5.40 p.m., when in
latitude 56.58 North, 6.14 East, Third B.C.S. turned round to
about N. 30 West. I immediately turned to the same direction
and increased to full speed, quickly closing.
At about 5.52 p.m. Third B.C.S. opened fire to port, and
immediately after, a four-funnelled cruiser of " Roon " class and a
three-funnelled cruiser were sighted on our port bow ahead of
the enemy's battle cruisers, distance about 12,000 yards, steering
in southerly direction.
To follow Third B.C.S. it would mean running past the
battle cruisers, and considering this inadvisable I turned roughly
16 points to port and engaged enemy's light cruisers, who were
then administering heavy punishment to two British destroyers,
one of whom was on fire aft, and the other standing by her :
our approach soon reduced the fire on them—we fired 40 rounds
of 6-in. and 35 rounds of 4-in. at a range of 10,000 yards.
The three-funnelled cruiser was seen to be badly on fire aft,
while this ship although surrounded by falling shot was only
hit once. A 4.1-in. high explosive armour-piercing shell hitting
her in the ship's side just abaft after 6-in. gun, passing through
two bulkheads, the main deck and landing in the fresh water tank
—failing to explode.
I was then joined at about 7.15 p.m. by 3rd Light Cruiser
Squadron, and asked permission to join up under the Rear-
Admiral, taking station next astern of him in Falmouth, and
with 3rd Light Cruiser squadron engaged enemy's head.
I remained under the orders of Rear-Admiral Third Light
Cruiser Squadron until 8.35 p.m. 1st June, when I received orders
to proceed to Harwich to join Commodore (T).
At 3.20 a.m. I received orders from the C.-in-C. to proceed
to the assistance of H.M.S. " Marlborough," and sighted her
off the Humber 2.45 p.m, 2nd June.
During the action the firing of the German light cruisers was
all by director, each salvo falling in a space of 30 yards, and being
" Invincible " was seen to blow up at 6.35 p.m., a terrible
explosion taking place, the ship being split in two, her bow and
stern standing on one end entirely separated. In addition to the
light cruisers already reported one battle cruiser (No. 2) was
seen to be heavily on fire.
Attached a rough track chart of the impression that remains
in my mind of the approximate movements.
- I have the honour to be,
- Your obedient Servant,
- PERCY ROYDS,
- PERCY ROYDS,
- I have the honour to be,
- Commanding Battle Cruiser Squadron.
- Beatty Papers at the National Maritime Museum. (BTY 6/6), item 6.
- Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. pp. 33, 46.
- Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. Plate 15.
- Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. pp. 185-7, Plate 15.
- It is rare that men reported being able to see "overs".
- Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. pp. 187-191.
- There is no section numbered 11.
- Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. Plate 23.
- Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. pp. 268-9, Plate 23.
- See Plate 23.