Account of Thomas Graeme Nelson Haldane at the Battle of Jutland

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Written by Midshipman Thomas Graeme Nelson Haldane. RNMN/HALDANE at the University of Leeds.


Maps not reproduced.

Account

H.M.S. "Valiant"

(Battle-Ship)

—' '—

At 4 o/c "action" was sounded off and, soon after "Stations" had been closed up, the enemy were sighted on the Port-bow. Shortly after the Captain (Capt. Woolcombe) and the Commander (N) came into the Conning Tower and the order to open fire was given at 5 P.M.

For about quarter of an hour the 5th Battle Squadron (H.M.S. "Warspite", "Valiant", "Barham", "Malaya") fired at the enemy without being engaged by them. After that however, fire was opened on us. After a short interval a short "straddle" was obtained across the "Barham" and shortly after she appeared hit. The 5th Battle Squadron altered course to Starboard slightly [2] thus avoiding the next few salvoes, after which the enemy's fire appeared to slacken off. In the interval our destroyers were ordered to attack the enemy's destroyers and light cruisers, who were closing as though to attack our Battle Cruisers. About this time or a little later (5.30 P.M.) we passed wreckage and a destroyer picking up survivors (This wreckage was the wreckage of "Indefatigable").

Meanwhile a hot fire was opened on us and on the "Barham" and, simultaneously with fall of shot all round, a heavy shock was felt aft, which led me to suppose that we were hit aft. This was at 5.46. At 5.54 the Battle Cruisers ("Lion", "Tiger", "Princess Royal", "New Zealand") passed us on the engaged side, having turned 16 points. The "Queen Mary" was [3] not with them. We, (the 5th Battle Squadron) then followed round by turning 16 points to starboard, being under a heavy fire at the time. The "Barham" appeared to be hit once or twice. As we turned, another squadron of enemy Battleships was observed ahead of the enemy's Battle Cruisers. These ships opened fire on us after we turned and I personally observed their shots falling at a steep angle on our starboard side, evidently fired at extreme range. After we turned and until we sighted the Grand Fleet, that is from about 6 P.M. till about 7 P.M. we were very hotly engaged by the enemy — the latter being very indistinct, while we were silhouetted against the setting sun.

[4]

Several salvoes appeared to miss us by a few yards and the Barham again appeared hit. The Battle Cruisers meanwhile drew well ahead of us and we bore the brunt of the firing.

At 6 P.M. the Torpedo Lieut. fired a 12,000 yard torpedo at the enemy's Battle Squadron, then on our starboard quarter.

About 7 P.M., or shortly before, the Battle Cruisers turned to starboard and at 7 P.M. we sighted our Grand Fleet and reduced to 18 knots. Up to now we had been doing between 24 and 25 knots. We now deployed and turned to starboard and as we turned one of the "Defence" class (it was H.M.S. "Defence") steamed through the line on to the engaged side.

[5]

Hardly had she done so when she received a salvo aft which wrecked her after part. Thirty seconds or so afterwards, and before the smoke of the first salvo had cleared away, she must have been hit forward, as flames appeared out of the sighting hoods of her fore-turret and almost immediately there was a terrific explosion in her fore part and the whole ship disappeared in a cloud of smoke and flames. This occurred at 7.20 P.M.

Shortly after we passed another of our 4 funneled cruisers very hotly engaged on our starboard side and with clouds of black smoke pouring out of her after funnel or where her after funnel had been. We had ceased fire for a time while [6] deploying, but at 7.26 P.M. the whole fleet opened fire on the enemy, who were not very distinct. Meanwhile the "Warspite" hauled out of the line and dropped astern, still firing rapidly. I observed at this time one of the enemy's cruisers to be on fire, with white smoke coming from amidships and, as she was the most conspicuous of the enemy she drew our fire.

The enemy was now practically invisible and so we ceased fire. At 8.5 we passed the destroyer "Acasta" with one of our light cruisers alongside. The "Acasta" was evidently badly damaged. About 8.5 the enemy once more appeared in sight and we opened fire. At 8.8 we passed an enemy cruiser [7] with either 3 or 4 funnels and 2 masts, very heavily hit and in a sinking condition. About 8.15 we passed a wreck on our port beam and at 8.18 several of the enemy's ships were on fire, most particularly the leading ship.

About 8.25 a destroyer attack was made on the Grand Fleet and our starboard battery was engaged. I saw a destroyer disabled and the attack failed.

Shortly before 9 P.M. the enemy made a "smoke screen" and turned 8 points to starboard.

Our destroyers finished off some disabled German destroyers.

During the action I was struck by the very small spread which some of the german salvoes had. One of them appeared to me to fall in a [8] radius of not more than 20 yards.