H.M.S. Bellerophon at the Battle of Jutland
Report of Proceedings
I HAVE the honour to forward the following report of the action fought on 31st May off the Horn Reef between the Grand Fleet and the German High Sea Fleet, or parts of those Fleets.
2. The weather on the afternoon of the Battle was misty, with a light southerly breeze and smooth sea; the visibility was very variable and deceptive, it did not often exceed four or five miles, but sometimes and during part of the engagement, it reached ten miles or more.
3. The Commander-in-Chief had informed the Fleet by signal of the main events of the afternoon, how the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron had sighted and chased two of the German Destroyers until their Battle Cruisers were sighted, and then turned and led them to the N.W.; and then that the enemy's Battle Fleet were coming North and that the Battle cruiser fleet and 5th Battle squadron were engaging them.
4. Meanwhile the 1st, 2nd and 4th Battle squadrons, less Emperor of India, Royal Sovereign and Dreadnought, with the Attached cruisers, 4th Light Cruiser squadron and Destroyers were steaming S.E. by S. at full speed, a nominal 20 knots and actually a little more.
5. At about 5.50 G.M.T. the sound of distant firing was heard, and at 6.03 some British four-funnel cruisers were sighted coming in from ahead, and shortly afterwards the Lion, Tiger, Princess Royal and New Zealand, but no enemy could be distinguished, though all these ships were firing briskly, and receiving the enemy's fire.
6. The Battle Fleet altered course to South by 9 Pdt. at 6 o'clock G.M.T., but went back to S.E. at 6.8 and at 6.15 we sighted some grey misty outlines through the intervals in the Battle cruisers and their smoke that appeared to be the enemy.
7. At 6.20 G.M.T. the position of the Fleet was very complicated. The Battle Fleet from divisions in line ahead steering S.E. by S. was forming line of battle to S.E. at 14 knots; the Battle Cruisers having come in from about S.S.W. were crossing between the battle line and the enemy to get ahead of the former; the Cruiser squadrons were steering roughly North and bearing about West, ahead of the enemy, on the Starboard quarter of the Battle Fleet; Light Cruiser squadrons were steaming about at high speed in various directions, and the Destroyers were taking up their positions for action on the battle line. The Battle Cruisers were firing with moderate rapidity and had evidently been hit here and there by the enemy, the Cruiser Squadrons were under a heavy fire, and at 6.22 one was seen to receive a salvo on her Fore turret and then to blow up and disappear.
8. As the Bellerophon turned into line to S.E. the enemy became more plain, and with a clear range to them I ordered "Commence" at 6.25 G.M.T. It was impossible to count down the line from the bridge, sometimes one ship was in sight and sometimes another, so I contented myself with pointing out the enemy line to the Control Officer and left him to fire at any of them that he could see at the time. At 6.40 fire was checked as no enemy could be seen. At 6.45 passed the Acasta with 6 flag flying and engines stopped. At 6.35 altered course by 9 Pdt. to South. At 7.4 passed the wreck of the Invincible, a Destroyer in attendance with a boat down. Just about this time several projectiles fell near the ship, and the Colossus in the next division was seen to receive a hit from a big shell.
10. The weather was now clearer, but the absence of wind caused the smoke from funnels, guns and shell, and from some ships on fire to hang about on the water and obscure the view. Just at this time too the enemy employed some Destroyers to run a smoke screen between the Fleets which completely hid them and their movements for a time. An enemy cruiser or battleship of the Deutschland class was the centre of a heavy fire from the British line, but so many ships were concentrating on her that it was impossible to spot, and the fire did not appear very effective.
11. The High Sea Commander seemed to wish to have as little to do with the British battle line as he could, and confined his attention to the detached elements such as the 5th Battle Squadron, Battle cruiser and Cruiser squadrons. But his Light cruisers and Destroyers made one or two bids to attack the Battle line, but were driven off by gunfire, and though they must have been within 9,000 yards I saw no track of a torpedo, though a special lookout was kept for it. I directed both "A" turret and 4-in. guns to fire on the German torpedo craft when they were seen turning towards us; the Officer of the turret claims a hit on one of them, as his shell burst on her and she was not seen again.
12. At about 7.17. G.M.T. the Bellerophon was firing at a Battle cruiser leading a division at a range of 11,000 yards and certainly straddled her more than once.
13. Between 7.0. and 7.40 several small turns were made and the Preparative was used to evade the attacks of Torpedo craft. At 7.40 the Battle line reformed on the Iron Duke, course S.W. and at 8.0 divisions turned separately to West in succession, thus cutting in between the enemy and his base, but he was still away to the Northward and was soon out of sight, and the action was discontinued.
14. I am perfectly satisfied with the conduct of everyone on board the Ship I have the honour to command, everything worked smoothly and well in all departments. During the afternoon the ship steamed as she had never done before, and had a little in hand for keeping station. During the action there were no accidents and the only delay was caused by a box of faulty tubes which was soon discarded.
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient servant,
- I'm not sure this applies, but the 1913 Flotilla Signal Manual, p. 29 indicates this hoist means "Submarine in sight".
- I'm not sure this applies, but the 1913 Flotilla Signal Manual, p. 15 indicates this hoist means "Proceed to the Support of the Battle Cruisers or Ships denoted", a compass indication being optional.
- Admiralty (1920). Battle of Jutland 30th May to 1st June 1916: Official Despatches with Appendices. Cmd. 1068. London: His Majesty's Stationary Office.