THE BATTLE OFF JUTLAND BANK
High in the sky great man birds fly,
As under the sea man fish swim by;
Great forts of steel float in between
And cripple foes who can't be seen.
 JUST prior to the opening scenes of the War in 1914, Germany had a wonderful vision of snatching away from Great Britain her
long-sustained reputation as "mistress of the seas." Secretly the German Empire for years had been building and
equipping a most elaborate armada, spending money lavishly for the day when conditions would be ripe for her to measure
strength with those nations which she felt might array themselves against her when she should attempt to become master
of the world.
But, as stated in a preceding chapter, when war broke out there was a little hitch in her calculations. Instead of
having only France to deal with at the beginning, Great Britain jumped into the fracas so suddenly that Germany could
not get her great High Seas Fleet out of Wilhelmshaven Harbor, and the consequence was these ships from which she had
hoped so much were bottled up by the British Grand Fleet almost as helpless as so many flies in a trap. And all through
the four years of the conflict the English ships maintained this vigil so sharply that only
 a few stragglers of the enemy managed to sneak out.
Of course the German men-of-war were privileged to make a sortie and try to force their way through the blockade any
time they chose; in fact, the British prayed daily for just such a happening, for they were wild to get the enemy
vessels out from behind their protection of mines and land batteries where they could meet them in a fair test of
supremacy. But, in spite of many efforts made to bait out the German armada by drawing the British fleet well away from
the harbor, only once in those four long years did the German High Seas Fleet really venture forth far enough to get
into action. And then they were crafty enough to come out of their hiding place late in the day, so that if the fight
went against them (as we shall presently see it did) they could escape back to the harbor under cover of darkness.
This battle—the first and only one of the main fleets of the contending nations in this war—was the greatest in modern
marine history. In it practically every type of modern naval fighting craft was used. There were the great, massive,
floating steel forts called super-dreadnoughts, carrying crews of over one thousand men—enough to populate a respectable
small town—and equipped with mammoth fifteen-inch guns,
 into whose long barrels a man could crawl, and out of which barrels great steel shells could be vomited ten or eleven
miles, to go through the steel plate of an enemy ship that could not be seen with the naked eye. There were the
battle-cruisers—ships much like the super-dreadnaughts except that they were narrower and faster and carried guns of
less power. There were the light-cruisers ships of steel still lighter, still faster; made for the chase and for closer
fighting. There were the destroyers—ships so long and rangy that they rocked like a cradle when under high pressure; the
fastest of all warcraft, capable of almost express-train speed, and given torpedo-tubes through which these deadly
explosive missiles could be sent to sink an enemy ship five miles away.
Then, too, there were those sly, destructive men fish of the sea—the submarines; slow of speed, but with their terrible
torpedoes, able to swim unseen under the water close enough to sink the largest of vessels; able also, through their
huge glass eye, to spy upon the enemy unseen where surface craft would be instantly detected; able to successfully
thread the tightest of blockades, to travel under water a hundred miles without once coming up, to cruise three weeks
before needing new fuel; but ever subjected to the untold dangers of jagged submarine rocks,
 enemy mines and nets, submarine-chasers, and hydroplanes whose aviators could see far down into the waters and were
always ready to drop a death-dealing bomb.
There were, indeed, these seaplanes themselves. They nestled on the broad, flat upper decks of mother-ships made
especially for them. From these decks they could wing away, far up into the clouds, there to watch and photograph enemy
doings, and then whir their way back again. Or they could, a little lower, drop their terrible dynamite bombs on the
deck of a foe, or the top of a fortification, creating awful havoc.
On May 30th, 1916, Sir John Jellicoe, commander-in-chief of the British Grand Fleet, having determined to make another
effort to coax out the German High Seas Fleet from the harbor of Wilhelmshaven, ordered his squadrons to widen the
breach. In this operation his fleet swept through the North Sea in a broad circle. It was divided into two portions.
That section under Sir David Beatty, consisting of the battle-cruisers and certain supporting units, turned south and
made a round of the broad gulf which is bounded on the east by Denmark and on the south by the flat German coast lying
behind Heligoland. Admiral Jellicoe remained to the north, and in mid-afternoon of the following day was not far from
the Norwegian coast at its southernmost point.
 On this same day—May 31st—Admiral Von Scheer, of the German High Seas Fleet, seemed to have swallowed the bait at last.
With his fleet he left his base and started northward about the middle of the afternoon. He too had divided his ships.
But instead of going in different directions, he was astute enough to follow one course, and sent before the main fleet
a battle-cruiser squadron under Admiral Von Hipper. It must not be assumed that Scheer had left the harbor to look up
and challenge the British vessels in the belief that the time had come for him to institute a second Trafalgar. Far from
it; every circumstance indicates that he thought it a splendid opportunity when the cat was away to let his mice come
out and frolic; in other words, vacate their cramped quarters in Wilhelmshaven long enough to get their long-deferred
But the Germans' exercise was to be of a different sort than they anticipated. Shortly before three o'clock, Admiral
Beatty, who had completed his swing through the North Sea, turned about and was headed north to join Jellicoe. At this
moment a lookout in the foretop of one of his light-cruisers, the Galatea, sighted in the far distance a
pencil-line of black smoke.
Instantly Beatty had his wireless operator get in touch with the operator on board one of the
 squadron's seaplane mother-ships. When the blue flame had ceased hissing, all was understood. And a few minutes later
the Admiral saw the huge bird rise gracefully from her nest, and under the skillful guidance of her pilot go soaring up
into the heavens at an acute slant. In a very short time she was a mere speck against the gray ether—up fully two
thousand feet. For awhile the seaplane hovered there, slowly circling, then down she swooped as quickly as she had gone
up, and after a little maneuvering settled back in her nest.
Meantime the little blue sparks had crackled in the operator's room of Beatty's ship. Like lightning the operator's
fingers had tapped the keys of a typewriter, as with receivers to ears he deciphered the message coming through the
waste of ether that separated him from the seaplane. By three-thirty—long before the aircraft had come down—Admiral
Beatty had received his first reports from her observer. These reports were extremely gratifying to him. They stated
that the line of smoke seen to the eastward was made by a squadron of five German battle-cruisers! This turned out to be
Admiral Von Hipper's. With Hipper was the usual accompaniment of light-cruisers and destroyers.
Admiral Beatty at once formed a line of battle, steering in the direction of the enemy,
east-south-  east, at twenty-five knots. At the same time his Fifth Battle Squadron followed off to the north west, keeping parallel
with the main force.
Before the British ships had gone far, a blimp (captive balloon) on the deck of one of Von Hipper's vessels discovered
them. The German squadron was seen to wheel about and make toward their High Seas Fleet. By reason of their slow speed
it was rightly inferred by the British that Von Hipper hoped to lure the British squadron into good range of his main
body before they could extricate themselves.
Beatty was perfectly willing to be drawn forward to the limits of safety, and under good speed took after the retreating
foe. In order not to be caught in a trap with his own small complement of ships, Beatty sent two seaplanes ahead. From
these he presently learned that the main fleet of the enemy was some fifty miles to the southward, whereupon he ordered
more steam and increased the pressure against Von Hipper.
By three-fifty Admiral Beatty had reached a position about eighteen thousand yards in the rear of the enemy. As this was
fair range for his heavy guns, he opened up. And about the same time Von Hipper did likewise. Thus six British ships
whose total broadsides equaled thirty-two 13.5-inch guns and sixteen 12-inch guns were now in a duel with five German
 whose total broadsides equaled sixteen 12-inch guns and twenty-eight 11-inch guns. By degrees the British closed up till
a distance of less than fourteen thousand yards separated them from the enemy.
The British gunners were shooting with very good precision, having made hits several times, but these were not vital
ones. On the other hand the German fire, while not as accurate, was more fortunate, and in almost as many strikes they
had sunk the Queen Mary and the Indefatigable, which had developed marked structural defects.
The loss of these two ships reduced Admiral Beatty's armored vessels to four, and his weight of metal to an approximate
equality with his antagonist who was still five ships strong. Yet he showed no signs of hesitancy, but continued to
fight on aggressively. Presently his other wing—the Fifth Battle Squadron—came up to within twenty thousand yards of the
enemy and essayed to lend him support by using their 15-inch guns. This was a very long range in any weather, and worse
now, as the heavens had clouded and the air was somewhat misty. But as they drew nearer their shots seemed to have
effect, for the fire of Von Hipper began to slacken perceptibly.
At four o'clock a lookout on the battle-cruiser Invincible telephoned to the bridge that the
peri-  scope of a submarine could be seen about seven miles to the southwestward. A minute later a lookout in the foretop of
the Engadine, mother-ship, reported another periscope about the same distance away, bearing more to the westward.
Beatty saw that the enemy was about to precipitate a U-boat attack on him. These submarines must not be allowed to get
within less than five miles, as then their deadly torpedoes could be effectively used upon some hapless member of the
Immediately he ordered forth four of his destroyers, and while these started toward the positions of the submarines,
playing their guns as they went, Beatty got into communication with his cruising seaplanes which quickly came dashing
out of the cloud mists to the southeast, dropped to within twelve hundred feet of the sea in the neighborhood where the
U-boats were reported to have been seen, and floated slowly along, as their observers, bombs set and levers in hand,
gazed intently down into the greenish waters for the dark moving shadow that would proclaim an enemy submarine. German
shells burst in the air here and there about them, but the aviators coolly continued their search.
All at once an observer's arm moved; down through the air shot a pear-like object, guided unerringly by the little vanes
at its tail end, and
 plunged into the dark sea. An instant later there was a muffled explosion, the waters churned, heaved high, and settled
again in a great disc of white, troubled foam. And presently in that foam appeared bits of wooden wreckage, and long
irregular ribbons and patches of bluish-purple oil.
When the flyers saw this they smiled grimly, and flew away to help their brother airmen hunt for the other U-boat.
That particular submarine was an enemy no longer! But the other German undersea craft had made good its
Admiral Von Hipper now sent a light-cruiser back with fifteen destroyers, bent upon assailing and destroying the
destroyers which Beatty had dispatched in quest of the U-boats. Bravely the British destroyers stood in their tracks and
fired their guns till they were so hot they could not be touched with the bare hand. In this fight they were helped by
their own vessels farther to the rear. It was the hottest engagement yet, the sea showing almost continuous spouts of
water in the vicinity of both squadrons wherever the shots missed their marks.
The haze had now thickened. The enemy could only be dimly made out. At four-forty the Second Light-Cruiser Squadron of
the British force, which was scouting in advance, reported
 that the German High Seas Fleet was approaching out of the mists to the southeastward.
Realizing that he would be overwhelmed by this huge reŽnforcement of the foe should he continue longer to chase Von
Hipper, Admiral Beatty lost no time in changing his course and steaming at good speed toward the northwest. It is truly
a queer turn of affairs. First we had Von Hipper running away from Beatty in an attempt to escape himself and at the
same time draw the British into the net of the main German body behind. And now we have the situation exactly reversed:
it is Beatty who runs, and Von Hipper who does the chasing; and Beatty hopes to draw the Germans into the clutches of
This last phase of the situation is now an actuality. The enemy is quick to note the sudden lack of interest on the
British admiral's part, and signaling the main fleet behind him to hurry forward and back him up, Von Hipper takes up
the pursuit, his battle-cruisers stationing themselves in the van. As the turn is executed the Fifth Battle Squadron,
steaming at an angle, engages the Germans in front for a few moments, then turns swiftly and falls in astern of Beatty,
who now has eight ships in line.
Under a speed of about twenty-one knots, the British make just enough headway to cover ground well and at the same
stroke do effective
 work with their guns and encourage the pursuit. The range is now about fourteen thousand yards, and it can be seen that
the enemy is getting heavily hit while his own shots are largely flying wild. Soon a German destroyer is seen to burst
into flames and go down. And a little after five o'clock the enemy battle-cruiser Lutzow, badly damaged with
fifteen good-sized holes in her, withdraws. Ten minutes later a British submarine succeeds in projecting a torpedo into
the battle-cruiser Pommern, and the big German ship vanishes amid a cloud of smoke and steam. In the next
half-hour three enemy destroyers are seen to sink. This leaves only three German battle-cruisers in the lead of the first foe
division. Just before six o'clock, to their consternation, Admirals Von Hipper and Von Scheer find themselves within
range of Admiral Jellicoe's big fleet. Beatty has very adroitly lured them on and on, as Von Hipper had lured him on and
on, till now the great rival fleets of both nations face one another.
ADMIRAL SIR DAVID BEATTY
At this, stage the positions of the contending fleets were as follows: Beatty, with four battle-cruisers of his own
detachment, and four of the Fifth Squadron just astern, was now turning sharply eastward to pass across the head of the
German High Seas Fleet and prevent it from edging in that direction, as it gave evidence of
do-  ing. This would bring him at right-angles to the foe—or in the relative position of the horizontal bar on a letter T,
the enemy represented by the upright stem,—the most advantageous position for stopping the Germans as well as raking
their craft by broadsides. North of Beatty's ships was the main British fleet, with three battle-cruisers under Hood on
one wing, and four armored-cruisers under Arbuthnot on the other. The head of the enemy line was about twelve thousand
yards from Beatty, and twenty-two thousand yards from Jellicoe.
Admiral Beatty's eastward turn compelled the foe to turn, and created an opening for the main British fleet to move in
and cut the Germans from their base. To reŽnforce Beatty in this critical operation, Hood steamed in fast with his three
battle-cruisers, and swung magnificently into position at the head of Beatty's line. There he received, the next minute,
a terrific fire from the enemy, eight thousand yards away. It was a torrent that no ship could stand up under long; and
a short time later the Invincible, Hood's flag-ship, was struck by the combined salvoes of the German fleet, and
sank. Three battle-cruisers were now gone; out of their combined crews of twenty-five hundred men a mere handful were
A little earlier, Admiral Arbuthnot had bravely
 attacked with his four weak armored-cruisers, striking the full front of the enemy which was almost completely hidden by
smoke. This intervention prevented a dangerous German torpedo attack on the British cruisers, but it was poor
Arbuthnot's last service for his country and he and his outnumbered ships perished.
Soon the Warrior was disabled, and the Black Prince badly hit, the enemy seeming to have
concentrated their fire upon first one and then the other. A little later the Warspite showed signs of
distress, but continued to use her guns with such determination and accuracy that her opponents slackened their fire,
and she was able to make her way to the Fifth Battle Squadron which had taken a position just astern of Admiral
About six-thirty this fleet had worked up near enough to engage in the fight for the first time. Had Jellicoe come a
little sooner there is no doubt he would have saved many lives and several ships, for the struggle had been very
unequal; but he had come as quickly as conditions would permit, apparently, the fog making it necessary for him to get
within eleven thousand yards before he could properly distinguish the enemy from the ships of Beatty.
Even as it was the light was very bad. The Germans were shrouded in haze, and seemed
anx-  ious to blanket themselves as much as they could; their destroyers sent up thick clouds of black coal smoke, which
obscured an atmosphere already choked with the fumes of bursting shells and ship conflagration, and growing naturally
darker with the close approach of night. From the front of the British Grand Fleet never more than five German craft
could be seen at one time, and from the rear never more than a dozen.
As they fired their guns, the British constantly tried to close, but were eluded by the enemy, who utilized destroyer
attacks to cover his retreat, and made back toward his base with all possible speed, much to the disgust of the British
who, now that they had the Germans out in the open at last, wanted to have the matter of sea supremacy definitely
settled. Difficult as it was to shoot with accuracy in this disconcerting dusk and smoke, surprisingly good hits were
made, and more than one of the foe ships was set on fire or sunk in that will-o'-the wisp retreat of the Kaiser's
Particularly did the Marlborough, of the First Battle Squadron, distinguish herself. After sending two German
destroyers to the bottom, she gave seven salvoes to an enemy battleship of the Kaiser class, also sinking
her; but in the engagement was struck by a torpedo. From her engine room a great cloud of smoke arose, she listed
 violently, then recovered, and nine minutes later reopened fire, completing her work of sinking her third ship. A little
later she turned upon a battleship of the KŲnig, class, and hopelessly crippled her.
The ships of the Fourth Battle Squadron were principally in action with the German battle-cruisers, while the Second
Squadron looked after the German battleships. These British ships were greatly handicapped, like their sister vessels,
with the obscurity of smoke and night, but made their power felt nevertheless.
About eight o'clock the battleship engagement closed, the enemy disappearing in the smoke and mist to the west of
Admiral Jellicoe's fleet. Orders were issued to the torpedo craft to look up the Germans and attack if they could be
found. Twenty minutes later Beatty pushed west in support of the destroyers, and presently sighted two enemy battleships
and two battle-cruisers. These he attacked at a range of ten thousand yards—a long distance considering the difficult
visuality. The leading German ship was hit repeatedly, and turned away with a heavy list, emitting flames. Another
German vessel—possibly the Heligoland—was also struck until she was set afire. A third enemy craft, a
three-funneled battleship, was so battered by the Indomitable and the New Zealand that she could
barely get away in the shroud of gloom.
 By eight-thirty darkness had closed in to an extent that prevented all further fighting, and the German ships,
well-scattered, were last seen flying in a westerly direction. At eight-forty a violent explosion was felt by the British
Grand Fleet. This was probably caused by the destruction of another German ship—one whose flames had at last reached her
All night the British fleet remained in those waters, hoping against hope that the enemy intended to return with the
opening of another day to settle the question of superiority in a decisive manner. But when morning dawned only their
own ships were to be seen. The German vessels had gone into Wilhelmshaven Harbor, soundly trounced, and quite ready to
stay there till the end of the war if going out again meant another set-to with the English bulldogs of the sea.
During the course of the war, Germany, as with other losses, carefully concealed, the real damage she had suffered in
this fight off the banks of Jutland. She claimed a loss of only eleven ships, whereas subsequent events have shown the
number to be not less than eighteen. On the other hand, Great Britain frankly admitted her own loss of fifteen ships.
Thereafter the German fleet remained in seclusion. It was the first and last great naval battle of the World War.