The Aftermath

The morning of 1 June found the German Navy largely back in its home ports and the ships of the Royal Navy combing the scene of the previous day’s battle looking for survivors, while crew laid their shipmates to rest or carried out makeshift repairs to their battered vessels.

Signals officer Lieutenant Edwin Downing described proceedings aboard HMS Lion:

“The corpses were each sewn up in a hammock with a fire iron at the foot. The Captain read the funeral service with the survivors of the ship’s company fallen in on the quarter deck. Two gratings were used, manned by two ratings each, one at the head, the other at the foot. 

"Two corpses are committed to the deep at once, one body is placed on each grating covered with a Union Jack and then borne to the sternmost part of the upper deck, then together the two gratings are tilted and the bodies slide off the grating and into the deep, and so the process is continued until the whole 186 bodies had found a watery grave. 

"The Sailor’s Anthem having been sung with many a sad heart, the ceremony closes.”

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HMS Lion

Nearly 200 crew of the German battle-cruiser Derfflinger were buried at the naval cemetery in Wilhelmshaven. 

Gunnery Officer Georg von Hase surveyed the damage:

"Our ship was badly knocked about, in some places whole sections were now mere heaps of ruins. The vital parts, however, had not been hit. Thanks to the strong armour, the engines, boilers, the steering gear, the propeller shafts, and nearly all the auxiliary engines were unharmed. 

"The engine rooms had for some time been filled with poisonous gases, but by using gas-masks the engine room personnel – though they had suffered some losses – had been able to carry on. The whole ship was strewn with thousands of shell-splinters of all sizes. 

"Among these we found two 38cm shell caps, almost intact, formidable objects shaped like great bowls, which were used later in the captain’s cabin and the wardroom as champagne coolers.

The Kaiser quickly visited his Fleet as Germany proclaimed a great victory, claiming “the spell of Trafalgar has been broken”. 

The German ruler told the crew of Scheer’s flagship. "The English Fleet has been beaten! The first mighty hammer blow has been delivered, the halo of English world domination has faded. You have opened a new chapter in the history of the world. The German Fleet has succeeded in beating the superior English Fleet. The Lord of Hosts has steeled your army, kept your eyes focused."

Across the North Sea, there was widespread disappointment – in the Navy and in public – at the Royal Navy’s failure to deliver a second Trafalgar.

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Lieutenant Charles Daniel of battleship HMS Orion was disgusted with the tone of the British press:

“It was a great victory, the enemy being driven back into harbour with considerably heavier losses in both men and material than our own. This did not prevent the press losing its head and starting an unqualified panic. Without waiting for results abuse and idiocy were powered out... A more disgusting exhibition can hardly be imagined....

“One paper only (Morning Post) had a headline ‘Admiral Jellicoe’s Victory’. The battle fleet naturally hardly received a mark of recognition from a public which judges results by one’s ability for being rapidly sunk. But then one should know better than to expect thanks from a public so obtuse and dull as the British masses.”

An equally-livid Admiral Jellicoe wrote angrily to his wife:

“It is ludicrous for the Germans to claim a victory. Victory always rests with the force that occupies the scene of the action, and we did this for the greater part of the next day, until it was quite clear that they had all gone home or as many as were left to go. If they had been so confident of victory they would have tried to go on fighting instead of legging it for home.”

In the aftermath of Jutland, he could report his ships ready to do battle again within hours. 

The German High Seas Fleet would not be ready for action again until mid-August (Seydlitz and Derfflinger would be out of action until the winter). Henceforth, Germany’s main effort at sea would come beneath the waves in the form of the U-boat.

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