The Run to the North

Having lured the Germans north for an hour or so, a little after 5.30pm the scouting forces ahead of Jellicoe’s – cruisers, destroyers and the battle-cruisers of Admiral Horace Hood – came into view.

The new cruiser HMS Chester ran headlong into four German cruisers. Her partially-trained crew, including one boy seaman Jack Travers Cornwell, delivered one broadside before being peppered by enemy shells. In ten minutes, she ceased to be an effective fighting unit.

Next, German destroyers charged at Hood’s approaching battle-cruisers only to be thwarted by a courageous counter-charge by British destroyers, led by Cdr Loftus Jones in HMS Shark. It cost Shark her life – she went down firing her last gun. Jones died of his injuries in a liferaft. His body washed up in a tiny Swedish fishing village and eventually interred in Gothenburg, where the outline of the Victoria Cross adorns his gravestone.

Jutland 100
Commander Loftus Jones VC

The German cruiser Wiesbaden was reduced to a lifeless hulk. Armoured cruisers HMS Defence and Warrior closed in to finish her off – bringing themselves within range of the German battle-cruisers’ guns.

Royal Marine turret commander Captain Raymond Poland watched from HMS Warspite: 

“I saw Defence coming down our starboard bow heading straight at the enemy. She was banging away, and going full speed, masthead colours and all the rest of it and made a very gallant show. I saw three salvoes fall across her in quick succession, beauties.

“A flicker of flame ran aft along her forecastle head and up her fore turret, which seemed to melt. Then – whoof, up she went, a single huge sheet of flame, 500 feet high, mixed up with smoke and fragments. As it died I saw her crumpled bow, red hot, sticking up, about 30 or 40 feet of it, at an angle of sixty degrees and then that sank. I nearly vomited. God it was an awful sight. I couldn’t get to sleep that night for thinking of it. The whole thing, from the moment I saw her, couldn’t have taken 20 seconds.”

Every man aboard the Defence – between 893 and 903 souls – was killed in an instant

HMS Warrior barely fared any better, but was saved, in part, by the super-dreadnoughts of the Fifth Battle Squadron and HMS Warspite in particular. She veered out of line and made a seemingly suicidal charge towards the German lines; her steering failed and, for about ten minutes, she drew the fire of eight enemy capital ships before control was regained.

Sadly Horace Hood’s three battle-cruisers – Indomitable, Inflexible and flagship Invincible – could not take the punishment meted to Warspite.

Hood’s trio were the oldest dreadnoughts at Jutland – and they were also outnumbered. At a range of around 8,000 yards – four and a half miles – Invincible exchanged shells with the Derfflinger. Orange flashes could be seen on the German ship as 12in projectiles sliced through the armour and exploded.

“Your firing is very good,” Hood told Commander Hubert Dannreuther, directing Invincible’s gunnery from her foretop. “Every shot is telling.” It was the last word Dannreuther heard from the admiral.

Jutland 100
Wreck of HMS Invincible

Dannreuther’s counterpart in Derfflinger, gunnery officer Georg von Hase, now watched the battle-cruiser explode like Indefatigable, Queen Mary and Defence before her.

"There occurred a rapid succession of heavy explosions, masts collapsed, debris was hurled into the air, a gigantic column of black smoke rose towards the sky, and from the parting sections of the ship, coal dust spurted in all directions. 

Flames enveloped the ship, fresh explosions followed, and behind this murky shroud our enemy vanished from our sight. I shouted into the telephone: “Our enemy has blown up!” and above the din of the battle a great cheer thundered through the ship and was transmitted to the fore-control by all the gunnery telephones and flashed from one gun-position to another.”"

It was 6.33pm. The battle was going heavily in Germany’s favour. Suddenly the Grand Fleet appeared on the horizon.

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