- Bingham, Barry, The Hon. VC, Commander, RN
- Ship histories and stories, History - WW1
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 1979 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
THINGS SEEMED AS PEACEFUL as could be on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 30th when Maurice Bethell and I went ashore for a round of golf at Bruntsfield near Edinburgh. After a thoroughly enjoyable game over this course, whose delightful inland surroundings reflected all the charm of early summer, we adjourned for tea to ‘Rospletha’ – the little house I had rented on the side of the links – and then found our way down to Queensferry Pier at the regulation hour of 6 p.m. in order to catch the routine boat.
While we stood waiting on the pier amid a throng of fellow officers, all eyes were suddenly drawn in the direction of the Lion, from whose masthead there floated a string of flags with this message to all ships – ‘Raise steam for 22 knots and bank fires at half an hour’s notice’. Next, observing the significance of the fact that this signal was being made to the seaplane-carrier ships, we not unnaturally concluded that a Pemberton- Billing benefit or air-raid picnic was about to develop. In this state of mind we reached our various ships. Before another half an hour had elapsed the bunting, bustling activity and constant changes of signals on board the flagship produced throughout the other ships the atmosphere of suppressed excitement which is the herald of great events. Clearly some further changes of plans were in the air. Another half-hour, and then up went those flags for the last time that evening, bearing the message – ‘Raise steam for full speed with all despatch’.
There was now not a shadow of doubt that something considerably more than an air-picnic was impending.
At nightfall the entire force based on the Firth of Forth steamed out of harbour. It consisted of the following units:
- The First and Second Battle-Cruiser Squadrons, composed of HM Ships Lion, Princess Royal, Tiger, Queen Mary, New Zealand and Indefatigable.
- A squadron of battleships of the Queen Elizabeth class, consisting of HM Ships Barham, Warspite, Valiant, Malaya. The Queen Elizabeth was unfortunately in dock at the time.
- Twelve light cruisers: the Southampton, Nottingham, Birmingham, Dublin, Galatea, Inconstant, Phaeton, Cordelia, Falmouth, Birkenhead, Gloucester, Yarmouth.
- The 1st and 13th Flotillas of destroyers, led respectively by the Fearless and Champion and eight destroyers from the Harwich Force temporarily attached.
Tabulated List of Destroyers with Admiral Beatty’s Force:
13th Flotilla Harwich Force 1st Flotilla Nestor Lydiard Acheron Onslow Liberty Ariel Nomad Landrail Attack Nicator Laurel Hydra Narmorough Moorsom Badger Obdurate Morris Goshawk Petard Turbulent Defender Pelican Termagent Lizard Nerissa Lapwing Moresby
- The seaplane-carrier ship Engadine.
Steaming at high speed eastwards in the direction of the Skagerrack, the force found itself at noon on the following day (May 31st) in a position approximately 120 miles west of the north coast of Jutland. The disposition of the force was as follows:
The 5th Battle Squadron NNW five miles from Lion, screened by Fearless and nine destroyers of the 1st Flotilla. The 2nd Battle- Cruiser Squadron was stationed ENE three miles from Lion. The Lion and 1st Battle- Cruiser Squadron were screened by the Champion and ten destroyers of the 13th Flotilla, with Turbulent and Termagent. Light cruisers were screening on a bearing ENE and WSW Centre of screen SSE from Lion. It was a glorious sunny day, the sea almost a dead calm, the atmosphere clear and conductive to good visibility.
Nothing worth recording occurred until 2.30 p.m., when the light cruisers, who, together with the seaplane-carrier ship, had been thrown out in advance as scouts, reported ‘Smoke ahead!’ – which smoke they were shortly afterwards able to diagnose as that of the enemy’s battle-cruisers, who were bearing ENE.
At 3 p.m. the light cruisers spread to the east and formed a screen in front of the Battle-Cruiser Squadron and 5th Battle Squadron. At 3.30 the signal was hoisted: ‘Enemy in sight!’
Almost simultaneously the enemy, who had been steaming north, altered course to SE.
Admiral Beatty steered a course to cut the enemy off and prevent him rounding Horn Reef.
At this moment the ‘enemy’ comprised the following ships:
- Five battle-cruisers viz. Lutzow, Derfflinger, Seydlitz, Moltke, Von Der Tann.
- Two light cruisers.
- A flotilla of fifteen destroyers.
Admiral Beatty formed a battle line on a course parallel to that of the enemy, placing the Champion and twelve destroyers (i.e. eight of the 13th Flotilla, two of the 10th Flotilla, and two of the 9th Flotilla) half a mile ahead in order that their smoke might not interfere with his gunnery.