May 31, 1916—May 31, 1937. Twenty-one years!
May 31, 1916.—In the North Sea, two great fleets, the most powerful the world had ever seen, were disputing the mastery of the sea. On the one hand, Britain’s Grand Fleet: Jellicoe and Beatty with 28 dreadnoughts, 9 battle cruisers, 8 armored cruisers, 26 light cruisers, 5 flotilla leaders, 73 destroyers, 1 seaplane- carrier, and 1 fast mine layer—a grand total of 151 warships; on the other hand, Imperial Germany’s proud High Seas Fleet: Scheer and Hipper with 16 dreadnoughts, 6 predreadnoughts, 5 battle cruisers, 11 light cruisers, and 61 destroyers; all in all 99 ships of war.
May 31,1937.—A full twenty-one years later. All four of the principal admirals of the battle are dead: Scheer first in 1928; then Hipper in 1932; Jellicoe late in 1935; and finally Beatty early in 1936. At the same time only a handful of the 250 British and German ships which participated in that great naval engagement— rendered indecisive by the extremely cautious leadership of the British commander in chief—are in existence today. Only 22 ships, less than one-eleventh of the number of units engaged in the battle, remain on the effective lists, and these 22 now fly no less than 5 different flags.
Only a few years ago there were quite a number of ships, veterans of Jutland, which figured on the lists of several of the world’s navies, but each year has seen more and more of them disappear from the seas. In 1935 no less than four ships which took a prominent part in the engagement were removed from the effective list. These were: His Majesty’s light cruiser Castor, which at Jutland flew the broad pennant of Commodore J. R. P. Hawksley, commanding Destroyer Flotillas, Grand Fleet, and the 11th Flotilla; her sister-ship, the Constance, of the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron ; the light mine-layer Abdiel, which, in pursuance of Jellicoe’s orders, laid mines during the night following the battle in the entrance of the Horn Reef Channel; and the French cruiser Strasbourg II (ex-German Regensburg) which is now reduced to the prosaic duty of harbor depot ship at Lorient. At Jutland she flew the broad pennant of Commodore Heinrich, second in command of the destroyer flotillas of the High Seas Fleet, and in immediate command of those with Hipper’s scouting force.
The writer feels that it would be of interest to the readers of the Proceedings to know something about the present whereabouts and doings of the few veterans of the Battle of Jutland now existing; and to give such information is the purpose of this paper.
British.—The splendid dreadnoughts of Rear Admiral Evan-Thomas’ 5th Battle Squadron: Barham (flag), Warspite, Valiant, and Malaya, are still among the finest capital ships of the Royal Navy, and all of them, together with their sister- ship, Queen Elizabeth, veteran of the ill- fated Dardanelles operations and absent from Jutland on account of a refit, are now serving in the Mediterranean Fleet. Until a year or so ago most of these magnificent ships had been for some time in the Home Fleet, but were transferred to the Mediterranean in view of the strained relations between Italy and Great Britain just prior to and during the recent Italo-Ethiopian war, because the Admiralty desired to have its fastest capital ships immediately available in the threatened zone.
The appearance of these ships is now quite different from that at Jutland, the most prominent alteration being the substitution of a single large trunked funnel in place of the original pair of conventional funnels.
The Royal Oak and Revenge, respectively, of Jellicoe’s 4th and 1st Battle Squadrons, are now in the 2d Battle Squadron, Home Fleet.
H.M.S. Iron Duke, which carried the British commander in chief’s flag at Jutland, was demilitarized under the terms of the London Naval Treaty of 1930, and now serves as a seagoing gunnery training ship. Her armament has been reduced considerably, her armor plating removed, her speed cut to 18 knots, and her silhouette much altered. In her present condition the erstwhile flagship of the Grand Fleet would be of little value in war time; she probably could be employed to best advantage as an escort ship for a large and valuable convoy, as her six 13.5-inch guns would be a powerful defense against the attack of any enemy surface raiders except battleships or battle cruisers.
The once proud dreadnought Centurion of the 2d Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet is now a wireless controlled target ship. All her guns are removed, as well as much of her superstructure; consequently she presents a bizarre appearance indeed.
H.M.S. Canada of the 4th Battle Squadron at Jutland has had an interesting career. She was laid down in 1911 by Armstrong-Whitworth as the Chilean dreadnought Almiranle Lalorre. A sister-ship, the Almirante Cochrane, was begun in 1913.
At the outbreak of the war the British Admiralty took over the Lalorre, then still unfinished, and renamed her Canada. She was completed in 1915 and from then on served in the Grand Fleet until it was officially disbanded in 1919. During this period she enjoyed the distinction of being the only battleship in the British Navy to mount 14-inch guns, and, aside from the Queen Elizabeths, she was also the fastest. In April, 1920, she was repurchased by Chile and assumed her original name. In 1929-31 she received a thorough refit in England, and soon after returning to Chile she became one of the mutinous ships in the naval revolt of September, 1931. She was then placed in reserve, and only about a year ago was she again fully commissioned. At present she flies the flag of the rear admiral commander in chief of the Escuadra Activa. The Latorre is the finest dreadnought in South American waters. Her sister-ship, the Cochrane, lay uncompleted upon the stocks until 1917 when the Admiralty purchased her from Chile and ordered her to be completed as an aircraft carrier. She is now H.M.S. Eagle.
No British battle cruisers, armored cruisers, or light cruisers which served in the Battle of Jutland are now in existence. Of the first type, H.M.S. Tiger remained on the effective list until 1930 when she was ordered to be scrapped under the terms of the London naval treaty of that year.
Of the 78 British flotilla leaders and destroyers which were present in the North Sea battle area on May 31, 1916, only three are still afloat, and none of these are with the Royal Navy.
H.M.S. Broke and Faulknor, respectively second leader of the 4th Flotilla (pennant of Commander W. L. Allen) and leader of the 12th Flotilla (pennant of Captain A. J. B. Stirling), were laid down in England for the Chilean Navy and taken over by the Admiralty in the same manner as the Latorre. Both destroyers (or flotilla leaders, as they were classified by the Royal Navy during the war) were in the thickest of the fighting at Jutland, and both, like the Latorre, were sold back to Chile in April, 1920. They are now, respectively, the Almirante Uribe and Al- mirante Riveros. Both are in reserve at the present time. A third ship of this type, the Tipperary (ex-Chilean Almirante Riveros) was lost at Jutland, and a fourth, H.M.S. Botha, was not present at the battle; this ship is now the Chilean Almirante Williams, also sold back to Chile in 1920. The third surviving British destroyer veteran of Jutland is H.M.S. Porpoise, now the Brazilian Maranhao.
German.—None of Germany’s rugged battle cruisers and dreadnoughts exist today. All of the former and the most modern of the latter found a watery grave at Scapa Flow, where Rear Admiral von Reuter, “commanding” the interned ships, ordered them to be sunk to avoid their being incorporated into the allied navies. The eight older dreadnoughts were scrapped or used as experimental target ships by several of the victorious navies, including our own.
Of the six predreadnoughts of Squadron II at Jutland only three remain. The Hannover is now in reserve, while the Schlesien and Schleswig-Holstein, now much altered in profile, are employed as cadets’ training ships. These two ships received some punishment during the night action from the guns of Beatty’s battle cruisers.
Of the 37 light cruisers, British and German, which scouted and fought so well at Jutland, only one, the then German Pillau, is still on the effective list of a navy. This ship was laid down in 1913 in Germany as the Muraviev Amurski for the Imperial Russian Navy. Together with her sister-ship, the Admiral Nevelskoi (renamed Elbing), she was taken over by Germany when that nation went to war with Russia, and was given the name she bore at Jutland. The Elbing was lost at Jutland, while the Pillau was badly damaged when Rear Admiral Hood’s 3d Battle Cruiser Squadron suddenly and unexpectedly appeared. A 12-inch shell struck her forefunnel and entered one of her stokeholds, and her charthouse and upper and lower bridges were demolished. Her speed was reduced by one-third.
After the war the Pillau was handed over to Italy and renamed Bari. During the recent Italo-Ethiopian war she served with the Italian Red Sea Squadron.
Of Germany’s 61 destroyers at Jutland but 6 now exist: G7, G8, G10, G11, S23, and B97. The first 5 fly the new swastika flag of Nazi Germany, and the sixth flies the green, white, and red tricolor of Italy.
The G11 flew the pennant of Commander Heinecke, chief of Flotilla V, while G7, G8, and G10 were attached to Half Flotilla X, which was part of Flotilla V. The G8 was the half flotilla leader of Lieutenant Commander Klein. Flotilla V was with Scheer’s main body of the High Seas Fleet.
These four old destroyers now form Half Flotilla I of Germany’s active Battle Fleet. They are the only old boats still in service with the main fleet; the other three destroyer half flotillas are constituted of the 800-ton, post-war boats.
The S23, of Half Flotilla XIV at Jutland, is now the T23.
The fast (36 knots) B97 is at the present time the Italian Cesare Rossarol. At Jutland she was with Half Flotilla III, part of Flotilla II, which accompanied Hipper’s scouting forces. This flotilla was composed of Germany’s fastest and most powerful destroyers. After the battle this flotilla returned to Germany via the Skagerrak. In the May, 1936, issue of the Naval Institute Proceedings there appeared a very interesting eyewitness account of the doings of this flotilla by Mr. Karl Rheydt, who was on board S.M.S. B110, a sister-boat to the B97. A photo of B97 was reproduced on page 688 of the same issue.