HMS Princess Royal
February 2, 1915
Sir, I have the honour to report that at daybreak on 24th January 1915, the following vessels were patrolling in company:- The Battle Cruisers Lion (Captain Alfred E M Chatfield CVO), flying my flag, Princess royal (Captain Osmond de B Brock, Aide-de-Camp), Tiger (Captain Henry B Pelly, MVO), New Zealand (Captain Lionel Halsey, CMG, Aide-de-Camp), flying the flag of Rear-Admiral Sir Archibald Moore, KCB, CVO, and Indomitable (Captain Francis W Kennedy). The light cruisers Southampton, flying the broad pennant of Commodore William E Goodenough, MVO, Nottingham (Captain Charles B Miller), Birmingham (Captain Arthur A M Duff) and Lowestoft (Captain Theobold W B Kennedy), were disposed on my port beam. Commodore (T) Reginald Y Tyrwhitt, CB in Arethusa, Aurora (Captain Wilmot S Nicholson), Undaunted (Captain Francis G St John, MVO). Arethusa and the destroyer flotilla were ahead.
At 7.25 a.m. the flash of guns was observed SSE. Shortly afterwards a report reached me from Aurora that she was engaged with enemy's ships. I immediately altered course to SSE, increased to 22 knots, and ordered the light cruisers and flotillas to chase SSE to get in touch and report movements of enemy.
This order was acted upon with great promptitude; indeed, my wishes had already been forestalled by the respective Senior Officers, and reports almost immediately followed from Southampton, Arethusa and aurora as to the position and the composition of the enemy, which consisted of 4 Battle Cruisers, 6 light Cruisers and a number of Destroyers steering NW. The enemy had already altered course to SE. From now onwards the Light Cruisers maintained touch with the enemy and kept me fully informed as to their movements.
The battle cruisers worked up to full speed, steering to the southward, the wind at the time NE, light, with extreme visibility.
At 7.30 the enemy were sighted on the port bow steaming fast, steering approximately SE, distant 14 miles. Owing to the prompt reports received, we had attained our position on the quarter of the enemy, and so altered course to SE, parallel to them, and settled down to a long stern chase, gradually increasing our speed until we reached 28.5 knots.
Great credit is due to the engineer staffs of New Zealand and Indomitable. These ships greatly exceeded their normal speed.
At 8.25 a.m. as we had closed to within 20,000 yards of the rear ship, the battle cruisers manoeuvred to keep on a line of bearing so that guns would bear, and Lion fired a single shot, which fell short. The enemy at this time were in single line ahead, with light cruisers ahead, and a large number of destroyers on their starboard beam.
Single shots were fired at intervals to test the range, and at 9.9 a.m. Lion made her first hit on the blucher, No. 4 in the line. The Lion shifted to No. 3 in the line at 18,000 yards, this ship being hit by several salvos. The enemy returned our fire at 9.14 a.m. Princess Royal, on coming into range, opened fire at Blucher, the range of the leading ship being 17,500 yards.
At 9.35 a.m. New Zealand was within range of Blucher, which had dropped somewhat astern, and opened fire on her. Princess Royal shifted to the third ship in line, inflicting considerable damage on her.
Our flotilla Cruisers and Destroyers had gradually dropped from a position broad on our beam to our port quarter, so as not to foul our range with their smoke, but the enemy's destroyers threatening attack, the Meteor and "M" Division passed ahead of us, Captain the Hon. H Meade handled this division with conspicuous ability.
About 9.45 a.m. the situation was as follows: Blucher, the fourth in their line, already showed signs of having suffered severely from gun-fire. Their leading ship and No. 3 were also on fire. Lion was engaging No. 1, Princess Royal No. 3, New Zealand No. 4, while Tiger, who was second in our line, fired first at their No. 1 and, when interfered with by smoke, at their No. 4.
The enemy's destroyers emitted vast columns of smoke to screen their Battle Cruisers, and under cover of this the latter now appeared to have altered course to the northward to increase their distance, and certainly the rear ships hauled out on the port quarter of their leader, thereby increasing their distance from our line. The Battle Cruisers therefore, were ordered to form on a line of bearing NNW and proceed at their utmost speed.
Their destroyers then showed evident signs of an attempt to attack the Lion, and the Tiger opened fire on them and caused them to retire and resume their original course.
At 10.48 a.m. the Blucher, which had dropped considerably astern of enemy's line hauled out to port, steering North, with a heavy list, on fire, and apparently in a defeated condition. I consequently ordered Indomitable to attack the enemy, breaking northward.
At 10.54 a.m. submarines were reported on the starboard bow, and I personally observed the wash of a periscope, two points on our starboard bow. I immediately turned to port.
At 11.3 a.m. the injury to the Lion being reported as incapable of immediate repair, I directed the Lion to shape course northwest. At 11.30 a.m. I called the Attack alongside, shifting my flag to her at about 11.35 a.m. I proceeded at utmost speed to rejoin the Squadron, and met them at noon retiring NNW.
I boarded and hoisted my flag in Princess Royal at about 12.20 p.m., when Captain Brock aquatinted me of what had occurred since the Lion fell out of the line - namely, the Blucher had been sunk, and that the enemy battle cruisers had continued their course to the eastward in a considerably damaged condition. He also informed me that a Zeppelin and a seaplane had endeavoured to drop bombs on the vessels which went to the rescue of the survivors of Blucher.
The good seamanship of Lieut.-Commander Cyril Callaghan, HMS Attack, in placing his vessel alongside the Lion and subsequently the Princess Royal, enabled the transfer of flag to be made in the shortest possible time.
At 2 p.m. I closed Lion and received a report that her starboard engine was giving trouble owing to priming, and at 3.38 p.m. I ordered Indomitable to take her in tow, which was accomplished by 5 p.m.
The greatest credit is due to the Captains of Indomitable and Lion fro the seamanlike manner in which the Lion was taken in tow under difficult circumstances.
The excellent steaming of ships engaged in the operation was a conspicuous feature.
I attach an appendix giving the names of various officers and men who specially distinguished themselves. Where all did well it is difficult to single out officers and men for special mention, and as Lion and Tiger were the only ships hit by the enemy, the majority of those I mention belong to those ships.
I have the honour to be Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
David Beatty, Vice-Admiral.