The Battlecruiser Battle
|The fire distribution of the battlecruisers at the start of the Battle of Jutland. Beatty intended for his two lead ships to concentrate on Lützow with his remaining units targeting their corresponding German units. Unfortunately Queen Mary and Tiger targeted the wrong ships leaving Derflinnger alone.
At 3.38 GMT the Germans battlecruisers opened fire, with the light in their favour, followed within a minute by the British. A
mistake in British fire allocation meant that Derfflinger was not engaged for the first ten minutes of the Battle of Jutland.
Within minutes Lion, Princess Royal and Tiger had been hit. The range steadily steadily reduced and at 4.00 PM Lion was hit on Q turret, which had to be flooded to avoid a catastrophic explosion. Three minutes later Indefatigable was hit by two shells from von der Tann which caused a small explosion and her to start sinking by the stern. Thirty seconds later she blew up.
At 4.03 the British 5th Battle Squadron opened fire, rapidly hitting von der Tann and Moltke. By now Queen Mary was under the combined fire of Seydlitz and Derfflinger and was hit by three shells from a single salvo at 4.25 and two shells from the next salvo which caused her to blow up.
Whilst the British battlecruisers were having a hard time the opposing destroyer forces were clashing resulting in the sinking of Nomad and V29 by gunfire and V27 being torpedoed by Petard and Turbulent. At 4.57 Seydlitz was also hit by a torpedo.
Hipper had been heading south towards Scheer, who had been heading towards the action and at 4.30 Southampton sighted the German Battlefleet. This was a nasty surprise for Beatty who thought that they were still in port. At 4.46 Beatty turned to north and signalled Jellicoe, ending the first phase of the battle, known as the run to the south. The British battlecruisers scored eleven hits and received forty-two, the 5th BS scored six, received two and the German battlecruisers scored forty-eight and received seventeen.
At 4.46 the first German battleships opened fire at 21,000 yards but the shells fell short. Only Barham was hit during the British turn. VI Torpedo Boat Squadron made an unsuccessful torpedo attack, as did Nestor and Nicator on the German battlecruisers, Nestor being sunk in the process.
By now the visibility had deteriorated as there was much smoke from gunfire and crippled destroyers and the firing became sporadic during gaps in the haze. The British battlecruisers were pulling away from the Germans and so Hipper's force concentrated their fire on the 5th BS scoring several hits. The 5th BS returned fire extremely effectively knocking out one turret in Seydlitz and causing a cordite fire in another.
At 5.33 the outer screens of Jellicoe and Beatty sighted each other, but despite this at 6.10 Jellicoe was still unsure of the German positions and in cruising formation.
This stage of the battle is known as the "Run to the North" and was a much more even affair, with the British receiving eighteen hits and the Germans nineteen.
|Map of the early stages of the Battle of Jutland consisting of the "Run to the South" and then the "Run to the North". Beatty was materially defeated by an inferior force, although this was not just owing to his actions also because of major deficiencies in British hardware. Beatty was given command of the Grand Fleet later in 1916, when Jellicoe was made First Sea Lord, and took the surrender of the High Seas Fleet at the end of the war, including some ships he thought he had sunk.