Naval and Maritime Book Reviews by Rob Jerrard

Periscope Publishing Books & Videos

The Shipwrecks of the Battle of Jutland

On May 31st 1916, the greatest naval conflagration of all time took place in the North Sea. The forces of Britain and Germany fought the battle that could have decided the outcome of the First World War. At its end 25 warships had been sunk and over 8,500 sailors had been killed. Of the ships lost, three were British battle cruisers, which simply blew-up and sank in seconds, causing Admiral Beatty to remark ‘There appears to be something wrong with our bloody ships today’.

In 2000, a diving team set out to hunt down and dive on some of the wrecks of the Battle of Jutland. In the hostile waters of the North Sea, they were able to locate, photograph and film HMS Invincible, HMS Queen Mary, HMS Black Prince and the German battle cruiser Lutzow.

These wrecks are time capsules from the era of the ‘big gun’. This film tells the story of the Battle of Jutland and explains where the wrecks are located and how they got there. It brings together historical knowledge and new underwater film to recreate this most momentous action in the histories of the navies of Great Britain and Germany.

REVIEW

What a pleasure this video was to see. It is very professionally made in very clear colour with a first-class narrative. It is not; as many documentaries are, spoilt by non-stop music. There is music at the appropriate places, but other than that the single spoken narrative is provided by a female in a very clear precise voice, every word of which is understandable. Again this is a contrast to those constant TV programmes where they seem to produce at least six experts to tell the same tale.

The diving itself takes us down to see HM ships, Invincible, (Invincible Class Battle Cruiser) Queen Mary (Lion Class Battle Cruiser) and, Black Prince, (Black Prince armoured cruiser) plus the German ship Lutzow. We are told only five of the ships sunk at Jutland have been found.


INVINCIBLE CLASS.

(Completed 1908-09.)

INVINCIBLE. INFLEXIBLE.

INDOMITABLE.

The Invincible class were the first battle­cruisers to be built. The type was a cruiser edition of the Dreadnought, combining great offensive qualities with high speed. The displacement was 17,250 tons, length 530 ft., and the turbines of 41,ooo h.p. were designed for a speed of 25 knots. In service, however, these vessels steamed at more than 28 knots. They were armed with eight 12-in guns, mounted in four double turrets, one turret being placed at each end and the other two en echelon amidships.

This system enables all eight weapons to be fired on either broadside through a very limited arc. Sixteen 4-in. guns were mounted for repelling torpedo attack. The waterline and vital parts were protected by 7-in. armour, this being also the thickness of the turret plates. Coal to the amount of 2,500 tons was carried. The complement was 780 officers and men. These vessels each cost over £1,700,000 to build and equip.


The video finishes by showing us a gun, the forward turret from HMS Chester -- the very gun manned by Boy Seaman First Class John (Jack) Travers Cornwell VC now at the Imperial War Museum, London-- ex boy seamen from HMS. St Vincent will remember the famous painting of "Jack Cornwell" sat at his post: "this" painting, or a copy was for many years kept at HMS St Vincent, Gosport, the Boys' Training Establishment.

There has been some debate in the HMS St Vincent newsletter regarding the whereabouts of this painting. Writing in the autumn 1997 newsletter Mike Burton said "I hear a quiet voice from the distant past telling me that the oil painting of John cornwell VC, that used to hang in the seamanship block, was sent to the Royal Naval College at Greenwich. The newsletter editor said, "having the re-read, Tom Robson's book Boy Seaman RN, he states that the painting of John Cornwell VC, by Frank O. Salisbury, was presented to the Admiralty at Mansion House on 23rd March 1917. I wonder if this was the actual painting that looked down upon us in the seamanship block, or was it one of a number of copies of the Boy Cornwell?" Do you know where the original is?

Whether your interest is diving or the Royal Navy I would highly recommend this video.