Month: May 2016

The Battle of Jutland

The anniversary of the Battle of Jutland is one that is rarely remembered, because the war at sea was far remote from the realities of the slaughter of the trenches in France. The clash of the Grand Fleet and the High Seas Fleet sent many sailors to their deaths, often trapped within the ships that they fought, or drowned as the cold waters of the North Sea closed over them.

 

The Royal British Legion produced an information pack to commemorate the battle and I have drawn heavily from that pack to produce this post.

I have never really understood this Clash of Titans, my interest is more related to the ships themselves than the physical act of battle. However, it is 100 years since the thunder of guns was heard in those distant waters, and it is fitting that tribute be paid to those who lost their lives in or after the battle, and to remember them as being part of one of the largest and most costly fleet engagement of the First World War. The battle, which took place over Wednesday 31 May and Thursday 1 June 1916 and the 100th anniversary provides an opportunity to commemorate the sacrifices and contributions made by all those from the Royal Navy, Merchant Navy, fishing fleets, shipbuilding towns and coastal communities who continue to guarantee The United Kingdom’s security in peace and war.

A Short History and Reflection.

Jutland will always be remembered for the huge sacrifices that our naval personnel made. Britain is an island nation with no town more than 75 miles from the sea. Many families therefore have relatives who served at sea and this is the perfect moment to reflect, not only on the sacrifices made during this sea battle but also to commemorate the maritime contribution and the sacrifices that have been and continue to be made by all those from the Royal Navy, Merchant Navy and coastal fleets who serve to ensure the nation’s security.

In 1914, Britain had the biggest and strongest navy in the world. Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz (1849–1930) greatly expanded the size and quality of the Imperial German Navy, until the German Navy grew to become one of the greatest maritime forces in the world, second only to the British Royal Navy.

After the British success at Dogger Bank in holding back the German attack in January 1915, the German Imperial Navy chose not to confront the numerically superior British Royal Navy in a major battle for more than a year, preferring to rely on its lethal U-boat fleet. However, in May 1916, with the majority of the British Grand Fleet anchored far away at Scapa Flow, Vice Admiral Reinhard Scheer believed the time was right to resume attacks on the British coastline. Scheer ordered 19 U-boats to position themselves for a raid on the North-East coastal town of Sunderland, using air reconnaissance craft to keep an eye on the British Fleet. Bad weather hampered the airships, however, and Scheer called off the raid, instead ordering his fleet to head north, to the Skagerrak, a waterway located between Norway and Denmark off the Jutland Peninsula, where they could attack the Allied naval interests and with luck, punch a hole in the stringent British blockade.

Unbeknownst to Scheer, however, a newly created intelligence unit in Britain had cracked the German communication codes and warned the British Grand Fleet’s commander, Admiral John Rushworth Jellicoe, of Scheer’s intentions. Consequently, on the night of 30 May, a British fleet of 28 battleships, nine battle cruisers, 34 light cruisers and 80 destroyers set out from Scapa Flow, bound for positions off the Skagerrak.

On 31 May, a British naval force commanded by Vice Admiral David Beatty spotted a German squadron of warships and confronted them some 75 miles off the Danish coast. The two squadrons opened fire on each other simultaneously. This lasted around 55 minutes, during which time two British battle cruisers (HMS Indefatigable and HMS Queen Mary) were destroyed with the loss of 2,000 sailors. The remainder of the German fleet then joined, so Beatty was forced to fight a delaying action for the next hour, until Jellicoe arrived with the rest of the Grand Fleet. Both fleets faced off in their entirety, and a great battle of naval strategy commenced. As sections of the two fleets continued to engage each other throughout the late evening and the early morning of 1 June, Jellicoe manoeuvred 96 of the British ships into a V-shape surrounding 59 German ships. The German flagship, Lutzow, was disabled by 24 direct hits but was able, before it sank, to sink the British cruiser Invincible.

Admiral of the Fleet John Rushworth Jellicoe,

Admiral of the Fleet John Jellicoe,

Admiral of the Fleet David Richard Beatty

Admiral of the Fleet David Beatty

The German fleet withdrew under cover of darkness at 18:30 on 1 June, thus ending the battle, and cheating the British of the major naval success they had envisioned.

The Battle of Jutland engaged a total of 100,000 men aboard 250 ships over the course of 72 hours. The Germans claimed it as a victory for their High Seas Fleet. At first the British press agreed, but it was not so clear-cut. The German navy lost 11 ships, including a battleship and a battle cruiser, and suffered 2,500 casualties; the British sustained heavier losses, with 14 ships sunk, including three battle cruisers, and 6,000 casualties. Ten more German ships had suffered heavy damage, however, and by 2nd June 1916 only 10 ships that had been involved in the battle were seaworthy. The Royal Navy could have, however put 23 ships to sea at this point. On 4 July, Vice Admiral Scheer advised the German high command that further fleet action was not an option, and that submarine warfare was Germany’s best hope for victory at sea. Despite the heavy losses, the Battle of Jutland had left British naval superiority on the North Sea intact. 

 

 

Many of the casualties from HMS Queen Mary, HMS Black Prince, and HMS Invincible are remembered on Portsmouth Naval Memorial, where around 10,000 sailors of the First World War are commemorated.

Key Facts

  • The Battle of Jutland was fought over 36 hours – from 31 May to 1 June 1916
  • There were a total of 250 ships in the battle; 151 British Grand Fleet and 99 German High Seas Fleet
  • There were 100,000 sailors overall engaged in the Battle, of which 1 in 10 were wounded
  • More than 8,500 were killed in total; 6,000 British, 2,500 German
  • Death was sudden and on a huge scale – Queen Mary 1,266, Indefatigable 1,017, Invincible 1,026, Defence 903, Black Prince 857 (German: Wiesbaden 589, Fraulenlob 320)
  • One thousand men lost their lives when a magazine exploded on the British battlecruiser Indefatigable
  • The British Grand Fleet was under the command of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, who after the war became one of the founders of The Royal British Legion
  • There was no clear winner in this battle, but it did convince the Germans never again to challenge the British Navy in the North Sea
  • This was the first time in history that a carrier-based aeroplane (from HMS Engadine) was used for reconnaissance in naval combat
  • There were four Victoria Crosses awarded after the Battle. (Jack Cornwell (HMS Chester), Francis Harvey (HMS Lion), Edward Bingham (HMS Nestor) and Loftus William Jones (HMS Shark)). 
  • HM The Queen’s father – George VI, the then Prince Albert, Duke of York – took part in the battle, and was mentioned in despatches for his action as a turret officer aboard Collingwood
  • The last surviving veteran of the battle, Henry Allingham, a British RAF airman, died on 18 July 2009, aged 113, by which time he was one of the last surviving veterans of the First World War
  • The British losses amounted to 113,300 tons sunk. (Battlecruisers: Indefatigable, Queen Mary, Invincible. Armoured cruisers: Black Prince, Warrior, Defence. Flotilla leaders: Tipperary. Destroyers: Shark, Sparrowhawk, Turbulent, Ardent, Fortune, Nomad, Nestor.)
  • The German losses amounted to 62,300 tons sunk. (Battlecruiser: Lützow. Pre-Dreadnought: Pommern. Light cruisers: Frauenlob, Elbing, Rostock, Wiesbaden. Destroyers (Heavy torpedo-boats): V48, S35, V27, V4, V29

The Battle of Jutland also caused a rethink about the way capital ships were designed and fought, and some of the flaws in the British ships were addressed. Unfortunately the vulnerability of the battlecruiser design would be once again exposed when HMS Hood was lost to KMS Bismarck in 1941

The most famous Battle of Jutland VC recipient was Boy 1st Class Jack Travers Cornwell, aka “Jutland Jack”.  

John Travers Cornwell, Boy 1st Class (RN) was born on 8 January 1900, at Leyton. When the First World War broke out his father promptly joined the Army, and Jack joined the Royal Navy. He went through preliminary training at Devonport from 27 July 1915 and became a Boy 1st Class on the light cruiser HMS Chester for active service in Admiral David Beatty’s 1st Battlecruiser Squadron.

A few months after Jack Cornwell joined his ship, Admiral Beatty came to grips with the German High Seas Fleet near Jutland on 31 May 1916; he was mortally wounded in action, and died two days later in Grimsby hospital. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross [London Gazette, 15 September 1916]:

“Mortally wounded early in the action, Boy, First Class, John Travers Cornwell remained standing alone at a most exposed post, quietly awaiting orders, until the end of the action, with the gun’s crew dead and wounded around him. His age was under sixteen and half years.”

The Times’ History of the War records that Cornwell “had been brought ashore, he had died at Grimsby of his wounds, and through one of the stupid blunders which are inseparable from officialdom he had been buried in what was no better than a pauper’s grave. No sooner was the truth known of the lad’s last hours of life and the manner of his death than public opinion demanded a befitting reinternment. Accordingly the body was exhumed, and there was an impressive funeral in Manor Park Cemetery. A picture of the boy, standing by his gun, with Admiral Sir David Beatty’s report of the incident, occupies a position of honour in more than 12,000 schools.”

On 23 March 1917, a large company witnessed at the Mansion House the presentation to the Board of Admiralty of Mr. Frank O. Salisbury’s picture, ‘John Cornwell, V.C., on H.M.S. Chester.’ Sir Edward Carson, the First Lord, received the picture and paid a high tribute to the dead lad’s courage and example. “I ask people who grumble if they ever heard the story of John Travers Cornwell… I feel that this boy, who died at the post of duty, sends this message… to the people of the Empire: ‘Obey your orders, cling to your post, don’t grumble, stick it out”.

The 5.5″ gun from HMS Chester that Jack Cornwell had manned during the Battle of Jutland is on display at the Imperial War Museum.

 

A lot has been written about the mistakes made at Jutland by those in command, but so little has been written about those who manned the magazines or who operated the engines or who fed the crew. When I was young there was a quizz programme on Springbok Radio, and I recall that one of the contestants was being quizzed on the Battle of Jutland. At the time I thought that he was incredibly knowledgable about the battle, but that it was not really a subject that somebody like myself would ever understand. I still do not understand it.

The Battle of the Somme was famous for the carnage that was inflicted during the campaign, but at sea it was a different story altogether. Once the ships had passed and the wreckage was dispersed there was nothing left to see, it was as if nothing had ever happened, but those who were there will tell you that it was a battle like none seen before, or since, and those who were in it would never forget it.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 30/05/2016. Most of the information on this page comes from the Royal British Legion Information Pack on the battle of Jutland. I have also used links to Wikipedia and of course Victoriacrossonline  

 


Walking to Winchcombe.

On all of my trips with the GWR we have always stopped at Winchcombe, but I had never been to have a look at the town. One of my workmates said it was an interesting place to see so I filed that info away for future reference, hoping that one day I would make a plan. Yesterday, when I arrived that the station I decided to take the opportunity seeing as “I was in the area”. You can read about that trip at the relevant blogpost

Actually the area was about a mile away from the town, but that’s not an impossible walk, although getting back to the station would need good timing or I could end up hanging around there for awhile waiting for the next train.

It is one of those typical English roads that has very little to see on either side, and with Spring in the air it can be a riot of colour and flowers. I was not quite sure about the route though and eventually I reached the dead centre of town: the local cemetery.

The chapel building is a nice one, and I quickly walked the graves, photographing all the visible CWGC graves that I saw. There are 12 military commemorations in the cemetery, and I managed to snag 10, so the walk was worth it. 

The town is a bit further on, with a handy sign pointing in the right direction. According to the map below, I had come in on Greet Road. Turning left at North Street I then walked up to High Street and then turned right.

 

North Street

North Street

High Street changes names a number of times, and it is narrow and the traffic is terrible with cars having to wait for each other to pass and no real sense of who has priority. I do not want to even contemplate driving in a place like this at rush hour… or rush minute. The buildings are mostly the same colour and I could not help but think that it reminded me a lot of Bath. I had seen a spire behind some buildings so headed roughly in that direction, taking the odd pic as I went.

I found the map that I posted a few pics up very close to this point so now had a better idea of how the town came together and where the church was. I was also on the lookout for the war memorial which was close by.

One side of the street is walled, and at this point it was called Abbey Terrace and I think this is where the Abbey may be or was. Either way the gates said “Private” so I steered away from them. St Peter’s Church was also on this walled area and it is a real beaut.

Unfortunately there is no way to get a proper pic of it from any angle, and that includes from the extensive churchyard.  It has an amazing collection of grotesques along its walls, and these seem to be mentioned wherever the church is mentioned too.

The churchyard was large but I did not really spend too much time in it, the legibility of the headstones is not all that good, although there were some really beautiful carvings on some of them.

I left St Peter’s feeling quite smug, so far I had picked up enough to have made my walk worthwhile, and was now about ready to head back to the station. I will definitely make a plan for a return visit next time I am on the GWR. 

I was really looking for something to eat, but gave up after being stuck behind a queue of two women who seemingly had bought the whole shop, and deliberately chosen the items that had no prices on them. I had a train to catch and still had a long walk back to the station. 

I headed back the way I had come, by the looks of my timetable I had enough time to catch the 14.15 train with about 15 minutes to spare. That was do-able and off I went, photographing this beaut as I got closer to the station. 

But as I was taking this pic I could hear the sounds of steam whistles at the station. That meant that there was a train there already, or one leaving, or even two leaving. I was not prepared to run to the station, any trains there would have left as I arrived anyway, so I just continued at my normal pace, arriving as a Cheltenham bound train arrived. This was a train that had been delayed somewhere in the system, and it was in a hurry to leave, so I quickly boarded and grabbed a seat and we pulled away almost immediately. Had I waited to have my items rung up at the supermarket I would have arrived at an empty station so leaving my stuff behind had been the right choice.

Winchombe is a pretty town, and it is steeped in history. You can feel the weight of ages in it, although the many cars do tend to ruin the ambience. It is however well worth returning to. 

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 28/05/2016


Cotswold Festival of Steam

Yes indeed, I spent the day at the Cotswold Festival of Steam held on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (aka The Honeybourne Line). This will be the fourth time I have travelled on this heritage railway, and it is quite an experience.

This 3 day event was centered around “Swindon Built” steam engines that were primarily built for the Great Western Railway. Sadly, Swindon no longer makes steam engines, but it is the home of Steam, Museum of the Great Western Railroad which I visited in January 2015.

It was promising to be a great day because there were a number of visiting steamers, as well as the long awaited running of 35006 ‘Peninsular & Oriental S.N. Co’ – Rebuilt Merchant Navy class. I had been after a decent pic of this machine since first saw her at Toddington last year and hopefully today would be my chance.  

My day started at Cheltenham Race Course Station where I waited for 9.45 train. Much to my surprise it was a double header, and both were beauts and running tender first. The outboard engine being one of the visitors, as was the inboard.

There were a lot of people at the station, and most were brandishing cameras and that determined look that says “getoutofmywayyouareblockingtheengine!” I sometimes get that look too. Our outboard loco uncoupled and charged past us to the attach herself to the now front of the train. She was 9F class 2-10-0 no. 92214 which is the youngest BR and Swindon built steam locomotive in working order, dating from 1959.

The inboard loco remained behind. And, she was a real beauty that I really wanted to get more pics of, she is an LMS Ivatt 2MT class 2-6-0 no. 46521 and was visiting from the Great Central Railway

There was a scramble for seats and then we were off.

The one thing I realised about the GWSR is that their rails are full of joints and there is that hearkening to the grand days of joined rails that used to permeate train travel when I was young. Clickety Clack Clickety Clack!

First stop was the siding just outside Gotherington where we waited for the next train to pass. Unfortunately every door was occupied so getting a pic was impossible. I do know that the lead loco on that train was 7820 Dinmore Manor, and I suspect the second loco was 7812 Erlestoke Manor. I was really biding my time for Winchcombe where I would hopefully manage a pic of the next train as she entered Winchcombe.

Much to my surprise the next train was a goods! with a crowded brakevan of photographers, the Loco was 2807 (running as 2808), a ’28xx’ class heavy freight locomotive, built in 1905. I will be honest, I have never seen so many linesiders in one day as I did today. It just goes to show that steam engines can still pull crowds, no matter how insignificant they are.  

Once the goods was past we were on our way once again, heading towards my final destination Toddington. The train continues to Laverton, but there is really nothing to see there, except for the Stanway Viaduct and you really need to be watching a train crossing it as opposed to being on the train doing the crossing. 

The train at platform 1 had Modified Hall class 4-6-0 no. 7903 Foremarke Hall in charge.

Out of interest, the train I had just climbed off was on platform 2 which is on the right, with the next train to Cheltenham at Platform 1 on the left.  The loco at the far end of the train on platform 1 was the one I was looking out for. But alas she was just out of sight and I would only be able to see her when the train pulled out. When it finally did she remained behind until it was safely away before she backed down the line. Finally, my Merchant Navy has arrived!

Theoretically, if she continued on this line she could end up crossing to the other line to attach to the back of the train I had just vacated. 

I was wrong, she headed backwards and turned onto a line heading back into the depot and then hid behind a signal pole, hoping that I would not see her. 

After a drink of water, The Red Dragon headed backwards down the line too but pulled off onto the other side and proceeded to move forwards to attach herself to the end of the train on platform 1. 

She is a stunning machine, and I only noticed when I got home that she was a 2-10-0. Now that is impressive. I think I have a new favourite. Interestingly enough she is sister to 92220 “Evening Star”  which had the distinction of being the last steam locomotive to be built by British Railways.

And just as I was about to dash off for a bathroom break.. along came 46521 with her train, now can I go for a bathroom break?

There was not much on the go at Toddington, a traction engine and steam roller occupied some space and that was about all.

There were however, stirrings afoot and my Merchant Navy Class was on the move so it was back I went and I finally got my pic!

She attached herself to the rear of the train that had just arrived at Platform… 1? or was it 2?

It is hard to say with all this steam about. 

I heard tootings from the Toddington Narrow Gauge Railway and I headed in that direction for a look. Much to my joy there had two of their steamers out and about  

This beauty is called “Tourska” and she was built by Chrzanow in 1957 and is works number 3512. The other loco on the go was “Chaka’s Kraal No6” and she is a Hunslet and was built in Leeds in 1940, She spent most of her life in the sugar estates in Natal before being returned to the UK in 1981.  

I was tempted to go for a ride, but I had other things to do first, so would consider returning a bit later. It was time to see what was going where back at the station as I needed to make some plans.

My plans did not include a ride on that! The diesel is 11230, a Drewry industrial shunter.  In all likelihood I would grab the train that was now on its way back from Laverton and head down to Winchcombe. There was movement in the distance too, and that needed investigating.

 As I suspected, it was the goods train, and somewhere along the way she had had a loco change and was now under the control of 7812 Erlestoke Manor. 

and shortly thereafter, the train from Laverton started to appear around the bend.

46521 was still at the head of the train but now she detached from the train and settled down to have a drink and a smoke with the loco next door.

I boarded the train and off we went, heading for Winchcombe. I intended to bail there and go look at the carriage works again, and see what was waiting at the station for us to arrive.

That was 2808 waiting there, and her safeties were feathering all the time, she was ready to blast out of there. 

I was now trainless and headed out of the station towards where the carriage works were, but there was sign pointing towards the town that and I changed direction and headed off to Winchcombe town instead. I was hungry and frankly the queue outside ye pie shoppe was way too long for me. Besides, I really wanted to explore the town, so off I went, 1 mile? nah, that’s easy. 

To read about that portion of my day you can head off to the relevant blogpost about the town

I really thought that I was facing a 30 minute wait for the next train, assuming it wasn’t the goods train! However, on my walk to the station I could hear steam whistles and things were happening. As I got to the station a train arrived and it was heading to Cheltenham. The loco passed me as I got there and I saw it was 46521! The loco on the other platform was my Merchant Navy, but there was no time to grab a pic as the train that had just arrived was late, so she was not going to hang around…

We trundled back to Cheltenham, I was still hungry and footsore and just a tad bushed. The walk to and around Winchcombe had been a long one, and I really needed to start getting home.

Pausing at Gotherington.

I had to admit, it was nice country out here.

Then we arrived and all bailed out for the usual last minute loco photography.

The problem was, what loco would take the train out of Cheltenham? 7812 was sitting on the unused line waiting to shunt to the head of the train, and our current loco would probably take her place.

I walked up the long hill to the road and played chicken with a few cars who tried to run me down. I was very curious about where the line went to after Cheltenham Race Course. According to a book I bought at Toddington, the line enters the Hunting Butts Tunnel and then along a brick viaduct through the centre of Cheltenham and would have joined up with the main line between Bristol and Birmingham. The current station in Cheltenham is called Cheltenham Spa and it is far from the city centre. The former Honeybourne Line had 3 stations after Cheltenham Race Course.

I zoomed into the distance and could just see the roof top of the tunnel in the distance, but what was this loco in the foreground?

I returned to the station to photograph 46521 which should have the whole station to herself, seeing as the train had left. 

As I got to the ramp leading down to the station the loco that I had just seen started to move and it turned out to be 7820 Dinmore Manor. I had wondered where she had gotten to.

It turns out that she was doing “driver experiences” and went back and forth along the platform 3 times while I watched. 

And then it was time to go.

I stopped to photograph the vintage bus that wasn’t going anywhere.

But I was going somewhere, and that was home. It had been a long day and I was finished. I still had 2 buses to catch as well as a long walk home from Tewkesbury Town, and I was hungry too, but, It had been a good day out. I had seen some new loco’s and seen some old friends too. And, I had taken lots of pics and seen a cemetery and church too; and that made it all worth while.

© DRW 2017-2017. Created 28/05/2016