THE SITUATION ON THE MORNING OF JUNE 1
"L" 11, 13, 17, 22 and 22 had gone up during the night for
an early reconnaissance. At 5.10 A.M. "L 11 " reported a squadron of twelve
English battleships, numerous light craft and destroyers on a northerly course
about the centre of the line TerschellingHorns Reef, and immediately
afterwards enemy battleships and battlecruisers north of the first unit. The
airship was heavily fired at but kept in touch until compelled to retire and
lost sight of the enemy in the thick atmosphere. The airship's reports taken
from its we. diary are as follows:
Reconnaissance Trip of " L 11 " on June 1,
"On June 1 at 1.30, after midnight ' L 11' went up at
Nordholz with the following orders: As fourth airship to cover flank of High
Sea forces, course N.W. to W. by Heligoland. Full crew on board, fresh
south-westerly wind, visibility limited owing to ground fog and later to a
fog-like atmosphere high up extending over 2 or at most 4 nautical miles.
Heligoland was not visible through the fog. At 5 A.M. clouds of smoke were seen
north of the ship in Square O 33 B and were made for. At 5.10 it was possible
to make out a strong enemy unit of twelve large warships with numerous lighter
craft steering north-north-east full speed ahead. To keep in touch with them '
L 11 ' kept in the rear and sent a wireless report, circling round eastwards.
At 5.40 A.M. east of the first unit the airship sighted a second squadron of
six big English battleships with lighter forces on a northerly course; when
sighted, they turned by divisions to the west, presumably to get into contact
with the first unit. As this group was nearer to the Main Fleet than the first
one, ' L 11 ' attached itself to it, but at 5.50 a group of three English
battle-cruisers and four smaller craft were sighted to the north-east, and,
cruising about south of the airship, put themselves between the enemy Main
Fleet and ' L 11.' Visibility was so poor that it was extremely difficult to
keep in contact. For the most part only one of the units was visible at a time,
while, apparently, the airship at an altitude of 1,1001,900 m. was
plainly visible- to the enemy against the rising sun.
"At 5.15, shortly after sighting the first group of
battleships, the enemy opened fire on the airship from all the vessels with
antiaircraft guns and guns of every calibre. The great turrets fired
broadsides; the rounds followed each other rapidly. The flash from the muzzles
of the guns could be seen although the ships were hidden by the smoke. All the
ships that came in view took up the firing with the greatest energy, so that '
L 11 ' was sometimes exposed to fire from 21 large and numbers of small ships.
Although the firing did not take effect, that and the shrapnel bursting all
around so shook the ship's frame that it seemed advisable to take steps to
increase the range. The firing lasted till 6.20 A.M. At that time the
battle-cruisers bearing down from S.W within close distance of ' L 11 ' forced
her to retire to N.E. to avoid their fire. At the same time the visibility
became worse and the enemy was lost to view.
"' L 11 ' again took a northerly course and went as low down
as 500 metres, in the hope of better visibility. It was impossible to see
beyond 1 to 2 nautical miles, and as under these conditions no systematic plan
for keeping in contact could be made, N. and S. course was followed so as to
keep between the enemy and our own Main Fleet. The enemy did not come in sight
" At 8 A.M. the Commander-in-Chief of the High Sea Fleet
dismissed the airship, and ' L 11 ' returned. On the way back the ship came
across a number of our own torpedo-boats exchanging bases, and messages were
given for further transmission. The airship remained close to those boats as
far as Sylt. Landed at Nordholz at 2 P.M."
At 4 A.M., 50 nautical miles west of Bovbjerg, "L 24"
sighted a flotilla of enemy destroyers, was fired at and returned the fire with
bombs, then got away further north, and at 5 A.M. discovered a unit of twelve
ships in Jammer Bay, steaming rapidly to the south. It was impossible to keep
in contact for further reconnaissance as there was a bank of cloud as low down
as 800 m.
From the Main Fleet itself no signs of the enemy were
visible at daybreak. The weather was so thick that the full length of a
squadron could not be made out. In our opinion the ships in a south-westerly
direction as reported by "L 11 " could only just have come from the Channel to
try, on hearing the news of the battle, to join up with their Main Fleet and
advance against us. There was no occasion for us to shun an encounter with this
group, but owing to the slight chance of meeting on account of visibility
conditions, it would have been a mistake to have followed them. Added to this
the reports received from the battle-cruisers showed that Scouting Division I
would not be capable of sustaining a serious fight, besides which the leading
ships of Squadron III could not have fought for any length of time, owing to
the reduction in their supply of munitions by the long spell of firing. The
Frankfurt, Pillau and Regensburg were the only fast light
cruisers now available, and in such misty weather there was no depending on
aerial reconnaissance. There was, therefore, no certain prospect of defeating
the enemy reported in the south. An encounter and the consequences thereof had
to be left to chance. I therefore abandoned the idea of further operations and
ordered the return to port.
On the way back, west of List, the Ostfriesland, at
7.30 A.M., struck a mine, one that evidently belonged to a hitherto unknown and
recently laid enemy minefield. The damage was slight; the vessel shipped 400
tons of water, but her means of navigation did not suffer, and she was able to
run into harbour under her own steam. I signalled, " Keep on." The last ships
passed through the area without coming across further mines.
Several submarine attacks on our returning Main Fleet failed
entirely, thanks partly to the vigilance of the airmen who picked up the Main
Fleet over List, and escorted them to the mouth of the river. During the course
of the day all the ships and boats were safely in their haven, Special mention
must be made of the bringing-in of the Seydlitz (Captain von Egidy)
badly damaged at her bows. That the vessel ever reached the harbour is due to
the remarkable seamanship of her commander and crew. Finally she was run astern
into the dock at Wilhelmshaven.
The U-boats lying off English harbours were told to remain
at their posts a day longer. At 6.20 P.M., 60 miles north of Terschelling, the
" U 46 " came across a damaged vessel of the "Iron Duke" class (the
Marlborough). She was, however, so well protected that it would have
been impossible to get within firing distance of her. A torpedo was fired, but
failed to reach the objective. Among the U-boats lying off enemy harbours the "
U 21 " on May 31 and "U 22 " on June 1 both succeeded in hitting a destroyer.
In each case, however, the sinking could not be observed owing to enemy
counter-action. Besides this, one of our minelayers, occupied in laying mines
west of the Orkney Islands, achieved an important success. The English armoured
cruiser Hampshire (11,000 tons) struck one of these mines on June 5 and
sank; with her perished Field-Marshal Lord Kitchener and all his Staff.
LOSSES ON BOTH SIDES
According to careful estimation made by us the enemy lost:
||Dreadnought of "Queen Elizabeth" class
||Battle-cruisers(Queen Mary, Indefatigable
||Armoured Cruisers (Black Prince, Defence,
Warrior and one of the "Cressy" type)
||Battle-cruiser (Lützow )
||older Battleship (Pommern)
||Light Cruisers (Wiesbaden, Elbing, Rostock and
The enemy's were almost complete losses, whereas we had
rescued the crews of the Lützow, Elbing, Rostock and half of those
of the torpedo-boats. [In my first report of the battle sent to the Admiralty
at Berlin the loss of the Lützow was mentioned. The announcement of
this loss was suppressed by the Naval Staff, though not at my request. The
enemy could not have seen the ship go down. In the interests of naval warfare
it was right to suppress the news. Unfortunately the secrecy observed produced
the impression that it was necessary to enlarge our success to that extent.]
Our losses in personnel amounted to: 2,400 killed; 400
wounded. The enemy's losses may be estimated at over 7,000 killed. According to
a list which he added to his report of June 18, 1916, Admiral Jellicoe
endeavoured to exaggerate our losses in the following manner:
BATTLESHIP OR BATTLE-CRUISERS
||Battleships, "Dreadnought" type (certain)
||Battleship, "Deutschland" type (certain)
||Battleship or Battle-cruiser (probable)
||Battleship, " Dreadnought " type (probable)
||Light cruisers (certain)
||Large ship or light cruiser (certain)
TORPEDO- BOAT DESTROYERS
||Torpedo-boat destroyers (certain)
||Torpedo-boat destroyers (probable)
With regard to the submarines he was totally mistaken, as
none took part in the battle. I sent my final impressions of the battle in a
written report of 4/7/16 to H.M. the Emperor as follows:
" The success achieved is due to the eagerness in attack,
the efficient leadership through the subordinates, and the admirable deeds of
the crews full of an eminently warlike spirit. It was only possible owing to
the excellence of our ships and arms, the systematic peacetime training of the
units, and the conscientious development on each individual ship. The rich
experience gained will be carefully applied. The battle has proved that in the
enlargement of our Fleet and the development of the different types of ships we
have been guided by the right strategical and tactical ideas, and that we must
continue to follow the same system. All arms can claim a share in the success.
But, directly or indirectly, the far reaching heavy artillery of the great
battleships was the deciding factor, and caused the greater part of the enemy's
losses that are so far known, as also it brought the torpedo-boat flotillas to
their successful attack on the ships of the Main Fleet. This does not detract
from the merits of the flotillas in enabling the battleships to slip away from
the enemy by their attack. The big ship battleship and
battle-cruiseris therefore, and will be, the main strength of naval
power. It must be further developed by increasing the gun calibre, by raising
the speed, and by perfecting the armour and the protection below the
" Finally, I beg respectfully to report to Your Majesty that
by the middle of August the High Sea Fleet, with the exception of the
Derfflinger and Seydlitz, will be ready for fresh action. With a
favourable succession of operations the enemy may be made to suffer severely,
although there can be no doubt that even the most successful result from a high
sea battle will not compel England to make peace. The disadvantages of our
geographical situation as compared with that of the Island Empire and the
enemy's vast material superiority cannot be coped with to such a degree as to
make us masters of the blockade inflicted on us, or even of the Island Empire
itself, not even were all the U-boats to be available for military purposes. A
victorious end to the war at not too distant a date can only be looked for by
the crushing of English economic life through U-boat action against English
commerce. Prompted by the convictions of duty, I earnestly advise Your Majesty
to abstain from deciding on too lenient a form of procedure on the ground that
it is opposed to military views, and that the risk of the boats would be out of
all proportion to the expected gain, for, in spite of the greatest
conscientiousness on the part of the Chiefs, it would not be possible in
English waters, where American interests are so prevalent, to avoid occurrences
which might force us to make humiliating concessions if we do not act with the
I followed up my report on the battle with a more detailed
account on July 16, 1916, after Admiral Jellicoe's report had appeared in the
English Press. I quote here from the above mentioned account:
" Admiral Jellicoe's report, published in the English Press,
confirms as follows the observations made by us:
Grouping of the English Forces
- Under Vice-Admiral Beatty:
- 1st and 2nd Battle-Cruiser Squadrons.
- 5th Battle Squadron (" Queen Elizabeths ").
- 1st, 2nd and 3rd Light Cruiser Squadrons.
- 1st, 9th, 10th and 13th Destroyer Flotillas.
- Admiral Jellicoe led:
- 1st, 2nd and 4th Battle Squadrons (Fleet Flagship at the
head of 4th Battle Squadron).
- 3rd Battle-Cruiser Squadron (" Invincibles ").
- 1st and 2nd Cruiser Squadrons.
- 4th Light Cruiser Squadron.
- 4th, 11th and 12th Destroyer Flotillas.
Intervention in the Battle by the English Main Fleet
" When he first had news that the enemy was sighted,
Admiral Jellicoe was north-west of Admiral Beatty's forces. He thereupon
advanced at full speed in column formation on a S.E. course, put the 1st and
2nd Cruiser Squadrons for reconnaissance at the head of his formation, and sent
forward the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron (apparently reinforced by the
Agincourt ), to support Admiral Beatty. The 3rd Battle-Cruiser Squadron
passed east of Admiral Beatty's leader at 7.30 P.M.; they heard in the
south-west the thunder of guns, and saw the flashes, sent out the light cruiser
Chester to reconnoitre, and themselves took a N.W. course. Shortly
before 8 o'clock the Chester encountered our Scouting Division II and
was set on fire by them. After pursuing the Chester, Scouting Division
II came across the 3rd Battle-Cruiser Squadron, which opened fire on them. The
attacks at 8 P.M. by our Torpedo-Boat Flotilla IX and the 12th Half-Flotilla
were launched against this 3rd BattleCruiser Squadron.
" Admiral Beatty sighted the 3rd Battle-Cruiser Squadron at
8.10 P.M., and at 8.21 P.M. had it ahead of the 1st and 2nd BattleCruiser
Squadrons he was leading.
"At 7.55 P.M. Admiral Jellicoe sighted the fire from the
guns. It was impossible for him to make out the position of our Fleet. The
difference between his and Admiral Beatty's charts added to the uncertainty in
judging of the situation. The report says it was difficult to distinguish
between friend and foe. At 8.14 P.M. the battleship squadrons turned east into
the line between the 1st and 2nd Battle-Cruiser Squadrons and the 5th Battle
Squadron. At 8.17 P.M. the 1st Battle Squadron opened fire on the leaders of
our ships of the line. Up to 10.20 P.M. those squadrons, with some few pauses,
took part in the fighting.
" Shortly before the battleship squadrons arrived, the 1st
Cruiser Squadron, together with light forces from the Main Fleet, joined in the
fighting. At 8.50 P.M., therefore, between our first and second blows, Admiral
Beatty put the 3rd Battle-Cruiser Squadron in the rear of the 2nd. At 9.6 P.M.
the leaders of the battleships made for the south. The total impression
received by us of the battle is made more complete by the statements in the
English Press, and is not altered.
The Enemy's Action during the Night
"At 9.45 P.M. Admiral Beatty had lost sight of our forces.
He sent the 1st and 3rd Light Cruiser Squadrons to reconnoitre in the west, and
at 10.20 P.M. went to their support with the 1st and 2nd Battle-Cruiser
Squadrons, also on a westerly course. Immediately after came the encounter
described in my report with the leading ships of our Main Fleet, consisting of
Scouting Divisions IV and I and Squadron II. The fact that our forces turned
westward must have led the English Admiral to assume that our Main Fleet had
taken a westerly course, and made him follow in that direction. The fact that
we at the same time put Squadron II in the rear, and with the new leader,
Squadron I, again took a S.E. course, resulted in Admiral Beatty's forces
passing west in front of us and ultimately losing contact. It was obvious that
after the battle the English Main Fleet was divided into two. Admiral
Jellicoe's report makes no mention of this. The one portion, consisting of
large battleships and light craft, took apparently northerly and easterly
courses, as one group of ships was sighted by 'L 24 ' at 5 A.M. on June 1 in
Jammer Bay, close under land. It may perhaps have been both those rear
squadrons which made off on the attack by our TorpedoBoat Flotillas VI and IX,
and then apparently lost touch with the Main Fleet. The other portion, under
Admiral Jellicoe, consisting, according to observations by ' L 11,' of eighteen
large battleships, three battle-cruisers (probably the 3rd Battle-Cruiser
Squadron) and numerous light forces, had, up to 10.46 P.M., been steering south
and then south-west. It would appear, from intercepted English wireless
messages, that he covered 15 nautical miles. Based on these courses and the
speed, he must have crossed our course at midnight, 10 to 15 nautical miles in
front of us, and have taken later a course to the centre of the line Horns
Reef Terschelling, where he was seen at 5 A.M. by ' .L 11 ' on a N.N.E.
The Consequence of the Enemy's Action during the Night
"Admiral Jellicoe must have intended to resume the battle
with us at dawn. It is inexplicable, therefore, why a portion of the Main Fleet
made for Jammer Bay during the night. Nor can it be understood how it was that
the enemy's light forces, which were engaged with our Main Fleet up to 4.36
A.M. and thus were in touch with us the whole night, could find a way to inform
Admiral Jellicoe and Admiral Beatty of our course and navigation. But even
apart from that, it must be assumed that the fire from our guns and the enemy's
burning cruisers and destroyers would have pointed out the way to the English
Main Fleet. In any case it is a fact that on the morning of June 1 the enemy's
heavy forces were broken up into three detachments; one in the North, a second
with Admiral Beatty in the North-west, and the third with Admiral Jellicoe
South-west of Horns Reef. It is obvious that this scattering of the
forceswhich can only be explained by the fact that after the day-battle
Admiral Jellicoe had lost the general commandinduced the Commander to
avoid a fresh battle."
¹ According to English accounts, it comprised the
Barham, Warspite, Valiant and Malaya. Mention is made of four
ships only. According to various observations on our side (by Squadron III and
the leader of Scouting Division II) there were five ships. If Queen
Elizabeth, or a similar type of ship , was not in the unit it is possible
that another recently built man-of-war replaced her
² In comparing the time given in the German and English
accounts it must be remembered that there is a difference of two hours, for the
reason that we reckon according to summer-time in Central Europe, while the
difference between ordinary Central Europe and Greenwich time is one hour.
Therefore 4.28 German time corresponds to 2.28 English time.
³Admiral Jellicoe admits that torpedoes reached his
line, but claims to have escaped further damage by the clever handling of his
ships. Our assumption that he had already turned back before the attack by the
torpedo-boats is thus confirmed
LAST SECTION °
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