Sound story

Voices From The Battle Of Jutland

Around 100,000 men took part in the Battle of Jutland in 1916. For many, it was the moment they had been waiting for, a chance to finally take on their rivals in the biggest naval encounter of the First World War. What they experienced and witnessed during the two days of the battle stayed with them for the rest of their lives.

Here, 10 men who were at Jutland describe the anticipation, fear and excitement they felt during the battle.

Download the transcript of the interviews.

  • 1. Into battle

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    On the day of the battle, the sounding of action stations was a surprise for John Ouvry, an officer on board HMS Tiger. His ship was heavily damaged at Jutland, but survived the battle.

    Audio – John Ouvry interview © IWM (IWM SR 9260)

    Image – The battlecruiser HMS Tiger underway at speed during the battle of Jutland. (SP 2878)

  • 2. First time in battle

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    For many, Jutland was their first time in battle. Not knowing what to expect led to them feeling a mixture of fear and excitement. Midshipman Bonham Faunce had joined HMS Hercules in January 1916 and went into action for the first time at Jutland, aged 16.

    Audio – Bonham Faunce interview © IWM (IWM SR 12598)

    Image – The gun crew of 'P' turret of the battlecruiser HMS New Zealand posing for a group portrait after the Battle of Jutland. (Q 64301B)

  • 3. No fear

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    For Arthur Crown, an engine room artificer aboard HMS Shannon, there was no time for fear during the battle.

    Audio – Arthur Crown interview © IWM (IWM SR 8742)

    Image – The engine room of a Royal Navy battleship during the First World War (Q 19521)

  • 4. Under fire

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    The dreadnought HMS Marlborough was struck by a German torpedo during the battle. It caused great damage, tore a huge hole in the ship, and took months to repair. George Fox was on board as the battleship came under fire.

    Audio – George Fox interview © IWM (IWM SR 751)

    Image – Fragment of the hull of the Iron Duke Class battleship, HMS Marlborough, which was torpedoed during the Battle of Jutland (EPH 9037)

  • 5. No food

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    The British Grand Fleet put to sea late in the evening of 30 May and did not turn for home until the morning of 1 June. Consequently, many men were on duty for an extensive period of time, which meant normal routines were dispensed with. William Piggott, a wireless signaller in Admiral Jellicoe's flagship, HMS Iron Duke, found that this impacted on his ability to pause for a meal.

    Audio – William Piggott interview © IWM (IWM SR 12235)

    Image – Black bread issued to Corporal A B Wilson, 10th/11th Highland Light Infantry (HLI), whilst a prisoner of war during the First World War (EPH 5677)

  • 6. 'Steel box'

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    For the men serving in gun turrets during the action, the experience was a strange one. John Hazelwood, a gunnery officer in HMS Warspite, felt cut off from the battle in the 'steel box' of his gun turret.  

    Audio – John Hazelwood interview © IWM (IWM SR 4125)

    Image – Two sailors looking through a shell hole in the forward turret roof of the battlecruiser HMS Tiger (SP 1597)

  • 7. Shell holes

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    The battleship HMS Malaya was hit by shells eight times during the battle and suffered heavy casualties amongst its crew. Arthur Gaskin served as a range finder aboard Malaya during the action and remembered the damage inflicted to his ship.

    Audio – Arthur Gaskin interview © IWM (IWM SR 9344)

    Image – A British warship showing damage caused by a German shell in dock for repairs after the Battle of Jutland (Q 23212)

  • 8. British casualties

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    British ships suffered from accurate German range-finding during the battle. The Germans had better visibility in misty conditions and took advantage of this, with their shells soon finding their targets. George Wainford explained what it was like to come under heavy fire on board HMS Onslaught.

    Audio – George Wainford interview © IWM (IWM SR 9953)

    Image – 'HMS Castor. Wounded Received After The Battle Of Jutland, 31st May 1916.' by Jan Gordon (ART 2781)

  • 9. Indefatigable survivor

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    The British lost several battlecruisers at Jutland, with huge loss of life in each case. As well as HMS Queen Mary and HMS Invincible, HMS Indefatigable was struck early on in the action and exploded. British signaller Charles Farmer was one of only a handful of survivors from the sinking of the Indefatigable.

    Audio – Charles Farmer interview © IWM (IWM SR 4096)

    Image – Royal Navy Signaller Charles Farmer talking about his experience during the Battle of Jutland in 1963 (FLM 3792)

  • 10. Heavy toll

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    Although neither the German nor the British fleet was destroyed at Jutland, the battle took a heavy toll on both. The British lost 6,000 men and 14 ships; the Germans lost 2,500 men and 11 ships. The light cruiser HMS Chester was particularly badly hit during the action and suffered high casualties, among them the young Victoria Cross recipient Jack Cornwell. Leading stoker Bert Stevens of HMS Chester remembered the aftermath of the battle.

    Audio – Bert Stevens interview © IWM (IWM SR 9011)

    Image – HMS Chester, showing damage sustained at the Battle of Jutland, 31 May 1916 (SP 1587)