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.

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1. Into battle

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1. Into battle

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.

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In the distance the battlecruiser HMS TIGER can be seen underway at speed during the run to the North, part of the battle of Jutland. Overall the ship was hit fifteen times by large calibre shells during the battle of Jutland and lost twenty four members of her crew killed and a further forty six wounded.
The battlecruiser HMS Tiger underway at speed during the battle of Jutland. © IWM (SP 2878)

'That afternoon in the sun, it was nice and warm, I had a nice little sleep on the quarter deck'

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2. First time in battle

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2. First time in battle

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.

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The gun crew of "P" turret of the battlecruiser HMS NEW ZEALAND posing for a group portrait after the Battle of Jutland. There is a sign in the middle of the group saying: "P" Turret, Heligoland 1914, Dogger Bank 1915, Jutland 1916. During the battle HMS NEW ZEALAND was hit on "X" turret but did not suffer serious damage or casualties.
The gun crew of 'P' turret of the battlecruiser HMS New Zealand posing for a group portrait after the Battle of Jutland.

'I was frightened, yes, I make no bones about it'

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3. No fear

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3. No fear

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

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The engine room of a Royal Navy battleship.
The engine room of a Royal Navy battleship during the First World War

'You don’t think about things like that, you know you’ve got a job to do'

Vehicles, aircraft and ships

4. Under fire

Vehicles, aircraft and ships

4. Under fire

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.

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Fragment of the hull of the Iron Duke Class battleship, HMS Marlborough, which was torpedoed during the Battle of Jutland.
Fragment of the hull of the Iron Duke Class battleship, HMS Marlborough, which was torpedoed during the Battle of Jutland.

'It simply lifted that ship like a ball and just bounced her up and down just like a rubber ball would be in the water'

Souvenirs and ephemera

5. No food

Souvenirs and ephemera

5. No food

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.

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thick slice of black bread which has (over time) crumbled into three pieces.
Black bread issued to Corporal A B Wilson, 10th/11th Highland Light Infantry (HLI), whilst a prisoner of war during the First World War.

'They never give us any food… In those days, they didn't worry about anything like that'

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6. 'Steel box'

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6. 'Steel box'

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.  

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Two sailors looking through a shell hole in the forward turret roof of the battlecruiser HMS TIGER. Overall she was hit fifteen times by large calibre shells during the battle of Jutland and lost twenty four members of her crew killed and a further forty six wounded.
Two sailors looking through a shell hole in the forward turret roof of the battlecruiser HMS Tiger.

'It's a feeling of, one would think, as being really fastened in a big box'

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7. Shell holes

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7. Shell holes

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

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The side of a QUEEN ELIZABETH class battleship in dry dock showing damage caused by a German shell at the battle of Jutland, a dock worker can be seen working inside the shell hole whilst several more are stood watching.
A British warship showing damage caused by a German shell in dock for repairs after the Battle of Jutland.

'We were still firing away there and we got badly hit, terrible thud'

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8. British casualties

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8. British casualties

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.

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'HMS Castor. Wounded Received After The Battle Of Jutland, 31st May 1916.' by Jan Gordon
'HMS Castor. Wounded Received After The Battle Of Jutland, 31st May 1916.' by Jan Gordon

'You know, it was a bit of a shambles really'

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9. Indefatigable survivor

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9. Indefatigable survivor

The British lost several battlecruisers at Jutland, with huge loss of life in each case. As well as HMS Queen Mary and HMS InvincibleHMS 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.

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A film still taken from episode 14 of the BBC television production 'The Great War' showing a full face close-up portrait of Royal Navy Signaller C Farmer talking about his experience during the Battle of Jutland in 1916. Mr Farmer served on board HMS INDEFATIGABLE and was one of only two survivors when the ship was lost on the night of 31 May/1 June 1916.
Royal Navy Signaller Charles Farmer talking about his experience during the Battle of Jutland in 1963.

'I had given up all hope, practically, I let go once, yes, I let go once, but I struggled back again quick'

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10. Heavy toll

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10. Heavy toll

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.

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HMS CHESTER, showing damage sustained at the Battle of Jutland, 31 May 1916.
HMS Chester, showing damage sustained at the Battle of Jutland, 31 May 1916.

'He stopped the ship and we buried the worst ones over the side, see'

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