Saturday, 4 June 2016

Old Bedfordian at Battle of Jutland

H.M.S. Neptune [Wikimedia]

Sunday 4th June 1916: An old boy of Bedford School who is serving on H.M.S. Neptune has written describing his experiences at the Battle of Jutland which took place on Wednesday and Thursday last week. It seems the battle came as something of a surprise to the British sailors if the experience of our correspondent is any guide:
“We were toddling along somewhere in the North Sea, feeling perfectly safe, and not dreaming that the Germans would ever make a nuisance of themselves, as the last thing we expected was an engagement where the battle did take place, although we were ready for anything. You never know what is going to happen next, as a matter of fact. Well, I was in the middle of a good tea, after a really good afternoon’s hard work asleep on a sofa, and congratulating myself on the fact that I had not got any more work to do for the next day or two, when some silly blighter sounded off, ‘Action stations’. I merely thought it was someone trying to be funny, and that it was only a trial run, so I strolled up to my ‘Action Station’, which is in the conning tower, not in the least prepared for any sort of a stunt. I had not got a coat or patent waistcoat, or anything useful at all. As a matter of fact I did remember in the hurry to pick up somebody’s respirator, which came in very hand later on. Also, I did not forget to take something to eat with me, which showed great presence of mind, I thought When I got to my place of abode I set myself in a very comfortable position for a slumber, and prepared to forget the world and its troubles. Luck was always against me, for within a quarter of an hour a signal came through to say that the battle cruisers were in action with the whole of the German High Sea Fleet.”
In a short time Neptune was in the thick of the action: 
“The two fleets were going at it hammer and tongs. It is rather an amusing sensation to see a whole line of big flashes from their big guns, and to wait about ten seconds to find out whether you are going to be made in rather a hurry into a species of strawberry jam. After a bit of a scrap with a particularly offensive and rude German battleship, the Neptune reminded it that it had got an important engagement elsewhere, and we soon had the satisfaction of seeing it take a neat little dive into the mighty ocean. The next thing I saw was a bit beastly. The Defence was quite close to us, and I saw her receive a salvo which took away two funnels, a mast and a turret. Immediately afterwards she got another. There was a gigantic flame, and when the smoke had cleared away, the Defence was simply not there.”
Source: The Ousel, 8 July 1916  [Z447/23]

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