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Friday, 23 July 2010

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This account of the sinking of the Invincible, a battle cruiser, with six survivors from a crew of 1000+ seemingly parallels exactly the sinking of the Hood, another battle cruiser in 1940 with 3 survivors from a crew of 1000+. Both seem to have been destroyed by a single shell or a single salvo setting off a magazine. In both cases the watching german seamen seem to have been amazed, and indeed horrified. At a guess I would think it possible both ships were from similar plans.

Wasn't it Beattie who remarked "There's something wrong with our bloody ships today"?

My father, who was eight at the time and a very avid reader, remembered reports of sailors being jeered and booed in the streets afterwards. Britain had paid for the best navy in the world and jolly well expected to get its money's worth. I don't think he would have seen anything like this happening as he was living in Derby, about as far from the sea as it is possible to get.

Rufus and Edward, welcome to D&N, sorry for the delay in responding, I was away for the weekend.

Rufus, the flaws in the British ships to which, Edward rightly reminds us, Beatty alluded in his famous remark, were not so much in the design of the ships but the habits of gunnery teams in leaving open the various hatchways through which shells and explosives were brought up from below to individual turrets. This bad habit seems to have arisen from the frequent and highly competitive peacetime shooting competitions in which speed of reloading as well as accuracy was considered essential. Hardly any senior officers thought to remind gun crews that such a practice in action was highly dangerous because a hit on the turret could easily transfer to the magazine which is more or less what happened to Invincible and other British ships that day. I'm not sure about Hood, I'm having enough trouble trying to teach myself the ins and outs of Jutland. However, I do remember that my mother told me that the sinking of the Hood was one of the most shocking bits of news for the ordinary British public in the entire war.

Edward, your Father's memory was almost certainly correct. Everyone in Britain was imbued with Trafalgar and the supreme power of the Royal Navy. Nothing other than an annihilation of the German fleet would have satisfied the public - and their leaders! Thus, Jutland, which was, in football terms, a score draw with the Germans having far and away the best run of play came across as a huge, monumental shock and disappointment. Hardly anyone understood the difference between tactics and strategy. Thus, tactically we failed to win the battle, but strategically we won big time! The German fleet never again ventured out into the North Sea, so Britannia still ruled the waves. The essence of it was that for the Germans it was absolutely crucial that they won outright; for the British it was not crucial to win, only absolutely critical that they did not lose. Jellicoe understood that but very few others, including many of his admirals, did not.

This analysis may be helpful, at least it is so hoped:

http://www.gwpda.org/naval/jellicol.htm#N_5_

Thanks, 'JK', I have saved that for future use. Perhaps part of my approval stems from the fact that he more or less agrees with me!

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