Battle of Jutland 1916

‘Something appears to be wrong with our bloody ships today’R.I.P.
- Able Seaman Edward Ruston Reed
- Private Thomas William Reed
- Stoker Thompson Allen Duncan
- Stoker Robert Raine
- Stoker Henry Charles Tate
- Leading Seaman Allan James Walters
- Able Seaman Albert Edward Wood

‘Be pleased to inform the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that the German High Seas Fleet was brought to action on 31ST May 1916to the westward of the Jutland Bank, off the coast of Denmark’

So had begun a despatch which had been issued by Vice Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, on the 24TH of June which had been reproduced in the pages of ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday July 7TH 1916, informing it’s war news hungry readership of a naval engagement that everyone had been expecting since the very first days of the war.

The British public had of course expected the guns of the Royal Navy to smash the enemy to smithereens, much as their predecessors had done to the French at Trafalgar a hundred and eleven years before, alas, it was not to be. Initially the British propaganda machinery had led ‘Joe Public’ to believe that there had indeed been a great victory at Jutland, however, the loss of three Battle cruisers, three Armoured Cruisers and eight Destroyers in a single afternoon, accompanied by the great loss of life [6,094 British seamen had died during the battle, a further 800 men had been wounded] had been a bitter pill to swallow compared with the German losses of one old Battleship [Pommern], a Battle cruiser [the badly damaged Lutzow, which had in fact been sunk by the Germans], four light cruisers and five destroyers [2,551 German seamen had lost their lives].

Questions had eventually been asked in the House of Commons demanding explanations as to why the numerically superior British Grand Fleet should suffer such losses and not strike a decisive blow. Recriminations would fly between the two British Commanders who had fought the battle, Admiral’s Sir John Jellicoe and Sir David Beatty, the former would subsequently be criticized for being too cautious in the handling of his command, the Grand Fleet, the latter for being too impetuous in the use of his Battle Cruisers.

The battle, later named the Battle of Jutland by the British, [‘the victory of the Skaggerak’ by the German’s] had been fought on Wednesday the 31ST of May 1916 and had been a series of fleeting engagements involving over two hundred and fifty British and German warships, which, for the majority of the time had fought each other through curtains of fog, funnel fumes, and the smoke of battle, in essence a giant game of blind man’s buff.

The focus of the foregoing narrative is the sinking of the British Battle Cruiser H.M.S. Invincible, a twenty thousand tons thinly armoured warship which had been directed to undertake a task it had never been built to do, and the loss of one of her crew of over a thousand officers and men who had lost their lives in the course of one terrible day. Armed as a Battleship with eight twelve inch guns in four turrets [‘A’ forward, ‘Y’ aft, ‘P’and ‘Y’ to port and starboard amidships], the Invincible and her sisters, Inflexible, and Indomitable had looked powerful enough but their appearance had belied a fatal weakness.

Launched on the Tyne at Vickers Armstrong’s Elswick Yard on the 13TH of April 1907,

Invincible had caused a sensation in the worlds press and naval circles. Her originally intended role had been to accompany the battle fleet and have the extra speed needed to catch fast enemy cruisers and engage them with her superior firepower. However, to enable Invincible to perform this role her armour protection had been ‘skimped’ to save weight, leaving many of her vulnerable areas, notably ammunition magazines, gun turrets, and upper decks virtually unprotected.

Completed and ready for sea by the 20TH of March 1908, the Invincible been the world’s first ‘fast armoured cruiser’ [during 1908 the term ‘battle-cruiser’ had not yet been coined], considered as ‘comparatively roomy and comfortable’ and a good sea boat, and with a speed of around twenty eight knots she had also earned a reputation for being the fastest capitol ship in the world that would see her successive proud crew members dubbing their fine ship as ‘H.M.S. Uncatchable’.

Of course if Invincible had been used in the role that she had been intended there would have been no problem, as her armour would have been string enough to withstand any weight of shell, which could be fired by a cruiser. In the event it had been asking a lot of any Admiral to leave out of his battle line any ship armed with twelve inch guns, and it had only be a matter of time before the Invincible’s thin armour had been exposed to the superior weight of shell that battleships could put into the air.

The story of the loss of the Invincible begins during the night of Tuesday the 30TH of May 1916. Flying the flag of Rear Admiral the Honourable Horace Hood the Battle cruiser had left her base at Rosyth at the head of the Third Battle Cruiser Squadron [which had been composed of the Invincible, Indomitable, and Inflexible]. Accompanied by a bevy of destroyers and the light cruisers H.M.S.’s Chester and Canterbury, the squadron had presented a never to be forgotten sight:

‘Steaming at over twenty knots in ‘line ahead’ with thick oily black smoke belching from their funnels, at their mastheads streamed huge white ensigns straining at their halyards in the slipstream created by their mad rush into the unknown. Their prow’s had knifed through the grey North Sea like the proverbial hot knife through butter sending up huge creamy white bow waves. At the ship’s sterns, equally large washes created by the thrashing of the huge propellers biting into the cold northern water had risen almost to the height of the quarterdeck to fall back leaving a trail of disturbed water reaching back to the horizon’…

The general feeling amongst the ships companies had been that the dash from Rosyth had been yet another exercise, or one of the many false alarms that had beset the Royal Navy ever since the war had begun. Everyone had known that the British and German Navies would eventually come to blows, but until that day it had never come to be. Of course there had been skirmishes, such as the Battle of Coronel off the coast of Chile during November 1914, which had resulted in the loss of two Royal Navy cruisers, H.M.S.’s Good Hope and Monmouth. The sinking of these two ships had been avenged during December with an action that had been labelled ‘The Battle of the Falklands’ during which British warships had sank two German cruisers. Invincible had a taken part in this operation and one of her crew members, Scarborough born Able Seaman Edward Ruston Reed, had told of the exciting battle in a letter to his parents living at No52 Hoxton Road, that had eventually been featured in ‘The Scarborough Pictorial’ of Wednesday the 27TH of January 1915 under the banner; ‘The Atlantic Victory’.

…‘We intended coaling [at Port Stanley] on the Tuesday [the 7TH of December 1914], and leaving so as to pick up the Germans on the Wednesday. However, we had just got started coaling when it was signalled from the shore that two German warships were on the horizon. We immediately cast of from our collier and proceeded to sea. We had to pass the [light cruisers] Dresden, Leipzig, and Nurnburg to get at our opponents [the armoured cruisers Scharnhorst, and Gneisenau]. We fired on them, and put Leipzig on fire. Then we went on chasing the others. After a couple of hours fight we sank the Scharnhorst, the Flagship. The Inflexible was told to lay off, and we fired on the Gneisenau. We gave her a heavy list to port, and then called up the Inflexible at the death. ‘Cease Fire’ went, and I stood on top of our turret just in time to see her go down. She went slowly over to port, then turned turtle and disappeared, bow first. We steamed up and lowered boats to pick up survivors. We picked up over a hundred, of whom, fourteen died, and were buried on the Wednesday. Don’t think because we did not lose any hands that we were not hit, because we were, but I am not allowed to tell you where…I hope this engagement will ‘buck’ the Army and Navy up to more strenuous endeavours’… Reed’s wishes were about to come to fruition.

The initiative for the decisive showdown between the two fleets that would forever be known as ‘The Battle Of Jutland’ had been taken by the German Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Reinhardt Scheer, a tough old sea dog who had been spoiling for a fight with the British. Scheer had issued an order during the night of the 28TH of May for all units of the High Seas Fleet to raise steam and be ready to put to sea from its base at Wilhelmshaven during the morning of the thirtieth, with a view to carrying out attacks on merchant shipping in and off the Skagerrak [the straits between Norway and Denmark] and the Norwegian coast in operations that would last two days.

Shortly after Scheer’s signal had been transmitted it had been intercepted and its contents decoded by the Admiralty which had forwarded orders to Jellicoe and Beatty at their bases at Scapa Flow and Rosyth ordering them to be ready to put to sea during the night of the thirtieth, and thereafter to concentrate their forces to the east of a sea area known as ‘The Long Forties’ [roughly a hundred miles to the east of Aberdeen].

The battle cruisers of the First Scouting Group of the German High Seas Fleet, under the command of Admiral Franz Von Hipper, had go underway during the early hours of the 30TH of May [they had been followed later in the day by Scheer’s Battleships]. Sweeping out of the River Jade in company with a force of destroyer and light cruisers, the task before them had been to seek out the British Fleet, and if the force encountered were stronger than their own they were to turn about, in the hope that the British would give chase and thus be drawn into range of the waiting battle fleet.

Contact between the two sides had been brought about by coincidence shortly after 2-15pm in the afternoon of Wednesday the thirty first by the almost simultaneous sighting and investigation by a German Light Cruiser and the British Light Cruiser H.M.S.Galatea, of a neutral Danish steamer.

Following the sighting the Galatea had wirelessed; ’Urgent two cruisers in sight, probably hostile’ to Beatty in his Flagship, the 27,000tons Battlecruiser H.M.S.Lion. The enemy force had duly turned about as planned leading the British into the pre arranged trap. Two hours later the battle cruisers of both sides had sighted each other.
The German Battle Cruisers had been the first to open fire, at 3-45pm. The range had been ten and a half miles, and disaster had befallen the British within minutes of going into action. Due to a combination of superior German gunnery and good fortune the battlecruiser H.M.S.Tiger [28,000tons] had been severely mauled, so too had Beatty’s Flagship which had receive a direct hit from a twelve inch shell which had torn the roof off one of her main gun turrets, killing everyone inside, the resultant explosion had ‘flashed’ down the main trunk [a large tube up which shells and charges passed up into the turrets from the shell rooms and magazines] into the shellroom below, which, but for the prompt flooding of the magazine, had nearly sunk her.

Shortly afterwards [around 4pm] the 19,000 tons battlecruiser H.M.S. Indefatigable had exploded in a fireball as a result of a hit on one of her turrets which had also ‘flashed’ to the magazine below. All but two of her 57 officers and 960men had perished in the blast. Twenty-six minutes later, another battlecruiser, the 27,000tons H.M.S. Queen Mary had been hit by a twelve inch shell abreast of ‘Q’ turret. After two enormous explosions she had vanished in a huge column of smoke, with the loss of 1,250 of her ship’s company, only fourteen men had survived. Yet another Battle cruiser H.M.S. Princess Royal had also been badly damaged in the initial engagement, fortunately she had not foundered.

At around this time Jellicoe had been heard to utter his immortal…’something appears to be wrong with our bloody ships today’

Still some miles away and unaware of the battle raging ahead of them, the crew of the Invincible had been summoned to action stations by a bugler of the Royal Marines shortly after a quarter to three in the afternoon. Almost immediately afterwards the shrill of the Bosun’s Call had ordered; ‘Hands shift into clean underwear’ [a precaution against the contamination of wounds by fragments of dirty clothing]. At the same time the ship’s four massive battle ensigns had broken at her yardarms and masthead.

Inside the ship’s four twelve-inch gun turrets the crew’s had already been ‘closed up’. The first of the one-ton projectiles as big as household dustbin, followed by the bagged 258lb canisters of cordite propellant were arriving in the ammunition hoists from the magazines below, soon shell and cordite had been rammed into the breech of the guns with a hiss of compressed air.

Meanwhile, high in the Invincible’s spotting top, the ships gunnery officer had trained round to follow an as yet unseen target on the horizon, a pointer on a dial in each turret had moved accordingly. The turret trainer, turning a handle to keep a second pointer over the director pointer had trained the massive turrets round.

Throughout the afternoon like two heavyweight boxers the British and German battle fleets had slugged and jabbed at each other. The slower British battleships under Jellicoe had arrived and had started to hit the Germans hard with 15inch projectiles [twice the weight of those fired by the Germans] badly damaging the Battlecruisers, Lutzow and Von Der Tann [one of the warships which had bombarded Scarborough in December 1914] British destroyers had snapped at the heels of the retreating German warships, managing to let off a few torpedoes, albeit in the face of tremendous gunfire.

During this action the British had lost the 1,000 tons destroyer H.M.S. Nomad, riddled by enemy shellfire the ship had been abandoned by her crew shortly before the vessel had foundered, still flying her White Ensign. Seventy men from the Nomad had eventually been plucked from the water by the Germans and had spent the remainder of the war in captivity.

At this point the elderly heavy cruisers of the First Cruiser Squadron had launched a suicidal attack on four enemy Battlecruisers. Armed with popguns compared with their opponents twelve inch guns the ships had stood no chance of survival or success and had been hit time after time by twelve inch shells which had torn the 14,000 tons H.M.S. Defence apart, the ship had exploded in a ball of flame, the blazing wreck sinking shortly afterwards taking over nine hundred officers and men with her [a second cruiser, H.M.S. Warrior had been so badly damaged in the engagement that she had eventually been abandoned by her crew, and had foundered the following day].

Probing ahead of Jellicoe’s battleships, the ships of the Third Battlecruiser Squadron had sighted light cruisers of the German Second Scouting Group as they had emerged from a fog bank eight miles away. The Invincible and her sister’s had shortly afterwards opened fire, concentrating their attention at first on the Wiesbaden and Pillau, which had been disabled. They had then begun to engage the Battlecruiser S.M.S. Defflinger [another of the warships that had bombarded Scarborough in 1914] and Hipper’s Flagship, S.M.S. Lutzow, which had subsequently been hit by three shells from Invincible, damaging her badly.

The fire gongs in Invincible’s main turrets had sounded at about twenty minutes past six. Almost immediately the ships ‘A’,’Q’ and ‘Y’ mountings had shuddered as firing had been commenced. Opening the breech of the recently fired guns their crews, shrouded in anti flash gear had been enveloped in thick brown smoke reeking of cordite. Seemingly oblivious to the oppressive atmosphere inside the turrets their crews had continued their ritual of keeping their charges in action.

The ammunition hoist carrying another round had arrived in the gunhouse with a clatter, rammed home, the projectile had soon been followed by the cordite charge, down had gone the cage for more of the same. The breech of one of the twelve-inch guns had been slammed shut and locked, ‘Left gun ready’! had shouted a voice in the haze. Again the gun had fired, the procedure had been the same with every round fired, alternating between the left and right guns.

In order to speed up their ship’s rate of fire the crew of the Invincible [like those in the majority of the Battlecruisers that had bee lost in the battle], had adopted the very dangerous practice of removing vital anti flash curtains which had been fitted at key points in the route from shellroom to turret, these had been installed by the Admiralty to prevent the flash from an explosion in the turret travelling down the ammunition hoist to the shellrooms below.

In addition, it had been common practice for the ship’s gun turrets to be stocked with charges, the turrets in effect becoming mini magazines contravening the laid down drill which stipulated that the next charge should not be in the loading cage in the turret until the previous one had been fired. Thus with the cards stacked heavily against them the gun crews of Invincible had carried on with their task of feeding their charges, little knowing that they were soon to pay with their lives for their lethal short cuts.

Despite being hit over twenty times by twelve inch shells in ten minutes, at around six thirty that afternoon the grievously wounded Lutzow had scored five hits on the Invincible, one of her twelve inch shells having wrecked the Boy Seamen’s mess deck in the forward part of the ship, whilst another had torn through Invincible's third funnel before wrecking a number of the ship’s boats and smashing into, and destroying, the nearby officers bathroom flat and ship’s chapel [which was being used at the time as a casualty station]

The Lutzow’s last, and most calamitous shell had hit the Invincible at just after half past six in the evening of the 27TH of May and had blown the thinly armoured roof of ‘Q’ turret clean off. The resultant explosion had killed almost everyone inside [a gunner from the turret, although badly burned, had survived]. The flash from the explosion had travelled down the main trunk to the turret’s magazine where it had ignited over fifty tons of Cordite. This initial explosion had caused a chain reaction which had ignited the explosives stored in the ships three other magazines and in less that fifteen seconds the Invincible had erupted in a huge fireball which had sent debris four hundred feet into the air.

With her heart torn out the battlecruiser had snapped into two halves, the bow and stern sections rearing out of the sea to a height of seventy feet above the oil and wreckage strewn water. Standing some fifty feet apart, the two pieces of the ship had resembled giant tombstones standing in stark testimony for nearly a thousand souls who had perished with the ship. Witnesses to the disaster had later recalled a deathly silence following the explosion, and had never forgotten for the rest of their lives the terrible pall of smoke, some eight hundred feet high, that had hung over the scene.

Following hard on the heels of Invincible had been her sister ships, Inflexible and Indomitable. Both had been steaming at over twenty knots and had had to veer sharply to avoid hitting the wreck, in doing so they may have unavoidably swept many survivors of the sinking into their propellers as they had passed. In the event, only men from the Invincible had eventually been rescued from the debris and bodies strewn sea by the destroyer H.M.S. Badger. Thinking these men were Germans, the Badger’s crew had kept the six oil soaked survivors under lock and key for a time.

Amongst the men who had lost their lives with the warship had been the Scarborough born veteran of the Battle of the Falklands of 1914, who had recently celebrated his twenty-second birthday in the ship; J 7709 Able Seaman Edward Ruston Reed.

Born in Scarborough at No 41 Hoxton Road on the 14TH of May 1894 [Baptised at St Mary’s Parish Church on June 13TH 1894] Edward had been the second son of Mary Jane [formerly Grey], and ‘Cab Proprietor’ William Reed, who had been married at St Mary’s Parish Church on the 18th of June 1890. [1]

Educated between the ages of four and fourteen at the Central Infant and Juniors School in Scarborough’s Trafalgar Street West, Reed had left the school during 1908 to become an errand boy for Grocer and Fruiterer, Robert Dyer, whose shop had been in Castle Road.

Edward had remained with ‘Bob’ Dyer until the beginning of March 1910, when the sixteen years old and his father had travelled to a recruiting office at Newcastle where Reed had undergone a rudimentary medical examination, [which had shown that he had stood at five feet six and a half inches tall, possessed a thirty four inch chest, and had had dark eyes and hair and a ‘ruddy’ complexion], before the pair of them had voluntarily signed ‘indenture papers’ that had bound Reed as an apprentice to the commander of a training establishment ‘and his successors’ until the age of eighteen had been reached. Amongst the regulations that Reed had accepted were that he wouldn’t ‘damage the commander’ nor ‘frequent taverns or ale houses, nor play at unlawful games’. In return for his obedience Edward Reed would be taught ‘the business of a seaman’, and in addition be lodged, fed, and clothed and given medical and surgical assistance.

Following the harsh training regimes of H.M.S.’s Ganges and Impregnable, Reed, with the rating of ‘Boy First Class’, had joined his first seagoing warship at his ‘home port’ of Portsmouth on the 22ND of January 1911. The ship had been the 9,800 tons Armoured Cruiser, H.M.S. Donegal that had been serving in home waters with the Third Cruiser Squadron. He had remained in the vessel until the third of February, when he had been drafted to another Armoured Cruiser, the 14,000tons H.M.S. Leviathan, which had been a unit of the Fourth Cruiser Squadron, with which he had served in home waters until the eleventh of February 1911.

Every member of the seaman branch of the Royal Navy at the time that Edward Reed had served had been trained as a gunner, therefore his next ship had been the elderly [completed in1895] 14, 900 tons battleship H.M.S. Jupiter, which at the time that Reed had joined her, on the 12TH of February 1911, had been serving as the sea going gunnery training ship at Sheerness. Reed had remained in the Jupiter until the 23RD of March 1911.

Reed’s next ship [which he had joined at Portsmouth on the 24TH of March 1911] the 9,800 ton First Class Cruiser H.M.S. Berwick had taken the young seaman on a short cruise to the West Indies as part of the Fourth Cruiser Squadron, the ship had arrived back in England on the 15TH of May 1911, when Edward Reed had ‘paid off’ to join the Invincible the following day. At the time the Battlecruiser had been refitting at Portsmouth.

The fifteenth of May had also been the day when Edward Reed had been promoted to Ordinary Seaman, thus beginning the twelve obligatory years of ‘Men’s Service. A year later, on the fourteenth of May 1912, Reed had been rated to Able Seaman. On the eighth of May 1913 Reed had been posted to H.M.S. Victory, Nelson’s Flagship, which in 1913 had still been afloat in Portsmouth Harbour where she had been used for training purposes. He had remained in the Victory until the 23RD of December, when the young seaman had returned to Scarborough for Christmas leave before reporting to the Royal Navy’s Gunnery Training Establishment H.M.S. Excellent [which until its closure during the 1980s had been situated on Portsmouth’s Whale Island] on the eleventh of January 1914.

Able Seaman Reed had remained at Whale Island until the first of August 1914 when he had returned to the Invincible, which with the clouds of war forming over Europe had been making preparations to proceed to her war station, which had been at Queenstown where she had been when war had been declared on the fourth of August. The Battlecruiser had eventually joined the 2ND Battlecruiser Squadron and had taken part in the Battle of Heligoland Bight that had taken place on the twenty ninth of August 1914.

Following the action at the Falklands the Invincible had steamed to Gibraltar, where following her arrival at the port on the first of January 1915, she had been placed into dry-dock, remaining there until March. After her refit at ‘Gib’ the battle cruiser had made her way to Rosyth where she had joined Beatty’s Battlecruiser Force, where she had eventually been joined by Indomitable by the end of March, and Inflexible during June. The three ships subsequently forming the ‘Third Battle cruiser Squadron’.

The Invincible had again ‘refitted’ at the beginning of May 1916 prior to the Third Battlecruiser Squadron being sent to Scapa Flow for gunnery exercises before returning to Rosyth a few days before the signal ordering her to sea, and eventually her grave had been received.

Like the remainder of the men who had lost their lives at Jutland, the body of Edward Reed had never been recovered, and his name had been amongst those of the six thousand and ninety four officers, seamen, and Royal Marines had eventually been included on Memorials to the Missing of the Royal Navy that had been erected in the R.N.’s three ‘Manning Ports’, Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth. Reed’s name had been included on the Portsmouth Memorial, in Hampshire, which had been constructed on Southsea Common overlooking the Solent, a stretch of water that had been very familiar to the lost seamen and marines. [Edward Ruston Reed’s name can be found on Panel 13 of the Memorial].

Apart from the Oliver’s Mount Memorial, in Scarborough, Edward Reed’s name can be found on ‘Rolls of Honour’ in St Mary’s Parish Church situated in the towns Castle Road, and the Wesleyan Chapel in Hoxton Road. In addition the Able Seaman’s name is commemorated in the towns Dean Road Cemetery [Section E. Border. Grave 44b], on a gravestone that also bears the name of elder brother; 6633 Private Thomas William Reed.

Born in Scarborough during February 1891 [Baptised at St Mary’s Parish Church on the 9TH of March] Tom had been a soldier in the pre war British Army, having enlisted at Scarborough’s Northern Cavalry Depot in Burniston Road during 1913 to serve in the Twentieth Hussars, which at the outbreak of war had been serving with the 5TH Cavalry Brigade at Colchester, where Reed had been struck down by pneumonia during the latter part of August 1914, immediately before the regiment had embarked for France. Tom had eventually succumbed on Monday the 21ST of September 1914 at the age of twenty four years at Colchester Military Hospital his remains subsequently been buried with full military honours in the War Graves Plot of Colchester Cemetery, where Reed’s grave can be found in Section F. Row 11. Grave 71 [Tom is also commemorated in St Mary’s Parish Church, and the Wesleyan Chapel in Hoxton Road].

The gravestone also features the names of the Reed brothers Scarborough born parents; Mary Jane Reed, who had died at No 21 Nelson Street following ‘a long illness patiently borne’ on Thursday the 22ND of September 1927 at the age of sixty years, whilst their father, William Reed, had ‘Passed away peacefully’ at ‘Brinkrise’ in Throxenby Lane, Newby, on Tuesday the 15THof July 1947 at the age of seventy-seven years. At the time he had been the husband of a third wife, Hannah Reed, his second wife, Eveline Lund Reed had died on Saturday the 21ST of May 1938 at the age of 68years.

The battle of Jutland had continued throughout the night of the thirty first of May in a series of spasmodic and confused cruiser and destroyer actions that had been conducted under the glare of searchlights. During these engagements the British had lost a heavy cruiser, the 12,600tons H.M.S. Black Prince which had sank with all hands, and the 1,694 tons destroyer H.M.S. Tipperary, whilst the German fleet had lost the mortally damaged Battlecruiser S.M.S. Lutzow, which had been abandoned by her crew before being ‘finished off by torpedoes from German destroyers, and the light cruiser Weisbaden.

Daylight of Thursday the first of June had found the North Sea empty of German warships; they had escaped under the cover of smokescreens and darkness leaving a battered Royal Navy to search in vain for a long gone enemy;

‘This patrolling, wrote a British seaman, was the most pathetic instance during the whole business for we were constantly passing wreckage and the dead bodies in rafts, and floating comrades and foe. This is what got home to you’

The first news of the battle had been transmitted by a German wireless broadcast which had announced that the High Seas Fleet had encountered the British Grand Fleet off the Skagerrak and had sunk one battleship, two battlecruisers, two armoured cruisers, a light cruiser, and a large number of destroyers before returning base. German losses had only partially been revealed. Since the next of kin of over 6,000 British casualties had to be informed the Admiralty had had no option but to issue a communiqué based on Admiral Jellicoe’s report, which had appeared in the British press on Friday the second of June 1916. ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of that day had included.

‘STOP PRESS NEWS - OFFICIAL - British Battle Cruisers Queen Mary, Indefatigable, Invincible, And cruisers Defence and Black Prince sunk in battle off coast of Jutland on Wednesday. Warrior abandoned by her crew.

Five destroyers lost’… Enemy losses serious, one Battle Cruiser destroyed, one severely Damaged, one reported sunk. Two Light Cruisers disabled, probably Sunk, and number of destroyers disposed of’… 'Germans admit several vessels lost’

A week later, on Friday the ninth of June the newspaper had published the names of the six men [including Edward Ruston Reed] from Scarborough who had lost their lives in the battle. They had been 3783 Stoker Thompson Allen Duncan.

Born in Scarborough at No 3 Anderson’s Terrace during 1896, Thompson had been the eldest son of Sarah Dove [formally Percy] and fisherman Robert Allen Duncan of No1 Back Castle Terrace [1916]. Aged nineteen at the time of his death on the 31ST of May Duncan had been lost with H.M.S. Defence, and is commemorated on Panel 19 of the Chatham Naval Memorial. Separated from her husband by 1916, Sarah Duncan had allegedly been so traumatised by the loss of her son that a year after his death she had taken her own life by the cutting of her throat; she was aged forty-eight years at the time. [A member of the congregation of St Thomas’s Parish Church, in East Sandgate, Thompson Duncan’s name had been commemorated on the church ‘Roll of Honour,’ which is now located inside St Mary’s Parish Church].

Born in Scarborough on the 27TH of April 1895, K 2589 Stoker 2ND Class Robert Allinson Raine had been the son of Catherine Raine, who had been living at No5 Clarence Place at the time he had been lost with the cruiser H.M.S. Black Prince on the 31ST of May, he had been aged 22years.

Born in the London Borough of Stepney on the 24TH of April 1888, SS/113059 Stoker 1ST Class Henry Charles Tate had been the son of Elizabeth Tate, who had been living at No 77 William Street at the time of his death at the age of 27 years, on the 31ST of May in the Battlecruiser H.M.S. Queen Mary. A former member of the congregation of St Mary’s Parish Church, Henry Tate’s name can be located on the church ‘Roll of Honour’ on the north interior wall. He is also commemorated on Panel 19 of the Naval Memorial at Portsmouth.

The eldest son of Janet and Frederick Walters, the Verger of St Mary’s Church; 237375 Leading Seaman Allan James Walters had been born at Saltburn on the 18TH of April 1891 and had been lost with the cruiser H.M.S. Defence on the 31ST of May. Aged twenty-five years at the time of his death, he had been the second of the three Walters sons to be killed in the course of the war [Albert aged 18 years had been killed in action the previous year, John aged 24 years would die during 1917]. Allan is commemorated on Panel 11 of the Plymouth Naval Memorial, and the large ‘Roll of Honour’, located in Scarborough’s St Mary’s Parish Church, Castle Road.

Born in Scarborough on the 4TH of February 1894; J 24152 Able Seaman Albert Edward Wood had been the son of Elvina and labourer Harry Wood, who had been living at No 4 Gladstone Street at the time of their son’s death. Lost with the cruiser H.M.S. Black Prince on the 31st of May, Albert had been aged 19 years. He is commemorated on Panel 14 of the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

It had been feared after the battle that a seventh seaman from Scarborough had lost his life at Jutland. Nineteen years old Joseph Appleby had been serving as an Able Seaman in the 1,000tons destroyer H.M.S. Nomad and had been presumed for some time to be lost with his ship. The seaman’s anxious parents Mary and Joseph Appleby had eventually been relieved to hear from their eldest son later in June, when a postcard had arrived at their Vernon Place home informing them that he had been amongst four officers and sixty eight men from the Nomad who had been picked up by German destroyers following her sinking. He had remained in a German prisoner of war camp at Dulmen, in Westfalen, throughout the remainder of the war.

In addition to the six Scarborough men, three other men from the district had lost their lives during the battle; Acting Sub -Lieutenant Leopold Edward Johnstone.

Aged 19 years ‘Leo’ had been the eldest son of Evelyn Mary and the Honourable Edward Henry Johnstone, the son of Lord Derwent of Hackness Hall, Hackness. The nephew and Heir of Lord Derwent, the officer had been killed in action in H.M.S. Invincible on the 31st of May and is commemorated on Panel 11 of the Portsmouth Naval Memorial in Hampshire. Leo Johnstone is also commemorated on a memorial in St Peters Church in Hackness village, which reads;

‘In proud and loving memory of Acting Sub Lieutenant Leopold Edward Johnstone, eldest son of Edward Henry and Evelyn Mary Johnstone. At the age of 19 years he gave his life for his country, going down in H.M.S. Invincible at the Battle of Jutland May 31ST 1916’

The only son of Mrs. Dorothy Woolston, a widow of No.3 Queen Street, Filey. J/20634 Able Seaman William Powley had been born in the town on the 2ND of July 1896, and had served in the Royal Navy from the age of sixteen. Killed during the battle whilst serving in the Battlecruiser H.M.S. Indefatigable. Powley is commemorated on Panel 12 of the Plymouth Naval Memorial. Filey’s only Royal Naval casualty Powley’s name is also included on Filey’s War Memorial, which forms the entrance to the town’s Memorial Gardens in Murray Street.

Commander Ernest Digby Hugh Willoughby. The eldest son of the Honourable Ernest Willoughby, who in 1916 had resided at ‘The Green’, in Brompton village. The nephew and heir of Lord Middleton, Willoughby had been aged thirty-three years and had been unmarried. At the time that he had lost his life on the 31ST of May, whilst serving in the Battlecruiser H.M.S. Indefatigable, he is commemorated on Panel 10 of the Naval Memorial at Plymouth.

Inevitably the publication of the terrible losses suffered by the Royal Navy at Jutland had caused controversy from the outset. Not surprisingly the impression of defeat, even of disaster, had initially been reflected in the press. Realising they had made a huge ‘cock up’, the Admiralty had subsequently released a copy of Admiral Jellicoe’s despatch, which had appeared in the ‘Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the seventh of July.

The document had given a full account of the battle and had indicated that twenty-one ships of the High Seas Fleet had been put out of action, and many others damaged. In addition the despatch had disclosed Jellicoe’s Grand Fleet had ‘driven the enemy into port’. These [untrue] statistics had restored a modicum of public opinion, but on the whole the damage had irretrievably already been done.

The aftermath of the battle had proved a moral shock to the nation and a heartbreaking disappointment to the Navy. Months would pass before faith in the Grand Fleet had been restored and people had begun to realise that the High Seas Fleet had suffered a technical knockout, from which it would never recover. The two battle fleet’s had never met in combat again, the next time they had encountered one another in force had been at the German Fleet surrender on the twenty first of November 1918.

On the first anniversary of the Battle of Jutland, the brothers and sisters of Stoker Thompson Duncan had placed an epitaph dedicated to their lost brother in the ‘In Memoriam’ section of the Scarborough Mercury’ which had appeared on the town’s streets on Friday the first of June 1917. Their words are appropriate for all of the six thousand and ninety four men who had lost their lives in the battle, the majority of whom have no known graves but the sea;

‘He went away in perfect health, he looked so young and brave, but little thought how soon he would be laid in a watery grave.

But the hardest part is yet to come when the warriors all return and we miss amongst the cheering crowd the face of our dear one’

[1] At the time of the 1901 Census of Scarborough’s population the Reed family had been living at No.52 Hoxton Road and had consisted of William, a stable proprietor aged 33 years, born Scarborough. Mary J. aged 33years, born Scarborough. Thomas William, aged 10 years, Mabel, aged 8 years, Edward R. aged 6 years, Daisy, aged 4 years. Frederick, aged 3 years, and Lilly aged 1 year. All the children were born at Scarborough.

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