In the summer of 2011 an intriguing document came into the possession of His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, from Lord Ivor Mountbatten. Ascertaining that it had a relevance to the Battle of Jutland, the former passed it to the National Maritime Museum, which after some initial investigation formally acquired it a few months later.
The object is a large rolled sheet of lined graph-style paper measuring 3240mm in length and 550mm in height. It contains tabulated information relating to the gunnery of six of the British battle cruisers present at the Battle of Jutland (31 May–1 June 1916).
From Admiral David Beatty’s Battle Cruiser Fleet there is data from HMS Lion, HMS Princess Royal, HMS Tiger and HMS New Zealand; and for Admiral Horace Hood’s Third Battle Cruiser Squadron data from HMS Indomitable and HMS Inflexible. The sheet has been subdivided into columns for each of the participating ships, with sub headings for gunnery specific data such as times, enemy ships targeted, ranges, spotting corrections, rates of change and general remarks.
The times of events recorded in the document match the experiences of these ships at Jutland, and tellingly make reference to HMS Lion targeting SMS Lutzow during the early part of the record.
The latter ship was commissioned into service in the Kaiserliche Marine barely three months before Jutland, and was the only German battle cruiser to be lost. Further poignant confirmation is added by the absence of three names – HMS Indefatigable, HMS Invincible and HMS Queen Mary, all of which were sunk following catastrophic explosions which claimed a total of 3309 lives.
There are no signatures on the document and frustratingly it bears no date, but it is possible that it was compiled by surviving gunnery officers of the Battle Cruiser Fleet as part of a general attempt by the Royal Navy to painstakingly analyse what had happened at Jutland.
The present Lord Mountbatten received the document from his grandfather, Lord Louis Mountbatten. The latter is unlikely to have been the originator of the document as he joined HMS Lion sometime after Jutland. A far more likely candidate is his older brother Prince George, who had served aboard the battle cruiser HMS New Zealand as a lieutenant at Jutland, and who was keenly interested in gunnery. Further research still needs to be carried out to determine how much of the data corresponds to similar sources of both British and German origin, as this may shed some light on when it was compiled.
Although the document is in good physical condition, its nature makes displaying it in a gallery an impractical proposition. However, despite the on-going mystery surrounding its exact origins, it is a valuable primary resource on the Battle of Jutland and merits a great deal of further study.
Andrew Choong, Curator, Historic Photographs & Ship Plans