Did your ancestor participate in the Battle of Jutland in 1916? Explore this specially created collection of Royal Navy and Royal Marine records and discover your ancestor who participated in the largest naval battle of the First World War.
This specially curated collection of naval records has been put together from various service records from The National Archives. Each record includes an image of the original document and a transcript of details found in the record. The details in each transcript can vary depending on the series, but most will include the following:
The image will include further information about your ancestor. You can discover if your ancestor was promoted in rank and the names of the ships on which he served, as well as his dates of service. Other service records documented your ancestor’s home address, occupation prior to joining the service and full physical description.
This new collection has been specially created to bring together the names of those who participated in the battle of Jutland between 31 May and 1 June 1926. The collection is not comprehensive and there may be some gaps. It was created from the following series found at The National Archives in London.
ADM 159: Royal Marines, service records
ADM 188: Royal Navy Seamen, service records
ADM 196: Royal Navy officers, service records
ADM 240: Royal Naval Reserve officers, service records
ADM 377: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, ratings’ service records
Battle of Jutland
The Battle of Jutland (known as the Battle of Skagerrak in Germany) was a naval battle between the British Royal Navy and the German Navy during the First World War. It was a collision of the world’s two largest naval powers, fought in Skagerrak, a strait on the North Sea off of the coast of Denmark. It was the largest naval battle of the First World War, with 250 ships and about 100,000 men. The British Royal Navy had the larger number of ships, 151 compared to Germany’s 99. The types of ships involved were battleships, cruisers, battlecruisers, destroyers and seaplane carriers. Of the total number of ships involved, 25 vessels were sunk: 14 British and 11 German. The battle also resulted is a large loss of life: 6,094 on the side of the British and 2,551 on the side of the Germans died. It was a confusing and bloody battle that resulted in an indecisive victory.
Both sides had predicted that they would need to take on their opponent’s naval forces in order to gain control of the seas. For the British, they hoped this battle would be their Trafalgar of the First World War: that they would succeed in destroying the enemy’s fleet and retain control of the waterways.
On 31 May 1916, the Royal Navy, based at Scarpa Flow in the Scottish Orkneys, discovered that the German High Seas Fleet had left its port. The German High Seas Fleet was under the leadership of Admiral Reinhard von Scheer, who had taken over command in February 1916. The German navy planned to lure the Royal Navy out with Admiral Franz von Hipper’s battleships. Then attack with the full force of the German High Seas Fleet close behind. However, the Royal Navy was able to use decrypted German radio messages and knew of the Germans’ movements. From the Royal Navy, Admiral Sir David Beatty’s battlecruiser force was the first to pursue the German fleet; Admiral Beatty was on board his flagship HMS Lion. However, the HMS Galatea was the first ship to raise the ‘enemy in sight’ signal when they spotted Admiral Franz von Hipper’s force, earlier than the German fleet anticipated. The battle started at 4pm on 31 May 1916.
Within the first hour of the battle, Britain lost the HMS Indefatigable, HMS Queen Mary, and the lives of 2,283 men. Beatty withdrew from the battle once he could see the full German High Seas fleet, and joined forces with the Grand Fleet, commanded by Admiral Sir John Jellicoe. Jellicoe was on board his flagship Iron Duke. With their combined forces, they attacked the German High Seas Fleet. The German forces withdrew northward. Instead of following the fleet, Jellicoe turned southeast to intercept Scheer heading back to port. They engaged in battle again at 7:10 pm and it was during this engagement that the HMS Caroline fired her first shots. At 7:30 pm, she fired two torpedoes at the German dreadnaught Nassau. Today, HMS Caroline is moored in Belfast and is the last surviving ship from this monumental battle. After this engagement, the Germans realised they were outnumbered by the British Royal Navy and used the cover of darkness to get away.
The battle ended with both sides claiming victory. The German High Seas Fleet claimed to be the victors because they destroyed more enemy vessels than the British. The British Royal Navy claimed victory because after the battle they held control of the North Sea due to the German navy needing a longer time to repair and recover from the engagement. Four men were awarded the Victoria Cross: Boy Seaman First Class John (Jack) Travers Cornwell (HMS Chester), Major Francis John William Harvey (HMS Lion), Rear Admiral Barry Stewart Bingham (HMS Nestor), and Commander Loftus William Jones (HMS Shark).
King George VI
In the records, you can find the service record for King George VI. At the time of the Battle of Jutland, he was the Duke of York. The records show that ‘Bertie’, as he was known to his family, entered the service in January 1909. During the battle, he served on board the HMS Collingswood. After the battle, in a letter to his brother, the future King Edward VIII, he wrote that, ‘it was a great experience to have gone through and one not easily forgotten’.