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In Defense of David Beatty

In Defense of David Beatty

Battleships / World War 1

“On board HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH”. Cropped by uploader. Publication: The Illustrated London News (London, England), Date: Saturday, Dec. 9, 1916, Volume: 149 , Issue: 4051. read the page in the ILN

The criticism of Beatty leaving the 5th Squadron behind during the Run to the South at the Battle of Jutland is unjustified. 

The British Admiralty sent a message that the High Seas Fleet was in port. Hipper’s force appeared to be alone at sea. It was mid afternoon and time would be limited in a stern chase as Hipper withdrew. 

Had Beatty slowed to stay informed with the 5th Squadron Hipper escapes. Again!

Only Beatty’s fastest ships could close the range and force an engagement. Beatty had four ships capable of hunting down Hipper.

Beatty certainly intended to not repeat the errors at Dogger Bank. German ships could cripple the 5th Squadron. While his Cats maintained the pursuit. It might have been a curiosity Beatty could close so quickly. Moreover, Hipper was not withdrawing at flank speed as it would be assumed he would be. 

Upon the spotting of Hipper alone at sea, midafternoon, Beatty could not hesitate.

Only his fastest ships had the speed to close the range. Even his two oldest units would be left behind. 

And his fast ships had the firepower to engage the enemy. The time to act was now. Any other response resulting in hesitation allows Hipper to make another escape.

Beatty was intuitive.

The Best example is when he confirmed it was the High Seas Fleet on the horizon he deftly changed from the pursuit of Hipper to leading Scheer to the Grand Fleet. 

And instinctively he knew the 5th Squadron was the best suited to cover the withdrawal. 

Beatty never decided to leave the 5th Battle Squardron behind; it would simply be their position as his Battlecruisers sailed down and back with higher speed.

Did Beatty utilize his assets at Jutland to the best he could?

The 5th Battle Squadron was too slow. 

In a flank speed stern chase Beatty could be sure he would ensue. Beatty had just three ships capable of closing on Hipper, withdrawing at flank speed. What the 5th Squadron could do in this situation was irrelevant. 

Yes, the poor signaling did have consequences for the 5th BS after Scheer’s force became sighted. But not during The Run to the South.

Beatty did have problems with his flags during the battle. 

Beatty’s scouting force commander Goodenough spotted the German forces. Beatty knew Jellicoe and the Grand Fleet also received his signals. It is likely Beatty believed that these signals were in fact good enough.

And due to the turn there was confusion about which ship needed to send searchlight signals. 

Evan-Thomas did have Goodenough’s signals regarding the appearance of Scheer, however. It should have been obvious what Beatty was doing up ahead. It was doctrine discussed and decided on well before this day. 

Lastly, under Jellicoe’s command, division commanders did not take independent action. Instead waiting for signals from the CIC.

Written by Randolph Decker

No photo description available.

In Defense of David Beatty