Indicting David Beatty For Jutland

Indicting David Beatty For Jutland

World War 1

A direct response to our piece: In Defense of David Beatty

1. Beatty could not know that Goodenough’s enemy report was good enough to alert Jellicoe to the presence of the High Seas Fleet!

It was incumbent on the senior officer present to repeat the sighting of one of his subordinates, to both his senior officer, and repeat it to the Admiralty (or, on a distant station, the nearest Commander-in-Chief).

If Beatty had thought that Goodenough’s sighting was adequate, then why did he continue to close, until he made his own visual sighting? It was, after all, this decision that placed his command between the 1st Scouting Group and the van of the HSF, and left the 5th Battle Squadron in such serious jeopardy following the turn back north.

2. Beatty had four CAPITAL SHIPS (Lion, Princess Royal, Queen Mary and Tiger) capable of keeping pace with the Derfflingers.

Five (with the addition of New Zealand) capable of either matching in speed, or outpacing Seydlitz, Moltke and Von der Tann, and six (with Indefatigable) in matching Von der Tann, on paper.

Battlecruiser HMS Indefatigable - IWM Q 75281.jpg
HMS Indefatigable

In practice, neither Indefatigable and Von der Tann seem to have been as fast as they should have been. However, there was clearly no intent on either Beatty or Hipper’s parts, to leave their slowest battlecruisers behind. In fact, they both engaged at 24 knots (.25 knots faster than the fastest of Evan-Thomas’s fastest battleship).

SMS von der Tann LOC 16927u.jpg
SMS Von der Tann at anchor. The photo was probably taken during Von der Tann´s cruise to South America in 1911.

Neither Beatty nor Hipper (unlike Evan-Thomas) gave the order for “utmost speed”, or its’ German equivalent, thereby releasing individual captains from the need to maintain station.

Once they actually joined the battle, the 5th Battle Squadron had no problem maintaining the pace during the Run to the South (although, given the long range of their guns, they had no need to close the range, to the same extent as the British 12″ gun ships).

3. Beatty did not part company with the 5th BS in the first place!

Because he was concerned that they would slow him down. Indeed, there can be no doubt that, but for the initial confusion about signals, the 5th BS would have followed the BCF immediately, and the three squadrons would have continued to maintain station. To reinforce the point, Beatty made no immediate use of his superior speed to close Hipper, but, in fact, followed a circuitous route to cut off the German battlecruisers, an approach that delayed engagement by up to half an hour. 

Even so, when the British forces reached Beatty’s desired interception point (twenty minutes after Hipper sighted the British battlecruisers, giving him ample opportunity to avoid battle), a further delay of five minutes would have permitted Beatty to extend his line with the battleships, before joining action.

Vizeadmiral Hipper, der Befehlshaber der deutschen Aufklärungsschiffe in der Seeschlacht.png

This step would almost certainly have prevented Von der Tann concentrating her fire, undisturbed, on Indefatigable, thereby saving that ship (at least at this point in the battle), and may also have saved Queen Mary, as well as increasing the likelihood of one, or more, of the German ships before the main body of the HSF could intervene.

To conclude, the first tactical principle of a fleet commander on approaching action, is to concentrate one’s forces, and maintain that concentration in so far as events make possible. It was Beatty’s handling of his sub-fleet, rather than events, that prevented this.

Written by Hadrian Jeffs!

World War 1

Indicting David Beatty For Jutland

The Battlecruiser New Zealand: A Gift to Empire – Rebellion Research