Sinking of HMS Indefatigable & HMS Queen Mary

Royal Navy Losses Numbered 6,784 At Jutland

HMS Indefatigable sinking

Sinking of HMS Indefatigable & HMS Queen Mary It’s generally accepted that both Indefatigable and Queen Mary were sunk because their adversaries did not have to take evasive action while engaging.

With Indefatigable, it was obviously Von der Tann, with Queen Mary, it was Derfflinger. Because Indefatigable’s salvoes were nowhere near accurate enough to worry Von der Tann,  the latter kept to her base course. This greatly simplified the direction  of her gunnery, and she made good practice on the British ship.

The Battle of Jutland by Hadrian Jeffs

British battlecruiser HMS INDEFATIGABLE underway in coastal waters just before the Battle of Jutland.

Had Barham and Valiant already been firing at the tail end of Hipper’s line, even if Von der Tann had continued to fire at Indefatigable, the German ship would have had to dodge the salvoes to survive (and if Hipper hadn’t made contact with the High Seas Fleet when he did, it’s unlikely she would have survived; Evan-Thomas’s ships had mauled her pretty badly at 18,000 yards).


Queen Mary is a bit less certain, because it’s proved impossible to determine quite how she was sunk. 

It may have been by two separate shell hits, acting independently.

HMS Queen Mary leaving the River Tyne, 1913

Beatty only had to delay his own deployment for five minutes (having already placed the BCF between Hipper and the passages through the German minefields, admittedly with Hipper’s connivance), and he could have deployed into line ahead with ten ships, instead of six. 

Relative positions of the British and German forces at about 12:00 hours
File:Scheer’s illustration of I SG disposition 16 Dec. 1916

One of the consequences of this would have been to almost certainly save Indefatigable, and possibly Queen Mary, and very likely sink Von der Tann, before Hipper could re-establish contact with Scheer. 

Destruction of HMS Queen Mary
It does open a lot of other questions, not least, would Scheer have attempted a sustained pursuit of Beatty’s ships, if Hipper’s forces had been badly mauled?

In addition, a number of German battlecruisers were in the same condition as Lutzow and Derfflinger had been after the clash with the British ships at “Windy Corner”. 

There is a possibility that, no matter how much Beatty tried to lure him on, Scheer may have felt that his first duty was to ensure the safe return of Hipper’s ships home, particularly given the unlikelihood that even the Konigs’ could bring the chase of a largely intact BCF to a decisive conclusion.

Beatty on board HMS Lion

I think that the moral here is, that if everything had worked properly for both sides, not only was Jutland very unlikely to be a decisive battle, as were Trafalgar, Navarino or Tsushima, it was a very unlikely battle altogether. 

The fleets were placed such, and were so large, unwieldy and, above all, expensive and irreplaceable, that it would only be by an unlikely series of chances that they would encounter each other, let alone fight it out.

Written by Hadrian Jeffs

No photo description available.

Sinking of HMS Indefatigable & HMS Queen Mary