Proceedings of the Institute of Chartered Marine Engineers,
10 Bouverie St, London, E.C.4. Vol XL (1) pp279-99. The Herriot Lecture,
31 May 1995. Jutland and the Admiralty Mindset.
Chair : Dr P.T.Ountern FRS, FICME,
Speaker : Admiral I.J.Kendon DSO,DSC,FICME,RN (Retd) Herriot Lecturer.
Admiral Kendon: ........... So, to attempt to summarize the unseen problems
with the RN dreadnoughts, the major problems stemmed from the revolution
in naval technology prior to 1914. Ships became bigger, faster, more powerful,
and were from 1906, built faster than at any time in history. The attitude
of Admiral Fisher and the entire Royal Navy was still rooted in the "Nelson
Touch". Aggression was the order of the day, "Hit first, hit hard and keep
on hitting". Gunnery, driven not only by Sir Percy Scott, produced the
Battlecruisers, "Eggshells armed with sledgehammers". What was not appreciated,
was that it applied to the Battleships as well.
Classes of battleship followed each other , perpetuating subtle flaws
that would only appear in combat. Obvious errors such as Dreadnoughts control
top behind the funnel were fixed in the next class but inexplicably appeared
in the Colossus class. Other flaws were known but not appreciated, the
dangerous sensitivity of cordite to flash being prominent. Most were brutally
bought to attention too late - the destruction of HMS Bulwark
at anchor in harbour by faulty cordite. Standing beside Admiral Togo, at
Tsushima, Captain Pakenham reported on the damage to the Russian battleships,
but only the need to have 12" guns was noted, not effective damage control.
The loss of HMS Audacious by simple progressive flooding and
timid damage control. The vulnerability of large machinery spaces to splinter
damage. Some of these were suspected but nothing could be or was
done - whistle blowers then, as now, are shabbily treated. The RN was to
enter 1915 with ships even more vulnerable than eggshells and a mindset
to use them. The abrupt loss of four major units and the crippling of as
many more in the first 20 minutes of the engagement, came as the greatest
shock to the Royal Navy that can be imagined.
Chair : Questions from the floor please.
Mr T. Gildersleeve FICE. : I would like to thank the speaker for a most
interesting account of the planning failures within the RN prior to the
commencement of the First German War. In my own discipline of civil engineering,
I regret that most advances have only happened after a major catastrophe.
I instance that generations of engineering students have now watched the
film of the progressive failure of the suspension bridge over the Tacoma
Narrows. Could I ask the speaker what was the most significant long term
result of Jutland?.
Admiral Kendon: I have already touched on the improvements to shell
fuzing and penetration and of course the replacement of cordite.
Other matters were made very emphatically by the survivors. (Laughter)
My thoughts on the most significant long term result concern the arrival
of HMS Monarch in the Humber Estuary, after two long lonely days
struggling across the North Sea. By this time, the public and the press,
and the Admiralty desperately wanted good news and HMS Monarch was
it. Like Baden-Powell at Mafeking, the ordeal of HMS Monarch was
seen as a triumph. The immediate founding of the Royal Naval Damage Control
School, later HMS Monarch, and the close links of Monarch
with the Corps of Naval Constructors, gave us ships second to none in the
Second War. Officers who had fought at Jutland were anxious to avoid the
mistakes that might repeat the events and as they rose in rank, were
able to enforce their views.
I attended the Long Damage Control Course at Monarch during the
30's under Commodore Towers, who, of course, will always be associated
with Monarch . As a highly decorated Lieutenant on the staff and
later as Captain, he drove the lessons home. I doubt that the British Pacific
Fleet would have survived the Kamikazes off the Sakishima Gunto in 1945
without his drive and energy into the graduates of his course.
(All right, all right, I know that HMS Monarch is still burning
brightly, is slowing, is still being shot at, is flooding, has to worry
about 1SG, German Light Forces, Vadm Rudberg and the rest of the
HSF, bad weather, the North Sea, et. al. I just wanted to do a bit 80 yrs
on where she makes it. I'm rooting for the underdog here, just imagine
it's an alternate universe.)
HMS Monarch - Pro Patria Mori (Jims 31/5/15 Jutland) No 1
7 PM - HMS Monarch
Starboard Condenser Room
Sub-Lt (E) Ewing carefully placed the glass tube under the petcock of
the main condenser and drew off the feedwater sample into the flask. HMS
may be engaging the High Seas Fleet at that very minute but the Commander
(E) would flay him alive if he omitted the routine testing of the feedwater.
The firing of the main armament jolted the walkway stanchions but the silver
nitrate solution he dripped into the flask remained clear, with no cloudiness
indicating seawater contamination of the boiler feedwater. "Clear", he
announced to Stoker PO Baker, and bent over to enter the test results in
the condenser room log.
Starboard Hydraulic Pump Room
Leading Stoker Jarvie watched the pressure gauges, both the pump output
pressure and that of the steam that drove the pump. The pump, one of the
three that fed the ringmain that supplied the operating machinery
in the 5 turrets of HMS Monarch, was his particular responsibility.
The gauge needles dipped in response to the demand for hydraulic pressure
following the last salvo but remained well above the minimum operating
pressure. The tank filling the remainder of the pump room had been topped
up yesterday and remained full. All being well, he left the pump
room by the passageway leading past 'Q' turret handling room and up one
level into the Dynamo Room immediately below the protective deck, to report
to PO Crozier. The PO was looking at the switchboard half hidden
behind the tall structures of the dynamos.
Inside Starboard Leg - Tripod Mast
Message tucked into his pocket, Able Seaman Wagstaff was halfway up
the ladder in the confined space within the tripod leg. It was stifling
hot and the rungs almost too hot to hold. Again he cursed the idiot of
an officer who decided that the mast be located behind the fore funnel.
At full power, the heat from the 6 boilers of Monarch's forward
boiler room made the mast accessway almost impossible.
The steam pouring out of the main condenser inlet filled the condenser
room, partly concealing the feedwater gushing from the smashed auxiliary
condenser. Flying fragments of coal had spread like shrapnel throughout
the room and together with the shell splinters had cut down most of the
duty watch. More coal kept falling out of the bulged and broken bulkhead
to the coal bunker, where the 12" shell had detonated, barely 5 feet past
the armour. The transverse bulkhead between the engine and condenser rooms
had managed to keep out the splinters from the turbines, and the engine
room watch was already closing off the valves and attempting to bypass
the damage. PO Baker, bleeding from minor cuts, dragged the body
of Sub Lt (E) Ewing out of the way and made for the main steam valve. Disregarded
and stained red, the Condenser Room log lay among the debris
The third shell to hit Monarch detonated just above the protective
deck and in the Paint Store immediately above the Dynamo room. The shock
fractured the coupling of No2 Dynamo and bent the armature. It's rotation
saw the rotor slice into the coils and destroy the windings, fusing its
circuits. The shock was enough to also lift the switchboard off its hinges
and leave it dangling from its wires. Though the protective deck
was bent down and partly holed, most of the fragments were kept out but
the three electricians clustered around the switchboard were slashed by
the fragments scabbing off the edges of the hole. Down below in the Pump
Room, Leading Seaman Jarvie felt the jolt and saw the lights fade. Racing
out and up to the Dynamo Room the passage was illuminated by the blue flashes
from the ruined switchboard. Fumes from the detonation seeped through
the room, making him gasp and choke. Carefully picking his way through
the debris, he checked the bodies and then turned his attention to the
dangling switchboard. By a minor miracle, he was able to isolate No2 Dynamo
and restore power to most circuits. Burning paint now began to seep down
through the holed protective deck.
The broken body of Able Seaman Wagstaff remained tangled with the rungs
inside the tripod leg. The storm of fragments from the fore superstructure
hit had swept through the plating like so much tissue paper.
Another salvo was plunging down upon Monarch. One shell would
end its flight against the armour of 'Y' turret.
7 : 04 pm 'Y'Turret
The view through the sight was again blotted out by the column of water
rising in front of him and only slightly delayed, the jolt of another hit
banged his head against the sight. Whoever was shooting at them knew his
business. Midshipman Towers coughed and tried to spit the evil taste away
but his throat was raw and dry. The cordite fumes from their firing mixed
with the smoke from fires that had raged from the first hit on Monarch.
Towers coughed again, desperately wished he was elsewhere and put his eye
again to the sight. "Ready" came from the gun captains and "Firing " he
replied, waiting a short moment until the roll bought the target up into
his sighting wires, his hand jerking the firing switch as the wires crossed
the flare of the midships fire on the target.
Monarch's gunners also knew their business, he thought. They
had been in local control from the second hit,all communications cut, no
real problem as the Director had only been installed late last year. The
1250 pound shells came up the hoist from the working chamber and onto the
ramming tray, PO Burke cursing Monarch's increasing list as the
loading angle changed, and..........the target flared as her turrets fired.
'9500 yards' shouted the rangetaker. "Set it", he replied leaving the adjustment
of the clinometer to the rangetaker, his attention fully focused on the
view through his sight. 'Now!', he whispered and a bright spark appeared
next to the glowing fire.
"Hit !" He pulled back from the sight and looked at the sweating crew
as the cordite was rammed and the breeches twisted shut. "Thank God we
still have hydraulic power", he muttered as the breeches moved slightly
to the firing angle......He vomited and again his stomach churned, darkness
and wet slime covered him and pressed him down. No sounds, but what happened? why?...He pushed at the weight and it slowly fell off him and was replaced
by a red and yellow glare showing a nightmare of twisted metal.
'Y' turret's roof was peeled partly open and as a wave of foul
smelling smoke rolled across him, it hid the remains of the gun crews,
which...., he vomited again, retching on an empty stomach,the nausea so
great, that for a moment he was afraid he would choke. The weight across
him was the remains of the sightsetter and the wet slime came from the
burst hydraulic pipes. Like that faroff moment, during the hunt and coming
off the horse at the jump, lying there and finding that only his dignity
was hurt, he 'thought' that everything was still there though his head
hurt and he was deaf. "At least the cordite is in the breeches" he thought
and stopped, the thought continuing and slamming into him " Magazines"
his mind isolating the almost forgotten list of drills. 'There" he said
to himself clasping the voicepipe, uncapping it and shouting into it. A
garbled reply (only partly deaf, one part of his mind smugly noted)
Ignoring the question, he shouted "Flood the magazine!"
"Flood?" the question came back, unlike the obedient, "aye-aye Sir"
of other orders. A muttered argument floating up the pipe and then the
voice of PO Owen "Please confirm ".
Almost frantically he repeated his order, adding, "Get out as soon as
you have flooded, we're hit". Mechanically, the PO said "aye aye Sir" and
left to turn the flooding valves. "Time to get out my boy" he muttered
and recapped the voicepipe. The body of the sightsetter was pushed away,
and grasping the slippery remains of the sight, wobbled to his feet. The
shell had entered through the roof and detonated inside the working chamber
under the gunhouse. No one else moved in the turret and from the bulged
up floor, all in the working chamber had been killed. The rear turret door
was inaccessible, and THAT left the door-newly opened in the roof.
As he made his way across the jumble he kept his eyes fixed upwards and
the old jingle from his schooldays kept running through his mind.
'Oh ! to see the linstock lighting,Temeraire, Temeraire !, Oh!
to hear the roundshot biting, Temeraire, Temeraire !, Oh ! to see the
linstock lighting and to hear the roundshot biting, For we're all in love
with fighting, In the Fighting Temeraire'.
He rather thought that the author had never been in a fight but it kept
repeating in his head as his feet slipped and caught on...things. Afterwards,
still dazed by concussion, he was never sure how he got across the jumbled
debris to the razor sharp edges of the peeled back roof or then down to
the deck. Even as an old man, the white lines of the healed scars on his
hands and legs would always show the price he paid. A tremendous flash
and glare washed over him as he lay on the smashed planking and stared
dully at the flames pouring out of the new hole in the armour of his turret.
'Oh ! to see the linstock lighting,Temeraire, Temeraire !,
Oh! to hear the roundshot biting, Temeraire, Temeraire !, Oh ! to see the
linstock lighting and to hear the roundshot biting, For we're all in love
with fighting, In the Fighting Temeraire!
The glowing mouth of the Bessemer Converter blazed sparks into the hell
of the melting shop as the compressed air blast drove into the molten steel.
Edward Albert Brookes was in his second month as a helper on the pouring
floor; life was good and next year he would sign the indentures as an apprentice
steel puddler. Hard corners pushed at his body as he looked muzzily around.
For a short moment, the world about him still looked and sounded like the
hell of a working steelworks, but as he was helped to his feet, Ordinary
Seaman Brookes came back into the bowels of HMS Monarch.
PO Owen was already checking another of the bodies littered along the
passageway. The electric lights still glowed along its length but were
overshadowed by the smoke pouring out of the smashed cooling air ducts
to the aft turret's barbettes and magazine. Bare moments before, Brookes
and the others of the handling room party had struggled with the flooding
valves, opening the sprinklers and then the main flood pipes. In a few
seconds the floor was awash and water running down the stacked brass cases
containing the cordite bags.
"Out Out Out" shouted the PO over the noise of the gushing water. Brookes
and the PO were last out, Brookes hauling the door shut and the PO striking
the clips home when the door and whole passageway bounced at and knocked
him down. "God help us" muttered the PO, "another hit" and "Get them
clips secured Brookes!". The party huddled in the passageway as smoke
began to gush out of the air vents. "Right you lot, up to the Starboard
4 inch gun deck and Sharpish with it too!!" another few seconds and they
were on the move, and then the blast furnace flash and noise .......Brookes
dazedly looked around at the smashed bulkhead blocking the passageway and
the debris that had cut half the party down. A part of him realized the
had been hit again. He bent down and grabbed at a groaning form and hauled
it up, joining the PO in a search for the living. Curls of smoke reaching
through the debris caught at his throat and he frantically grabbed at another
PO Owen stopped him, "He's dead. We'll have to get out through the cross
passage to the PO's mess starboard and up under the aft shelter deck through
the engineering shops. Brookes, bring up the rear". PO Owen set off down
the narrow alleyway, supporting a dazed seaman. Another jolting of the
ship saw the lights gutter and fail, leaving them to grope through the
hot darkness, coughing at the acrid smoke, falling over coamings and mixing
in with others, also trying to make their way upwards. PO Owen's calm voice
kept them from panicking through the nightmare journey. Twice they had
to turn and find another passage as flames roared out of open hatches and
smoke choked them. Owen managed to close one hatch onto the flames, but
the other could not even be approached.
They could feel the ship's motion alter as she turned and the sledgehammer
blows of hits into her-too few came the answering jolts of their own gun's
reply. "She's a tough girl" shouted Owen, "But we will have to do a lot
of cleaning up in Scapa". Splashing through water they broke into a section
with the electric lights still burning but with a foot or more of water
running along the deck...and seamen at their posts. "Starboard Torpedo
Flat" announced Owen. The
Torpedo Gunners Mate came over, " All communications are out, what happened
to you, PO?"
"Magazine flooded, I'm taking this lot up to aid in the after 4 inch".
"All right, said the TGM, "Get up through the loading hatch".
Scrambling up the narrow ladder, they broke out onto the starboard deck
through the torpedo loading hatch and onto a portion of hell. Huge flames
roared out of the smashed aft superstructure and smoke poured out of the
aft turret whose roof was completely gone, leaving the barrels still pointed
uselessly abeam. Huge columns of water stood up around them and splinters
whined and clanged into the superstructure. Bodies littered the deck where
the firefighting parties had been cut down. "Get into shelter behind X
Turret " shouted Owen over the din. Brookes and the small group moved behind
the barbette, already occupied by another group.
Brookes breathed a sigh of relief, his Divisions Officer was there.
"Mr Towers, Sir, what's to be done?" In the glare of the fires, he could
see Mr Towers was covered with blood. His reply was interrupted by a huge
flash from abeam.
"That's Orion going", calmly stated Mr Towers, "and unless we
get out of range and get these fires under control, that will also be us."
Hurrying up, PO Owen calmly reported "Sir, the Starboard aft firefighting
party are mostly dead, the hoses have been badly cut, and there is no pressure
in the fire mains on this side. You are the only officer aft, what do you
want us to do?"
Midshipman Towers glanced around at the 20 or so seamen in the shelter
of X turret. His answer was cut short by the blast from 'X' turret as Monarch's
remaining guns fired and then the clamour of splinters striking from a
shell landing close alongside. He tried again, "What about the Port side
"Looks very bad, no one seems to be fighting the fires. Most of the
hits seem to have been along the port side." He did not mention that Monarch
was perceptibly slowing and pitching, most of the party being unaware of
the implication of severe internal damage. No one mentioned
On the shattered bridge, ripped and torn at by splinters, Captain E.H.Smith
still lived and had some control of his battered ship. He looked at the
fires raging aft, the giant plume of fire from 'Y' turret had died but
the aft superstructure was fully involved and a perfect aiming mark for
those German gunners, but the light forces were distracting some of those
gunners. He did have some guns in action, and was slowly crawling away
into the darkness. His crew had suffered badly, but Monarch still
lived. "If only we can keep the shafts turning and power to the pumps,
we can get the fires out," he prayed, "Dreyer on Orion
lost his battle, please God, that we do not."
By the aft superstructure and intensely aware of his responsibility,
Towers considered briefly and gave his orders to the small group.........
Close up,the flames roared out of the holes in the aft superstructure,
smashed and riven by the 12 inch shells. Most of the ready use ammunition
for the 4 inch secondaries had already contributed to the fire and only
a few had detonated. Survivors from the crews had retreated within the
ship or had joined the firefighting parties, only for their bodies to be
strewn about the deck; cut down by their own detonating shells or by the
storm of splinters from the many hits. Midshipman Towers saw the flames
playing against the barbette of 'X' turret and realized that in his dazed
state after the hit on his turret, his automatic reaction of flooding the
magazine had gained a brief respite for Monarch.
In his life he had now seen two battleships die, that incredible moment
at Sheerness last November when HMS Bulwark simply and unexpectedly
blew up and now with the glare of HMS Orion falling victim to her
internal fires. "Not a third" he muttered, "Sir?" questioned PO Owen. "Right,
PO Owen," he said, grasping his issue pocketbook and scribbling as he spoke,
"Get to the 4 inch magazine and ensure that it is flooded. Take 5 men and
send up every man you can find that can be spared. They are to bring up
every hose that you can, close every hatch, and I need to know what bulkheads
are damaged aft of the 4 inch magazine. Here's my order to flood. Go !"
Tower turned to O/S Brookes and scribbled again, "Brookes, take this to
the Bridge, to the Captain or the Commander. It has to get through. I am
relying on you. Go!"
He turned to the rest of the party, "We are going to have to get as
many hoses into action as we can and isolate the fires, both above deck
and below, compartment by compartment. As we work through, there will be
others to help. Follow me." He moved off, forcing himself not to look behind
to see if they were following.
Brookes was terrified, the nightmare journey through the dark maze below
deck and now this, a journey through the flames and then to see the Captain!
Naval discipline drove him on in spite of his fear. He skirted the area
of burning teak planking and made his way to the edge of the deck. Dropping
to his hands and knees and crawling along, he was under the flames and
most of the smoke, though the torn planking and razor edged splinters ripped
and tore at him.
The flames licked around the broken 4 inch casemates, the heat scorching
his face and hair. The deck was hot, barely able to be tolerated, but he
could move over it. The jumble of debris around Q turret was less of an
obstacle and with 'Q' turret ceasing fire, he needn't worry about blast.
Soon, he was at the base of the bridge tower. There were devoted souls
there, playing water on the flames and hauling out casualties. Twice, he
was stopped and ordered to help, but waving his message, he pushed past
them to the access ladder. The ladder was twisted and slashed but
Captain Smith looked aft at the fires and behind them, to where the
German pursuit would begin to search out cripples like Monarch.
The life of his ship was measured in hours; there had been no good news
in the reports bought by grim faced messengers to the bridge. Nothing from
aft where the fires blazed an aiming mark. The Chief Engineer had just
departed, and now another seaman picked his way through the tumbled chaos
of the bridge, proffering a folded scrap of paper in a bloodstained hand.
"Sir, a message from Mr Towers". Still looking at the flames, he accepted
the paper, unfolded it, "Sir, have flooded aft 13.5" magazine. Have sent
a party to see if aft 4 " magazine has been flooded, collect hoses and
men to fight the fire. Water mains damaged, no pressure, heavy casualties.
Urgently need mains repaired. Towers Mdm". The Captain looked aft again
and spoke,"How long did it take for you to get here ?" "About 10 minutes,
Sir". "Then, let us hope that the 4 inch magazine is already flooded or
flooded very soon. He will have to make do with men from the afterpart
for the next few hours. We have not got enough people to stop the flooding,
maintain our way and help him fight that fire. Tell him we must deal with
the flooding first and he must ensure that the magazine is flooded and
contain the fire with what he has, we depend on him, and .....Well Done."
He turned away to deal with the next arriving messenger.
Brookes left the bridge to repeat his perilous journey. The Torpedo
party had been sent up to Mr Towers and now, armed with dark lanterns taken
from the Torpedo Flat, PO Owen and his party were deep within Monarch,
in a hot and smoke filled passageway, still two compartments away from
the 4 inch magazine and seeking a way around a jammed hatch.................
7 :15 pm. Starboard Accessway to 4 inch Magazine
The smoke coiling around the edges of the partly open hatch glowed orange
in the dim light from the dark lantern. Crouched to the deck to avoid
the worst of the smoke and gasping through the wet cloths pressed to his
mouth, PO Owen and his party had finally reached the door to the 4 inch
A body lay across the coaming, stretched out in a last desperate attempt
to to escape. Behind Owen, the rest of the party closed up, coughing on
the fumes. Other bodies had been found along the passage, like this one,
"You can't get in there! It's all smoke!!" PO Owen agreed, but said
"If we don't get in there we will be all smoke anyway and soon."
Dragging the body out of the way, and ignoring centuries old safety regulations,
Owen bought the dark lantern over the coaming and looked into the oven-like
and smoke filled magazine. Bodies littered the deck where the handling
party had fallen, choked by the smoke and fumes poured in by the ventilation
ducts. The brass bases of the 4 inch QF cartridges in the rack nearest
the deck glinted dimly as he swept the lantern around. The heat here at
deck level was intense. The raging fires up above would soon cook off the
stacked ammunition. All there was between the fires and the magazine were
the doors through which the cartridges were passed up to the casemates.
"Right, the flooding valves are on the far bulkhead. We will take it
in turns to get to the valves, unlock the securing bars and open the valves.
Work for as long as you can then get back here, then the next ones goes.
Right? I'll go first." He took as deep a breath as he could and crawled
into the smoke. The bodies lay thick against the far bulkhead and standing
on them, he located the first valve and lifted off the securing bar..and
stopped. The bar would not move any further, his fingers telling him it
had been wired shut. His lungs were telling him to breathe, but he knew
it was death to do so.
Blind in the smoke, he staggered away to the door, but disorientated,
banged into a rack of shells and dropped to the floor. "Those shells were
hot!" he dazedly thought, we have got no time to spare." Hands grabbed
him and dragged him to the door and out into the passage. Shaking his head
in an attempt to clear it, he croaked, "need cutters, the securing bars
are wired to the valve." "Ain't got any, PO". "Well, use your issue knife
and cut and bend until it breaks. Take the lanterns and put them on deck
and follow their light".
Soon, their lanterns were on the deck and one after the other they crawled
into the smoke, worked away for 20 seconds and then came gasping back,
waiting to go again into the smoke. Success rewarded their efforts after
another agonising 5 minutes. "The sprinkler valve is free but we need two
to turn it" Owen crawled forward yet again and adding his weight to the
wheel, the valve slowly turned, releasing water into the sprinkler pipes
positioned above the racks. Steam joined the smoke as a hissing noise showed
how hot the pipes had become from the inferno burning above. They
staggered to the door, gasping for breath, and then returned for the main
valve. Already the deck was inches deep in water cascading down the stacked
rows of ammunition. Two of the party had passed out and had to be dragged
to the coaming before the main valve was freed and opened.
"What about the bodies?" asked a hoarse voice from behind him. Already
the water lapped at the coaming. "Leave them," said Owen, slamming the
door and closing the clips tight.
On the aft deck of HMS Monarch, Midshipman Towers was preparing
to send his fire fighting teams down into the inferno.................
7: 20 pm.
The final half salvo howled down, and two columns of water stood up
beside HMS Monarch and one 12" shell slammed home among the fires
on the after shelter deck, sending a shower of burning debris from the
wrecked ship's boats high into the air and a storm of splinters into the
Now the most easterly major unit of the GF (Grand Fleet) and with the
rest of the GF moving away at their best speed, battered and grievously
wounded, HMS Monarch limped into the gathering darkness and vanished.
Like the Battleships 'skipping' their opposite numbers in the LOB (line
of battle), the eagerness of the HSF (High Seas Fleet) units to pursue
the GF, coupled with the rapidly changing tactical situation, simply saw
her ignored for the moment, each group thinking the others would pursue
or fire on her. Much later, each group was at a loss to account for leaving
her and going off in pursuit of another target. Admiral Letters himself
blamed the dense but intermittent lowlying clouds of smoke from destroyed
ships. Others thought that if there was a God of Battles, He had temporarily
stretched his hand out in protection. But dawn, as always, would leave
the cripples naked to the jackals.
Midshipman Towers shook his head in an attempt to clear it, the blast
was entirely too close for comfort and that last shell had undone the last
10 minutes of work. His small group had been put by the aft 4 inch casemate
by Lt Johnson who had got himself and his crew out of 'X' turret. His first
action had been to savagely rebuke Towers for ordering the flooding of
the aft 13.5" magazine without authority and his second action was
to order Towers out of the way so that the fires could be fought "Properly!".
White-faced with the implication of panicking and cowardice coming from
Lt Johnson, Towers simply said, "aye-aye Sir," and went to join the small
group struggling to link a water main to the hoses.
"Sir, Sir!", and he looked up to find O/S Brookes coming towards him.
"What is it, Brookes?"
"The Captain said to tell you.."
Towers interrupted, "Tell Lt Johnson, he commands here now." "Nossir,
I just came from up there, he's dead, that last shell knocked an awful
lot down and he got killed." Towers was silent for a moment; Brookes
looking like he also had been knocked down a few times as well.
"What did the Captain say ?"
"Well Sir, I went to the Bridge like you told me......".
"It took all that time to get there and back?
"Yessir, it's a terrible mess, anyway, the Captain said, to flood the
4 inch and that he can't help you, the ship's flooding and they have got
to deal with that first." And Brookes smiled, glad to be giving good
news, as he said, "He said, it's up to you and Well Done".
"Come on then," Towers said, turning and moving towards the knot of
7: 20 pm. Charthouse Platform
The Commander (E) had finished his grim assessment. Captain E.F.Smith
looked into the gathering darkness and then along the smashed and burning
length of Monarch. Above him, the ripped and torn brass sheeting
of the compass platform, ahead and to his port, the remnant of the Grand
Fleet was departing at over twice his speed and behind, Scheer and the
High Seas Fleet had just won a stunning victory. He felt very tired and
old, the three hits so close to the bridge had spared him and a few others
but taken their toll of him. Monarch was a cripple left behind by
her fleet and the Directing Staff on the Senior Officers War Course at
Greenwich had somehow not covered this eventuality. There were no orders
to cover this problem, except the oldest duty of a captain, that to preserve
his ship and crew. He sighed, and bought himself back to the present again
and considered, speaking aloud, "What would Scheer do ?"
The Commander (E) was still looking at the Captain, waiting for an answer,
"What will Scheer do now?" he repeated. "I know what I'd do, and that's
to run every ship down and take, sink, burn, and destroy them. And that's
what he will do to us, unless we can get out of his way." He turned back
to Commander (E), "Very well, put all your efforts into the forward boiler
room and the port engine room. Once the fires are out, the crew will clear
the uptakes and the boiler room vents." He paused, remembering the
loss of HMS Audacious, "We will not counter flood unless
the list becomes too great to elevate our guns. Without those pumps, and
with the internal damage, we will flood and sink like Audacious."
He paused again, "I cannot release the turret crews to assist.
If the enemy find us, we will fight it out for as long as we can.
We still have three turrets and a good company. Carry on, please." The
captain turned away and looked astern from where his doom would come and
then to the eastern darkness.
Slowly, slowly HMS Monarch limped onward, heavy with the extra
burden of hundreds of tons of water into flooded compartments. "Steady
" he called and his order was passed down to the damaged helm station,
and lifted his binoculars again. The vast amounts of funnel smoke had lowered
visibility during the battle, and offered the only hope to conceal the
beacon burning on her aft deck.
He ran through the possibilities again, if Scheer acted like he should,
and exploited his victory with a general chase, and Monarch struggled
on behind the Grand Fleet, Scheer would just snap him up without a pause,
but conceal her fires, Monarch might (might !) be missed by the
excited hunters. Eight hours, Commander (E) had said, to bring Monarch
to 12 knots, 'If' the undamaged pumps could hold and the steam lines were
repaired to bring two more into use. Like a fox doubling back on
the hounds and going to earth, Monarch would have to seek
cover, crawling at eight knots through the smoke.
He moved to the remaining navyphone and took it from the rating. It
and its connection to the three remaining turrets had somehow survived
the hits. 'B' turret now had primary control of Monarch's turrets
and he briefly spoke to the turret officer, informing him that they were
attempting to withdraw and that he was not to fire unless ordered or being
fired upon. He also advised that he would turn to Port to unmask
'A' and 'B' turrets if it came to a fight. One by one the three turrets
acknowledged and the captain returned to his vigil. The dense cloud of
smoke from the pyre of HMS Centurion was moving aft.
7: 22 pm. Port Side and aft of ' Q ' Turret
Midshipman Towers had left the Torpedo Gunner and half the men to fight
the fires on the Starboard side and he and his second team had managed
to get past the burning casemates and were now beside the armoured bulk
of 'Q" turret, bright scratches and scrapes on the painted surface showing
the effect of splinters. The broken deck skylights to the Engineer's office
on the upper deck were letting the smoke billow out from the flames
pouring out of the paint store on the main deck below. The locker
beside 'Q' turret opened readily and the hose and the connection beside
it, meant for washing the deck of coaling dust, had pressure. Part
of Tower's team led by a CPO from 'X' turret, started to spray the burning
planking as a preliminary to moving into the burning superstructure and
the remainder began to check the nearest bodies for signs of life.
The hatch of the coal bunker escape scuttle clanged open almost at Towers'
feet and hands reached out to help whoever was clambering out of the coal
bunkers. One by one, six coal blackened men were pulled out and lay gasping
among the other bodies lying around the deck. Towers leaned over
the last one out and under the grime, recognised PO Owen.
"Glad you and your men made it PO, what have you got to report?"
Owen, almost at the end of his endurance, was barely able to speak from
smoke poisoning, but slowly gave his message. "The 4 inch is flooded,...
it was awful hot in there, ......all dead from smoke....... all smashed
up inside.... lots of open hatches....many jammed.....all electric's out....boiler
room passage blocked..couldn't get back....no lights and too much smoke....got
out through the coal bunkers."
Towers asked , "Is there any flooding ?"
"There's some water, .......but the bulkheads that I saw, seem to be
holding. We had to go down .........to the aft magazine screen for 'Q"
handling room. That's where we picked up Jarvie. ........He said that the
lower deck armour was holed above the dynamo room........ the burning paint
was coming into the room........ he closed and clipped the door and .....then
down to the gun hydraulic room."
Towers looked at the exhausted group, "Well done". "Jarvie."
"Sir?" From a blackened figure.
"What's the situation in the Hydraulic Room? Is it flooded?"
Leading Seaman Jarvie slowly gathered his wits, "Well Sir, the pump
stopped from no steam and the fluid all ran out of the tank, busted pipe
I reckon, so I shut it off. There's about 6 inches of water on the deck
but it don't seem to be getting deeper. The room was getting awful hot
though from the deck above."
"Thank you Jarvie, you have done well". Towers looked around and moved
over to 'Q' Turret and between the two barrels and jumped up on the
edge of the deck barbette. Using the reinforcing cordage seams sewn into
the canvas bags over the gunports, he hoisted himself up onto the edge
of the front plate and looked into the central sighting hood. "Towers!!"
Came the shout from inside. "Glad to see you ! What can we do for you?"
"Can you tell me if your handling room is getting hot? I have reports
that the dynamo room is on
Inside the turret, the turret officer blenched then rapidly spoke to
the handling room. "It's hot because we shut all the ventilation off because
of smoke, but you're right, the door's hot."
"Have you got any way to contact the bridge?"
"Yes, we have one phone". Towers briefly gave a resume of the
situation, and asked that it be passed to the bridge. While waiting for
a reply, 'Q' turret officer told him of Monarch's attempt to withdraw.
"Hope it works", said the Turret officer, "Our hydraulic pressure is very
He was interrupted by a voice from the navyphone and he repeated it
as it was passed. "No flooding, essential to control fires on deck, and
Towers was silent a moment, then said, "Good luck", and slipped down
the faceplate to the deck. The hose was quickly redirected to spray
into the office above the burning paint store. Leaving the CPO and his
party to fight the fires on deck and having stripped the dark lanterns
from PO Owens and his men, Midshipman Towers led the remainder down through
the escape scuttle and into the coal bunkers to find the fire burning beside
7 : 25 pm. Starboard Condenser Room
The wrench spun off the first stubborn nut and clanged against the inlet
valve before splashing into the oily water. Stoker PO Baker was beyond
words, "Tie the dammed thing to you Olds!" he snarled, "Now gettin'
and find it, the rest of you tie them to you." Without bothering to protest,
Stoker Olds stepped off his perch on top of the main condenser and slipped
into the waist deep water covering the walkway. In the flickering light
from the carbide lamps, the water surged back and forth in the flooded
space, splashing against the corpses dragged from the water and tumbled
over the railings. The others gripped their wrenches more tightly and continued
the dismantling of the condenser casing.
It had been a chaotic 20 minutes for the survivors of the Starboard
Engine Room. The shells that had breached the hull had expended most of
their fury into the coal bunkers, sending their contents and the inboard
plating flying into the machinery spaces. Splinters that had smashed the
turbine sets had not spared the duty watch. The live steam from the sheared
off pipes and broken casings had claimed others and the water flooding
in drowned the stunned or badly wounded who were not hauled out of the
way. Those untouched or lightly wounded had pulled most to safety as they
scrambled ahead of the rising water to the fragile ladders.
Some devoted souls had closed off what intact steam valves they could
before grabbing their wounded comrades to safety through the mist of steam
and smoke. There was little time to do more. The next hits had been
in the superstructure and forecastle deck and more splinters from shells
detonating against the protective deck punched down through the armour
like hail into the machinery spaces to complete the ruin. Darkness
closed in as the lights guttered out. It had seemed impossible for
things to get worse but then the ship had shaken again and a vast noise
and wave of steam and smoke smashed into them from forward. A 12" shell
had completed the destruction of the midships and aft boiler rooms.
Stunned and battered by the violence and speed of the destruction,
PO Baker had clung to the railings with the other survivors from the condenser
room. When nothing had happened for a few minutes, he managed to to collect
his wits and stood dizzily upright. His ears rang. Moving carefully along
the railing, he reached the duty station and felt for the familar shape
of the carbide lamp on its hook. The wax vestas in his cigarette case struck
easily and the intense light of the lamp shone through the smoke. Water
was already at the foot of the accessway up to the main deck. "See if there
is anyone else alive, then let's get out, nothing more to be done here,"
he growled at the small group.
They splashed through the deepening water and over debris, but found
only one more survivor, stunned but unwounded except for the steam burns
on one arm. Then they began to make their way through the engineering spaces
to safety, only to have to turn back. The aft superstructure was on fire
and survivors of the 4 inch crews were retreating inside the ship, moving
through the smashed and jumbled debris of the engineering workshops and
stores. Baker and his small party followed them, only to meet Commander
(E) and the CPO Artificer coming the other way, anxious for information.
Soon Baker and his party were heading back while questions were being
fired at Baker. "No Sir, the turbine sets were all smashed, the casings
"What about the condensers?" asked the Commander.
"The main condenser was hit but not as bad as the auxillary condenser."
replied PO Baker.
"Right, let's look. Bring your party, PO Baker" said the Commander,
leading off and talking to the CPO as they made their way down into the
engineering spaces and repeating the assessment that he had just taken
to the Captain. "The Port engine room took damage and is partly flooded
through the bulkhead, but the turbine sets are intact, one is operational
but the other has to have its piping repaired. The real problem there is
that the main condenser and circulation pump took splinter damage. We are
going to run out of feedwater soon. We seem to be holding our own so far
with the flooding but we need four pumps operating and we only have two
working. The suction pumps need steam and we just barely have one boiler
room operating. "
The Commander(E) choked on the smoke beginning to fill the passageway
and continued, "We can't get access to the engine room spares, that store
got hit and like everything is on fire. We will have to hope that we can
control the fires over the engine rooms. Our spares will have to come from
here," gesturing around the darkened space.
"What can we take from here, Sir?" asked the CPO.
"Anything, anything at all," replied the Commander, "But the first
thing is to cannibilise this main condenser and circulation pump to repair
the other. "
The Commander turned to PO Baker, "PO, start dismantling the pump and
main condenser. We have to dismantle it anyway to remove parts and
tubes so we will sort out what actual parts we need later when we know
more about actual damage." He played his lamp around the room,
"And see if you can get some of the splinter holes through the bulkhead
into the Port Engine Room plugged from this side. It will be several hours
before we can do anything about the flooding here. Carry on, please"
Commander (E) and the CPO departed for the chaos of the boiler rooms, leaving
PO Baker and his party inside the flooded room.
Baker's heart sank, the room was now fully flooded and most of the condenser
and pump were under water. He took another slow look around, then
spoke, "Olds and Jenkins, tow those bodies away and put them where they
won't float away. Wilson and Burton, get the wrenches from the locker,
and you two get some more lamps. While we are waiting, the rest of you
get mats, hammocks and the like and see what you can do to stop the leaks."
Above him, HMS Monarch burned as she limped after the Grand Fleet
at 7.5 knots.
7: 28 pm. Passageway outside 'Q" Handling Room
Steam had now joined the smoke, obscuring everything for the small party
playing the hoses onto the heated bulkhead. Towers dared not open the hatch
onto the inferno, but fortunately, one hose could spray into the burning
Dynamo Room through a cable join where the insulation had burned away.
Even though the burning paint would float on the water, the fire should
not spread beyond the room if the bulkhead was kept cool enough.
As they stumbled back and forth over the coaming, they splashed through
the growing depth of water running down the passage and spilling over the
Midshipman Towers welcomed the aid in their battle to cool the bulkhead
and thought little of it until it was his turn to rest while the others
held the hoses. The brief respite was enough to make his mind question
the water now flooding the passage. Too much was there to come from
their efforts. Taking a lantern, he splashed up the short passage leading
past 'Q' magazine screen towards the Engine Room. The access
door was closed and clipped but black oily water was flooding out of splinter
holes in the bulkhead and pouring into the passage. Towers moved back to
his party, and spoke to his leading seaman, " The passage is flooding
through the Engine Room bulkhead, I'm going to look at the hatches
This time, he moved past from where they had come, coughing and choking
down through the coal bunkers and towards the boiler rooms. In a matter
of feet, he had entered chaos, fumes, steam, and smoke even thicker, and
bent and twisted plating. The hatch was open but a huge rent in the plating
beside it showed that attempting to shut it was useless. Just a few more
feet on, a huge heap of coal spilling from the bunkers blocked the passage.
Around the hatch, bodies lay on the deck among the debris, bodies felt
rather than seen, so thick was the smoke. His head spinning from the smoke,
he had seen enough and turned to go but heard a feeble cry as he stepped
past one body. Dragging the wounded stoker back over the coamings and the
few feet to his party took all his strength and he almost collapsed.
The wounded man was barely able to speak, but confirmed that he had
been in the aft boiler room." There was a hell of a noise from the next
room, so the Chief sent me to see if they wanted help. I just got out of
the hatch when the whole world seemed to blow up."
Towers looked up at the faces crowding around listening to the wounded
stoker and then down to the water continuing to spill over the coaming
and make its way towards the smashed boiler rooms. He pointed at three
of his men and spoke, "We need to continue cooling the bulkhead but we
also need to block the splinter holes and cut down the flooding. You three
are to stay here and spell each other on the hoses."
Towers then turned to the Leading Seaman, "You take two men and move
up the passage to the Engine Room bulkhead and plug the holes. Use your
clothes or take what you can from the mess deck. We will need to shore
the plugs to cut the flooding so we will need shoring materials. Seaman
Groves and I will take this stoker topside and I can report in. I will
be back soon. "
As the party dispersed, Towers and Groves began the nightmare struggle
to carry the wounded man up through the escape scuttle.
7:28 pm. Charthouse Platform
HMS Monarch straightened up again on course 000 as the helm compensated
for her sluggish movement and her wish to fall away. As the
captain had hoped, the smoke was dense enough to conceal the aft fires
from immediately behind her and for a short while, she would be shielded.
While he had dropped further behind the rest of the Grand Fleet, any enemy
marking his position by the fireglow would now be unsure where he was.
Time also to report in, the last messengers reaching the bridge giving
him the information that he needed.
"Yeoman." he called to the senior surviving signalman. "Signal to Flag
2 Battle Squadron." Monarch's division flag had been on HMS Orion.
She had succumbed earlier to her internal fires having reaching a
magazine and gone up in a great glare.
"Sir," acknowledged the Leading Signalman and the small signal
lamp blinked towards the distant shape of HMS King George V.
A small dot of light blinked back., "Ready, Sir."
"Monarch to Flag 2 BS, Heavy damage, approx 400 cas from
24 major hits. One major fire not under control, estimate 4 hours to control.
Port Engine Room damaged and flooding, Starboard Engine Room flooded,
pumps presently holding. 6 boilers working. Speed 8 knots, estimate12 hours
to make 12 knots. Three turrets operational, one 4 inch gun. Wireless
destroyed, one working signal lamp. End". The distant lamp on KGV
7: 30 pm. Port Engine Room
Under the lights from the one operational dynamo, the oily water sloshed
about the single turbine of the set that was still operating. Around it,
the engine room crew and what was left of the Starboard engine room crews
and stokers were working away. Some were at the dividing bulkhead,
struggling to shore up and support patches over the splinter holes that
had been punched through the plating. Most of the holes had been patched,
but water seeped through rivet holes and where the plate junctions had
been wrenched apart by the impact. Others were clearing up the coal
that had cascaded into the engine room from the smashed coal bunkers above
it and covered up the maze of pipes under the outer turbine.
Most of the activity however, centred on two groups, one dismantling
still hot steam pipes from their connections and carefully reassembling
them in a new arrangement and the other group inside the condenser room,
swarming over the damaged main condenser and main circulation pump. Commander
(E) was with the CPO inside the condenser room, listening to the CPO give
his report, "I've checked the shaft tunnels and all the bearings
seem to be holding up on the port inner, but I think that we will have
trouble with the outer shaft when we can power the set up. Some of the
bearings will have to be out of alignment after the hits near the tunnel
and the gland is leaking . "
Commander (E) turned to the CPO, "How are the suction pump
"At least another hour Sir, to exchange pump casings and two to reconnect
steam lines to No 3 pump. No 4 pump will be at least 12 hours more work,
if there are enough unbroken pipes to connect to it as well."
Commander (E) looked at the men dismantling the main condenser, "PO
Baker and his crew have started dismantling the needed parts from the Starboard
Condenser Room. If the list does not increase and flood the condenser completely,
we will have the main condenser on line in 8 hours. Our real problem is
running out of feedwater."
In the choking furnace of the forward boiler room, PO Wilson and his
crew were struggling to keep their boilers operational. The coal bunkers
were not yet in use but the oil sprayers in the furnaces were suffering
from the lack of air and draught from the smashed uptakes. Saltwater contamination
of the oil tanks had seen two blowbacks already. Worse, the feedwater and
steam lines were only being handled by the auxillary condenser and pump
and the twisted and wrenched steam lines were leaking past their gaskets.
On the other hand, thought the PO, he could have been on watch in the midships
boiler room when a German shell detonated in it. No one had got out.
He kept an eye on No 3 boiler, that one had blown back twice.
7:30 pm. Forward Superstructure
The fumes and smoke poured out of the smashed uptakes, driving back
the crew attempting to clear them. Using long firebars and what coaling
booms had survived as battering rams and levers, they had managed to drive
some of the debris off the ventilation grilles arranged around the base
of the forward funnel, but they would need heavier equipment to shift and
drag off the heavier pieces to clear the uptake. The crew split into two
groups, one attempting to clear more of the ventilation grilles, and the
other to search for undamaged hoists and rope to tackle the tangled mass
7:30 pm. Forecastle Deck 'B'Turret
Leading Sickbay Attendant Plunkett laid out another body beside
the barbette. This one had died of wounds while being bandaged, others
had been dragged out dead from the debris. LSBA Plunkett felt uncomfortable
treating them like this, but there was nowhere else to put them. He went
back to collect another from where they were being bought up the ladders
from the Engine Room.
7:30 pm. Charthouse Platform
Even without binoculars, the passage of each destroyer in the flotilla
was clearly visible from the bridge. At full power, the huge white wake
and bow wave almost eclipsed the low shapes heading past Monarch
into the attack.
A light blinked from the nearest, "Good luck," read the
Captain Smith spoke, "Reply, 'Good Hunting' ", and the lamp clattered
away. Again came the distant light, "Ps 106 v 11" and the last destroyer
vanished into the smoke. "Psalm 106, verse 11. Sir", said the signalman.
" The Captain stood silent for a moment, then softly murmured,
"And the waters covered their enemies: there was not one of them left."
7:30 pm. Deck - Starboard Tripod Leg
Two of the coaling booms had been erected and their blocks tied to the
largest bit of plating. "Heave", shouted the PO, and the ropes drew taut.
Slowly the plate began to lift and then stopped. "Hold it," came the shout
and with that came the ring of cold chisels hammering through the rivets.
The oxygen cutters were in the engineering stores over the engine rooms
and until the fires were controlled enough to allow access, sledgehammers
and cold chisels would have to make do.
Other parties worked to fasten lines to those parts of the debris that
could be moved. Over and above the toiling men, the forward funnel still
towered, leaking smoke from the dozens of splinter holes. Pouring out of
the debris were the fumes and smoke from the smashed boiler room uptakes.
Until the ventilation grilles arranged around the forward funnel were cleared,
little could be done about restoring the uptakes.
7:32 pm. Coal Bunker Escape Scuttle abaft 'Q' Turret
Hands eagerly reached down to pull them up to the deck, but they passed
up the wounded stoker first before Towers allowed Groves and himself to
be pulled into the fresh air. Questions were hurled at them, but they lay
gasping on the deck, gathering their strength before being able to focus
on their surroundings. Looking around, Midshipman Towers saw that
the fires were still raging in the aft superstructure, but the few men
he had organised into fire parties had been agumented and many hoses now
played into the flames. A shout from one of their helpers brought a familar
face to add to the group around him.
PO Owen, his blackened face beaming, began speaking as he hurried
over, "Sir, the Captain sent Lt Soames to take control here and wants you
to report to him as soon as possible. " Towers sighed, he only wanted to
rest, possibly for all of eternity, but managed to stagger to his feet,
drawing great gulps of cold air into his lungs.
Seeing him upright, Lt Soames moved over to him. "Well done Towers,
if you hadn't got the 4 inch magazine flooded, we would have been sitting
on a cloud by now. The Captain wants to see you, can you get to the bridge?"
"Aye aye, Sir, but I must report that the starboard passageway to the
boiler rooms by 'Q' handling room is flooding through the engine room bulkhead.
The boiler room bulkhead has been penetrated and the boiler rooms are in
danger from flooding along the passageway. I've left a small party
plugging the leaks, but they need shoring materials and help. The fire
in the Dynamo Room can't be got at but I've left another party playing
a hose on the bulkhead. I think the magazine is safe." Lt Soames
stared at him, nodded and then turned and began issuing orders to his working
Midshipman Towers paused briefly by a hose party to splash water over
himself then made his way under the gun barrels of 'Q' turret and past
the debris littered over the deck. The way to the bridge was blocked by
the working parties swarming over and clearing the debris but he
eventually gained the bottom of the mangled bridge access ladder and started
7:32 pm. 'B' Turret Gunhouse
The gramophone in the working chamber ground out the chorus from "Chu
Chin Chow" for the tenth time that day and Lt Ransome ground his teeth
together for the tenth time. He had originally liked the song but
the working chamber crew never seemed to tire of it. He had dropped hints
that another record would be nice but had been reassured, "Oh no, Sir,
the men loves it". He had thought of getting a Decca for the gunhouse and
setting up in opposition, but decided that the worst thing he could imagine
would be two different records continually playing at once.
There was nothing more he could do, the guns were loaded and the ready
use bin full and the turret trained out to port. With the loss of the director,
he was in primary control of Monarch's three operational turrets.
The Captain would turn the ship to port when the enemy was sighted and
he would engage the enemy for as long as possible. Given the 8 knot speed
of Monarch and her sluggishness in answering the helm, that might
not be long. Still, it would not be long until they caught up to the safety
of the rest of the Grand Fleet. He had seen the destroyers speed past and
knew that the light forces were screening them. The HSF should be
heading home now after the pummelling they had given the Grand Fleet.
The record stopped and in the silence came the sound of urine splashing
into the bucket. The opening chorus of Chu Chin Chow Act 1 swelled up from
the working chamber and Lt Ransome ground his teeth yet again...........
7:32 pm. Coal Bunker 8 - Starboard
He leaned out further from the scuttle, one hand grasping the torn edges
of the plating. The orange light of the lamp showed the water surging over
the glistening heap of coal and frothing in the jumble of torn plating
at the inboard bulkhead where the shell had detonated. As the water sloshed
away, he pulled himself further into the bunker and twisted himself to
shine the lamp onto the hull plating.
AB Short held tight as the water surged over him and then fell away
as Monarch rolled sluggishly, and then he saw it. About 18" above
the lower deck, a solid sluice of water poured through a ragged hole punched
through the hull plating and main armour belt. The first 12" shell that
had devastated the engine rooms had penetrated just above the bottom of
the main belt, passed through the outer bunker and detonated inside the
inner bunker. The water surged again in the compartment and dropped away,
exposing the jet of water pouring in, and looking closely, though the coal
obscured the deck, he was sure that the hole did not traverse the deck
plating. Plugging it would be simple, though securing the plug would not
He tugged three times on the rope and was hauled up the narrow tube
as the party above walked away. As he emerged, PO Pearson leant close.
"It's in this one PO",he called, "It's about 18" above the deck and a pretty
neat hole through the hull."
"Right," snapped the PO, "How easy is it to get to with the shores ?"
AB Short thought a moment, "The bulkhead is pretty smashed up and everything
would have to come through the scuttle. A wadded up hammock would plug
it but securing it will be a problem."
PO Pearson cut him short, "We'll use what we can from the boats and
fish them to length." He turned and gestured at the nearest men, "You three:
go and get a couple of hammocks quick and you two, after Short and I go
down you follow and help us. The rest of you get some cordage and some
small spars and lower it down to us. Move."
7:35 pm. Charthouse Platform
Hearing the sound of someone pushing past the debris on the ladder,
Captain Smith turned away from his view of the fires aft and saw Midshipman
Towers entering the bridge. He was a sight to make any commanding officer
furious, his uniform ripped and torn, blackened with coal and smoke and
dried blood, cuts on his hands roughly covered with a twisted hankerchief.
Seeing his Captain, who, to a junior midshipman, was a remote being very
close to God, Towers stiffened to attention and spoke, "Sir, reporting
The captain nodded and spoke in his turn,"Stand easy", and continued
looking at his junior midshipman. He knew little of Towers, who, like the
rest of his class, had been posted from Dartmouth to the fleet a year early.
After the formal interview on joining, Towers had been just another
face among the junior officers. His report from Dartmouth had simply been,
"Quiet,determined and likely to make a competent officer in time."
"Tell me what you have been doing since we joined action". Towers flinched,
he had been expecting this ever since the angry reprimand from Lt Johnson
of 'X' turret. Scathing in his words, Lt Johnson had left no doubt of his
opinion and there obviously had been a report to the Captain. He
gathered himself together and spoke, his voice rasping as he detailed the
events from the hit on 'Y' turret, his order to flood the 13.5" magazine,
his organising of the fire parties and his order to flood the 4" magazine
as well. He stopped, appalled by the enormity of his actions when listed,
but confident that he had done what was necessary.
The Captain prompted him, "And then you took a party down to fight
the fire by 'Q' magazine?"
"Yes sir, I think the magazine is safe now, I left some hoses cooling
the bulkhead. The boiler rooms are in danger of being flooded and the rest
of the party are plugging splinter holes in the bulkheads. I came up to
report and recieved your order to come here sir." He stopped, and came
back to attention, "I did what I thought was right, sir."
He was surprised to hear the Captain say, "And you were. Had you not
ordered the flooding of the aft magazine, we would have gone. The second
hit on your turret set off the ready use cordite. It was quite spectacular
seeing a ton of cordite burn. The 4 inch magazine would have gone
as well had you not acted. You seem to have saved the ship at least twice
and possibly three times." The Captain paused, and adopted a more
formal tone, "Mr Towers, I must express my appreciation. Your actions have
been in the finest traditions of the Royal Navy and at a later date I will
ensure that your actions are properly recognised. Now, go and get your
wounds dressed and return to your duties."
Staggered and at a loss for words, Towers replied, "Aye-aye, Sir," and
left the bridge, glowing internally at the wholly unexpected praise. The
ladder was quickly traversed and on arrival at the deck he looked around
for the sickbay attendants. When he saw the line of severely wounded men
awaiting attention, his own wounds seemed trivial in comparison and he
decided to return to the fires, he could be useful there and not while
waiting in line. Returning past 'Q' turret, he saw Lt Soames and made his
way over to him,waiting until the Lieutenant saw him. "Sir, I've seen the
Captain, and I'm reporting for duty". Lt Soames was clearly busy,
but spared him a moment.
"I've heard you've done well Towers, now take charge of PO Owen's party.
I have detailed him to try and stop the flooding reaching the boiler rooms
and, mind you, you listen to what he advises."
Somewhat deflated, Towers replied, "Aye-aye Sir", and joined PO Owen.
Soon, he was leading the line of men back inside the smoke filled interior
of HMS Monarch, continuing the desperate struggle to contain the
On the bridge, Captain Smith looked at the smokescreen falling behind
and then at his battered ship toiling onward. He thought of the quiet young
midshipman who had accomplished so much, the men working to save the ship
and those who had given their lives. His training made him also try to
look ahead and contemplate the future. He turned and raised his binoculars
again to look at the distant shapes of the Grand Fleet. They too had been
battered but had a chance for victory on another day. Unless the destroyers
on the other side of the smoke held off the German battlecruisers, Monarch's
next fight would be her last. He looked again into the smoke.
7:38 pm. Charthouse Platform
Captain Smith kept his gaze fixed on the thinning edge of the smokescreen
and the barely visible flashes from the enemy duelling with Superb
and Dreadnought. Now that he knew where the enemy battlecruisers
were going to come from he had only seconds to decide whether to turn to
fully unmask his turrets. He could engage on this bearing if he continued
on the present course but 'Q' turret might be quickly masked, or by turning
towards the enemy give an extra freedom. It was an easy decision; he had
accepted that Monarch would never come home, all she could do now
would be to make her enemies pay a high price for her.
"Helm, come to North North East". He heard the order acknowledged and
sluggishly, Monarch listed into the turn. Picking up the navyphone,
he told Lt Ransome in 'B' turret of his intention to turn towards the enemy,
and..."Open fire when you can find a target". He replaced the
navyphone as, below him, the massive shapes of the forward turrets began
"Signalman, signal for Flag, 'Monarch to Flag 2BS. Enemy
bearing 105. Engaging.'" The lamp clattered away to the distant shapes
of the Grand Fleet. It would take a minute for her to complete her
turn to fully unmask her turrets and open fire but the turn onto a slightly
converging course with the enemy offered the greatest chance of damaging
him. Without her sisters, Monarch could not last long but she could
try and make their task easier. Captain Smith was at peace as the
first of the distant shapes opened fire.
7:38 pm. Deck abaft 'Q' Turret
The listing of the ship into the turn was the first warning and then
the grinding of the turret as it began the traverse across to the starboard
side. Ordinary Seaman Brookes was the first to realise the danger, "Move,
Move, they're going to open fire!" Brookes and the rest of the firefighting
party scattered as the barrels continued to train aft. Those who could,
ran forward on the disengaged side, others, including Brookes, desperately
climbed over the debris and towards the fires in an effort to get away
from the blast. They were hurried by the sudden sprouting of water columns
around Monarch and 30 seconds later another series of splashes towering
over the battered ship.
Monarch slowly completed her turn to unmask her turrets and straightened
up with the six 13.5" barrels trained directly abeam to starboard.
Aft, behind the fires, the smashed and impotent 'X' and 'Y' turrets
continued to point into the distance. The first salvo burst from 'Q' turret.
Dazed and deafened, Brookes slid down the ladder of the open hatch onto
the Main Deck. Seconds later, the next enemy salvo splashed short of Monarch.
7:40 pm. 'B' Turret
Lt Ransome concentrated on his sight, ignoring the flashes deeper within
the thinning smokescreen and the tower of water climbing up in front of
him. The forward superstructure still 'wooded' the righthand gun of his
turret and its rangefinder but 'A' and 'Q' were unmasked. The shape
coming into his sight was still obscured but from the size, it had to be
a dreadnought. It would do. He had already decided to open fire on the
first dreadnought to emerge from the smoke and maintain his fire upon her,
even if a better target was to appear. The visibility was going to
be too bad to range onto another target and with the loss of the director,
acquiring another target quickly was going to be almost impossible.
"ON" came the shout from 'A' turret and then "ON" from 'Q' . "Clear"
came the shout from his lefthand gun and then, "6000 yards", came the calm
voice of his rangetaker. "Set 6000 yards, follow my pointer", he
spoke into his phone as a column of water rose up beside him. "Set", came
the two replies, a long moment's wait until Monarch steadied on
her new course and the bearing remained constant, "Firing now" and he closed
the switches. The turret shuddered as the guns recoiled and the frenzy
of the loading cycle started.
Another column of water rose up in front of him. A quick curse and then........
"Short and left," came the call. "Up 500, follow pointer," no time to follow
procedures and find the line first before adjusting, but.... "A straddle
with the third salvo? After all this, we had better find out how
the Germans do that. Ready". The turret shuddered again as another salvo
roared away. A long moment's wait, then three shouts of "Short," as the
silver feathers rose in front of the shape. "Battlecruiser," he thought,
"Von der Tann?" but the shape was changing, "She's turning away,...
Ready," and another salvo roared away. A final set of flashes from the
enemy ship before she vanished and another column of water and then there
was no target left.
7:40 pm. Access passage to Port Engine Room
The water surged up along the passage and then again as the ship listed
into the turn. Caught by surprise, PO Owen slipped and fell
into the knee deep water knocking down Midshipman Towers as he went. A
chuckle from the rest of the party met them as they staggered to their
feet but Towers simply said, "Bathing time for all when we get to Scapa,"
and they bent down to again try to wedge the spar against the packing covering
the splinter holes.
Familar jolts transmitted through the hull froze them in place. Veterans
now, they knew they were under fire. Muttered curses were cut short by
Towers, "Let's finish the job here first, now heave." And they bent down
again, not even stopping when the shudder told of their own weapons firing.
The spar fell into place, wedging the packing home.
"Right", said PO Owen, "That'll hold it." "And now for the next lot
of holes". The party moved down the passage, feeling under the murky surface
for concealed holes and shining the cycle lamp. They ignored the jolts,
concentrating on the task in hand.
7:43 pm. 'B' Turret
The first columns of water were already climbing up beside Monarch
as 'B' turret steadied on it's new bearing. Lt Ransome's quick estimate
of the speed and relative bearing of the first enemy ship was accompanied
by the rangetaker beginning his chant of the ranges, "6 600 yards". Hands
steadied by the endless drills at Whale Island, Lt Ransome reset the brass
arcs of the speed and bearing nomographs on the fire table and shouted
the needed training adjustment at the trainer. A slight move of the turret
and the shout of "On" from the PO at the training lever, and 'B' turret
was laid onto the indicated bearing.
Shouting down the navyphone to 'A' and 'Q' turrets, "6 600 yards, follow
my pointer", a dragging pause and two shouts of "Ready" came back. Fast
as he had been, a set of splashes rose up in front as he tripped the firing
gongs and even as the last of the triple bells died away and the target
met his crosshairs, yet another tower of water rose up as his turret shuddered
with his first salvo. "Target is the lead Konig class", he muttered
into the navyphone as the cages rose up from the working chamber.
Two abrupt jolts felt rather than heard, told of hits, even as another
shell splash close aboard obscured observation of the fall of shot. Another
brief comment to the trainer, "That's at least two shooting at us, we really
must find out how they straddle so fast," and then as the breeches closed
and the other turrets reported in, he tripped the firing gongs. Monarch
was straddled again and the target was partly obscured by the forest of
splashes in front but as the wires crossed over the target with Monarch's
roll, he sent her second salvo away. This time, he was sure that he saw
a splash very close inboard of the target, even as the cages came up with
a clang into the loading position and the chain rammer drove the shell
into the chamber.
Abruptly, the whole turret shook and reverberated to an enormous sound
and impact, tossing him forward into his sight and despite the desperate
urgency of the moment, everything seemed to freeze for an instant. "Load,
Load, Load ", he screamed and the crews resumed their loading drill. A
confused babble of voices came up from the working chamber and resolved
into one shaky voice from his voicepipe, "The barbette armour is all dented
in forward, but we are all right in here." "Lucky," he thought, the shell
must have come in at the right angle to be deflected by the 3 inch thick
barbette armour before detonating.
"Ready," came the reports from the other turrets, an agony of waiting
while he stared through his sight and then, the shouts from his gun crews
of, 'Ready', as his breeches finally twisted shut. Not bothering with the
firing gongs, he tripped the switches and sent another salvo at his King's
enemies. He had been aware of many sudden jolts as his ship was hit but
he was again tossed out of his seat by yet another. Hauling himself back,
the trainer pointed at the clinometer and said, "Sir, I cannot bear on
the target, what shall I do?"
Lt Ransome focused on the clinometer and saw that the list exceeded
15 degrees and was increasing as he looked. His guns could not elevate
enough to reach the enemy. Monarch's battle was at an end.
Numbly, he said, " We can do nothing more than give them a chance. Clear
"Clear Turret", he shouted and as the crew fought their way up the listing
deck he repeated it down to the working chamber crew. He then started the
increasingly uphill climb to the rear of the turret as the working chamber
crew began scrambling up into the turret. Feet slipping and sliding on
the bare steel, ten of the crew of 'B' turret made it out. Lt Ransome was
not one of them.
7:43pm. Charthouse Platform
Captain Smith looked past the thinning edge of the smokescreen where
the German battlecruisers had vanished and then towards the flashes further
south where the leading ships of the German Line of Battle were emerging
from the haze. A grinding noise from forward as Lt Ransome turned the
massive shapes of the turrets onto their new bearing. A glance at the compass
and then even as the columns of water rose up beside his ship, he spoke,
"Signalman, send 'General Signal, repeat to Flag 2 BS. From Monarch.
Enemy Main Body in Line of Battle, course due North, speed 18 knots. Bearing
115 Range 7000 yds. Engaging.' Send until acknowledged." As
the first salvo roared from his guns, he moved to the front of the bridge.
Confident in his duty, he would stand facing his enemies while he could,
and besides, there was nothing else for him to do now, his decision
had been made when he turned towards the enemy battlecruisers. Below
him, the one 4 inch QF gun still operational, started to crash out its
rounds as well. The gunlayer would never get another chance to shoot at
an enemy battleship and was going to make the most of his opportunity.
Even as the lamp clattered away, other columns of water rose up beside
her and the first shells hit Monarch, jolting the superstructure
as they detonated deep inside her. Again the screech of approaching shells
as another ship joined in against them. More shell splashes beside her,
the falling towers of water washing over her decks and the stink of explosive
fumes joining the smoke of Monarch's fires. The sound of splinters
striking the ship was a continual accompanyment to the drumroll of exploding
shells. He raised his binoculars and looked at the leading enemy ship.
A scattered clump of white feathers rose short of her, Monarch's
shells were still not reaching her. Another jolt and a huge
burst of smoke and flame from a secondary explosion from amidships. A heart-stopping
moment as he turned, expecting the worst, and then 'Q' turret fired, "Not
'Q' magazine then," he spoke, "Probably the torpedo warhead store for the
midships tubes". The 4 inch continued to fire but Monarch was slowing,
"Engines gone as well, I expect," he spoke again.
"Acknowledged Sir", shouted the signalman as he turned to the Captain,
then gasped and fell with blood spouting from his chest as another hit
into the forward superstructure sent splinters whining through the bridge.
Huge towers of water stood up close alongside and the ship shuddered.
The list was worse. "No response to the helm", came the voice
from below. The 4 inch was silent now. Another hit and another. Again the
turrets fired, but it was increasingly difficult to keep his feet, Monarch
had minutes left.
Time to go. He turned to the others on the bridge, "Pass the word, Abandon
Ship, and good luck gentlemen." A last look around his bridge and then
he followed the others down to the deck. His last order was being passed
and men were gathering at the railings but seemed reluctant to jump. Grasping
the railings to keep his balance as he kicked off his shoes, he looked
back along the length of his ship at the fires now burning out of control.
It was incredible, the list was increasing rapidly as he watched and he
saw men grasping the rails and desperately attempting to climb up the now
steep deck and go sliding off as they lost their grip. For a moment, he
hoped that Monarch would settle, but a shudder ran through the ship
and he was flying through the air as Monarch rolled. An instant's
glimpse of the water and a steel cliff looming over him and the waters
closed over his head.
7:43 pm. Port Passageway abaft 'Q' turret
It sounded like a giant had smashed at them with a sledgehammer, the
burst of noise and flying chips of steel overwhelming them.
Two of the party were down, one silent and the other screaming in agony.
The shaky light of the cycle lamp revealed the wounded seaman clutching
his bloodied face and the other, face down in the water. PO Owen splashed
over to him and pulled him up, but it was clear that he was beyond help.
"What was that ?", asked a shaken voice.
"This," said Towers, pointing at two ragged holes through the bulkhead,
"I think it was a dud." Still shocked, they stared in amazement at the
twin holes. Another jolt and burst of sound.
"And now, I think, PO, we need to get to the deck and find out what
is going on."
PO Owen did not waste any time, "Along here, then up through the messroom
"Let's go and quick!" answered Towers and the party moved along the
smoke filled passage. Noises like the incredible sledgehammer of the dud
shell beat at them and slammed at their bodies until they reached the bottom
of the accessway. The greatest explosion yet picked them up and threw them
against the bulkhead. They were in darkness, the lamp had been smashed
by the last explosion. Driven by desperation, they groped around
for the ladder.
"Here," shouted Owen and clutching the rungs, they started climbing,
finding it harder and harder as their bodies tilted away from the ladder
with the increasing list. Owen reached the top first, and with a supreme
effort, grasped the securing clip and turning it with one hand, pushed
with his shoulder. It opened and clanged home against the deck. Owen clambered
out onto the deck and one by one they followed him into the open air.
"Go for the railing", shouted Towers and bracing himself on the hatch
coaming, grasped for and held a stanchion. Seconds later, the rest of his
party joined him by the rail. Turning, he looked along the deck. Monarch
had an awful list by this time, he could see men coming along the deck
simply sliding off along the debris. About 50 men had gathered by the side
but did not seem anxious to take to the water. Towers called out to them,
"Come on chaps, who's coming for a swim?"
Someone answered him,"She will float for a while yet.".
Towers shook his head and looked at his party, still clustered around
him, "Let's go," and clambering over the rail led them on a wild slide
down onto the bilge keel.
The North Sea - 11am 1 June 1915
"There" cried the port lookout, "Two points off the starboard
bow." A pause, "Wreckage in the water, Men in the water !" Ten minutes
later, the destroyer had stopped alongside the wreckage, lookouts and bridge
personnel tense and watchful while the rescue started. Men clambered down
a lowered net to assist the 15 survivors perched on Carly floats and the
remains of a companionway into the rope nets for hoisting aboard. The Duty
Officer and the sickbay attendant met them as they came aboard, grey and
gaunt after a night on the open sea. There were bodies too that were hauled
up, carefully but quickly, 50 and more, to be laid out with the others
picked up in the early morning.
As the destroyer got under way again, the Duty Officer sent a messenger
to the bridge, "15 survivors from HMS Monarch, two officers,
Captain Smith and Sub-Lt Jackson." Shortly, one blanket-wrapped
survivor was taken to the bridge. Lt Randall heard the footsteps
on the ladder and looked around at the blanketed and barefoot man entering
The Duty Officer spoke first, "Sir, this is Captain Smith of Monarch".
"Lt Randall sir, Welcome aboard Badger, can I offer you my cabin?
"Thank you, but have you picked up any more of my men?"
"No sir, we have picked up some from Commodore Hawksleys flotilla but
you are the only ones we have seen from Monarch."
Captain Smith was silent then simply said, "I had better see to my men."
Extract from the London Gazette 1 August 1915
Award of the Victoria Cross (Posthumous award)
P10934 Midshipman Charteris Towers RN
Stalag V (naval) Plaz 31 Aug 1915
PO Owen stared out at the sentry by the Commandant's Office and growled
to Ordinary Seaman Brookes, "What did that Hun want?"
Brookes made the standard reply to any NCO who did not expect an answer,
"Dunno PO." Owen did not even bother to reply. Brookes kept quiet, PO Owen
was a good sort but had been angry ever since the battle. That German torpedo
boat that had plucked them off the Carley float in the night had put paid
to any chance of getting home to his family. Besides, Brookes thought,
he would find out soon enough, he had been assigned as batman for the officer
camp in the next compound. The door opened and out stepped the naval commandant
smiling broadly and followed by Midshipman Towers who had the oddest expression
on his face. Brookes wondered what it was all about.
by Kim W.