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HMS Barham at the Battle of Jutland
HMS Barham was laid down on 24 February 1913 and commissioned on 19 August 1915 as a Portsmouth ship. She was chosen as the flagship of the fifth battle squadron with Rear-Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas the first to raise his flag. The squadron consisted of herself, HMS Valiant, HMS Warspite and HMS Malaya (HMS Queen Elizabeth was in refit at the time of the battle) and was normally part of the Grand Fleet based at Scapa Flow under Admiral Jellico. After German battle cruisers had bombarded Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth on 25 April 1916 the squadron was moved south to Rosyth on 21/22 May. It now came under command of Acting Vice-Admiral Beatty and his 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron but still part of the Grand Fleet.
On the 30 May a German signal sent to all the ships of the High Seas Fleet was intercepted and the Admiralty who ordered the Grand Fleet to sea. The 5th battle squadron was placed astern and to port of, but 5 miles from Beatty's flagship and his squadron steaming south-eastward. At 1400 on the 31st Beatty ordered a planned turn of his force to the north east to join the remainder of the Grand Fleet. Soon after 1430 with reports of German naval activity Beatty turned to his east to cut off a German retreat. Rear Admiral Hipper in Command of the German battlecruisers Lutzow, Derfflinger, Seydlitz, Moltke and Der Tann sighted Beatty's force and tried to draw them on to the High Seas Fleet, both forces turning south. The two lines opened fire at 1545. Due to its position relative to Beatty's battlecruiser squadron there was a delay before the 5th Battle Squadron came into range.
On board HMS Barham all hands were piped to action stations at 1440. At 1550 the German battlecruisers were sighted and HMS Barham opened fire six minutes later when the ship was steaming at 25 knots. After two or three salvos the German light cruisers turned away. After turns to the south east fire was opened again at 1606 at a range of 18000 yards. At 1621 the enemy replied and straddled HMS Barham. Two minutes later she received her first hit, at section 62 which exploded in a main deck reading room but caused no serious damage.
At 1635 Hipper sighted the High Seas Fleet and turned north again and 6 minutes later Beatty also ordered a turn north but this was not received by the 5th Battle Squadron until repeated at 1654.
The second hit at 1658 abreast B turret at section 72 was the most destructive. It plunged through the upper deck, wrecked the medical store and auxiliary wireless office causing severe damage to light structure. It had a marked incendiary effect on the adjacent sick bay where 24 of the crew were killed. It passed on down to the lower conning tower where the assistant navigator Lieutenant Reginald Blyth and his assistant Midshipman Alex Doddington were keeping the ship's position plotted. This piece of shell almost severed Blyth's leg and although Doddington did his best to tie a tourniquet, he was much handicapped owing to the lights going out. Blyth died from loss of blood. The piece of shell continued down killing a seaman in a 6" magazine.
The third hit at section 126 and exploded in the Officers WC's. The fourth a 12 inch shell from SMS Lutzow exploded in the gunroom at section 182 with a part continuing down to the Engineers workshop. The fifth hit at section 240 and exploded in the Admiral's cabin and wrecked everything in his quarters.
In all 26 were killed and a further 37 wounded, two subsequently died of wounds. 20 those killed were buried at sea and their names are on the Royal Naval Memorials at Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth. Six including the chaplain were buried at Lyness in the Orkneys where there is a memorial stone to all the sailors lost erected by their shipmates.
The 5th Battle squadron was ordered to join the Grand Fleet steaming south and formed up at the back of the lines of warships taking no further part in the action. Except HMS Valiant the other ships of the squadron were also hit, HMS Lion at least 9 times, HMS Tiger at least 7 times, HMS Malaya at least 3 hits and HMS Warspite 12 or more. HMS Barham and the other ships of the 5th in turn set two enemy battle cruisers on fire the Derfflinger and the Seydlitz which was close to sinking. The Lutzow was crippled and scuttled by a German torpedo.
The undamaged HMS Valiant and the 2nd Battle Squadron returned to Rosyth. The remainder of the 5th Battle Squadron returned to Scapa Flow. The dead were put ashore and ships were tidied up and reloaded with ammunition before sailing south to be refitted.
Michael K Stratton-Brown
This story of HMS Barham's part in the battle of Jutland has been extracted from the following sources:
List Of Those Killed and Died of Burns
Blyth, Lieutenant RN, Reginald Edward was buried at Holllybrook Memorial, Southampton.
The following were buried at sea and are named on Chatham Naval Memorial:
The following were buried at sea and are named on Plymouth Naval Memorial:
The following were buried at sea and are named on Portsmouth Naval Memorial:
Carter, Private Royal Marine Light Infantry, Harry, died of wounds (burns) on 20 June 1916 and was buried at Wandswort (Streatham) Cemetery, London. Clements, Petty Officer 2nd Class, Henry Crawford's died of wounds on 29 May 1917 and was buried at Dover (Buckland) Cemetery, Kent.
| last updated:
21 June 2016