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SMS Schleswig-Holstein in the Great War - The Wartime Memories Project -

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SMS Schleswig-Holstein



31st May 1916 Battle of Jutland  On 31 May 1916, the 2nd Battlecruiser Squadron consisted of HMS New Zealand (flagship of Rear Admiral William Christopher Pakenham) and HMS Indefatigable. (Australia was still under repair following her collision with New Zealand.) The squadron was assigned to Admiral Beatty's Battlecruiser Fleet, which had put to sea to intercept a sortie by the High Seas Fleet into the North Sea. The British were able to decode the German radio messages and left their bases before the Germans put to sea. Hipper's battlecruisers spotted the Battlecruiser Fleet to their west at 1520, but Beatty's ships didn't spot the Germans to their east until 1530. Two minutes later, he ordered a course change to east-south-east to position himself astride the German's line of retreat and called his ships' crews to action stations. He also ordered the 2nd BCS, which had been leading, to fall in astern of the 1st BCS. Hipper ordered his ships to turn to starboard, away from the British, to assume a south-easterly course, and reduced speed to 18 knots to allow three light cruisers of the 2nd Scouting Group to catch up. With this turn, Hipper was falling back on the High Seas Fleet, then about 60 miles behind him. Around this time, Beatty altered course to the east as it was quickly apparent that he was still too far north to cut off Hipper. Thus began the so-called "Run to the South" as Beatty changed course to steer east-south-east at 1545, paralleling Hipper's course, now that the range closed to under 18,000 yards. The Germans opened fire first at 3:48, followed by the British. The British ships were still in the process of making their turn, and only the two leading ships, HMS Lion and HMS Princess Royal, had steadied on their course when the Germans opened fire. The British formation was echeloned to the right with Indefatigable in the rear and the furthest to the west, and New Zealand ahead of her and slightly further east. The German fire was accurate from the beginning, but the British overestimated the range as the German ships blended into the haze. Indefatigable aimed at SMS Von der Tann, while New Zealand, unengaged herself, targeted SMS Moltke. By 3:54, the range was down to 12,900 yards (11,800 m) and Beatty ordered a course change two points to starboard to open up the range at 3:57. Indefatigable was destroyed at about 4:03, when her magazines exploded. After Indefatigable's loss, New Zealand shifted her fire to Von der Tann in accordance with Beatty's standing instructions. The range had grown too far for accurate shooting, so Beatty altered course four points to port to close the range again between 1612 and 1615. By this time, the 5th Battle Squadron, consisting of four Queen Elizabeth-class battleships, had closed up and was engaging Von der Tann and Moltke. At 1623, a 13.5-inch shell from HMS Tiger struck near Von der Tann's rear turret, starting a fire among the practice targets stowed there that completely obscured the ship and caused New Zealand to shift fire to Moltke. At 1626, the ship was hit by an 11 inch shell, fired by Von der Tann, on 'X' barbette that detonated on contact and knocked loose a piece of armour that briefly jammed 'X' turret and blew a hole in the upper deck. Four minutes later, Southampton, scouting in front of Beatty's ships, spotted the lead elements of the High Seas Fleet charging north at top speed. Three minutes later, she sighted the topmasts of Vice-Admiral Reinhard Scheer's battleships, but did not transmit a message to Beatty for another five minutes. Beatty continued south for another two minutes to confirm the sighting himself before ordering a sixteen point turn to starboard in succession. New Zealand, the last ship in the line, turned prematurely to stay outside the range of the oncoming battleships. A chunk of armour knocked from New Zealand's 'X' turret during the Battle of Jutland on display at the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum in Auckland New Zealand was straddled several times by the battleship SMS Prinzregent Luitpold but was not hit. Beatty's ships maintained full speed in an attempt to increase the distance between them and the High Seas Fleet and gradually moved out of range. They turned north and then north-east to try to rendezvous with the main body of the Grand Fleet. At 1740, they opened fire again on the German battlecruisers. The setting sun blinded the German gunners and, as they could not make out the British ships, they turned away to the north-east at 1747. Beatty gradually turned more towards the east to allow him to cover the deployment of the Grand Fleet in battle formation and to move ahead of it, but he mistimed his manoeuvre and forced the leading division to fall off towards the east, further away from the Germans. By 1835, Beatty was following Indomitable and HMS Inflexible of the 3rd BCS as they were steering east-south-east, leading the Grand Fleet, and continuing to engage Hipper's battlecruisers to their south-west. A few minutes earlier, Scheer had ordered a simultaneous 180 starboard turn and Beatty lost sight of the High Seas Fleet in the haze. Twenty minutes later, Scheer ordered another 180 turn which put them on a converging course again with the Grand Fleet, which had altered course to the south. This allowed the Grand Fleet to cross Scheer's T, forming a battle line that cut across his battle line and badly damaging his leading ships. Scheer ordered yet another 180 turn at 1913 in an attempt to extricate the High Seas Fleet from the trap into which he had sent them. This was successful and the British lost sight of the Germans until 2005, when HMS Castor spotted smoke bearing west-north-west. Ten minutes later, she had closed the range enough to identify German torpedo boats, and engaged them. Beatty turned west upon hearing gunfire and spotted the German battlecruisers only 8,500 yards away. Inflexible opened fire at 2020, followed by the rest of Beatty's battlecruisers.

New Zealand and Indomitable concentrated their fire on SMS Seydlitz, and hit her five times before she turned west to disengage. Shortly after 2030, the pre-dreadnought battleships of Rear Admiral Mauve's II Battle Squadron were spotted and fire switched to them. The Germans had poor visibility and were able to fire only a few rounds at them before turning away to the west. The British battlecruisers hit the German ships several times before they blended into the haze around 2040. After this, Beatty changed course to south-south-east and maintained that course, ahead of both the Grand Fleet and the High Seas Fleet, until 0255 the next morning, when the order was given to reverse course and head home.

New Zealand fired 420 twelve-inch shells during the battle, more than any other ship on either side. Despite this, only four successful hits were credited to the battlecruiser. Three on Seydlitz and one on the pre-dreadnought SMS Schleswig-Holstein. She was hit only once during the battle, confirming for the crew the piupiu and tiki worn by her new captain, J.F.E. (Jimmy) Green, brought good luck.

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SMS Schleswig-Holstein

during the Great War 1914-1918.

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