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Chairman Tony Willis opened the meeting with his familiar reminders of what happened on February 7 over the years.
We were, once again, in a downstairs room and he was able to tell us that we should be back in the upstairs room for the March meeting as it would be available after changes had been completed.
Our secretary Fraser Suffield read out the list of apologies and reported that 19 members attended the January meeting. Treasurer Forbes Grant said that the accounts were healthy, but four members had still to pay their subscriptions.
Tony introduced our speaker, Scott Lindgren, a research fellow in naval history at Hull University, to tell us about the Battle of Jutland.
Scott started by telling us that there were several approaches to this story and quite a lot of myths. He would give the true aspects, as he had researched, and said it was necessary to abridge the subject drastically as it could take a whole day.
The ‘battle’, as it is normally referred to, took place on May 31 and June 1, 1916, and was the last big naval encounter in the Northern Hemisphere. It was fought between the British Grand Fleet, commanded by Admiral John Jellicoe, and the German High Fleet, commanded by Vice Admiral Reinhard Scheer. The British had 28 Dreadnought class ships, opposed to 16 with the Germans, and nine Battle Cruisers, opposed to five with the Germans.
Overall, the British were numerically stronger, but sustained more losses, with over 6,000 seamen killed compared with just over 2,500 German seamen.
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The second-in-command of the British fleet was Vice Admiral David Beatty, a very capable, but slipshod officer. There seems to have been little communication between Jellicoe and Beatty, not helped by a slip-up in intelligence when the wrong codeword was transmitted from Room 40, the equivalent of Bletchley Park in World War II. The message indicated that the German fleet was still in harbour, which it was not.
The second-in-command of the German fleet was Vice Admiral Franz Hipper. An encounter with Beatty made him realise that the German fleet was not in harbour and he proceeded to lead it towards the Grand Fleet of Jellicoe. The ensuing exchanges caused the high fatalities and the German fleet withdrew in the face of superior fire power. Jellicoe ordered that it should not be followed as he feared a trap of either mines or U-boats.
Neither fleet could claim victory, but it did leave the British in control of the North Atlantic and the Germans to rely on U-boats to try to stop merchant shipping reaching England.
He ended with the usual question and answer session.
Brian Crawford gave the vote of thanks, pointing out how absorbing the talk had been and so enthusiastically presented.