22 JANUARY 1921, Page 12


[To THE EDITOR Of THE " SPECTATOR."] SIR,—As Admiral Mark Kerr points out, " it is impossible to reconstruct the battle [of Jutland] from the papers which have been issued," and until the Admiralty has been induced to ptiblish the results of the labours of Captain Harper's com- mittee we must remain deprived of an accurate track chart showing the movements of the fleets and ships. Much, how- ever, can be learned from a careful study of the voluminous material which has been given to us, and from some of the comments I have read it is clear that such a study has been omitted.

Admiral Mark Kerr says that peace experiments were made to ascertain the risk of a fleet from torpedo attack. Without full knowledge of the nature of these experiments it is hopeless to attempt to estimate their practical value. Such experiments always need correction. The figures given " Turning towards the enemy, sixty hits received; not turning, forty hits," &c., must apparently be mistaken, because a turn towards the enemy, by reducing the size of the target and introducing the probability of the deflection of the torpedo, cannot, apparently, increase the risk. On this slender foundation Admiral Mark Kerr bases the conclusion that " the Grand Fleet would have been practically destroyed " if it had not turned away. I cannot find the smallest evidence in support of this theory, and I should expect that the experience of the Battle of Jutland would cause the turn-away tactics, when the enemy is firing torpedoes at long range " into the brown," to be now abandoned.

The excellent dispatch of Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty shows plainly that before he sighted the Grand Fleet at 5.56 -p.m. he had already headed off the enemy, and, knowing that Admiral Jellicoe was then " N. 5 miles," he at once altered course to E. and closed the Germans to 12,000 yards. The Battle Cruiser Fleet was thus between the enemy and Admiral Jellicoe when the latter appeared on the scene in six columns, and I cannot follow the account of "R. N." At 6.15 p.m. the signal for the fateful deployment of the Grand Fleet was made, and the Flagship appears to have reached the'turning-point at 6.21 p.m. The effect was to move the leading ships away from the enemy, so that later the Grand Fleet lost touch of Admiral Beatty. The firing of the leading (2nd) Battle Squadron is explained in the lucid summary of Vice-Admiral Jerram, and the difficulties experienced are evident. At no time was it possible to bring " the whole of the British Fleet's broadside to bear on the leading ship of the Germans," as "R. N." states. Nor was there, in the circumstances, any chance for Admiral Scheer to cross "Lord Jellicoe's T." Deployment on the starboard column would obviously have had disadvantages; but, in the conditions of visibility and the then disposition of the Germans, "the entire broadside" of the High Sea Fleet could not have been brought to bear upon the ` Marl- borough.' It is easy to be wise after the event; but, so far as can ho seen, deployment on a centre column—an evolution which appears to have been struck out of the signal book— would have been the best manoeuvre. "R. N." states that "Lord Jellicoe at the completion of his deployment had placed the Grand Fleet between Germany and von Scheer "; but this desirable result was evidently not attained till a later period, after Admiral Beatty had signalled " Present course of Fleet is south "—a course which the Commander-in-Chief then followed. "If," writes "R. N.," "the offensive spirit can .only be kept alive by a rigorous suppression of all such study of tactics and strategy," the " safe keeping of the fleet " must be entrusted to " slap-dash enthusiasts." I need hardly say that the offensive demands much more study than the defensive, that it has been mastered only by the greatest Admirals and Generals, and that inferior commanders have frequently conducted a creditable defensive.

The outstanding explanation of certain aspects of the Battle of Jutland and of some other incidents in the war is, as you,

Sir, have indicated, mainly psychological. The Admiralty had made a picture in which the torpedo assumed terrific proportions. It had e:ome to be thought that a superior fleet was justified in retiring if an inferior enemy was well supplied with these weapons. The-Battle of Jutland was won by the use tf the gun.- The torpedo played, as in the Russo-Japanese war, a quite disappointing role, and the sub- marine was nowhere. Most fortunately for the British Navy, the picture was not hanging in Sir D. Beatty's cabin.—I am,