Remembering the Battle of Jutland

Louis Thomas Burrows, back row fourth from right, pictured during his naval training at HMS Ganges
Louis Thomas Burrows, back row fourth from right, pictured during his naval training at HMS Ganges

Last week marked the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland and the milestone was particularly poignant for Melvyn Burrows, whose grandfather was a sailor on HMS Indomitable.

Louis Thomas Burrows, who was born on August 8, 1896, joined the Navy in 1912 aged 15.

During the Battle of Jutland four years later – the largest naval battle of the First World War – Able Seaman Burrows was a director gunner aboard HMS Indomitable.

The battle, which lasted just 36 hours, took place between the German High Sea Fleet and the British Grand Fleet off the coast of Denmark on Wednesday, May 31 and Thursday, June 1, 1916.

There was no clear winner and more than 6,000 British sailors lost their lives.

Melvyn, 60, who lives in Cherryholt Road, Stamford, has a copy of a handwritten account of the battle which was produced by one of his grandfather’s shipmates – James Henry Moore, also a gunner.

Melvyn said: “I have been thinking about my grandfather a lot recently as the 100th anniversary approached.

“He rarely discussed the war but his shipmate’s account of the battle is a treasured family possession and a fascinating read.”

150 British and 99 German vessels carrying more than 100,000 sailors took part. 14 warships from the British Grand Fleet – including HMS Invincible and HMS Indefatigable – were sunk, alongside 11 from the German fleet.

Able Seaman Burrows was mentioned in dispatches to the admiralty for his role in the battle, and also the Battle of Dogger Bank in which he played a part in the sinking of the German battle cruiser Blücher, on January 24, 1915.

Louis Thomas Burrows, from Kent, died in 1981 at the age of 85.

Here we reproduce extracts from James Henry Moore’s handwritten account of May 31, 1916.

“5.45pm: Two enemy destroyers were sighted and Invincible opened fire on them. At 5.55pm we sighted and headed off two enemy light cruisers, which altered course on seeing us, apparently panic stricken, discharging torpedoes at us at the same time, Indomitable engaging the right hand ship and sinking her.

“The explosion was terrific and after the smoke had cleared away there was not even a piece of wreckage to denote where she was sunk. Our squadron firing at the other, set her on fire.”

Referring to the sinking of the Invincible, he wrote: “The projectile most probably penetrated the roof of a turret, exploding inside, igniting the charges in the gun-loading and main cages, the flash going down the trunk and ignting the charges in the handling room, thus entering the magazine which simply blew the ship in halves.”