The Battle of Jutland

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New Zealander Captain David Boyle recalls the World War I naval battle in which he served on the HMS New Zealand in 1916.

He first lists the numbers and types of ships which were involved in the battle, and gives details of the losses suffered by both sides.

Captain Boyle was Lieutenant in charge of two 12 inch turret guns on HMS New Zealand. He was in Edinburgh the day before the Battle of Jutland, and was playing tennis when he was rung and ordered back to the ship immediately at 3.30pm. He describes how he hailed a policeman to commandeer a taxi to deliver him and other officers to the docks. They sailed at 9pm with the other battle-cruisers and destroyers into the North Sea. They sailed with no lights and there was an ebb-tide flowing out of the Firth of Forth which made things difficult.

The alarm bell went at about three in the afternoon as ships ahead of them had noticed smoke on the horizon. They were in action within half an hour against five German battlecruisers. At about half past three, the Queen Mary blew up ahead of them and half of the ship nearly hit the HMS New Zealand - many smaller bits did land on them. He saw several men struggling in the water. Years later, he met one of those men on the ferry from Wellington to Christchurch.

The Indefatigable was hit just ahead of them. He saw the shells go in, and within five seconds it also blew up completely. Only five people were saved from that ship. The casualties from both the Indefatigable and the Queen Mary were 2,200.

At about half past four they sighted the leading ships of the grand fleet, and let them past to take on the German battlecruisers. Unfortunately two more were destroyed in a matter of seconds.

Visibility was getting bad and it was getting dark as the German fleet headed towards the west. Jellicoe had to decide whether to follow them or turn south. The HMS New Zealand steamed all night, not knowing where the rest of their fleet or the enemy was.

At daylight a Zeppelin appeared on the horizon. They had been told to shoot one if possible so he aimed one of his guns and fired, but only got within five hundred yards of it. They steamed back over the battlefield the next day and saw a tremendous number of dead Germans floating, and debris from sunken ships.

The following afternoon the battle cruisers arrived back in Rosyth. The HMS New Zealand was the only one not badly hit. On shore the whole pier was lined with the wives and families of men who had gone to sea the day before. He was overwhelmed with requests about what had happened to the Queen Mary and the Indefatigable, but he replied he did not know, as nothing official had appeared. His gun turret had been hit by a shell and suffered a hole but there were no casualties.

When in New Zealand in 1913, the Captain of HMS New Zealand was given a Māori mat to wear in action by a Chief in the North. He was told if he wore it, the ship would be hit once or twice but there would be no casualties and it would not be sunk. He was also given a tiki by a man in Auckland, and the sailors were adamant that the Captain should wear them in battle.

Just before they went into the battle, Boyle had a request from one of his turret's crew to ask the bridge if the captain was wearing the tiki and the mat. He did so, and reported the Captain was wearing them, which resulted in a loud cheer from the crew.

His turret's guns were worn out when they got back into Rosyth and had to be changed. There was tremendous controversy after the battle as to the result. On paper the British losses were heavier, but the morale of the German battlecruisers deteriorated whereas the British improved. His personal opinion is that it was a British victory.

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Year 1959

Reference number 35290

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Ngā Taonga Korero Collection

Genre Oral histories
Interviews (Sound recordings)
Sound recordings

Credits Boyle, Alexander David, 1887-1965, Speaker/Kaikōrero

Duration 00:27:10

Date 1959

Subject New Zealand (Battleship)
Jutland, Battle of, 1916