Royal Naval Museum

 

 

Illustrations of battle damage from the Battle of Jutland, 31st May 1916

In 2002 the Museum was generously given a small volume containing c.80 drawings showing the damage to the ships of the British Fleet at the Battle of Jutland (RNM Manuscript 2002/14).  The volume is a rich source for research into the Battle, and vividly shows dangers which crews faced, but in some ways the volume is still a mystery.

The watercolour drawings were made as the ships were in dockyards for repair.  Initially there is an aerial view of each ship showing the pattern of hits to both port (marked green) and starboard (marked red).  These are accompanied by exquisitey done, close up illustrations of damage caused by shell fire, torpedoes, collision and fire and internal explosion.  All have a description of exactly how the damage occured.

Hits to HMS Warspite

Close up of damage to HMS Warspite

The book came from the family of Sir Charles Walker who was a clerk at the Admiralty in 1916 and was later Deputy Secretary.  The volume must have been commissioned by an Admiralty department; it contains such sensitive information about the construction and performance of Royal Navy ships and is based on privileged access to dockyards, but lots of questions remain.  Which department commissioned it?  Were any other copies made? Why did the Admiralty not use photographs?  How was it possible to complete the drawings of 38 separate ships before they were repaired and rejoined their squadrons? 

Choice of Matthew Sheldon, Head of Research Collections

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