The Sea Battle Off the Skagerrak on 31 May 1916

by Korvettenkapitan Richard Foerster, the I Artillerie Offizier of S.M.S. Seydlitz

We were proud of our ship, S.M.S. Seydlitz, all up from the youngest recruits to the Kommander. On the 23rd of May 1913 we were commissioned in Kiel under the command of Kapitan zur See Moritz von Egidy, then the biggest and most beautiful ship of the German Fleet. The crew came from the Panzer Kreuzer Yorck , which was decommissioned, with extra recruits and professional personnel supplementing the requisite numbers for the twice as large Panzer Kreuzer Seydlitz. After a short period of strenuous trials and exercises which covered the building and workings of the shiny ship, in the summer of 1913 the ship joined the units of the High Sea Fleet as battle ready.

We were proud of our ship, because we were flagship of the BdA (1), Admiral Hipper. The rear most gun turret had the large words written in gold on it: "All Ahead." They were an incentive for the crew, to give their best and highest in peace and war, and they should be valid in battle, before all to go at the enemy, just as the others of the High Sea Fleet.

And soon our proud ship was in battle and recognized it's worth. Twice we had approached the English coast and surprised the garrisons of the coastal fortifications; especially on December 1914 when we had bruised them. On January 24th 1915 we had for the first time encountered our direct adversaries, the English battlecruisers.

At the end of May 1916 we lay on outpost duty on the Schillig Roads; the Admiral had shifted his flag to Lutzow, and had the intention of using the newer and more strongly armed ship as his flagship.

On May 30th a lively activity developed itself on Schillig Roads; during the course of the day one ship after another, one torpedoboote flottille after another assembled of the Roads, and by evening the entire High Sea Fleet had gathered there. It was a proud moment, the five Battlecruisers, the three Battle Squadrons, the many slim Kleinen Kreuzers and numerous torpedobootes, all in industrious readiness, and the smoke from all boilers indicated "steam on in all boilers!" Each knew "today we are loose, there are big plans." What 'loose' meant and should be only a few knew, because it was our experience that the operations were held in the strictest confidence, and the kommanders of the ships were only aware of the plans after we put to sea on the operation.

About 3hrs during the night we Panzerkreuzers were first to weigh anchor and put to sea, followed by the remaining ships. During this night I could say to my men, "Today we go to a great operation. We shall thrust up to the Kattegat and there disrupt the Swedish-English trade. If we achieve this, with certainty the enemy forces will be alarmed and go there; then our entire High Sea Fleet will meet them and send them to their God." That they could all understand, and in expectation, hope and enthusiasm went to the guns."

The 31st of May was a clear and beautiful day. The fresh breeze blew from the from the NW, but unfortunately this made the use of our airships for reconnaissance impossible. However, our Fleetchief, Admiral Scheer, did not want to await the arrival of weather suitable for airships; he wanted to "out and attack the enemy." So we drove out to the north on 31st of May, screened by our Kleinen Kreuzers and Torpedobootes. It became afternoon without us seeing anything of the enemy, and it was time really for us to return. Shortly before 4hrs I sat with my starboard watch in the mess, and we spoke over the possibility that we would now make a turn, change direction and return home. Then our rudder engine suddenly rattled quickly and continually, that is the rudder was put hard over, and therefore something had happened. I went on deck and saw that the Panzerkreuzers had turned to port and were running with utmost power to the NW. Therefore something must have been sighted or reported. I went like the wind to the kommand bridge; on the way there I heard the sound of the drums and horns that signaled "Clear ship for action." Now all was in motion, and in a few seconds the telephone reports began arriving in the Artillerie Kommand position:

"Turret A (Anna) is clear; port casemate is clear; munition transport is clear; battle repair position is clear; turret C (Caesar) is clear, etc."

Immediately thereon I could report to the kommander that the overall artillerie was "clear for action." Now the kommander discussed with his senior officers the situation according to the arriving wireless report; the Kleinen Kreuzers had pushed onto enemy light cruisers and a fight had developed between them; we now ran to them to interfere. Of the heavy English forces nothing was yet reported, however, it was likely that they were advancing behind the English light forces. I went to my post in the artillerie kommand position, to check the serviceability of the order apparatus. All was okay: the untiring work and worries of the artillery mechanics meant that all technical connections were serviceable. The innumerable apparatus and equipment had gradually given up their faults and tricks and worked reliably, the military connections for the employment of the artillery arm, and the vital order transmitter personnel were in the best hands with Oberleutnant zur See Harry Habler. He sat in the middle, below in the ship, in the artillerie zentral, and from there had telephone, telegraph and speaking tube connections to all artillerie battle stations. I conveyed all my orders to him from the command position through my telephone headset, and he gave the arrangements and ensured that they were correctly understood and executed. Through daily practice one on top of the other we were in tune with one another.

Meanwhile we approached ever nearer the enemy at rushing speed. In the clear weather we sighted, though still at immeasurable range, several enemy dreadnoughts. Now therefore, after our period of readiness, we could again get their measure. Soon we recognized the old well known foe from the Dogger Bank, Lion, Princess Royal etcetera. Also Tiger seemingly, with her well known silhouette. Had we deceived ourselves, and now Tiger still lived after the battle of 24th January 1915? However there was no time for these considerations, and with each minute we came quickly nearer, and all nerves were harnessed towards one aim, to destroy the enemy.

As we were in a favourable position to the enemy we turned off to the south, to engage the enemy battlecruisers in a running battle on parallel courses and pull towards our advancing main body. Behind the English battlecruisers we observed battleships, which we recognized as being of the Malaya class, and therefore from the beginning we were outnumbered two to one. On a southerly course the two lines of panzer kreuzers came ever nearer. My range 200hm, 190hm, 180hm, 170hm 160hm; well does no one want to open fire? On our side I could understand it, we preferred to deal with the enemy at low range where the results of our guns on their comparatively weak armour of the English ships would be greater, but why were the English so reticent until now?

At 150hm the flagship signaled "open fire!" ,"Drauf Seydlitz!" (2) the old battle parole of the Rittergeneral, which we had adopted as our battle cry. Then the command "salvo fire", and 'ruummms!' out rushed the 28cm shells from our barrels.

Our target was the tactical position corresponding to that of us in the line, the third ship in the enemy line that I recognized as Queen Mary. There we spoke of our English sistership; built at the same time, put into service on almost the same day, approximately the same size, and the pride of the English fleet.

Immediately after we had fired our first salvo I saw on our opponent the flash of muzzle fire, and shortly afterwards arrived their first greeting to us. And now the battle ranted, a deafening noise, the thunder of our gunfire and of the other ships in our line, mixing with the crashes around us from shells bursting in the water. The sea to cook with wide circles, the surface was troubled by the innumerable splashes of splinters, and now and then the water columns climbed turret high, climbing vertically after the detonation of heavy shells. We had quickly caught our opponent, Queen Mary; one salvo over, the next short, and held them in rapid salvo fire. Then, approximately ten minutes after the opening of fire, Habler reported to me by telephone, "Turret Caesar does not give any answer; from the speaking tube of turret Caesar smoke is penetrating the artillerie zentral." This was exactly the same report that I had received on January 24 on the Dogger Bank, also at the beginning of the battle. I therefore knew what this report signified. The cartridges were in flames, and the turret was put out of action.

Almost mechanically I gave the order: "Flood magazine of turret C." This would put the chamber under water, and prevent further danger. The salvo's fell, although at the great range--130 to 140hm (13 to 14 kilometres)--the results of individual hits could not be observed. Suddenly on our opponent I saw a flash in the aft ship, that grew visibly, and this offered to the eye a scene that could move one deeply, but this could not be thought of. In a giant smoke cloud the ship seemed to lift itself from the water, shattered in the middle, with debris flying all around, the whole picture is framed in a blue-red fire glow. In my battle protocol I find written: "6,22hrs, our opponent has blow up, direction 88, 130hm." After a moment of hesitation, the report was passed everywhere in the ship through telephone and speaking tubes; "Our opponent has blown up." "Drauf Seydlitz!" is the reply, and with doubled enthusiasm they went to work. "Target change right, on the next ship in the enemy line," I commanded, and the two way fight continued with a new opponent.

Towards 6.30hrs the English destroyers broke through their line and rushed to attack us. Thereon the II Artillerie Offizier, Arel Lowe, allowed his medium artillery to shoot and many of Seydlitz shells landed among the advancing destroyers. To repulse the English destroyer attack our torpedobootes counter attacked and a wild melee developed between the two cruiser lines, a wonderfully beautiful picture of a modern sea battle. However, there was no time in battle to ponder; suddenly there was a gigantic bang in the vicinity of the command tower, I flew high and bashed my head against something above; red appeared before my eyes. The ship put itself hard over and only slowly righted itself. What had happened? At first I believed that a heavy shell had struck near the command tower and thought of the sheep, as the managing officers who assembled in the command tower were referred to in our peacetime shooting training. In this training events were called thus; "Damage so and so, the sheep live." We lived also, and this was a comforting feeling, but I feared for myself because I had received a sharp blow in the area of my eyes. In a moment I confirmed through the observation glasses that both by eyes were in order, but the red glimmer of blood ran down my forehead straight into my eyes. I could continue. The English battleships had meanwhile arrived within range and could intervene in the battle; the first 38cm shell rushed at us and we lay in the concentrated fire of double the number of ships as us, with considerably heavier artillery, which was uncomfortable. Then in the south the dead straight line of big ships came in sight, and with 'utmost power' the battle line steamed nearer to intervene. At this moment the English fire paused, as they turned away to the north. We turned before the head of our main body and tool up the battle on a northerly course.

I learned later that the great crash had been caused by a torpedo hit in the forward part of the ship. It had not caused us much damage, only the outer hull side was penetrated; inside the so called torpedo bulkhead had successfully kept the damage away from the ship's interior, so that no water invaded; our battle capability was not impaired in the least.

The remainder of the English battlecruisers--two of the six, Queen Mary and Indefatigable, were destroyed, the latter by Korvettenkapitan Mahrholz who directed the fire of S.M.S. Von der Tann--ran off with their superior speed to the north and at 7hrs were outside the range of our guns. They would have to wait until later to interfere in the battle.

7 hours: "Battle pause, transport the wounded." Through the powder smoke of a hundred firing guns and the funnel smoke of innumerable ships and boats traveling at continuous full steam, the air between the lines was foully dull, almost becoming foggy, so that the enemy on a northern course ran into this clouded area and was soon lost to sight. The battle pause was also used to bring the wounded to the dressing station, to clear the battle stations and to possibly remove more extensive battle disruptions. As Leader of the artillerie I received reports over events from the artillerie stations, about the battle condition of the arms and the munitions remaining. That turret C had fallen out I already knew; but some consolation lay in the report that not all the serving crewmen had perished. From our experience at the Dogger Bank we had learned improved protection arrangements and more than half those serving in turret C had saved their lives. The gas masks had proved especially welcome, and had only been brought on board a few days previously. Apart from turret C the heavy artillery was undamaged. From the medium artillery we received the report: "Starboard VI casemate fallen out, all serving dead except for the Priest."

What had happened to the starboard VI casemate? While I was thinking over the reports and through the telephone inquired further, two wounded souls came onto the command bridge; it was Leutnant zur See Fliess, commander of turret C, and the priest. When some powder in the turret ignited Fliess and some other men were thrown out of the hole in the rear of the turret (3) by air pressure and were hurled on deck. In defiance of bad burns--his head and hands were totally burnt--he climbed back to a command position and there put himself at the disposal of the Leader of torpedoes. During the battle pause he had hurried to the command bridge to report about his turret. The poor chap looked terrible; his head resembled a big cone ball, and the area of his mouth was like a kind of trumpet opening, his eyes were only thin slits. However, he lived, and had only one wound which could be treated. Later, after a lengthy stay in military hospital, his burns would moderately heal; of his ears only half remained.

"Now Herr Pfarrer? (4) This time, however, you are personally seized." I turned to Fenger, who was thickly bandaged from head to legs. How this had happened he could not say. He had stood in readiness at the guns--he was an old artillery man and on his request was given a station at a 15cm gun--and because of the great range the medium artillery could not fire, so he observed the course of the battle through the vision slits and range finder. Suddenly there was a hellish crash and the casemate filled with smoke; the priest flew at full stretch in a large arc across the room and found himself immediately before the clapped exit door. With splinters in his back, neck and leg he went to the battle dressing station where he was doctored. However, when requested to lie down he categorically refused as now there were more important things to do. With admirable energy and despite his own aches and pain he did, up until the conclusion of the battle, console the wounded and gave last rights to the dying until death relieved them. In defiance of his heavy wounds--he afterwards spent a week in hospital--he would not rest himself, and after the battle on Friday June 2nd, when a hospital ship came alongside to pick up the injured, he would only leave as the last, and said to me: "It grieves me to leave the ship before it enters Wilhelmshaven."

After almost one and a half hours of battle with an enemy superior in numbers and calibre we had suffered three hits--and our other panzer kreuzers a few more--and compared to this two enemy ships had blown up, a costly and satisfactory outcome. From now on I will not describe the further course of the battle and its individual events; that would only repeat the already existing work written on the Skagerrak battle. I recommend the book by Korvkpt. Georg Hase: "The Two White People." [editor's note: usually cited as Kiel and Jutland] For myself I will describe some of the pictures from inside the ship while from time to time referring to the battle, which show the spirit and unselfish sacrifice of the individuals in performance of their duties.

When the mist cleared some dreadnoughts were sighted to port, the ships of the Malaya class with 38cm guns. After a short pause we again went to the guns; the lighting had become very unfavourable for us, and the outlines of ships against the gradually darkening eastern heavens were hardly recognizable, and only when they fired could we see the muzzle flash of their guns, although now the range was quite low. Many 38cm shells landed on and around us and we could hardly fight back as we couldn't observe them. The heavy shells that struck close beside us in the water showered the ship with mountainous fountains. Time after time I had to send Obermatrosen Lange out of the command position to clean the object lenses of my rangefinder, and he would climb on top of the conning tower, unconcerned about the whizzing and crashing shells, and for a time a least observation was possible.

One of the 38cm shells struck the armour of the port IV casemate and detonated in the room; the ship quivered and twitched below decks and the sides trembled just as thin sheet metal. At the rear of the aft funnel a group from turret C fought to extinguish a fire that was threatening. Fahnrich zur See Schmidt, Bootmannsmaat der Reserve Corinth and some sailors ran over the deck to the casemate, and attempted to enter from above, through a coal man hole, to advance into the casemate as they could hear whimpers, moans and cries for help from inside. The detonation pressure had hurled the cover off, however sheet metal scrap had jammed the opening and they couldn't get through. The complaints from their injured comrades urged the men on and won't rest. They could see over the side that the shell had penetrated the hull and perhaps they could enter through the shell entrance hole. Fahnrich Schmidt and Matrose Neumann fitted gas masks and provided with hand lanterns went down the hull side, where they groped their way in. In the weak light of the hand lanterns a gruesome picture offered itself to them; around the totally destroyed gun lay horribly mutilated corpses, the entire serving crew seemed to have been killed by the detonating shell. However, from the space behind the gun and lamentable moan sounded again, and there lay four motionless, badly wounded men, injured by shell splinters. Carefully but quickly they were carried through the darkness to the man hole, where the sheet metal was bent aside from below. With the assistance of the others standing on deck the injured were taken above and then to the battle dressing station.

Another shell rent part of the torpedo net free, and the danger existed that the rolled up net would fall down and cause heavy damage to the screws and so endanger the entire ship. "Net group to the port upper deck!" In the middle of a thick battle they climbed onto the endangered net, shell splinters flew around them, and at any moment the net could carry them into the depths. There was no angst as the old nets had frequently been secured in the heavy storms of the Skagen and on the Dogger Bank, and it was secured so well that later in the dockyard they had trouble undoing it.

In the coal bunkers they worked in a black world; hardly any light, hardly any air and in confined space. During battle there was usually little relief and each man continually worked at his station. They worked to provide the immense quantities of coal the boilers devoured, there could be no tiredness, no exhaustion. They could see nothing of the outside, and didn't know what was occurring, they only heard now and then the crashes of the shells and felt the ship shaking under the striking heavy shells. However, they were happy mutes, they would sing and whistle, and with the strength, "Drauf Seydlitz!" their full shovels would fly one after the other into the gluttonous boiler rooms.

It was already late evening, the battle had ranted relentlessly for five hours, and still the artillery was unharmed, apart from turret C. There was a huge blow to turret B, and the crew were shaken up, and at the same time a thick poisonous yellow gas penetrated into the turret. We were especially well practiced at this; during each battle practice a small powder cartridge was burnt near a gun, to represent the detonation of an enemy shell, and through it's smoke development it should embarrass the crew. What went well at battle training went ell in battle. "Smoke danger in turret B, turret evacuated," ordered the turret commander, Oblt z S Kienitz. Just as at battle training all left the turret through all the available exits including cartridge traps, and in a few seconds the serving crew stood on deck. From below compressed air hissed and was blown through the turret; the neighbouring boiler room delivered over pressure air. By opening a hand wheel all the poisonous substances were quickly removed from the turret and the air was again pure. The gun leader of the right turret was dead, a piece of armour had struck him in the chest. However, the other damage was only marginal, the shell had hit the turret brow and had been so weakened that it remained outside the turret.

Towards 1130hrs (p.m.) it became quiet around us; our torpedobootes had made an attack on the enemy line and the enemy had disappeared in the gloom. I climbed out of my command position, where I had spent the past 7 hours, and understandably the atmosphere in there was not too good--we were 16 men in a small room--and breathed deeply of the fresh beautiful evening air. On the starboard command bridge I had a sadder but touching moment: buried under his dead signal maats and gasts lay the Adjutant, Lt z S Witting, his battle signal 'kladde' and secret signal book key wedged tightly under his arm. During the entire battle he and his men had stood on the open bridge next to the command position, so he could more readily see the signals from the flagship and relay them correctly. The last enemy shell had detonated in the vicinity of this group and had done horrible work to the poor men. They were all killed, except for Witting, and were horribly mutilated. As I went to help Witting in his lamentable situation, as he was placed on a transport hammock--he still held his book, although both hands were shredded and a leg severed--he said to me; "The others first!" In his helpless situation and despite infuriating aches, he wanted not for himself, but help for the others, his signal personnel. He didn't suspect his life was the only one protected from sure death.

I turned away, to protect my nerves, as the dance was not yet over. We directed our course south for a none too long night march, and we estimated that we would encounter the enemy at dawn off Horns Reef, for a renewed battle. I went to my command position to make general arrangements for the night readiness, when Obermatrosen Lange came to me and with a most serious look in the world asked: "May I bandage Herr Kapitan?" I said: "Very gladly, but where?" Thereon he remarked: "Herr Kapitan has a large hole in his head." He held a small mirror for me, and to my surprise saw a cut from above to below on the left side of my face. With pleasure I underwent treatment from Lange, who now dabbed fresh water and washed my sore. He wiped and wiped away at the sore so that all that remained was a 3cm long cut over my left eye, that for six hours had bled unrestrained and dried. He wiped away the dried blood and applied a bandage, which until now I had no time to do. The fresh bandage was beautiful and then I drank water from his drinking cup and ate a piece of bread, and under the circumstance he was particularly proud of his work.

The night march came and we expected a destroyer attack; therefore the anti-torpedoboat artillery would have to be ready for the night. For this purpose I went on the command bridge, and sent my II Artillerie Offizier on a walk around the ship, to report to me over the condition of the individual battle stations. The report was nothing to cheer about: in the last part of the battle the enemy shots had hurt us. With the signal "Ran an den feind" (5), the thrust of the battle cruisers into the midst of the enemy main body, shells hailed down on us from all sides, and it seemed for a time as if our ship rushed from hit to hit. Half the gun barrels were damaged and no longer serviceable, and the forecastle suffered especially; there was a large hole close to the waterline and much water entered the ship through this hole, and at high speed the danger existed that the forward water tight bulkhead would not hold under the pressure, and admit further water. To be sure the ship still steamed with S.M.S. Moltke at the head of the squadrons; however soon we could no longer hold our position in the unit of almost totally undamaged ships. We moderated our speed, but because our FT (6) arrangements had been destroyed in battle we could not report as much and therefore lost contact with the main body. Alone, heavily damaged and with our arms considerably weakened we searched in the dark night for Horns Reef.

Around us it soon became alive, and guns thundered on all sides, searchlights, the flash from muzzles, burning English ships, everywhere was the night battle. We seemed to be in the middle of hell.

Under the forecastle there was a fire. One of the last hits had penetrated the sail locker, where there were stowed large provisions of hammocks, covers, sail cloth etcetera. These now burned with a bright light and the men untiring fought the flames with fire extinguishers and pails, without being able to finally suffocate the flames. Over and over the flames climbed high from the forecastle. Surrounded by the enemy, on a dark night, this light beacon was most disagreeable.

So we drove through the dark night with this blazing torch. Then during this crucial moment the aft command position reported: "Darkened vessels approach from port aft." With their superior speed they were soon abeam of us and we recognized them to our grim surprise as English dreadnoughts. Against the already dawning morning we clearly saw their type silhouette. Therewith we quickly turned away to starboard. Had the English seen us? I could almost not believe it, but conditions on their side were particularly unfavourable. We stood against the darkened western heavens; the wind blew our funnel smoke directly at them and this worked in our favour, and finally the English had no training in night vision.

The condition of our ship became ever graver. Hour by hour more water penetrated into the foreship, so that the stem almost lay in the water. The danger always increased that the forward bulkheads would break. Our men of the Leak Security Service, under the direction of Korkpt. von Alvensleben and Marineingenieurs d Res. Lucke, worked like slaves during the night! The untiring, energetic work of each man had a single aim, that we still believed in, to bring the ship safely to harbour. Special thanks should go to our commander, who through his quiet, definite orders inspired all on the ship during the battle, and forgot his understandable tiredness and always spurred us to new performances. We all wanted to save our heavily damaged ship, cost what it may, and there were still many difficulties to overcome.

During the battle almost all our navigation aids were destroyed, and we had been out of FT contact for some considerable time, the antenna was shot away. Our ships position was not known accurately after the innumerable twists and turns during the battle and frequent changes in speed. Where would we find ourselves at dawn? Would we be in sight of the Horns Reef light vessel? And weren't the English standing between us and our fleet, and we almost defenseless?

It was dawn, a beautiful clear June morning. There was nothing to be seen around us, neither light vessel, nor our own nor enemy ships. We ran with as much speed as our frail ship could tolerate.

During the morning hours the FT Officer successfully made the reserve FT arrangements serviceable and we were again connected to the outside world. We learned only little; the fleet was ahead of us and retiring, and an airship reported enemy battleships north of Helgoland. However, we could report our situation and especially request support. As the enemy was not in sight Pillau and some torpedobootes would be sufficient, and they would skillfully find us and pilot us.

Always we went slower and in the Amrumbank passage we finally ran aground in a water depth of 15 metres. What now? Remain sitting here? Certainly not, we wanted to survive. Astern into deep water and on to Helgoland. With our low speed and unmanoeuvrability on the return journey we would be an easy target for English submarines: we didn't want to bother them. Therefore we tried with all means to come free. Pillau came close to us and lowered a boat that brought a thick steel line over to us, so as to take us in tow. The line was made fast and Pillau began the tow; the arm thick line stretched tight, dead straight and--bing!--it rent like an insipid thread and finished up in the water with a clap. A second attempt finished with the same outcome and the tow attempt was given up. Could we attempt to go astern? The engines and rudder were totally undamaged and behind the ship lay considerably deeper water. Therefore we turned and went astern; and see there, slowly, however steadily we went over the sandy bottom of Amrum Bank and again were on our way. Thereon torpedobootes came from seawards behind us, and we recognized them as our own. As they approached we could see hundreds of men on their decks; and these gave three hurras for S.M.S. Seydlitz. Through blinker signal we learned that the boats had picked up the crew of S.M.S. Lutzow. In the latter part of the battle Lutzow had fared just like us; heavy hits, especially in the fore ship had brought flooding and finally the water came over the forecastle. It was no longer possible to hold the position. There were two torpedobootes in the immediate vicinity and they came alongside and took Lutzow's survivors aboard. Shortly afterwards the proud battlekreuzer sank beneath the waves, as the only German fleet dreadnought loss; we had sunk three English battlecruisers.

Would we share the same fate? With each hour our situation became graver, we already had enormous amounts of water in the ship, and the strenuous work it was not possible to stop new water masses penetrating the ship. Two pump steamers came out from Wilhelmshaven and they put themselves alongside us and pumped water out of the ship. However, as quickly as they pumped the water out more water poured in through the innumerable holes, that could only poorly be closed. We expected a catastrophe to overtake our ship at any moment. Everything now depended on the transverse bulkhead of the forward boiler room; if it held then it was quite possible that we could remain capable of buoyancy, if it failed then it meant the end. I knew that the I Offizier, Korvkpt. von Alvensleben and his bulkhead men had been in the questionable boiler room and strengthened the bulkhead with available means. With innumerable wooded supports they had propped the bulkhead but water seeped through in many places, and death lurked nearby. Undeterred they did their duty in this horrible room and it was only thanks to them that the ship was saved.

Slowly we proceeded, and slowly we neared our goal. Shortly before we reached the Jade mouth we had one more desperate battle with the elements, on Friday morning. During the night a storm came up from the NW and heavy seas threatened to destroy the fatally wounded ship, just short of the safety of harbour. We had 4000 tonnes of water in the ship and within a few hours a further 1000 tonnes entered. However we survived this trial and on a sunny evening toward 6hrs we arrived on Wilhelmshaven Roads to the cheers of the ships lying there.

On Sunday afternoon, June 4th, we joined others from all the vessels of the High Sea Fleet, and all other branches of the Navy, at the honour graveyard in Wilhelmshaven, to honour our comrades who fell in the Skagerrak Battle, and lay them to rest. The entire population of the Jade town took part. The school children of both towns collected flowers from the fields the previous day and cast them into the sea. The fallen lay covered by the battle flag, united in death, just as they had lived and fought, shoulder to shoulder. After a short speech of the spiritual the honour volleys crashed out over the graves and we took leave of our good comrades.

Back to the working day! The damaged ships had to be quickly repaired. All the German dockyards helped with this work to bring the ships to battle readiness in the briefest time, as it was preferable for the HSF to soon reappear at sea.

Seydlitz still took part in many proud cruises, one up to line Stavanger--Shetlands. The English fleet was not seen again, not until that grey afternoon in November 1918, when the HSF became the victim of the alluring seductive arts of some at home and foreigners, who prayed on their defenseless opponents. As at the end of June 1919 the outrageous extradition demands of the Entente at the peace negotiations caused hesitation, and with a break off of negotiations a reopening of hostilities could be expected, there was only one thought with the German crews: to save your ship, and they feared that the ships would fall into the hands of the English seamen. On June 21st 1919 the entire German HSF sank beneath the waves that brook Scapa Flow. The German seamen had destroyed their ships to prevent the enemy taking them.

So our good Seydlitz now lies keel up, a dead ships hull, on the sea bottom in Scapa Flow. The ships body is dead, dead for all time; however the spirit has survived, the spirit of the old Yorck and Seydlitz, still lives and I am certain that all men who fought four long glorious years embrace it. The spirit of joyful, unselfish sacrifice for your brother, for the sake of Germany, is again awakened and finds an entrance for all Germans to embrace, to bring new blood to the much loved Fatherland. And new attention before itself and the world.

"Drauf Seydlitz!"


1 Befehlshaber der Aufklarungsschiffe, or Commander of Reconnaissance Ships.

2 "At it Seydlitz!"

3 Opening for ejection of spent cartridge cases.

4 Priest.

5 "Attack the enemy!"

6 Funkenentelegraphie - wireless.

Last Updated: 2 September, 2002.

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