Cromarty Archive

Battleships entering the Firth

Battleships entering the Firth

Date Added: 01 January 2003 Contributor: Unknown Year: 1910 Picture No: 177

Interesting picture showing a fleet of Battleships entering the Cromarty Firth in 1910

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To the far right is a 4-funnel armoured cruiser. The vessel next to the armoured cruiser is an Invincible class battlecruiser (Invincible, Inflexible or Indomitable), in its original configuration, as it appeared before its 1st funnel was raised in the period c1910-12, no doubt to combat the effects of secondary smoke.

The Falklands
Invincible and Inflexible became famous as part of Vice-Admiral Sir Frederick Doveton Sturdee's squadron, which did for Admiral Graf von Spee's German East Asia Squadron at the Battle of the Falkland Islands on 8th December 1914.
The armoured cruiser Gneisenau had approached Port Stanley in the early morning, with the intent of bombarding the port and wireless station, no doubt in preparation for a German landing, but had been put off by the shellfire of HMS Canopus, then Guard Ship at Port Stanley.

Meanwhile Sturdee's ships raised steam, while the Admiral reportedly took breakfast before setting off in pursuit.

In an action which lasted some five hours, the two British battlecruisers, with the armoured cruiser Carnarvon struggling to keep up, sank both von Spee's Flagship, the Scharnhorst, and her sistership the Gneisenau.
Meanwhile, the armoured cruisers Kent and Cornwall and the light cruiser Glasgow sank the German light cruisers Nürnberg and Leipzig, and the light cruiser Bristol and armed merchant cruiser Macedonia sank two of Spee's colliers, the Baden and the Santa Isabel.

Only two German ships escaped, the collier Seydlitz, to internment in Argentina, and the light cruiser Dresden, which retired to a lonely existence in the Pacific, attempting to avoid discovery by the allied forces hunting her down.
The British ships suffered only minor damage in this engagement, Kent requiring some work which I understand was carried out at Vancouver - but to put the Battle of the Falkland Islands into perspective, the casualties in this five hour engagement, almost all of them German, were somewhat greater than the casualties to both sides in the entire six months of the Falklands War.

The Dresden was eventually cornered at Mas a Tierra off the Chilean coast on 13 Mar 1915 by Glasgow, Kent and the armed merchant cruiser Orama, and already heavily hit after 5 minutes action, the German cruiser surrendered, and was then scuttled while under the white flag, to avoid her being taken as a prize.

All three battlecruisers fought at Jutland in 1916, where Invincible was lost, though not before making a crucial contribution to the success of the battle, the others receiving no damage.

It seems that light cruiser Chester had found herself at one point ambushed by a German scouting group consisting of a squadron of light cruisers, and that Admiral Hood's 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron (temporarily attached to Jellicoe's Grand Fleet, and not at this time under Beatty's command) had gone to the rescue, his Flagship Invincible seriously damaging the German 2nd Scouting Group light cruiser Wiesbaden.

With the British battlecruisers no doubt then re-forming to continue the main business at hand, Rear Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot's 1st Cruiser Squadron had moved in to finish the job, and had perhaps done so, at least inflicting terminal damage on the German cruiser, before being itself caught out by the approaching main body of the German High Seas Fleet.

This in turn lead to the destruction of his Flagship, the armoured cruiser Defence, which exploded and was lost with all hands, and the armoured cruiser Warrior, which was in short order wrecked by gunfire, and was ultimately abandoned while under tow of seaplane carrier Engadine on the following morning, 1st June 1916, when her surviving crew finally had to give best to the ingress of the North Sea.
Armoured cruiser Black Prince was sunk later in the night-time action of 30th May/1st June, in similar circumstances, having appeared out of the darkness right in front of the main body of the German Fleet as they made their escape back to Germany. Black Prince was reportedly despatched by the gunfire of four dreadnoughts, and was also lost with all hands after exploding, her loss leaving the Duke of Edinburgh as the only survivor of the late Admiral Arbuthnot's squadron.

While Defence and Warrior are sometimes credited with sinking the Wiesbaden, any number of others also have a claim:
With her engines disabled by the heavy shells of the Invincible, the Wiesbaden had then come under intensive fire from the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron, and then from destroyer Onslow. Putting a torpedo into the Wiesbaden, the Onslow was herself subsequently disabled while taking on the bulk of the High Seas Fleet with her last two torpedoes, causing the German dreadnoughts to take avoiding action.
In the "organized chaos" that characterises the action at Jutland, it seems that most if not all of these actions had taken place before Defence and Warrior came up to finish the Wiesbaden, with the German cruiser by this time no doubt in the most severe difficulty.

Credited in some sources with having put a torpedo into the dreadnought Marlborough, which as a result had to be towed home after the battle, the Wiesbaden was reportedly dead in the water as early as 5:48 pm on 31st May, and finally sank at 2:45 on the following morning, 1st June 1916, lost with all but one of her crew.

Invincible herself became one of the three British battlecruisers lost in this battle, in her case with the loss of over a thousand of her crew, but again, only after she had also inflicted severe damage on the new German battlecruiser Lützow.

Undoubtedly the most valuable warship lost at Jutland, and arguably the most valuable lost in the war, the Lützow had taken on so much water by the time she got back to the German coast on the morning of 1st June, that she was no longer able to get over the sand bar at the entrance to the estuary which would take her to her home port and safety, and her crew was forced to abandon her to the deep.
All the surviving German battlecruisers, which had wreaked such havoc
on the coastal towns of England earlier in the war, were in dockyard hands after Jutland, the only one fit to put to sea after this battle the Goeben, at this time many thousands of miles away operating out of Constantinople.

Much of the story of Jutland is by now lost in the mists of time, but to end this account on a rather more positive note than is usual, it gives me some pleasure to report that the battered destroyer Onslow somehow survived her encounter with the High Seas Fleet, and was finally towed into Aberdeen fully two days after the battle.
Her captain, Lieutenant Commander "Jack" Tovey, would later be awarded the DSO.

He would be equally well-received when, some twenty-five years later almost to the day, he again returned to these shores, by this time as C-in-C, Home Fleet, flying his Flag on the battleship King George V, after orchestrating the destruction of the German battleship Bismarck...

Inflexible and Indomitable survived the war, only to fall foul of the 1922 Washington Treaty, but by then of course, it had been left to America to take the leading role in the world's economy, and to become the world's policeman.

I was going to say:

whether this shot is too misty I cannot say, but both the battlecruisers and armoured cruisers carried funnel bands at around this time, which might enable them to be identified on a greater density scan of this

but having decided that I've got as much as I'm going to get out of 177, I've just moved on to photograph 609, purely by chance, and immediately noticed that:

609 / Andrew Bathie / 1914 / "Battleships near Sutors of Cromarty"
is exactly the same as:
177 / Unknown / 1910 / "Battleships entering the Firth".

They both share the same ships and the same foreshore, and are cropped differently, but more importantly 177 lacks the background seen in 609 - which I guess, not knowing the area, is what makes 609 the "Sutors" ?
The only other difference, except for 609 showing fewer ships on the left of the photo, is that various of the ships in 609 have taller masts than in 177, which means that the background has been removed from photograph 177, rather than having been added in to photograph 609 - and also that this change has been implemented with the use of a pair of scissors rather than by some form of photographic trickery, presumably for "artistic purposes"...looking at 177 in Microsoft Photo Premium and altering the brightness and contrast also fails to reveal the background in 609.

In view of this, perhaps 609 would provide the best result in the form of a more detailed scan? - at least the ships would be rather more complete.
Comment left on 16 July 2007 at 23:44 by Jon Summers (London)
It looks like a single photo taken from the area of the lookout - now yacht Club to the right of the harbour. The background is the Saltburn/Barbaraville hills and not the Souters. Any other thoughts? Always interested to hear a little more about the Battle of Jutland. Comment left on 17 July 2007 at 09:56 by Dennis Manson
I worked on the guided missile destroyer HMS Kent as an apprentice in Portsmouth Dockyard in the late 60's. In the main passageway of Kent there was a glass cabinet displaying a horseshoe. This was given to the captain of 1914 Kent by the captain of a collier at the Falklands before the battle. The Kent went on to battle success, the collier left for the UK and was never seen again. Comment left on 28 June 2010 at 14:51 by Philip Whiting, Portsmouth
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