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Photograph of Midshipmen, HMS Queen Mary, WWI

  • Photograph, Midshipmen of HMS Queen Mary, WWI

At the Battle of Jutland in May 1916 the crew of the ship was obliterated by German shells which penetrated the thin armour of the gun turrets of the ship, causing the ship's magazine to explode. 1266 men were killed and only 18 survivors were later picked up from the sea. This may have been the last photograph of some of the sailors before they were killed in action and is therefore captures a highly poignant moment in time.

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During the First World War the German High Seas Fleet wanted to fight the Royal Navy in a decisive engagement and inflict enough losses to force the British Grand Fleet to retire to port. This would then stop British control of the world’s seas and help turn the course of the war. German Naval leaders were very cautious during the war and aimed to preserve the High Seas Fleet for such a decisive encounter. The Battle of Jutland on the 31st May 1916 was the only major action between the German and British fleets of the war.

For the British, Jutland was a costly but indecisive battle, but proved to be a tactical victory as the High Seas Fleet did not leave port for the remainder of the war. Over 6,000 sailors of the Royal Navy and over 2,500 German sailors died. The Germans ships targeted the lightly armoured gun turrets of the Royal Navy’s battle cruisers. The flash from an incoming shell could enter the ammunition hoist and detonate the ship’s magazine causing the total destruction of the ship. This notably happened to HMS Indefatigable which had two survivors from a crew of 1,109. There were eighteen survivors from a crew of 1,275 aboard HMS Queen Mary and HMS Invincible lost 1,020 men from a crew of 1,026.

Key facts: 
  • The HMS Queen Mary was a battle cruiser in the British Royal Navy built in 1913 to be used in World War I
  • The ship participated in the British victory at the Battle of Heliogoland Blight in 1914
  • The ship was sunk at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916. 1266 men were killed with only 18 survivors. This photograph taken before the ship went to sea is an emotional reminder of these losses.

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