King George VI's (then Prince Albert) account of the Battle of Jutland

On 31 May and 1 June 1916, British and German naval forces met off the coast of Denmark, in what was to be the largest naval battle of the First World War, with heavy losses on both sides. Among those serving in the British Fleet was King George V's second son Prince Albert, the future King George VI (1895-1952).

The Prince had been enrolled in the Royal Naval College at Osborne House at the age of thirteen. In September 1913 he was commissioned as a Midshipman on board HMS Collingwood, and he was serving on this ship during the fighting at Jutland, as he describes here. Prince Albert is the only British Sovereign to have seen action in battle since William IV.

… We went to “Action Stations” at 4.30 p.m. and saw the Battle Cruisers in action ahead of us on the starboard bow. Some of the other cruisers were firing on the port bow. As we came up the “Lion” leading our Battle Cruisers, appeared to be on fire the port side of the forecastle, but it was not serious.

…As far as one could see only 2 German Battle Squadrons and all their Battle Cruisers were out. The “Colossus” leading the 6th division with the “Collingwood” her next astern were nearest the enemy. The whole Fleet deployed at 5.0 and opened out. We opened fire at 5.37 p.m. on some German light cruisers. The “Collingwood”’s second salvo hit one of them which set her on fire, and sank after two more salvoes were fired into her …

I was in A turret and watched most of the action through one of the trainers telescopes, as we were firing by Director, when the turret is trained in the working chamber and not in the gun house. At the commencement I was sitting on the top of A turret and had a very good view of the proceedings. I was up there during a lull, when a German ship started firing at us, and one salvo “straddled” us. We at once returned the fire. I was distinctly startled and jumped down the hole in the top of the turret like a shot rabbit!! I didn’t try the experience again …

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