Account of HMS Vanguard's Surgeon of Jutland

This document is another contribution from Jon Saunders. Unfortunately, the handwriting in the journal is occasionally hard to read: editorial notes and guesses are entered in [square brackets]. Punctuation and spelling has been left as-is. The source is ADM 101/398, in the Public Record Office. It took a bit of digging in the Navy List, but the author of the document was Surgeon Commander Edward O. B. Carbery -- he was no longer part of Vanguard's crew when she sank in 1917. In 1919 Carbery was serving at RAF Cranwell.

Medical Officers' Journal

H. M. S. Vanguard

North Sea

E. O. B. Carbery

Fleet Surgeon

Between the 1st of January and the 2nd of August 1916

As this is the third Journal which I am rendering [?] for H. M. S. Vanguard. No description of this vessel is necessary or the ventilation, no alterations having been made, either in routine or the ventilating arrangements.

The Health of the Ship's Company was excellent.

As will be seen by the Norological [?] Relieves [?] Table IV [not reproduced] some cases of Infectious Disease occurred, but this is not to be wondered at when, it is appreciated that there [?] is a constant change among the younger members of the Ship's Co. [followed by two unreadable words: "Which makes"??] it is a subject of conjecture [?] that the cases having occurred in this ship. There was not, a more serious outbreak, when the crowding and age of a battleship is considered.

The climate of the station on which H. M. S. Vanguard is stationed; is not one in which extremes of temperature are experienced, but there is a considerable amount of bad weather, wind and rain, which means congestion between decks, and crowding of the various P.O. messes etc. The cinematograph [?] exhibitions also tends to congestion, as the open spaces between decks are not large, and as a consequence as many men as the space can hold, each individual touching the body of the man in front and behind, are crowded in. Under these circumstances, I think it wonderful that such infectious diseases as Rubella and measles which are very infectious did not spread.

The exhibition of pictures is very useful in employing the men in the Dog Watches, when recreation on deck is impossible. It keeps the men cheerful, and gives them something to look forward to. There is no doubt it is extremely popular.

As a detailed account of the movements of this [blank - perhaps 'ship' was intended] during the period of this volume is not possible I am unable to give a consecutive account of her movements. But I cannot omit a short account of the part which this ship took in the battle of Jutland or Horn Reef 31st May 1916.

When leaving our base, we had no idea that an encounter with the German High Seas Fleet was possible, whether the Higher Command had any idea was not divulged. The [?] officers were under this impression that it was an ordinary training cruise or supporting movement for an aeroplane raid, as [?] we had often gone to sea on [?] this [?] sort [?] of expedition that we had got tired of making preparations for battle. And had prepared for battle so often that when we did actually go into battle it was just like any other ordinary exercise. Which is as it should be.

At about 2.30 pm on 31st May we were all steaming in a Southerly direction as hard as we could. Then [?] was seen what a homogeneous fleet means, for although each ship was doing her best, there was very little alteration in practice. Soon after 2.30 pm we got the signal from the Commander-in-Chief, "Be prepared to meet the enemy in every respect." Then we realised we were really going to get closer to his Fleet (we had so long been waiting for) than we had been before. It caused quite an exhilaration [?] in everyone.

Then came information that the Cruisers were engaged.

This caused many [?] anxious moments, but the Cruisers had been in action before and we awaited news with little doubt, as to what the outcome of the encounter would be.

At 6.30 pm we fired our first round from the 12" guns firing some 63 rounds altogether.

I was stationed just outside the telephone exchange so had the receipt [?] of the many messages [?] that where [?] circulated.

Soon after we had opened fire, the news was circulated that a German light cruiser had been sunk and that our destroyers attacking [?- completely unreadable] the Germans. When we came up to the sinking cruiser, which we passed close enough read her name by the unaided eye, she was found to be the "Invincible" one of our own battle cruisers which was, or appeared to have been broken in two parts, the amidships portion or suds [?] resting on the bottom and the ends bow and stern sticking up in the air. A destroyer was standing by the wreck.

We continued firing for 20 minutes or a quarter of an hour, during which time we were under fire, and assisted in repulsing a destroyer attack which was not pushed home. Many shots passed over us and fell a head some passing sufficiently close to the Fore Top to make those there duck their heads. I am glad to say we were not hit so suffered no casualties.

At about 6.30 pm we had reduced speed to 14 knots. It was getting dark, no enemy being in sight we left our stations and assembled for some food in the Ward Room. At 9 pm the buzzers went, and we returned in haste to our stations expecting a destroyer attack as it then was dark enough to make such an attack likely.

Firing was heard going on astern, which seemed to get louder and louder. More [?] firing was heard rest of the night.

About 10 pm an action was seen to be in progress between a Light Cruiser or Flotilla leader and some destroyers, this took place quite close to the Vanguard and was witnessed by those on watch and then men stationed at her guns [?], some stated it to be as close as 1000 yds. The cruiser was seen to sink, on fire, the shells as they struck her as described as lighting up her interior, the men on board being clearly invisible.

Thinking we should be in action again in the morning, and that whilst it was possible to rest I should. I turned in at 11 pm preparing to [?- word completely unreadable] as soon as our guns began firing. Owing to the noise of this [?] [?- another illegible word] action and the expectancy of being attacked I did not get to sleep till about 1 am being called again at 2 am 1st June.

The following morning promised a similar day to the previous; calm but very misty, not amounting to an actual fog.

We were all at our stations by 2' 15" when the day began to dawn. At 4.15 I came on deck to get some fresh air.

A Zeppelin was then pointed out to me she was on our Port Quarter and seemed to pass astern of the Fleet to our Starboard side and disappeared from view in some clouds.

The enemy were not sighted again. We continued to cruise in the Southern [?] area till about 11 am when two submarines being reported in our vicinity, we turned N. and returned to our base.

Last Updated: 5 May, 2004.

 Return to WWI The Maritime War

 Return to WWI Archive main page.