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Portsmouth Naval Memorial Portsmouth Naval Memorial
First Name: William Edgar Last Name: BROWNE
Date of Death: 31/05/1916 Lived/Born In: Abbey Wood
Rank: Gunner Unit: HMS Lion Royal Marine Artillery
Memorial Site: Portsmouth Naval Memorial

Current Information:

"Heathfield" Pinewood Road, Abbey Wood

The Battle of Jutland was a naval battle fought between the Royal Navy and the German High Seas Fleet on 31 May and 1 June 1916 in the North Sea near Jutland in Denmark. It was the largest naval battle of the the war. The German plan was to use their fast scouting group of battlecruisers to draw Vice-Admiral Beatty’s battlecruiser  squadron onto the main German fleet and there, destroy them. The two opposing forces met on the afternoon of 31st May 1916. A running battle ensued, during which the Royal Navy lost two battlecruisers, until the main German fleet was seen.  At this point Beatty’s battlecruiser squadron turned back and brought the pursuing German ships towards the main British fleet of Admiral Jellicoe. That night these two main fleets of 250 ships engaged each other twice before the Germans, recognising that they were outnumbered, broke off the engagement and returned to port. Both sides claimed victory. The British lost more ships (14) and three time as many sailors (6,000), but the Germans never brought out their main fleet again, preferring to concentrate on submarine warfare. Over 500 of those who were killed were men from London.

HMS Lion was the flagship of Admiral Beatty’s Battlecruiser fleet at Jutland and as such came into contact with the enemy on the afternoon of 31st May, 1916 during the ‘run to the south’. One thing that became evident at Jutland was that the German naval artillery was decidedly more accurate than that of the British and this was first illustrated when HMS Lion, the lead ship of Beatty’s Battlecruiser fleet, engaged SMS Lützow, her opposite number in the German formation. Within 3 minutes of SMS Lützow opening fire, HMS Lion had been hit twice at a range of some 12,000 yards. The two ships traded shots, both scoring hits and at 4pm, a shell from SMS Lützow hit one of her gun turrets causing much damage and loss of life. It would have been far worse if the turret commander had not, with his dying breath, ordered the magazine doors to be closed. The magazine  flooded, thereby preventing the cordite propellant from setting off a massive explosion. Later, during the ‘run to the north’, HMS Lion received further hits and then became involved in the pursuit of the German fleet before heading home, reaching Rosyth on 2nd June. She had been hit a total of fourteen times and suffered 99 dead, one of whom was William Browne, and 51 wounded during the battle, She had fired 326 rounds from her main guns, but can only be credited with four hits on SMS Lutzow and one on SMS Derffflinger.  

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