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HMS Defence HMS Defence
First Name: Alexander Keith Last Name: JOHNSTON
Date of Death: 31/05/1916 Lived/Born In: North Kensington
Rank: Assistant Paymaster Unit: HMS Defence
Memorial Site: Plymouth Naval Memorial

Current Information:


Charles Square, North Kensington

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 Defence was a Minotaur class armoured cruiser and at the Battle of Jutland she was  the flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir Robert K. Arbuthnot, commander of the First Cruiser Squadron, which formed a protective screen on the starboard  for the main fleet.  As the German fleet pursued Beatty’s battlecruiser squadron they met this screen and in the fight that ensued, HMS Defence was targeted by a number of German ships, including four battle ships. Two salvos hit HMS Defence and at 6.20 pm, her magazines exploded and the ship sank with the loss of all aboard, nearly 900 men.

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