Friday, June 03, 2016

Today -100: June 3, 1916: There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today

News reaches the NYT of the Battle of Jutland, a major clash between the navies of Britain and Germany, indeed the largest naval battle in history, 151 British ships vs. 99 German, and the only one of the war, off the Jutland Peninsula (Denmark). Germany initiated this in an attempt to destroy part of the Royal Navy and reduce its ability to strangle Germany’s trade and food supply. Though Germany destroyed more British ships (14) than it lost (11) and killed more than twice as many sailors (over 6,000) as it lost (2,500), the larger British navy could more easily afford the losses. After Jutland, until the end of the war, Germany never dared try another large-scale naval battle, so their goal of breaking the British blockade and regaining access to the Atlantic has been thwarted, and the British plan to starve Germany into submission continues. German naval tactics in future will center on u-boats rather than the Hochseeflotte (High Seas Fleet). But right now Germany is crowing about their “victory.” “The report even temporarily eclipsed the news of the restrictive meat ordinances in popular interest, which is saying a great deal nowadays.”

Some of the sunken British ships include the badly named Invincible, the more accurately named Turbulent, but not the amusingly named Warspite (hulled in a bunch of places but still able to limp back to port). One of the German cruisers is the Derfflinger, which if I remember my German correctly is one of those compound words that means “one who flings derfs.”

What went wrong with the British that they lost so many ships? Some of the technology and practices hadn’t caught up with the developments in other technologies. The ships had wireless but communicated orders via flags that couldn’t necessarily be seen from several miles away in a sea obscured by the steam from hundreds of ships, so at one point one part of the fleet zigged while the other part zagged. Also, the advantage of the longer range of British guns was wiped out by the laboriously slow 19th-century methods still in use to actually aim the guns. To compensate, they tried to keep up a high rate of fire, lobbing a lot of shells in the general direction of the target, which meant that safety procedures, like closing the fire doors, were ignored in the interests of speed by the sailors lugging around bags of cordite, so that hits on a ship that shouldn’t have been catastrophic wound up setting off its shells and powder. The second time a ship simply exploded, Vice-Admiral David Beatty commented, “There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today.” There were also numerous errors of judgment; Beatty and his boss Admiral Sir John Jellicoe spent the rest of their lives throwing blame at each other. When Beatty was promoted to First Sea Lord in 1919, pretty much the first thing he did was try to alter records and maps to support his story.

Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes’s secretary issues a statement that Frank Hitchcock does not in fact represent Hughes in pushing his candidacy for president, and in fact Hughes “has no representative.”

The NYT says the Dreyfus Affair, in which an army captain was falsely convicted of spying and accurately accused of being Jewish, leading to 20 years of French society viciously tearing itself apart, is now “over,” with Dreyfus and his son now serving in the army along with his various persecutors and their children. Because nothing says national reconciliation than killing Huns together.

The Austrian Supreme Court invalidates the marriage of Count Rudolf Schirding as violating Austrian law, even though he was married in Germany. At the time he had renounced his Catholic faith in order to marry a Protestant, but non-Christians are banned from marrying Christians, although they can marry Jews.

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