Reply To: Jutland and a direct train of cordite

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As some may not have seen my reply to Malcolm on the MARHST list, I post it here. Here is a link to ‘A Direct Train of Cordite’ as well.

One of the interesting points regarding the loss of the battle cruisers is that historians, having made so many claims about safety precautions being ignored and regulations being broken, have never bothered identifying what these precautions or regulations were. This is a major defect of the historiography concerning the Battle of Jutland, and until someone goes to the trouble of going into them in detail then it is difficult to dispute Beatty’s claim that:

‘there is no evidence that, in the ships lost, the “precautions essential to the safety of cordite charges” (so far as the Admiralty at that time had defined them) were neglected, neither is there any proof of irregularities in the then prescribed drill for cordite supply.’

The system was inherently flawed anyway, as when the flashdoor was up between the gunhouse and working chamber, and the magazine door open between the handing room and magazine (there being no scuttles or cordite hoppers) then you would automatically have ‘a direct train of cordite’ all the way from top to bottom.

It is worth pointing out that in the correspondence quoted in the article there is only one specific allegation of poor ammunition handling made, and that is that which occurred in “Q” turret of H.M.S. Lion. The turret officer, Major Francis Harvey, was notably awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. That the ready use cordite wasn’t returned to the magazine was definitely against turret drill, and by all accounts Harvey was still functioning after the first hit on the turret, and therefore neglected his duty (yet he was capable of sending a sergeant of Marines to the bridge to report the turret out of action and ordering the magazine doors shut). Also Chief Gunner Alexander Grant, whose memoirs are often cited as an example of the culture of neglect in the Battle Cruiser Fleet, failed to return the cordite to the magazines, despite being on the scene soon after the hit according to official and eyewitness accounts. He was promoted to Lieutenant after the battle, and his memoirs do not sit well with other evidence.