The Battle of Jutland (31st May – 1st June 1916) was far from being a single decisive fleet action even though it was the last occasion on which two battle fleets engaged each other in full strength. It was, in fact, a series of engagements spread over many hours and divided into distinct phases. The British ‘Grand Fleet’ and the ‘High Seas Fleet’ of Imperial Germany were each split into constituent parts consisting of various squadrons of battleships and the much-vaunted battle-cruisers, with both sections supported by flotillas of destroyers performing a variety of roles including scouting and anti-torpedo protection. Even though the opening shots of the battle were fired at about 3.00pm. on 31st May, it was not until 6.00pm. that the main battle fleets began to exchange fire in scenes such as that depicted here by Wood. The awesome duel was short-lived however as, at about 7.20pm., the British C.-in-C., Admiral Jellicoe, took what many subsequently regarded as a fateful decision when he ordered his battleships to turn away, albeit temporarily, from the threat of a torpedo attack by enemy destroyers. The result of this manoeuvre was an irretrievable loss of contact between the two main battle fleets which ultimately denied victory to either side.
Frank Watson Wood was born in Berwick-on-Tweed but following a move to Portsmouth in 1900, he rapidly acquired a clientele amongst the many naval officers based there and his work found much favour. Judging by his numerous depictions of Jutland, the battle was clearly a favourite subject for Wood and the view offered here is a particularly fine and expressive one evoking the height of the action soon after 6.00pm. on 31st May.