The sinking of HMS Indefatigable

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HMS Indefatigable in Plymouth Sound

HMS Indefatigable in Plymouth Sound

Courtesy of Steve Johnson


HMS Indefatigable was built at Devonport Dockyard in 1911. She was put into service in the Mediterranean Fleet when war began in 1914 but was recalled to home waters the following year. 


At the Battle of Jutland on May 31st 1916, in the first engagement between the British and German battle cruisers, Indefatigable was in the rear opposite SMS Von Der Tann. After about 25 minutes, a hit on the fore turret penetrated the ship's magazine, blowing the ship in half. She sank at five minutes past four with a loss of 1,017 crew - there being just two survivors.


Map showing the positions of the British and German Fleets

Map showing the positions of the British and German Fleets at the start of the action on 

May 31st 1916


Part of Panel 14 on the Naval War Memorial, Plymouth

The British Navy suffered terrible losses that day. HMS Invincible  exploded killing all but 6 of its crew of 1026 men; HMS Queen Mary went down with all but 9 of its1285 men and they almost lost HMS Lion (the flagship of Admiral Sir David Beatty) as well - only rapid damage control enabled her to limp back to port.

Part of Panel 14 on the Naval War Memorial, Plymouth

Courtesy of


If you have spotted any similarities between the account of how Ernest Edmund Stentiford met his death in 1916 and how his son met his in 1941 then you must be asking yourself what, if any, lessons the Admiralty learned as a result of the Battle of Jutland. 

In remembrance of all stokers.

The caption reads:

"The prelude to action is the work of the engine room department"

J. M. Jellicoe, Admiral

Battle of Jutland 1916


They did learn to take intelligence gathering more seriously. There probably would never have been a Battle of Jutland had not the British received a signal on the morning of May 30th to the effect that the German High Seas Fleet was about to put to sea. On receiving this, the British steamed away and were in position off Jutland a full two and a half hours before the Germans (who had also received an intelligence signal telling of the Grand Fleet's departure from Britain) arrived.


The battle cruisers - Invincible, Indefatigable, Queen Mary and Lion - all had thin deck and turret armour as a concession to speed. The Germans used large calibre artillery which easily penetrated the relatively thin British armour cladding. This weakness was compounded by inadequate fire-proofing and lack of safety considerations below decks, especially in the magazines, and you might have thought that when the war ended, serious consideration should have been given to the replacement of the battle cruiser as a ship of the line.


There will be readers who can still remember the sinking of HMS Hood, the last of our battle cruisers, when a shell from the Bismarck struck the after magazine and  Hood exploded and sank almost immediately . Only three men survived from a crew of 1,418. Yet HMS Hood was not commissioned until 1920 and when she sank in 1941, it was under almost identical conditions.


The accounts of the three survivors of HMS Hood at the Court of Inquiry make interesting if chilling reading and give us a good idea of  what the final moments of Ernest Edmund Stentiford and his shipmates might have been like in 1916 - to read them visit


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