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Greater than Trafalgar

10 June 2016

June 9th, 1916.

MAY 31, the day on which the battle of Jutland began, will rank in the annals of the country with Trafalgar. In scale the North Sea action far transcends even that earlier exploit, if we estimate them by the size of the vessels engaged, the weight of their armament, and the number of the gallant lives that were lost. But in point of bravery and seamanship Trafalgar and Jutland present no contrast: both alike showed us the English Navy at its best, ready to face any odds, too proud to turn away from a foe who for a time far outnumbered and outclassed the fleet under Admiral Beatty’s command. For something like the whole German fleet was at sea, and yet it was held up until the Grand Fleet with Admiral Jellicoe hove in sight. Then a wonderful thing happened. The Germans fled back to their hiding place, and at once announced to the world that they had won a splendid victory; a public holiday was proclaimed, the bells were set ringing and flags waved everywhere. The beaten English, on the other hand, remained on the scene of action, trying to rescue any of the survivors from the sunken ships; and then, at their leisure, retired to their base, refitted, and were ready in twenty-four hours to fight the enemy again. On balance the enemy’s losses were evidently the heavier, and the victory may be said to be ours as over a retreating foe. But the joy and pride we feel in the way our men bore themselves throughout that appalling fight are tempered with sorrow for so many brave lives taken, and the grief that clouds so many bereaved homes.


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