IT is one grieving mother’s experience of devastation and heartache.
Crushed by the death of her beloved son Archie at the Battle of Jutland, Kathleen Dickson poured out her heart to his surviving brother Bertie about their tragic loss.
Some of the crew on board would have known nothing about it. Most of them were isolated from what was going on, which is hard to understand today.Nick Hewitt, head of heritage development at the National Museum of the Royal Navy
In a moving letter to Bertie – who also took part in but survived the brutal naval siege during the First World War – a heartbroken Kathleen wrote: ‘My dearest and only boy. We can’t tell each other in writing what we are feeling today.
‘My world was divided into three parts and a third has crumbled away.’
The tragic story of Archie, who was on HMS Queen Mary when it was destroyed, is retold at the new Jutland exhibition in the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth, as the world today marks the centenary of the battle – and remembers the epic heroism and bravery of the men who fought and died for their country.
Nick Hewitt, head of heritage development at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, said: ‘It’s about remembering the sacrifice made.
‘It was a battle that tore families apart.
‘It was devastating.
‘And it’s so important we continue to remember the sacrifices made.
‘What happens to sailors especially, is they go from relative comfort to extreme peril. Everyone in those ships would have been subjected to extreme conditions.’
Talking about those who died when ships were battered and blown up as Britain fought the German fleet near the coast of Denmark’s Jutland peninsula, Mr Hewitt said: ‘Some of the crew on board would have known nothing about it. Most of them were isolated from what was going on, which is hard to understand today. There were men in the engine and boiler rooms. They were in a steel box and couldn’t see anything.
‘But then there were those on the upper decks, they were the ones being shot at and could see the shells flying through the air.’
By the end of the battle, Britain had lost 14 battleships to Germany’s 11. While 2,551 Germans were killed compared to 6,077 British sailors.
The Royal Navy will be marking the 100th anniversary of The Battle of Jutland with a parade and ceremony in Southsea. More than 100 sailors will march – led by the Royal Marines Band Collingwood – to Southsea Common war memorial where a 45-minute ceremony and service will take place.
Havant will hold a Civic service to commemorate the centenary at St James’s Church, Emsworth.
Fourteen men from the village were killed during the 36 hours of the battle.
A staggering 151 British warships went head to head against 99 German ships in the 36-hour fight.
The battle began at 6pm on May 31, 1916.
Only one British ship from the conflict survives to this day – HMS Caroline.