Princess joins WW1's Battle of Jutland commemorations

Princess Anne listens to the Band of HM Royal Marines at Hawes Peir Image copyright Getty Images

Hundreds of people have gathered to mark the centenary of the largest naval battle of World War One in Rosyth and South Queensferry.

The events began a weekend of commemoration leading up to the anniversary on 31 May and 1 June.

More than 6,000 Britons and 2,500 Germans died in the 36-hour Battle of Jutland, involving about 250 ships.

Princess Anne joined First Minister Nicola Sturgeon for a service at a war graves cemetery in Rosyth.

HMS Kent has weighed anchor at South Queensferry before heading to Orkney for further commemorations.

Jutland, fought in the North Sea off the coast of Denmark, was the only major naval battle of the 1914-18 war.

Image copyright Ashley Coombes
Image caption Princess Anne laid a wreath at Rosyth Parish Church before joining further commemorations in the town
Image copyright Ashley Coombes

It brought together the two most powerful naval forces of the time and it became the largest sea battle in naval warfare history in terms of the numbers of battleships engaged.

The events on Saturday were designed to mark the "contribution and sacrifices" made by those who served during the battle.

Image caption HMS Kent at the Forth Bridge near South Queensferry before heading to Orkney for the commemorations

The commemorations began with a wreath-laying service and then an act of remembrance at Rosyth Parish Church in the town where the battlecruiser force was based in 1916.

A minute's silence took place following the ringing of a bell made from the hull of HMS Tiger, a battlecruiser which suffered light damage during the Jutland campaign.

Ms Sturgeon said: "The sacrifices made by those who fought in this battle, the largest naval encounter of the First World War, and by other seafarers throughout the conflict must never be forgotten."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption HMS Lion (left) was shelled and HMS Queen Mary (right) was blown up by German shells during the Battle of Jutland
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The German fleet are deflected from bombarding the British coast by Admiral Beatty's battle cruiser squadron during the battle
Image copyright PA
Image caption First Minister Nicola Sturgeon spoke to students ahead of the service at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's cemetery in South Queensferry
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionGraham Hobbs and Nick Jellicoe talk about their grandfathers' roles in the Battle of Jutland
Image copyright PA
Image caption Dazzle ship MV Fingal weighed anchor at Hawes Pier in South Queensferry, near Edinburgh

A service of remembrance was held in South Queensferry Commonwealth War Graves Commission's cemetery, where 40 casualties from the battle are commemorated or buried.

Descendents of those involved in the battle, local school pupils and children visiting from Wilhelmshaven in Germany were part of the event.

Singer Barbara Dickson, whose uncle was killed in the Battle of the Somme, sang Scottish lament Flowers of the Forest as Princess Anne laid a wreath to remember lives lost.

'Horrible death'

Elizabeth Dickson, whose father survived but her uncle, aged 16, was killed in the battle, said: "It's very important to commemorate because, always, the tradition of commemoration and the rituals of commemoration are important because they're healing."

Admiral Lord West, a commander during the Falklands War who went on to be head of the Royal Navy for four years, said: "We forget sometimes, these sailors didn't die in an instant. There were ones trapped below decks, terrible burns. War is horrible - it was a horrible death on both sides, and we must remember that."

In the final event of the day, hundreds of people lined the streets around Hawes Pier in South Queensferry.

The band of HM Royal Marines (Scotland) performed the Beating Retreat and Ceremonial Sunset, while HMS Kent weighed anchor and fired a gun, before sailing alongside the MV Fingal, a strikingly coloured Dazzle Ship painted by artist Ciara Phillips.

A commemorative plaque unveiled by Princess Anne will later take permanent place at South Queensferry's shore.

WW1's biggest naval battle

Image copyright Robert Hunt Library/Alamy
  • The Battle of Jutland started on 31 May 1916
  • The British and German navies fought in the North Sea, off the coast of Denmark's Jutland peninsula
  • Britain suffered the highest casualties, with more than 6,000 lives lost
  • More than 2,500 Germans were killed
  • Germany claimed victory but her ships did not dare to challenge the British Grand Fleet again
  • Britain retained the larger navy and ensured it could send troops and supplies to Europe until the end of the war

More on this story