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Battle of Jutland centenary: Able Seaman Arthur Mark Lane ( 1893-1916)

Destruction of the British Armoured Cruiser HMS Black Prince during the night of 31st May 1916 at the Battle of Jutland: painting by German artist Willy Stower.

On the boundary between the two cemeteries aside a roughly trodden pathway lies a faded headstone inscription that reminds the onlooker of one of the last fateful engagements during the greatest naval battle of the Great War fought in two main phases over 36 hours in the North Sea 60 miles off the coast of Denmark at Jutland ( also known as the Skagerrak) on Wednesday 31st May/ Thursday 1st June 1916  (the clash is also referred to as Der Tag-The Day) between the British Grand Fleet under Admiral Sir John Jellicoe aka 'Hellfire Jack' and the Imperial German Hochseeflotte (High Seas Fleet) under Vice Admiral Reinhard Scheer, involving a total of almost 250 ships and 100,000 men which is in terms of combined tonnage the largest naval battle in history. The defining sea battle of the war, its intense ferocity resulted in the deaths of 6,092 sailors of the Royal Navy and 2,551 German seamen. Both sides claimed victory in what was an indecisive action, but though numerically a German success,  the fact was that the Grand Fleet was ready for action the following day and the High Seas fleet having returned to port never again seriously threatened British naval supremacy.  Jutland was undoubtedly a strategic British victory, but for many at home it came to be viewed as a missed opportunity to annihilate the enemy.  Winston Churchill' made the famously barbed observation on Admiral Jellicoe's tactics at the battle, 'the only man who could have lost the war in an afternoon', 

Able seaman Arthur Lane served on HMS Black Prince which was launched at the famous Thames Ironworks at Blackwall in 1904 and was a 13,550 ton Armoured Battle cruiser. At the outbreak of war she was stationed in the Mediterranean. At the Battle of Jutland whilst under the command of Captain T P Bonham RN she lost contact with the rest of the British Fleet. At 08.48 pm she wired that she had sighted a submarine. No one in the British Fleet witnessed her catastrophic end but it was presumed that she had either been torpedoed or struck a mine. A German account however reports that “Black Prince” headed towards their lines at around mid-night and her crew did not realise their mistake until too late. In attempting to turn the vessel round it presented a broadside to the German Fleet gunners and the battleship “Thuringen” opened fire. With several German ships within 1,000 yards the “Black Prince”was sunk within 15 minutes, after burning for a few minutes and at 12.10 am she exploded with the loss of all hands. A total of 37 officers, 815 men and 5 civilians were lost in the grey waters of the North Sea including Able Seaman Lane of Lower Sydenham who is also remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.  This clash of the Dreadnoughts will also feature prominently as one of the Governments six iconic landmark battles of World War One (the only naval conflict) in its centenary year.

Mike Guilfoyle
Vice-Chair FOBLC