A new area of woodland dedicated to the men who died at the Battle of Jutland will be fully planted by next spring.
A date has been set aside for a formal planting ceremony involving Royal Naval Association officials, Royal Navy personnel and Sea Cadets – 16 March 2019.
All RNA members are invited, with the event likely to start around 10am and refreshments (plus a tot for those of drinking age) will be available.
RNA General Secretary Capt Paul Quinn said: There are a lot of trees to be planted, so don’t just come along and watch us do it, come and do it yourself – plant one in memory of a loved one or for a sailor who served at Jutland.”
The eight-acre Battle of Jutland Memorial Wood forms part of the Woodland Trust’s First World War Centenary Woods Project, which creates a new wood in each nation of the UK.
The English project (including the Jutland Wood) is at Langley Vale in Surrey, two miles south of Epsom and bounded to the south by the M25; the Scottish memorial plantation is at Dreghorn Woods, in the Pentland Hills to the south of Edinburgh; Coed Ffos Las near Kidwelly in Carmarthenshire is the Welsh woods and Brackfield Wood in County Londonderry, eight miles south-east of Londonderry, completes the quartet.
Langley Vale incorporates pockets of ancient woodland and contains Sites of Nature Conservation Importance.
Up to 200,000 native broadleaved saplings will be planted by next year at the 640-acre site, including beech, oak, alder, wild cherry and hawthorn, supporting some hundreds of species of birds, mammals and insects, including the common dormouse, weasels, voles, five species of bats, little owls, kestrels, buzzards and jays.
The Jutland wood, created by the Woodland Trust in association with the RNA, will see a sapling planted for each of the 6,097 Royal Navy lives lost, and 14 semi-mature oaks, each representing a British warship lost in the battle, which took place from 31 May to 1 June 1916.
The wood will be planted in waves to represent the sea, and will be divided into four groves, each named after a winner of the VC from Jutland:
Rear Admiral The Hon Edward Stewart Bingham, who as a commander at Jutland led a destroyer division from the bridge of HMS Nestor into attack against German destroyers, then took on a force of battlecruisers.
Nestor was sunk by heavy gunfire as she made a torpedo run; Bingham was picked up by a German ship and spent the rest of the war as a POW.
Boy John Travers Cornwell was a 16-year-old sight-setter on one of the 5.5in guns aboard cruiser HMS Chester. When the ship came under intense fire from four German cruisers members of the gun crews were cut down by shrapnel passing below or into the rear of the open-backed gun shields.
The crew on Cornwell’s gun were all killed or mortally wounded, and although Cornwell sustained severe splinter injuries to his chest that would soon end his life, he remained at his post awaiting orders which never came.
Chester was withdrawn from the battle and Cornwell, along with injured shipmates, was landed ashore on the East Coast of England. The teenager died in Grimsby General Hospital on 2 June.
Maj Francis John William Harvey was a long-serving officer in the Royal Marine Light Infantry, and as a naval gunnery expert he was specially selected to serve on board HMS Lion, the flagship of Admiral Beatty’s battlecruiser squadron.
Lion was struck several times by the German ship Lutzow during the battlecruisers’ ‘Run to the South’ and one shell entered Q turret, detonating cordite shell propellant.
In the final minutes of his life the severely-wounded Harvey, the turret commander, ordered the magazine be flooded, and it is thought this action prevented the magazine exploding – had it done so the ship would have been destroyed, killing almost all of her ship’s company of over 1,000 sailors.
Cdr Loftus William Jones, of HMS Shark, led a division of destroyers in an attack on the formidable German battlecruiser force. Shellfire wrecked the ship’s steering mechanism and main engines so Jones, although injured in the leg, helped in attempts to fix the steering.
When heavy German fire destroyed the fore and after guns, Jones went to the last remaining gun amidships to help keep it firing. He was struck by a shell, which took away part of his leg, and a stoker applied a tourniquet round the stump as the officer continued to issue orders.
Shortly after, Shark was rendered completely defenceless, and Jones went down with his ship after a torpedo finished her off.
Former Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Sir David Steel, in his role as Woodland Trust Ambassador, said: “Jutland Wood will be an enduring and living memorial, not only to those who gave their lives during this one major battle but to commemorate all who died at sea during the First World War.
“For generations to come people of all ages will enjoy its presence, while remembering those sailors who did not return to land."
Capt Quinn and his successor, Capt Bill Oliphant, have also been invited to plant specimen trees at the Langley Vale site on November 9 this year.
Our first picture from the Imperial War Museum collection – © IWM (Q 55601) – shows the damage done to the superstructure of dreadnought HMS Colossus at the Battle of Jutland. It was considered relatively minor damage, with only a handful of sailors being injured. The second image – © IWM (Q 39269) – shows battlecruiser HMS Invincible, which blew up with the loss of 1,026 lives at the battle; only six sailors survived.