The Battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary

The HMS Queen Mary with deployed torpedo nets. Its structure of hundreds of chained rings can be seen in the close-up. Visualization 3D Stefan Dramiński

At 16:35, the German crews were on full battle alert and their gunners were ready to open fire. Finally, at 16:47, observers from Lion, which was the first ship in the British formation, spotted flashes on the silhouettes of the German ships indicating the beginning of the artillery duel. The targets were “distributed” and the flagship Lützow targeted Lion - Lion was to fire at Lützow. The cruiser Derfflinger, the second in the German formation, directed its fire towards the battlecruiser Queen Mary. Due to communication errors, Queen Mary also opened fire on Lützow which left Derfflinger unharassed by any British ship. Soon however, Queen Mary shifted her fire to the battlecruiser Seydlitz. At 16:57 the German ship was hit by a 343 mm shell at the barbette of the third “C” turret, which was put out of action.
Meanwhile, the last ship in the British formation met its tragedy. Indefatigable, shelled by the German cruiser Von Der Tann, was hit in one of her magazines. At 17:05 the ship exploded. The ship that took two years to build, disappeared from the surface within minutes and only two crew members survived. The shocking sight left both Beatty and the Germans stunned. Meanwhile the battle raged on and the German ships straddled the British. After the shock of losing such a large ship as Indefatigable, another tragedy occurred.
The battlecruiser Queen Mary, moving as the third ship in the formation behind Lion and Princess Royal, was targeted by Derfflinger’s gunners. She was also subjected to fire from Seydlitz however her 280 mm shells could not penetrate the British battlecruiser’s armour. Unfortunately, not the whole ship was protected by the thick armour. The first German 305 mm shell hit the “Q” turret at Queen Mary’s midship. The right gun was damaged but the left was still operational so the hit did not pose any danger to the battlecruiser. Further 305 mm shell(s) that smashed into the ship caused much more damage. The thin armored deck over the 4-inch battery was pierced and the ready-to-use ammunition below ignited. The blast went down the shaft and caused fire in the propellant charge magazine. Observers on other ships saw flash at the base of the first funnel. This was evidence of the route of the shock-wave through the fore boiler room’s ventilation shafts.
The crippled ship was moving on, listing to the portside, when exactly at 17:21 another explosion blasted. Cordite propellant charges located in “A” and “B” barbettes went off. The explosion virtually destroyed the whole bow section of the battlecruiser, including the conning tower, up to the observation posts on the main mast.
Having seen this terrible view, admiral Beatty said the famous words: “There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today”. The explosion was so powerful and destructive, it torn apart the huge over two-hundred-meter hull of the battlecruiser into two pieces. The fire and the explosion caused an enormous cloud of smoke reaching six hundred meters. In a blink of an eye, the battlecruiser Queen Mary became a flaming wreck with her bow and upward-pointing stern sinking separately. The battlecruisers Tiger and New Zealand, following the doomed ship, had to take evasive actions to avoid the sinking parts of Queen Mary. Sailors from Tiger saw her stern pointing upwards with propellers still running, which was a really nightmarish sight. They also saw sailors jumping out from the aft tower and companionways, trying to save their lives swimming farther away from the sinking ship. They were the few crew members of the aft tower who managed to survive the ship’s tragedy.

View from the port side edge of the shelter deck towards the stern.  Visualization 3D Stefan Dramiński


When the cruiser New Zealand was passing Queen Mary within about 150 metres, the ship capsized showing her brownish red bottom. Another explosion shook the sinking hull showering the passing ships with a hail of metal debris. Although many sailors jumped into the water, they died sucked in by powerful whirlpools and currents caused by the sinking pieces of the ship. Out of the total number of 1286 crew members, the British destroyers picked up only 18 survivors, the German ships saved two. Queen Mary became the grave of 1266 members of her crew.

Wreck

The battlecruiser’s wreck was discovered in 1991, 75 years after her sinking. The wreck is 60 meters under water with the tallest elements at 45 meters. This made Queen Mary hardly reachable for plundering commercial divers contrary to other ships sunk during the Battle of Jutland. The ship’s remains may be divided into three major parts. The first one is the bow section, torn apart after the explosion of the ammunition magazines of the “A” and “B” turrets. One of the 13.5-inch guns is visible within the remains with its breechblock in the silt and the barrel pointing towards the surface. Further on there is a field of different bow boiler room equipment debris which fell out of the hull after it had broken up. The best preserved is the hull section from the foremast to the stern, which sank in one piece and lodged itself bottom up in the silt. A hole in its front section shows the inside of the  magazines of the middle “Q” turret. Piles of well preserved projectiles and propellants are witnesses to the fact that there was no explosion in this part of the ship. The only missing elements of the wreck are the propellers, probably recovered by one of the diving expeditions. In 2006, by the act of the British Parliament, the resting place of Queen Mary was pronounced a protected area, and all salvage operations have been forbidden ever since.

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3D12 QueenMary

 

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