Grey North Sea, The
DESCRIPTION: "And oh, we peppered them hot, sir, And yelled aloud with glee, Till the enemy staggered back to port In the grey North Sea."
EARLIEST DATE: 1984 (Tawney-GreyFunnelLines-RoyalNavy)
KEYWORDS: navy fight
May 31-Jun 1, 1916 - Battle of Jutland. The Royal Navy suffers more losses than the German fleet but forces the Germans to flee back to port
FOUND IN: Britain
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Tawney-GreyFunnelLines-RoyalNavy, p. 144, "The Grey North Sea" (1 fragment)
NOTES [282 words]: Roy Palmer, who gave this to Tawney, thought it was about the Battle of Jutland. Tawney's text is too short to be sure, but it seems likely. The Royal Navy didn't fight many battles, particularly large-scale battles, in the North Sea.
The Germans claimed victory in the battle. As Nigel Steel and Peter Hart, Jutland 1916: Death in the Grey Wastes, Cassell, 2003 (I use the 2004 paperback edition), pp. 424-425, say, "Any superficial analysis of ships lost and of casualties sustained shows that the Germans did indeed have a case for celebrating a victory.... In all, the British lost three battlecruisers, three armoured cruisers and eight destroyers. The Germans lost one battlecruiser, one pre-dreadnought, four light cruisers and five destroyers.... In the battle some 6,094 British sailors lost their lives as opposed to 2,551 Germans."
But they Steel/Hart go on to add on p. 425, "Whatever specious claims can be constructed from an analysis of losses or casualties it remains a fact that the British won the Battle of Jutland. In the end the material successes of the High Seas Fleet fade into complete insignificance in comparison to the crushing strategic success the Royal Navy secured for the British Empire." They had chased the Germans back into port, from which they never emerged again in the war. And they did it in just the way the song describes: they "peppered them hot." The British lost more ships -- but many German ships barely made it back to port due to the damage they had sustained; they frankly fled with their tails between their legs. So the song is a good fit for Jutland. The newspapers argued about who won. But the sailors on the British ships knew. - RBW
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