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Beatty was drawing slowly ahead, though with little prospect of being able to throw his force across the enemy's van, as he had hoped to do, his plan being not only to cut the Germans off from their base, but to "cap" their column and concentrate the fire of his whole force on Von Hipper's leading ships. Had he been able to do this he would have secured the tactical advantage which is the object of all maneuvering in a naval engagement, and would at the same time have compelled Von Hipper to run to the northward toward the point from which Jellicoe was known to be approaching at the highest speed of his dreadnoughts. With this thought in mind, Beatty was holding on to the southward, taking full advantage of his superiority in both speed and gunfire, when a column of German dreadnoughts was sighted in the southeast approaching at full speed to form a junction with Von Hipper's squadron (Plate II). Seeing himself thus outmatched, Beatty made a quick change of plan. There was no longer any hope of carrying out the plan of throwing himself across the head of the German column, but if Von Hipper could not be driven into Jellicoe's arms it was conceivable that he might be led there, and with him the additional force that Von Scheer was bringing up to join him. So Beatty turned to the northward, and, as he had hoped, Von Hipper followed; not, however, until he had run far enough on the old course to effect a junction with Von Scheer, whose battleships fell in astern of the battle cruisers as these last swung around to the northward and took up a course parallel to that of Beatty and Thomas. Thus the running fight was resumed, with the difference that both forces were now heading at full speed toward the point from which Beatty knew Jellicoe to be approaching. Von Hipper's delay in turning had permitted Beatty to draw ahead, and the relative positions of the engaged squadrons were now those shown in Plate III.
It is during this part of the fight that the British accounts speak of Beatty as engaging the whole German fleet and as being thus tremendously overmatched. A moment's study of Plate III will make it clear that this claim is not tenable. Without fuller information than we have of positions and distances,
it is impossible to say exactly how many of Von Scheer's ships were able to fire on Beatty's column, but certainly the total German force within effective range could not have been materially larger than the British force it was engaging.
As far as can be figured out from Beatty's own report, the only time when he was actually pitted against a force superior to his own, within fighting range, was after he had lost the Indefatigable and the Queen Mary, and before the dreadnoughts of Admiral Thomas's force had reached a point from which they were able to open an effective fire. He entered the fight with six battle cruisers opposed to five. He then, for a short time, had four opposed to five. A little later he had four battle cruisers and four dreadnoughts opposed to five battle cruisers, and a little later still, as has just been stated, the forces actually opposed within firing range became practically equal.
About six o'clock, having gained enough to admit of an attempt to "cap," Beatty turned his head to the eastward, but Von Hipper refused to accept this disadvantage and turned east himself, thus continuing the parallel fight on a large curve tending more and more to the east (Plate IV). It was about this time that the Lützow, Von Hipper's flagship and the leader of the German column, dropped out of the formation, having been so badly damaged that she could no longer maintain her position in the formation. Von Hipper, calling a destroyer alongside, boarded her and proceeded, through a storm of shell, to the Moltke, on which he resumed his place at the head of the fleet.
Jellicoe, seventy miles to the northward with the main fighting force, received word about three o'clock that the scouting force was in contact with the enemy, and started at once to effect a junction with Beatty. He may well have wished at that moment that his forces were separated somewhat less widely. Under his immediate command he had three squadrons of the latest and most powerful fighting ships in the world, twenty-five in all, including his own flagship, the Iron Duke. His squadrons were led by three of the youngest and most efficient vice admirals in the service, Sir Cecil Burney, Sir Thomas Jerram, and Sir Doveton Sturdee (Plate V). With him also were Rear Admirals