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Battle of Jutland centenary marked by new exhibit

News: 29 May 2016

A new exhibit at Wellington’s The Great War Exhibition opens on Tuesday, marking the centenary of the Battle of Jutland – the pivotal naval battle of the First World War.

Created by Sir Peter Jackson and supported by ANZ the Exhibition tells the story of the First World War in brilliant colour.

The Battle of Jutland, fought in the southern North Sea, near the coast of Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula in May 1916, was not only the largest naval battle of the First World War, but also confirmed the British Navy’s dominance of the North Sea.

Trustee of The Great War Exhibition, Rhys Jones, said the Battle of Jutland was an important event to commemorate because it marked a decisive point in the First World War after which Germany realised it could not break Britain’s naval blockade.

“We are committed to ensuring we mark key points during the First World War as they reach their centenary. Although the German High Seas Fleet suffered fewer casualties and sank more ships than the Grand Fleet, the British retained the strategic advantage.”

There were several New Zealanders serving in the British Navy when the Battle of Jutland took place, but New Zealand’s key contribution was the battleship HMS New Zealand. The ship had participated in two previous skirmishes - the Battle of Heligoland Bight in 1914 and Dogger Bank a year later and had come through both unscathed.

At Jutland HMS New Zealand was just one of 250 warships – 151 British and 99 German - that took part in the battle, fought over May 31 and June 1, 1916 which saw 6700 British sailors killed along with 3000 Germans.

HMS New Zealand fired 420 12-inch shells – more than any other British battlecruiser – and contributed to the sinking of two German ships. She had a main armament of eight 12-inch guns and a top speed of almost 26 knots.

Memorabilia from the ship will be on display along with photographs and paintings telling the story of the Battle of Jutland and the Merchant Navy. Approximately 500 New Zealanders served in the Royal Navy during the war, but an even bigger contribution was that of the Merchant Navy, who ferried troops and supplies to keep the British war effort going.

A centrepiece of the exhibition is a pipe stand and tobacco holder made from the wood of HMS Iron Duke, the flagship of the British Grand Fleet under Admiral John Jellicoe. The piece is on loan from Sir Peter Jackson.

Also featured are two model ships, one of the UNS Ibuki and the other of the RMS Niagara. The first convoy of New Zealand troop ships left for war in October 1914, escorted by a number of naval vessels including the Japanese battlecruiser Ibuki. Japan played an important role in the First World War helping to protect the sea lanes for the Allies.

The Niagara was the Union Steam Ship Company’s biggest ship and carried troops and resources throughout the war. She was sunk by a German mine off the Northland coast in 1940.

Meanwhile, there are several Battle of Jutland commemorative events taking place this month around New Zealand and in the UK.

The Great War Exhibition, featuring the new Battle of Jutland display, is within Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, at the former Dominion Museum Building, Buckle St, Wellington and open daily from 9am to 6pm. Tickets are $15 each for adults, no charge for children aged 16 years and under.

The Great War Exhibition is grateful for the ongoing support of the Curator, Sir Peter Jackson, and Principal Partner, ANZ. We also acknowledge the assistance of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and Wellington City Council.

Updated on 27th June 2016