UK, Germany unite for WWI Battle of Jutland centenary

31st May 2016, Comments 0 comments

Leaders from Britain and Germany stood together in a remote, windswept cemetery in Scotland's Orkney Islands on Tuesday, exactly 100 years on from the Battle of Jutland, the biggest naval battle of World War I.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and German President Joachim Gauck laid wreaths at Lyness Naval Cemetery in the remote islands off the Scottish mainland's northeast tip, overlooking the Scapa Flow anchorage from which the British Grand Fleet sailed into battle against their German enemy.

More than 6,000 British and 2,500 German sailors were killed in the 36-hour battle, which began off the Danish coast on May 31, 1916.

Some of the victims -- from both sides -- are buried at Lyness.

Descendants of those killed were on Tuesday shown to their ancestors' graves.

Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth II's daughter, attended the ceremony and an earlier service at St Magnus Cathedral in the Orkney Islands' main town of Kirkwall, Britain's most northerly cathedral.

Anne's grandfather king George VI served as a young midshipman in the Battle of Jutland on board HMS Collingwood.

Queen Elizabeth's husband Prince Philip, who turns 95 on June 10, was due to attend but the titular head of the navy cancelled his trip on medical advice due to a minor ailment.

Fourteen British and 11 German ships were sunk in the battle and both sides claimed victory.

"War may be senseless and the Battle of Jutland may have been inconclusive, but there can be no doubt that their sacrifice was not in vain," Prince Philip said in a message.

More than 100,000 sailors were engaged in 250 ships.

"The fighting was brief but brutal," said First Sea Lord Admiral Philip Jones, the professional head of the British navy.

During the service in Kirkwall, also attended by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, descendants and officers from the British and German navy read diary extracts from officers who fought in the battle.

A memorial sculpture park at Thyboroen in Denmark's northern Jutland region is due to open next month.

© 2016 AFP

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