Postcard from the Sea War Museum, Jutland

“War is a tragedy and should not be glorified, but the history must be told and the victims remembered”

It was evening by the time we reached Thyborøn, a fishing town in Jutland. A cold sea mist hung over the place, with the wind dropping temperatures to an icy bite – a surprising change after the hot sun we’d enjoyed that morning.

After fish and chips by the harbour we walked around the war memorial park which was laid out along the coast off which the Battle of Jutland took place in 1916. In that battle, involving approximately 100,000 men on 250 warships, 25 ships were sunk, and 8,645 sailors perished.

The park has no boundaries, and no list of names. Rather it takes the shore as its ocean, and granite for its ships. The most striking aspect of the park are these large chunks of granite set in the dune grass, several metres apart from each other, and all at various angles. These represent the final position and view of each ship’s stern, before it sank beneath the waves.

Carved into each slab of granite is the name of a ship lost in the battle. Some are German, some British, and beneath each name a number records the dead. Around these sternstones, pale, slender figures stand vigil, their ghosts loyal to the ships on which they served.

The park is such a quiet work of art. An understated memorial on a neutral shore, that continues to bear witness to the horror of what took place as the German and British fleets fought each other for control of the ocean. Both sides, fighting almost blind in the weather and the dark, lost thousands of men in a matter of hours from the afternoon of 31 May, into the early hours of 1 June 1916.

It is said, that the guns of the battle could be heard in Thyboron. On the quiet misty evening we were there, all we could hear were waves thumping on to the shore. As I thought of my great-uncle, who died serving as a mid-shipman on HMS Defence, aged just fifteen, I saw a mother and her young lad walking through the park. While I watched the boy paused briefly to shake a few of the ghosts. The next day, in one of the excellent displays, I saw the photograph above, and imagined that one of the young men in the photograph might have done exactly the same.

If you are interested in the Battle of Jutland, or naval warfare, I hope you manage to get to visit the Sea War Museum. It is full of fascinating detail about the battle, and those who took part, as well as the ships, submarines, aircraft and mines, and it is careful always to show both sides.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

3 thoughts on “Postcard from the Sea War Museum, Jutland

  1. Really beautiful Georgie. You really painted a picture. What a stark, thoughtful memorial to those souls lost at sea. I would enjoy seeing this one day. It would mean a lot to me. My late father served with the Royal Navy during WW11 from 1940-46, torpedoed twice, a survivor twice. These thoughtful places are so evocative and allow you to send these dear, lost souls your thoughts and gratitude 🙏🏼

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment Glynis. I do hope you have the chance to visit this place. You can feel the love, dedication and respect in every exhibit in the museum – we spent hours in there, and a very brisk and memorable evening in the memorial park.


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