Jutland fought today in 1916
On the 31st May/1st June 1916 the naval Battle of Jutland was fought in the North Sea near Denmark between Germany and Britain. It was the war’s largest engagement and was a German plan to break Britain’s blockade of Germany.
The plan was for the faster Battlecruisers to lure UK’s ones on to the main force of Geman Battleships and destroy them, before her Battleships could join them. There were as many as 250 ships involved and the stakes were high. The plan seemed to be working as Hipper’s Battlecruisers sank two British ships belonging to Beattie’s force. The British, under Admiral Jellicoe, wanted to prolong the battle and with superior numbers defeat the Germans, but they were able to withdraw to port despite British efforts to cut them off.
The British lost more tonnage, almost twice as much as the Germans: 4 major ships to 2, although neither side lost a modern Battleship. Britishe losses in sailors were also double(3000-6000). It was, however, a British strategic victory. The Germans never again left port to challenge them and Scheer the German commander whose plan it had been to drastically reduce Beattie’s Grand Fleet was not successful in this.
The Germans turned instead to Unrestricted Submarine Warfare to win the war.
The first casualty in sea battles are mostly the stokers…
Jutland stands out an anomaly in the naval history of WWI, in the sense that it was the only occasion on which the full British and German battle fleets met in combat. Indeed, it was one of only a very small number of engagements in which the British and German dreadnought battleships and battlecruisers fought at all.
These ships had been built at enormous cost in the run-up to WWI, and the Anglo-German naval race was one of the factors which had raised tensions between the two countries during those years. It was widely expected that, if war broke out, these two huge and expensive forces would promptly step into the ring and slug it out to determine who would control the North Sea. Moreover, the Japanese had only recently (in 1905) won a Trafalgar-style battle against the Russians, using pre-dreadnought battleships, so this gave people an idea of what a WWI decisive battleship engagement might look like. So there was a lot of puzzlement when, on the outbreak of WWI, the North Sea emptied itself rather than filling up with warships. Britain clamped a “distant blockade” on the North Sea, using the English Channel and the passageways between the Orkneys, the Shetlands and Norway as choke points to interdict the whole area to enemy shipping.
Plenty of work was done during WWI by cruisers and destroyers and submarines, but the big battleships and battlecruisers on both sides spent most of the war sitting at anchor. Why? Paradoxically, it was Tsushima’s decisive character which made the British and German admiralties nervous about throwing their most expensive assets into a similar all-out battle. A combination of factors – good shooting on the enemy side and bad luck, design flaws and tactical errors on your side – could result in a capital ship being sunk or blown up in a matter of minutes (as had happened at Tsushima, and as ultimately happened to several battlecruisers at Jutland). These ships were so expensive, representing so much of a national investment, that their loss in large numbers (especially in a single day’s fighting) would have been regarded as a national calamity. It thus became more important for the dreadnoughts on each side to remain afloat than for them to sink their enemy counterparts. This led each side to avoid risking these ships in combat unless they were convinced that they had a special advantage which greatly increased the chances of victory (usually meaning a situation in which side X felt that it could lure side Y into a trap). I think it was Winston Chruchill who summed up the situation by saying that Admiral Jellicoe was the only man in Britain who could lose the war in an afternoon.
Thank you as always Marc.
I was going to post about an important Civil War battle, then came across Jutland.(I had not memorised this one.) I thought more of you would be interested and only hope in my 300 words on my phone I have done it some justice.
I thought more of you would be interested and only hope in my 300 words on my phone I have done it some justice.
Yes, for such a short text it sums up nicely the essentials of an engagemnt on which reams of material have been published. Far more ink has been expended on Jutland since it was fought than the considerable quantity of blood which was spilled there at the time.
One up Wittmann and CWO Marc very nice reading!