Battle Of Jutland Map
Map showing Jutland peninsular.
H.M.S. Iron Duke
W.W.1 battleship H.M.S. Iron Duke.

The Battle of Jutland was a major naval battle during World War One, fought in the north Atlantic, both the British and German Navy losing many men and ships. After the battle the German High Seas fleet was never in a strong position to put to sea during the war again. British Admiral John Jellicoe was criticised by some for his tactics, but after the battle the British Navy remained a powerful fighting force.

The battle was fought as it was believed that Britain had naval supremacy in Europe and throughout the world. A clash between Germany and Britain before the outbreak of war in August 1914 was thought of as the naval race between the two countries. The British public expected and believed at the time that the British navy could not be challenged and victory was inevitable.

The beginning of World War One saw Britain involved in two minor naval clashes, one at Heligoland the other at Dogger Bank, a full-scale naval clash between Germany and Britain did not occur.  The Germany fleet was smaller than that of Britain, both fleets seen development in 1906 of the Dreadnought class of ships, all other warships were reduced in what they could do compared to the new Dreadnought, both countries developed this new class of ship and a naval supremacy race began.With both fleets having such firing power they could inflict great damage to each other and avoided a major battle in fear it could be decisive and leave their country open to attack.

The British Navy’s North Sea base’s were at Rosyth, Cromarty and Scapa Flow, from which Britain  could protect the North Sea and stop the German High Seas Fleet from sailing into the Atlantic where it could attack the British merchant fleet. The British believed that the Germans would not use the English Channel and face the British Navy bases at Portsmouth and Plymouth, it was therefore thought that the German Navy could only operate from the North Sea.

By 1916 the British navy had created an effective blockade of Germany, as Germany’s northern coastline is small and a blockade was easy to enforce. Until 1916, the German Fleet was commanded by Admiral von Poul. He was replaced by the more aggressive Admiral Reinhardt von Scheer, he decided that the blockade was causing too much damage to Germany.

Admiral Scheer wanted to lure the British fleet out of their naval bases, then by using a combination of ships and submarines attack and destroy the British fleet. On the nights of the 24th and 25th of April 1916, the German Navy attacked the coastal towns of Lowestoft and Yarmouth, with the idea that the British fleet would respond.

In May, Admiral Scheer gave orders to Admiral von Hipper to set sail with 40 ships to move along the Danish coast. This news reached Admiral Jellicoe of the British Navy at Rosyth he saw the movement of such a large force as provocation and ordered the British Grand Fleet to sea, the Battle of Jutland then started on May 31st 1916.

Finding the enemy fleet was a difficult task, at the time spotter reconnaissance planes could not cover the required distance over the North Sea, therefore fast cruisers had to be sent out by both fleets to find out where the other was. When they found each other there was a brief exchange of fire but both had done their task, hunting down the enemy.

Now that the British navy had found the German fleet, Admiral Jellicoe’s fleet was joined by the British fleet from Scapa Flow led by Sir David Beatty. In total fifty two ships joined the British Grand Fleet who faced a fleet of forty German ships led by Admiral Hipper. Though the German fleet was smaller, the advantage lay with them due to the lay of the sun helping their visibility; at a distance of about ten miles they opened fire on each other,

At about 16.00, the British battle cruiser “HMS Indefatigable” was hit and destroyed by the Germans. One thousand men lost their lives the main magazine exploded, thirty minutes later; “HMS Queen Mary” sank in just one and a half minutes.

It became more difficult for the British fleet when Admiral Hipper was joined by Admiral Scheer’s High Seas Fleet, Admiral Jellicoe’s force was fifteen miles from Sir David Beatty’s force when the battle started. As the two British fleets joined up, they suffered a third loss when “HMS Invincible” was sunk shortly after 18.30.

As the two British fleets joined, they represented a powerful force Admiral Hipper ordered the German fleet to sail north. Admiral Jellicoe seen this as an attempt to lure the British fleet into a submarine trap or a German mine field. He did not follow and decided to sail his fleet south to cut the Germans off, the German ship “Lutzow” was sunk, “Seydlitz” and “Derfflinger” were badly damaged. as they sailed for their home port.

The Germans claimed Jutland was a victory as they had sunk more capital ships than the British had. Admiral Jellicoe claimed the victory was to the British as his fleet was a more sea worthy entity. The British lost ships 14 in all and over 6,000 lives, the Germans 9 ships and over 2,500 casualties. After Jutland the German fleet was unable to challenge the British Navy in the North Sea.

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