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Battle Of Jutland

Jutland Battle WW1

Jutland Battle WW1 was the largest naval battle of World War 1 and possibly the greatest Dreadnought battle ever in human history. 

Jutland Battle WW1 : It took place over 3 main skirmishes from May 31st to June 1st 1916, off the North Sea coast of Denmark’s Jutland peninsula, where the 1st and 2nd largest Naval fleets in the world at the time faced off against each other. 

The High Seas Fleet of Imperial Germany–consisted of 16 battleships, 5 battlecruisers, 6 pre-dreadnoughts, 11 light cruisers, 61 torpedo-boats–fought the Grand Fleet of Britain’s Royal Navy, which had the staggering power of 28 battleships, 9 battlecruisers, 8 armoured cruisers, 26 light cruisers, 78 destroyers, 1 minelayer and 1 seaplane carrier. 

The British fleet not only outnumbered the German’s but also had a much greater advantage in size and strength. The total of the British ships’ weight of broadside was 332,360 lb (150,760 kg), while the German fleet’s total only amounted to 134,216 lb (60,879 kg). 

Despite this gap, because Germany desperately relied on maritime trade to feed her economy, it sought to create an unfettered access to the Atlantic, a serious challenge for German vessels. To do so, it needed to challenge the British control of the Northern Seas and break the British Naval blockades. 

The new and ambitious German commander Admiral Reinhart Scheer was eager to put an end to the previous indecisive battles with a major win. He wanted to take on the Royal Navy as he felt that the Germans had a stronger fleet. According to his aggressive strategy, the Germans would engage only a portion of the Royal Fleet at a time, so to create a situation where they could ensure victory with an advantage in number as well as strength. 

Based on this strategy, Scheer planned to bombard the British coast and then draw the major battleships south while finishing off the smaller battlecruisers that were left behind. 

At the same time, the British Fleet pursued a strategy where they aimed to engage and destroy the German High Seas Fleet, so they could keep German naval forces at bay and at once remove them from the British shipping lanes. 

In addition to its size and strength, the Royal Navy was also able to intercept German signals sent to U-Boats, which gave them an advance warning about a major German fleet operation in the Jutland area. And on May 30th, British Naval Commander Admiral Sir John Jellicoe sailed from Scapa Flow to engage the Germans. 

The first encounters were between Vice Admiral Franz Hipper of Germany and Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty of Great Britain on May 31st. 

Despite the advantages enjoyed by the Royal Navy, it quickly suffered considerable losses. 

Admiral Reinhart Scheer

HMS Indefatigable was among the first British ships lost in the battle, which had the same weak armor and poor ammunition storage procedures for rapid fire actions.

Due to Admiral Beatty’s poor maneuvers during the “run to the south” portion of Jutland, his flagship HMS Lion became exposed, and the German battleship SMS Derfflinger promptly attacked the ship. 

However, when HMS Lion let out smoke and effectively disguised itself, the Germans then turned to HMS Queen Mary, the largest loss at Jutland for the Grand High Fleet. Like HMS Invincible, HMS Queen Mary exploded and split in half. 

The British Fleet suffered these early losses largely because of Admiral Beatty’s mistakes. Beatty was a good administrative officer and a favorate of Winston Churchil, but he was an incompetent field commander.

Beatty did not take his battlecruisers out for gunnery practice. He also decided to use rapid fire tactics, which relied upon a great deal more ammunition than accurate firing. 

Employing the rapid fire tactics, Admiral Beatty not only allowed shells and propellant to be stored outside the magazine but also allowed blast and magazine doors to be left open.

His disregarded these–among other–important safety protocols in an effort to increase the rate of fire created conditions where usually non-fatal hits ended up as catastrophic blows for the battlecruisers. 

Fortunately, he corrected his mistakes of improperly storing ammunition and a lack of regard for blast doors after Jutland, as he went on to become the First Sea Lord. 

Admiral Sir John Jellicoe

(That is why Hood’s squadron, the Invincible class, sailed from Scapa instead of Rosyth. The British commander Admiral Sir John Jellicoe had started rotating the battlecruiser squadrons up to Scapa so they could perform much needed gunnery practice. Only in Scapa could they practice long distance gunnery without having to worry about German attacks during practice. Offshore down the coast south of Scapa was littered with German mines and U-boats.

Beatty also failed to give his position multiple times to Admiral Jelicoe which would have helped coordinate the battle. He ignored requests for instructions during the battle from several ships, and his antiquated group turning procedures were flat out ignored at times. Beatty’s actions caused the loss of thousands of men.

The HMS Invincible was blown in half by the German ships Lützow and Derfflinger in 90 seconds, and 1026 of her officers and sailors were killed, including Rear-Admiral Hood. 

On the other side, the German High Seas Fleet, after its initial success,  was lured into confronting the entire Grant Fleet as it pursued Admiral Beatty’s smaller contingent back up north. Vastly outnumbered, Scheer and the Germans spent the bulk of the main engagement trying desperately to escape and suffered significant losses. 

Admiral David Beatty

Jutland Battle WW1

While the losses were heavy, German Admiral Scheer was lucky to ‘slip the noose’–as he put it–from the entire battle arc of the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet multiple times.

Jutland became his worst nightmare, since he had only intended to engage pockets of the British Fleet and bombard its coast. After the battle, he reflected critically, “Our Fleet losses were, despite the luck that smiled on us, severe, and on 1st June 1916 it was clear to every knowledgeable person, that this battle must be, and would be, the only one.”

German losses accounted for a higher percentage of their overall strength than British losses. In fact, The number of ships lost was rather inconsequential for the British. Within weeks of Jutland, the Grand Fleet recovered and became even stronger. 

Admiral Franz von Hipper

At the end, the High Sea Fleet withdrew and never attempted any major sorties into the North Sea for the rest of the war. When ordered to engage the Grand Fleet in 1918, it chose to mutiny.

Jutland was a British victory in strategic terms and roughly a draw with perhaps a slight advantage to the Germans in tactical terms because they managed to run away before further heavy damages. 

At the end of the battle, Britain lost 14 ships to Germany’s 11 and 2,551 men to Britain’s 6,097.

Epilogue:

The Imperial German Navy’s High Seas Fleet fought Britain’s Royal Navy Grand Fleet and most historians credit the win to Germany. But which side was left controlling the battlefield the next day? 

The British blockade of the Germans was still intact, their active Navy was still far superior to the Germans and the Germans were the side to have fled the battle.

Why did 3 British battlecruisers go up like tinder boxes and Lion narrowly avoid their fate? It wasn’t deck armor as no surviving British ship from Jutland had their deck armor pierced. But turret and belt armor were not impressive and the German 11 and 12 inch guns were able to blow through them at close ranges. 

The Myth and Reality of Battleship Bismarck

Why was the British firing so ineffective and when they did hit shots the artillery exploded on impact instead of going deep into the ship to cause serious damage. The British would fix this issue by the end of the war, sadly not in time to be used in combat. 

Something else to consider for context: the casualties from Jutland, among the deadliest battles in the history of both navies, would have amounted to a fairly typical day during any of the offensives fought on the western front of World War I. 

Jutland Battle WW1

And in World War II, The Battle of Moscow witnessed over 1 million dead in a 3 month period.

Written by Hantong Wu

Edited by Gary Newton, Jack Argiro, Calvin Ma, Michael Ding & Alexander Fleiss

Jutland Battle WW1

Jutland Battle WW1