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What Happened at Dogger Bank?

What Happened at Dogger Bank?

World War 1

Battle of Dogger Bank was a World War 1 naval engagement between the British Grand Fleet and German High Seas Fleet on January 24th, 1915 taking place in the North Sea. 

Outline (in red) of Dogger Bank

Preceding this engagement, the German High Seas Fleet had successfully raided the British coastal cities of Scarborough(pictured below), Hartlepool, and Whitby. 

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The British populace was startled that enemy forces could evade the Royal Navy.

And get so close to the homeland. Despite a British task force being dispatched to confront the Germans on their exit from British waters, there was never a conflict due to a German escape through stormy weather. 

Following this raid, German Admiral Franz Hipper devised a plan to sail into Dogger Bank, a section of the North Sea, and clear the area of fishing vessels and other neutral ships. This was due to intelligence suggesting that there were British and Dutch spies nested in these so-called ‘neutral’ vessels.

Additionally, orders were given to the High Seas Fleet to engage and destroy any British forces in strength less than their own. 

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Admiral Hipper

The British were able to intercept German communications.

And learned about the plans of the German High Seas Fleet entering Dogger Bank. As a result, thus dispatched a British force that greatly outclassed their opponents. 

A total of 5 battlecruisers, 7 light cruisers, and 35 destroyers were deployed by the British. To confront the German fleet of 3 battlecruisers, 1 armored cruiser, 4 light cruisers, and 18 torpedo boats. 

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On the 24th of January. Admiral Hipper saw a mass of smoke approaching his fleet. And immediately determined that his forces were heavily outgunned. He ordered a retreat of the German High Seas Fleet southeast. But the armored cruiser Blücher and torpedo boats could not outrun the British battlecruisers. 

As British vessels caught up to the lagging Blücher, they began to shell the cruiser from a distance of around 11 miles. The Germans began to return fire later with their shorter range guns. But due to the extreme distance between the two fleets only a couple shells grazed Blücher

Sinking of the German armored cruiser Blücher.

As the distance between the belligerents closed, British guns targeted the German battlecruiser Seydlitz, which was leading the column of escaping vessels. 

After an hour of cannon fire, a 13.5-inch shell struck a critical hit on Seydlitz, penetrating a turret and causing a fire to start due to the ammunition storage. 

The commanding officer of Seydlitz promptly ordered the magazines flooded. Moreover, to ensure that the fire would not cause them to explode and doom the vessel. Furthermore, the British flagship, battlecruiser Lion, was similarly hit soon after. Causing her to lose speed. And fall behind in the chase. Lastly, after being struck 14 times. 

Three-stacked, dark grey warship at sea

After the continuous fighting, Admiral Hipper decided to abandon Blücher to preserve his remaining vessels. Furthermore, British Admiral David Beatty intended for the rest of his fleet to chase down the fleeing German ships aboard the crippled Lion.

However, since Lion had lost all electric power due to its sustained damages. He had to use flags to try and signal the rest of his ships his orders. 

HMS Warspite

Beatty’s second-in-command misinterpreted his orders and rallied the British force to finish off Blücher instead of pursuing the retreating Germans. Blücher put up a fight and scored multiple hits on British vessels. Furthermore, even crippled the destroyer HMS Meteor. However, after receiving around 70 shells, she would capsize and sink. 

Firstly, the rest of the German fleet escaped relatively unscathed, and the British ships returned to ports as well. Most of the casualties of this battle were sailors aboard Blücher. Moreover, a total of 1,034 German sailors drowned or wounded compared to 47 British. 

In conclusion, the British fleet had a chance to completely obliterate the scouting forces of the German High Seas Fleet, the miscommunication at the battle ultimately led to the Germans escaping. Nevertheless, after this battle, the German Navy didn’t challenge the British over the water for months to come.

Thank you IWM for the gratious use of your photos!

Imperial War Museums

Battle of Dogger Bank Written by Tony Cao

Edited by USS New Jersey Curator Ryan Szimanksi, Calvin Ma & Jay Devon

What Happened at Dogger Bank?