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The Battle of Jutland was fought on May 31 - June 1, 1916, in the North Sea near Jutland (a mainland north of Denmark). The battle itself was between Vice-Admiral Reinhard Scheer commander of the High Seas Fleet of the Kaiserliche Marine (part of German Fleet), and Admiral Sir John Jellicoe commander of the Grand Fleet of the Royal Navy. The overall goal of the German fleet was to trap and destroy a portion of the Grand Fleet due to insufficient numbers to engage the entire fleet at one time. Keep in mind this was part of a larger strategy to break the British naval blockade so they may once again allow German merchant ships to operate again in the North Sea. On the other hand the Royal navy focused to destroy the High seas fleet or keep the German force bottled up and away from British shipping lines.
The Battle took place in the Northern coast of continental Europe in between the southern flanks of Norway and Sweden and north of Denmark. Most of the battle occurred during the night, in the middle of the North Sea where 250 ships attended the battle.
Forces, Commanders and Strategy
Each fleet had two main Admirals, Admiral Franz Hipper and Reinhard Scheer led the High Seas Fleet, and Admiral David Beatty and John Jellicoe led the Royal Navy.
The Royal battle force had a strength of twenty eight battle ships, nine battle cruisers, eight armored cruisers, twenty six light cruisers, seventy eight destroyers, a minelayer and a sea plane carrier (151 ships in total). The High Seas battle force had sixteen battleships , five battle cruisers, six dreadnaughts, eleven light cruisers, and sixty one torpedo boats (99 ships in total).
The German strategy was to divide and conquer: by staging raids into the North Sea and bombarding the English coast, they hoped to lure out small British squadrons and pickets which could then be attacked and destroyed by superior forces or submarines. What they intended was to send out submarines of the British Naval Port, then send out a fast battle cruiser force to attack the British coast, if all went well the British response to the attacking force would be weakened by the submarine ambush and hoped the British destroyers would be incapable to operate for anti-submarine operations.
Not knowing the Germans' objective, The Royal Fleet positioned themselves to cut any
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Both fleets sailed in a similar formation, with a scouting squadron of battle cruisers sailing ahead of the main battle fleets. The battle falls into five main phases. The first came when Admiral Beatty, commanding the British battle cruisers encountered their weaker German equivalent under Admiral Hipper and chased them south towards the main German fleet.
The second phase saw Beatty flee north, pursued by the German Dreadnoughts. So far, both sides thought the battle was going to plan, although a design flaw led to the destruction of two British battle cruisers. Now, in the third phase the Germans. were involved in a chase that would end with the destruction of the British battle cruisers, however they found themselves under bombardment from Jellicoe's battle fleet, which they had thought to be too far north to intervene.
The heavy British guns quickly forced Scheer to order a retreat, but then Scheer made what could have turned into a grievous error, turning back, possibly hoping to pass behind Jellicoe, and escape into the Baltic.
However, Jellicoe had slowed down, and the German fleet found themselves crossing in front of the British fleet, and in ten minutes of gunfire suffered twenty seven heavy hits while only inflicted two. Once again, Scheer ordered a retreat.
Finally, in the last phase of the battle, in a night of intense fighting, German lighter ships covered the retreat of the German battleships, while Jellicoe lost time after turning to avoid a potential torpedo attack.
After the battle the Royal Navy lost six thousand ninety four men, five hundred ten wounded, and one hundred seventy seven captured. Lost three battlecusiers, three armored cruisers, eight destroyers, about one hundred fifteen and twenty-five tons of ships sunk. At the end of the battle the Royal Navy had maintained their numerical superiority, and had over twenty dreadnoughts and battle cruisers still able and ready to fight, while the Germans had ten.
The Germans fleet lost two thousand five hundred fifty one men, and five hundred and seven wounded. Lost one battle cruiser one dreadnaught four light cruisers and five torpedo boats, about sixty one thousand one hundred and eighty tons of ship sunk.
Jutland was the last, and largest, of the great battleship battles. Neither submarines nor aircraft played any part in the battle, despite the plans of both sides. Never again did battle fleets meet again in such numbers. While the Royal Navy suffered more loses, the battle effectively ended any threat from the High Seas Fleet, which now knew it could not contest control the North Sea with the Royal Navy.
Impact / Significance
The Battle of Jutlandwas was the only major naval battle of World War I; it became the largest sea battle in naval warfare history in terms of the numbers of battleships and battle cruisers engaged, bringing together the two most powerful naval in that time.
The great fleet which Kaiser Wilhelm II (Germany’s last Kaiser) had been obsessed with, and which had done so much to sour relations between Britain and Germany had proved to be a blunted weapon. Despite that, the battle disappointed Britain, and the hard fought draw at Jutland was not appreciated until much later, while the Kaiser claimed a German victory.