The Battle of Jutland was a naval battle fought by the British Royal Navy's Grand Fleet under Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, against the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet under Vice-Admiral Reinhard Scheer during the First World War. The battle was fought from 31 May to 1 June 1916 in the North Sea, near the coast of Denmark's Jutland Peninsula. It was the largest naval battle and the only full-scale clash of battleships in the war.
Germany's High Seas Fleet's intention was to lure out, trap and destroy a portion of the Grand Fleet, as the German naval force was insufficient to openly engage the entire British fleet. This formed part of a larger strategy to break the British blockade of Germany and to allow German naval vessels access to the Atlantic. Meanwhile, Great Britain's Royal Navy pursued a strategy to engage and destroy the High Seas Fleet, thereby keeping the German force contained and away from Britain and her shipping lanes.
Involving some 250 ships and 100,000 men, this battle off Denmark’s North Sea coast was the only major naval surface engagement of World War I. The battle began in the afternoon of May 31, 1916, with gunfire between the German and British scouting forces. When the main warships met, British Admiral John Jellicoe maneuvered his boats to take advantage of the fading daylight, scoring dozens of direct hits that eventually forced German Admiral Reinhard Scheer into retreat. Both sides claimed victory in this indecisive battle, though Britain retained control of the North Sea.
Petty Officer Ernest Francis was a gunner's mate aboard the battle cruiser Queen Mary. His ship was one of the causalities of the conflict. It was blown out of the water with the loss of almost its entire crew of 1,000. We join his story as he and his gun crew sits in the turret of one of his ship's big guns and prepares for battle:
"The guns were loaded and brought to the half %#%! and reported, and then came the order to bring the right gun to the ready...Shortly after this, the first salvo was fired, and we started on the great game. Up till now I had not noticed any noise, such as being struck by a shell, but afterwards there was a heavy blow, struck, I should imagine, in the after 4 inch battery, and a lot of dust and pieces flying around on the top of 'X' turret. Another shock was felt shortly after this, but it did not affect the turret, so no notice was taken. Then the T.S. reported to Lt Ewert that the third ship of the line was dropping out. First blood to Queen Mary."
The Germans claimed that Jutland was a victory for them as they had sunk more capital ships than the British. Jellicoe claimed that the victory belonged to the British as his fleet was still a sea worthy entity whereas the German High Seas fleet was not. The British did lose more ships (14 ships and over 6,000 lives) than the Germans (9 ships and over 2,500 casualties). But the German fleet was never again to be in a position to put to sea and challenge the British Navy in the North Sea.
What Was It?
Largest dreadnought naval battle in history
Fought over 12 hours – from May 31st to June 1st 1916
249 ships in the battle – 151 British and 99 German
From 96,000 sailors at seas, 1 in 10 died or were wounded – 5,672 British; 2,115 German including 3 Admirals
Tonnage sunk was miniscule compared to one year later
Death was sudden and on a huge scale (Queen Mary 1,266 Indefatigable 1,017 Invincible 1,026, Defense 903, Black Prince 857, Wiesbaden 589, Fraulenlob 320)
The Battle of Jutland took place between the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet on the 31st May 1916 in the North Sea, off the mainland of Denmark. Although it 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 battlecruisers engaged, bringing together the two most powerful naval forces in existence at that time.