The Battle of Jutland

“A” turret on board a QUEEN ELIZABETH class battleship in dry dock showing damage caused by German shellfire at the battle. IWM (Q 23216)

By Lee Norton, Volunteer Researcher

The Battle of Jutland took place in the Jutland Peninsula located off the north-west coast of Denmark. Consisting of 250 ships and 10,000 men, it was the only naval conflict between British and German dreadnoughts in the First World War. These dreadnoughts were large battleships featuring heavy armour, firepower and speed previously unseen in naval warfare. The encounter came about when British communications discovered a coded transmission, which revealed a German naval plan to attack shipping vessels off the coast of Sunderland. As a result, these battleships were deployed. Although the conflict was short-lived, taking place between the 31st of May and the 1st of June 1916, it saw many losses on both sides.

At the beginning of the conflict, Admiral Hipper was joined by Admiral Scheer and the remainder of the German High Fleet. Within the first hour, the British forces, led by Admiral Beatty, lost HMS Queen Mary and HMP Indefatigable to torpedo fire. The flagship, HMS Lion was also severely damaged, leaving it unable to engage. With 14 ships destroyed and 6000 killed, the British held for reinforcements from the Grand Fleet under Admiral Jellicoe’s command. His arrival saw the fleet coordinated into a V-shape formation which surrounded 59 German ships and damaged Hipper’s flagship, Lutzow. At approximately 6.30 pm on 1st June, the German forces withdrew.

Following the battle, the British and German forces each declared it a victory. The First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill heralded it as a “definite step to victory,” while a German newspaper, the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, described it as “the great success of our High Sea Fleet.” Approximately 6000 British and 2500 German sailors were killed in the conflict. The 31st May 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland. In commemoration, British and German vessels will lay wreaths off the Danish coast in memory of the sailors who died.