Honour - JUTLAND 1916

Date -  31-May
Type -  Fleet or Squadron Actions
Conflict - World War 1; 1914-18

Description The action took place in the North Sea off Jutland, Denmark between the main Battle Fleets of the British and German Navies. The first sight enemy in sight position made by HMS Galatea  at 1410 hrs was at 56 48N 5 51E.

The German plan was to draw the British Battle Cruiser Fleet based at Rosyth onto the superior numbers of the Main German Fleet. But the previous afternoon the German signal to prepare to leave port had been intercepted and decoded. At 1728hrs the Admiralty signalled for the Grand Fleet raise steam.

So the Battle Cruiser Fleet at Rosyth began to leave port shortly after 2200hrs on the 30th. With the main Battleship Squadrons leaving from Scapa Flow and Invergordon.

The British Battlecruisers engaged the German Scout Group about 1600hrs  with all ships moving in a south-east direction and soon 2 British battlecruisers had been sunk. The rest continued to the south-east and by 1700hrs the main German battle fleet was in sight ahead of them. The British then turned to the north and headed towards the main British battle Fleet chased by the German ships.

At 1800 hrs the main British Battle Fleet sighted their battlecruisers and were advised the main German Fleet was close behind. So the Battle Fleet began manoeuvring from the cruising formation of six columns in line abreast each with four ships; to a single column in line ahead with 24 ships following one another, six miles in length.

The British battleships opened fire as the German ships became visible, and by 1830 hours all were engaged. At 1835 hrs the German Fleet was ordered to turn away having scored no hits on the main British Battle Fleet. In the poor visibility caused by mist, funnel-smoke, fires and cordite it was not readily clear where the Germans had gone and by 1845 hrs the British battleships having no clear targets had ceased fire. A confusing action continued as destroyers fired torpedoes causing ships to make evasive manoeuvres and soon after night fell. However the action between mainly destroyers and cruisers continued into the night.

The British tried to position themselves between the German ships and their home port at Wilhelmshaven, but there were two possible routes through the minefields.

So the Germans made port claiming victory as they had sunk more British ships than they had lost. But many German ships had been damaged.

The British Fleets returned to port during Friday 02-June, the morning for ships at Rosyth and the middle part of the day at Scapa Flow. By evening the British had 24 battleships ready for sea, the Germans could only muster 10.

(The German High Seas fleet only set out beyond the minefields off the German coast on three more occasions, twice in 1916 and once in 1918. On the 18/19-August-1916 they intended to bombard Sunderland and draw the British Battlecruiser Fleet onto the main High Seas Fleet. Again Room 40's intelligence reported this and the Grand Fleet sailed in response. But about dawn HMS Nottingham was torpedoed by U-52 and the Grand Fleet thinking she had hit a mine, reversed course for two hours until the situation clarified. By 1400Hrs the British Battle Fleet with 29 battleships was at action stations and steaming south. However at 1435 hours the German Fleet with half that number turned for home as U-53 reported the Grand Fleet 65 miles to their north.

So another decisive battle never took place. But the German Fleet knew the British Grand Fleet was unbeatable.)

So Jutland was, and will forever remain, the only battle ever to take place between opposing battleship fleets.


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This page last edited - 05 December, 2012.

Copyright Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.