Jutland, Battle of 1916

Jutland, Battle of (1916)


a sea battle of World War I, fought between the main forces of the German and British navies on May 31 and June 1 in the North Sea west of Jutland.

On May 30 the German High Seas Fleet, commanded by Admiral R. Scheer, gathered in the Wilhelmshaven and Jade roadsteads, ready to execute an ostensible withdrawal of battle cruisers to the Skagerrak and the shores of Norway. The maneuver was designed to draw individual units of the British fleet into the open, where they would be destroyed by main forces of the German fleet. The British admiralty learned from intercepted radio messages of the impending departure of large enemy forces and in the evening of May 30 began deploying its own primary force—the British Grand Fleet, commanded by Admiral J. R. Jellicoe—in the region northwest of Jutland. On the morning of May 31 the German advance guard—the squadron of Admiral F. von Hipper (five battle cruisers, five light cruisers, and 30 destroyers)—headed into the open sea. The squadron was followed at a distance of 45–50 miles by the German High Seas Fleet (22 battleships, six light cruisers, and 31 destroyers). At 2:28 P.M. the British advance guard of Admiral D. Beatty (four battleships, six battle cruisers, 14 light cruisers, 27 destroyers, and one seaplane carrier) engaged Hipper’s squadron, which turned sharply to the southeast, attempting to lure Beatty toward the German High Seas Fleet. In the course of the battle between the advance guards, a British light cruiser discovered the approaching German fleet, and Beatty diverted the German squadron toward the British Grand Fleet (24 battleships, three battle cruisers, eight armored cruisers, 12 light cruisers, and 52 destroyers).

At 6 P.M. a battle commenced between the two main forces. The British vessels attempted to outflank the German fleet, but the latter avoided a decisive confrontation and, under cover of a smoke screen and destroyer torpedo attacks, broke off contact with the enemy at 7:35 P.M. Clashes between individual formations and ships continued until 3:00 A.M. on June 1. The German fleet was able to reach the safety of its bases, and the British fleet headed north. The German losses totaled one battleship, one battle cruiser, four light cruisers, and five destroyers; casualties were in excess of 2,500 killed and more than 500 wounded. British losses totaled three battle cruisers, three armored cruisers, and eight destroyers; approximately 6,100 were killed, more than 500 wounded, and more than 170 captured.

Neither side achieved its strategic goal in the Battle of Jutland—in each case, to change decisively the course of the war in its favor. In the final analysis, however, the victory was Great Britain’s, inasmuch as prolongation of the war led to Germany’s defeat.