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12

T H E WA R AT S E A

T H E WA R AT S E A

13

The aftermath of Jutland

I

n the days immediately following the Battle of Jutland a key question remained

unanswered. Just who had won? Admiral Scheer had twice turned his ships away.

But around the world, newspapers printed German reports of a German victory. They

had sunk more ships and killed more men – 6,000 British to 2,500 German. But at the

end of the day what mattered was the strategic balance of the two navies and that

hadn’t changed.The Germans knew that they could not effectively challenge the Royal

Navy on the high seas,and they could not escape the confines of the North Sea.

After Jutland the High Seas Fleet never left harbour again and it was the German

submarines which posed the greatest threat at sea.Yet inBritain the battle was not viewed

as a great triumph: although it was a strategic win, it was a tactical embarrassment.

There were a lot of recriminations and the upshot was that five months after the battle

in November 1916 Beatty was promoted toAdmiral and put in command of the Grand

Fleet. Jellicoe reluctantly became First Sea

Lord.As

Jellicoe left his flagship in Scapa

Flow one witness recounted that every officer on the quarterdeck was in tears.

What Jellicoe and Beatty had achieved was to negate the threat of the German High

Seas Fleet.What was to come was the war of the U-boats.

Jellicoe was steaming down from the north as fast as he could and,despite the losses

he had suffered, Beatty’s great achievement was to bring the German High Seas Fleet

to Jellicoe.

Jellicoe’s plan was to deploy his ships side on to the oncoming German dreadnoughts,

which were advancing in line, in a technique called‘crossing the enemy T’, that would

bring his 200 heavy guns into action. He executed this manoeuvre faultlessly, and the

official historian of the Royal Navy – Sir Julian Corbett – has described this as the

“supreme moment of the naval war”.

Moments later,the German dreadnoughts came into the range of Jellicoe’s guns and

the order was given to open fire. Scheer must have got the fright of his life seeing the

Grand Fleet spread out across an 80 degree arc in front of

him.He

immediately reversed

course and sent in his destroyers in a torpedo attack. Jellicoe’s response to this was to

turn away.

Probablywhat Jellicoe should have donewas turn towards theGerman dreadnoughts

and comb the torpedo

tracks.He

might have lost two or three ships but the payoff could

well have been the annihilation of the German High Seas Fleet. He wasn’t prepared to

take that chance.

The idea that has beset historians ever since is that had Beatty been in charge of the

battle fleet he would have been ready, as Nelson did,to leave something to chance.Beatty

might have turned the whole fleet towards the Germans and might have destroyed

the High Seas Fleet.The North Sea would have ceased to be a no man’s land, and the

British would have been able to mount a close blockade of the German coast, so

tightening the economic pressure on the German people.

At 6.30 pm,the British lost another battlecruiser,the third of the day,as the ironically

named HMS Invincible was blown in two.Half an hour later, Admiral Scheer ordered his

dreadnought fleet back towards Jellicoe. For the second time he was overpowered and

turned away. Overnight his battered and damaged ships crept back to Wilhelmshaven.

The British ships searched for the Germans in vain and returned home to Scapa Flow

and to the Forth.

EXAMPLE OF CROSSING THE ENEMY T

1.Blue crosses red

2.Red cannot fire back guns

in fear of hitting own fleet

3.Blue can hit red with

all available guns.

part 1 - above the waves