T H E WA R AT S E A
T H E WA R AT S E A
The aftermath of Jutland
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 SeaLord.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
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 ofhim.He
course and sent in his destroyers in a torpedo attack. Jellicoe’s response to this was to
Probablywhat Jellicoe should have donewas turn towards theGerman dreadnoughts
and comb the torpedotracks.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