100 Years Ago Today: The Battle of Jutland

Going into World War II, there were two major surface ship actions of the Dreadnought era that everybody knew: Tsushima Strait, the battle that woke the world up to the Empire of Japan as a nascent power in 1905, and the battle of Jutland, the one great battleship fight of the First World War. It was a tough, inconclusive battle fought in uncooperative weather between two mighty fleets and their screening forces, which in 1916 (especially in foul weather) meant destroyers and other small surface reconnaissance vessels.

The battle, named for the Danish peninsula off which it reached its climax, was inconclusive; both sides lost ships and thousands of men, but it can be called a British strategic victory, as the Kaiser’s fleet never sortied in such strength ever again.

Jutland has been beautifully reconstructed as an informative animation, produced, directed and narrated by Nick Jellicoe, grandson of the British admiral, Lord Jellicoe.

This is one that is worth watching in full screen. Also, if you go to the Vimeo website, Nick has been engaging people in the comments there. No doubt he will be running flat out right now, as this is the actual anniversary and he’s a big wheel in the Centenary; but his devotion to telling  the story of his grandfather, and his officers and men, as well as their German opponents, is appreciated by all of us.

Things that we found most fascinating include the consequences of imperfect information and restricted information flow; the technical aspects of 1916 naval gunnery, including the German night-fighting technology (the main battle was fought by daylight, in the afternoon, but the night tech is interesting); and Nick’s well-developed argument that being thwarted here led to the German decision to resume unrestricted submarine warfare, a decision that would ultimately sink the German Empire by drawing the US out of its cherished neutrality. (While President Wilson was strong for joining Britain and France, it wasn’t a popular position until after the Lusitania sinking).

Hat tip, the Old Salt Blog, which also has a report by Rick Spilman on the restoration of the only ship from Jutland which still survives, the cruiser HMS Caroline.

9 thoughts on “100 Years Ago Today: The Battle of Jutland

  1. Loren

    I’ve always been a fan of battle cruisers and battleships, especially the Iowa class but if Germany would have put the effort of building it’s capitol ships into subs instead, we’d be speaking German.
    That being said, Jutland proved once again that Britain fought with inferior ships, in this case their armor. A split leadership sealed their fate that day.
    Britain ruled the waves because their men never, ever gave up. Unfortunately the ones that stayed at home now rule.

  2. Mike in Canada

    I began reading at a very early age, and it wasn’t long before I discovered WW1. I received several books on the subject for my fifth & sixth birthdays, and I remember being especially intrigued by both Jutland and the debacle at Verdun, begun earlier the same year.
    It is strange to think that these events, now seen only as shadowy films since the last veterans died, are a century past.

  3. Ken

    Outstanding film. Thanks for this post. I’m a big history buff of both world wars. Well done.

  4. Theo

    The best book on this subject is The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command by Andrew Gordon, recently back in print. An amazing analysis that moves from Admiral Nelson to Jutland to track the rise of the culture that waited for orders in the British Navy. The video tracks fairly well with the author’s conclusions. An interesting note is that the battle was so contentious that several very different versions of the battle exist in official records.

  5. CJ

    Rear Admiral Hood, lost aboard the HMS Invincible, is a not-so-distant relative of mine. His widow launched the similarly ill-fated HMS Hood, sunk by the Bismarck during the next war. In fact, I believe most of my Hood-surnamed relatives serving in Her Majesty’s Navy were killed in battle. My great uncle decided to join the RAF – he’s still alive. I, too, decided that service in the Air Force was preferable to the high seas. But I can’t deny, I’ve always wanted to fire a cannon off a ship.

  6. Lt. Greyman, NVA

    If those men had known what would become of their homelands under the Marxist leadership that was to come,they would have struck their colours and joined the German Navy.

  7. Badger

    That was phenomenally well-done. Kudos will go to Nick at the site.
    Thanks for snagging this.

    Concur with the disastrous result of imperfect/unshared information. We still have that today; at the speed of light, but it’s impact hasn’t changed. Hmm.

  8. Haxo Angmark

    too much information delivered too fast. Otherwise, exceptionally fine. The larger tragedy is this: the Kaiser built a Cadillac fleet…big enough to frighten the British into joining the pre-1914 encirclement of Germany. But not enough, when push came to shove, to defeat the RN and break the starvation blockade. With the money wasted on the KM, Germany could have had at least 6 additional divisions attacking toward Paris in August 1914. Which might have made all the diference

  9. Keith

    Catching up because I missed some post due to work. That was a great look a the battle. Very well done.

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