The Jutland Paradox: A keynote address

By Eric Grove, published May 2017

Abstract

The battle of Jutland was a paradox, a massive naval engagement with little result. Thousands of men were lost in an indecisive clash that settled nothing. This account sets out its author’s interpretation of the battle. Key reasons for the battle being indecisive were the contrasting characters of the British Grand Fleet’s commanders. Admiral Jellicoe, the commander-in- chief was intelligent, thoughtful and a thorough administrator who inspired great loyalty among his subordinates but was unwilling to take the risks required for forcing a decisive action. Vice-Admiral David Beatty was the opposite, instinctively aggressive but thoughtless and inexperienced as a fleet commander. The German commanders were stronger overall, attempting to make the most of the quantitatively inferior and less well-armed High Sea Fleet. Their aim was to even up capital ship strength by trapping and defeating smaller portions of the Grand Fleet. Following the battle the Germans, despite having fled for home, claimed victory as they celebrated their escape. They had come closer to their objective of disproportionate attrition than had the British who had come nowhere near their objective of destroying the High Sea Fleet. The Grand Fleet and the High Sea Fleet continued to contain each other until the end of the war acting as mutual ‘fleets in being’. The High Sea fleet was not confined to port after Jutland. Arguably, the prestige of the Royal Navy has never fully recovered from the disappointing result of Jutland and the subsequent public controversies.

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Filed under: WW1 | North Sea
Subjects include: Battles & Tactics | Navies

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