A Reply to the Featured Article "Jutland, or a Second "Glorious First of June"

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  • #12294
    Geoffrey Brooks
    Participant

    With regard to the featured article, the German account lends support to the theory expressed.

    Jellicoe wanted to avoid a night battle if at all possible because he considered that the Germans were better equipped and trained for it.
    Instead he was planning to engage Hipper and Scheer in the early hours of 1 June.

    The courses and positions of the two Fleets had changed during the battle of 31 May in such a way that Jellicoe’s ships now stood between the German Fleet and its line of retreat to Wilhelmshaven.

    Because on that latitude in June first light would occur at around two in the morning, Jellicoe calculated that he had five hours of darkness to reach the spot where he could intercept the German Fleet and bring it to battle. That was why he headed south.

    Scheer’s aim was to reach the lightship at the Horns Riff sandbank off the Danish coast which marked the entrance to the German Bight minefields leading to Wilhelmshaven. In the darkness both Fleets were often as little as ten miles apart without either detecting the other. The British were heading south and the Germans south-east so that their courses were converging in an elongated “V”. During the hours of darkness there were repeated skirmishes amongst the smaller ships but not enough to deter Jellicoe from his objective.

    Because Jellicoe’s ships were somewhat faster than those of his enemy he reached the apex of the “V” first. The Germans came up unnoticed shortly afterwards and crossed his track astern. Towards 0230 hrs on 1 June, the German Fleet reached the Horns Riff lightship and sailed home safe inside their minefields.

    The Germans arrived at Wilhelmshaven on 1 June, the Grand Fleet at Scapa on 2 June. This gave the Germans the prior opportunity to spring upon an unsuspecting world their claim of a great naval victory. The British had lost three(!) battle-cruisers, three old armoured cruisers and eight destroyers sunk: their casualties in dead and wounded exceeded 6,700 men. The German losses in men and ships were half that.

    Jellicoe had set out to re-engage the German Fleet off Horns Riff but they had given him the slip in daylight even though he knew where they would be making for and he was straddling their course. To admit this second failure would lead to intolerable criticism and further dismay if not ignominy at home, and so Jellicoe “had not intended to resume the battle on the morning of 1 June.”

    Source: Wolz: Und wir verrosten im Hafen, Deutsche Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2013, Chapter 6, p.157-158.

    #12316
    Malcolm Lewis
    Participant

    Jutland – have we learnt anything new?
    Have we learnt anything new from the plethora of recently published books commemorating the one great clash of big gun ships one hundred years ago this month? So much analysis has been made of this relatively brief battle in the North Sea it is difficult to imagine much new information can be discovered about how the outcome might have been different.
    Nick Jellicoe’s recent discovery of the chart in the home of his grandfather Admiral Jellicoe produced by Captain John Harper RN Senior Fleet Navigating Officer after the battle, was central to the programme on Channel 4 last week. Harper’s near accurate positioning of the opposing fleets and sunken ships (confirmed by a recent underwater survey) apparently did not agree with Admiral Beatty’s own account of the battle and in particular the training and handling of his battle cruisers. Should Harper’s chart have been published it could have shown Beatty’s conduct in a bad light and Beatty put pressure on Harper not to publish his report. In some ways Harper’s report would have quietened the critics of Jellicoe, who was sacked after the battle, and improved his standing in history.
    The programme did highlight the misuse of out of date warships such as armoured cruisers which were slow, weak and undergunned and should never have been in the line of battle. One mentioned was HMS Black Prince, launched 1904, which became isolated from the fleet and was destroyed in minutes when it met and bravely engaged the battleship SMS Rheinland. All 857 British sailors went down with the ship including six men from my local town of Henley on Thames.
    I have always relied on Sir John Keegan’s account of the battle in his book Battle at Sea. From what I have read elsewhere it still stands up well.

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