The Battle of Jutland – Royal Navy vs. German Imperial Navy I THE GREAT WAR Week 97


Since the beginning of the war, the two most
powerful navies in the world had failed to decisively engage, the British navy instead
blockading the Germans to deprive them of supplies, the Germans harassing international
shipping with U-boats, but that changes this week when mighty ships clash. 100 years ago
this week was the Battle of Jutland. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week at Verdun the French tried and failed
to retake Fort Douaumont, even though they had managed to achieve air superiority there
and the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Army continued its advance in Italy in the Trentino Offensive. I’ll look there first today, as that offensive
continued this week. Now, within two weeks of the initial attack
Italian Army Chief of Staff Luigi Cadorna had managed to get a new army of 180,000 men
to the Trentino and the Italian Fifth Army would guard the valley mouths, hopefully to
prevent the Austrians from spilling out onto the plains of Veneto, but this week the Austrians
took Arsiero, just a few kilometers from the plains. Asiago soon fell as well, and Cadorna
exploded heads in the government by saying that if enemy pressure continued, he would
order a full-scale retreat almost to Venice. 30,000 Italian prisoners had been taken so
far. The week also saw some action on the Western
Front. The endless meat grinder at Verdun was still
in full force, but further north at Ypres, the Battle of Mont Sorrel- in older sources
sometimes even called the Third Battle of Ypres- began on June 2nd and saw two German
attacks that penetrated the British lines 700m on a 3km front. The road to Ypres was
now open and undefended. The real news this week, though, was at sea. Both the British and German fleets were by
this time becoming more aggressive. Commander of the British Fleet Sir John Jellicoe wanted
to trap the German High Seas Fleet and his opposite number Reinhard Scheer was trying
to force a mistake. Scheer sent his fleet into the Skagerrak to attack any British light
forces and shipping there, but the 16 German battleships and 6 pre-dreadnoughts, 5 battlecruisers,
11 light cruisers, and 63 destroyers also wanted to come into contact with the British
Grand Fleet, hoping to break it, and the naval blockade of Germany. However, aided by the intelligence operatives
of Room 40 who decoded German wireless signals, Jellicoe was forewarned and sent out his fleet,
but the British were, in fact, heading into a trap. There was nearly a score of U-boats
waiting for them. But Scheer would be disappointed since the ocean is big and the Grand Fleet,
28 British battleships, 9 battle cruisers, 34 light and armored cruisers, and 78 destroyers,
passed them unobserved. The Battle of Jutland would bring four leading
admirals’ skills into play – Scheer and Franz Hipper for the Germans, Jellicoe and
Sir David Beatty for the British. The enemies made contact when both sides went to check
out a merchant ship that happened to be sailing right between the fleets. Firing between cruisers
kicked off at 14:28 May 31st, 1916, and the Battle of Jutland had begun. Hipper and his battle cruisers headed south,
trying to draw Beatty in to Scheer’s main fleet, still unseen. Beatty followed, aboard
his flagship, the Lion. Fire opened between them at 15:48. The Lion was hit and burst
into flames, and would’ve sunk if the magazine hadn’t flooded and put out the fire. The
British Indefatigable was hit by two 11-inch shells from the German Von der Tann that blew
up the whole ship and killed all except two of the ship’s 1,019 sailors. Then the Queen
Mary was hit and blew to pieces. 1,266 men were killed. Beatty seemed unmoved, and here’s
the reaction of his flag captain, Alfred Chatfeld (Hart), “I was standing beside Sir David Beatty
and we both turned around in time to see the unpleasant spectacle. The thought of my friends
in her flashed through my mind; I thought also how lucky we had evidently been in the
Lion. Beatty turned to me and said, “there seems to be something wrong with our bloody
ships today! A remark that needed neither comment nor answer. There WAS something wrong!” What was wrong was that the British battlecruiser
armor was not thick enough to handle the German shells, and once a shell had penetrated the
hull, inadequate anti-flash precautions meant that a flash could rip straight down to the
magazine, with terrifying results. No ship on earth could survive explosions like that. Soon Hipper had led Beatty almost into Scheer’s
fleet, but Beatty’s 2nd light Cruiser squadron was scouting ahead and spotted the long line
of German battleships. Beatty actually reacted like lightning, reversing course immediately
and heading back toward the Grand Fleet, and Scheer didn’t realize that every minute
he headed north brought him closer to Jellicoe and his massed ships. Beatty, however, sent Jellicoe no useful reports
about Scheer’s whereabouts, and soon Jellicoe’s starboard column was upon the Germans. The
1st Cruiser Squadron under Rear Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot aboard the Defence came under
heavy fire and in a few seconds, the Defence was sent to the bottom of the sea. Soon though,
Jellicoe’s battlecruisers were showering shells upon Hipper’s, and because of the
light and the mist, the Germans couldn’t see them to fire back, but just for a few
moments the mist cleared, and the Germans rained fire on the Invincible. The British
naval maxim that “speed would be our armor” was put to the test and found wanting when
the Invincible exploded at 18:34, only six men survived out of 1,032. But Jellicoe’s dreadnought battleships were
now in a long line blasting the exposed vanguard of the Germans fleet, causing serious damage.
Scheer ordered a turn movement to starboard that the Germans had practiced, where the
rear ship turns first and the successive ships up the line follow suit, and the Germans soon
disappeared from sight. Jellicoe did not follow. He changed course and put himself between
the German fleet and its base at Wilhelmshaven, and when Scheer turned his ships again, they
were again headed directly for the British, and they came under heavy fire. He turned
his battleships away and ordered his battlecruisers to cover the retreat. They took terrible damage;
the kind no British battlecruiser could’ve withstood, but the Germans had better armor
and were better subdivided below into watertight compartments. The Germans got away, but the
Grand Fleet was still between the High Seas Fleet and its port, and when darkness fell,
the question was, could Scheer evade the British by night and return home? Since several of his battlecruisers were near
to sinking, Scheer took the shortest route, via Horns reef, but Jellicoe didn’t know
this and based on his last reports received he thought the Northern Friesian coast route
was the likely German one so Jellicoe headed there, with his destroyer flotillas following
five miles behind to cover the Horns reef channel. So Jellicoe’s destroyers crashed
into the German Fleet, but the British, unlike the Germans, did not have properly shuttered
searchlights, no star shells, and pretty much no nighttime identification signals, so they
were really wary of firing on the black shapes heading toward them in the darkness in case
they were their own ships. Oh, and nobody told Jellicoe, with his mighty dreadnoughts
five miles ahead, what was happening. The British did manage to destroy the pre-dreadnought
Pommern, killing her crew of 844, but the High Seas Fleet swept past the British in
the night. The battered and bruised German battlecruisers,
some even incapable of attack, limped through the British columns, and were sighted several
times, but none of dreadnoughts opened fire on the incredulous Germans. The Grand Fleet
sailed on, preparing for a new battle at dawn that would not happen. Scheer reached Wilhelmshaven
in the early afternoon. The Germans lost one battlecruiser, one pre-dreadnought,
four light cruisers, and five destroyers, the British lost more, three battle cruisers,
three armored cruisers, and eight destroyers. 2,551 German lives were lost, against 6,094
British, and the Kaiser commented that “The spell of Trafalgar is broken”, but here’s
the thing: the German fleet did not again seek out battle with the British fleet and
Scheer wrote to the Kaiser about the battle that real victory could only be achieved by
sending U-boats to sink British merchant ships. So the status quo would continue, which for
Germany actually meant a strategic defeat. And we come to the end of another week, the
Austrians on the move in Italy, the Germans blowing holes in the lines at Ypres, and a
gigantic naval battle in the North Sea. And that battle was a real blow for British
prestige. I’m going to end today with an observation about the press and propaganda
during the war, which we’ve talked about before, but you can really see it in action
this week, as the British Admiralty released one communiqué about the battle, and then
another with a different spin, thanks to Winston Churchill, which painted things a bit rosier.
The upshot of this was scenes like Vera Brittain, in her London hospital, saying (Gilbert p.252),
“Were we celebrating a glorious naval victory or lamenting an ignominious defeat? We hardly
knew: each fresh edition of the newspapers obscured rather than illuminated this really
quite important distinction.” By this point, though, nobody really knew what was going
on anymore. If you’d like to learn a bit more about
wartime propaganda, click here for our special episode about it. Our Patreon supporter of
the week is Todd Zaragoza. If you want to see this show get better and better, please
consider supporting us on Patreon. And if you want to read a fantastic book about the
world war one at sea, go to our Amazon shop and check out Castles of Steel. Don’t forget
to subscribe! See you next time.

100 thoughts on “The Battle of Jutland – Royal Navy vs. German Imperial Navy I THE GREAT WAR Week 97

  1. And the award for Most British Response to Anything Ever goes to… opens letter The Lion Flag Commander!

  2. Those German subs caused more problems for the Royal navy. I wonder how many subs could be built with the material it takes to just build one Battleship?

  3. Love your videos however you have been pronouncing admiral Beattys bane wrong. Just for future reference. Keep the vids coming 😀

  4. if you play a game call 'World of Warships' now is make sense why German BBs is so strong 🙂
    German steel for you. also, UK BBs are not historic accurate at all.

  5. What was wrong was the Battlecruisers were not using the inbuilt safety measures nor were they using their gun control equipment correctly this was covered up and led to a hundred years of rubbish being written about the Battle of Jutland.

  6. So, the Germans handed it to the Royal Navy, then just sat on their hands. This truly was the war of incompetent commanders.

  7. The best thing i heard about this battle was 'the prisoners gave the guards a bloody nose', the germans never came out with this force again….

  8. I can't help and feel that this is somehow glorious or something, but it is so tragically pointless; ..or pointlessly tragic?…

  9. Love how Indy pronounces "Von der Tann". I was really looking forward to him trying to say "Gefechtskehrtwende" (combat turn around maneuver) xD

  10. love the show but i have to say you are the only person i’ve ever heard not pronounce the letter J in jutland. keep up the good work 👊🏻

  11. Another great video on this great channel. My five cents: A fun fact: one of 6 survivors from HMS Invincible was Lt.Cmdr. Dannreuther, whose godfather was Richard Wagner (sic!). Seriously, Sir Jellicoe might have made a mistake by trying to T-cross the Germans. As Russo-Japanese war had shown: T-crossing could be easily countered (battle of Yellow Sea), while the actual way of beating the enemy was fighting on a parallel course (Tsushima battle). But, hey, some people just cannot learn from others.

  12. The future King George VI served as a turret officer aboard HMS Collingwood during the Battle of Jutland and was mentioned in dispatches.

  13. The problem with British Battlecruisers at Jutland was the way cordite bags were stored throughout the gun barbette & the removal of anti flash protection. While this increased their rate of fire, devastating explosions would result from a hit on the turret. It was not a case of poorly designed British ships compared to German ships, rather that they were being operated in a reckless manner. Jutland was a resounding victory for Britain, Germany achieved none of its objectives & the German fleet was far more damaged than anyone in Britain realised at the time & that was not adequately clarified here. It was, however, a costly victory for the Royal Navy &, more to the point, unecessarily so.

  14. Hi Indy
    First of all great job for all of these videos I really like them I wish I could support you and keep up the good Job you are doing
    Well I am concerned about what would happen if the austro-hungarians had managed to hold their lines in the Brusilov offensive(1916)and what would happen in Russia afterwards
    Keep up the good work and I hope my question will get answered because Im curious to find what would happen..

  15. There is an excellent book, called «The Rules of the Game» by A. Gordon, it sheds some light on the British movements that day, I believe it would make a nice addition in a special

  16. Best GW episode yet, and the best short presentation of the naval battle that I've seen. (Minor quibbles only.) Keep it up!

  17. The text books may say that the allies won but they will never say how badly the allies were getting spanked

  18. ammo was stacked in the turrets against the rules when the turret penetrated the powder went up and sent off the magazine the armor on the uk battlecruisers was ok not great if they followed the rules uk would not of had such heavy losses

  19. Why were the German submarines not set up to ambush the the British navy as they left their harbor? Not next to the harbor but 15 kilometers out? or why not after the Germen sub picket line missed everything then move near the harbors awaiting the British to return.

  20. The night action is sketchy, did the British really not know friend or foe ships or were simply staved off by a strong German rearguard, the able ships protecting the damaged ones. The British put the blame on their losses on inadequate flash protection, but moving on to ww2 we see another of their frontline ships HMS Hood blow up just 10 minutes into battle. So were't the lessons of Jutland learnt, or was it inferior design and hardware. In both engagements we can clearly see the superiority of German gunnery and ranging, and build of their ships. Give credit to where it is deserved.

  21. The Germans won the battle., but the results won the British, as the German fleet no longer went to sea and did not participate in large battles

  22. Anyone in the UK looking for the Stanley cow hide gloves, Screwfix had them for a few quid, whilst amazon are more like £14 right now.

  23. I know you can't include all the detail in thes video but why mention that the ship survived due to the magazine being flooded and not mention that it was saved by a man who lost both his legs and flooded the magazone as his last order. 2 minutes before it would have exploded.

  24. "There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!" possibly the most British comment yet on the show.

  25. I have to point out though that saying the 2 fleets had avoided each other isn’t entirely truthful. 1914 saw British and German naval forces clash at both Coronel and the Falkland Islands.

  26. Germany should have used both her battleships and her U-boats. You think with the advantage submarines have Germany they could have destroyed the British navy or at least severely weak it.

  27. It's one of the great "what-if's". What if Scheer had pressed what looked like a suicidal attack on the Grand Fleet, and Jellicoe's dreadnoughts had blown up like Beatty's…

  28. The British ships were also loaded so heavily with shells that the shells were almost literally stored either on the decks are just underneath them.

  29. In case you have not spotted yourself – Sea War Museum Jutland (you may find it on facebook) – dedicated to the history of the battle of Jutland.

  30. Peter Hart should be given credit for this episode. The narrative is lifted, in some places verbatim, from Hart’s book The Great War.

  31. Indecisive engagement, still. No real outcome. Britain lost some ships, Germany had almost its entire battleship fleet put out of action but not fully out of operations as a navy as a whole and so neither achieved their full goals.

  32. Naval battle before radar and aerial reconnaissance is mind boggling today. Just finding the enemy was an accomplishment. Knowing their battle array was impossible before contact. The ocean is big, people.

  33. What would've happened if the Austrian fleet had come out of hiding and in a joint attack brought jellicoe to his knees?

  34. beatty's comment 4:10… the only thing wrong with the RN's Battlecruisers was that beatty himself had not given the crews proper gunnery practice because he' d been too busy partying with his American heiress wife. Jellicoe's Battleship crews were perfectly drilled in gunnery and saw the Germans off in 15 minutes. Jellicoe was a Professional career RN officer, beatty was an amateur playboy. Guess who got promoted after Jutland? Yep, beatty.

  35. Great show Indy, BBC had a great documentary about the battle of Jutland explaining the loss of British Ships following some recent dives to the wrecks. British ships were actually very well designed. The British always prized a high rate of fire needed for a hyper aggressive navy from the old sailing days. This caused the crews to disregard or override safety precautions and built in safety features (blast doors) in regards to storage of powder, ie. they kept as many loads propellants and shells up top in the loading area as possible instead of the one about to be fired. Early in the war German navy also did the same but concluded correctly after a defeat at Dogger banks that this would only invite disaster. I believe it was the captain of the HMS Lion who was infamously strict on safety protocols, the Lion suffered many severe hits but survived. As an adage goes: "we can learn more from our failures than out successes" or "even if your not going to follow them, read the owners manual".

  36. If memory serves, the design of a turret included an elevator passage between the magazine compartments and the gun chamber. At some point, battleship designers modified this, more or less, straight passage with an intermediate working chamber where shell and powder were brought up from the magazine and then sent on to the gun chamber. It was this working chamber that was believed to have put dreadnought class ships in danger of blowing up. At Dogger Bank, the SMS Seydlitz received a hit which started a flashback. As the crew from the struck turret attempted to flee to the safety of the other turret, the flashback pursued them thus killing both crews and putting both turrets out of action. The Seydlitz would have blown up but for a quick thinking officer who ordered the magazines flooded. The Germans discovered the design flaw when Seydlitz returned to the Jade, took precautions to minimize the danger posed by the working chamber, and eliminated it from all future construction. The less fortunate British lost 3 battlecruisers at Jutland, but were 'lucky' enough to have what happened to Seydlitz, happen to the HMS Lion (with another quick-thinking officer flooding magazines), so they learned of the design flaw when Lion returned to Rosyth.

  37. Imagine the survivors guilt felt when thousands of your fellow sailors died on board except you and some other guy.

  38. Sir, at the battle of Jutland in May 31st 1916 the HMS Lion did not sink when one of it's center turrets was destroyed because a royal marine officer commanding this turret in an act of valor was the one who flooded the magazine so that the Admirals flag ship not blow up..

  39. The British did some great maneuvering, and used the information they had at the time, but their ships were still outclassed.

  40. It was not so much the armour of the British battle cruisers that where inadequate but it was the removal of most of the flash protection systems that existed and the storing of powder inside the turrets against normal regulations within the royal navy, an unfortunate culture that had developed with the intention of maximising fire rate since the battle cruisers where stationed at a port where they couldn't conduct normal gunnery practice, thus intending to make up for that by putting out as many shells as possible.

  41. I’m sure others have commented but the reasons for the 3 British Battlecruiser destruction wasn’t just insufficient deck and belt armor. There are several reasons worth noting. First, poor naval practices with the handling of cordite because of inaccurate British naval gunfire. Second, poor internal subdivisions with thin deck and belt armor. The overall weak premiss for why the battlecruisers came into being in the first place ALL played equal parts that put the ships in great peril and eventually caused their ultimate destruction. Before WW1 British navy brass knew their naval gunnery was lacking when it came to accuracy and feared running out of projectiles during battle before they could start making divisive shots. To rectify the situation battleships and battlecruisers were allowed to increase the amount of their projectile stores. The extra ammunition were efficiently stored in the bottom of the ships barbettes so they weren’t the problem. Naval shells are relatively inert and it takes a lot of force to set the bursting charge off if a magazine is penetrated. The problem was with the extra cordite charges that had to be stored to launch the extra ammunition. There wasn’t sufficient room down below in the gun turret barbettes to store all of the extra Clarkson cases full of highly combustible cordite so sailors stored that dangerous material inside the gun-houses that weren’t that well protected with armor because being a battlecruisers, none were built with sufficient armor so the ships could reach a higher speed. That lack of armor was their achilles’ heel. The “speed is armor” philosophy was seriously flawed. You’ve got to have armor to keep the seeds of your ships destruction in check. The British never completely learned that message and it was to haunt the British Royal Navy more than 20 years later with the destruction of HMS HOOD. Not only should HOOD have never fought a battle against Bismarck, a battleship in the truest sense, she should’ve never been in the same ocean as the German juggernaut. Although the British halted construction on HOOD to incorporate the lessons learned from Jutland they never gave her an efficient armor scheme!!!! The Royal Navy was completely aware of HOODS glass jaw and they did NOTHING to rectify her deficiencies. They kept putting off her upgrades and then later gave the excuse “war was declared and she couldn’t be spared!” Bullshit!! Even if HOOD had no choice but to participate in her battle against Bismarck she should’ve NEVER been flag but because she was perceived to be this indestructible naval war machine she was front and center for her own death!! Just thought I’d go more in-depth on why HMS QUEEN MARY, INDEFATIGABLE and INVINCIBLE sank from magazine explosions. It wasn’t just thin armor.

  42. I hate it when people say this wasnt a British victory. The royal navy left the grand fleet so badly damaged it couldnt sail for months and was scared to fight the British. Meanwhile the British were sailing the next day and continued to have control of the seas and continued to blockade the germans which won the war

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