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The Antivari Action (August 14 1914)

Austro-Hungarian Navy
14 August 1914

A visual of the area and route taken by the Allied ships. Although this engagement was all but fair (a recent dreadnought against an old cruiser) the ultimate result was almost a year round of inactivity for the Austro-Hungarian Navy (K.u.K Kriegsmarine) in the Adriatic

The Austro-Hungarians at war

The war broke out because of the Balkans, the assassination of Archduke Franz-Ferdinand was followed by a rejected inquiry by Austro-Hungarian authorities to Serbia, followed by a rejected ultimatum and war. By the alliances game, Serbia had the support of its natural ally Russia, which in turn could count on France. In response, Austria-Hungary was able to count on the German Empire for backup. But the first engagements of the Austro-Hungarian Army against Serbia, despite clear advantages, was nothing of a promenade. The Serbs managed to block and even repel the initial attacks with massive payback.

Situation in the Adriatic

On the naval front however it was expected from the K.u.K Kriegsmarine to take advantage of a clear cut superiority in the Adriatic. At that stage, the Austro-Hungarian Navy was not to be taken lightly with three brand new dreadnoughts (a fourth in achievement), 12 pre-dreadnought battleships, 13 cruisers, 27 destroyers and 79 torpedo-boats, as well as 7 submarines and many monitors and auxiliary ships of all sizes and tonnage. It was based mostly in Pola harbour and could easily defeat a very weak Montenegrin navy (perhaps a single gunboat, no info could be found) whereas the Serbian “navy” only counted a single patrol boat Jadar, based on the Danube in 1915. Since Italy was neutral, and perhaps then more inclined to join the central powers, Austro-Hungary has free hands in this “private lake” bordering the Balkans. In the Mediterranean however, this was another matter.

Austro-Hungarian Dreadnoughts and the fleet anchored at Pola. Despite real assets, from 1915, it was dwarfed by the combined might of the French, British and Italian navies and mostly condemned to inaction, trapped in the Adriatic.

At that time, since June 6, the proportion of the French fleet in the Mediterranean was such that the British thought fair to let the supreme naval command in the area to the French, the British naturally receiving supreme command of the Allied naval forces for the north sea. Thus, by treaty on June 6, the Royal Navy there was reduced to two armored cruisers (Defence and Warrior) and some light cruisers after by massive transfers to the North Sea,theoretically under the orders of Admiral Boué Lapeyrière. The latter, from the outset of the declaration of war, rallied Malta with the combined forces, then joined the Adriatic by executing an ostensible “naval review” in full strength and regalia to impress still undecided Italians.

The battle

On August, 14 the French fleet enters the Adriatic included 15 battleships (2 Courbet, 6 Danton and 5 Vérité), 6 armored cruisers (3 Léon Gambetta, Quinet, Renan, Michelet) and smaller cruisers. It was followed by British-armored cruisers from Gibraltar, the squadron of Admiral Troubridge. Alerted, the Austro-Hungarian fleet scrambled to rally in emergency the safe harbor of Pola. But Zenta had not been informed, and was still conducting operations of shelling of the small Antivari harbour.

She was safeguarded by destroyer Uhlan and 2 others. None did noticed the Courbet, a recently built dreadnought which opened fired at 20 000 m range. Soon 305 mm plumes squared the Zenta, which had no artillery capable of replicate at such distance. In very little time, the Zenta was severely hit, immobilized, and rendered all but helpless and burning. Her crew evacuated the soon-to-be hulk on rafts. The Destroyer Uhlan and two destroyers managed to flee thanks to their speed. The Zenta sank in a short time, but most of its crew safely joined the coast.

A painting of the battle of Antivari, by Harry Heusser, 1914.


This modest setback meant that the allies could now roam at will the Adriatic, blocking all the Austro-Hungarian initiatives. Initially at least, French presence dissuaded the naval forces stationed at Pola to start new coastal raids. But soon the allied forces departed and would be fully absorbed by operations in the Dardanelles. The Austro-Hungarian was then again free and ready for any action but only for a short time: Italy entered the war at about the same time. We will return on this chapter of the adriatic naval campaign soon. The “inaction” ended with a first major action Battle in Decemlber 1915, the battle of Durazzo, followed by by the Battle of the Strait of Otranto in 14-15 may 1917.

The Austro-Hungarian fleet

The cruiser Zenta in 1914.

Admiral Souchon’s Escape (3-8 August 1914)

German Navy
3-8 August 1914

Prelude to War: The Mediterranean Squadron

On 2 August 1914, the declaration of war was taking aback all the German units stationed outside the metropolis. The battlecruiser Goeben and the light cruiser Breslau then formed the Mediterranean squadron, usually stationed in Port Said, controlling strategic roadways from the Red Sea to the Suez Canal. However the Goeben, freshly introduced into service since 1912 accumulated after trials a few teething problems with its boiler tubes. She could not reach 18 knots for safety reasons and had to be replaced in October 1914 by its sister ship Moltke upon return to Germany for further changes.

So far her role in peacetime was to escort the Kaiser when cruising on his yacht the Hohenzollern to his summer residence in Corfu. Just after the attack in Sarajevo, the Goeben was at Pola and Breslau in Durazzo (Austria-Hungary, south of Montenegro). Killing time, sailors of Breslau disputed a friendly party of water polo with fellow men of the battleship King Edward VII anchored right next to them.

SMS Goeben, rear view, colorized photo.

Souchon’s options

That’s when the fateful messages fell by wireless telegraph. Hostilities were imminent. Rear-Admiral Wilhelm Souchon was leaning over a large map of the Mediterranean. Several options were open to him, notwithstanding the orders that could come from Tirpitz.

There was one certainty indeed: If he remains in Pola, he would be locked up in the Adriatic and probably subject to the decisions of the Austro-Hungarian Admiralty, judged too timorous. He could try to rally the Hochseeflotte, but this required to run throughout western Mediterranean and especially pass Gibraltar where the Royal Navy in force was blocking the way, not to mention the French fleet, the bulk of which was within range from Toulon and the entire North African coast.

Souchon was to play all his thinking to go unnoticed, perhaps showing a Russian flag for example, or a false smokestack and canvas to disguise his silhouette. Moreover, once out on the Atlantic, he still had to join the motherland through either the Arctic Circle and bypassing Great Britain by the northwest, which also bring his ships “within range” of Scapa Flow. He could also attempt launch a raiding party across the Atlantic, even attempting to join Von Spee squadron in the south… By August 2, Germany was likely to be at war against France shortly, still not against England. It would therefore pragmatically decide initially to attack convoys of French North Africa. Thus he sailed after completing his preparations hastily and sailed to Algeria by midnight.

The Goeben at full speed

Leaving the Adriatic, the Goeben was joined by the Breslau. On 3 August, Souchon was traveling nearby Bonifacio, but changed course at 20 knots, to rampage the Algerian coast. French Admiral Augustin Boué Lapeyrière, French Commander of the Naval Forces in the Mediterranean, was aware of the departure of the Germans ships. He had only one obsession, protect his convoys. He was to sail from Toulon in three line towards Philippeville, Bone and Bougie. In total 89 ships carrying 49,000 men and 11,800 horses. At 18:45 a new message came down from the staff: The war was officially declared this time; But Lapeyrère was not informed. The English Admiral Milne knew, but there was no communication code between French and English fleets.

Still, Admiral Milne send his subordinate Troubridge in the Adriatic with two armoured cruisers while reaching himself Malta, hoisting his mark on the HMS Inflexible. He received at 12:45 a Churchill order to follow the two Germans ships. Meanwhile, they had forced the pace. Contrary to Admial Bouré de Lapeyrière fears, the German ships had neither the scope nor the speed to intercept the French, so all the convoys passed safely. But Souchon went also unnoticed. By August 3, at the evening 8:30 PM, Milne sent HMS Indefatigable and Indomitable in Gibraltar.

The night of August 4, at 5 am, Souchon was off Philippeville, passing through the berths. His gunners gave all their heart to the task and comprehensively pounded the harbor, one hour after the Breslau who had separated from the Goeben evening, and had won Bône to believe they moved westward. The Goeben received meantime an urgent message by wireless telegraphy from Berlin for more: “Alliance concluded with Turkey, Join Constantinople, stop.” Souchon therefore first sailed northwest to fool observers from the coast. He had passed through the French fleet, but the Royal Navy was now on full alert, and he had to re-cross the entire Mediterranean in the opposite direction! On his way he transmitted his orders to Breslau and then headed for Messina to complete its provision of coal. Breslau however side was heading directly east.

North of Goeben position at around 100 kilometers was sailing the first French squadron. Meanwhile the British battlecruisers were coming from the east at full speed, accompanied by the light cruiser HMS Dublin. The Goeben veered east at 6:30. At that time, the first French squadron commander believed on the basis of coastal observations that the German ship rallied Algiers and divided his forces into two wings, one heading west with the big battleships, while the other continued southeast with three armoured cruisers, Jules Michelet, Ernest Renan and Edgar Quinet.

French Armoured Cruiser Jules Michelet. It would need bad coordination between allies, official hostilities dates release, and Turkish alliance to avoid the Goeben be cornered and sunk.

At 8:00 am, the weather was execrable and reduced visibility, but French ships were just 40 nautic miles (74 km) from the Goeben. The latter spotted them, but it was not mutual. When the British battlecruisers saw in turn the German battlecruiser steaming full speed eastward they changed headings and started a hot chase. The Goeben now catch in the open was making hell of its machines to reach nominal 24.5 knots, gradually seeing the English ships approaching at 9000 meters, well within gun range, although UK was still not officially at war, but Milne was unable to contact his French counterpart to close the trap. Only HMS Dublin followed Goeben to Sicily, then veered course is 21:50. Both English battle cruisers already had abandoned pursuit since 7:05 p.m due to their lack of coil. Although UK was now officially at war since 21:00, the Dublin also started to run out of fuel and could anyway not face the battle cruiser, and breaks off. Breslau arrived at Messina before the Goeben.

Rear-Admiral Souchon was annoyed to see that since the cruiser arrived supplies operations still were not started. Kettner, Breslau Commander, then claimed that the Italians had categorically refused to tap into their reserves, claiming neutrality. Souchon then requisitioned by authority all Germans steamers present in the bay, asking their captains to give their stocks of coal, laboriously transported with barges, boats, man’s backs and arms strength. At dawn, the operation was still ongoing. All sailors were committed into the task.

Rare photo of the Yavuz (Ex-Goeben) in drydock

Few had slept for 48 hours. This transfer to feed the steel ogre took 36 hours in total, well above the regulatory 24-hour presence of belligerent ships in neutral ports, which raised official protests from the Italian ambassador in Berlin. Authorities of the port in the morning signaled the government’s presence in the port of the two Germans ships, but it was only 18 hours later on August 5, that the Italian Ambassador in London informed the naval British attaché.

Messina harbour, circa 1914.

At the dawn of August 6, the laborious refuelling/coiling had ended. While many sailors, exhausted, collapsed in corridors, Souchon, also tired, met Kettner and Doenitz (later Admiral of the Kriegsmarine but then a mere lieutenant in the Breslau) to decide the way forward. He suspected that the English, who remained quietly outside Italian territorial waters, waiting for them. The orders from Berlin were to reach Constantinople and avoid confrontation but Souchon could not see any way off. At 17 hours, the two ships lifted anchor and headed for the pier, and then steamed full speed.

The Goeben ad Breslau entering the Dardanelles

There were first tracked at reasonable distance (out of reach of the 280 mm guns of Goeben) by HMS Gloucester. She promply signalled: “Incoming!”. Again, Souchon had to speed up his pace. The Gloucester clung knowing that Admiral Troubridge came from the east with the HMS Defence, three other armoured cruisers and 8 destroyers, but he arrived too late to intercept the German ships. He finally understood that the final destination of Souchon was probably Turkey and veered north, starting the pursuit.

But it was Dublin that took the first hit. The Germans ships arrived off Malta rapidly. Two destroyers and HMS Gloucester closed in, the destroyers trying to launch their torpedoes, but were greeted with precise volleys and had to break off their approach. The Goucester, commanded by Capt. Kelly, then engaged the Breslau.

A 11,300 meters, at 12:35, she opened fire. Breslau had already requested Souchon if he could attack the English cruiser, but Souchon refused, preferring not to waste time. When the German cruiser took a 150 mm hit, she replied anyway, scoring two on Gloucester in reply. The latter was preparing his next salvo, but watchers saw the Goeben closed in with the Breslau, therefore having the British Cruiser within range. Kelly therefore decided to leave safely.

British Cruiser HMS Gloucester

Now nothing could stand in the way of the Mediterranean squadron. Both ships anchored August 7, in the bay of Denusa Island, at the entrance to the Dardanelles, under protection of Turkish Forts and waiting for instructions or authorization from Berlin. Both ships were still on high alert, waiting for a possible fight against the Royal Navy, but nothing came. August 10, Souchon was allowed to proceed at the entrance of the strait. A Turkish destroyer approached and the Goeben signalled in morse “I want a pilot.” The captain of the Turkish torpedo boat replied “follow me.” Both ships then crossed the nets, mines, under the reassuring shadow of the many forts and batteries posted along the high cliffs.


The Turkish navy back then had a rather poor navy, but they had fortified the Dardanelles in order to make the only access to Constantinople and the Black Sea unassailable. But the British did not gave up: The close ships, the cruiser HMS Weymouth, burst at the entrance to the Dardanelles, determined to follow the Germans ships. But the Turks, although still officially neutral, barred his way with several destroyers.

On the evening of 10 August, two German ships anchored safely in Constantinople. Berlin, to show its good will to the “Sublime Door”, donated the squadron to the Turkish government. The German pavilion was downed and changed for the crescent on purple, and Souchon, wearing the fez, was appointed by the Sultan “Commander of the Ottoman Navy”. It was the beginning of the “triple alliance”, and opening of a third front in the middle East.

Postcard of the Turkish Fleet in 1914

The Story of the Goeben and Breslau did not stop there however. Their rampage against the Russians will see them for the duration of the war raiding the coast and attacking convoys throughout the black sea. The Goeben will be eventually after the war renamed Yavuz Sultan Selim and stayed in service not only in the interwar, but also world war two and even until the late 1950s. It is a shame that such ships was not preserved, as it would be today the sole example of a German Battlecruiser, and even the sole ship of this type preserved anywhere. The Breslau was renamed Midilli.

Battlecruiser Yavuz Sultan Selim, Turkish flagship until the 1950s (here in 1945).

The Königin Luise Event (5 August 1914)

United Kingdom vs. Germany

First naval action of the war

The very first action of the great war occurred on seas: The Staff of the Hochseeflotte had developed a comprehensive plan for years to come in the event of a war with Britain. It was firstly to undermine British ports and disrupt coastal shipping and traffic areas before any action being taken the Royal Navy, and secondly to make bombing raids of British coastal towns to attack population’s morale.

As part of the first action, the German naval command mobilized on August 04 in the morning, former ferry Königin Luise, requisitioned and converted for the Hochseeflotte as “hilfsminenkreuzer” (auxiliary cruiser minelayer). In this context the ship was quickly fitted out with mine rails, while two 37 mm guns taken from old stocks were installed at the stern. The night of 3-4 August, she was also provided with facilities to install two 88 mm, but the rush prevented this and she was to be to painted in a new livery and load 200 mines fastened to buoy ropes on board instead.

Centerpiece of this event, SMS Königin Luise, auxiliary cruiser/minelayer in august 1914.


August 5, in the morning, the ship left Cuxhaven unescorted and headed towards the Thames with a mission to establish there a minefield. The Thames was a deep and well dredged river and probably the most vital artery for the British trade towards the interior of Sussex and London in particular. The traffic there was so much that Königin Luise traveling at 16 knots was not even spotted when crossing an upcoming squadron of destroyers, thanks to her new, hastily painted livery that betrayed her identity, and went on her way unmolested to its objective.

There she spent the afternoon quietly and eventually laid her mines off the estuary, crossing rare ships without awakening suspicion. However in the British Admiralty, intelligence services report stated that German missions were underway, or warned of expected German mines being laid down. The SS Königin Luise is often mismatched with the much larger Barbarossa class liner (1897). More on this

The other SS Königin Luise was a recent steam ferry operated by the Hamburg America Line, laid down in AG Vulcan Stettin in 1913.

The British counterstroke

The squadron of the Thames, composed of Amphion, and two flotillas of destroyers (height in all) is eventually informed, and headed full speed ahead to the mouth of the Thames. The German ship was currently completing its mission and was preparing to return to Cuxhaven. At 11:40 p.m., HMS Amphion made eye contact with the ship, which then immediately leaved, and a hot pursuit ensured.

Faster, destroyers Lance and Landrail running at 29 knots were the first to catch the German ship (only capable of 21 knots). These made a few warning shots with their 102mm forward of the ship to order her stopping. Then both destroyers went parallel to KL, still firing warning shots at a distance, while HMS Amphion, slower, fired to the rear. The German ship could only answer with its 37 mm and had to prepare for torpedoes at close range. The duel was uneven and eventually SMS KL took many hits 102 mm from the destroyers cross-sides.

The end of the Königin Luise

Pounded at the rear in addition, the KL receives the final blows of Amphion, as dark fell at 0:00 at 51 ° 52 ‘north and 02 ° 30’ east. Survivors were rescued until dawn, and then the squadron set sail to its base. The Amphion will – ironically – be responsible for rescuing other sailors victims from the minefield laid by Königin Luise, and was struck at 18:00 by several of them, sinking in no time with great loss of life. So it was the most prized victim of the German ship. The destroyers, who strived to recover survivors were running slowly, watching cresting waves that indicate position of the mines, helping to spot and sweep these the day after, while many transport passing by were duly notified. Such event served as a lesson also to the Royal Navy, that, duly warned, from then on multiplied patrols, and was more suspicious about possible misidentified civilian ships.

Battle of Jutland (May 31, 1916)

United Kingdom vs. Germany

Prelude and context

Since the starting of hostilities, both fleets had been wisely kept out of harm in their respective bases, Scapa Flow for the Grand Fleet and Kiel for the Hochseeflotte. Perhaps by excessive prudence, the only ships engaged were most of the time cruisers and battle cruisers, the fasters in the fleet, so capable to flee a superior opponent if needed. Therefore these were engaged on the Dogger bank and Helgoland, but no decisive engagement was in sight, whereas Germany in 1916 which lost all its worldwide assets already in 1914 and early 1915 (The Pacific fleet, ships in the Mediterranean or Africa) began to suffer from the British Naval blockade. Despite a vigorous submarine warfare campaign, perhaps too cautious admirals were pressed, both by the top, including the Kaiser, to simple sailors that badly supported their long inaction, to try at least to fight the Royal Navy.

The beginnings (January-May 1916):
In the roots of this “decisive battle” in the sense of Alfred Thayer Mahan, the American strategist, who had some influence on naval staffs at that time, certainly lays the blockade imposed by Britain since 1914 on Germany. Not only access were blocked by minefields, but destroyers and torpedo boats were massed in southern Britain harbours, to prevent any access through the Channel, why the norther access to the Atlantic were locked by the presence of the “Home Fleet” in the Scottish ports of Rosyth, Edinburgh, Cromarty and Scapa Flow, traditional stronghold for the Grand fleet since the start of this rivalry with Germany.

The top brass: Left to right: Admiral Beatty (battlecuiser), rear-admiral Arbuthnot (1st Dreadnought Sqn), rear-admiral Hood (2nd), grand admiral Jellicoe (Grand fleet), Admiral Scheer (Battleships), Admiral Hipper (Battlecruisers).

On the German side, the problem as been the same since 1914, an acute sense of inferiority at least on the numerical point of view. However Admiral Scheer had plans of his own to create a balance. This plan was the driving force behind the most famous naval battle of the ww1 and certainly the last of “big gun battleships” ever since ww2 battleships mass encounters were much rare.

This naval episode of the Great War is probably by far the most famous, and it is also the last major naval battle online or aviation played no role. It was finally the only major confrontation between the two great opposing fleets in the North Sea, the Royal Navy and the Hochseeflotte, and it was also the full demonstration of the weaknesses and qualities battle cruisers but also left many mysteries only answered recently with progress in deep sea exploration. In the opinion of most historians and naval experts, that was the largest naval battle of the twentieth century, and for many, the largest naval battle in history, now 100 years old. That’s the indeed its centennial in May 31, 2016.

This blockade came to fruition thanks to the numerical superiority of the British forces, alowing permanent rotations of ships for coaling, ensuring a massive presence at sea, ready for any German attempt. German response was taken by submarines, trying to severe or at least compromising British (and later international) shipping.

On the other hand German designers managed to find a solution to carry supplies and force the blockade, designing the Deutschland, a huge cargo submersible (unarmed) that made headlines by crossing the Atlantic back and forth, bringing much-needed supplies from New York. The goods carried were symbolic in scope, but gave back hope to the Germans people that began to suffer from multiple shortages.

The “disengagement battles” as Heligoland and the Dogger Bank, were motivated by the desire to attract the bulk of British forces in German waters, were the balance can be restore some balance by mines, coastal submarines and destroyers before the decisive confrontation.

Afterwards, the Germans relied on their fire control technology and excellent protection to make a difference. For their part the British also expected to attract the Hochseeflotte at sea into the jaws of their Grand Fleet. Admiral Von Pohl, considered too timorous, was replaced by Von Scheer. Faced with pressure from higher officers, the Kaiser, as well as public opinion in late May 1916, Scheer devised a plan. Part of it was to make the British Admiralty believe he was to continue to keep the fleet into inaction.

Animation on Vimeo (http://www.jutland1916.com)


Hipper sailed on May, 30 with a “bait” of 40 fast ships, all available battle cruisers, completed with cruisers and destroyers with orders to sail for the Danish coast, and thus attract the Royal Navy in the Baltic, where Scheer waited with all the Hochseeflotte. The Germans were preparing their plan when signals were intercepted by a British spy, and the Royal Navy was informed of Hipper’s raid soon enough to act decisively, remained however ignorant of the position of Scheer, believed still in harbor. Meanwhile, Hipper and Scheer were totally unaware of the nearby presence of major naval units.

German Von Der Tann Battlecruiser

The battle unfolds

The Royal Navy device was based on the battleships of the Grand Fleet, including its rapid squadrons of dreadnoughts, the orders of Commodore Jellicoe, and “recognition”, rapid squadrons David Beatty’s battle cruisers of the Home Fleet, from Rosyth. It is they who met at 2:00 the “tip” of the German device embodied by Hipper. The first ship to see the Germans was the light cruiser Galatea, he had time to fire a few rounds before falling to the threat of 280 mm of Scheer line vessels.

The latter had five main battlecruisers (Lützow, Derfflinger, Seydlitz, Moltke and Von der Tann), and several light cruisers and ocean destroyers. Opposite, admiral David Beatty had the Lion, Princess Royal, Queen Mary, Tiger, Indefatigable and New Zealand in two parallel columns, escorted and preceded by battleships and light cruisers and surrounded by destroyers. The young and brash rear-Admiral Horace Hood (“The Honorable”) for his part, had 3 battle cruisers (including the Invincible, bearing his mark, Indomitable, Infexible). And there were the eight armored cruisers, Defence, Formidable, Warrior, Black Prince and Duke of Edinburgh, commanded by Rear-Admiral Robert Arbuthnot.

Respective forces and weaknesses

On paper, the British artillery superiority was evident (305s and 343s against 280s and 305s). Additionally, advanced automatic sighting systems were well-oiled, controlled by the firing synchronized the director who effectively. But soon the facts would demonstrate the superiority of the Germans: Although it has a more modest artillery but also performing optical instruments, the Germans used a stepped-up firing technique, in order to bring each burst, and especially distinguished by a rate much higher shooting, almost double, consideration of a lower caliber. The English on their side had adopted a more progressive technology with shooting a piece by turret, and a full broadside when the right distance seemed found.

Maps showing the battle as it unfolded on May, 31, 1916.

But this implied the cooldown of several parts, the Germans pulling them continuously. Moreover, as it was demonstrated by studying the ships involved in the battle and repaired in dry dock, the Germans certainly cashed buildings more shots, due to better precision English but half of the English shells had a malfunction and do not explode. On their side the English lost their battle cruisers due to fires releases too quickly to their bunkers ammunition because of their cordite (exhaust gas guns, sockets residue) highly explosive stagnant in poorly ventilated compartments. Finally, the quality of the German armor is probably the most plausible explanation when the surprisingly low figure of losses Hochseeflotte facing a real deluge of fire.

The battlecruisers are fighting

Overall, the commitment was brief, indecisive, Hipper folding its ships as planned on Scheer. At 3:45, the battle between the two vanguards raged. Jellicoe Hood decided to send reinforcements to other battle cruisers. The arrangement of British ships was that despite coal smoke, the sheaves and smoke shooting, hindering visibility of the two adversaries, the silhouette of the British ships stood out on the horizon, allowing the Germans to better focus their shots. Most rapidly Beatty ships were struggling, conceding blows, until the destruction of HMS Indefatigable. Then it was the turn of the Queen Mary. Orders Beatty also were misinterpreted, the latter requiring focus shots of the first two units on the battle cruiser No. 1 of the German fleet, (but the situation was reversed for the British commanders and confusion s’ settled). The old Nelson technique of obtaining a local superiority did not work.

Admiral Jellicoe’s Grand Fleet at Jutland

“There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today”

In turn, this mistake was paradoxically due to battle cruiser Queen Mary: Two German ships concentrated their fire on her, inadvertently applying to the letter Nelson’s tactics. British gunners were also deceived by the light cruiser at the front of the line that smoke plume was taken for that of a battle cruiser. Now, a light cruiser was significantly smaller and thus harder to hit, and precious shells were wasted while other German capital ships were spared.

Beatty did not yet renounced his plan to close in even more. Thus, however favored by the Gremans which started out-ranged and out-gunned (their 280mm only had a 16,000 meters range) and were in turn capable to return fire, compounded by the arrival of Scheer’s main battle line. The were, however, detected by a ship, that ventured to the forefront of the Grand Fleet, HMS Southampton. She hastened to warn Jellicoe. Scheer was now himself trapped, and Beatty by his daring pursuit and sacrifice succeeded to immobilize the entire German fleet, allowing Jellicoe to start wrapping masterfully the entire Hochseeflotte.

In the midst of this confrontation, a large white sailboat appeared out of nowhere, crossing like a ghosty apparition coming through the fog. Sailors from both sides were stunned as the ship crossed the “no man’s land” between the two battle lines, without emitting any signal, the sailed away and disappeared in the mist. Of course, some sailors from both sides affirmed later that this was an omen for victory, others of defeat, some even swearing they saw the infamous “Flying Dutchman”.

General melee

At 4:40, Beatty now fully aware of the situation changed course, sailing towards Jellicoe’s squadron, hoping Hipper would do the same. But dreadnoughts of the 5th squadron (Admiral Thomas Evans), could not perceive signals sent from HMS Lion, and Beatty, was found himself unsupported, in front of Scheer’s battleships. His quick dreadnoughts Valiant, Barham, Warspite and Malaya at the same stumbled upon Scheer and Hipper while changing course at 4:57. They managed to point their formidable 381 mm at the Grösser Kurfurst, Markgraf, König, Seydlitz, Lützow, and Derfflinger. One can easily imagine the astonishment of the Germans before gigantic water columns appeared suddenly, caused by these big guns from behind Beatty’s battle line (nearly 35 km)…

HMS Warspite and Malaya

A much larger trap was being set up: The fleet of Jellicoe tried a wide maneuver of circumvention, the famous “T”. Scheer was going to be cut off from its bases. To clear out he would then attempt a desperate maneuver which will remain legendary for its boldness, the “charge to death.” Four of his least damaged battle cruisers, guided by the heroic Derfflinger and escorted by high sea destroyers would try to cross the British line. The maneuver was daring: Taking ramming positions, but at the same time offering a reduced target for English gunners. The British knew well indeed the quality of German torpedoes: They broke their lined, but still managed to concentrate their fire on the lead ship, which was sunk. The Derfflinger was thus the single most severe loss of this battle on the German side.

HMS Lion, struck by salvos and burning


Other losses consisted in the old battleship Pommern, lagging after Scheer’s manoeuver with four light cruisers and 5 destroyers. Many Zeppelins were used without success, as U-Bootes on duty remained behind the Skagerrak Strait without seeing the promised Grand Fleet. Thus ended the last phase of the battle. Taking advantage of a huge fog bank, Scheer and Hipper escaped and returned to German waters and the port of Wilhelmshaven, helped by a rearguard distraction from the ocean destroyers, keeping distance with British ships. These latter had to deplore the loss of 3 battle cruisers, 3 armoured cruisers, a light cruiser and 5 destroyers. The balance was relatively in favor of the Germans, but they had several badly damaged capital ships that would be immobilized for several months in repairs. Controversy still emerge on exact details of operations, but as a matter of fact Beatty and Jellicoe were particularly criticized afterwards (especially by Churchill), for having either taken too much risks (Beatty) or at the contrary being too timorous (Jellicoe) ruining a unique opportunity to take care of the German fleet once and for all, while Scheer and Hipper came back to be celebrated as heroes.

HMS Queen Mary blowing up

Total, on the British side:
54 ships committed: 9 battlecruisers, 28 battleships, 34 cruisers and 78 destroyers.
Losses: 3 battle cruisers, 3 cruisers, 8 destroyers.

Total, on the German side:
42 ships engaged, 5 battlecruisers, 22 battleships, 11 cruisers, 61 destroyers.
Losses: 1 battlecruiser, 1 battleship, 4 cruisers, 5 destroyers.


This was the last naval battle of that scale of the Great War. After this, the bulk of both fleets would never to leave their stations. And this was an almost intact Hochseeflotte, even reinforced with many new ships, which was forced to sail under escort to captivity, at the great naval base of Scapa Flow. She scuttled there in 1919, after a mutiny and even new naval battle in the bay was narrowly avoided. Sailors and officers kept from this episode a bitter memory, and met indifference on their return to Germany, or worst in Berlin, political unrest and armed bands, often taking part in these events.

SMS Seydlitz badly damaged, after the battle

Officers would say long after “never again Scapa Flow”, as a supreme symbol of German humiliation. Discredit of the Navy weighed much on German rearmament from 1933: Hitler considered an unnecessarily expensive surface fleet, preferring to concentrate on aviation and submarines. However from 1935 to 1936 with the Anglo-German naval agreement, the dream of a powerful surface fleet returned. Its first representative (and most famous) would be the battleship Bismarck, first and ambitious “Plan K”. But this is another story


The Battle of Jutland on wikipedia
jutland1916.com – centennial website
On firstworldwar.com
On worldwar1.co.uk

Video: Jutland – Battlefield detectives

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