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20 October 2014
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The War in the Air and at Sea
What impact did the Battle of Jutland have on the War at Sea?

The Royal Navy and the British public expected a great sea battle. The cautious tactical position that both sides had adopted meant that there was only one major naval engagement. The Battle of Jutland was not the decisive victory that the British had expected and the Germans had tried to avoid. Both sides claimed to have won.

'...it must be regarded as a British success, seeing that it is admitted on Germany’s part that the German ships had to abandon an enterprise undertaken in a northerly direction and to return to German harbours.'
Daily Mirror, 3rd June 1916

'Several of our fine ships, indeed, have been lost and many of our brave soldiers have perished, but the enemy losses are several times greater. Above all, proof has been given that our fleet is able to face a superior British naval force and gain a victory for which we salute and thank our navy.'
Daily Mirror, 3rd June 1916

Thinking Point: How could two opposing sides both claim the Battle of Jutland as their victory?

Admiral Von Scheer’s initial plan was to threaten British patrols and merchant ships in the area by sending battlecruisers, under Admiral Hipper, to trap a small number of the British Grand Fleet. Scheer was not expecting a full-scale battle. When Hipper made for the Sea on 31st May 1916 he met the scouting force of Admiral Beatty, who had been sent in advance of the British main fleet. They fired on each other and Beatty lost two ships. Hipper turned to join Von Scheer, and Beatty pursued him until he caught sight of the main German fleet.

At this point he withdrew to join the main British fleet under Admiral Jellicoe. Scheer followed and found himself involved in a full scale offensive. After two and a half hours the German main fleet escaped to their home base under the cover of darkness, but not before they had sunk fourteen British ships. Although the Royal Navy suffered more losses, the battle ended any future threat from the High Seas Fleet. Britain had won strategically, but lost tactically. It was for this reason that both sides claimed victory.

What do you think was the major impact of the Battle of Jutland on the War at Sea?

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A -The following year the German Navy adopted a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare which almost caused Britain to surrender the War in 1917.

B -The German Fleet never risked another conflict. This allowed Britain to dominate the Sea for the rest of the War, meaning the German Navy did little to help its troops.

C - The British did not now expect to win the War by sinking ships, but through a successful blockade of Germany.

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