The Greatest Naval Clash in History, Battle of Jutland

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSkr08kJv7MPoR7S1zK8XC Scene of the battle

.Jutland is a small peninsula off the coast of Denmark. This was the scene of one of the greatest clash of surface ships, primarily the battleship in the History of naval warfare. This battle is part of the curriculum of the Defense Services Staff College at Wellington. In terms of sheer size of the armada involved the battle of Jutland is perhaps the biggest engagement of battleships in the History of warfare.

The Clash of the Titans

The battle of Jutland took place between the Grand Imperial fleet of the Royal Navy and the German Fleet from 31 May to 01 Jun 1916. As is well known the First World War took place from 1914-18. In 1916 the Germans were chaffing at a blockade imposed by the Royal Navy. This was so as the Royal Navy had complete control over the North Sea and all German ports had access only through the North Sea. This blockade was crippling Germany. Kaiser Wilhelm II the German emperor held a war conference and it was thought that the best method was to face the Royal Navy and inflict crippling damage to it, so as their strangle hold over the North Sea could be broken and Germany could access the North Atlantic and reach their colonies in Africa. At that time Germany had colonies in SW Africa. The importance of ending the British naval dominance in the North Sea thus cannot be underestimated.

After due deliberations the Kaiser selected Admiral Reinhart Scheer as the commander of the German Fleet. The command of the decisive dreadnought cruiser  squadron was handed over to Vice Admiral Franz Hipper. The British war fleet was commanded by Admiral Sir John Jellicoe while the dread naught squadron of Battle cruisers was commanded by Vice Admiral David Beatty.

Opposing Forces

The opposing fleets were expecting a naval clash as the war in  France was stalled on the ground as the French under Marshal Petain had halted the Germans at Verdun. The Kaiser was of the view that a destruction of the Royal Navy in the North Sea will have a decisive effect on the war. He was right and accordingly the two German admirals began to formulate a plan to engage the British fleet. It was decided to avoid a head on clash as the Royal navy had superiority in battle ships and battle cruisers. In fact if numbers have any meaning the Royal Navy had 28 battleships compared to the German fleet that could muster only 16. Even in the field of battle cruisers the royal navy had 9 of them to 5 of the German fleet.  The overall superiority of the British fleet was in the ratio of 2:1. All in all more than 150 ships of all hue and sizes took part in this massive naval battle.

The battle

The Germans had a number of Zeppelin air ships and these they planned to use for reconnaissance. But heavy winds aborted this plan. The Germans however put to sea their submarines to attack the  warships of the British fleet. The plan was to engage the British fleet destroyers who would be tied up in combating the German U Boats, leaving the main fleet to attack the British fleet. However the submarines had fuel to remain at sea only till 2 Jun, as such the fateful decision to engage battle from 31 May was taken. Admiral Scheer was confident that the superior training of the German naval crew would be decisive and the battle would go in the favor of Germany. 

The battle can best be termed a draw as both sides failed to achieve their objectives.

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