Day of the Dreadnoughts: Battle of Jutland

between the bridges

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There is a true story of a man whose ship sank and he was picked up by another which also promptly sank and after a short time just as he was having a cuppa on a third ship that picked him up. That ship also sank. Torpedoes? After some hours he was picked up by a fourth vessel. He wrote his mother to tell her the tale. A very lucky man.
Uncle Albert?
 


Manstein

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I agree "If Beatty had done his job". But he didn't.

I look upon Jutland like one of the inconclusive battle Grant fought against Robert E. Lee in 1864, like The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor and Petersburg. In each one Grant suffered more losses than Lee, and at the end of the battle Lee was able to withdraw to new defensive lines.

They were not "victories" for Grant, and the Union did not present them as such. But they pointed the way towards the inevitable end.

Jutland was not a victory for Britain, but it was not a total defeat either, and maybe that is what mattered. Jellicoe could have lost the war in an afternoon, but didn't.
Maybe a better comparison is The Seven Days battles in June 1862. Lee attacked McClellan and in 6 different battles he lost 5 of them including the last one at Malvern Hill which was a slaughter of the attacking Confederates. Yet because McClellan evacuated the Peninsula these battles are together classed as a crusing victory for Lee even though he lost significantly more troops.
 

owedtojoy

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Maybe a better comparison is The Seven Days battles in June 1862. Lee attacked McClellan and in 6 different battles he lost 5 of them including the last one at Malvern Hill which was a slaughter of the attacking Confederates. Yet because McClellan evacuated the Peninsula these battles are together classed as a crusing victory for Lee even though he lost significantly more troops.
McClellan was such a poor battlefield commander that he was psychologically whipped from the first day. A commander like Grant would probably have counter-attacked and defeated Lee - McClellan was too scared and too passive. In 1864-65, Grant and Lee were two first-class commanders on top of their games, yet the outcome was inevitable. So were Jellicoe and Scheer at Jutland.

I remember reading a historian writing about the Spanish Armada "Maybe Medina-Sidonia [the Spanish Admiral] could not have won the battle, but Howard [the English Admiral] could have lost it". Scheer may not have the means to win the battle, but Jellicoe could have lost it, by bad luck, by error or by incompetence.
 

Catalpast

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Jellicoe would not have just lost a battle. He could have lost the war in a single afternoon.
Well he certainly had to weigh that in his considerations of what tactics to follow....

He made what was the prudent decision

- as opposed to a 'Death or Glory' one

Nelson on the other hand was a true blue 'DOG' Admiral

- but he knew in his heart he had the better seamen, better handled ships and far better gunnery tactics

At Jutland those factors were in the round about evens

- acting like Nelson would have risked everything

- to the dice of Fate....
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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@ Ghosts & @ Catalpast (post #108 & #109)

For the record, let's evaluate just how high the stakes were. If I remember correctly, Jellicoe as "the only man who could have lost the war in a single afternoon" is a Churchill throwaway.

So, let's reprise.

Once everyone got past the war being over by Christmas [1914], all the old British strategies had to come into play. That meant imposing a strict blockade on the Central Powers — not just food-stuffs (which also implied good old guano, or more politely, the nitrates for fertisers as well as explosives), but essential strategic metals (copper and zinc: there was enough iron ore under German control for the interim), even cottons.

A "close blockade" of the German ports — the kind of thing the frigate captains had done to the French in the Napoleonic period — wasn't possible in an age of submarines, mines, torpedo boats and the coming innovation of aircraft. So a "distant blockade" involved bottling the North Sea with Royal Navy deployments at each end, at the Straits of Dover and the "Long Forties". Which was why Jellicoe was at Orkney. On the other hand, the German High Seas Fleet could exercise to their heart's content behind the mine-fields along the inshore coasts.

That allowed enough sea-room for the more adventurous German naval types to image Der Tag, when the High Seas Fleet could sally forth from Wilhelmshaven, and extirpate the vipers.

However, Kaiser Wilhelm II calculated the odds.

Every history counts the 'Dreadnought' arms-race. In theory, by 1914, Britain had a 13:8 superiority in the North Sea. In practice, in the naval 1912-13 budgets, Britain was outstripping Germany 10:5. [If anyone suggests this is the model for Reagan's 600-ship navy, among other defence measures, with the intent of bankrupting the Soviet Union, I'll personally put out a kill-contract.]

Although HMS Dreadnought changed the rules, making every previous warship obsolete, we'd need to add Admiral 'Jackie' Fisher's parallel invention of the battle-cruiser. The aim was a vessel that could match the fire-power of any enemy, but in-extremis out-pace them. And also, and politically, be cheaper. [The full cost would ultimately be paid by the crews of HMS Queen Mary and HMS Hood.]

What all that amounts to is a once-and-for-all German effort. Thus, we have to recognise how von Scheer turned the Kaiser, to put at risk the prized (though ineffective) status-symbol of the High Seas Fleet.

If the High Seas Fleet could engage and eliminate the British Grand Fleet in a crucial action, then the "close blockade" was broken. The U-boats would be free to ravage British supply routes, whereby starvation would be imminent. Supply to the British army in France would be denied. The Western Front was thereby frangible.

Yes: I can see why Churchill uttered his bon-mot.
 

Boy M5

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There's a programme on BBC4 now about WW1 on sea - the presenter just was on a US Dreadnaught
 


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