The Battle of Jutland
Only once during the First World War did Britain’s Grand Fleet and Germany’s High Seas Fleet meet in battle: at Jutland (Skagerrak) in the North Sea between Norway and Denmark (31 May–1 June 1916) where some 250 ships and 70,000 sailors clashed in an engagement that was a German tactical victory but a strategic success for the British. The origins of the battle lay in the appointment in January 1916 of Reinhardt Scheer to command the German High Seas Fleet. Before his arrival, the main battle fleet had largely stayed in port, unwilling to take on the might of John Jellicoe’s British Grand Fleet. Scheer, a more aggressive admiral, planned a raid on Britain’s east coast that would entice David Beatty’s British Battlecruiser Fleet based at Rosyth onto German submarines and the High Seas Fleet. Scheer dropped the plan to raid the east coast, settling on a less ambitious sweep off the western Danish coast, again with the aim of luring out the lighter British battlecruisers. Leading Scheer’s fleet would be Franz von Hipper’s scouting fleet, 40 fast vessels built around a core of five battlecruisers that would act as the bait, while Scheer’s battleships followed at a safe distance.