On May 31st 1916, Britain and Germany fought each other in the Battle of Jutland.
It was the biggest fight to take place on sea during the First World War and happened in the North Sea, just off the coast of Denmark. British ships had set sail to stop the German fleet and there was an expectation that Britain would win the battle. Britain’s navy was superior to Germany’s – they had a bigger fleet and more firepower. But the battle didn’t unfold as simply as many thought it would do.
Up to 1916, the war had been fought on land but Germany was desperate to break the blockade on its ports. If they won, they could stop Britain being able to transport troops, supplies and guns to Europe.
Britain wanted to keep control of the North Sea and stop food and raw materials getting to Germany.
Around 100,000 men were involved in the battle of Jutland and 250 ships.
The German High Seas Fleet was under the command of the Admiral Reinhard Scheer.
In charge of the British fleet that day was Admiral Sir John Jellicoe.
It brought together the two most powerful naval forces of the time and it became the largest sea battle in naval warfare history in terms of the numbers of battleships involved.
In the beginning of the battle, Britain thought they had the upper hand as they were intercepting German intelligence. But some of the information wasn’t correct and the German ships were not at port, but already out at sea. This meant British ships were surprised when they came upon the German navy ships at that particular moment.
Britain launched an attack on German ships, who returned fire. Britain’s HMS Indefatigable and Queen Mary were hit and the two ships exploded. More than 2000 men on the ships died. It was later discovered that cordite, a type of explosive, was being stored incorrectly and caused the ships to explode.
The British ships then retreated back towards the rest of the British fleet, leading the Germans into a trap.
Admiral Jellicoe then formed his warships into a six-mile semi-circle and hit the German ships. The Germans were forced to back away but turned again to launch torpedoes back at the British.
By this point, Jellicoe had lost three battlecruiser ships and there were more ships hit later on that night. Jellicoe then decided not to risk any more ships and did not return to battle with the German fleet.
The battle was fought over 36 hours from 31 May to 1 June, 1916.
More than 6,000 Britons and 2,500 Germans died. The Germans claimed victory, as they lost fewer ships and men. The British press reported this and Admiral Jellicoe was criticised for being overly cautious in the battle and was later sacked. But within days, attitudes changes and Jutland was seen by some people as a victory for the British. This was because Germany never again tried to challenge the British Grand Fleet and stayed in their bases for the rest of the war.
Who really won the Battle of Jutland is a topic that is still debated now, 100 years on.
We cant talk about the Battle Of Jutland without mentioning one of the most famous awards of the Victoria Cross to Jack Cornwall.
Jack Cornwell, known as ‘Jutland Jack’, was a young sailor who died during the Battle of Jutland, the biggest sea battle of World War One.
For his bravery during the battle, he was awarded a Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for acts of outstanding bravery in battle.
Jack was one of the youngest people to be awarded a Victoria Cross during the First World War.