The Battle of Jutland 1916

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At PM, with both squadrons in parallel lines, Hipper opened fire. In the ensuing "Run to the South," Hipper's battlecruisers got the better of the action. Due to another British signaling error, the battlecruiser Derfflinger was left uncovered and fired with impunity. Though scoring hits on the German ships, Beatty's battlecruisers failed to score any kills. Alerted to the approach of Scheer's battleships shortly after PM, Beatty quickly reversed course and began running to the northwest.

Passing Evan-Thomas's battleships, Beatty again had signal difficulties which hampered the Fifth Battle Squadron's turn. As the battered battlecruisers withdrew, the battleships fought a running rear-guard action with the High Seas Fleet. As Beatty ran north, his ships hammered at Hipper, forcing him to turn south and join Scheer. Around PM, Beatty joined Jellicoe as the commander debated which way to deploy the fleet. Deploying to the east of Scheer, Jellicoe put the fleet in position to cross Scheer's T and have superior visibility as the sun began to set.

As the Grand Fleet moved into line of battle, there was a flurry of activity as the smaller vessels raced into position, earning the area the name "Windy Corner. While one was sunk, the other was badly damaged but was inadvertently saved by HMS Warspite whose steering gear overheated causing it to circle and draw German fire. Approaching the British, Hipper again clashed with the battlecruisers, including Hood's fresh ships. At PM the main fleet action began with Scheer stunned to find Jellicoe's battleships crossing his T.

His lead ships under intense fire from the British line, Scheer averted disaster by ordering an emergency maneuver known as Gefechtskehrtwendung battle about turn to starboard which saw each ship reverse course by turning degrees. Knowing that he could not win a stern chase and with too much light remaining to escape, Scheer turned back towards the British at PM.

Under intense fire, Scheer was forced to order another battle about turn. To cover his withdrawal, he ordered a mass destroyer attack on the British line, along with an sending his battlecruisers forward.

The Battle of Jutland Animation

Meeting brutal fire from Jellicoe's fleet, the battlecruisers took heavy damage as Scheer laid a smoke screen and retreated. As the battlecruisers limped away, the destroyers commenced torpedo attacks. Turning away from the assault, the British battleships escaped unscathed, however it cost Jellicoe valuable time and daylight. Aware of German superiority in night fighting, Jellicoe sought to avoid renewing the battle until dawn. Cruising south, he intended to block Scheer's most likely escape route back to the Jade. Anticipating Jellicoe's move, Scheer slowed and crossed the Grand Fleet's wake during the night.

Fighting through a screen of light vessels, Scheer's ships engaged in a series of chaotic night battles. Scheer's fleet saw the loss of the pre-dreadnought SMS Pommern , a light cruiser, and several destroyers. Though Scheer's battleships were sighted several times, Jellicoe was never alerted and the Grand Fleet continued sailing south. At PM, the British commander did receive an accurate message containing the German location and heading, but due to a series of faulty intelligence reports earlier in the day, it was disregarded.

It was not until AM on June 1, that Jellicoe was alerted to the German's true position by which point he was too far away to resume the battle. At Jutland, the British lost 3 battlecruisers, 3 armored cruisers, and 8 destroyers, as well as 6, killed, wounded, and captured. German losses numbered 1 pre-dreadnought, 1 battlecruiser, 5 light cruisers, 6 destroyers, and 1 submarine. Casualties were listed as 2, killed and wounded. In the wake of the battle, both sides claimed victory. While the Germans succeeded in sinking more tonnage and inflicting higher casualties, the battle itself resulted in a strategic victory for the British.

In the last decade, though, multi-beam echo sounder MBE survey technology for remotely operated vehicles ROVs has made tremendous progress. Recently, this technology was taken advantage of by researchers. I find NaviModel an excellent tool for producing high quality images for my work and publications. I am impressed with the simple interface which makes working with point clouds and digital terrain models very straightforward. He has now published his research in a book, titled 'Jutland The Archaeology of a Naval Battlefield'.

In this book, he reconciles what was believed to have occurred back then to what the archaeology now shows — giving a clearer picture than ever before of what happened on that spring night in On 31 May to 1 June the two largest battle fleets in the world clashed in the North Sea, off the coast of Denmark Fig. The black crosses mark the historical positions of the shipwrecks as recorded in the Harper Record. The battlefield covers more than 3, nautical square miles. The Battle of Jutland was more of a skirmish than a set-piece naval battle. Germany never risked a fleet encounter again and increasingly turned to the U-boat as a means of pursuing the naval war.

Although a seemingly strategic victory for the Royal Navy, Jutland was no Trafalgar. Of the ships that fought in the Battle of Jutland, 25 were sunk, claiming 8, lives in the process. These ships suffered fatal internal explosions from which very few survived. The disappointment felt in Britain became the source of much acrimony in the years following the battle. More has been published about the Battle of Jutland than any other naval encounter.

But aside from my academic papers, this book is the first detailed study of the shipwrecks.

Battle of Jutland Part IV: Night Action 31st May to 1st June 1916

The total number of wrecks in the main battlefield area, and under investigation here, is The Battle of Jutland covers an area of around 3, nautical square miles. It was fought over 16 hours and in reality was a collection of three different and quite distinct actions; the Battlecruiser Action, the Fleet Action and the Night Action, which fall into two distinct groups of wrecks Fig.

The northern sector contains the wrecks of the daylight actions. With the arrival from the south-east of the main German battle fleet, the Battlecruiser Fleet turned around and headed towards Jellicoe who was approaching from the north-west. By this time the Battlecruiser Fleet was being protected by the fast battleships of the Fifth Battle Squadron which had been attached to it but had been left behind at the start of action. At the apex, where the turn north was made, the opposing light forces clashed; two destroyers British light vessels and two torpedo boats German light vessels were sunk.

Planning and positioning

The Fleet Action is characterised as the period when the British battle fleet deployed into its fighting line, catching the German battle fleet off guard and forcing it to turn away completely on two occasions before it was able to disentangle itself from the British and escape into the enclosing dusk. The distinct nature of the wreck distribution in the Battlecruiser and Fleet two actions is shown in Fig. The rest of the battle is characterised by the scuttling of German ships and by a number of clashes between opposing ships at night, usually at extremely short range.

During these actions the German fleet managed to pass behind the British fleet as it attempted to screen the coast of Denmark and keep the German fleet at sea for battle the following day. The German fleet made good its escape and in the morning the British returned to base. Since then, more of the wrecks have been discovered and modern shipwreck archaeology has emerged as a distinctive field of study.

The nautical archaeology of modern shipwrecks as a discipline can trace its formative roots back as least as far as the Cold War. Early cases tended to focus on the need to explain why certain military assets had sunk and were largely secret, but their investigative approaches share much with the modern discipline. Many other finds followed, not least the first of the Jutland shipwrecks. In the popular imagination at least, wrecks of this type could confirm and demonstrate exactly what contemporary reports of their sinking stated.

In other words, the wrecks initially tended to function as friendly witnesses and, although interesting, were largely incidental to the central historical tale of wreck and loss.

Learn & read about the Battle of Jutland in World War One

In many ways this fits with a broader perception that historical archaeology is little more than the handmaiden of history. This, however, seriously underestimates the archaeological potential of the wrecks themselves.


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Modern shipwrecks can significantly contribute to our understanding of historical events if the bodies of the wrecks are subject to a kind of scrutiny that seeks to go beyond the original historical depiction of the sinking, adopting an approach closer to that used by the investigators of lost Cold War naval assets. I have attempted to do this with the wrecks of the Battle of Jutland and in the study of more than U-boat wrecks and am not alone in using this approach.

While all shipwrecks can offer some element of new information as to how they sank, the scale of the new data obviously varies from case to case.

Clash of the Dreadnoughts

Yet every wreck has at least revealed something new that has added to our understanding of Jutland. Importantly, it has become increasingly clear that there is plenty left to learn about the technologies used on the sunken ships. No single person would have understood even a small portion of the myriad technologies she contained. Today few know much about how she really functioned and this is one of the major challenges faced by archaeologists when examining complex modern shipwrecks; something my colleagues who prefer the certainties of ancient dug-out canoes have never had to think about.

Battlefield archaeology is not normally associated with nautical contexts. Owing to the unique circumstances of naval conflict, the challenges faced by the nautical archaeologist are different from land contexts. I have previously published a detailed study of the U-boat wrecks in the English Channel from both world wars and have placed the findings in the contexts of the battlefields in which they were lost.

In that case, my approach was to view the wrecks both individually and collectively and compare the results of the 63 wreck surveys with the original Allied documents which, up until then, had been the dominant force in informing the historical record. The results revealed a wide variance in the accuracy of the Allied naval intelligence records and demonstrated the value of examining shipwrecks on the battlefield level. The distribution of the wrecks has been benchmarked against the best geographically referenced charts of the battle to find differences and similarities.

Where the two datasets coincide and conflict with each other they can potentially tell us much about how the records were compiled and how the battle was viewed by its participants. Until recently I only ever worked from two now quite ragged photocopies. This is because it seemingly is agenda-free and simply a chronology of the battle, giving the positions of where Harper thought the ships sank — most useful to an archaeologist. It was the first and, as it turned out, the only attempt made by the Admiralty to produce an honest, unvarnished version of events.

Other Admiralty portrayals of the battle are sadly contaminated with varying degrees of agenda-laden falsehoods. The subsequent blocking of its publication became the source of much controversy in the inter-war years. In , when retired, Rear-Admiral Harper published his own version of events, The Truth About Jutland, as referenced in the newspaper article to the right. This stoked further controversy and forced the Admiralty to finally release an edited version of the Harper Record, without its charts Pictures: National Portrait Gallery, left; London Evening Standard, right.

No comment or criticism was to be included and no oral evidence was to be accepted.


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  • From February to September Harper and his team worked through the mass of charts, tracings, gunnery records and other reports. The charts were never officially published. Although remarkably detailed, it was unintelligible to the average reader. As a consequence, Harper's task was something of a poisoned chalice. It was Beatty who blocked its progress through official and unofficial means. By comparison with Harper, geographic data is missing from many other histories, even though they were published replete with maps.

    Its geographical referencing means that the charts can be digitised and accurately incorporated into the electronic charting of the battle. This is how the maps presented in this study were compiled.


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    • There are a number of other sources that have continually proved of use while researching the wrecks.