Battle of Jutland, the Night Battle

Battle of Jutland - World War 1 Naval Combat

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Battle of Jutland Map 4 Map of night action and the escape of the High Seas Fleet across the rear of the Grand Fleet.  The Germans proved to be better equipped for night fighting, with better co-ordination, star shells and searchlights.  The British destroyers were painted black, a bad colour for night fighting, after the battle they were repainted grey like their German counterparts.  Whilst they attacked bravely their tactics were poor, usually approaching too close and launching torpedoes at the wrong angles, enabling the Germans to fire first and avoid the torpedoes.  More importantly the British light forces as well as the rear elements of the battlefleet failed to report to Jellicoe that heavy German ships were present, thus denying him the opportunity of changing course and intercepting the German fleet the following morning.

Jellicoe did now not know the German positions, although at 7.40 Beatty signalled them to him he did not receive the message until 8.07.  He set course for Horns Reef which he guessed was Scheers destination, hoping to cut them off and resume battle in the morning.

There were a series of minor skirmishes mainly between the opposing light forces, the capital ships being reluctant to intervene because of the difficulty of telling friend from foe in the deteriorating light.

At 8.20 Beatty's battlecruisers sighted and opened fire on Hipper, both sides sustaining hits before the Germans turned away.  Just as this happened the II Squadron of pre-Dreadnoughts came into view. They were rapidly hit by the British battlecruisers before they too turned away.  The British did not follow.

At this point the two lines were on a converging course but despite the British being able to see the German line whilst being hidden themselves.  Jellicoe ordered the Grand Fleet to turn away to avoid a night action.  He was worried by the poor standard of British night fighting skills and especially worried about the danger of torpedo attacks.  The results of the night skirmishes that did take place show this to be one of Jellicoes better decisions of the battle.

Scheer set course for Horns Reef and sent out his torpedo boats to make night attacks, although they failed to find their prey.  Jellicoe ordered a defensive night formation and set course for Ems, his guess at Scheers destination, even though Horns Reef was the shorter route.  He relied on his destroyers to cover the Horns Reef route.

From 9.50 onwards there were a series of light cruisers and destroyers clashes.  In general these were at short range (c1000 yards) and the Germans usually got the first shot in. Both sides sustained damage but the only ship sunk was Frauenlob, torpedoed by Southampton.

By just after midnight both Seydlitz and Moltke had crossed the rear of the British fleet.  Both had been sighted but were left unchallenged by the British battleships who were afraid to reveal themselves although the Germans would have been easy prey.

The 4th Destroyer Flotilla encountered the German van, Westfalen sinking Tipperary, Spitfire colliding with Nassau and carrying off a twenty foot piece of side plating!.  In the confusion Elbing was accidentally rammed by Posen, sinking later.
At 11.40 Broke challenged Rostock who opened fire, causing her steering to jam and ram Sparrowhawk.  Contest then ran into the back of Sparrowhawk, slicing off thirty foot of her stern.  Rostock was torpedoed and sunk for her troubles and Westfalen sank Fortune.

Black Prince, which had been lost, arrived just after midnight and was blasted at close range by four battleships causing her to explode.  Moments later Westfalen sank the Ardent.

These engagements were seen by the 5th Battle Squadron but the fact that German battleships were crossing the Grand Fleet's rear was not reported to Jellicoe as it was assumed he knew.  Jellicoe received an Admiralty intercept at 11.30 saying the Germans were heading for Horns Reef but Jellicoe ignored this as previous messages were incorrect.
The 9th and 10th Destroyer Flotillas joined up with what was left of the 4th and crossed the German line, thinking it was the 5th Battle Squadron.  Yet again Westfalen punished them, damaging Petard and sinking Turbulent. The remaining destroyers failed to make a torpedo attack or inform Jellicoe.

Only the 12th Destroyer Flotilla lay in the Germans escape route now.  They sighted the Germans and signalled Jellicoe (!!!!) but their radios were jammed by the Germans.  At 2.05 they made a torpedo attack which hit and sank the Pommern.

At 3.37 the Moresby made an unsuccessful torpedo attack on von der Tann. At about this time V4 blew up, cause not determined.

By 3.00am the High Seas Fleet was fifteen miles from Horns Reef and by early afternoon in port.
Jellicoe did not realise that the Germans had broken through and it was not until 4.15am when the Admiralty signalled him that he realised the Germans true destination.

Shortly after this Beatty informed Jellicoe of the loss of Queen Mary and Indefatigable.
The British swept the battlefield for stragglers but the Lützow had been abandoned hours ago, and the Warrior was abandoned at 7.45am.

Germanys first battlecruiser, SMS Von der Tann.  At Jutland she sank the Indefatigable but was herself repeatedly hit, at one point having no working turrets, two being knocked out by action and the other two being jammed.  Outgunned by the equivalent British ships she was a better all-round design, being better protected and with better firing arcs on her main armament, and most importantly of all not having the dangerous cordite charges that proved so fatal for her opponents. Battle of Jutland - von der Tann

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