Battle of Jutland

The Royal Navy versus the German High Seas Fleet  –  the World War One Battle of Jutland was the subject of a fascinating talk presented to the Largs Probus Club.

Historian Bill Fitzpatrick began by outlining the state of naval power in the second half of the nineteenth century. It was a time when Britain ‘ruled the waves’ and worked on the ‘Two Power Standard’, which meant that British naval power had to be superior to the combined fleets of any other two navies. This was fine and dandy until Germany’s unification in 1871 and the rapid rise of the German Navy.

A radical rethink was required and Admiral ‘Jackie’ Fisher introduced the mighty ‘Dreadnought’ class of battleship in 1906.

By 1914, Britain’s fleet included battleships of the Dreadnought and the newer Super-Dreadnought classes, Cruisers and Battlecruisers  –  lighter armoured and faster than the conventional cruisers.

Come May 1916, the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet was based at Scapa Flow, under the command of Admiral Jellicoe. The 2nd Battle Squadron was based at Invergordon, and the Battlecruiser force was based at Rosyth, under the command of Vice-Admiral Beatty.

Now Mr. Fitzpatrick made no bones about his views on these two Admirals. He felt strongly that Jellicoe and his actions in the ensuing Battle of Jutland had been much maligned, both at the time and by history. Beatty on the other hand, he had very little time for, felt that his actions in the battle were driven by his own desire for glory, and considered him ‘sloppy’, even down to the angle that he wore his naval cap.

It is well worth reading up on the two day battle, there is no shortage of material. As far as the outcome was concerned, using a football analogy, Mr. Fitzpatrick said that with a German score of 11 ships lost to Britain’s 14 and far fewer sailors killed, Germany might have been seen as the victors. But whist the German High Seas Fleet scuttled back to their home bases, never to venture out again in any force, the British Fleet was very quickly back up to full operational strength and continued to dominate the seas.  

A very well presented talk was complimented in a vote of thanks by George Newlands, who pointed out that the many books and articles on the battle all seemed to take a different view of its course and outcome. Seeking to impress the speaker, he also brought along an original 1919 midshipman’s journal written on board the battlecruiser HMS Lion. Unfortunately this had been the flagship of Mr. Fitzpatrick’s least favourite Admiral…. 

The Club will next meet on 25th October in the Willowbank Hotel at 10am when Fergus Tickel will speak on Scottish Hydrogen. Men over the age of 50 who are retired, or nearing retirement, are welcome to join the Club by completing our Contact Form.