Battle of Jutland - Who Won?

More ink has been expended on the Battle of Jutland than most other naval battles - including Trafalgar (21 October, 1805). The reason is simple: the Royal Navy, present in overwhelming strength and fully expecting a tremendous victory, lost more ships and men that the Imperial German Navy. However, it was the Grand Fleet who were in possession of the battle field the next morning (1 June 1916), actively hoping to be able to rejoin the fight. The follow discussion has been extracted from WW1-L with the permission of the various authors.

6 August, 1998 Marc James Small (

This [unquoted assertion that the Germans won at Jutland] cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged.

The KHSF set out with the mission of winning control of the Narrow Seas by decisively defeating the RN. The RN set out with the mission of maintaining its control of the Narrow Seas and to inflict as much damage as possible on the KHSF.

After the battle had ended, the RN retained control of the Narrow Seas.

By any rational military analysis, the RN won the battle. By any rational diplomatic analysis, the UK and allies won the PR battle which followed.

The Germans tried, bless 'em, but the RN was just too big and too tough.

6 August, 1998 Mike Ley (leym@HUACHUCA-EMH1.ARMY.MIL)

Marc is absolutely right. The results of battles can be analyzed for different things. If you account for the number of ships and men then the Germans "might" have had the best of it but hardly in the stature of "victor." Reason. The Brits had more men and more ships to loose without significantly changing the balance of power in the North Sea. German victory vice Jutland's "tactical success" MIGHT have been something like "the sinking of six BR battlecruisers" or "the loss of ten capital ships." Such losses would have severely handicapped the British. But they didn't happen and the GM knew it, switching to a war they had a chance of winning, under the waves.

6 August 1998, (

That's the trouble with naval battles: They are sometimes inconclusive. For example, the defeat of the Spanish Armada did not result in the disappearance of Spain as a world power. In that sense, it was not a decisive battle.

In the case of Jutland, the German High Seas Fleet sank more tonnage and more capital ships than their opponents from the Royal Navy. But, the Germans scuttled back up the Jade leaving control of the North seas in British hands. Tactical victory, but strategic defeat for Germany.

Reminds me of one G. Washington, who lost every battle... but the last one.

6 August 1998, Mike Ley (leym@HUACHUCA-EMH1.ARMY.MIL)

I'm not sure that "Surprise" [refering to an unquoted post suggesting that neither side was expecting contact] is correct. English listening posts intercepted a number of German communications that led them to believe a sortie was being planned. I believe they were able to confirm this with HUMINT source(s) also. I think however, they were looking for a GM battlecruiser / light cruiser sortie such as had occurred several times in the past.

On the BR side of the house it wasn't so much of a question of "if" as much as it was "in what strength" and "when"? Given their tactical dispositions the BR were able to match CL for CL and if the GM CBs wanted to come out to play they were prepared for that with their on CBs. Behind those were the BBs, serving as a distant covering force in case the GM CBs cried for help and their own BBs came out to join the fray. The fight occurred as expected but as numerous reports from both sides indicated, everyone was surprised when more and more and more ships kept joining the fight. No one had, at least on that day, expected a main fleet / general engagement of the magnitude that occurred.

6 August 1998, Marc James Small (

Room 40 had deciphered the sailing orders and had forwarded these north to Jellicoe; he certainly knew the KHSF was out by the time his entire fleet was at sea. Similarly, radio-traffic analysis by the German military deduced that a major RN fleet movement was afoot. (This latter didn't take a lot of deduction, as major elements of the Grand Fleet were out on any given day.)

Poor weather ensured that the aerial observation efforts on both saids died a-borning, so the fleets had to blunder about until contact occurred. This was simply the nature of naval combat at that time.

Last Updated: 21 September, 1998

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