|The Battle of Dogger Bank was a fairly straight stern chase until the incorrect periscope sighting. There were no submarines in the area, but of course Beatty did not know this at the time. False periscope sightings were a common occurrence during World War 1, the policy usually being to act on the side of caution rather than take the risk of the submarine being real.
At 4.45 pm (GMT) on the 23 January 1915 Rear-Admiral Hipper sailed from the Jade with the 1st and 2nd Scouting Groups of three battlecruisers, the large armoured cruiser Blücher and four light cruisers to scout the Dogger Bank region of the North Sea and attack any British light forces in the region.
Unfortunately the order to Hipper from Admiral von Ingenohl, head of the German navy, was intercepted and decoded by the British Admiralty's deciphering service Room 40 and Vice-Admiral Beatty with his Rosyth based battlecruiser force and the Harwich Force of light cruisers and destroyers under Commodore Tyrwhitt was ordered to rendezvous at Dogger Bank at 7.00 am on the 24 January. The British units left port only minutes after the German fleet.
At 7.14 am, just before daybreak, of 24 January the German light cruiser Kolberg on the portside of the German fleet sighted the light cruiser Aurora of the Harwich Force. Aurora challenged the German ship which opened fire scoring two hits, Aurora returned fire also scoring a couple of hits.
Hipper turned his heavy units towards the firing thinking that there were only light enemy units in the area. Almost immediately on turning Stralsund saw the smoke form Beatty's battlecruisers to the north-north-west. He decided to head for home and so turned to the south-west at 7.35 am towards the German Bight. Hipper at first thought they British ships were battleships, which he could easily outrun, but by the time he realised that they were battlecruisers the range had already dropped to 25,000 yards. The German line was in the order Seydlitz, Moltke, Derfflinger with the large armoured cruiser Blucher last. The British pursued in a staggered line a head formation with Lion leading followed by Tiger, Princess Royal and then the slower New Zealand and Indomitable.
Blücher was the slowest German ship at 23 knots and along with some of the cola fired torpedo boats slowed the German force down whilst the first three British battlecruisers reached 27 knots, at one point Beatty ordered the impossible speed of 29 knots to gee on his force, the two older and slower battlecruisers of the 2nd Battlecruiser Squadron gradually lagged behind despite exceeding their trial speeds. The British light forces attempted to get in a position to attack but the speeds were too high and as the smoke they were generating was interfering with gunnery Beatty ordered them out of the way.
At 8.52 am Lion opened fire on Blücher but the range was too great, but by
9.00 am Blücher was within range, 20,000 yards, and Lion commenced firing
followed by Tiger and Princess Royal, the first hits on Blücher being
achieved at 9.09.
The Germans returned fire at 9.11 concentrating on Lion. As the range closed New Zealand joined the firing and Beatty ordered his ships to engage the corresponding ship in the enemy line except Indomitable which was not in range. Unfortunately Tiger included Indomitable in her calculations and so joined Lion firing on Seydlitz, leaving Moltke alone. To compound her error Tiger mistook Lions fall of shot for her own making her aim ineffective.
At 9.40 Lion scored a damaging hit on Seydlitz which penetrated the barbette of the rear turret and set fire to some of the shell propellant. The flames rose into the turret and through a connecting door, which should have been shut, to the second turret killing the crews of both turrets, 159 men in total. Fortunately for Hipper both magazines were flooded before things got any worse. Lion was not having it all her own way as by now she had all three leading German battlecruisers concentrating on her and she was repeated hit, the most serious hit from Derfflinger causing her port water feed to be contaminated and within half an hour her port engine to be shut down.
Blücher had taken heavy punishment and her speed had dropped to 17 knots and was forced to drop out of the German line, Beatty ordered the lagging Indomitable to intercept.
Lions speed was also dropping and was about to be overtaken by Tiger and Princess Royal. As this was happening the a periscope was thought to be sighted from Lion and Beatty ordered a 90 degree turn to port at 10.58. This manoeuvre also had the effect of forcing Hipper to cancel an attack he had just ordered by his torpedo boats. Once clear of the perceived danger the order to change course to the north-east was given.
Beatty tried to signal Nelson's famous "Engage the enemy more closely" but this was not in the signal book so "Attack the rear of the enemy" was substituted. Unfortunately Lions wireless antenna were destroyed , her signal lamps had no power and all but two of her signalling halyards had been shot away and a basic signalling error by Beatty's flag-lieutenant Lieutenant-Commander Seymour meant that the signal was combined with the course change to the north-east and so read "Attack the rear of the enemy, bearing NE" - which was Blücher.
Beatty had to watch helplessly as his newly appointed second in command,
Rear-Admiral Moore in New Zealand, led the British force against the
already doomed Blücher and let the rest of the German force escape.
Beatty transferred to the destroyer HMS Attack in order to move to Princess Royal but by the time he achieved this the battle was over.
The British ships finished off SMS Blücher, in the end she was hit by torpedoes from Arethusa and destroyers, HMS Meteor being damaged by Blücher in the process. As Arethusa was rescuing survivors a British stoker called 'Nobby' Clark was helping to haul German sailors up over the side he was surprised to be greeted by a German with 'Hello Nobby! Fancy meeting you here!' - it turned out that the German sailor had been his next door neighbour in Hull before the start of world War 1. Whilst survivors were being picked up the a seaplane and Zeppelin L5 bombed the operation, forcing the abandonment of rescue efforts.
|The light cruiser Aurora, which was the first British ship involved in the fighting. In 1915 she was one of the first Royal Navy cruisers to operate an aircraft, a runway being fitted over the forecastle. The hope was to use the aircraft to intercept Zeppelins but the aircraft could not climb fast enough so the runway was removed. Later in the war aircraft operating from Royal Navy warships became common place.