Beatty's Intervention at the Battle of Heligoland Bight

Battle of Heligoland Bight

World War 1 Naval Combat

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Battle of Heligoland Bight Map 3 Map of the final phase of the Battle of Heligoland Bight.  The German light cruisers stood no chance against the firepower of the British battlecruisers especially as visibility was limited and engagements were at relatively short ranges by battlecruiser standards.

The under pressure Harwich Force now requested assistance from Beatty and his battlecruisers and at 1135 he decided to assist despite the risk of mines and torpedoes for the big ships. Meanwhile the British destroyers launched torpedo attacks on Strassburg and managed to drive her off but the Mainz was now coming into contact with some of the British destroyers. 

At 1150 Goodenough with the First Light Cruiser squadron made contact with Mainz and the outnumbered German cruiser fled. Unfortunately for Mainz she was heading into the path of the Harwich Force and she her steering was damaged by Fearless. Destroyers then pummelled the damaged German cruiser although she did manage to damage HMS Laurel, Liberty and Laertes to varying degrees. Mainz was hit many times before the British ceased fire at 1225 in order to rescue survivors from the ship that sank about forty minutes later.

As this was happening Cln and Strassburg reappeared to attack Arethusa. Faced with two German cruisers and with many of her destroyers dispersed the situation looked bad for Arethusa. Fortunately Beatty arrived just at this point and faced with the huge battlecruisers the German light cruisers attempted to escape.

Cln was rapidly hit but she was given a respite by the appearance of SMS Ariadne at 1300. The range to HMS Lion was only 6000 yards and the German cruiser was rapidly hit and within fifteen minutes the British battlecruisers had disappeared into the mist leaving the burning Ariadne to be abandoned by her crew some of whom were rescued by SMS Danzig which had been left the Jade a couple of hours earlier.

Strassburg managed to escape despite being seen by several British units but because the German ship had not acted aggressively she had been assumed to be British in the mist.

At 1325 HMS Lion sighted Cln again and this time there was no respite for the German warship. Despite putting up a fight Cln stood no chance and was sunk.

This was the last of the action. Arethusa made it home being towed by HMS Hogue.

The Battle of Heligoland Bight was a clear victory for the British, the Germans had lost three light cruisers (Mainz, Ariadne and Cln) and a torpedo boat (V-187) and over 1200 men whilst the British had suffered no ships sunk and only 35 killed. The attack showed the inadequacy of German planning for the defence of the Bight - it took many hours before any German heavy ships could reinforce the patrols and by the time they did the British had gone. During the action the German tactics were poor and their cruisers attacked individually rather than co-ordinating their attacks allowing the British to beat them off.

It was not all good news for the British despite the public relations bonus of steaming into the enemy's 'back yard' and defeating them. There were serious errors in planning and it was only by luck that no 'friendly fire' incidents had resulted in casualties. This also resulted in the various forces not supporting each other as well as they could have.

Damage to the light cruiser SMS Frauenlob after the battle at Wilhelmshaven.  She was hit repeatedly but survived the battle.  Frauenlob was to be sunk by a torpedo form the British light cruiser HMS Southampton at the Battle of Jutland in 1916 which was took part in the Battle of Heligoland Bight although the two ships did not meet in the earlier battle. frauenlob-dm.jpg (66325 bytes)

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