The Fleet Battle
|This map shows the first daylight fleet action, including the vital, but tragic, intervention of the 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron. The Germans performed the first of their three 180 degree turns to evade the Grand Fleet. Their second turn brought them back into contact with the British and the second engagement of the day between the fleets.|
Whilst Beatty had been engaged Rear Admiral Hood and the 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron had raced ahead of Jellicoe to join Beatty but had not found him, even though he ended up twenty-five miles ahead of Jellicoe.
At 5.27 Chester was ambushed by German light cruisers, using intercepted British signals, at 6,000 yards. Fortunately the 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron intervened from the north east, surprising the Germans. Invincible disabled the Wiesbaden and Regensburg crippled the Shark. This intervention by Hood was crucial as it distracted the Germans whilst Jellicoe belatedly deployed the Grand Fleet into the line of battle and prevented the Germans from crossing the Grand Fleets T whilst before it was deployed, which could have had disastrous results for the British.
The Defence and Warrior attempted to finish off the Wiesbaden but were hammered by the German battleships, Defence blowing up and Warrior being set on fire but escaping to the position of the 5th BS as it was turning. Unfortunately the Warspite was hit and her steering jammed, forcing her to circle twice in front of the German line which concentrated it's fire on her, resulting in thirteen hits, although Warspite survived.
By 6.22 Hood had joined forces with Beatty and the combined battlecruiser force was maintaining a heavy and accurate fire on the German van. The British battleships had now opened sporadic fire when visibility allowed.
The Invincible had scored eight hits on Lützow when she came under the combined fire of Lützow and Derfflinger. At 6.33 Lützow hit Invincible between the midships
turrets and she blew up, killing Hood and 1020 others, leaving only six survivors.
The German line was now strung out over nine miles and was crossed by the much more compact (under seven miles including the 5th BS) British line. Scheer ordered a sixteen point (180 degree) turn at 6.33 to extricate the German line from this dire situation. Five minutes later Hipper followed Scheer and the German torpedo boats laid a smoke screen to cover the turn, V48 being disabled in the process.
Lützow was not capable of keeping up and so Hipper transferred to G39.
The Grand Fleet did not notice the turn, although Falmouth witnessed it but failed to report it. It was not until 6.44 that Jellicoe changed course in an attempt to intercept the Germans.
At 6.55 Scheer ordered a second simultaneous sixteen point turn, turning him towards the centre of the British line, although at the time he did nor realise this. He was afraid of being cut off from his bases and hoped to achieve a breakthrough. Unfortunately for the Germans the turn enabled the British line to hammer the German van without being seen.
At 7.13 Scheer gave the order "Battlecruisers at the enemy! Give it everything!", at 7.15 he ordered his torpedo boats to make torpedo attacks and lay smoke screens and at 7.18 he ordered the third sixteen point turn.
This was the the hardest turn of the three, under heavy fire they sustained many hits and by now the German line had become a bit disorganised, but the well trained German crews successfully completed the turn.
The remaining four German battlecruisers made their suicide covering attack and received considerable damage for their bravery but were saved by the torpedo attacks carried out by the VI, IX and III Torpedo Boat Flotillas, during which S35 was sunk.
Jellicoe turned the Grand Fleet away from the Germans on two occasions to avoid the torpedoes. These two defensive turns took the pressure of the High Seas Fleet which disappeared into the haze.
Had Jellicoe turned towards the Scheer at this point instead of away he would have inflicted heavy losses on them, possibly even routed them, and at the very least butchered the German battlecruisers. Although heavily criticised for the turn it had always Jellicoe's intention to turn away from a massed torpedo attack and he had informed his superiors at the Admiralty of this plan early in the war and they had endorsed it. A turn towards the attack whilst more aggressive also increased the risk of losses to the British, a risk Jellicoe did not need to take.
|Map of the second daylight fleet engagement was again ended by a German turn, the third and final of the battle. The end of this phase saw Jellicoe turning away from the a German torpedo attack. This was widely criticised after the battle as too defensive and allowing the German fleet to escape. Jellicoe had informed the British Admiralty at the start of the war that this is what he would do under such circumstances, a policy the Admiralty had endorsed.|