31/5/1916 Jutland: “There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today”

The German fleet puts to sea, hoping to catch a portion of the British fleet at a disadvantage. Unfortunately for the Germans, the British have cracked their radio code and know that something is up. The entire British fleet is also out in the North Sea. The British fleet is considerably larger than the German; in a straight fight between the two, the Germans would face destruction.

The overall British commander is Admiral Jellicoe. He is cautious, knowing that if his fleet is defeated it could hand victory in the war to the enemy. But Admiral Beatty, his subordinate and the commander of the British battlecruiser squadron, is more daring. He dreams of a glorious victory like that of Nelson at Trafalgar, one that would eliminate the threat posed by the German fleet.

North west of Jutland, a British cruiser encounters the German battlecruiser squadron. Beatty’s squadron raises full steam and races to engage the Germans, leaving behind the rest of the British ships. The German battlecruisers retreat before Beatty’s superior force. A race south then ensues, with the two squadron’s trading fire as they go. German gunnery appears to be superior. “There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today”, Beatty exclaims, when enemy shells cause a second of his battlecruisers to explode.

Then Beatty’s squadron finds that the German battlecruisers have led them to the main German fleet. Rather than face battle on disadvantageous terms. Beatty orders his ships to make an about turn. The Germans chase him northwards, not realising that they are rushing towards the massed guns of Jellicoe’s dreadnoughts.

image sources:

HMS Queen Mary explodes (Wikipedia)

David Beatty (Wikipedia)

Battlecruiser action (Wikipedia)

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