Jutland and the Battlecruiser action, 31 May 1916

Dr Stewart Fraser, Perth College UHI, will give a lecture entitled “There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today”: Jutland and the Battlecruiser action, 31st May 1916

The clash between the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet and Germany’s High Seas Fleet on 31st May to 1st June 1916 was by far the largest direct engagement of dreadnought battleships in history.  The conduct of the battle on both sides has been studied in minute detail for the last century, giving rise to extensive debate within the naval history community.  Probably the greatest amount of controversy has centred on the battle-cruiser action, fought during the early stages of the battle.  For the Royal Navy, this was by far the bloodiest phase of the battle, resulting in the loss of thousands of men and four major ships, including three battle-cruisers.  While the Battle of Jutland has frequently been categorised as a strategic victory for the Royal Navy, greater losses notwithstanding, the battle-cruiser action has to be classed as a tactical defeat for Britain.  Over the years, British losses in this phase of the engagement have been attributed to a range of causes: leadership style, faulty tactics, misleading communications, dangerous ammunition handling practices, poor gunnery, and flaws in the both the design and concept of the battle-cruiser.  A century later, this lecture will explore each of these factors in relation to the current discourse on this phase of the battle.