Sunday, June 2, 2013
Way back in the last millennium (a hundred years ago!) the big arms race of the day was ...battleships. Dreadnaughts were the very fitting nom'd'guerre. "Don't you worry about the British Navy or the British Empire THEY ARE SYNONYMOUS TERMS!" was Admiral and 1st Sea Lord, Baron Sir Jacky Fisher's way to LOL that Britannia ruled the waves. Using the 2 navy standard, Royal Navy was to be more bigger and more better than the next 2 biggest navies - combined!
Great Britain's life depended on sea power and the sweet consort of force projection courtesy of Royal Navy. An often undervalued spark of WWI was Imperial Deutschland's growing High Seas Fleet. Like it or don"t, every rivet driven by Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz (later named sake"d as a Nazi time Battleship) crafting the world class Kriegsmarine, freaked out Royal Navy and the synonymous British Empire as well.
Armoured Cruisers developed in the late 1800's were long-range war vessels, capable of defeating any ship apart from a battleship, and fast enough to outrun any battleships she may encounter.
The counter to such a threat was the Battle Cruiser. Jacky Fisher's "Greyhounds of the sea" were the perfect complement to a squadron of battleships - similar in size and cost to a battleship, she often toted the same kinda of heavy guns, yet deployed far less armour and were like really way faster than anything afloat.
Both Royal Navy and Kriegsmarine stationed their battle cruisers and dreadnaught battleships in separate task forces - when combined - such surface forces were bloody formidable luv!
As the 1st World War ground on - Royal Navy's blockade of Deutschland was beginning to pay off - loss of prestige on the home front, morale dropping, shortages on everything from sausage to shoes and a suck economy made naval strategy like Admiral Mahan's threat of "a fleet in being" less of a comfort to Germany as unleashing her High Seas Fleet to systematically do some blockade busting.
While Royal Navy's Home Fleet out numbered Deutschland"s - Imperial Navy Deutschers conceived a pretty smart plan to even out the odds for a final lo down ho down: sortee several battle cruisers to shell Britain's east coast. When Royal Navy's Battle Cruiser squadron (led by the dashing impetuous Admiral David Beatty) responded by flying down the coast and intercept for righteous payback, it would be a sucker trap, for Germany would have her entire High Seas Fleet on location to annihilate them. Evening up the odds for the next encounter when Great Britain's slower Dreadnaughts hit the scene.
Deutschland kicked off her audacious plan on May 31st and 1 June 1916
The bait worked. While Royal Navy spy guys learned that Kreigsmarine's Battle Cruiser flotilla led by Admiral Franz von Hipper were sweetly trekking up to repeat the raids on Scarborough and Hartlepool - they were unaware the High Seas Fleet had also sortee'd.
Sure enough, Royal Navy"s Battle Cruiser Squad charged smack dab into Germany's - who were leading them south into the jaws of an awful trap.
Between 18:30, when the sun was lowering on the western horizon, backlighting the German forces, and nightfall at about 20:30, the two fleets – totalling 250 ships between them – directly engaged twice.
Inexplicably, Admiral Beatty insisted on using signal flags instead of new fangled wireless to transmit orders and the Royal Navy got a spanking.
HMS Tiger and Queen Mary missed import orders, leaving SMS Derrflinger (a crack gunnery ship) sweetly sailing about unopposed, shooting up Beatty's flagship HMS Lion. Only by flooding her magazine with his dying breath, Royal Marine Major Harvey (Victoria Cross) saved Lion from instant vaporization that befell her sisters
Disaster rolled over the Battle Cruisers at Jütland as SMS Von der Tann blasted thru HMS Indefatigable"s lightly armoured deck to ignite her powder magazines. In an instant - she was gone with all hands. SMS Seydlitz and Derrflinger double teamed Queen Mary annihilating her as she exploded instantly.
Admiral Beatty made his infamous remark to his 2nd in Command that "Something seems to be wrong with our bloody ships today" as it was feared HMS Princess Royal may have suffered the same fate
As Germany's High Seas Fleet Dreadnaughts appeared on the scene to complete the massacre, Admiral Beatty was running away at top speed to meet his big brother Dreadnaughts slowly yet steadily advancing south. It was a tough time - HMS Defense was gone, HMS Black Prince sunk, HMS Invincible was horrifically dying and HMS Warrior was in real trouble as Germans and Britons were shooting each other to pieces
As the Royal Navy Dreadnaughts led by Admiral John Jellicoe finally met up with her beleaguered Battle Cruisers - all 27 of them in the last line head battle formation in the history of the Royal Navy. They let loose with a ring of fire and steel.
Kriegsmarine Admiral Reinhard Scheer commanding Germany's Dreadnaughts might have charged in to meet them - closing the distance, trusting in his better armour and faster gunnery to make up for numerical superiority - after all this was the decisive moment Deutschland had been building, training and dreaming of for decades.
Rodolent with Royal Navy's honored past, named after Admirals, Generals, Greek gods and Roman virtues - Scheer must have felt he was confronting not only Jellicoe and Beatty but the ghosts of Rodney, Howe, Nelson and Drake.
The Germans split the AO with Royal Navy in hot pursuit into the night. Aside from torpedo attacks by both sides the Battle of Jütland more like faded out than ended.
14 British and 11 German ships were sunk, with great loss of life. After sunset, and throughout the night, Jellicoe maneuvered to cut the Germans off from their base, in hopes of continuing the battle next morning, but under the cover of darkness Scheer broke through the British light forces forming the rearguard of the Grand Fleet and returned to port.
Materially speaking - Germany won Jütland. Kriegsmarine lost only 1 Battle Cruiser - SMS Lutzow (tho Seydlitz was so shot up she beached herself returning home), the ancient pre Dreadnaught SMS Pommern sunk plus 4 light cruisers, 5 destroyers - 2,500 men lost.
Royal Navy by contrast lost 3 modern Battle Cruisers, 4 Armoured Cruisers,, 8 destroyers and more than 6,000 men perished - mostly on Invincible, Indefatigable and Queen Mary. Royal Navy's vaunted ships proved vulnerable, inaccurate shooting, their shells defective, their method of communication woefully antique and their admirals cautious and bemused.
The British public learned of the 'disaster at Jütland" before all of Royal Navy had returned to port as Germany LOL'd she had smashed the Magic of Trafalger, gleefully listing the names of revered British ship that were incinerated. The 2nd Battle of Jütland lasted years as Royal Navy admirals and minions blasted each other in the press, publishing, inquiries and boards for eons afterwords.
In moral terms - Great Britain won. Despite mistakes and shortcomings, her image of invincibility remained intact and Royal Navy beat the hand of her most ablest opponent in over a century. The blockade remained, and Imperial Deutschland never again sortee'd with all her might
Royal Navy never totally got the pic about Battle Cruisers tho - 28 years later HMS Hood - one of the last of the Battle Cruisers lost out in a head to head match with the super Dreadnaught Bismarck
Pic - "Brassey's Naval Annual, for instance, stated that with vessels as large and expensive as the Invincibles, an admiral "will be certain to put them in the line of battle where their comparatively light protection will be a disadvantage and their high speed of no value."