Battle of Jutland
The most significant naval engagement of the First World War was the Battle of Jutland in the North Sea.
Fought between the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet, it involved over 100,000 sailors on 250 ships in a 36-hour-long battle off the coast of Denmark's Jutland peninsula. Almost 6,000 Royal Navy sailors and over 2,000 Imperial German Navy sailors lost their lives. One in ten of the sailors involved in the battle were killed or wounded.
The Battle of Jutland was the culmination of an arms race that had been going on since the early 1900s, when Britain had developed HMS Dreadnought. The British Royal Navy had grown to become the greatest maritime force in the world. But at the time of the battle, the Imperial German Navy had been catching Britain up and Germany had desperately wanted to see an end to British naval dominance. Both sides had hoped the clash would decide once and for all who ruled the seas.
Suffering fewer casualties overall, Germany initially claimed the Battle of Jutland as a victory for their High Seas Fleet. But, despite heavier losses on the British side, British naval superiority on the North Sea remained intact. The German fleet made no further attempts to break the Allied blockade or to engage the British fleet for the remainder of the First World War.
The Royal Navy's Grand Fleet was under the command of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe who was on board the British flagship HMS Iron Duke. Second in command was Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty on board HMS Lion.
The fleet consisted of 28 battleships, nine battlecruisers, nine armoured cruisers, 26 light cruisers, 78 destroyers, one minelayer and one seaplane carrier.
The Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet was under the command of Vice Admiral Reinhard Scheer supported by Vice Admiral Franz von Hipper.
The fleet consisted of 16 battleships, five battlecruisers, six pre-dreadnoughts, 11 light cruisers and 61 torpedo boats.
Four Victoria Croses were awarded after the battle:
- Boy Seaman First Class John (Jack) Travers Cornwell (HMS Chester)
- Major Francis John William Harvey (HMS Lion)
- Rear Admiral Barry Stewart Bingham (HMS Nestor)
- Commander Loftus William Jones (HMS Shark)
HM The Queen's father, Prince Albert (later George VI), served at the Battle of Jutland and was mentioned in despatches for his action as a turret officer aboard HMS Collingwood.
Henry Allingham, the last survivor of the battle, died in 2009. Prior to his death, he was the oldest-surviving First World War veteran and the oldest man in the world, living to 113. Born on 6 June 1896, he served with the Royal Naval Air Service before transferring to the Royal Air Force when it was created in 1918.
Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Jellicoe later went on to become the Legion's second president. Read more of his story here.
You can also commemorate an individual who died during the battle by leaving a special message on our Every Man Remembered website - www.everymanremembered.org.uk. Help us to commemorate every man and woman who gave their lives in the First World War.
The centenary of the Battle of Jutland is being commemorated in 2016. The Legion is encouraging communities to organise their own local commemorations to complement the National event being held in the Orkney Islands. Visit our Jutland 100 page to download a toolkit to help you arrange an event near you.