Military Review

First major naval battle of World War I

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In the summer of 1914, a war broke out in Europe, on a scale that surpassed everything that had been before. It unfolded on land, in the sky and at sea. Even though Britain had the strongest fleet, Kaiser's Germany dared to challenge her.


The German naval forces, also called the High Seas Fleet, were inferior to the British Grand Fleet in the number of ships. In terms of the ratio of dreadnoughts and battle cruisers, the superiority of the Royal Navy was almost 2 times. Realizing this, the British Admiralty decided to use the strategy of the naval blockade of Germany.

In turn, the German commanders did not even hope to defeat the enemy in direct combat. They proposed the following options: attack the British forces directly implementing the "blockade"; carry out mine laying, including along the British coast; actively use submarines. With the outbreak of the war, both sides began to carefully collect information about each other, slowly moving on to active actions.


German light cruiser Mainz

The first major naval battle took place exactly one month after the declaration of war. The situation on the land front was not in favor of the Allied powers - the Entente. The British command decided to land an assault force in the Ostend area in Belgium. To hide this operation from the Germans, the Grand Fleet had to attack the German ships in the Heligoland Bay area.

The British did not want to go to the enemy shores without reconnaissance. This task was assigned to the commander of the 8th submarine flotilla - Commodore Kiizu. And his squad coped with it perfectly. The commander himself planned to attack the returning night patrols in the early morning. By August 26, the plan for the upcoming operation was announced to the commander of the Grand Fleet. However, Admiral John Jellicoe and his staff made their own adjustments. So, the raid was supposed to take place closer to 8 in the morning, and the target was the German ships going on daytime patrols.


British light cruiser Arethusa

For the operation, the Admiralty allocated 2 destroyer fleets: the leaders of Arethusa, Fearless and 35 destroyers. The battlecruisers Invincible and New Zealand went with them. The day before the start of the operation, the Admiralty decided to send additional forces to the Heligoland Bay: the British were seriously afraid of going to the Hochseeflotte sea. However, sending ships of the line would be too wasteful, and Admiral Jellicoe entrusted the task to the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron under Vice Admiral David Beatty: Lion, Queen Mary, Princess Royal. Also with them came 6 light cruisers of Commodore Goodenough.

As for the German forces, the 1st Reconnaissance Group of Rear Admiral Hipper was engaged in general protection. His battle cruisers were docked at Wilhelmshaven. The light forces patrolling the harbor were directly subordinate to Rear Admiral Leberecht Maass and included the light cruisers Coln, Stralsund, Strassburg, Stettin, Frauenlob and Hela. A couple more ships, Mainz and Ariadne, were near the mouth of the Weser and Ems rivers. There were 9 destroyers at sea, and 10 more were ready to leave at the base.


Vice Admiral David Beatty's flagship battlecruiser Lion

The morning of August 28 was hazy. The first contact between the opponents took place at about 5 am, when the British submarine E-7 attacked the German destroyer G-194, but to no avail. In turn, the German transmitted information about the attack to the headquarters. Admiral Hipper ordered one of the destroyer fleets to go to sea, as well as raise for reconnaissance Aviation.

A couple of hours later, the same G-194 discovered a detachment of enemy ships. These were destroyers led by their leader Arethusa. To aid the patrol ship, Admiral Maass dispatched light cruisers. The skirmish with the German destroyers could have ended in their death if Stettin had not arrived in time. The German ship led the British squad with the leader Fearless. Thus the second cruiser, Frauenlob, had to fight Arethusa. Although the Briton was stronger, his lack of experience greatly hindered him. In 25 minutes of the battle, almost all of the guns on the ship were disabled, which made it impossible for him to continue the battle. The German cruiser received light damage and retreated to Heligoland.

As soon as it became clear that Fearless was too close to the shore, the flotilla commander gave the order to turn around and go out of the bay. On the way, they met a lonely German destroyer V-187. The German did not fight with a large number of opponents and retreated. But he mistakenly considered the 2 large ships on the horizon to be his own. In fact, they turned out to be British light cruisers Nottingham and Lowestoft. The destroyer had no chance against them. Moreover, the British destroyers were already approaching from behind. The German ship fought fiercely, not lowering the flag to the last.

The next few hours were very strange for the British. Commodore Keyes misidentified the allied light cruisers as an enemy. When the order was given for everyone to gather in one place, even more confusion began. The submarine E-6 was nearly rammed by the cruiser Southampton, whose commander was unaware of the presence of allied submarines in the area.

At about 11 o'clock, a flotilla of British destroyers came under fire from the German cruiser Strassburg. He fired from a long distance, as he identified the British as a cruising squad. The British commander requested assistance. This call was answered by David Beatty. By virtue of his character, the admiral decided to take a risk and sent a squadron of battle cruisers to approach the enemy. The time was approaching noon, the low tide was coming to an end. This meant that the German battlecruisers would soon be able to leave Wilhelmshaven and take part in the battle.


British sailors watch the burning cruiser Mainz

The position of Arethusa and Fearless became threatening, as Stettin and Mainz soon approached the battlefield, and a little later Coln. The situation was saved by Commodore Goodenough's light cruisers, who focused their fire on Mainz. The German ship was covered with a hail of shells. Soon his steering failed, and the cruiser began to circulate in place. Nevertheless, his guns continued to fire at the British destroyers. However, the fate of the ship was soon decided. The torpedo hit disabled the engine room, turning the cruiser into an easy target. Closer to 13 o'clock in the afternoon, the Mainz, engulfed in fires, sank. The British brought almost all of his crew aboard.

It was around this time that Beatty's battlecruisers entered the scene. The balance of power changed dramatically in favor of the Grand Fleet. By order of Maass, Coln began to withdraw, but it was too late. The flagship Lion, armed with 343 mm guns, left no chance of salvation for the German cruiser. The burning ship disappeared in the fog for a few seconds. This distracted Beatty, and his battlecruisers switched to another target - the obsolete light cruiser Ariadne. It took several hits and close coverings for the German ship to be incapacitated and later abandoned by the crew.


German light cruiser Ariadne sunk in battle.

Considering the task completed, and further risks unjustified, Beatty deployed his squadron and began to withdraw. Then he unexpectedly came across a previously damaged Coln. It took only a couple of volleys to finish off the "wounded" enemy. The German cruiser sank along with Admiral Leberecht Maass. From the ship's crew, only 1 sailor survived.

The battle ended in the afternoon. The Grand Fleet returned home in triumph, announcing its decisive victory. Indeed, the British fleet did not lose a single ship during the battle. The cruisers Arethusa and Fearless had damage, as well as 3 destroyers. The casualties were 32 killed and 55 wounded. Admiral David Beatty was greeted as a hero and the victory in the first major naval battle boosted British morale.

The high seas fleet in this battle lost 3 light cruisers and 1 destroyer. 2 more cruisers and 3 destroyers were damaged. On the German side, the total losses in killed, wounded and prisoners amounted to approximately 1000 people.

Considering the battle, one can note the mistakes of the German command: light cruisers were sent to intercept the enemy without reconnaissance and one by one. The High Seas Fleet Command has revised the composition of the armament of its ships, deciding to equip all cruisers with 150-mm guns, and destroyers with 105-mm guns. It was also decided to involve aviation and trawlers for reconnaissance and protection of their territorial waters.

The naval battles of the First World War largely determined the vector of development of ships and the rules of the arms race that followed in the interwar period. The largest battleships were created - the American Iowa, the Japanese Yamato and the German Tirpitz. True, these ships never met each other in battle! The question "Which of them would have won?" very interesting.

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  1. Catfish
    Catfish 4 November 2021 18: 10
    +2
    ... "This call was answered by David Beatty. By virtue of his character, the admiral decided to take the risk ..."

    In the Battle of Jutland, this trait of Beatty cost the British navy the deaths of three line cruisers and the deaths of more than three thousand people.
    1. Catfish
      Catfish 4 November 2021 18: 15
      +1
      Again, miracles are in the sieve, the photo is not loaded, someone somewhere eats their bread for free.
      -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      Death of Queen Mary.

    2. Niko
      Niko 4 November 2021 22: 05
      +5
      Quote: Sea Cat
      ... "This call was answered by David Beatty. By virtue of his character, the admiral decided to take the risk ..."

      In the Battle of Jutland, this trait of Beatty cost the British navy the deaths of three line cruisers and the deaths of more than three thousand people.

      Thanks to such character traits, plus the purposefully supported aggressiveness, the British Navy has a huge number of combat episodes for which one is not ashamed. And our "cautious naval commanders" mainly give reasons for looking for excuses.
      1. Catfish
        Catfish 4 November 2021 22: 19
        +2
        Your truth.
      2. Pavel the builder
        Pavel the builder 5 November 2021 15: 47
        0
        When the number of the fleet under a thousand pennants and bases is full on the island ... then you can take risks without looking
      3. Region-25.rus
        Region-25.rus 6 November 2021 14: 48
        0
        The British Navy has a huge number of combat episodes for which it is not a shame. And our "cautious naval commanders" mainly give reasons for looking for excuses.
        to compare the qualitative and quantitative composition, have you tried theater operations? If the battleship "Slava" was built during the RYA, and at the time of WWI it was categorically outdated in all respects and was reckoned among the battleships, then I suspect this is not from a good life.
        1. Niko
          Niko 6 November 2021 16: 50
          +1
          Quote: Region-25.rus
          The British Navy has a huge number of combat episodes for which it is not a shame. And our "cautious naval commanders" mainly give reasons for looking for excuses.
          to compare the qualitative and quantitative composition, have you tried theater operations? If the battleship "Slava" was built during the RYA, and at the time of WWI it was categorically outdated in all respects and was reckoned among the battleships, then I suspect this is not from a good life.

          And what do you mean "qualitative and quantitative composition" in relation to specific episodes when the commanders of the Royal Navy showed courage, bravery, aggressiveness, etc.? For example under Coronel? In the battle at La Platte? On the Ostend and Zeebrugge raids? And in many, many episodes? You mix in a bunch (trying to justify the Russians, which I wrote about) quantitative indicators and undoubted courage, skill and healthy aggressiveness of MANY commanders of the Royal Navy, and overlook that these qualities appeared by them not only in moments of "quantitative superiority." mention the lack of initiative of the overwhelming majority of Russian commanders of all ranks, as opposed to the initiative of the British
    3. Rakovor
      Rakovor 7 November 2021 20: 35
      0
      Well, actually only two. Invincible with Admiral Hood was not part of Beatty's squadron.
    4. Dmitry V.
      Dmitry V. 8 November 2021 10: 59
      +2
      Quote: Sea Cat
      In the Battle of Jutland, this trait of Beatty cost the British navy the deaths of three line cruisers and the deaths of more than three thousand people.


      The death of battlecruisers is a mistake in the design, weakened protection and the explosive used in charging caps, and not an admiral's mistake.
      Tirpitz's squadron in the battle of Coronel off the Chilean coast as part of the armored cruisers Scharnhorst (1907) Gneisenau (1908), rolled out the British armored cruisers Monmouth (1903) and Good Hope (1902) - the first hits on Good Hope were withdrawn the nasal 234-mm tower was out of order, and a huge column of flame from the exploding cordite rose above it. A 210 mm shell hit the British cruiser between the second and third chimneys. A column of fire rose above the ship, higher than the masts and about 20-30 m wide. That is, despite the explosion in the bow tower, the Good Hope cellars did not detonate.
      Battle at Dogger Bank (when the British sank Blucher) - Lyon received 15 heavy shells from German battlecruisers and rolled out of action - there was no detonation, although Lyon had hits in the towers of gl caliber (at 10:41, Lyon got hit in the barbet of the bow tower , and the fire-prevention flooding of the compartment led to a roll of 10 degrees - the timely flooding of the cellars saved the flagship).
      In just half an hour, "Lion" received 15 hits from heavy shells. Soon, the British flagship became "like pitch hell." Huge holes gape in the sides and deck, superstructures are crumbling with a crash, flames are raging everywhere. The roof of one of the turrets of the main caliber was torn off - a huge armor plate, in the other turret the barrel of a 343 mm gun was lifted lonely into the sky, the second was absent altogether - it was shot down by a German shell. At 11.55, the Lion, having lost control, prowled off the course and began to describe the circulation ... Meanwhile, in the large semi-dark hall of the Admiralty, among the soft carpets and massive furniture, a clock ticked loudly and several people, talking in an undertone, marked on the map the movement of ships at Dogger- banks as reports arrive. They brought in another radiogram and someone said: "Lion" is ready! " Churchill instantly imagined a long funeral procession outside Westminster Abbey, men in navy uniforms and a coffin covered with a British flag. Then he remembered Beatty's courageous face and his always on the sidelines admiral's cap.

      But Beatty miraculously survived, despite the fact that throughout the battle he stood on the open bridge under a hail of German shells. When the Lion rolled out of line, and the following matelots passed by, it was only with great difficulty that they managed to signal Beatty's order to pursue the enemy. While the commander was going to the approaching destroyer, time was lost. Squadron officers Moore and Pelly, next in command, on the Tiger, either misunderstood the commander's signal or were afraid to take on additional responsibility.


      So on what grounds do you blame Beatty for the design problems of the British battlecruisers? In the battle at Dogger Banks, Beatty led the fight from an open bridge, which does credit to his courage.
      To command a squadron of battle cruisers, an admiral like David Richard Beatty was supposed to have just such a character - fearless and aggressive.
      This is how Admira D Fischer noted this point in his memoir:
      Fischer wrote that “Pelly was already far ahead and should have continued to chase whatever signals he received, if he had anything of Nelson’s character in him. Like Nelson at Copenhagen and St. Vincent! Hin war, the first principle is not to obey orders. Anyone can follow orders!»

      "The Era of Admiral Fisher" Political biography of the reformer of the British Navy p. 76. Likharev D. V.
      1. Catfish
        Catfish 8 November 2021 11: 45
        +1
        Tirpitz's squadron in the battle of Coronel off the Chilean coast ...


        It was the squadron of Vice Admiral Count Maximilian von Spee.

        1. Dmitry V.
          Dmitry V. 8 November 2021 14: 08
          +2
          Quote: Sea Cat
          It was the squadron of Vice Admiral Count Maximilian von Spee.


          Of course.
          In terms of strategic management of the fleet, Gelico vs. Tirpitz.
          About a year after his retirement, on March 29, 1916, Fischer wrote a letter ... to Alfred von Tirpitz:

          “Dear old Tirpitz! We both ended up in the same boat! Be that as it may, we bypassed you with battlecruisers, and I heard you said that you would never forgive me that ours sent Blucher and von Spee and his crew to the bottom!

          Don't hang your nose, old man! .. You are the only German sailor who understands a lot about war! Kill your enemy so he doesn't kill you. I don't blame you for this submarine business. I would have done the same myself and warned about it for a long time, only ours in England did not believe! Bye! Yours, until hell freezes. Fisher "
  2. Egorov Oleg
    Egorov Oleg 6 November 2021 12: 12
    +1
    Tirpitz, in his memoirs, wondered why Mainz went to sea without waiting for his half-fleet of destroyers, who provided reconnaissance for the cruiser.
  3. Trapperxnumx
    Trapperxnumx 9 November 2021 12: 24
    0
    In 1914, Germany still had some chances (albeit tiny ones) to catch and smash the Grand Fleet. Since 1915, not even a hint of this has remained.