The sinking of the German battleship Pommern
During the First World War, the states of the warring parties did not spare the soldiers - it was not for nothing that contemporaries called this war a massacre, and some protracted battles - meat grinders. New methods of warfare were also tested: soldiers of hostile countries were killed using aviation, tanks, toxic substances.
However, warships played a surprisingly small role in that war. These toys, clad in armor and bristling with large-caliber guns, were too expensive. The rulers of all countries trembled at the thought of losing several battleships. Only once did the powerful squadrons of Great Britain and Germany enter into open battle.
The grandiose naval battle took place in the North Sea Skagerrak Strait near the northwestern coast of the Danish peninsula of Jutland. It began on the afternoon of May 31, 1916, and ended on the morning of June 1. Bolshoi's losses fleet Great Britain was significantly superior to the German fleet, however, the German fleet did not solve the assigned tasks. He failed to defeat the British and break the naval blockade of Germany. In fact, this battle was inconclusive.
Test of strength
The first naval battle of that war took place at the end of August 1914. The British planned their operation taking into account the fact that the fairway of the German naval base Wilhelmshaven at low tide became impassable for heavy ships. And on August 28, the squadron of Vice Admiral David Beatty near Heligoland defeated the detachment of Rear Admiral Leberecht Maass. The Germans lost 3 light cruisers and 2 destroyers, while the British suffered serious damage to 2 cruisers and 3 destroyers.
At the beginning of 1915, Rear Admiral Franz von Hipper's squadron made a surprise attack on the English coast.
Franz Ritter von Hipper, photo 1916
Already on the way back, she was overtaken by the British ships of Vice Admiral D. Beatty.
David Beatty, photo circa 1915
The advantage was on the side of the British: 47 warships against 26 German ones. The British also surpassed the Germans in the number of large ships: 12 cruisers (5 battleships and 7 light ones) versus 8 (3 battleships, 1 armored cruiser, 4 light ones). On January 24, in the battle of Dogger Bank, the German armored cruiser Blücher was sunk and the new battlecruiser Seydlitz was seriously damaged.
But the British flagship, the battle cruiser Lion, also suffered, receiving several “painful” hits. The irretrievable losses of the German side amounted to 1 sailors and officers, while the British lost 116 people.
After this defeat, Kaiser Wilhelm II prohibited the German fleet from leaving the well-defended Heligoland Bight, which is formed by the mouth of the Elbe River and is covered from the sea by the island of Heligoland and the Eiderstedt Peninsula. The British, together with the French, decided to capture the Turkish Bosporus and Dardanelles straits (Dardanelles or Gallipoli operation).
This expedition turned out to be extremely unsuccessful and ended in complete failure. Its initiator, Winston Churchill, was forced to resign from the post of First Lord of the Admiralty. For this reason, he fell into a state of deep depression and constantly complained to his friends: “I am a complete loser.”
Plans of the parties for 1916
In the new year, Great Britain and Germany began to prepare for a new battle at sea. The German fleet was then commanded by Vice Admiral Reinhard Scheer, whom his subordinates called “The Man in the Iron Mask” for his exactingness and severity.
Reinhard Scheer, photo 1916
The Germans planned to strike the English coast again, while Rear Admiral Hipper's squadron, consisting of 5 battle cruisers, 5 light cruisers and 30 destroyers, was supposed to avoid a big battle with the British, but lead them to the main forces of their High Seas Fleet (Hochseeflotte, imperial military The German fleet was also called the Kaiserlichmarine).
Reconnaissance from the air was to be carried out by German airships. The operation was scheduled for May 17–18, but the repair of the battle cruiser Seydlitz, which was blown up by a mine in April, was delayed, and then the weather deteriorated, and it became impossible to use the airships. The submarines that had been put out to sea in advance were already running out of the necessary resources.
Under these conditions, Scheer decided to abandon the campaign to the shores of England and send a squadron of cruisers to the Skagerrak Strait in order to paralyze commercial shipping, on which Britain critically depended.
It was assumed that the British would send part of their forces to Jutland, which would be defeated by the approaching High Seas Fleet. But the British themselves were planning an operation to lure out German ships under the attack of their Grand Fleet. For this purpose, two squadrons of cruisers were formed, which were supposed to pass through the Skagerrak and Kattegat to the Sound Strait and bring German ships with them on the way back.
Rival forces on the eve of the Battle of Jutland
Britain's large fleet was commanded by Vice Admiral John Rushworth Jellicoe.
John Rushworth, XNUMXst Earl of Jellicoe, bust in Trafalgar Square, London
He had at his disposal three battle squadrons of battleships, and he himself held the flag on the battleship Iron Duke - a total of 24 ships. With him were also three battlecruisers of Rear Admiral Horace Hood. At the same time, the 4 newest battleships of Rear Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas were supposed to accompany the fast battle cruisers of David Beatty leading ahead - this ensured overwhelming fire superiority over the German cruisers of Franz Hipper.
In total, the Big Fleet included 42 heavy warships (battleships and battlecruisers) and 109 light warships - cruisers, destroyers, and auxiliary vessels. These ships carried 272 guns: 48 381 mm, 10 356 mm, 110 343 mm and 104 305 mm.
The total weight of the broadside of the British ships that set out on the campaign was 150,76 tons - versus 60,88 tons for the ships of the German High Seas Fleet (ratio 2,5: 1). In terms of displacement, the British fleet was almost twice as large as the German fleet - 1 tons versus 130.
The British fleet included those built in 1910–1914. 12 battleships, which are now often called super-dreadnoughts: 4 Orion types, 4 King George V types and 4 Iron Duke types. As well as the new battlecruisers that became part of the Grand Fleet in 1912–1914, which British sailors called “Splendid Cats”, and sometimes “Admiral Fisher’s Cats”. There were only three of them: Lion (“Lion”, not the French city), Princess Royal, Queen Mary. On the eve of the First World War, they became the largest and fastest cruisers, which also received 343 mm guns. But their reservation turned out to be insufficient.
Battlecruiser Queen Mary
In June 1914, all three “Magnificent Cats”, as well as the battlecruiser “New Zealand”, called at Revel and Kronstadt. Nicholas II, Naval Minister I.K. Grigorovich, Russian naval engineers and officers boarded the “Lion”.
"Magnificent cats" "Lion", "Princess Royal" and the battlecruiser "New Zealand"
The German High Seas Fleet could oppose the British with two squadrons of relatively new battleships, plus the flagship battleship Friedrich the Great (often called Friedrich der Grosse in Russian literature) and a squadron of 6 obsolete low-speed battleships (pre-dreadnoughts).
In total, the Germans had 27 heavy ships that carried 200 guns - 128 305 mm and 72 280 mm. 11 light cruisers and 61 destroyers also went on the campaign.
Thus, the British put 151 ships into the sea, the Germans - 99. However, the new German battleships were superior to the British ones, and the training (including artillery) of their crews was higher. In addition, the British battlecruisers had weaker armor protection. And German gunpowder, unlike British gunpowder, burned without exploding.
Klaus Bergen. German fleet before the Battle of Jutland
Column of British battlecruisers in a painting by William Lionel Wylie
The beginning of the Battle of Jutland - the battle of the vanguards
So, in May 1916, the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet set out to meet each other - both sides having no idea that they would be fighting against the main forces of the enemy in the largest naval battle of the war.
The British had David Beatty's detachment in the vanguard - as many as 46 ships. The main trump card was the Fifth Squadron of battleships of Rear Admiral H. Evan-Thomas - Valiant, Warspite, Malaya and Barham. Beatty also had two squadrons of battlecruisers at his disposal. In the First, led by O. Brock, there were three “Cats” and the “Tiger” (“Tiger”) who joined them. In the second, under the command of Pakenham, were Indefatigable and New Zealand. In addition, Beatty's vanguard included three squadrons of light cruisers (12 ships), four flotillas of destroyers (23 ships) and the Engedine seaplane transport. The main forces of the British were 105 ships of different classes, led by John Rushworth Jellicoe.
The distance between the ships of Beatty and Jellicoe was 65 miles - so as not to frighten off the German squadron, which the vanguard was supposed to bring to the main forces.
The first reconnaissance group of the High Seas Fleet (40 ships) was under the command of Rear Admiral Franz Hipper. The striking force of this detachment were five battlecruisers - Lützow, Derflinger, Seydlitz, Moltke and Von der Tann. They were accompanied by 4 light cruisers of Rear Admiral F. Boediker (Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Pillau, Elbing) and 30 destroyers, commanded by Captain 1st Rank Heinrich.
As we can see, the advantage of Beatty's squad was overwhelming. Behind Hipper's vanguard were the main forces of the High Seas Fleet - 16 battleships, 6 battleships, 6 light cruisers and 31 destroyers (59 ships). They were commanded by Reinhard Scheer, who flew his flag on the battleship Frederick the Great.
Battleship "Frederick the Great"
On the afternoon of May 31, the German and British squadrons of Hipper and Beatty discovered each other quite by chance. The first shots were fired at 14:28: the German light cruiser Elbing, which stopped a passing Danish steamer for inspection, was attacked by the English light cruiser Galatea. IN history included the words of Hipper, spoken directly on board his flagship:
“Someday the science rats at the Naval Academy will be scratching their heads trying to figure out: What were we thinking? But we didn’t think anything. There was no time to think."
Between 15:20 and 15:24, the battlecruisers began the battle, moving on converging courses to the south-southeast - this phase of the battle is now called the "Run to the South". The British again had numerical superiority - six battlecruisers (including one of the "Magnificent Cats" - "Lion") against five.
However, at 16:03, the German battlecruiser Von der Tann sank the British Indefatigable, on which 1 sailors and officers were killed (two managed to escape). Then the Lützow nearly sank the British flagship, the “magnificent cat” Lion.
German battlecruiser Lützow
The British cruiser Tiger was also seriously damaged, receiving 9 hits from 280-mm Moltke shells.
British battleships approached the battle site, whose 381-mm guns became a significant trump card in the subsequent battle. Two German battle cruisers took the brunt of the attack. One of them was the Von der Tann, which was attacked by the battleships Malaya, Warspite and the battlecruiser New Zealand. The second was Moltke, whose opponents were the battleships Barham, Valiant and the battlecruiser Tiger. These German ships were damaged, but remained afloat and retained their combat effectiveness.
Meanwhile, the Germans successfully attacked the battle cruiser Queen Mary: one of the “magnificent cats” of the British went to the bottom, 1 people died, 266 were saved. Then the destroyers entered the battle, and each side lost two ships of this type. A British torpedo damaged the German cruiser Seydlitz, which nevertheless remained in service.
And the ships of the main forces of the German High Seas Fleet had already approached the battle site, and at 16:40 the British began to retreat north.
Battle of the main forces of the Grand Fleet and Hochseeflotte
Scheme of the Battle of Jutland
The Battle of Jutland, painted by Charles Dixon
The "run" of the British ships to the north lasted about 1 hour 20 minutes, but at about 17:30 Jellicoe finally collected all the squadrons. Now the British began to arrange their large ships in battle order - 24 battleships and 7 battlecruisers. And Scheer gave the signal to retreat to the west.
Mutual shelling between the battlecruisers resumed at 18:20, with the British initially in a more advantageous position, since the sky on their side was darker. Hipper's flagship Lützow received several hits.
However, then, at about 18:30, the sky above the British suddenly cleared and, as eyewitnesses recalled, the Germans saw the Invincible ship brightly illuminated by the sun. With a successful shot, the Luttsov gunners hit the main caliber turret, an explosion followed - and the third British battle cruiser sank to the bottom, 1 people were killed, including Admiral Hood, 026 were saved.
Battle cruiser "Invincible"
Horace Hood, photo 1916. Great-grandson of Admiral Samuel Hood, after whom the battlecruiser was named, who died on May 24, 1941 in a battle with the German battleship Bismarck.
The British armored cruiser Defense was also sunk, which was carried away by finishing off the enemy light cruiser Wiesbaden (which later sank) - and came under fire from German battleships. 900 sailors and officers died on it, including Rear Admiral Arbuthnot. Another armored cruiser, the Warrior, was so badly damaged that it was unable to return home - it sank on the way back. The cruiser Warspite was also badly damaged.
Warrior and Warspite at the Battle of Jutland
The German ships König, Seydlitz, Derflinger, Markgraf, and Grosser Kurfürst also received serious damage, but stayed afloat. Hipper's flagship "Lützow" left the ranks - the German rear admiral switched to "Moltke".
After this, at approximately 18:40, the ships of the enemy fleets lost sight of each other. Admiral Jellicoe, fearing mines, did not dare to pursue German ships. Instead, he ordered a turn south, intending to cut off the German fleet from its bases. This decision was later heavily criticized in Britain.
However, Scheer also made a very controversial decision: at 18:55 he suddenly turned his ships around and led them east - as it turned out, directly into the center of the column of British ships.
At 19:10, the German ships were again fired upon by the British, who managed to cover the cruiser Derflinger with their salvos, destroying two gun turrets on it. At 19:18, Scheer ordered a retreat, deploying battlecruisers and destroyers as guard ships, each of which fired a torpedo salvo, and then set up a smoke screen. This maneuver, by the way, received the highest praise from experts: a coordinated, synchronized 180-degree turn of an entire squadron under the cover of a smoke screen is not always possible, even in peacetime during exercises.
As a result, by 19:31 the German ships managed to break away. Beatty tried to pursue them. At 20:40 the German fleet was discovered again, but in the gathering darkness (the sun set at 21:07) Jellicoe, fearing to run into minefields and possible attacks by German submarines, did not dare to start the battle again. However, enemy ships kept bumping into each other and engaging in battle.
At 22 p.m., the light cruisers of both sides, the English Castor and the German Hamburg, were damaged in an artillery duel. At about 22:40 the British cruiser Southampton successfully torpedoed the German Frauenlob. At about 23 p.m., the German battleship Posen rammed the German cruiser Elbing, which had recently been attacked by enemy destroyers. German cruisers then attacked the British destroyer Tipperary, which later sank. The British destroyers Broke, Spitfire and Sparrowhawk were seriously damaged.
In the first hour of the night, British destroyers again attacked German ships, destroying the light cruiser Rostock, but losing the ships Fortune and Ardent. The English armored cruiser Black Prince came across German battleships and was shot at point-blank range by them.
British destroyers torpedoed the old (pre-dreadnought) German battleship Pommern, killing 800 sailors. Then, in a duel of destroyers, the German V-4 was sunk and damaged, but the British G-40 remained afloat.
Finally, at 5:20 a.m. on June 1, the German battleship Ostfriesland was struck by a mine. On the way home, the Germans had to sink Hipper’s flagship, the Lützow, which had lost power: it was finished off by its own destroyers.
This ended the Battle of Jutland, the surviving German ships returned to their bases.
Immediately after the end of the Battle of Jutland, questions arose about its outcome and results.
Both sides wanted to declare themselves winners. The Germans indicated that they managed to sink more ships - 14 versus 11. Even better was the ratio of losses of ships of the first rank: the British lost three battle cruisers and three armored ships, the Germans lost one battle cruiser and one old battleship (pre-dreadnought).
British and German ships sunk at the Battle of Jutland
The displacement of sunk British ships was 111 tons, and that of German ships was 980 tons. At the same time, the British spent 62 large-caliber shells, the hit rate was 233 - 4%. German ships spent fewer shells - 480, and achieved 123 hits - 2,75%.
The losses of the crews of English ships also exceeded those of the Germans: 6 sailors and officers were killed or were listed as missing, 094 were wounded, 674 were captured. The Germans killed 177 people and wounded 2.
Euphoria reigned in Germany. The day of awarding ship crews was declared a day off. Kaiser Wilhelm personally presented orders and medals to particularly distinguished sailors and officers.
The Battle of Jutland on a German postcard from 1916
Nothing was said about the fact that the German fleet, which won “on points,” actually fled from the British to its bases. Britain quite rightly stated that the German High Seas Fleet had not solved its strategic problems.
The Grand Fleet suffered serious losses, but fully retained its combat capability and continued to control the sea; the blockade of the German coast was not lifted. However, the actions of Admirals Jellicoe and Beatty were severely criticized. A commission was even created to investigate the reasons for such high losses, which, however, did not reveal any serious miscalculations, much less signs of negligence or negligence.
As a result, Beatty became Admiral of the Fleet and Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet at the end of November 1916. Jellicoe received the Order of Merit and the post of Deputy First Lord of the Admiralty. He was supposed to concentrate on fighting German submarines, but resigned already in January 1917.
Both sides were extremely disappointed, coming to the conclusion that the huge expenses for the construction and maintenance of large warships were not justified. The grandiose naval battle only led to heavy losses and had virtually no effect on the situation on the fronts. There has been a tendency to treat the surface fleet as a burden: it is expensive, but of little use.
But in general, the strategic results of the Battle of Jutland were in favor of the British.
Germany simply did not have the resources not only to build new ships, but also to quickly repair damaged ones. And so the fateful decision was made on “unlimited submarine warfare,” which ultimately became one of the reasons for the United States to enter the war.
The fate of the German High Seas Fleet
After the Battle of Jutland, Kaiser Wilhelm II again prohibited his admirals from engaging in major battles with the Grand Fleet. And Germany's resources were rapidly depleted: ultimately, it was defeated not on the fronts of that Great War, but in the rear - on its own territory. In June 1918, American troops began to arrive in France. They will be at the front only in October, but already on August 8, 1918, Kaiser Wilhelm II said:
“We can't stand it anymore. The war must be ended."
And on August 13, the Crown Council of the Second Reich, chaired by the Kaiser, decided to begin peace negotiations with the Entente states. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was chosen as a mediator. The situation was rapidly deteriorating. On September 28, 1918, Bulgaria capitulated, on September 30, Austria-Hungary, and the German generals fell into panic. Ludendorff stated on October 1:
“Today the troops are holding out, what will happen tomorrow is impossible to predict... The front can be broken through at any moment, and then our proposal will arrive at the most unfavorable time... Our proposal must be immediately transmitted from Bern to Washington. The army cannot wait forty-eight hours.”
On October 2, he was supported by Hindenburg, who, in a telegram sent to Berlin, said that the army would not be able to hold out for more than forty-eight hours.
And the next day the Ottoman Empire capitulated.
When on October 24, US President Wilson in his note hinted at the desirability of removing Wilhelm II and other “militarist overlords of Germany” from power, the Kaiser was immediately betrayed by both the top leaders of the state and the generals.
The admirals remained faithful, and in the hope that victory would inspire German society and turn the tide, on October 28, 1918, they ordered the warships stationed in Kiel to go to sea and attack the British fleet. But this only led to a revolt among the sailors, who turned off the ship’s furnaces on October 29. The subsequent arrests finally brought the situation to a head. On November 2, 1918, sailors and townspeople went out to an anti-government demonstration; on November 4, the crews of all ships and soldiers of the Kiel garrison joined the uprising. A council of soldiers' deputies was created in Kiel, and on November 5, a council of workers' deputies was also created.
On November 7, King Ludwig III of Bavaria was deposed in Munich. On November 8, the uprising began in Berlin.
On November 9, Chancellor Maximilian of Baden announced the abdication of both the Kaiser and the Crown Prince. Wilhelm II learned about his abdication from the newspapers and on November 10 chose to flee to Holland. On November 11, a truce was signed in Compiegne. And only on November 28, Wilhelm signed the official act of abdication of the thrones of the empire and Prussia.
According to the Treaty of Versailles, Germany transferred to the winners all warships, submarines and aircraft (as well as 5 thousand guns, 25 thousand machine guns and many locomotives and carriages). Outraged German sailors sank 21 ships in one of the bays of the British harbor of Scapa Flow on June 1919, 52: 10 battleships, 5 battleships and 5 light cruisers, 32 destroyers (sometimes they say that there were 4 sunken light cruisers, in which case the total number of sunken ships – 51).
The sinking of the battleship Bayern
Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuther, who ordered the sinking of interned German ships
The British managed to save 22 ships, including 1 battleship and 3 light cruisers.
The cost of the sunken ships was added to the amount of reparations imposed on Germany. The German ships lying at the bottom were gradually raised and sent for scrap.
Currently, there are still 4 battleships and 3 cruisers at the bottom, which have become popular objects among British and foreign divers.