- Dec 1, 2002Matej asked:
'are we speaking about Jutland the Danish peninsula here?? Why did England
fight a battle there (in a few words)?'
Yes, we are speaking about the Danish peninsula, or at least the sea off it.
The battle took place on 31 May 1916 and was basically for naval control of
the North Sea. It was the only major battle fought at sea in WW1.
One historical perspective has it that the industrial revolution made it
possible for aspiring naval powers to start 'from scratch' with steel and
steam power when wood for (war) shipbuilding became so suddenly and
completely obsolete. Britain build the first 'modern' battleship, a monster
called the 'Dreadnought' with turret-mounted big guns and armour measured in
inches in 1911. The Germans were quick to follow, and a naval arms race
ensued - pretty much bound to result in an interesting clash of fleets and
technologies. However, brains remained green at the top, as a Czech might
say, and all the wonders of a couple of decade's advances paled before the
combined ignorance of admirals who couldn't find their arses with both hands
and an atlas.
Whether or not events in Sarajevo made the Germans start WW1 early (much as
they started WW2 several years ahead of their shipbuilding programme and
much of the military planning) will never really be known. The Brits were
lucky: many of the German ships were streets ahead of their already ageing
opponents, the German gunlaying was far better, and the German admirals
actually seemed to know what they were doing. Had it not been for a farcical
clash in heavy fog, the scoreline at the end might have given the Germans
clear victory and enough confidence to consolidate it with later sorties. As
it was, they settled for a 'fleet in being' that, just by existing at
anchor, tied up millions of pounds-worth of Brit resources and thousands of
men and ships.
With far fewer ships, they pursued much the same strategy in WW2, hardly
letting the 'super-battleships' Bismark and Tirpitz off the leash. Only the
most extraordinary luck - a torpedo in a million for the Bismark, the
commander of an interceptor squadron having some kind of nervous breakdown
and smoke-pots failing to function for the Tirpitz - sank two of the most
powerful ships ever built.
Donald MacIntyre's your man for books about this - not too jingoistic and
always clear about objectives and capabilities, which is more than can be
said about most naval writers.
Not very short. Sorry.