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The Battle of Jutland: Geoffrey Bennett

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  • The Battle of Jutland: Geoffrey Bennett

    This is a concise account of the Battle of Jutland. Long enough to hold the interest of someone that already has some background on the naval battles of WW1, but short enough to finish easily in an weekend.

    My previous exposure to this battle was somewhat general. Typically an article or chapter of out of a book on WW1 battles. Also, it has been quite a while since I have read something about Jutland.

    The books starts with a background on the naval armsrace between Great Britain and Germany. Each country has its own objective, Great Britain to protect the British Isles and sustain her empire. Germany to build an empire to challenge British supremacy outside the European land mass.

    There is also a short history of the commanders. There is a brief description of the careers of the founders of the modern Dreadnought fleets, Fisher for Great Britain and Tirpitz for Germany. Also, that of the tactical commanders, Jellicoe, Beatty, Scheer and Hipper.

    The actual descripion of the battle is narrative in nature interpersed with personal accounts from the battle veterans. To me, there were two areas that particularly held my interest. The first was the battlecruiser action. This is very well described, especially the manoeuvres by Beatty that drew Scheer into Jellicoe's trap. The second was an examination of the difficulties faced by Jellicoe. The author's slant was not so much that Jellicoe was overly cautious by rather there was simply a lack of information for him to act. Firstly, the many brushes that his cruisers and destroyers had with the High Seas Fleet during the night was NOT reported to him. Jellicoe therefore felt that the HSF was in fact NW of his position and that his fleet was between the HSF and its base. Once daylight arrives, he will seek out the HSF and finish it off. Actually, the HSF was much more to the east of his position. As already widely documented, the HSF passed behind the Grand Fleet during the night to escape to safety. Also, vital information gleaned from signals intelligence gather by the Admiralty was not passed to him. Although this may not be in a coherent form, there is a chance that Jellicoe would have guessed the true situation by reading the dispatches and responded accordingly. The night actions were also well described, here the author deviated somewhat from the 'big picture' style and focus on the heroics of individual ships and their crews.

    The author concludes by evaluating the consequences of the battle. Nothing really new here. Basically, the Grand Fleet was much less affected by its battle wounds. The Kaiser insisted with his fleet in being policy which meant that the Grand Fleet continued with its sea blockade of Germany which contributed to the hardship of the German nation and its final collapse.

    Overall, a very good account of the battle. Excellent for someone that has some basic exposure of Jutland and want to dive in a little deeper. Of course, also an enjoyable read for any one interested in this battle.

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