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The Battle of Jutland shocked the British public. Expectations were high that the British fleet would sweep the Germans from the seas. The reality differed. Little went well for the British on 31 May and 1 June 1916. Opportunity after opportunity to inflict severe damage on the German High Seas Fleet was missed or bungled through poor communications, sloppy shiphandling, inadequate training, and tactical shortcomings. British naval technology was exposed as outdated or ineffective. Large-caliber shells failed to penetrate German armor and often didnt explode when they did. Even French (Heaven forfend!) nickel-steel shells proved superior. The Royal Navys fire control systems where hamstrung by poor optical range finders, many with a short base of only nine feet, and the incorporation of a difficult measuring technique requiring the operator to match stereoscopic images while riding aboard a careening and heavily vibrating warship. Overshooting by thousands of yards was common. Even relatively mundane equipment such as searchlights was notably inferior to the German. British searchlights lacked irises and mountings of sufficiently-high elevation. General quarters (action stations) discipline was slack permitting flash fires to devastate gun turrets, ammunition handling rooms and magazines. Poor wireless controls and signal flag procedures caused miscommunication between fleet elements. Arguably the most damaging shortcoming was the repeated failure of British flag officers and ships captains to transmit contact reports on enemy vessels. Lord Jellicoe was handicapped throughout the battle by a lack of contact data on the German High Seas Fleet – even while elements of the Royal Navy were engaged with the enemy. The tactical dominance of the German navy was evident in the battles toll: 14 Royal Navy ships sunk – including three battlecruisers. 11 Imperial German High Seas Fleet ships sunk – only one battlecruiser. The Royal Navys total killed in action: 6,945 (more than the total British killed in action during the Boer War). The German Navys total killed in action: 3,058.Despite the Royal Navys many weaknesses at Jutland – a clear tactical defeat – it gained a resounding strategic victory. The Imperial German High Seas Fleet never threatened British maritime supremacy again. The German fleet rode out most of its life in ports and anchorages until indiscipline and mutiny hastened the end of the war in 1918. As Steel and Hart wrote:Whatever specious claims can be constructed from an analysis of (Royal Navy) losses or casualties it remains a fact that the British won the battle of Jutland. In the end the material successes of the High Seas Fleet fade into complete insignificance in comparison to the crushing strategic success that the Royal Navy secured for the British Empire. The great question of the naval war had been answered. Although the High Seas Fleet did re-emerge, it would never again seriously threaten the command of the seas possessed by the Grand Fleet. Jutland 1916: Death in the Grey Wastes by Nigel Steel and Peter Hart was a solid chronological recapitulation of the events surrounding the epic sea battle of World War I. The authors laced their story with letters, diaries, official reports, and personal accounts of participants – both high and low. As a blow-by-blow recounting of the battle, it was very good, as a literary endeavor, it was wanting. The authors lacked narrative flair, which made the book tedious at times. While informative, it wasnt entertaining. It earned Three Stars in my library.

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