WW1 - The Maritime War Pt 2

Admiral Scheer sallied forth with the entire High Seas Fleet, headed for the east coast of Britain, and hoping to find the vastly outmatched Rosyth force waiting for him to be destroyed. Unfortunately for Scheer, British codebreakers had cracked the German naval code and were aware of his plan and that the High Seas Fleet had sortied. Thus the British sortied everything they had from Scapa Flow and were steaming south at high speed to try and catch him.

The Germans soon engaged the Rosyth force and poor British ship designs meant that two British battlecruisers exploded due to catastrophic magazine hits. As Admiral Beatty, commanding the British force observed, "Theres something wrong with our bloody ships today.". Once Beatty realised he was up against the entire German navy he sailed his ships northwards. Scheer followed - and then to his surprise, ran into the entire British fleet, off the coast of Jutland.

It looked like disaster, but prompt action by the Germans - ie running away - saved the day. But then Scheer had to get home, and the British were intent on stopping him. The British fleet strung out between Scheer and his home bases, and before too long Scheer found himself engaged again. Only desperate measures could save the Germans now. A near suicidal attack by the German battlecruisers and a massed torpedo attack by the torpedo boats was ordered to cover the German battleships withdrawal, and the cautious British admiral John Jellicoe chose to turn his dreadnoughts away to avoid the oncoming torpedoes. And so Scheer, in the end, escaped.

In public it seemed like the British had lost. The Germans lost only one major combatant, an old battleship, but the British had lost several modern battlecruisers. In terms of ships lost it was a clear German win. On the other hand, the situation, when the Germans got home, was unchanged. The British still had Germany under close blockade, and Kaiser Wilhelm was worried by the near miss that almost got his beloved dreadnoughts put beneath the waves. The High Seas Fleet was then confined to port for the rest of the war, and offensive operations shifted to the submarine arm.

As the years rolled on, defeatism and despair spread in the ranks of the Kaiserliche Marine, outgunned, confined to port, unable to challenge the Royal Navy which was choking Germany near to death. While in the Royal Navy, morale remained good and the Grand Fleet still lusted for battle. By 1918, the German surface fleet was in a sorry, mutinous state, and the sailors of the Kaiserliche Marine would in fact play a key role in the final end of the German Empire.

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