The Battle of Jutland (31 May - 1 June 1916) was the largest naval battle of the First World War. It was the only time that the British and German fleets of 'dreadnought' battleships actually came to blows.
The German High Seas Fleet hoped to weaken the Royal Navy by launching an ambush on the British Grand Fleet in the North Sea. German Admiral Reinhard Scheer planned to lure out both Admiral Sir David Beatty’s Battlecruiser Force and Admiral Sir John Jellicoe's Grand Fleet. Scheer hoped to destroy Beatty’s force before Jellicoe’s arrived, but the British were warned by their codebreakers and put both forces to sea early.
Jutland was a confused and bloody action involving 250 ships and around 100,000 men. Initial encounters between Beatty’s force and the German High Seas Fleet resulted in the loss of several ships. The Germans damaged Beatty’s flagship, HMS Lion, and sank HMS Indefatigable and HMS Queen Mary, both of which blew up when German shells hit their ammunition magazines.
Beatty withdrew until Jellicoe arrived with the main fleet. The Germans, now outgunned, turned for home. The British lost 14 ships and over 6,000 men, but were ready for action again the next day. The Germans, who had lost 11 ships and over 2,500 men, avoided complete destruction but never again seriously challenged British control of the North Sea.
Although it failed to achieve the decisive victory each side hoped for, the Battle of Jutland confirmed British naval dominance and secured its control of shipping lanes, allowing Britain to implement the blockade that would contribute to Germany’s eventual defeat in 1918.