Map showing the movements of the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet before the Battle of Jutland.
© IWM (Q 71358)
Map showing the movements of the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet before the battle.

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. 

Photographs

HMS Invincible

The bow and stern of HMS INVINCIBLE sticking out of the water as the battlecruiser sinks during the battle of Jutland after she was hit five times by shells from the German battlecruisers DERRFLINGER and LUTZOW, the last hit blowing the roof off "Q" turret and setting fire to the cordite propellant, the flash soon spread to the magazine and INVINCIBLE was ripped in two by the explosion.
© IWM (SP 2470)

The bow and stern of HMS Invincible stick out of the water during the Battle of Jutland. HMS Invincible's ammunition magazine exploded after the battlecruiser was hit by German shells. HMS Badger can be seen in the distance as it moves in to rescue survivors, but only six men survived.

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 continue effective implementation of the maritime blockade that would contribute to Germany’s eventual defeat in 1918.

The Battle of Jutland

An aerial view of a portion of the Grand Fleet at anchor in the Firth of Forth, taken from the British Airship R. 9.
© IWM (Q 20633)
The Battle of Jutland

Battle of Jutland Timeline

The Battle of Jutland (31 May-1 June 1916) was the largest naval battle of the First World War, involving 250 ships and around 100,000 men. It was also the first and only time that the British and German fleets of 'dreadnought' battleships met each other in battle.

Battlecruiser HMS Lion.
© IWM (Q 75277)
First World War

A Guide To British Ships At The Battle Of Jutland

The Battle of Jutland, fought over two days from 31 May 1916, was the largest sea battle of the First World War. It pitted 151 British warships against 99 German ships and was the first and only time the two battle fleets confronted each other. 

Black and white portrait image of Admiral David Beatty, British Admiral of the fleet, in front of a map of the North Sea, where The Battle of Jutland took place.
© IWM
First World War

Who actually won the Battle of Jutland?

The Battle of Jutland was the largest naval battle of the First World War. The most important naval action seen during the First World War, the battle took place just off the coast of Jutland in Denmark. We explain what the Battle of Jutland was and how it came about. We also look at which fleet attacked first in the naval battle and if Britain did actually win the fight. 

Key individuals in the Battle of Jutland

Admiral David Beatty, posing deliberately for the camera with his hat at its famous 'Beatty tilt', shortly after his appointment as the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet.
© IWM (Q 19570)
The Battle of Jutland

Who Were The Key Personalities In The Battle Of Jutland?

The Battle of Jutland involved around 100,000 men from both the British and German navies. Four of these men in particular were crucial to the events that took place.

Commander Loftus William Jones, Royal Navy, awarded the Victoria Cross, HMS SHARK, Jutland, 31 May 1916.
© IWM (VC 658)
Courage and bravery

Commander Loftus Jones VC

Commander Jones' torpedo boat destroyer, HMS Shark, came under heavy attack from German shellfire during the Battle of Jutland. Jones, though mortally wounded, encouraged his men to the last and only left his ship when it was beyond saving.

Officer Cadets of the Junion Division (still in civilian cloths) marching past the Old College at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, November 1917.
© IWM (Q 54239)
First World War

Major Francis Harvey VC

Major Francis Harvey was in command of 'Q' turret on board Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty's flagship, HMS Lion, during the Battle of Jutland. He acted quickly and selflessly when a shell destroyed the turret and severely wounded him.

The interior of a cabin below deck with several wounded sailors, most swathed in bandages, laid out parallel to one another across the floor. They are tended to by three orderlies and one naval doctor who is standing on the right and has a stethoscope round his neck. Two of the orderlies are lowering a wounded man on a stretcher to the floor in the background.
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Jutland

Episode 22: The Battle of Jutland, on 31 May 1916, was the only major confrontation between British and German naval forces during the First World War.