Jutland and Beyond

The battle of Jutland ended in controversy; materially the Germans came out on top and Scheer became a national hero but the total destruction of the High Seas Fleet had only narrowly been avoided. Scheer tried another raid on Aug 19th, with Sunderland the intended target. The raid was aborted with Scheer again narrowly escaping being trapped by the Grand Fleet.  The High Seas Fleet again put to sea on October19th, but again Scheer returned to base before the Grand Fleet could gain contact. Following this abortive raid, the High Seas Fleet was ordered on to the defensive and  Germany took the decision to rely on unrestricted submarine warfare the following February.

 

For the next year, German activity in the North Sea was limited to destroyer and submarine actions. In particular destroyers from Zeebrugge made a nuisance of themselves.  On Nov 23rd a few shots were fired at Margate as the destroyers departed before British destroyers could close. Further raids on the English coast took place on Jan 25th 1917 when a destroyer shelled Southwold (firing a parachute star-shell over each side of the town at 11pm followed by 68 shells in eight minutes), and Feb 25th when enemy destroyers shelled Thanet killing three people and injuring one other. Another raid targeted Lowestoft on Feb 28th. On Apr 20th, six destroyers shelled Dover but little damage was done and no lives lost.

 

Perhaps the heaviest enemy destroyer raid took place on the night of Apr 26th when over 100 shells were fired at Ramsgate, killing two people and wounding three. On the same night, 28 shells were fired at Margate but causing no casualties.

 

Despite the British bombarding Zeebrugge on several occasions, the German destroyers were not prevented form operating. One of the reasons they were successful was the use of Zeppelins spotting for them, warning them of the approach of British ships. To try and blind the enemy, in the Spring of 1917 seaplanes were stationed at various points along the East Coast. Zeppelin L43 was destroyed by a plane piloted by Flight Sub-Lieut. B.D. Hobbs, flying from Felixstowe.

 

Meanwhile the issue of the war at sea hung in the balance during 1917, with the Grand Fleet enforcing the blockade against Germany and the U-Boats trying to enforce the blockade against Britain. It was the Convoy system that would eventually defeat the U-Boats, but not before serious losses had been sustained. The submarines also occasionally took parts in shelling the English coast. On Sept 4th, a submarine appeared off Scarborough and at 6:55am opened fire with her two guns, killing two people.

 

The destroyer raids continued into early 1918 including further attacks on the English coast. On Jan 14th, destroyers shelled Yarmouth, killing and injuring 12 people. The loss of British merchant shipping to U-Boats, with ship production failing to keep up with losses until June 1918, had forced Beatty (who had replaced Jellicoe as Admiral of the Fleet) to deploy part of the Grand Fleet to protect convoys. He was uneasy at this, suspecting that German fleet would make a sortie and overwhelm the merchant vessels and their escorts. Indeed, Scheer was planning just such an action. The High Seas Fleet steamed northwards on Apr 24th, hoping to cut off a convoy and strike a serious blow against the Grand Fleet. Fog and a mishap to a cruiser engine caused delays meaning Scheer could not carry out his task so he returned to port. This was the last sortie carried out by the High Seas Fleet. With the Armistice, the U-Boat fleet was directed to Harwich for internment while the High Seas Fleet was interned at Scapa Flow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above: Interned U-Boats, Harwich.

Right - High Seas Fleet interned at Scapa Flow.

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