The skirmish at the Dogger Bank during January 1915, which resulted in the loss of the German cruiser Bluecher, enraged the Kaiser and the High Seas Fleet was consigned to base for over a year as Germany sought to rely on unrestricted submarine warfare to hit Britain’s trade and commerce. The U boat campaign was seriously curtailed in September 1915 when Germany agreed not to sink ships off all kinds in order to avoid war with America. Germany also had a new Admiral of the Fleet, Scheer, who was determined to reverse the effects of a year’s inactivity in the High Seas Fleet.
Scheer also had no option but to try and force a situation where the entire High Seas Fleet engaged an inferior portion of the Grand Fleet. He wanted to combine the High Seas Fleet and U Boats in such an encounter, with Zeppelins providing aerial intelligence on the Grand Fleet. But first he had to divide the Grand Fleet, with another planned raid on the east coast of England on April 24th – 25th 1916.
Scheer planned to pose a threat to the Dover Straights by his raiders taking a southerly course along the Friesian Islands. Once again the situation arose where the German raiders would complete their task before the Grand Fleet could intervene. Only the Harwich Force stood in the German raiders way. The target was Lowestoft. The Harwich Force under Tyrwhitt spotted the German raiders early on the morning of April 25th, and then turned south, hoping to distract the Germans from their intended target by following him. The rouse was unsuccessful and soon the German ships were shelling Lowestoft, some sixty 12” shells fired into and over the town. They them steamed towards Yarmouth but by now Tyrwhitt had turned around and was engaging the German light cruiser scouts. This time the German battle-cruisers abandoned their attack on Yarmouth and rushed to support their light cruises. Tyrwhitt once again fled but not until after the German 12” shells had caused some damage to his ships. The German ships then steamed for home, again long before the Grand Fleet could intervene.
Above: Left - part of the Harwich Force. Middle and Right - damage to Lowestoft
As a result of this raid Jellicoe was forced to further divide the Grand Fleet, sending more ships to Rosyth. Reports of dividing of the Grand Fleet encouraged Scheer and he began to put in place plans to lay a trap for the Grand Fleet which would lead to the World’s greatest ever sea battle – Jutland or Skagerrak to the Germans.