I have been breaking my WWII reading order lately with a couple of WWI History Books by Peter Hart which I wanted to tell you about. The First is The Somme: The Darkest Hours on the Western Front. This book is about one of the bloodiest and some would argue, the most senseless battle’s of WW1 ever fought. The Other book is Jutland 1916: Death in the Grey Wastes. What I like about Peter Hart is that he is one of those old school historians that sticks to the facts and does not waste your time with theories. His use of letters and diaries from the actual participants of these battles give his books a personal feel that I really like too. Check them out today. -SF
One of the largest naval battles in history occurred nearly 100 years ago — but the war wasn’t going to be lost in an afternoon.
A century ago, the two greatest fleets of the industrial age fought an inconclusive battle in the North Sea.
The British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet fielded a total of 58 dreadnought battleships and battlecruisers, ships over the twice the size of most modern surface combatants. Including smaller ships, the battle included 250 vessels in total.
The two fleets fought to a draw, with the Germans inflicting more casualties, but still being lucky to escape alive. The Grand Fleet could very easily have annihilated the Germans, an outcome which, however tragic, would not have moved the needle on the rest of the war.
First things first, how could the Germans have won?
The High Seas Fleet faced very tough odds at Jutland. It only enjoyed a numerical advantage near the opening stages of the battle, when the German battlecruisers (commanded by Adm. Franz von Hipper) drew a contingent of British battlecruisers and fast battleships (commanded by David Beatty and Hugh Evan-Thomas) within range of Reinhard Scheer’s German battle line.
We can imagine a different outcome if we alter some of the events at the opening of the battle.
HMS Lion, the flagship of the British battlecruiser squadron, nearly exploded in the early minutes of the battle, after suffering a devastating hit from SMSLutzow, Hipper’s flagship. The early detonation of Lion would have allowed the Germans to build advantage upon advantage; guns targeted at the lead battlecruiser would have focused on the next in line, and so forth.
Read the Remainder at War is Boring