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Battle of Jutland

The Battle of Dogger Bank 1915

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Following the Germans attack on the british towns of Scarborough and Hartlepool the british forces intensified their operations in the North Sea. The purpose was to lure the Germans to a confrontation and it did not take long before an opportunity to settle the score emerged.

At 4.45 pm (GMT) on the 23 January 1915 Rear-Admiral Hipper sailed from the Jade with the 1st Aufklärungs Gruppe consisting of the three battlecruisers "Seydlitz" (Vizeadmiral Hipper), "Moltke", "Derfflinger" and the large armoured cruiser "Blücher", and the four light cruisers from the 2nd Aufklärungs Gruppe, "Graudenz", "Rostock", "Kolberg" and "Stralsund", to scout the Dogger Bank region of the North Sea and attack any British light forces that were to be observed in the region.

Unfortunately for the Germans the order to Hipper from Admiral von Ingenohl, head of the German navy, was intercepted and decoded by the British Admiralty's deciphering service Room 40. As a consequence to the intercepted intelligence Vice-Admiral Beatty with his Rosyth based 1st and 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron and 1st Light Cruiser Squadron, in cooperation with the  Harwich Force of light cruisers and destroyers from 1st and 3rd Destroyer Flotilla under Commodore Tyrwhitt, was ordered to rendezvous at Dogger Bank at 7.00 am on the 24 January. The British units left port only minutes after the German fleet that were total unaware of the British knowing the content of their plan.

At 7.14 am, just before daybreak, of 24 January the German light cruiser "Kolberg", stationed on the portside of the German fleet, sighted the British light cruiser "Aurora" of the Harwich Force. "Aurora" challenged the German ship which opened fire scoring two hits. "Aurora" in return fired and also scored a couple of hits at the German ship.

Hipper turned his heavy units towards the firing thinking that there were only light enemy units in the area. Almost immediately on turning "Stralsund" saw the smoke form Beatty's battlecruisers to the NNW. He decided to head for home and so turned to the SW at 7.35 am towards the German Bight. Hipper at first thought they British ships were battleships, which he could easily outrun, but by the time he realised that they were battlecruisers the range had already dropped to 25,000 yards. The German line was in the order "Seydlitz", "Moltke", "Derfflinger" with the slow, old and large armoured cruiser "Blucher" last. The British pursued in a staggered line a head formation with "Lion" leading followed by "Tiger", "Princess Royal" and then the slower "New Zealand" and "Indomitable".

"Blücher" was the slowest German ship at 23 knots and along with some of the cola fired torpedo boats slowed the German force down whilst the first three British battlecruisers ("Lion", "Tiger" and "Princess Royal") reached 27 knots, at one point Beatty ordered the impossible speed of 29 knots to his force, the two older and slower battlecruisers of the 2nd Battlecruiser Squadron ("New Zealand" and "Indomitable") gradually lagged behind despite exceeding their trial speeds. The British light forces attempted to get in a position to attack but the speeds were too high and as the smoke they were generating was interfering with gunnery Beatty ordered them out of the way.

At 8.52 am "Lion" opened fire on "Blücher" but the range was too great. At 9.00 am "Blücher" was within firing range and "Lion" commenced firing followed by "Tiger" and "Princess Royal", the first hits on "Blücher" being achieved at 9.09.

The Germans returned fire at 9.11 concentrating on "Lion". As the range closed "New Zealand" joined the firing and Beatty ordered his ships to engage the corresponding ship in the enemy line except "Indomitable" which was not in range. Unfortunately "Tiger" included "Indomitable" in her calculations and so joined "Lion" firing on "Seydlitz", leaving "Moltke" alone. To compound her error "Tiger" mistook "Lion"s fall of shot for her own making her aim ineffective.

At 9.40 "Lion" scored a damaging hit on "Seydlitz" which penetrated the barbette of the rear turret and set fire to some of the shell propellant. The flames rose into the turret and through a connecting door, which should have been shut, to the second turret killing the crews of both turrets, 159 men in total. Fortunately for Hipper both magazines were flooded before things got any worse.

"Lion" was not having it all her own way as by now she had all three leading German battlecruisers concentrating on her and she was repeated hit, the most serious hit from "Derfflinger" causing her port water feed to be contaminated and within half an hour her port engine to be shut down. "Blücher" had taken heavy punishment and her speed had dropped to 17 knots and was forced to drop out of the German line, Beatty ordered the lagging "Indomitable" to intercept. "Lion"s speed was also dropping and was about to be overtaken by "Tiger" and "Princess Royal". As this was happening the a periscope was thought to be sighted from "Lion" and Beatty ordered a 90 degree turn to port at 10.58. This manoeuvre also had the effect of forcing Hipper to cancel an attack he had just ordered by his torpedo boats. Once clear of the perceived danger the order to change course to the north-east was given.

Beatty tried to signal Nelson's famous "Engage the enemy more closely" but this was not in the signal book so "Attack the rear of the enemy" was substituted. Unfortunately "Lion"s wireless antenna were destroyed, her signal lamps had no power and all but two of her signalling halyards had been shot away and a basic signalling error by Beatty's flag-lieutenant Lieutenant-Commander Seymour meant that the signal was combined with the course change to the north-east and so read "Attack the rear of the enemy, bearing NE" - which obviously was "Blücher".

Beatty had to watch helplessly as his newly appointed second in command, Rear-Admiral Moore in "New Zealand", led the British force against the already doomed "Blücher" and let the rest of the German force escape. Beatty transferred to the destroyer "Attack" in order to move to "Princess Royal" but by the time he achieved this the battle was over.

The British ships finished off "Blücher", in the end she was hit by torpedoes from "Arethusa" and destroyers. Whilst survivors were being picked up the a seaplane and Zeppelin "L5" bombed the operation, forcing the abandonment of rescue efforts.

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