On May 31, 1916 British Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet squared off against the Imperial German Navy’s High Seas Fleet in what would become one of the most important naval battles in history.
The Battle of Jutland, or Skagerrak as it is called by Germans, took place near the coast of Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula in the North Sea.
Hundred years have since passed and both countries are set to mark the centenary with events across the land and sea, and beneath the waves.
The battle fought on the afternoon and evening of Wednesday May 31 and into the small hours of Thursday June 1, 1916 was the only time in the Great War that the battle fleets of the two largest navies in the world met.
Two hundred and 50 men of war locked horns – 151 British, 99 German – around 80 miles west of the coast of Jutland in Denmark – which gives the battle its English-language name (Germans call it the Battle of the Skagerrak).
By the time was the battle was over, the Royal Navy had lost 14 ships – including three battle-cruisers which blew up in devastating fashion – the Germans 11 vessels, but only one capital ship.
The 100th anniversary of the battle will be the Royal Navy’s key Great War centenary commemoration, On Orkney, a national service of remembrance will be held in the impressive setting of St Magnus’ Cathedral, before proceedings move to Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery overlooking Scapa Flow – the Royal Navy’s principal wartime base in both global conflicts – for a simpler ceremony.
Around one quarter of attendees at both events will be relatives of men who fought at Jutland – the Department for Culture Media and Sport, which is in charge of national commemorations marking 100 years since the 1914-18 conflagration, will announce details before the year’s end.
Royal Navy divers intend to visit the wreck of battle-cruiser HMS Invincible, whose loss provided the most terrible and iconic image of Jutland, to place a White Ensign in memory of the 1,020 officers and men killed when she blew up.
There are also plans for events in Rosyth, where the battle-cruiser force was based in 1916, and paving stones remembering the four Victoria Cross winners in the battle will be dedicated in the men’s respective home towns. “World War 1 remains characterized by imagery of the trenches of the Western Front.
Germany will start commemorations on May 27 at the Naval Academy Mürwik while the main event will include a special exhibition at the Wilhelmshaven Marinemuseum named “Skagerrak. Seeschlacht ohne Sieger – Jutland. The Unfinished Battle” which will feature a detailed outline of the 12-hour event.