Primary Documents - German Report on the Battle of Jutland, 29 June 1916

Eduard von Capelle Reproduced below is the official German report issued in the wake of the 31 May-1 June 1916 Battle of Jutland - up to that point arguably the greatest naval battle in history.  The report's author was Eduard von Capelle, the German naval minister.

Although regarded by many as tactically a German victory - more damage was inflicted upon the British Grand Fleet than upon the German High Seas Fleet - strategically the victory belonged undeniably to the British.  The German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, afraid of the dangers faced by his fleet, forbade them to engage the British in similar fashion for the remainder of the war.

Thus the German fleet remained in port while the British controlled to patrol freely, imposing an increasingly effective naval blockade upon Germany.

Click here to read the first official German report on the battle; click here to read the first British reaction; click here to read British Grand Fleet Commander-in-Chief Sir John Jellicoe's report; click here to read an account of the battle by a German sailor; click here to read a British memoir.

German Naval Minister Eduard von Capelle's Report
on the Battle of Jutland, 31 May-1 June 1916

Berlin, 29 June, 1916

The High Sea Fleet, consisting of three battleship squadrons, five battle-cruisers, and a large number of small cruisers, with several destroyer flotillas, was cruising in the Skagerrak on May 31st for the purpose, as on earlier occasions, of offering battle to the British fleet.

The vanguard of small cruisers at 4.30 o'clock in the afternoon suddenly encountered ninety miles west of Hanstholm, a group of eight of the newest cruisers of the Calliope class and fifteen or twenty of the most modern destroyers.

While the German light forces and the first cruiser squadron under Vice-Admiral Hipper were following the British, who were retiring northwestward, the German battle-cruisers sighted to the westward Vice-Admiral Beatty's battle-cruiser squadron of six ships, including four of the Lion type and two of the Indefatigable type.

Beatty's squadron developed a battle line on a southeasterly course and Vice-Admiral Hipper formed his line ahead of the same general course and approached for a running fight.  He opened fire at 5.49 o'clock in the afternoon with heavy artillery at a range of 13,000 metres against the superior enemy.

The weather was clear and light, and the sea was light with a northwest wind.

After about a quarter of an hour a violent explosion occurred on the last cruiser of the Indefatigable type.  It was caused by a heavy shell, and destroyed the vessel.

About 6.20 o'clock in the afternoon five warships of the Queen Elizabeth type came from the west and joined the British battle-cruiser line, powerfully reinforcing with their fifteen-inch guns the five British battle-cruisers remaining after 6.20 o'clock.

To equalize this superiority Vice-Admiral Hipper ordered the destroyers to attack the enemy.  The British destroyers and small cruisers interposed, and a bitter engagement at close range ensued, in the course of which a light cruiser participated.

The Germans lost two torpedo boats, the crews of which were rescued by sister ships under a heavy fire.  Two British destroyers were sunk by artillery, and two others - the Nestor and Nomad - remained on the scene in a crippled condition.  These later were destroyed by the main fleet after German torpedo boats had rescued all the survivors.

While this engagement was in progress a mighty explosion, caused by a big shell, broke the Queen Mary, the third ship in line, asunder at 6.30 o'clock.

Soon thereafter the German main battleship fleet was sighted to the southward, steering north.  The hostile fast squadrons thereupon turned northward, closing the first part of the fight, which lasted about an hour.

The British retired at high speed before the German fleet, which followed closely.  The German battle-cruisers continued the artillery combat with increasing intensity, particularly with the division of the vessels of the Queen Elizabeth type, and in this the leading German battleship division participated intermittently.

The hostile ships showed a desire to run in a flat curve ahead of the point of our line and to cross it.

At 7.45 o'clock in the evening British small cruisers and destroyers launched an attack against our battle-cruisers, who avoided the torpedoes by manoeuvring, while the British battle-cruisers retired from the engagement, in which they did not participate further as far as can be established.

Shortly thereafter a German reconnoitring group, which was parrying the destroyer attack, received an attack from the northeast.  The cruiser Wiesbaden was soon put out of action in this attack.  The German torpedo flotillas immediately attacked the heavy ships.

Appearing shadow-like from the haze bank to the northeast was made out a long line of at least twenty-five battleships, which at first sought a junction with the British battlecruisers and those of the Queen Elizabeth type on a northwesterly to westerly course and then turned on an easterly to a southeasterly course.

With the advent of the British main fleet, whose centre consisted of three squadrons of eight battleships each, with a fast division of three battle-cruisers of the Invincible type on the northern end, and three of the newest vessels of the Royal Sovereign class, armed with fifteen-inch guns, at the southern end, there began about 8 o'clock in the evening the third section of the engagement, embracing the combat between the main fleets.

Vice-Admiral Scheer determined to attack the British main fleet, which he now recognized was completely assembled and about doubly superior.  The German battleship squadrons, headed by battle-cruisers, steered first toward the extensive haze bank to the northeast, where the crippled cruiser Wiesbaden was still receiving a heavy fire.

Around the Wiesbaden stubborn individual fights under quickly changing conditions now occurred.

The light enemy forces, supported by an armoured cruiser squadron of five ships of the Minatour, Achilles, and Duke of Edinburgh classes coming from the northeast, were encountered and apparently surprised on account of the decreasing visibility by our battle-cruisers and leading battleship division.

The squadron came under a violent and heavy fire, by which the small cruisers Defence and Black Prince were sunk.  The cruiser Warrior regained its own line a wreck and later sank.  Another small cruiser was damaged.

Two destroyers already had fallen victims to the attack of German torpedo boats against the leading British battleships and a small cruiser and two destroyers were damaged.  The German battle-cruisers and leading battleship division had in these engagements come under increased fire of the enemy's battleship squadron, which, shortly after 8 o'clock, could be made out in the haze turning to the northeastward and finally to the east.

Germans observed, amid the artillery combat and shelling of great intensity, signs of the effect of good shooting between 8.20 and 8.30 o'clock particularly.  Several officers on German ships observed that a battleship of the Queen Elizabeth class blew up under conditions similar to that of the Queen Mary.

The Invincible sank after being hit severely.  A ship of the Iron Duke class had earlier received a torpedo hit, and one of the Queen Elizabeth class was running around in a circle, its steering apparatus apparently having been hit.

The Luetzow was hit by at least fifteen heavy shells and was unable to maintain its place in line.  Vice-Admiral Hipper, therefore, trans-shipped to the Moltke on a torpedo boat and under a heavy fire.  The Derfflinger meantime took the lead temporarily.

Parts of the German torpedo flotilla attacked the enemy's main fleet and heard detonations.  In the action the Germans lost a torpedo boat.  An enemy destroyer was seen in a sinking condition, having been hit by a torpedo.

After the first violent onslaught into the mass of the superior enemy the opponents lost sight of each other in the smoke by powder clouds.  After a short cessation in the artillery combat Vice-Admiral Scheer ordered a new attack by all the available forces.

German battle-cruisers, which with several light cruisers and torpedo boats again headed the line, encountered the enemy soon after 9 o'clock and renewed the heavy fire, which was answered by them from the mist, and then by the leading division of the main fleet.

Armoured cruisers now flung themselves in a reckless onset at extreme speed against the enemy line in order to cover the attack of torpedo boats.  They approached the enemy line, although covered with shot from 6,000 meters distance.

Several German torpedo flotillas dashed forward to attack, delivered torpedoes, and returned, despite the most severe counter-fire, with the loss of only one boat.  The bitter artillery fight was again interrupted, after this second violent onslaught, by the smoke from guns and funnels.

Several torpedo flotillas, which were ordered to attack somewhat later, found, after penetrating the smoke cloud, that the enemy fleet was no longer before them; nor, when the fleet commander again brought the German squadrons upon the southerly and southwesterly course, where the enemy was last seen, could our opponents be found.

Only once more - shortly before 10.30 o'clock - did the battle flare up.  For a short time in the late twilight German battle cruisers sighted four enemy capital ships to seaward and opened fire immediately.

As the two German battleship squadrons attacked, the enemy turned and vanished in the darkness. Older German light cruisers of the fourth reconnaissance group also were engaged with the older enemy armoured cruisers in a short fight.  This ended the day battle.

The German divisions, which, after losing sight of the enemy, began a night cruise in a southerly direction, were attacked until dawn by enemy light force in rapid succession.

The attacks were favoured by the general strategic situation and the particularly dark night.

The cruiser Frauenlob was injured severely during the engagement of the fourth reconnaissance group with a superior cruiser force, and was lost from sight.

One armoured cruiser of the Cressy class suddenly appeared close to a German battleship and was shot into fire after forty seconds, and sank in four minutes.

The names were hard to decipher in the darkness and therefore were uncertainly established, but six destroyers were destroyed by our fire.  One destroyer was cut in two by the ram of a German battleship.  Seven destroyers, including the G-30, were hit and severely damaged.

These, including the Tipperary and Turbulent, which, after saving survivors, were left behind in a sinking condition, drifted past our line, some of them burning at the bow or stern.

The tracks of countless torpedoes were sighted by the German ships, but only the Pommern fell an immediate victim to a torpedo.  The cruiser Rostock was hit, but remained afloat.  The cruiser Elbing was damaged by a German battleship during an unavoidable manoeuvre.

After vain endeavours to keep the ship afloat the Elbing was blown up, but only after her crew had embarked on torpedo boats.  A post torpedo boat was struck by a mine laid by the enemy.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. IV, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

Russia mobilised 12 million men during the war; France 8.4 million; Britain 8.9 million; Germany 11 million; Austria-Hungary 7.8 million; Italy 5.6 million; and the USA 4.3 million.

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