The strike at Heligoland Bight was not intended to seriously hurt the German fleet. Rather, it was intended to distract Germany from the landing of marines at Ostend in Belgium. Catching the German fleet completely by surprise in its own port, German light cruisers engaged the Royal Navy without proper cover. The Germans lost 3 light cruisers and a destroyer, as well as more than 1,000 men. In great contrast, the British lost only 75 men and sustained few damages; no British boats were sunk. This was obviously a win for the British and would likely have encouraged future naval actions like it. However, Heligoland Bight was the only such action of World War I.
Though Jellicoe's forces met few German ships in their time in the North Sea, the threat of German U-Boats had become a serious one. U-boats threatened not only military ships, but merchant ships carrying everything from foodstuffs to materials for the war effort. In the early months of the war, before Great Britain's blockades cut off German surface ships, cruisers and other German ships were assisted by submarines in hindering trade. In the fall of 1914 German cruisers began assaulting British ships in the Atlantic, including South American ports of trade.
Mainly, the goal of these attacks was to both limit the trade of British ships and to commandeer any good for its own war efforts. Many attacks were made in this manner, however one incident stands as a good example of what the British were losing by neglecting aid to South America: the German cruiser Karlsruhe not only took twenty thousand tons of coal from eighteen British merchant ships, but also managed to sink fifteen of them. Additionally, Captain Karl von Muller's light cruiser Emden successfully stopped commerce from India's shores from the start of the war until November of that year. Great Britain regained power in the Southern Hemisphere and destroyed the threat of German cruisers by early 1915. Yet, these early German successes may have provided knowledge into gaps in Great Britain's presumably all-powerful naval facade.
After Heligoland Bight, the Kaiser ordered all future naval plans to first be approved by him personally. Between these harsh orders and the successful naval blockading by the Royal Navy, only U-boats played a part in naval warfare for the remainder of the war. Despite numerous torpedoed cruisers in waters not too far away from Britain's home ports, there seemed to be no actions available to Britain in stopping the U-boat destruction. This sign of weakness was quickly picked up on by the Germans, who issued warnings to those trading with Great Britain of the risk they were running. In a February 1915 Admiralty Declaration, the German government opened their first wave on "unrestricted" submarine warfare in the waters surrounding Great Britain. This action threatened all merchant shipping in the area, and suggested that neutral merchants would not be able to avoid danger if they were conducting business with Great Britain. Allies had to think twice before helping the British. Incidents including the sinking of the Lusitantia made world news when the Germans followed through on their declarations. Killing civilians made them more of the enemy to nations including the United States, who was assured to join on the British side if it entered the war due to the German navy's harsh actions.
The implications of this move were paramount. Great Britain, having the largest fleet in the world, was unable to protect its trading partners and allies as German U-boats fired at their own discretion. Further, Germany issued that ships flying neutral flags were not exempt, as other ships had recently misused neutral flags and brought the practice into doubt. Nearly one year later the Germans went further, citing that the British decision to arm merchant marines suggested that merchant marine ships were now targets. In a related document of 1916, German Admiral von Holtzendorff even suggests that the only way to eliminate Great Britain from the war is to prevent ocean commerce. So started the German practice of torpedoing ships that were at all in question without regard for crew or passengers. These practices later contributed to the entry of the United States into the war. This did not deter the German leadership, who felt that a strike against the British commerce system was the only way to combat their own situation of being blockaded. Additionally, German leadership felt that the...
In the short run the tactics were effective as showing the impotence of the British military forces.
From the beginning morale was a concern for Great Britain. Concern existed that those opposed to supporting France in the European war would lead to a secession of those leaders from the government to form an anti-war party. Since Britain did not yet have conscription, and voluntary enlistment would depend on support for the war. Though recruitment was successful in India and other British colonies, 1914 and 1915 still failed to see the number of volunteers they needed. This was in part due to the tedious and long trench warfare going on the front lines as early as September 1914. In 1915, controversial conscription legislation made war service mandatory. This was not popular with many British people, most of whom did not agree with Great Britain's involvement in the affairs of the mainland or how the government was handling it.
In the first year of the war, the British people did not rally to the cause of war as a consolidated nation. Instead, they heavily criticized the losses of naval and military forces, including attempts to take the German-allied Turks at the Dardanelles at Gallipoli. In a mixed naval and shore battle, British forces were repelled for a second time at Gallipoli in August 1915. Here, as in other battles, the Royal Navy was expected to break enemy forces but was unable to do so. As the war dragged on and little progress was made on the Western Front, morale was at the forefront of British leaders' minds. Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty in charge of the Royal Navy, had pursued the Turks at Gallipoli with war weariness in mind; he had hoped that a naval assisted campaign might break the German allies and shorten the war. When plans failed, plans had the opposite effect of what was intended, spurring criticism, pessimism, and doubt when troops died in the two campaigns at the Dardanelles.
Great Britain suggested peace negotiations on December 9, 1915. Germany again rejected the offer. Great Britain was feeling the sting of U-boat attacks and, as with the rest of Europe, the strain of a long and stagnant war. Even before the Battle at Jutland, the British Empire was vulnerable to a loss of heavy defeat at sea. While Tuchman and others contend that a loss of costly win could interrupt trade important to the war efforts, such a battle outcome would also significantly affect the morale of the British citizens.
The Battle of Jutland was a fumbled naval battle for both sides. Both Germany and Great Britain claimed a win and released their own spin on the events to newspapers. The German Chancellor unexpectedly considered it a win. Yet, there was no way to make it look like either force intended for the outcome that occurred in the North Sea; losses were too heavy on both sides. While the German navy lost a larger portion of their fleet, the British actually lost more tonnage.
The battle had occurred in the North Sea near Denmark in the last days of May 1916. British forces had gained access to Germany's wireless transmissions and knew from this intelligence that German submarines were heading into an area of the North Sea. Jellicoe's fleet and the fleet of another commander, Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty, followed to perform a sweep and hopefully intercept the submarines. They failed to do so. They also did not know that the German High Seas Fleet had ventured from port and was headed out into the nearby open seas. Neither force was aware of the other's full count or whereabouts. On meeting, British forces numbered 28 battleships, 9 battle cruisers, 8 armored cruisers, 26 light cruisers, and 78 destroyers. German forces consisted of 22 battleships, 5 battle cruisers, 11 light cruisers, and 61 destroyers. In what was considered the largest modern sea battle to ever take place, Brittain took considerable fire from German ships. It was called a "Calamitous Victory" and proved both that German armor was better and their gunnery more accurate. Germany perhaps recognized that Great Britain should not have lost as much as it did if it was truly the greatest naval force in the world.
After the battle at Jutland, peace talks were again proposed by Britain. Britain had sustained many losses,…
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