You are on page 1of 6

Imperial German Navy after Jutland Page 1 of 6

The Imperial German Navy after Jutland

by Kent Crawford (

Much is known of the Royal Navy's reactions to the unpalatable results of the Battle of Jutland. Indeed, not only is the Battle itself still the subject of
extensive historical inquiry, but so too is the extensive work done to prepare the Grand Fleet for another such encounter.

It is undoubtedly true that the Grand Fleet was much more battle-worthy in 1918 than it had been in 1916. And the improvements were nothing short of
a quantum leap in virtually every phase of tactical and materiel applications. So extensive were the improvements that some have hypothesized that the
Grand Fleet of 1918 would have been able to make short work of the High Seas Fleet.

This is a twofold presumption. First, that given the halt in heavy unit construction coupled with the transfer of experienced personnel to the U-Boat arm,
Fleet strength would remain fundamentally at the 1916 level, but with less competent ratings manning the various units. Second, that the IGN learned
virtually nothing from the experience of Jutland, and therefore remained technically at the 1916 level. The former is certainly valid. The latter, however,
is essentially incorrect.

Unfortunately, while we know much of the Great Battle, and we know much of what the IGN did subsequently, establishing a cause and effect
relationship between the two is basically a matter of conjecture, no matter how logical.


When the High Seas Fleet returned to port on June 1, 1916, the German nation erupted in jubilation. Newspapers carried banner headlines such as 'Great
Sea Victory over the English' and 'German Sea Victory between Skagerrak and Horns Reef.' The Kaiser proclaimed that 'The spell of Trafalgar has been
broken!" School children were given a holiday. The Austro-Hungarian Naval Attaché reported that "the German Fleet is filled with enthusiasm and
elated with victory. Everybody, down to the last seaman, believes in the strength of the Fleet and looks forward to further encounters with confidence."

But Scheer, Hipper, and the other Admirals knew better. They knew that their strategy of reducing the might of the Grand Fleet by overwhelming
detached portions of it was the only means by which the Fleet could hope to break the blockade that was starting to strangle the German economy. But
Scheer had neither the desire nor the intention of confronting the main strength of the Royal Navy again. When the strategy failed to deliver worthwhile
results on August 16, Scheer abandoned it summarily, and advocated unrestricted submarine warfare. But that is beyond the scope of this paper.

The Naval High Command was aware of the potential range advantage the RN enjoyed with the 13.5-inch guns that could elevate to 20-degrees. But it
was not until the Battle of the Dogger Bank demonstrated how decisive such long-range fire could be that they determined to take counter measures.

With the exception of those five ships armed with the 28cm SKL/45 gun, which already could elevate their main guns to 20-deg., the rest of the 20/10/2002

8cm Flak/45. At Jutland. and all new designs incorporated 20-deg. and a relatively light shell. However. Turrets in the Mackensen class battlecruisers were altered to 20-deg.000 to 15. two 8. the IGN had eliminated the range advantage the RN had enjoyed since the beginning of the war. In both range and accuracy. they had not foreseen the practical use of even longer ranges. But Jutland provided the impetus needed. Helgoland class: originally fitted with fourteen 8.8cm Flak/45. It was shear luck that none of the ships had had their screws fouled by the damaged nets. This is interesting in light of the fact that the secondary 15cm guns of all the dreadnoughts had their elevation increased to 19-deg.. from the designed 16-deg.8cm SKL/45 and two 8.8cm Flak/45. the German participants in the Battle no doubt noticed that the RN had already removed their torpedo nets. it appears that only Seydlitz had the work done prior to Jutland. Due no doubt to space limitations. http://www. that of the 5th BS most certainly was. they demonstrated the dangerous potential of long range gunnery. two 8.. only the four Flak/45 were carried. Having no director- pointer control. could be added.htm 20/10/2002 .8cm SKL/45. and possibly the dimensions of the gunports. the IGN had followed suit. only 2. In late 1914. After Jutland. this was altered to eight 8. and Baden was completed with 20-deg.8cm guns: Nassau class: originally fitted with sixteen 8.8cm SKL/45 and four 8. which would have had disastrous consequences. Perhaps the simplest lesson the IGN learned from Jutland was that the torpedo nets mounted on all of the dreadnoughts were actually a hazard.5-deg. below is a brief description of the disposition of the 8.ukans. this was altered to fourteen 8.8cm Flak/45.8cm SKL/45. which allowed sections of the net to enter the water along the ship's side. Hindenburg and Bayern were completed with 16-deg. Kaiser class: originally fitted with twelve 8.8cm Flak/45. they lacked the ability to hit and the stopping power when they did obtain a hit. In general terms. the layout of the ball race and revolving structure.5-deg. moderately poor locations. later. The Battle had also demonstrated the ineffectiveness of the 8. So they authorized an increase in the elevation of the main and secondary guns. making the new maximum elevation 16-deg.8cm SKL/45.8cm anti-torpedo boat armament against the larger British destroyers. only a moderate this was altered to twelve 8. probably as the ships rotated into dockyard hands for periodic refit. After Jutland. Plus. While the IGN envisioned battle at 10. After Jutland. the 15cm secondary guns proved effective in the anti-destroyer role.8cm SKL/45 and two 8. in 1915! So the opportunity to have done the work existed.Imperial German Navy after Jutland Page 2 of 6 dreadnoughts were limited to 13. as the standard. Hits from enemy shells had damaged the netting and support structures.000 meters. but was not utilized. In 1914. Within a few months time. While the shooting of the 1st and 2nd BCS may not have been impressive. the latter being increased to 20-deg. By the end of 1916. Rene Greger makes a special point of noting how rapidly after the Great Battle the HSF dreadnoughts were modified. In 1915.

The solution was not merely to duplicate the range- finder positions a la Blucher and Kronprinz. Quoting from Campbell.8cm SKL/45 and four 8. Blucher had been fitted with a tripod mast complete with range-finder position in 1913. small though it was. this was altered to twelve 8. Bayern and Baden: originally only four 8. the planned eight guns were mounted.htm 20/10/2002 .8cm SKL/45 were removed. After Jutland. In the latter part of the battle [the second engagement of the battle lines]. Hindenburg: Eight 8. Jutland. http://www.8cm Flak/45. After Jutland. After Jutland.8cm SKL/45. only the four Flak/45 were carried. for service as the Fleet Gunnery Training ship. "In the Derfflinger the spotter's glasses in the fore-top were linked to the Director by 'follow-the- pointer' gear. In 1915. even could the spotters have communicated with the Director via follow-the-pointer gear. In the case of Derfflinger cited above. After all. however.Imperial German Navy after Jutland Page 3 of 6 Konig class: originally fitted with six 8. Several reports from the HSF noted approximately the same as the Derfflinger's experience.8cm Flak/45. the British hulls could be made out from the top when only gun-flashes were visible from the GCT. the battleship Kronprinz was completed with a heavy tubular mast carrying an identical range-finder position. but also mounted more anti-aircraft guns (on their newer and larger ships) than any other combatant during the Great War.8cm SKL/45 and four 8. provided the impetus to both extend and enhance the tops. And the weight saved.8cm SKL/45 and four 8.8cm Flak/45. and it was planned to replace them with an additional four 8.ukans.8cm SKL/45 and two but the spotter could not transmit in this way to the Director.8cm Flak/45 was planned.8cm Flak/45. It is therefore obvious which direction Dr. Seydlitz: as Moltke. It would be an error to attribute those additions solely to Jutland. By the end of the War. this was altered to eight 8. the four 8. Perhaps the most obvious changes made to some of the IGN dreadnoughts were the fore masts. so it was not merely a question of protecting the communications facilities with the tops. Raps and the fire control development project were intending. only the two Flak/45 were carried. but to provide the position with Director-Pointer gear. but by then communications with the fore-top had been cut by splinters." Throughout most of the HSF. But only four were fitted.8cm Flak/45.8cm Flak/45 actually fitted. could be allocated to other uses. they could not have provided range and deflection data needed for a valid fire control solution. only the four Flak/45 were carried. Derfflinger: originally mounted four 8.8cm SKL/45. After Jutland. but only four actually fitted. In 1915. Moltke: originally carried twelve 8. the spotting arrangements had been improved in 1914. Von der Tann: originally fitted with sixteen 8. Further. It should be noted that the IGN not only completely abandoned the light anti-torpedo boat gun.

British Intelligence referred to these as "Control Positions". and Seydlitz were all fitted with a aft. Communications from various positions. The Battle had also revealed a number of FC equipment shortcomings that demanded corrective action.GCTs were changed. and Grosser Kurfurst shipped a heavy tubular mast with the full fire control suite (Richtungsweiser). Those units with the full FC suite mounted aloft most certainly could have.5. enlarged crow's nest mounted on the front of the mast. These were quite sufficient to give good results at the new battle ranges made possible by the increased gun elevations.or 2-meter range-finders mounted on the new crow's nests of those dreadnoughts that were not fitted with tubular or tripod masts. In addition. lower position. These and the spotting position had splinter proof protection. they only included the range-finder position. which could give good results in the 15 16. Mackensens. L20ea and GK4542 for example. from the examination of photographs. some sources state that Bayern and Baden carried the 8-meter instrument in 1918. the three Kaisers. Kaiser and Friedrich der Grosse were so fitted in 1918. some form of gunnery control seems logical. the older pattern Range Clocks proved of limited value. and the so-called Ersatz Yorcks were altered to mount an 8-meter instrument on the fore GCT. and the new designs. It appears that the Kaisers. In most cases. Of considerable interest. Von der Tann. than the changes to the tops. which may have been sufficient for a simple bearing instrument. all of the sets mounted in the fore. timing. Campbell notes that the earlier pattern telescopes fitted to the Director-Pointer "were far from meeting requirements. those units could have had the facilities and capability to direct the main armament in conditions such as had occurred at Jutland late in the day. the Konig. and was substantially smaller than the bona fide FC positions mentioned above. it seems to have been sufficiently functional. though much less visible. There is some evidence that the Konigs and the Derfflingers carried 4-meter instruments. Bayern and Baden were both completed with tripods. or more appropriately corrected based on the changes from the averaged range provided by the mittlungs apparat. Moltke and Seydlitz were fitted with a second. Likewise. such as range-finders and spotting tops. needed to be enhanced. and circumstances. This includes the range-finder mounted in the position in the fore-tops. Konigs. Of particular interest was the request for a http://www. In 1917. the 3-meter instruments were replaced by 4-meter equipment. Coupled with the Control position. after the Great Battle. The Nassaus. some of the Helgolands. and Bayern and Baden were fitted with 5-meter equipment. Derfflinger and Hindenburg. so given the location. the designs for the Sachsen. Further.000 meter range. However. but this cannot be confirmed. there appears to have been small 1.ukans. and Kronprinz fitted with the fire control gear.htm 20/10/2002 . The spotting arrangements on the foremasts of most of the rest of the dreadnoughts were also altered following Jutland. and some Gunnery Officers made corrections based on readings from the range-finders. Initially. with which many of the same ships had been fitted. the structure was of limited size. while Derfflinger was under repair following the Battle. The standard range-finder through Jutland had been the Zeiss 3-meter stereoscopic instrument. but in 1917-18. the Director was fitted. Hindenburg completed with the full fire control suite. Peter Padfield states that "shooting to the correct range forms perhaps 90% of the art of naval gunnery" so the longer instruments would surely have had a positive effect on the IGN's long range accuracy." though given some of the gunnery performances. the remaining three Kaisers. Indeed. However. she shipped a tripod foremast. Moltke. Markgraf. would have carried 8-meter equipment throughout. But the most interesting alterations to the HSF were potentially equally important. Wurttemberg. But there is photographic evidence that Von der Tann carried one on her after GCT at that time.Imperial German Navy after Jutland Page 4 of 6 Therefore.

squadrons. Almost by definition. however. In that.htm 20/10/2002 . And second. Raps and the Siemens & Halske engineers had experimented with gyroscopic devices for FC. Such an explanation. the Nassaus made up the 1st Squadron and the Helgolands the 2nd (the pre-dreadnoughts having been de-mobilized). while he would take Friedrich der Grosse and the 1st and 2nd Squadrons to the north-west. This was known as the Abfeuerungs Gerat in IGN service. which had deployed toward the east. The last. the HSF was re-organized along tactically more flexible lines. supported by the 3rd Squadron. Had he done so. was no doubt one of the gyro projects Dr. such a move would also have placed half of the HSF behind the Grand Fleet battle line. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. Scheer could count on Hipper and Behncke to fight their squadrons without him holding their hands. According to Ruge. individual initiative was highly regarded and expected in the IGN. while the five Kaisers comprised the 4th Squadron. with the Fleet Flagship. Instead of the orthodox Battle Squadron of eight ships in two divisions. In other words. the equipment was in use throughout the HSF. would deal with the British forces to the east. wireless communications within the HSF had been effective for the entire battle. Though it had already been adopted by the K u K Marine. in essence would serve as a fifth squadron or fast wing of the fleet. A more likely explanation has to do the very nature of the 'line of battle' in the context of large fleets. it was only under field test at the time of Jutland. Lutzow had a unit mounted in each of three of her four turrets. this promising plan was briefly discussed with Scheer's staff.Imperial German Navy after Jutland Page 5 of 6 simple gyro device that tract the target through rapid or radical changes in own ship's course. Raps could not address in wartime. Friedrich Ruge has mentioned that at about 1826 or so. noting the events at the 'Windy Corner' entertained the idea of an attack from two directions. as Keith Yates points out. it more resembles the ancient Greek Phalanx as opposed to the articulation of a Roman Legion. but had been forced to discontinue the work when war broke out. One final change in the HSF was tactical rather than technical. in essence. and attempt unorthodox tactics.ukans. Thus. Baden. but they had immediately failed from the shock of her own guns it surely would have meant the destruction of Warspite and Warrior at the very least. the old divisions became squadrons. Admiral Scheer. comprised of the five battle-cruisers. Hipper and the 1st SG. his staff was likely aghast at the thought. however. It is likely that all but the last were remedied with all dispatch. with minimal instructions. with their attached screening units. though Scheer could hardly have known that. however. it lacks flexibility. After Jutland. First because. could be handled as proto task groups. An interesting incident during the Battle may very well have been the impetus for a re- organization of the HSF. does not seem more than superficially satisfactory. By 1918. applying tactical pressure where needed without regard to the http://www. attached. The 1st Scouting Group. However. mechanically assisted continuous aim via a gyro-sight system. as it were. Julius von Petravic had developed a gyroscopic device that kept the guns on target through the roll of the ship. So while Scheer was no doubt willing to play Nelson. The 3rd Squadron was Bayern and the four Konigs. Indeed. Scheer could have briefly and quickly informed his subordinates of his intentions. This meant that. and then abandoned in the face of communications difficulties.

and as a general rule.2-meters. My guess is that the 42cm designs must have been planned for 10-meter instruments. and 35cm?] were 8. 2000. both technically and tactically. http://www.. In my recent mini-article[above]. Return to WWI The Maritime War Return to WWI Archive main page. I've often felt that the Third Reich offered little in technological impovement. Schmalenbach notes that the instruments in the 28cm [sic. mounted higher than the turret instruments.ukans. I was also under the impression that the turret instruments were the same 3-meter 'standard'. while those for the 38cm [sic. This organization was used in late 1917 during Operation Albion. which was no doubt a field test. and 30. I mentioned only the RFs that were visible. in the Baltic against the Russians.. Last Updated: 16 October.5cm] turrets were 6-meters. The author later adds. Turns out this was not the German Navy after Jutland Page 6 of 6 battle line type formation. The Fleet that sortied in April 1918 was a much more flexible and formidable weapon then it had been at Jutland.htm 20/10/2002 .