The Battle of Jutland was the defining naval battle of the Great War, an engagement of the greatest fleets the world had ever seen, the long-anticipated clash of the new Titans of the seas.
The Dreadnought battleships and Battlecruisers conceived by Admiral Sir John (Jackie) Fisher in the first decade of the 20th century were replicated by the Kaiser, who wanted to have a fleet capable of eliminating Britain’s control of the seas.
Although he built a powerful navy, it still did not outnumber the British Grand Fleet, led by Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, so Germany would have to find a way to degrade her enemy’s superiority in engagements and hope to have a limited victory before a final clash in which she would destroy the bulk of the Royal Navy’s force and be able to escape from the North Sea.
The consequences of that for Britain would have been catastrophic as Germany would have been able to wreak havoc on the British merchant fleet so vital to a nation dependent on sea trade for food and raw materials.
The British fleet had strong connections with Tyneside in terms of ships built, from HMS Queen Mary from Palmer’ Yard at Jarrow to battlecruisers built at Armstrong’s, and many smaller ships.
Crews included strong contingents of local men, and the Tyne was one of the major ports that could handle Royal Navy ships for repairs and re-fitting.
It was therefore relevant for the Northumbria Project to make the Battle of Jutland the subject of one of its major exhibitions this year, and now volunteer Peter Coppack has written a review of the role of the Tyne and its connections to the battle – Tyneside and the Battle of Jutland, May 31, 1916.
The grandson of Admiral Jellicoe, the Hon Nicholas Jellicoe, will give a talk on the battle at the launch of the book at the Old Low Light Heritage Centre on the Fish Quay, North Shields, at 1.30pm, on October 21. Early arrival is recommended to ensure a place. Nick’s television documentary on the battle was well received on the centenary of the battle in May. His talk next Friday will be titled Jutland – Its Meaning Then And Now.
On Trafalgar Day this will be timely as the battle was foreseen as the ‘next Trafalgar’, but proved to be somewhat indecisive.
The next in our series of free talks at the Old Low Light Heritage Centre will be given by June Watson, of Warkworth, at 7.30pm, on Tuesday. The Face of War will consider the development of the pioneering techniques of facial reconstruction at Sidcup in Kent.
The project workroom at Linskill Community Centre, North Shields, is open from 10am to 4pm each weekday for enquiries and anyone to bring information about relatives lost in the war.