8,000 die in the biggest naval battle in history

Jutland casualties from HMS Tiger on board HMS Plassy, 1916. Picture: National Museum of the Royal Navy
Jutland casualties from HMS Tiger on board HMS Plassy, 1916. Picture: National Museum of the Royal Navy
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A major exhibition will be staged in Portsmouth to commemorate the centenary of the largest naval battle in history, the Battle of Jutland.

Organisers claim it will be the most comprehensive exhibition ever staged on the subject, and will highlight the essential role of the Royal Navy in winning the First World War.

HMS Centurion flying battle ensigns at Jutland. Picture: National Museum of the Royal Navy

HMS Centurion flying battle ensigns at Jutland. Picture: National Museum of the Royal Navy

Through never-before-seen displays and hands-on galleries the exhibition will challenge the belief that the battle ended in a German victory. The National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard will present the battle as a British victory, both tactically and strategically.

Working with the Imperial War Museums, the exhibition will provide a rare opportunity to view the NMRN’s collection together with objects from 21 private lenders and five public organisations.

The Jutland exhibition will be the largest ever and is part of the wider NMRN First World War centenary programme, The Great War at Sea.

Head of Heritage Development at the NMRN, Nick Hewitt, says: ‘The Battle of Jutland is the Royal Navy’s defining moment in The Great War, and perhaps the largest sea battle in history. It’s the only event in the national First World War centenary programme which is wholly naval in character, and at the NMRN we’ve pulled out all the stops to put together a blockbuster exhibition that captures this epic, tragic story and ensures that it will never be forgotten.’

We’ve pulled out all the stops to put together a blockbuster exhibition

Nick Hewitt

The battle was fought over 36 hours from May 31 to June 1, 1916.

It is often considered a German victory because of the number of British lives lost: 6,094. The Germans lost 2,551 during the battle. However these figures do not represent the impact upon the British and German fleets. At the end of the battle the British maintained numerical supremacy; only two dreadnoughts were damaged, leaving 23 dreadnoughts and four battlecruisers still able to fight, while the Germans had only 10 dreadnoughts.

Most British losses were tactically insignificant, with the exception of HMS Queen Mary, and the Grand Fleet was ready for action again the next day.

One month after the battle the Grand Fleet was stronger than it had been before sailing to Jutland.

The deck gun from the German destroyer B98, before leaving Orkney for the National Museum of the Royal Navy. Picture:  Orkney Islands Council.

The deck gun from the German destroyer B98, before leaving Orkney for the National Museum of the Royal Navy. Picture: Orkney Islands Council.

By contrast, so shaken were the Germans by the weight of the British response they never again seriously challenged British control of the North Sea.

n 36 Hours 1916: Jutland, The Battle That Won The War will open in Portsmouth on May 12.

The front page of The Morning News on June 3, 1916. Picture: National Museum of the Royal Navy

The front page of The Morning News on June 3, 1916. Picture: National Museum of the Royal Navy

Jutland Dreadnought battleships of the Grand Fleet. Picture: National Museum of the Royal Navy.

Jutland Dreadnought battleships of the Grand Fleet. Picture: National Museum of the Royal Navy.