Monday, 30 May 2011

The Fleets leave the Firths - On this day in Scottish Military History - 1916

Exactly ninety five years ago, one hundred and fifty one Royal Navy warships slipped their Scottish moorings and sailed into the North Sea night to face the German High Seas Fleet.

The Admiralty had broken the German Navy codes so they knew the Kaiser's warships were leaving their bases and could be heading north to reach the Atlantic, or east to go into the Baltic. The British would head for the seas off Norway and Denmark to cover both approaches.

The 1st and 4th Battlecruiser Squadrons, and the 5th Battle Squadron left the Firth of Forth from Rosyth; the 2nd Battle Squadron left the Cromarty Firth from Invergordon; and the 1st and 4th Battle Squadrons of the Grand Fleet, and the 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron left the Pentland Firth from Scapa Flow.

Whether they knew it or not Admirals Jellicoe and Beatty were about to face their opposite numbers - His Imperial German Majesty's admirals Scheer and Hipper, in the greatest naval battle of the First World War.

The two biggest naval powers of the time were about to meet in a showdown between 250 warships which would potentially change the course of the war. Whoever won the battle would control the sea lanes. If Germany won Britain's blockade of Germany would be broken and island Britain would be blockaded in return.

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