At 19:00 on 2 June, the Permanent Secretary to the Board of Admiralty made the following announcement:
On the afternoon of Wednesday, May 31, a naval engagement took place off the coast of Jutland.
The British ships on which the brunt of the fighting fell were the Battle Cruiser Fleet and some cruisers and light cruisers, supported by four fast battleships. Among these the losses were heavy.
The German Battle Fleet, aided by low visibility, avoided prolonged action with our main forces, and soon after these appeared on the scene the enemy returned to port, though not before receiving severe damage from our battleships.
The battle-cruisers Queen Mary, Indefatigable, Invincible, and the cruisers Defence and Black Prince were sunk.
The Warrior was disabled, and after being towed for some time had to be abandoned by her crew.
It is also known that the destroyers Tipperary, Turbulent, Fortune, Sparrowhawk, and Ardent were lost, and six others are not yet accounted for.
No British battleships or light cruisers were sunk.
The enemy's losses were serious.
At least one battle-cruiser was destroyed, and one severely damaged; one battleship reported sunk by our destroyers during a night attack; two light cruisers were disabled, and probably sunk.
The exact number of enemy destroyers disposed of during the action cannot be ascertained with any certainty, but it must have been large.
On 6 June Jellicoe wrote to his wife:
Of course I am not satisfied, as given clear weather the battle would have been final and there would have been no German Fleet left, whatever happened to us. But that can't be helped. It is ludicrous for the Germans to claim a victory. Victory always rests with the force that occupies the scene of the action, and we did this for the greater part of the next day, until it was quite clear that they had all gone home or as many as were left to go. If they had been so confident of victory they would have tried to go on fighting instead of legging it for home.
According to Scheer's Flag Lieutenant, Ernest von Weizsäcker, while afterwards discussing the battle in the admiral's mess along with other admirals from Berlin (among them Holtzendorff), the conversation turned to what motives would be attributed to Scheer's tactics, to which he replied, "My idea? I had no idea. I wanted to help the poor Wiesbaden. And then I thought I had better throw in the cruisers in full strength. The thing just happened—as the virgin said when she got a baby." After meeting von Weizsäcker in 1936, the British Naval Attaché noted in his diary:
… in the pleasantest and frankest way [he] confirmed my suspicion that Scheer had but the foggiest of what was happening during the action and that his motives were not in the least degree dictated by superior tactical considerations—on the contrary he had only two definite ideas. 1. To protect the Wiesbaden and, when that was no good, to disentangle himself and go home. Talking himself and go home. Talking of the destroyer attack, Weizsäcker said that the origin lay in Scheer saying 'The destroyers have not done anything yet—let them have a go.' He said Scheer's success lay in his ability to make a decision, but that he knew nothing of tactics, though he was against sitting in harbour and liked to get the fleet to sea when he could. Weizsäcker told me that he was on the bridge when the first news of the first contact (Galatea-Elbing, I think) came in and went down to tell the admiral who was walking up and down the deck enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. The admiral was most annoyed at having his promenade interrupted and almost angry with W. In other words Scheer was much like any other admiral and by no means the tactical genius and superman that the present day historian tries to make out.
According to the post-battle report of the Austro-Hungarian naval attaché, Captain von Trotha joked that, "if an Admiral brought about such a situation at a war game in manoeuvres, he would never be entrusted with another command."
Evaluation in the Press
The New York Herald summed up on 4 June:
It is an accepted maxim of war that success belongs to him who holds the contested field and exerts continuing pressure on the retreated enemy. The Germans, having shot their bolt, and recognizing their inferiority to the Grand Fleet, felt discretion to be the better part of valour. The success of day and night, tactically and morally measured, rests with the British.
Evaluation in Print
Arthur Marder wrote in 1978 that tactically, "since neither fleet was able to inflict a crippling blow on the other, the battle belongs to the series of inconclusive battles or partial victories which are the rule in naval warfare." V. E. Tarrant appreciated this conclusion so much that he repeated it word for word in his account of the battle. Tactical expert Captain Wayne P. Hughes, Jr. holds that, "Tactically he [Jellicoe] executed what he conceived to be his mission: to bottle up the High Seas Fleet, make his numbers count, win as he could, and avoid loss due to carelessness, enemy wit, or bad luck."
- "Great Naval Battle" (News). The Times. Saturday, 3 June, 1916. Issue 41184, col A, p. 8.
- Quoted in Bacon. Earl Jellicoe. p. 306.
- von Weizsäcker. Memoirs of Ernest von Weizsäcker. p. 33.
- Quoted in Marder. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. III. pp. 225-226.
- Marder Papers. University of California Irvine. Box 27, Folder 3. p. 10. My thanks to Stephen McLaughlin for this document.
- From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. Volume III. p. 252.
- Tarrant. Jutland: The German Perspective. p. 278.
- Hughes. Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat. p. 86.
- Naval Staff, Admiralty (1926). The Battle of Jutland (The German Official Account). O.U. 5359. The National Archives. ADM 186/626.
- Marder, Arthur J. (1978). From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, The Royal Navy in the Fisher Era, 1904-1919: Jutland and After, May 1916–December 1916. Volume III (Second ed.). London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192158414.