Jutland:German Reactions

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Battle of Jutland
31 May – 1 June, 1916
PreliminariesRun to the SouthRun to the NorthClash of the Battle FleetsNight ActionsBritish ReactionsGerman ReactionsAnalysisConclusions

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."[1] 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.[2]

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."[3]


  1. von Weizsäcker. Memoirs of Ernest von Weizsäcker. p. 33.
  2. Quoted in Marder. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. III. pp. 225-226.
  3. Marder Papers. University of California Irvine. Box 27, Folder 3. p. 10. My thanks to Stephen McLaughlin for this document.