High Seas Fleet
Overview
 
The High Seas Fleet was the battle fleet of the German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 and saw action during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. The formation was created in February 1907, when the Home Fleet (Heimatflotte) was renamed as the High Seas Fleet. Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz
Alfred von Tirpitz
Alfred von Tirpitz was a German Admiral, Secretary of State of the German Imperial Naval Office, the powerful administrative branch of the German Imperial Navy from 1897 until 1916. Prussia never had a major navy, nor did the other German states before the German Empire was formed in 1871...

 was the architect of the fleet; he envisioned a force powerful enough to challenge the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

's predominance. Kaiser Wilhelm II, the emperor of Germany, championed the fleet as the instrument by which he would seize overseas possessions and make Germany a global power.
Encyclopedia
The High Seas Fleet was the battle fleet of the German Empire
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 and saw action during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. The formation was created in February 1907, when the Home Fleet (Heimatflotte) was renamed as the High Seas Fleet. Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz
Alfred von Tirpitz
Alfred von Tirpitz was a German Admiral, Secretary of State of the German Imperial Naval Office, the powerful administrative branch of the German Imperial Navy from 1897 until 1916. Prussia never had a major navy, nor did the other German states before the German Empire was formed in 1871...

 was the architect of the fleet; he envisioned a force powerful enough to challenge the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

's predominance. Kaiser Wilhelm II, the emperor of Germany, championed the fleet as the instrument by which he would seize overseas possessions and make Germany a global power. By concentrating a powerful battle fleet in the North Sea while the Royal Navy was required to disperse its forces around the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

, Tirpitz believed Germany could achieve a balance of force that could seriously damage British naval hegemony. This was the heart of Tirpitz's "Risk Theory," which held that Britain would not challenge Germany if the latter's fleet posed such a significant threat to its own.

The primary component of the Fleet was its battleship
Battleship
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a...

s, typically organized in eight-ship squadrons, though it also contained various other formations, including the I Scouting Group
I Scouting Group
The I Scouting Group was a special reconnaissance unit within the German Kaiserliche Marine. The unit was famously commanded by Admiral Franz von Hipper during World War I. The I Scouting Group was one of the most active formations in the High Seas Fleet during the war; the unit took part in every...

. At its creation in 1907, the High Seas Fleet consisted of two squadrons of battleships, and by 1914, a third squadron had been added. The dreadnought
Dreadnought
The dreadnought was the predominant type of 20th-century battleship. The first of the kind, the Royal Navy's had such an impact when launched in 1906 that similar battleships built after her were referred to as "dreadnoughts", and earlier battleships became known as pre-dreadnoughts...

 revolution in 1906 greatly affected the composition of the fleet; the twenty-four pre-dreadnought
Pre-dreadnought
Pre-dreadnought battleship is the general term for all of the types of sea-going battleships built between the mid-1890s and 1905. Pre-dreadnoughts replaced the ironclad warships of the 1870s and 1880s...

s in the fleet were rendered obsolete and required replacement. Enough dreadnoughts for two full squadrons were completed by the outbreak of war in mid 1914; the eight most modern pre-dreadnoughts were used to constitute a third squadron. Two additional squadrons of older vessels were mobilized at the onset of hostilities, though by the end of the conflict, these formations were disbanded.

The fleet conducted a series of sorties into the North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

 during the war designed to lure out an isolated portion of the numerically superior British Grand Fleet. These operations frequently used the fast battlecruiser
Battlecruiser
Battlecruisers were large capital ships built in the first half of the 20th century. They were developed in the first decade of the century as the successor to the armoured cruiser, but their evolution was more closely linked to that of the dreadnought battleship...

s of the I Scouting Group to raid the British coast as the bait for the Royal Navy. These operations culminated in the Battle of Jutland
Battle of Jutland
The Battle of Jutland was a naval battle between the British Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet during the First World War. The battle was fought on 31 May and 1 June 1916 in the North Sea near Jutland, Denmark. It was the largest naval battle and the only...

, on 31 May–1 June 1916, where the High Seas Fleet confronted the whole of the Grand Fleet. The battle was inconclusive, but the British won strategically, as it convinced Admiral Reinhard Scheer
Reinhard Scheer
Reinhard Scheer was an Admiral in the German Kaiserliche Marine. Scheer joined the navy in 1879 as an officer cadet; he progressed through the ranks, commanding cruisers and battleships, as well as major staff positions on land. At the outbreak of World War I, Scheer was the commander of the II...

, the German fleet commander, that even a highly favorable outcome to a fleet action would not secure German victory in the war. Scheer and other leading admirals therefore advised the Kaiser to order a resumption of the unrestricted submarine warfare
U-boat Campaign (World War I)
The U-boat Campaign from 1914 to 1918 was the World War I naval campaign fought by German U-boats against the trade routes of the Entente Powers...

 campaign. The primary responsibility of the High Seas Fleet in 1917 and 1918 was to secure the German naval bases in the North Sea for U-boat
U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

 operations. Nevertheless, the fleet continued to conduct sorties into the North Sea and detached units for special operations in the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 against the Russian Baltic Fleet
Baltic Fleet
The Twice Red Banner Baltic Fleet - is the Russian Navy's presence in the Baltic Sea. In previous historical periods, it has been part of the navy of Imperial Russia and later the Soviet Union. The Fleet gained the 'Twice Red Banner' appellation during the Soviet period, indicating two awards of...

. Following the German defeat in November 1918, the Allies interned the bulk of the High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow
Scapa Flow
right|thumb|Scapa Flow viewed from its eastern endScapa Flow is a body of water in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom, sheltered by the islands of Mainland, Graemsay, Burray, South Ronaldsay and Hoy. It is about...

, where it was ultimately scuttled by its crew
Scuttling of the German fleet in Scapa Flow
The scuttling of the German fleet took place at the Royal Navy's base at Scapa Flow, in Scotland, after the end of the First World War. The High Seas Fleet had been interned there under the terms of the Armistice whilst negotiations took place over the fate of the ships...

 in June 1919, days before the belligerents signed the Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

.

Creation

In 1898, Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz
Alfred von Tirpitz
Alfred von Tirpitz was a German Admiral, Secretary of State of the German Imperial Naval Office, the powerful administrative branch of the German Imperial Navy from 1897 until 1916. Prussia never had a major navy, nor did the other German states before the German Empire was formed in 1871...

 became the State Secretary for the Imperial Navy Office (Reichsmarineamt—RMA); Tirpitz was an ardent supporter of naval expansion. During a speech in support of the First Naval Law on 6 December 1897, Tirpitz stated that the navy was "a question of survival" for Germany. He also viewed Great Britain, with its powerful Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

, as the primary threat to Germany. In a discussion with the Kaiser during his first month in his post as State Secretary, he stated that "for Germany the most dangerous naval enemy at present is England." Tirpitz theorized that an attacking fleet would require a 33 percent advantage in strength to achieve victory, and so decided that a 2:3 ratio would be required for the German navy. For a final total of 60 German battleships, Britain would be required to build 90 to meet the 2:3 ratio envisioned by Tirpitz.

The Royal Navy had heretofore adhered to the so-called "two-power standard," first formulated in the Naval Defence Act of 1889
Naval Defence Act 1889
The Naval Defence Act 1889 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, instituted on May 31, 1889 to increase the United Kingdom's naval strength and formally adopt the country’s "two-power standard." The standard called for the Royal Navy to maintain a number of battleships at least equal...

, which required a larger fleet than those of the next two largest naval powers combined. The crux of Tirpitz's "risk theory" was that by building a fleet to the 2:3 ratio, Germany would be strong enough that even in the event of a British naval victory, the Royal Navy would incur damage so serious as to allow the third-ranked naval power to rise to preeminence. Tirpitz in fact believed Germany would emerge victorious from a naval struggle with Britain, as he believed Germany to possess superior ships manned by better-trained crews, more effective tactics, and led by more capable officers.

In his first program, Tirpitz envisioned a fleet of nineteen battleships, divided into two eight-ship squadrons, one ship as a flagship
Flagship
A flagship is a vessel used by the commanding officer of a group of naval ships, reflecting the custom of its commander, characteristically a flag officer, flying a distinguishing flag...

, and two in reserve. The squadrons were further divided into four-ship divisions. This would be supported by the eight and es of coastal defense ships, six large and eighteen small cruisers, and twelve divisions of torpedo boat
Torpedo boat
A torpedo boat is a relatively small and fast naval vessel designed to carry torpedoes into battle. The first designs rammed enemy ships with explosive spar torpedoes, and later designs launched self-propelled Whitehead torpedoes. They were created to counter battleships and other large, slow and...

s, all assigned to the Home Fleet (Heimatflotte). This fleet was secured by the First Naval Law, which passed in the Reichstag on 28 March 1898. Construction of the fleet was to be completed by 1 April 1904. Rising international tensions, particularly as a result of the outbreak of the Boer War
Boer War
The Boer Wars were two wars fought between the British Empire and the two independent Boer republics, the Oranje Vrijstaat and the Republiek van Transvaal ....

 in South Africa and the Boxer Rebellion
Boxer Rebellion
The Boxer Rebellion, also called the Boxer Uprising by some historians or the Righteous Harmony Society Movement in northern China, was a proto-nationalist movement by the "Righteous Harmony Society" , or "Righteous Fists of Harmony" or "Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists" , in China between...

 in China, allowed Tirpitz to push through an expanded fleet plan in 1900. The Second Naval Law was passed on 14 June 1900; it doubled the size of the fleet to 38 battleships and 20 large and 38 small cruisers. Tirpitz planned an even larger fleet. As early as September 1899, he had informed the Kaiser that he sought at least 45 battleships, and potentially might secure a third double-squadron, for a total strength of 48 battleships.

Naval arms race

During the initial period of German naval expansion, Britain did not feel particularly threatened. The Lords of the Admiralty felt the implications of the Second Naval Law were not a significantly more dangerous threat than the fleet set by the First Naval Law; they believed it was more important to focus on the practical situation rather than speculation on future programs that might easily be reduced or cut entirely. Segments of the British public, however, quickly seized on the perceived threat posed by the German construction programs. Despite their dismissive reaction, the Admiralty resolved to surpass German battleship construction. Admiral John Fisher, who became the First Sea Lord
First Sea Lord
The First Sea Lord is the professional head of the Royal Navy and the whole Naval Service; it was formerly known as First Naval Lord. He also holds the title of Chief of Naval Staff, and is known by the abbreviations 1SL/CNS...

 and head of the Admiralty
Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 in 1904, introduced sweeping reforms in large part to counter the growing threat posed by the expanding German fleet. Training programs were modernized, old and obsolete vessels were discarded, and the scattered squadrons of battleships were consolidated into four main fleets, three of which were based in Europe. Britain also made a series of diplomatic arrangements, including an alliance with Japan that allowed a greater concentration of British battleships in the North Sea.

Fisher's reforms caused serious problems for Tirpitz's plans; he counted on a dispersal of British naval forces early in a conflict that would allow Germany's smaller but more concentrated fleet to achieve a local superiority. Tirpitz could also no longer depend on the higher level of training in both the German officer corps and the enlisted ranks, nor the superiority of the more modern and homogenized German squadrons over the heterogeneous British fleet. In 1904, Britain signed the Entente cordiale
Entente Cordiale
The Entente Cordiale was a series of agreements signed on 8 April 1904 between the United Kingdom and the French Republic. Beyond the immediate concerns of colonial expansion addressed by the agreement, the signing of the Entente Cordiale marked the end of almost a millennium of intermittent...

with France, Britain's primary naval rival. The destruction of two Russian fleets during the Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

 in 1905 further strengthened Britain's position, as it removed the second of her two traditional naval rivals. These developments allowed Britain to discard the "two power standard" and focus solely on out-building Germany. In October 1906, Admiral Fisher stated "our only probable enemy is Germany. Germany keeps her whole Fleet always concentrated within a few hours of England. We must therefore keep a Fleet twice as powerful concentrated within a few hours of Germany."

The most damaging blow to Tirpitz's plan came with the launch of in February 1906. The new battleship, armed with a main battery of ten 12 inches (30.5 cm) guns, was considerably more powerful than any battleship afloat. Ships capable of battle with Dreadnought would need to be significantly larger than the old pre-dreadnought
Pre-dreadnought
Pre-dreadnought battleship is the general term for all of the types of sea-going battleships built between the mid-1890s and 1905. Pre-dreadnoughts replaced the ironclad warships of the 1870s and 1880s...

s, which increased their cost and necessitated expensive dredging of canals and harbors to accommodate them. The German naval budget was already stretched thin; without new funding, Tirpitz would have to abandon his challenge to Britain. As a result, Tirpitz went before the Reichstag in May 1906 with a request for additional funding. The First Amendment to the Second Naval Law was passed on 19 May and appropriated funding for the new battleships, as well as for the dredging required by their increased size. A second amendment to the Naval Law was passed in March 1908 to provide an additional billion marks
German gold mark
The Goldmark was the currency used in the German Empire from 1873 to 1914.-History:Before unification, the different German states issued a variety of different currencies, though most were linked to the Vereinsthaler, a silver coin containing 16⅔ grams of pure silver...

 to cope with the growing cost of the latest battleships. The law also reduced the service life of the battleships from 25 to 20 years, which allowed Tirpitz to push for the replacement of older vessels. A third and final amendment was passed in May 1912 represented a compromise between Tirpitz and moderates, and authorized three new battleships and two light cruisers. The amendment called for the High Seas Fleet to be equipped with three squadrons of eight battleships each, one squadron of eight battlecruiser
Battlecruiser
Battlecruisers were large capital ships built in the first half of the 20th century. They were developed in the first decade of the century as the successor to the armoured cruiser, but their evolution was more closely linked to that of the dreadnought battleship...

s, and eighteen light cruiser
Light cruiser
A light cruiser is a type of small- or medium-sized warship. The term is a shortening of the phrase "light armored cruiser", describing a small ship that carried armor in the same way as an armored cruiser: a protective belt and deck...

s. Two 8-ship squadrons would be placed in reserve, along with two armored
Armored cruiser
The armored cruiser was a type of warship of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Like other types of cruiser, the armored cruiser was a long-range, independent warship, capable of defeating any ship apart from a battleship, and fast enough to outrun any battleships it encountered.The first...

 and twelve light cruisers.

History

In early 1907, enough battleships—of the and es—had been constructed to allow for the creation of a second full squadron. On 16 February 1907, Kaiser Wilhelm renamed the Home Fleet the High Seas Fleet. Admiral Prince Heinrich of Prussia, Wilhelm II's brother, became the first commander of the High Seas Fleet; his flagship
Flagship
A flagship is a vessel used by the commanding officer of a group of naval ships, reflecting the custom of its commander, characteristically a flag officer, flying a distinguishing flag...

 was . While in a peace-time footing, the Fleet conducted a routine pattern of training exercises, with individual ships, with squadrons, and with the combined fleet, throughout the year. The entire fleet conducted several cruises into the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 and the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

. Prince Henry was replaced in late 1909 by Vice Admiral Henning von Holtzendorff
Henning von Holtzendorff
Henning von Holtzendorff was a German admiral during World War I who became famous for his Dec 1916 memo to Kaiser Wilhelm II about unrestricted submarine warfare against the United Kingdom...

, who served until April 1913. Vice Admiral Friedrich von Ingenohl
Friedrich von Ingenohl
Gustav Heinrich Ernst Friedrich von Ingenohl was a German admiral from Neuwied best known for his command of the German High Seas Fleet at the beginning of World War I....

, who would command the High Seas Fleet in the first months of World War I, took command following the departure of Vice Admiral von Holtzendorff. replaced Deutschland as the fleet flagship on 2 March 1913.

Despite the rising international tensions following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June, the High Seas Fleet began its summer cruise to Norway on 13 July. During the last peacetime cruise of the Imperial Navy, the fleet conducted drills off Skagen
Skagen
Skagen is a projection of land and a town, with a population of 8,515 , in Region Nordjylland on the northernmost tip of Vendsyssel-Thy, a part of the Jutland peninsula in northern Denmark...

 before proceeding to the Norwegian fjords on 25 July. The following day the fleet began to steam back to Germany, as a result of Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

's ultimatum to Serbia
July Ultimatum
The July Crisis was a diplomatic crisis among the major powers of Europe in the summer of 1914 that led to the First World War...

. On the 27th, the entire fleet assembled off Cape Skudenes
Skudenes
Skudenes is a former municipality of the traditional district of Haugaland in Rogaland county, Norway.The parish of Skudesnæs was established as a municipality January 1, 1838 ....

 before returning to port, where the ships remained at a heightened state of readiness. War between Austria-Hungary and Serbia broke out the following day, and in the span of a week all of the major European powers had joined the conflict.

World War I

The High Seas Fleet conducted a number of sweeps and advances into the North Sea. The first occurred on 2–3 November 1914, though no British forces were encountered. Admiral von Ingenohl, the commander of the High Seas Fleet, adopted a strategy in which the battlecruisers of Rear Admiral Franz von Hipper
Franz von Hipper
Franz Ritter von Hipper was an admiral in the German Imperial Navy . Franz von Hipper joined the German Navy in 1881 as an officer cadet. He commanded several torpedo boat units and served as watch officer aboard several warships, as well as Kaiser Wilhelm II's yacht Hohenzollern...

's I Scouting Group
I Scouting Group
The I Scouting Group was a special reconnaissance unit within the German Kaiserliche Marine. The unit was famously commanded by Admiral Franz von Hipper during World War I. The I Scouting Group was one of the most active formations in the High Seas Fleet during the war; the unit took part in every...

 raided British coastal towns to lure out portions of the Grand Fleet where they could be destroyed by the High Seas Fleet. The raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby
Raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby
The raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby, which took place on 16 December 1914, was an attack by the Imperial German Navy on the British seaport towns of Scarborough, Hartlepool, West Hartlepool, and Whitby. The attack resulted in 137 fatalities and 592 casualties, many of which were civilians...

 on 15–16 December 1914 was the first such operation. On the evening of 15 December, the German battle fleet of some twelve dreadnoughts and eight pre-dreadnoughts came to within 10 nmi (18.5 km) of an isolated squadron of six British battleships. However, skirmishes between the rival destroyer
Destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

 screens in the darkness convinced von Ingenohl that he was faced with the entire Grand Fleet. Under orders from the Kaiser to avoid risking the fleet unnecessarily, von Ingenohl broke off the engagement and turned the fleet back toward Germany.

Following the loss of at the Battle of Dogger Bank
Battle of Dogger Bank (1915)
The Battle of Dogger Bank was a naval battle fought near the Dogger Bank in the North Sea on 24 January 1915, during the First World War, between squadrons of the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet....

 in January 1915, the Kaiser removed Admiral von Ingenohl from his post on 2 February. Admiral Hugo von Pohl
Hugo von Pohl
Hugo von Pohl was a German admiral who during the First World War commanded the German High Seas Fleet from 1915 until shortly before his death from illness in 1916....

 replaced him as commander of the fleet. Admiral von Pohl conducted a series of fleet advances in 1915; in the first one on 29–30 March, the fleet steamed out to the north of Terschelling
Terschelling
Terschelling is a municipality and an island in the northern Netherlands, one of the West Frisian Islands.Waddenislanders are known for their resourcefulness in using anything and everything that washes ashore. With few trees to use for timber, most of the farms and barns are built with masts...

 and returned without incident. Another followed on 17–18 April, where the fleet covered a mining operation by the II Scouting Group. Three days later, on 21–22 April, the High Seas Fleet advanced towards the Dogger Bank
Dogger Bank
Dogger Bank is a large sandbank in a shallow area of the North Sea about off the east coast of England. It extends over approximately , with its dimensions being about long and up to broad. The water depth ranges from 15 to 36 metres , about shallower than the surrounding sea. It is a...

, though again failed to meet any British forces. Another sortie followed on 29–30 May, during which the fleet advanced as far as Schiermonnikoog
Schiermonnikoog
Schiermonnikoog is an island, a municipality, and a national park in the northern Netherlands. Schiermonnikoog is one of the West Frisian Islands, and is part of the province of Friesland....

 before being forced to turn back by inclement weather. On 10 August, the fleet steamed to the north of Helgoland to cover the return of the auxiliary cruiser . A month later, on 11–12 September, the fleet covered another mine-laying operation off the Swarte Bank. The last operation of the year, conducted on 23–24 October, was an advance without result in the direction of Horns Reef
Horns Reef
Horns Rev is a shallow area in the eastern North Sea, about 15 km / 10 miles off the westernmost point of Denmark, Blåvands Huk...

.

Vice Admiral Reinhard Scheer
Reinhard Scheer
Reinhard Scheer was an Admiral in the German Kaiserliche Marine. Scheer joined the navy in 1879 as an officer cadet; he progressed through the ranks, commanding cruisers and battleships, as well as major staff positions on land. At the outbreak of World War I, Scheer was the commander of the II...

 became Commander in chief of the High Seas Fleet on 18 January 1916 when Admiral von Pohl became too ill to continue in that post. Scheer favored a much more aggressive policy than that of his predecessor, and advocated greater usage of U-boat
U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

s and zeppelin
Zeppelin
A Zeppelin is a type of rigid airship pioneered by the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin in the early 20th century. It was based on designs he had outlined in 1874 and detailed in 1893. His plans were reviewed by committee in 1894 and patented in the United States on 14 March 1899...

s in coordinated attacks on the Grand Fleet; Scheer received approval from the Kaiser in February 1916 to carry out his intentions. Scheer ordered the fleet on sweeps of the North Sea on 26 March, 2–3 April, and 21–22 April. The battlecruisers conducted another raid on the English coast
Bombardment of Yarmouth and Lowestoft
The Bombardment of Yarmouth and Lowestoft was a naval battle fought during the First World War between the German Empire and the British Empire in the North Sea....

 on 24–25 April, during which the fleet provided distant support. Scheer planned another raid for mid-May, but the battlecruiser had struck a mine during the previous raid and the repair work forced the operation to be pushed back until the end of the month.

Battle of Jutland

Admiral Scheer's fleet, composed of 16 dreadnoughts, six pre-dreadnoughts, six light cruisers, and 31 torpedo boats departed the Jade early on the morning of 31 May. The fleet sailed in concert with Hipper's five battlecruisers and supporting cruisers and torpedo boats. The British navy's Room 40
Room 40
In the history of Cryptanalysis, Room 40 was the section in the Admiralty most identified with the British cryptoanalysis effort during the First World War.Room 40 was formed in October 1914, shortly after the start of the war...

 had intercepted and decrypted German radio traffic containing plans of the operation. The Admiralty ordered the Grand Fleet, totaling some 28 dreadnoughts and 9 battlecruisers, to sortie the night before in order to cut off and destroy the High Seas Fleet.

At 16:00 UTC, the two battlecruiser forces encountered each other and began a running gun fight south, back towards Scheer's battle fleet. Upon reaching the High Seas Fleet, Vice Admiral David Beatty's
David Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty
Admiral of the Fleet David Richard Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty, GCB, OM, GCVO, DSO was an admiral in the Royal Navy...

 battlecruisers turned back to the north to lure the Germans towards the rapidly approaching Grand Fleet, under the command of Admiral John Jellicoe
John Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe
Admiral of the Fleet John Rushworth Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe, GCB, OM, GCVO was a British Royal Navy admiral who commanded the Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland in World War I...

. During the run to the north, Scheer's leading ships engaged the s of the 5th Battle Squadron. By 18:30, the Grand Fleet had arrived on the scene, and was deployed into a position that would cross Scheer's "T"
Crossing the T
Crossing the T or Capping the T is a classic naval warfare tactic attempted from the late 19th to mid 20th century, in which a line of warships crossed in front of a line of enemy ships, allowing the crossing line to bring all their guns to bear while receiving fire from only the forward guns of...

 from the northeast. To extricate his fleet from this precarious position, Scheer ordered a 16-point
Compass Point
Compass Point may refer to:* Compass point, a direction on a traditional compass* Compass Point * Compass Point Shopping Centre, a shopping mall in Singapore* Compass Point Studios, a studio in Nassau, Bahamas...

 turn to the south-west. At 18:55, Scheer decided to conduct another 16-point turn to launch an attack on the British fleet.

This maneuver again put Scheer in a dangerous position; Jellicoe had turned his fleet south and again crossed Scheer's "T." A third 16-point turn followed; Hipper's mauled battlecruisers charged the British line to cover the retreat. Scheer then ordered the fleet to adopt the night cruising formation, which was completed by 23:40. A series of ferocious engagements between Scheer's battleships and Jellicoe's destroyer screen ensued, though the Germans managed to punch their way through the destroyers and make for Horns Reef
Horns Reef
Horns Rev is a shallow area in the eastern North Sea, about 15 km / 10 miles off the westernmost point of Denmark, Blåvands Huk...

. The High Seas Fleet reached the Jade between 13:00 and 14:45 on 1 June; Scheer ordered the undamaged battleships of the I Battle Squadron to take up defensive positions in the Jade roadstead
Roadstead
A roadstead is a place outside a harbor where a ship can lie at anchor. It is an enclosed area with an opening to the sea, narrower than a bay or gulf. It has a surface that cannot be confused with an estuary. It can be created artificially by jetties or dikes...

 while the s were to maintain a state of readiness just outside Wilhelmshaven. The High Seas Fleet had sunk more British vessels than the Grand Fleet had sunk German, though Scheer's leading battleships had taken a terrible hammering. Several capital ships, including , which had been the first vessel in the line, and most of the battlecruisers, were in drydock for extensive repairs for at least two months. On 1 June, the British had twenty-four capital ships in fighting condition, compared to only ten German warships.

Subsequent operations

By August, enough warships had been repaired to allow Scheer to undertake another fleet operation on 18–19 August
Action of 19 August 1916
The Action of 19 August 1916 was one of only two further attempts made by the German High Seas Fleet to engage elements of the British Royal Navy following the mixed results of the Battle of Jutland in World War I...

. Due to the serious damage incurred by and and the loss of at Jutland, the only battlecruisers available for the operation were and , which were joined by , , and the new battleship . Scheer turned north after receiving a false report from a zeppelin
Zeppelin
A Zeppelin is a type of rigid airship pioneered by the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin in the early 20th century. It was based on designs he had outlined in 1874 and detailed in 1893. His plans were reviewed by committee in 1894 and patented in the United States on 14 March 1899...

 about a British unit in the area. As a result, the bombardment was not carried out, and by 14:35, Scheer had been warned of the Grand Fleet's approach and so turned his forces around and retreated to German ports. Another fleet operation took place on 18–19 October, though it ended without encountering any British units. The fleet was reorganized on 1 December; the four s remained in the III Squadron, along with the newly commissioned , while the five ships were transferred to the IV Squadron. In March 1917 the new battleship , built to serve as fleet flagship, entered service; on the 17th, Scheer hauled down his flag from Friedrich der Grosse and transferred it to Baden.

The war, now in its fourth year, was by 1917 taking its toll on the crews of the ships of the High Seas Fleet. Acts of passive resistance, such as the posting of anti-war slogans in the battleships and in January 1917, began to appear. In June and July, the crews began to conduct more active forms of resistance. These activities included work refusals, hunger strikes, and taking unauthorized leave from their ships. The disruptions came to a head in August, when a series of protests, anti-war speeches, and demonstrations resulted in the arrest of dozens of sailors. Scheer ordered the arrest of over 200 men from the battleship , the center of the anti-war activities. A series of courts-martial followed, which resulted in 77 guilty verdicts; nine men were sentenced to death for their roles, though only two men, Albin Köbis
Albin Köbis
Albin Köbis was a German sailor executed in 1917 for Marxist agitation in the Imperial German Navy. He enlisted as a volunteer in 1912 and served on the battleship Prinzregent Luitpold...

 and Max Reichpietsch
Max Reichpietsch
Max Reichpietsch was a German sailor executed in 1917 for socialist agitation in the German Navy. He joined the navy as a volunteer in 1912 and served on the battleship Friedrich der Grosse...

, were executed.

In early September 1917, following the German conquest of the Russian port of Riga
Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

, the German navy decided to eliminate the Russian naval forces that still held the Gulf of Riga
Gulf of Riga
The Gulf of Riga, or Bay of Riga, is a bay of the Baltic Sea between Latvia and Estonia. According to C.Michael Hogan, a saline stratification layer is found at a depth of approximately seventy metres....

. The Navy High Command (Admiralstab) planned an operation, codenamed Operation Albion
Operation Albion
Operation Albion was the German land and naval operation in September-October 1917 to invade and occupy the Estonian islands of Saaremaa , Hiiumaa and Muhu , then part of the Russian Republic...

, to seize the Baltic island of Ösel
Saaremaa
Saaremaa is the largest island in Estonia, measuring 2,673 km². The main island of Saare County, it is located in the Baltic Sea, south of Hiiumaa island, and belongs to the West Estonian Archipelago...

, and specifically the Russian gun batteries on the Sworbe Peninsula
Sõrve Peninsula
Sõrve Peninsula is a peninsula which forms the southernmost section of the Estonian island Saaremaa. Its length is 32 km, and its maximum width 10 km...

. On 18 September, the order was issued for a joint operation with the army to capture Ösel and Moon
Muhu
Muhu , is an island in the Baltic Sea. With an area of 198 km² it is the third largest island belonging to Estonia, after Saaremaa and Hiiumaa....

 Islands; the primary naval component was to comprise its flagship, Moltke, and the III and IV Battle Squadrons of the High Seas Fleet. The operation began on the morning of 12 October, when Moltke and the III Squadron ships engaged Russian positions in Tagga Bay while the IV Squadron shelled Russian gun batteries on the Sworbe Peninsula on Ösel
Ösel
Ösel may refer to:* The Swedish and German name for Saaremaa, Estonia* Ösel - the Yoga of the Clear Light* Tenzin Ösel Rinpoche - Spanish-born Tibetan Buddhist and tulku*Ösel Tendzin, an American-born Tibetan Buddhist...

.By 20 October, the fighting on the islands was winding down; Moon, Ösel, and Dagö were in German possession. The previous day, the Admiralstab had ordered the cessation of naval actions and the return of the dreadnoughts to the High Seas Fleet as soon as possible.

Admiral Scheer had used light surface forces to attack British convoys to Norway beginning in late 1917. As a result, the Royal Navy attached a squadron of battleships to protect the convoys, which presented Scheer with the possibility of destroying a detached squadron of the Grand Fleet. The operation called for Hipper's battlecruisers to attack the convoy and its escorts on 23 April while the battleships of the High Seas Fleet stood by in support. On 22 April, the German fleet assembled in the Schillig Roads outside Wilhelmshaven and departed the following morning. Despite the success in reaching the convoy route undetected, the operation failed due to faulty intelligence. Reports from U-boats indicated to Scheer that the convoys sailed at the start and middle of each week, but a west-bound convoy had left Bergen
Bergen
Bergen is the second largest city in Norway with a population of as of , . Bergen is the administrative centre of Hordaland county. Greater Bergen or Bergen Metropolitan Area as defined by Statistics Norway, has a population of as of , ....

 on Tuesday the 22nd and an east-bound group left Methil
Methil
Methil is an eastern coastal town in Scotland. It was part of the former Burgh of Buckhaven and Methil. It lies within a continuous urban area described as Levenmouth.Methil lies geographically between Largo bay to the east and Wemyss Bay to the west....

, Scotland, on the 24th, a Thursday. As a result, there was no convoy for Hipper to attack. Beatty sortied with a force of 31 battleships and four battlecruisers, but was too late to intercept the retreating Germans. The Germans reached their defensive minefields early on 25 April, though approximately 40 nmi (74.1 km) off Helgoland Moltke was torpedoed by the submarine ; she successfully returned to port.

Internment at Scapa Flow

A final fleet action was planned for the end of October 1918, days before the Armistice was to take effect. The bulk of the High Seas Fleet was to have sortied from their base in Wilhelmshaven to engage the British Grand Fleet; Scheer—by now the Grand Admiral
Grand Admiral
Grand admiral is a historic naval rank, generally being the highest such rank present in any particular country. Its most notable use was in Germany — the German word is Großadmiral.-France:...

 (Grossadmiral) of the fleet—intended to inflict as much damage as possible on the British navy, in order to retain a better bargaining position for Germany, despite the expected casualties. However, many of the war-weary sailors felt the operation would disrupt the peace process and prolong the war. On the morning of 29 October 1918, the order was given to sail from Wilhelmshaven the following day. Starting on the night of 29 October, sailors on and then on several other battleships mutinied
Wilhelmshaven mutiny
The Kiel mutiny was a major revolt by sailors of the German High Seas Fleet on 3 November 1918. The revolt triggered the German revolution which was to sweep aside the monarchy within a few days. It ultimately led to the end of the First World War and to the establishment of the Weimar Republic.-...

. The unrest ultimately forced Hipper and Scheer to cancel the operation. Informed of the situation, the Kaiser stated "I no longer have a navy."

Following the capitulation of Germany in November 1918, most of the High Seas Fleet, under the command of Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter
Ludwig von Reuter
Ludwig von Reuter was a German admiral during World War I, who commanded the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet when it was interned at Scapa Flow at the end of the war. On 21 June 1919 he ordered the scuttling of the fleet to prevent the British from seizing the ships.-Early life:Reuter was...

, were interned in the British naval base in Scapa Flow
Scapa Flow
right|thumb|Scapa Flow viewed from its eastern endScapa Flow is a body of water in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom, sheltered by the islands of Mainland, Graemsay, Burray, South Ronaldsay and Hoy. It is about...

. Prior to the departure of the German fleet, Admiral Adolf von Trotha
Adolf von Trotha
Adolf von Trotha was a German admiral in the Kaiserliche Marine from Koblenz, Rhenish Prussia.-Family:...

 made clear to von Reuter that he could not allow the Allies to seize the ships, under any conditions. The fleet rendezvoused with the British light cruiser
Light cruiser
A light cruiser is a type of small- or medium-sized warship. The term is a shortening of the phrase "light armored cruiser", describing a small ship that carried armor in the same way as an armored cruiser: a protective belt and deck...

 , which led the ships to the Allied fleet that was to escort the Germans to Scapa Flow. The massive flotilla consisted of some 370 British, American, and French warships. Once the ships were interned, their guns were disabled through the removal of their breech blocks, and their crews were reduced to 200 officers and enlisted men on each of the capital ships.

The fleet remained in captivity during the negotiations that ultimately produced the Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

. Von Reuter believed that the British intended to seize the German ships on 21 June 1919, which was the deadline for Germany to have signed the peace treaty. Unaware that the deadline had been extended to the 23rd, Reuter ordered the ships to be sunk
Scuttling of the German fleet in Scapa Flow
The scuttling of the German fleet took place at the Royal Navy's base at Scapa Flow, in Scotland, after the end of the First World War. The High Seas Fleet had been interned there under the terms of the Armistice whilst negotiations took place over the fate of the ships...

 at the next opportunity. On the morning of 21 June, the British fleet left Scapa Flow to conduct training maneuvers, and at 11:20 Reuter transmitted the order to his ships. Out of the interned fleet, only one battleship, Baden, three light cruisers, and eighteen destroyers were saved from sinking by the British harbor personnel. The Royal Navy, initially opposed to salvage operations, decided to allow private firms to attempt to raise the vessels for scrapping. A company founded by Ernest Cox
Ernest Cox
Ernest Frank Guelph Cox was an electrical and mechanical engineer and marine salvage expert from Wolverhampton. Between 1924 and 1931 his Cox & Danks Shipbreaking Co. successfully raised 35 of the German fleet that had been scuttled at Gutter Sound, Scapa Flow in 1919. He eventually sold the...

 handled most of the salvage operations, including those of the deepest vessels raised. After Cox's withdrawal due to financial losses in the early 1930s, Metal Industries, Inc. took over the salving of the scuttled German fleet. Five more capital ships were raised, though three—SMS König, , and SMS Markgraf—were too deep to permit raising. They remain on the bottom of Scapa Flow, along with four light cruisers.

See also

  • Order of battle at Jutland
    Order of battle at Jutland
    This is the complete order of battle for the Battle of Jutland in 1916.Note: dates given are those of commissioning.-Summary:-British forces:The Grand Fleet listed in order from van to rear following deployment, 6:30pm 31st May...

    – The order of battle of the High Seas Fleet at the Battle of Jutland
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