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Map 22: Jutland

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The Battle of Jutland: the biggest naval fight of World War I

Great Britain was the world's preeminent naval power in the early 20th century, but in the years before World War I, Germany constructed a formidable navy of its own. On May 31, 1916, the two navies had their biggest clash of the war when about 150 British ships confronted almost 100 German ships in the North Sea off the coast of Jutland, Denmark. The Germans knew the entire British fleet was too powerful to challenge directly, but they hoped to lure a portion of the British fleet commanded by Vice Admiral David Beatty into a battle with a larger number of German ships. When Beatty encountered the German fleet, he turned his ships around and raced toward the rest of the British Grand Fleet commanded by Admiral John Jellicoe with the German ships in hot pursuit. The British wound up losing more ships and sailors from these engagements than the Germans did. But those losses weren't sufficient to break the British Navy's hold over the North Sea. Germany avoided this kind of large-scale naval battle for the rest of the war, keeping its surface fleet in safe ports and focusing instead on submarine attacks.



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