On 31 May, 1916, the great battle fleets of Britain and Germany met off Jutland in the North Sea. It was a climactic encounter, the culmination of a fantastically expensive naval race between the two countries, and expectations on both sides were high. For the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet, there was the chance to win another Trafalgar. For the German High Seas Fleet, there was the opportunity to break the British blockade and so change the course of the war. But Jutland was a confused and controversial encounter. Tactically, it was a draw; strategically, it was a British victory. The Grand Fleet lost more ships, most spectacularly three of its battlecruisers, but retained its command of the seas. Naval historians have pored over the minutiae of Jutland ever since. Yet they have largely ignored what the battle was actually like for its thousands of participants. As oral historian at the Imperial War Museum in London, Peter Hart has access to a vast repository of diaries, letters, written accounts and interviews about the engagement.
Alongside a brisk narrative of the action, there is an extraordinary wealth of first-hand testimony here from both officers and enlisted men: it is invariably full of drama and pathos, of chaos and courage, and it enables the reader to appreciate both the awe and awfulness of a sea battle in the dreadnought era.
Nigel Steel is head of the Imperial War Museum's Research and Information Department. He and Peter Hart have collaborated on several titles, including works on Gallipoli, Passchendaele and the First World War in the air. Nigel Steel and Peter Hart are both historians at the Imperial War Museum in London. They have collaborated on three previous titles, on PASSCHENDAELE, GALLIPOLI and THE FIRST WORLD WAR IN THE AIR.