Ghastly Victories: The United States in the World Wars

Part 2-28
…The Dual Monarchy was put in a precarious position by the unexpected nature of the Italian March Offensive. The spring floods were protecting their western flank and giving them time to strip the rest of the country for reserves to hold off the Italians just a bit longer. However the quality of those troops, and especially their morale was lacking. A good push by the Italians would still break them, and everyone knew it. With the Entente not responding to peace overtures they were making; something would have to be done to rebuild the shattered morale of the frontline soldiers. If the Dual Monarchy could hold on a bit longer, their peace overtures might bear fruit and they might yet receive terms that were less than Carthaginian. Doing that would require their forces on the Italian front to stand and fight, and that would mean boosting their morale.

The best way to do that was a victory, but there were no easy opponents left, apart from occupation troops in Serbia and the Ukraine their only deployments were on the Western and Italian fronts, with the Bulgarians having taken over the Albanian front. The Army simply had no opportunity to launch an attack with a chance of success. Thus it fell to the Navy to do that.

The Austro-Hungarian Navy was always the red headed stepchild of the country, given that it faced potential land based threats from almost every direction and had little sea access. By the start of the war it was smaller than the Italian navy alone, much less the French and British reinforcements that backstopped it. Yet it had done well so far in the war, apart from the success of their U-Boats the battleships had in 1915 sailed right up to the Italian coast and shelled the city of Ancona without being stopped. Repeated raids had been launched on the Entente blockade of the strait of Otranto, resulting in it being unable to meaningfully hamper the U-Boat arm. In short the outnumbered, outgunned and outmoded Austrian fleet had punched well above its weight.

Admiral Miklos Horthy was the most successful of the Austrian naval commanders and he was given the task of providing a victory to restore national morale and the credibility of the Austrian Armed Forces. Horthy planned on attacking, not the Otranto Barrage as in previous attacks, but the port of Valona. Valona was the key to Italian logistics in Albania, with a spy providing Italian convoy timetables Horthy would be able to hit the port just as the ships started to unload, being able to sink the ships at their moorings while still loaded, denying the Italians use of the port and the supplies.

Horthy scheduled the raid for April 14th, however on the 10th when final preparations were supposed to begin in earnest things came undone. The crews of the ships at Pola refused to work, having learned of the planned attack and viewing it as a suicide mission. It was not just the army that had been suffering from poor morale, and the navy had been strongly infiltrated by communists and ethnic nationalists. Attempts to get things moving again turned violent and the Austrian fleet became at outright mutiny. The mutiny was quelled by April 15th, but only by promises that the fleet would not sail unless the Italians attacked Pola…

…The mutiny at Pola was noted with alarm by the high command of the Kriegsmarine, who worried that the same thing could happen to them. Measures were immediately taken to deal with potential ringleaders and malcontents by transferring them to shore postings and obsolete vessels…

…The liberation of Rheims on the 14th was the signal that the Bulgarians, Romanians and Greeks had been waiting for. It was now more than clear that the Germans could not afford a major diversion of troops and that it was time for their plans to be executed.

On April 16th Bulgarian forces began pulling back to their prewar borders. The Romanians in turn began pulling back from the easternmost portions of occupied Ukraine, while the Greeks began a quiet mobilization. On April 18th the Bulgarians and Romanians jointly announced a unilateral ceasefire with the Entente pending a formal peace agreement, while the Greeks declared war on the Ottoman Empire.

The Greek navy was able to escort an invasion convoy into Ionia on the 20th of April. The Ottomans, with major commitments in three other locations had no troops available to stop the Greeks, who captured Smyrna on the 25th. By the start of May the Greeks had penetrated 40 miles inland and there was no evident way of stopping them before they broke out onto the Anatolian plateau. Cut off from their remaining allies by the withdrawal of Bulgaria and with their heartland under threat the Ottomans were almost ready to throw in the towel.

However their leadership was not quite ready to give up just yet. Enver Pasha promised that his Army of Islam was on the verge of breaking the Armenians. If that occurred their position at the peace table would be far better…

…The withdrawal of the Bulgarian army allowed the Italians in Albania to make rapid gains, and they reached the prewar Bulgarian border shortly after the Bulgarians did. They then began wheeling northwards to attack into the soft underbelly of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In their way were only occupation troops and a few scattered detachments of Landwehr and training units…

…The fall of Rheims, and the subsequent ceasefire from Romania and Bulgaria was a signal that the time to revolt against the Hapsburgs was here. Elements of the local governments in Czechia, Slovakia, Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia began declaring independence. A Czechoslovak state was declared on the 28th of April, and one of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on the 30th. Local Austrian forces were overwhelmed by the uprisings and were unable to do more than maintain order in the largest cities. The Hapsburg Empire had entered its terminal decline…

-Excerpt from European Wars for Americans, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2004
Part 2-29
…The intervention of the Greeks was the signal for British and French units in the Middle Eastern theater to advance. The passes had cleared and preparations had been made over the winter. Positions painstakingly scouted over the course of months were hit with precisely planned assaults backed by the gas combination that proved so deadly against the Germans. By the 27th of April the British had breached the Cicilian Gates and the French broke out of their perimeter in Antalya.

The mountainous terrain they were fighting in allowed the Ottomans to prevent things from becoming a total rout, with small Ottoman rearguards able to put up fierce resistance in the passes before they could be gassed out or outflanked by Mountain troops. However this was only delaying the inevitable, there was no way to actually stop the Entente, not without German reinforcements that could no longer reach the Ottoman Empire and could not be spared even if they could. Worse there was nothing significant in the way of the Greeks breaking onto the Anatolian plateau. The only bright spot was that the Army of Islam and Third Army were within days of Baku and Yerevan respectively. If the Empire could hold on another two weeks then the Armenian state could be crippled and the Empire would have a negotiating position. To do that the Greeks would have to be stopped.

The Ottoman Navy raised steam on April 28th for the last time, with Goeben, Breslau, three older cruisers and ten destroyers and torpedo boats. They left the Dardanelles on the 30th, with the intent to slip through the British blockade and attack the Greek supply lines to Ionia. This was not to be and the Royal Navy intercepted them off Tenedos with the Battleships Agamemnon and Lord Nelson, along with four light cruisers and twelve destroyers.

While the lighter units dueled the heavies engaged. Goeben was a battlecruiser compared to her battleship opponents, but they were pre dreadnoughts, if among the best of the breed. The British ships however were in good shape, with motivated crews that had plenty of time and ammunition to practice, Goeben had none of these. Despite this Goeben was able to find the range on Agamemnon first due to the inherent advantages of ten guns versus four. Within twenty minutes of finding the range she had silenced the battleship’s guns, but in doing so gave her sister a free target shoot and lost two turrets in the process. Lord Nelson was able to silence Goeben’s remaining guns and disable her guns before she could find the range. It was then Lord Nelson’s captain made is mistake as he closed in to finish Goeben with torpedoes rather than call in a destroyer to do it. In doing so he gave Goeben a shot with her torpedoes, and in exchange for putting two into her took one. Goeben managed to stay afloat for the better part of an hour and got most of her crew off, Lord Nelson turned turtle within minutes with the loss of almost all her crew.

Of the lighter units the British suffered two damaged light cruisers and four destroyers, with one lost, while only two destroyers and two torpedo boats escaped on the Ottoman side…

…Italian reinforcements arrived in Antalya on the 1st of May. While unneeded from a military point of view, and arguably unwanted by the French, the Italians were there for political reasons. They wanted to ensure that they got the slice of the Ottoman Empire that was promised them at London in the peace treaty, and there was no better way of doing that than putting boots on the ground…

…On May 5th the Ottoman cause suffered an irreversible setback. Outside Baku armored cars belonging to the British Dunsterforce under General Dunsterville managed to slip around the Ottoman besiegers into their rear areas. In an audacious raid they destroyed a number of supply and ammunition dumps that left Enver Pasha’s Army of Islam in a precarious position. Enraged Enver ordered a massive frontal assault the next day into the teeth of prepared British and Armenian defenses. The attack failed and a counterattack set the Ottoman forces to rout.

With the rout at Baku and Third Army stalled in front of Yerevan the Ottoman government felt there was no point in continuing the war. Every further day risked another disaster that would evaporate their position. On May 9th the Ottoman empire asked for a ceasefire in preparation for peace negotiations…

-Excerpt from European Wars for Americans, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2004

A/N Well work today was a shaggy dog story, I go in to cover for someone who has the day off, three hours later, I choose to go in early to get out early, he shows up his plans for the day having fallen through and our manager didn't tell me that. So ugh, here is an update anyways
Well then, I honestly wonder what the hell is going to become of what we know today as Turkey ITL. Because they sound well and truly screwed to the ninth way.
Part 2-30
…By April 20th Entente forces had recaptured all the territory lost in the previous year. The advances was arguably slowed more by the need to haul supplies over the devastated no mans land created earlier in the fighting than German actions. Despite having the opportunity to fort up at several locations, most prominently the fortress of Verdun, and inflict severe delays upon the Entente, the Germans refused to do. Ludendorff and others in the high command, despite seeing the desperate need for time quite well did not take the chance.

There were too few troops to be able to waste even a fraction of them on doomed last stands, especially the higher quality of troops that would be needed to achieve maximum effects. Any diversion of troops could risk not being able to hold the Hindenburg Line, or worse causing a potential collapse in morale across the front. The only chance Germany had of achieving an acceptable peace was to either stop the Entente at the Hindenburg Line, or at least delay them there long enough to throw up a Second Line farther back and use the prospect of a costly fight to breach it as a negotiating tactic.

It took until April 24th for the Entente to make large scale contact with the Hindenburg Line, now referring to more than just the original Arras to Laffaux portion. The new defense line was the first major obstacle since the main line of resistance had been breached in early April. While a much narrower and weaker belt of fortifications in the main compared to the preceding Winter Line, it was hoped that the difficulty in bringing up supplies over the devasted terrain would prevent the Entente from applying as much heavy artillery as they had previously used.

In that regard the line was successful, with only tentative infantry probes backed by scattered artillery and air attacks from the French, along with more serious armor backed probes from the British. The Americans too were denied the use of heavy artillery, but made up for it with aggression. The withdrawal had proved almost terminal for German morale, and the hungry, poorly clothed German troops were not at their best. They inflicted severe casualties on the attacking Americans, but by May 5th the Americans had punched through a 30 mile section of the line, taken 30,000 prisoners and captured 300 guns.

A last ditch sortie by what remained of the German Air Forces was launched to disrupt the attacks. But heavily outnumbered by an air force with fuel to spare for training pilots and now superior aircraft they were unable to make a difference. The German Air Force had effectively ceased to contest the skies by May 7th…

…The Ottoman ceasefire on May 9th was quickly seen by many in German High Command as the beginning of the end of their plans. The Bulgarian and Romanian armistices had been blows, but the Romanians had not been engaged with the Entente and the Bulgarians only on a tertiary front, and both were minor power all things considered. The Ottomans, diminished as they were, were a great power, and had been tying down Entente resources on three land fronts and at sea. Losing them gave the Entente both a clear shot at the underbelly of the central powers, and the reinforcements to take that shot.

Only disagreements over the perceived terms of the armistice were keeping the German Army High Command from making an immediate recommendation to the Kaiser. Enough members were opposed on pure principle, and still others thought that the Entente would not yet give them acceptable terms. By May 13th they had decided to recommend to the Kaiser that a new government be formed to deliver an armistice request to President Marshall…

…The Ottoman ceasefire request gave the German Navy its final impetus to act. The last ride of Goeben had been an inspiration and it was clear from intelligence that there was no prospect of the High Seas Fleet being retained in any capacity by the Germans. On May 13th Admiral Scheer gave the fateful order to Admiral Hipper…

-Excerpt from The Loss of Innocence: America in the Great War, Harper & Brothers, New York 2014

Another short one, but Easter week sucked, 8 days straight of work, 6 overtime, and an accounting essay (SFAC 6 is one of the driest documents imaginable, why did I pick that one?). Hopefully next week will be easier
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So now we are getting the death ride of the German High Seas Fleet. Knowing who is writing this TL this is going to be epic.

That said I'm honestly wondering what the bloody hell Versailles is going to look like ITL. Marshall is not going to piss everyone off like Wilson did. And everyone has lost far more than OTL.
Part 2-31
#82 The Battle of the Eastern Approaches, May 15th through 16th 1919

…With the war well and truly lost and not prospect of the victors allowing a retention of the High Seas fleet Admiral Reinhard Scheer decided that he had nothing to lose. If that was the case, then far better for the HSF to go out like the Ottoman Fleet, than suffer the ignominy of mutiny in port like the Hapsburg Fleet. Scheer knew that Admiral Franz Von Hipper, who replaced him in command of the HSF agreed, as did a number of senior admirals and most of the senior officers. He was certain that Kaiser Wilhelm did not agree with this, along with the majority of the enlisted.

With regards to the former, it was decided to better ask forgiveness than permission, if nothing else his personal honor could be sacrificed for that of the fleet. For the latter a ruse was necessary. While the worst of the troublemakers had been transferred to the Baltic or shore positions, the crews of the HSF would not accept a suicide mission. However they were not yet at the point of mutiny, and would likely go along with a low risk mission.

On the morning of May 13th Scheer personally contacted Hipper and gave the orders to prepare for a sortie. Hipper was to tell his officers that they were going to make a sortie along the Danish coast in order to provide a distraction for an Army line straightening withdrawal. The officers were told to keep this secret, but it was expected that it would get out. Indeed by the end of the day rumors of the planned Danish sortie were all over Wilhelmshaven and had reached the ears of several British intelligence operatives.

That night Hipper gathered with several of his absolutely most trusted subordinates to discuss the planned operation. Here he revealed the true plan, once the fleet was clear of the Jade Bight they would turn West, skirt the Frisian islands and cut through Dutch territorial waters to arrive off Flanders. Then the fleet would split, the Battlecruisers would cover the entry of a force of light cruisers into the Thames Estuary to hunt merchant shipping, while the battleships would engage the monitors and old battleships conducting fire support for the British in Flanders. The major elements would then converge and sail to a position off the Dutch coast to better engage the British as they arrived during the night and early morning.

In a perfect world the British would be strung out by an overwhelming need to respond as fast as possible, and thus each squadron could be faced and destroyed in turn, with an actual possibility of a victory. Neither Hipper nor Scheer saw that as at all realistic, they merely hoped to give the Grand Fleet a fight it would remember so that the Honor of the High Seas Fleet remained unstained. If they were lucky they could perhaps do enough damage to hurt the British position at the negotiating table in favor of the American one, or reduce the gap the Germans would have to close when they could throw off whatever constraints were imposed at the peace treaty. In order to prevent the operation form being a complete suicide mission a pair of minelayers were attached, who would lay minefields off the Dutch coast. These along with U-Boats were meant to provide enough hazards that the HSF would have a chance to escape, though expectations were that the majority would not.

Whatever Hipper and Scheer thought, when the HSF finally began to slip its moorings on the night of the 14th, the British were well aware of the supposed plan. A total of 21 Dreadnought battleships, 4 with 38cm guns, 13 with 30.5cm guns and 4 with 28cm guns and 7 battlecruisers, 2 with 35cm guns, 3 with 30.5 and 2 with 28cm guns sortied supported by 20 light cruisers, 71 torpedo boats and 2 minelayers. 30 U-Boats were either sortieing ahead of them or called from stations in the North Sea, there having been no time to preposition them.

As before the British left their moorings just before the Germans did and headed East, hoping to intercept the Germans before they turned for home. This would be the last chance to get at the HSF, a final chance for glory and justifying their place in the postwar budgetary environment, a final chance to wipe away the stain of Cleaver Bank. The Grand Fleet brought 30 Dreadnought Battleships, 8 with 15” guns, 4 with 14” guns, 10 with 13.5” guns and 8 with 12” guns, screened by 19 light cruisers and 61 destroyers with 3 crude aircraft carriers for scouting. The Battlecruiser force added 7 Battlecruisers, 2 15”, 2 13.5” and 3 12”, along with 3 Large Light Cruisers with 15” guns, 13 Light Cruisers and 33 Destroyers.

As the British continued to speed East, at about 3:00 in the morning and just north of Heligoland the HSF turned West-South-West. It was not immediately noticeable to most of the crews that they did so, but over the course of hours rumors spread from the bridge to the rest of the ship. However the die was cast, it was too late for any mutineers to organize themselves between ships. Even onboard ships communications and coordination was difficult for prospective mutineers. Furthermore there was an innate fear that while the coming battle may lead to death, mutiny might make that more likely. Apart from a few isolated events, the sailors of the HSF did their duties.

Around 8:00 in the morning the first British and Dutch patrols sighted the HSF west of Terschelling. However this information took time to disseminate and did not reach Admiral Sturdee, who had succeeded Jellicoe in command of the Grand Fleet, until around noon, when they had passed Ijmuiden. At this point both the Battlecruisers and Grand Fleet were at Fisher Bank, 3000 nautical miles north-north-east of the Germans, the closest forces being the American squadron which had fallen behind due to their less reliable engines. It would take them almost 16 hours to arrive at their best sustained speed, the battlecrusiers could get there faster, but still not in time to save the monitors at Flanders or the merchants in the Thames. Rather than risk defeat in detail Sturdee took the time to consolidate his forces and to advance south to cut oof and destroy the Germans at first light the next day.

At noon the German forces split into their planned detachments, a force to lay mines to cover their rear, the battlecruisers to the Thames and the Battleships to go to Flanders. Both detachments arrived at their destinations around six, with about two hours of daylight left.

The first force to engage was the Battlecrusier led group. Opposing them were the six light cruisers of Harwich force that were available along with 20 destroyers. Heavily outgunned the cruisers of Harwich force did an excellent job over the course of 45 minutes of distracting the German heavies while the destroyers entered range, with four being sunk and two grounded in the process. By that point the British destroyers entered range and launched their torpedoes. The German screen was able to keep them at a distance, but two light cruisers and two torpedo boats were sunk, with another cruiser crippled, and four torpedo boats were crippled by gunfire, in exchange for the destruction of ten British destroyers.

With darkness approaching the Battlecruisers turned to make their rendezvous while four light cruisers detached to hunt British merchantmen in the darkness. For a brief period they reaped a dreadful toll, sinking 13 merchantmen of various size before eight thirty. Then the Thames other defender arrived. Assigned as part of the anti-aircraft force protecting London, HMS Dreadnought was the first of her kind, and considered almost obsolete, hence her posting at Sheerness. However she was still a battleship, and late as she was her appearance was decisive. Within half an hour of point-blank range fighting she drove off the German cruisers, sinking two and crippling a third so that the minesweeper destroyers from Immingham could finish her.

To the south the main body of the High Seas fleet had made contact with the destroyers of the Dover patrol at just after six o clock. The ten available destroyers had sortied to provide what cover they could for the monitors, painfully slow as they were, with the fastest capable of 11 knots, and the slowest a mere five. The Dover Patrol did their best but evaporated under the guns of 20 battleships before they could enter torpedo range.

They did however force the German battleships to deploy into line and bought valuable time for the monitors to flee further. While in theory possessing the firepower to hurt the German battleships with guns of 12”, 14”, 15” and even 18”, they had neither the number of barrels for effective salvo fire nor the sophisticated range finding and fire control systems to make use of them against moving targets. Despite this 2 14”, 3 15” and 1 18” round managed to strike, doing minor damage to four German Battleships. However in return, by the time darkness fell seven monitors had been destroyed and two more damaged.

With their task done the German Battleships turned to rendezvous with the battlecruisers and the light cruisers that had screened the minelayers, which now empty were heading for home. The force would rendezvous at midnight and would be prepared for action just before first light.

To the North the British continued to slowly close the distance, slowed by the presence of the American squadron with their less reliable machinery. Despite this they were well on track to intercept the Germans across their line of retreat by daybreak. Even the torpedoing of HMS Warspite by a lucky U-Boat did not slow down the fleet, the unlucky battleship was sent to limp home for repairs with a minor escort as the fleet continued on.

Just after daybreak HMS New Zealand struck a freshly laid set of mines. The explosion was clearly heard aboard the outer members of Hipper’s screen and the last great naval battle of WWI had truly begun…

-Excerpt from 101 Great Naval Battles, American Youth Press, New York 2010

Okay this had to be split up into two pieces, rest should be next week. Yeah I know it stretches plausibility
Ok this is shaping up to be a hell of a naval battle. The British already paid a hell of a price. With the coming battle with an admiral who thinks he has nothing left to lose, its going to be bloody.
Dunno if I’d read it like some honorable last stand after they spent something like three paragraphs having to deceive their own men into partaking in a suicide mission.
Dunno if I’d read it like some honorable last stand after they spent something like three paragraphs having to deceive their own men into partaking in a suicide mission.
I would argue that that makes it the same as most last stands. It's either murderousness or stupidity from the leaders that gets a whole bunch of people killed.
Sure hipper, sure, thousands of your sailor will die but i'm certain that their family will find sooo much confort in the fact that the honor of the German Navy is safe now that had fought a useless battle (knowing that's useless), damn what a generation of old stupid fool
Part 2-32
…Sturdee’s Grand fleet was forming up in the orthodox manner as it transitioned from column to line, the battlecruisers and large light cruisers were out in front, followed by the fast battleships then the 15”, 13.5” and 12” battleships of the Royal Navy with the six slower American Battleships at the rear. His plan was also fairly simply, have the battleships sail alongside in line of battle formation to pound their German counterparts in the line while the battlecrusiers hooked ahead to engage the German van from two sides.

Hipper already had his ships in line formation and had since two o clock when he started sailing for him. His ships were laid out his formation in the opposite manner of the BRitish. His oldest and slowest battleships were at the front, with his newest and fastest behind them and his battlecruisers were taking up the rear. The reasoning was that the faster ships had a better chance of keeping up if they suffered an engineering casualty, being able to keep power in reserve, while the slow ships would have no chance of doing so without slowing down the fleet, which was not something Hipper could afford if he was to have any hope of getting home. By placing the slow ships to the front, they would have a chance to regain power and rejoin the line as it passed to port at a later point.

Tactically Hipper however had few options but to allow Sturdee to close. If he attempted to disrupt Sturdee’s formation with torpedo boats at this point, Sturdee would simply increase his lead on the German force as he was already between them and home. If Hipper could survive until he reached Vlieland, then he might have options. That however was hours away, until then he had no choice but to take whatever the British threw at him.

Fortunately his mines had bought time. With the loss of New Zealand and a pair of destroyers trying to chart the minefield, Sturdee had ordered his fleet to turn to the west briefly before diverting around the mines to the Northeast. This bought Hipper almost an hour, in which he made a further 16 nautical miles towards his goal.

Around 10:00 the two battle lines entered sight of each other and at about 10:30 the lead elements of the British force opened fire at extreme range. Fifteen minutes later the Germans began returning fire and the mismatch rapidly became apparent. Under attack by both the battlecruiser fleet and the fast battleships with their 15” and 14” guns the first generation Nassau class were proving inadequate with their 28cm guns and proportional protection. Heavy damage had begun to mount by 11:00 and at 11:15 Nassau exploded as a 14” shell from Eagle reached her magazines.

It was now apparent to Hipper that something had to be done to prevent his position from totally unravelling, and he ordered half his torpedo boats to make an attack on the British van. It was a massacre, with eleven lost and twelve heavily damaged in exchange for a British light cruiser and destroyer sunk and four destroyers heavily damaged. It did however force the British capital ships to turn away and bought his line an hours reprieve.

Hipper used the reprieve well, the crippled Rheinland was ordered to beach, or if possible intern herself, while Westfalen was to leave the line while she attempted to restore power. Damage control was done, ready ammunition replenished and tired gunners given a brief break.

After the German torpedo boats were driven off the British fleet turned back. Here they made their first major mistake of the battle. Admiral Phillmore in command of the Battlecruiser Fleet made the decision to extend his line in order to start engaging the German fleet earlier. This necessitated the large light cruisers, which had hitherto been hiding behind the battlecrusiers and engaging with indirect fire, take a place in line behind Repulse and Renown.

The folly of this was not immediately apparent as Posen was very quickly forced to pull out of line as the forces reengaged, with Helgoland set aflame soon after. However just after 12:30 one of Posen’s parting shots struck Glorious and punched clear through her inadequate armor into her magazines. Her loss forced Courageous to make a hard turn she was unprepared for to avoid striking her flaming wreck and ended with a collision between Courageous and Furious.

With his most fragile remaining ships crippled and helpless Phillmore ordered his battlecrusiers to close the range and distract the Germans as they withdrew. They were joined in this by the fast battleships under admiral Leveson. In the chaotic action that followed Helgoland, Oldenburg and the recovered Westfalen were lost as Ostfriesland was forced to pull out of line and beach. However heavy damage was done as the British closed the range and Repulse had to flood her magazines while HMS Malaya was hit by a torpedo from a torpedo boat aiding Oldenburg as she strayed too close.

It was here that the Second Major British mistake was made as Sturdee ordered that the fleet withdraw to prevent the sort of carnage to the detached force as seen at Fisher Bank. This prevented them from taking advantage of the disruption that was breaking out among the German line as damage accumulated among the ships further back, and gave Hipper a chance to reorganize after Kronprinz lost steering and had to be beached.

At 2:00 the fleets engaged once again. This time there would be no reprieve for the Germans. Under the cover of the battle line guns Sturdee ordered a massed destroyer attack on the German line. The outnumbered German screen did what they could but were too heavily outnumbered. Bayern, Seydlitz, Hindenburg,and Prinzregent Luitpold were lost and Lutzow, Sachsen and Wurttemburg forced to beach while Mackensen, Koenig, Thuringen and Markgraf were crippled. However Vanguard and Ramilles were hit by stray torpedoes launched into the melee, the former sunk outright, while the latter had her rudder jammed full starboard and forced to circle right into the melee where she was torpedoed again and lost.

The torpedo attack effectively broke the German line due to the need to dodge torpedoes and flaming wrecks. Realizing that any chance of getting the majority of his fleet home was lost, Hipper ordered that the remaining undamaged Battlecruisers, light cruisers and torpedo boats head for home as his battleships covered them. Anything not capable of making at least 24 knots was to make for Dutch waters, to be interned whether afloat or on the beach.

The chaotic action took time, during which Thuringen and Kaiserin were lost as Koenig was forced to beach. However the battlecruisers were able to punch a hole in the British destroyers and cruisers screening the front of the German line, at a cost of a torpedo hit on Graf Spee that would ultimately doom her. The British battlecruisers gave chase and Moltke was crippled early on and forced to beach. Later on as the chase continued Derfflinger was hit and lost half her boilers. In order to give her companions a chance to escape the Kaiser’s Iron Bitch charged the British line and inflicted heavy damage before being put down. By the time darkness fell only Graf Spee, five cruisers and eleven torpedo boats remained, by which point they had reached close enough to German waters for their pursuers to turn back. However that would not save Graf Spee as the torpedo hit she had taken earlier caused progressive flooding, as her rushed wartime construction meant many of her watertight seals weren’t. She would finally be beached off Wangerooge, barely twenty nautical miles from home. Her smaller consorts would join the two minelayers as the only escaped German surface units.

Behind the escaping light units the battle continued. Now bereft of their escorts, it was only the previous expenditure of torpedoes that saved Hipper’s force from being delivered the coup de grace by the British screen. Instead it would fall to the guns of the battle line, with Koenig Albert and Mackensen falling in short succession, taking Hercules with them. It was then that Baden’s bridge took a hit that killed Admiral Hipper. Command then transferred to Friedrich der Grosse and Vice Admiral Nordmann.

Nordmann, recognizing the hopeless situation ordered his ships to strike their colors and surrendered the six remaining battleships of the High Seas Fleet, all greatly damaged, to Sturdee. The surface portion of the battle was over.

However the funeral pyres of so many ships proved a beacon to U-Boats. St. Vincent was torpedoed and sunk as she headed for home. Furious and Malaya were hit by the same U-Boat shortly afterwards, with Furious sunk outright, and Malaya exploding after ninety minutes, taking with her Renown who had pulled alongside to aide her. Finally Monarch had her bow blown off by a third U-Boat early the next morning in the last action of the battle.

In total the HSF had effectively ceased to exist. Six battleships were surrendered to the Grand Fleet, two of which would sink before making port of their own accord. Four more were beached along the Dutch coastline and a fifth interned in a Dutch port with the other ten lost. Of the battlecruisers four had been sunk and three beached, one of which was in German waters, the other two in Dutch. 11 light cruisers had been lost, two had beached and two interned themselves in the Netherlands while five escaped. Of the torpedo boats 3 had been captured by the British, 45 had been destroyed, 5 had beached, 7 interned themselves in the Netherlands and 11 escaped to join the pair of minelayers. Three U-Boats had also been lost over the course of the operation, alongside countless lives.

However they had reaped a deadly toll. Two of the most modern Royal Navy battleships had been lost, along with one of their newest battlecruisers. Three older battleships and a battlecruiser joined them, along with two large light cruisers, seven monitors, nine light cruisers, twenty-nine destroyers sunk and two beached in the Netherlands, thirteen merchantmen lost and one British and one American submarine mistaken for U-Boats. Most of the remaining capital ships were damaged to greater or lesser degrees, with only two of the American battleships having escaped unscathed…

-Excerpt from 101 Great Naval Battles, American Youth Press, New York 2010

…From one perspective the Battles of the Eastern Approaches were a senseless waste of lives. Germany was going to lose the war no matter what happened. There was no significant effect on the Peace Treaty that came of the battle.

However from another perspective it was quite successful. Ignoring unquantifiable arguments about honor, from a material perspective it was a success. The HSF could have been considered lost already, it being expended in combat lost Germany nothing in terms of ships it would retain after the war. From a personnel perspective, many trained officers and sailors were lost, however callous it may sound they were expendable as the German Navy would have had to severely downsize and lose their expertise in any case, so it could be argued from personnel perspective again nothing was lost here.

In contrast the British took losses they would feel for decades. In terms of battleships the British had 33 Dreadnought battleships before the battle, afterwards they had 28. Two of those would have to be returned to Chile after the war, and two more that were not built to RN specs, leaving 24 for the post war world. Of these 7 were 12” armed units that were obsolescent if not obsolete, 11 were 13.5” ships that were acceptable for the next decade and barely passable for the 30’s, and 6 were 15” ships that could serve into the 40’s. The loss of 2 15” ships in the battle thus reduced the number of second line battleships available in the 40’s by 25%.

In battlecruisers it was a similar story. Before the Battle they had 8 battlecruisers, with 4 more building, afterwards it was 6. Of those the 4 building were the excellent 15” armed Admirals, 1 was Repulse with 15” guns, 2 had 13.5” guns, and 2 12”, one of which was actually owned by Australia. The story with the Battlecruisers was similar to the battleships, except the need for fast capital ships to chase raiders was even greater than slow battleships for convoy escort and shore bombardment and a 15% reduction there was felt even more keenly.

The biggest loss may actually have been the large light cruisers. While marginal as surface combatants even when used properly, they had already been identified as excellent candidates for conversion to aircraft carriers. The loss of Glorious and Furious, and severe damage to Courageous that made conversion uneconomical, thus proved to be an expensive one. The RN took longer to start learning carrier operations than otherwise and had to build her flawed first generation carriers from scratch.

Losses in lighter units and personnel, while agonizing did not have that sort of material effect. The loss of potential coastal guns and turrets with the monitors was felt, as was the loss of the most modern light cruisers and destroyers, but these were minor compared to those of the larger units. Personnel losses while tragic did not materially affect the RN, given the size of the postwar cutbacks in end strength.

In total however the RN was put at a noticeable disadvantage compared to where it could have been. Thus one can make the argument that Scheer was correct, the last sortie of the HSF did make the position of the German navy better when it would again clash with the Royal Navy…

-Excerpt from Naval History Between the Wars, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2007

Okay update here, still not the most plausible. Somewhat delayed due to school work and totally not work on an SI that well never see the light of I swear
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Huh, neat; the cut and thrust of the battle was well done, and I enjoyed the tactical choices made. Huge causality counts for both fleets, and probably a number of battle honours on both sides for exceptional sailors, but both sides came away greatly weakened. Even if as you say the Germans made a strategic choices that they can afford given how it advantages them against the Brits in Round 2.

Thanks for this better than Jutland battle.