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A History of Sea Power by Stevens and Westcott

The German destroyers were painted gray


As

for types and weapons it is clear that the armored cruisers served only as good targets and death traps. The British would have been better off if every armored cruiser had been left at home. The dominating feature of the story is the influence of the torpedo on Jellicoe's tactics. It is fair to say that it was the Parthian tactics of the German destroyer, both actual and potential, that saved the High Seas Fleet and robbed the British of a greater Trafalgar. At every crisis in the battle it was either what the German destroyer did or might do that governed the British commander's maneuvers. At the time of deployment he formed on the farthest rather than on the nearest division because of what German destroyers might do. When the Grand Fleet swung away to the east and lost all contact with their enemy for the rest of the battle, it was because of a destroyer attack. At this time eleven destroyers accomplished the feat of driving 27 dreadnoughts from the field! Again, the pursuit was called off at nightfall because of the peril of destroyer attacks under cover of darkness, and finally Jellicoe decided not to risk an action the following morning because his capital ships had no screening forces against the torpedo of the enemy. It is worth noting in this connection that although the Admiralty were aware of the battle in progress, they held back the Harwich force of destroyers and light cruisers which would have proved a welcome reenforcement in pursuing the retreating fleet. The
reason for this decision has never been published.

In connection with the important part played by the German destroyers at Jutland it is worth remarking that before the war it was the Admiralty doctrine that destroyers could not operate successfully by day, and they were accordingly painted black for night service. The German destroyers were painted gray. After Jutland the British flotillas also were painted the battleship gray.

Naturally the failure of the superior fleet to crush the inferior one aroused a storm of criticism, the most severe emanating from English naval writers. The sum and substance is the charge of overcaution on the part of the British Commander in Chief. It is held that Jellicoe should have formed his battle line on his starboard instead of his port wing, thus turning toward the enemy and concentrating on the head of their column at once. Forming on the port division caused the battle fleet to swerve away from the enemy and open the range just at the critical moment of contact, leaving Beatty unsupported in his dash across the head of the enemy's line. It is said that the latter even sent a signal to the _Marlborough_ for the battleships to fall in astern of him, and the failure to do so made his maneuver fruitless. Apparently this message was not transmitted to the flagship at the time. In answer Jellicoe explains in great detail that the preliminary reports received from Goodenough and others as to the position of the High Seas Fleet were so meager and conflicting that he could not form line of battle earlier than he did, and secondly that deploying on the starboard division at the moment of sighting the enemy would have thrown the entire battle fleet into confusion, blanketed their fire, and created a dangerous opening for torpedo attack from the destroyers at the head of the German column. On this point Scheer agrees with the critics. Deploying on the starboard division instead of the port, he says, "would have greatly impeded our movements and rendered a fresh attack on the enemy's line extremely difficult."


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