Battle of Dogger Bank, 24 January 1915

Second significant naval battle of the First World War, the first time heavy units of the British and German fleets came into direct contact. By 1915, the British Admiralty had gained access to the three main codes used by the German navy, and were able to decode German naval transmissions at the same speed as the Germans could themselves. The Germans soon realised that news of their sailing was getting to the British, but decided that the culprits were British spy ships posing as neutral Dutch fishermen.

SMS Blucher capsizing at Dogger Bank, 24 January 1915
SMS Blucher
capsizing at Dogger Bank,
24 January 1915
Accordingly, the Germans decided to send out a battle cruiser squadron under Admiral Hipper, to disrupt the British patrols in the area. However, news of their plan reached the admiralty, and both Admiral Beatty, based at the Forth, and Admiral Jellicoe, from Scape Flow, sailed to intercept them. Beatty's battlecruiser squadron was to do the fighting, with Jellicoe's battleships sailing to prevent any German breakout. Hipper, sailing north at speed, encountered Beatty's heavier ships at Dogger Bank, and immediately turned tail and headed for home, with the British in hot pursuit, and gaining.

The oldest German ship, SMS 'Blucher', was soon badly damaged, but by concentrating their fire, the Germans managed to force Beatty on HMS Lion to fall out of the chase. In the following confusion, Beatty's signals were misunderstood, and the British concentrated on the already doomed 'Blucher', allowing the remaining three German battlecruisers to escape what had looked like a certain sinking. Both sides realised that there were flaws in their fleets - the British concentrated on their signals, but the Germans made the more important improvements. One of their ships had nearly been sunk after an explosion in the magazines, and it was realised that the problem was that too much explosive material had been taken from secure storage to the gun turrets, where it was vulnerable to any incoming shots. The Germans thus tightened up their ammunition handling, but the Royal Navy did not, and at the battle of Jutland lost several ships after flashes detonated the explosions.

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

Naval Battles of the First World War, Geoffrey Bennett . Although this was first published in the 1960s it is still a good account of the major surface clashes of the First World War, looking at the early clashes in the world's oceans and the series of battles in the North Sea, ending with Jutland. The final part of the book looks at the U-boat war, although not in as much detail as the earlier surface sections. [read full review]
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Routledge Atlas of the First World WarThe Routledge Atlas of the First World War, a good historical atlas that makes the overall nature of the war clear. Contains over 150 maps, covering just about every major aspect of the conflict from the pre-war tensions that led to war to the Armistice in 1918. [see more]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J. (6 April 2001), Battle of Dogger Bank, 24 January 1915,

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