Both fleets sailed in a similar formation, with a scouting squadron of battlecruisers sailing ahead of the main battle fleets. The battle falls into five main phases. The first came when Admiral Beatty, commanding the British battle cruisers encountered their weaker German equivalent under Admiral Hipper, (31 May) and chased them south towards the main German fleet. The second phase saw Beatty flee north, pursued by the German Dreadnoughts. So far, both sides thought the battle was going to plan, although a design flaw led to the destruction of two British battle cruisers. Now, in the third phase the Germans got a nasty surprise. Thinking themselves involved in a chase that would end with the destruction of the British battlecruisers, they found themselves under bombardment from Jellicoe's battlefleet, which they had thought to be too far north to intervene. The heavy British guns quickly forced Scheer to order a retreat, but then Scheer made what could have turned into a grievous error, turning back, possibly hoping to pass behind Jellicoe, and escape into the Baltic. However, Jellicoe had slowed down, and the German fleet found themselves crossing in front of the British fleet, and in ten minutes of gunfire suffered 27 heavy hits while only inflicted two. Once again, Scheer ordered a retreat. Finally, in the last phase of the battle, in a night of intense fighting, the retreat of the German battleships was covered by their lighter ships, while Jellicoe lost time after turning to avoid a potential torpedo attack. The Germans lost one battlecruiser, one pre-Dreadnought, four light cruisers and five destroyers, while the British lost three battlecruisers, four armoured cruisers, and eight destroyers. . However, many of the surviving German heavy ships had suffered serious damage, and one result of the battle was to increase the British dominance in heavy ships.
Jutland was the last, and largest, of the great battleship battles. Neither submarines or aircraft played any part in the battle, despite the plans of both sides. Never again did battle fleets meet again in such numbers. While the Royal Navy suffered more losses, the battle effectively ended any threat from the High Seas Fleet, which now knew it could not contest control of the North Sea with the Royal Navy. The great fleet which Kaiser Wilhelm II had been obsessed with, and which had done so much to sour relations between Britain and Germany had proved to be a blunted weapon. Despite that, the battle disappointed in Britain, where news of a new Trafalgar had been expected, and the hard fought draw at Jutland was not appreciated until much later, while the Kaiser claimed a German victory.