Battle of Dogger Bank

Battle of Dogger Bank

The Battle of Dogger Bank was the result of the German Navy’s belief that trawlers in that area were monitoring their movements and sending the information by wireless to the British Admiralty. The German Admiral Franz Ritter von Hipper intended to deal with them, and other British light forces he believed were in the area.

Hipper was proceeding on a false premise. The Admiralty understood the German codes, and thus much about their naval movements. German naval raids on the English coast early in the war had been a great embarrassment to the British and the Royal Navy in particular. They were anxious to make a point. On 24 January 1915, two opposing forces of battlecruisers and accompanying smaller vessels were to meet.

The Shetland newspapers reported the battle. A Shetland seafarer was on board, Charles Richard Jones, an Englishman who had settled in Lerwick, staying in 4 Navy Lane. He was on board Admiral Beatty’s flagship, HMS Lion. The Shetland News wrote fully about his experience, "Lerwick Seaman’s Thrilling Story of North Sea Battle". He had got home on Sunday 31 January, on the St Rognvald steamer. A crowd had gathered, and Able Seaman Jones was "warmly cheered".

It wasn’t Charles Jones first engagement. He had been in action at Heligoland in September 1914. He was to spend the Dogger Bank encounter in the magazines of the Lion. Information came to the men there via speaking tube. The main German casualty was the obsolescent but robust German cruiser Blucher. He noted that "she fought gamely to the last".

The Lion was hit several times by Hipper’s battlecruisers -- "a sort of jar, or rather a series of vibrations whenever a salvo got home". Charles Jones heard the battle, rather than saw it. The Lion was so badly damaged that Beatty had to transfer to another ship, the Princess Royal.

Hipper escaped, and a series of errors prevented effective British pursuit. Ominously, for what was to follow at Jutland, the German fire had been more accurate than the British. All the same, British morale was high. They had proceeded about their enemy coolly. The News quoted Charles Jones, "They all could have been at manoeuvres... there was no excitement anywhere".

The battlecruiser HMS Lion. Wikipedia.
The sinking SMS Blücher rolls over onto her side. Wikipedia.