The Battle of Jutland 31st May 1916 - Background

The German High Seas Fleet had been created by Admiral von Tirpitz based on 'risk theory'. That is to say that, because of the size of the High Seas Fleet, the British fleet would not risk opposing it in battle for fear of losing that many ships that it was exposed to attack from other nations. Though well trained, disciplined, motivated and well equipped, the High Seas Fleet was never really expected to have to fight.

Britain was dependent on imported food and materials. Britain needed a large navy to protect the trade routes from her overseas colonies and trade partners. Britain also needed a large navy to protect her from invasion by a foreign nation. In the event of war Britain's offensive naval policy was to blockade an enemy's coastline to prevent trade.

In a war against Germany all the Royal Navy needed to do was prevent the High Seas fleet from escaping into the Atlantic and prevent merchant ships from getting to Germany. Controlling the routes north past Scotland and south through the English Channel and simply existing was sufficient to dominate the High Seas Fleet.

The North Sea was blockaded by the Royal Navy to prevent merchant ships reaching Germany

The British Grand Fleet, based at Scapa Flow in Scotland, was much larger than the German High Seas Fleet. The German Admiralty knew they would be at a serious disadvantage in a Fleet action and could not defeat the Grand Fleet in a pitched battle. The British however knew that they had little to gain by the destruction of the High Seas Fleet and everything to lose if defeated. The result was a relative stalemate in which both sides were reluctant to seek an outright battle.