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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

German Coastal Raids


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There is a lot of material relating to the coastal bombardment of towns by elements of the German fleet, mostly what is covered is casualties, damage and the reply by light coastal batteries. What were the failures that allowed this to happen? was it not considered a possibility? what about minefields and fast response torpedo capable ships patrols? was anyone held accountable? and finally what were the changes made to prevent further such attacks.


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Here's a potted view:-

The idea of the raids on the German side was to draw out a portion of the Grand Fleet onto the guns of the High Seas Fleet so as to atritt the British numerical superiority. Torpedo boats were not really capable on their own against heavy ships as their short weapon range would put them under heavy gunfire for possibly tens of minutes before they could close sufficiently to launch, and one major-calibre hit would usually finish their attack. Minefields were always tricky, though they were placed - perhaps with a lowish level of commitment - because they restricted movement of friends as well as foes.

Although severely insulted by the raids, the British response was moderated by the need to maintain numerical superiority in overall fleet terms, so as not to jeopardise the distant blockade - which ultimately was a major factor in forcing the Armistice.

One response was to base Beatty's battlecruisers at Rosyth rather than Scapa to give them a better chance to intercept, at least on the German withdrawal. Several attempts were made to intercept, but despite often knowing general German intentions in advance, uncertain weather conditions and weak or bungled signalling prevented much success until the Dogger Bank action of early 1915.

The Dogger Bank action - even though that finished with another signals failure - convinced the HSF that these raids were too risky as the chance of being cut off by Beatty with the HSF too far away to help was too great. Hipper's battlecruisers were from then on mostly used to harass British and neutral light shipping in the eastern North Sea, again with a view to annihilating whatever fast units of the RN were sent to engage them by drawing them onto the German battlefleet. This was what eventually produced the Battle of Jutland.



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