Scottish Base (02:13)
On July 30, 1914, ten soldiers took control of a telegraph station in the Orkney Islands, which would serve as a base for the British Royal Navy in World War I. Dreadnoughts charged with protecting British cargo ships and the coastline made the journey from Portsmouth.
British Royal Fleet (05:21)
The naval fleet and 40,000 men led by Admiral George Callahan arrived in the natural harbor of Scapa Flow on July 31, 1914. Callahan was quickly replaced by Admiral John Jellicoe. Jellicoe was tasked with leading the navy against new enemies with new technologies.
Britain built 35 dreadnoughts for World War I; they were the peak of military technology at the time The ships were expensive but viewed as a necessary cost to protect Britain.
Though he had 21 dreadnoughts, Jellicoe worried about protecting the British fleet from German U-Boats. On September 5, 1915, a U-Boat sunk its first British warship off the coast of St. Abbs, Scotland. The British navy began closing off the channels into Scapa Flow.
Hawsker Sound (03:33)
The width of the main entrance into Scapa Flow made it hard to defend. A coast battery was built to protect the entrance and small ships controlled anti-submarine nets. With defenses in place, Jellicoe amassed his fleet.
Seamen in Orkney (03:07)
More than 40,000 sailors from port towns throughout Britain arrived near Scapa Flow. Farmers made great profits selling directly to the navy and fleet boxing matches attracted huge crowds.
Imperial German Navy (03:53)
The German navy's main bases were in Kiel and Wilhelmshaven. On August 28, 1914, the British navy attacked German ships and had its first naval success at the Battle of Heligoland Bight. The German ships attacked Scarborough in December 1914.
British Battle Cruisers (09:27)
Jellicoe sent the fastest ships to the Rosyth Dockyard in Fife. The ships were placed under the command of Vice Admiral David Richard Beatty. On January 23, 1915, Beatty defeated German battle cruisers at the Battle of Dogger Bank, but a signaling mistake tarnished Beatty's reputation.
Naval Communication (02:58)
Radio technology was new when WWI began, and the British navy still used flag communication. It was reliant on all ships being within view of each other.
River Forth (04:27)
By May 1916, Beatty's fleet size doubled and included five super dreadnoughts. The size and number of ships at the Rosyth Dockyard had greatly increased and new defenses were added to the river.
Battle of Jutland (09:14)
In May 1916, Jellicoe and Beatty learned the German fleet was sailing into the North Sea and prepared for battle. British and German fleets began firing on each other on May 31, 1916. Beatty suffered huge losses maneuvered the German ships into Jellicoe’s range.
Aftermath of Jutland (05:41)
The German fleet was forced to turn back to Wilhelmshaven. The navy was criticized for signal failures. Though a winner was not determined, newspapers around the world called it a British defeat.
Credits: The War at Sea: The Dreadnoughts of Scapa Flow (00:29)
Credits: The War at Sea: The Dreadnoughts of Scapa Flow
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