Shipwreck Secrets exclusive: Why did so many British die in epic WWI Jutland sea battle?

Shipwreck Secrets exclusive
A still of the footage obtained by Shipwreck Secrets that shows the ferocity of the sea battle back in 1916. Pic credit: Science Channel.

Shipwreck Secrets comes to the Science Channel on Sunday nights. This week, an epic World War I battle is examined, with the remnants of its clash found off the coast of Denmark.

Thousands of British naval soldiers met their death in the North Sea, but what was this battle over specifically and why did the British lose so spectacularly?

The answer distilled down is that communications lines and wartime intel were gravely mishandled.

What battle did the British lose in WWI?

It was the Battle of Jutland, also called Battle of the Skagerrak, that happened in the spring of 1916. It was the only major sea skirmish between the main British and German battle fleets in World War I, fought near the Skagerrak, part of the North Sea, about 60 miles off the west coast of Jutland (Denmark).

According to the battle sequence laid out in the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Germans got the jump on positions, and the British were not prepared for what met them off Denmark.

They wrote:

The [German] flagship, the Lützow, opened fire, which was promptly returned, but during the next 20 minutes the British line suffered severely: the Lion, the Princess Royal, and the Tiger were hit repeatedly, and the Indefatigable, caught by two salvoes from the Von der Tann, capsized and sank. The 5th Battle Squadron (left behind by the faster battle cruisers) now joined the British line, and its heavy guns caused such damage to Hipper’s battle cruisers that the German torpedo-boat screen moved in to launch a torpedo attack. At this moment another British battle cruiser, the Queen Mary, blew up with a shattering explosion, having been hit in a main magazine.

The bones of all these ships lay like ghosts in the waters still. This is where Michael Barnette and his team of researchers takes us this Shipwreck Secrets Sunday, to see the force of the battle up close, where so many young lives perished in one day in 25 shipwrecks.

Now, advances in underwater technology and previously unseen documents are answering questions still being asked more than 100 years after the battle. They include inquiries such as why were so many British ships broken into and why did the British lose such a high number on that fateful day?

What other maritime mysteries are explored on Shipwreck Secrets?

The SS Justicia — A British ship sunk during World War I, torpedoed by a submarine near Malin’s Head, Ireland.

The Ghost Ships of Chuuk Lagoon — In 1944, American forces launched an attack on Japan’s primary World War II base in the South Pacific, and over a two-day bombardment, more than 60 Japanese Imperial Vessels ended up on the floor of the lagoon, partly in retribution for Pearl Harbor.

And the Lake Serpent — A 200-year-old schooner lies at the bottom of Lake Erie, which was an integral part of the North American trade route through the Great Lakes.

Our exclusive preview of Shipwreck Secrets

Watch as the mystery intrigues the Shipwreck Secrets team who research the ghostly images and uncover the details of this great battle and why the British lost so many that fateful day.

Shipwreck Secrets airs Sundays at 8/7c on the Science Channel.

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