German Cruiser 1915

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SMS Blither at the Battle of the Dogger Bank, 1915
24 January 1915 saw a major clash in the North Sea, when four German and five British battle cruisers met on the Dogger Bank fishing grounds. Outnumbered and outgunned, the ships of the High Seas Fleet managed to escape all but the Blucher, left to her fate as a sacrifice.

The First World War was almost six months old before a significant German force ventured out, with the somewhat puerile intention of destroying or capturing British boats engaged in the herring fishery. It consisted of three modern battle cruisers Admiral von Hipper's flagship Seydlitz and the Moltke, each with ten 28cm (11 in) guns, and the brand-new Derfflinger, with eight 30.5cm (12in) guns and the armoured cruiser Blucher, with twelve 21 cm (8.25in) guns, inferior armour and a top speed some three knots slower than the others, screened by cruisers and destroyers. In London, Naval Intelligence knew of the German plans before the ships even got up steam, and on the evening of 23 January, the Royal Navy's 1st and 2nd Battle-Cruiser Squadrons under Vice-Admiral Beatty Lion, Tiger and Princess Royal, with 13.5in (343mm) guns and New Zealand and the somewhat slower Indomitable, armed with 12in (305mm) guns with their attendant cruisers and destroyers were on their way to the area at full speed.

The first shots were fired at 0715, and immediately Hipper realised he was running into a trap. He turned to steam back in a south-easterly direction and signalled his ships to increase speed to 23 knots the best Blucher could sustain but Beatty, coming from the north-west, had ordered full speed, and his ships began to overhaul. The British lead ship, Beatty's Lion, came within range of the German tail-ender, Blucher, at 0900, and opened fire at 20,000 yards. Tiger and Princess Royal soon joined in, and landed salvo after salvo. By 0930, all the capital ships on both sides were engaged, and within the hour, Lion had taken severe punishment, having been hit 16 times; she was forced to retire from the action before 1100, as Blucher began to fall noticeably behind (though the other German ships had escaped almost unscathed, Seydlitz, though she had sustained serious damage, having been hit just twice and Derrflinger once; the appalling standard of British gunnery was to attract enormous attention). A confusion over signals now sealed her fate, and the remaining British ships concentrated their fire on her, allowing Hipper and the rest of his force to slip away. By 1145 the Blucher was a blazing wreck, all her guns out of action, and at 1210, by now hit by seven torpedoes and over 70 shells, she succumbed. Capsizing, she lay dead in the water for several minutes, then sank, taking with her most of her crew of 1026 (a total of 280 German sailors were picked up by the cruiser Arethusa.

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