Battle of Heligoland Bight

22nd September, 1914
D. 25088/14/


I am commanded by My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to acquaint you that in the case of each ship which was engaged in the recent action in the Heligoland Bight whether damaged or not, the words "Heligoland August 28th. 1914" are to be painted in gold letters in some convenient place.

Further, in the case of HMS "Arethusa", My Lords have decided that the following verses are to be engraved upon a brass plate and fixed in a conspicuous place in the ship:-

Come all ye jolly Sailors bold,
Whose hearts are cast in honour's mould,
While English Glory I unfold,
Huzza for the "Arethusa"!
Her men are staunch
To their fav'rite launch,
And when the foe shall meet our fire,
Sooner than strike, we'll all expire
On board of the "Arethusa".

And now we've driven the foe ashore,
Never to fight with Britons more,
Let each fill his glass
To his fav'rite lass;
A health to our Captain and Officers true,
And all that belong to the jovial crew,
On board of the "Arethusa".

Action has already been taken in regard to H. M. Ships "Arethusa", "Fearless", "Laurel", "Liberty", "Laertes" and "Goshawk", which were damaged, and with the exception of the "Fearless", were subsequently repaired at H. M. Dockyard, Chatham. Approval has also been given for the inscription to be painted in H. M. Ships "Attack" and "Legion".

My Lords desire that you will cause the necessary steps to be taken to have the inscription placed in all the remaining vessels affected, the work being carried out by the Ship's Artificers or by the Dockyards as convenient.

These instructions will be included in the next issue of the Admiralty Weekly Orders.

Duplicates of this letter are being sent to the Vice Admirals Commanding, 1st., 2nd., 3rd., and 4th., Battle Squadrons, Vice Admirals Commanding Cruiser Force A, Rear Admiral Commanding Cruiser Force K, Admiral of Patrols, and Commodore (T), and Commodore (S).
I am,
Your obedient Servant,
[signed] O. Murray.

The Commander-in-Chief
H. M. Ships and Vessels,
HMS "Iron Duke"

British Naval Forces
Admiral Sir David Beatty
Admiral Christian
Admiral Jellicoe
Commodore Keyes
Commodore Tyrwhitt
Commodore Goodenough

German Naval Force
Admiral von Ingenohl

The first great sea fight of the World War was fought on August 28, 1914, off Heligoland Bight, in the North Sea, resulting in a victory for the British.

A large fleet of German light cruisers, destroyers, and submarines was lying under the protection of the batteries on the island of Heligoland. From this naval base, German submarines had been operating against British shipping. Admiral Jellicoe conceived a plan to entice this German fleet away from the protection of the Heligoland fort, close in upon it from both flanks, and then destroy it in the open sea.

While squadrons of concealed British battleships, cruisers, and destroyers were guarding either side of the Bight, Commodore Keyes, on August 27, 1914, moved his flotilla of eight submarines and two destroyers toward Heligoland at midnight.

The next morning three of the British submarines, their hulls showing above water, steamed slowly toward the island fortress, followed by five submersed boats and two destroyers. A fleet of 21 German destroyers hastened out to give battle, and the visible British boats turned tail. A German airplane, operating above, signaled to the fort and soon a squadron of German light cruisers joined in the pursuit.

The three visible British submarines, acting as decoys, headed for the northwest, pursued by a flotilla of German submarines, destroyers, and torpedo boats, and a fleet of light cruisers. The odds seemed to please the Germans. But lying in wait for them were Commodore Tyrwhitt's two destroyer flotillas, Commodore Goodenough's light cruiser squadron, Admiral Christian's cruiser squadron, and behind these Admiral. Beatty's squadron of battleships with four destroyers.

The first shock of battle was borne by the British cruiser Arethusa, which gallantly engaged two German cruisers, the Ariadne and the Strassburg. Though badly damaged by German shells, the Arethusa held out for half an hour or more until the Fearless had come to her assistance, and then hurled a shell that shattered the forebridge of the Ariadne, killing the commander. Both the German vessels then drew off to Heligoland. The Arethusa was in a bad plight; all but one of her guns were disabled; fire was raging on her main deck, and her water tank was punctured. She was towed away by the Fearless.

Meanwhile, the flotillas had been hotly engaged. One German destroyer, the B-187, headed straight for the line of British destroyers, and though riddled with shells, her guns kept up their booming, and her crew their cheering up to the moment she sank. Ten other German destroyers were damaged and the English destroyers also were battered.

For an hour, between 9 and 10, there was a lull in the fight; then the battle was resumed. The Arethusa and the Ariadne, having been repaired, again appeared in the line. The German cruisers Mains, Köln, and Strassburg reopened the fight by firing upon some small British boats that were engaged in rescue work. The Arethusa and the Fearless, with several destroyers, gave battle to the three German cruisers. In short order the Strassburg was disabled and limped back to Heligoland.

The British battleship Lion now appeared on the scene, and quickly sank the Mains with a torpedo. The battleship Queen Mary then engaged the Köln, which turned tail, but before she could get away a shell from the Lion found her vitals, and she sank with her crew of 370. The Ariadne, which had come to the rescue of the Köln, was then sent to the bottom.

With three cruisers and one destroyer sunk, one cruiser and seven destroyers badly damaged, 700 sailors drowned and 300 taken prisoners, the Germans acknowledged defeat. The British escaped without the loss of a ship.

British Cruisers Sunk by Submarines

The submarine boat was an important ally of Germany from the beginning. On September 3, 1914, the British gunboat Speedy struck a mine in the North Sea and went down. On September 5, 1914, the cruiser Pathfinder was sent to the bottom off the east coast of England with great loss of life.

Three English cruisers — the Cressy, Hogue, and Aboukir — while patrolling the coast of Holland, on September 22, 1914, were torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-9, Captain Otto Weddigen. The Aboukir was struck first, and the Hogue and Cressy went to her assistance.

While cutters from the Cressy were returning with the rescued sailors from the Aboukir, the Hogue was struck. And while trying to save the crew of the Hogue, their own vessel was sent to the bottom. Of the 1459 officers and men comprising the crew of the three vessels, only 779 were saved.

The English retaliated, on September 13, 1914, by torpedoing the German cruiser Hela near Heligoland.

The First Battle of Heligoland Bight was the first naval battle of the First World War, fought on 28 August 1914, after the British planned to attack German patrols off the north-west German coast.

The German High Seas Fleet remained largely in safe harbours on the north German coast while the British Grand Fleet remained in the northern North Sea. Both sides engaged in long-distance sorties with cruisers and battlecruisers, and close reconnaissance of the area of sea near the German coast, the Heligoland Bight, by destroyer. A plan was devised by the British to ambush some of these destroyers on their regular daily patrols, and a fleet of 31 destroyers and two cruisers under Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt and submarines commanded by Commodore Roger Keyes was dispatched for this purpose. This was supported at longer range by an additional six light cruisers commanded by William Goodenough, and five battlecruisers commanded by Vice Admiral David Beatty.

Three German light cruisers and one destroyer were sunk. Three more light cruisers were damaged, 712 sailors killed, 530 injured and 336 taken prisoner. The British suffered one light cruiser and three destroyers damaged, 35 killed and 40 wounded. The battle was regarded as a great victory in Britain, where the returning ships were met by cheering crowds. Publicly, Admiral Beatty was regarded as a hero, although he had taken little part in the action or planning of the raid, which was led by Commodore Tyrwhitt and conceived by him and Keyes, who had persuaded the Admiralty to adopt it. However, the raid might have led to disaster had not the additional forces under Beatty been sent by Admiral John Jellicoe at the last minute.

The effect upon the German government and in particular the Kaiser was to restrict the freedom of action of the German fleet, instructing it to remain in port and avoid any contact with superior forces.


The battle took place less than a month after Britain's declaration of war against Germany on 5 August 1914. Initially the war on land went badly for the French and their allies, with German forces invading France and an urgent need to gather all possible troops to send to France to resist them. The government was in a position of having nothing but bad news, and looked to the navy, the largest in the world and traditionally the mainstay of British military power, for some success to report. British naval tactics had typically involved a close blockade of enemy ports, taking the fight to the enemy, and this had been the British plan for war against Germany up to 1913. Such an approach was still expected by the British population. However, it was realised that the advent of submarines armed with torpedoes and mines hidden in open sea meant that any operations involving stationing capital ships near enemy ports would place them at great risk of surprise attack and loss. Then, there was the issue of fuel for the ships: traditional sail powered ships did not need refueling, but powered ships obliged to keep moving to reduce their vulnerability as sitting targets, were continuously using fuel, and had to return to home ports every few days.

The German fleet had expected that Britain would adopt its traditional approach, and had prepared by investing in submarines and coastal defences. The main body of the German navy, the High Seas Fleet, was smaller than the British Grand Fleet stationed around home waters and could not expect victory in a head to head fight. It therefore adopted a tactic of waiting in defended home ports for opportunities to attack the larger British force when the anticipated attack came. The British, appreciating this situation chose to adopt a tactic of patrolling the North Sea rather than waters close to Germany. Any German ships seeking to leave their home ports on the German coast must either pass the 20-mile-wide Straits of Dover, defended by British submarines and mines, or the North Sea, where the British fleet was stationed around its main wartime base at Scapa Flow in Scotland, defending the 200-mile-wide narrowest point between Britain and Norway. This led to a standoff with neither fleet doing more than hold the other endlessly waiting. The German ships were contained in an area where they could not attack merchant shipping arriving on the west of Britain, which was vital for British survival. To encourage the German fleet to stay at home, the British would make occasional forays with the Grand Fleet and patrol with smaller cruiser and battlecruiser squadrons.

The bulk of the British Expeditionary Force was transported to France between 12 and 21 August. This operation was protected from German attack by British destroyers and submarines patrolling Heligoland Bight, which German ships would have to cross when leaving their home ports. The Grand Fleet remained in the centre of the North Sea ready to move south should any German attack commence, but none came. Although the German army had anticipated a rapid transfer of the British army to aid France, German naval planning had anticipated it would take longer for the British to organise. Thus they were caught by surprise when it commenced, with submarines which might have been ordered to attack the British transports away on patrols seeking the main British fleet.

Plan of attack

Two British officers believed they had determined an opening to carry the war to the German fleet. Commodore Roger Keyes commanded a squadron of long-range submarines which regularly patrolled Heligo Bight, while Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt commanded a destroyer patrol, both operating from Harwich. They had observed that German destroyers had adopted a regular pattern of patrols where each evening cruisers would escort out destroyers, which would patrol for British ships during the night before being met and escorted home each morning. Their idea was to send in a superior force during darkness to catch the German destroyers as they returned. Three British submarines would surface in a position to draw the destroyers back out to sea while a larger British force of thirty one destroyers accompanied by nine submarines would cut them off from Germany. Other submarines would wait for any larger German ships leaving the Jade estuary to help. Keyes impressed First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill by the daring of his plan which was adopted, but not without changes. An attack at 8.00am on the German daytime patrol was preferred. Keyes and Tyrwhitt requested support for their operation, in particular bringing the Grand Fleet south and the support of the squadron of six light cruisers commanded by Commodore William Goodenough. This was refused by the Chief of Staff, vice-admiral Doveton Sturdee, who instead agreed to place only lighter forces, "Cruiser Force K" under Rear Admiral Moore consisting of two battlecruisers New Zealand and Invincible 40 miles to the northwest, and "Cruiser Force C" a squadron of five Cressy class armoured cruisers, Cressy, Aboukir, Bacchante, Hogue and Euryalus one hundred miles west.

It was decided that the attack would take place on 28 August. The submarines were to leave to take up their positions on 26 August, while Keyes would travel on the destroyer Lurcher. The surface ships would depart at dawn on 27 August. Tyrwhitt onboard the brand new light cruiser Arethusa would command the 3rd Flotilla of sixteen modern L-class destroyers, whilst his subordinate, Captain Wilfred Blunt, onboard the light cruiser Fearless commanded the 1st flotilla of sixteen older destroyers. Tyrwhitt had for some time been requesting replacement of his previous cruiser HMS Amethyst because she was too slow to keep up with his destroyers, but Arethusa only arrived on 26 August. Her crew were inexperienced and it was discovered that some of her guns jammed when fired.

Although the plan had been agreed by the Admiralty, Admiral John Jellicoe commanding the Grand Fleet was not informed until 26 August. Jellicoe immediately requested permission to send reinforcements to join the raid and to move the fleet closer to the action, but received permission only to send battle cruisers in support. He dispatched Vice Admiral David Beatty with three battle cruisers, Lion, Queen Mary and Princess Royal, and Goodenough with the 1st Light Cruiser squadron of six modern Town class light cruisers: Southampton, Birmingham, Falmouth, Liverpool, Lowestoft and Nottingham. He then sailed south from Scapa Flow with the remainder of the fleet

Jellicoe despatched a message advising Tyrwhitt that he should expect reinforcements, but this was delayed at Harwich and never received. Tyrwhitt only discovered the additional forces when Goodenough’s ships appeared through the mist, leading to immediate concern whether they were friend or foe at a time when he was expecting to meet only enemy vessels.

British submarines were deployed. E class submarines E4, E5 and E9 were ordered to attack reinforcing or retreating German vessels. E6, E7 and E8 were positioned 40 miles further out to draw the German destroyers out to sea. D2 and D8 were stationed off Ems to attack reinforcements should they come from that direction.


At around 7.00 a.m. Arethusa steaming south towards the anticipated position of the German ships sighted a German destroyer, G-194. Accompanying her were the sixteen destroyers of the 3rd flotilla. Two miles behind were Fearless with the 1st flotilla of fifteen destroyers, and eight miles behind them Goodenough with his six cruisers. Visibility was three miles or less. G-194 immediately turned towards Heligoland , radioing Rear Admiral Leberecht Maass, commander of the German destroyer squadron. Maass informed Rear Admiral Franz Hipper who commanded the German battlecruiser squadron, and who was responsible for local defense. Hipper was unaware of the scale of the attack, but ordered the light cruisers Stettin and Frauenlob to defend the destroyers. Six other light cruisers were ordered to raise steam and join the defense as soon as they could: Mainz moored on the Ems River; Strassburg, Köln, Ariadne, Stralsund and Kolberg from the Jade River; Danzig and München from Brunsbüttelkoog on the Elbe.

Tyrwhitt ordered four destroyers to detach and attack G-149. The sound of firing alerted the remaining German destroyers, who had been moving north, but turned south towards home. Before they could complete the turn, they were sighted by British destroyers who commenced firing. The trailing destroyer V-1 was hit, followed by Destroyer-minesweepers D-8 and T-33. German destroyer G-9 called for fire against the attacking ships from coastal artillery, but the mist meant the artillery were unable to determine which ships were which. At 7.26 a.m. Tyrwhitt turned east, attempting to follow the sound of gunfire and his four destroyers. He sighted ten German destroyers which he chased through increasing mist for half an hour until the ships reached Heligoland and he was forced to turn away. At 7.58 a.m. Stettin and Frauenlob arrived, reversing the situation so that the British destroyers were obliged to retreat toward their own cruisers Arethusa and Fearless. Stettin withdrew, since the German destroyers had now escaped, but Frauenlob was engaged by Arethusa. While Arethusa was theoretically the better armed ship, two of her four four-inch guns were jammed, while another was damaged by fire. Frauenlob, armed with ten four-inch guns was able to cause considerable damage before a shell from the two six-inch guns on Arethusa destroyed her bridge, killing 37 men including the captain, and forcing her to withdraw. Although badly damaged, she returned to Wilhelmshaven.

At 8:12 a.m. Tyrwhitt returned to the original plan, which was to sweep across the area from east to west. Six returning German destroyers were sighted but turned to flee, when one, V-187 turned back. The German ship had seen two cruisers, Nottingham and Lowestoft from Goodenough's squadron ahead of her and turned back in the hope of passing through the British destroyers by surprise. This was partially successful, but V-187 was surrounded by eight destroyers and sunk. As British ships attempted to rescue survivors from the water, the German light cruiser Stettin approached and opened fire, forcing the British to abandon the rescue, leaving behind British sailors. The British submarine E-4 had observed the action and launched a torpedo at Stettin, but missed. Stettin attempted to ram the submarine, which dived to escape. When she resurfaced all the larger ships had gone, and the submarine rescued the British crewmen, still afloat in small boats together with German sailors. The Germans were left behind with a compass and direction toward the mainland as the submarine was too small to take them.[

Confusion of ships

At 8.15 am Keyes, with Lurcher and another destroyer sighted two four-funneled cruisers. Still unaware that any additional British ships had been sent to support the action, he signalled Invincible that he was chasing two German cruisers. Goodenough received the signal and abandoning his own search for enemy vessels to attack, steamed to assist Keyes against his own ships, Lowestoft and Nottingham. Keyes, seeing he was now being chased by four more enemy cruisers attempted to lead them towards Invincible and New Zealand, reporting them as enemy ships. Eventually Keyes recognised Southampton, and the ships attempted to rejoin Tyrwhitt. However, the danger to Goodenough's ships was not over, since the British submarines were still unaware the additional ships were present. At 9.30 a.m. one of the British submarines attacked Southampton with two torpedoes, fortunately missing and in turn escaping when Southampton tried to ram. Lowestoft and Nottingham remained out of communication range, and separated from the rest of their squadron took no further part in the action.

Tyrwhitt turned back to assist Keyes on receipt of the signal that he was being chased. He sighted Stettin, but lost her in the mist before coming upon Fearless and her destroyer squadron. Arethusa was badly damaged, so at 10.17 a.m. Fearless came alongside and both cruisers were stopped for 20 minutes while repairs were made to the boilers.

Actions with German cruisers

By now Köln, Strassburg and Ariadne had sailed from Wilhelmshaven to join the German defence, while Mainz was approaching from a different direction. Admiral Maass was still unaware of the nature of the attack, so spread his ships in search of the enemy. Strassburg was first to find Arethusa and attacked with shells and torpedoes, but was driven off by torpedo attacks from the destroyers. As Tyrwhitt turned away to the west, Köln with Admiral Maass approached from the southeast, and was also chased away by torpedoes. Tyrwhitt signalled Beatty requesting reinforcements, and Goodenough with the four cruisers remaining with him came to assist. The force turned west.

Beatty had been following the events by radio forty miles to the north west. By 11.35 a.m. the British ships had still not completed their mission and withdrawn, and with the rising tide larger German ships would be able to leave harbour and join the engagement. He decided to intervene and took his five battlecruisers southeast at maximum speed, an hour away from the engagement. While the advantages of using his more powerful ships to rescue the others was clear, this had to be weighed against the possibility of mischance by torpedo or of meeting German dreadnoughts once the tide permitted them to sail, and losing one or more of the important battlecruisers.
SMS Mainz sinking

At 11.30 a.m. Tyrwhitt's squadron came upon another German cruiser, Mainz. The ships engaged for twenty minutes, before the arrival of Goodenough caused Mainz to attempt escape. Goodenough gave chase, but in attempting to lose him Mainz came back across the path of Arethusa and her destroyers. Her steering was damaged, causing her to turn back into the path of Goodenough's ships and she was hit by shells and torpedo. At 12.20 her captain ordered his ship to be scuttled and the crew to abandon ship. Keyes had now joined the main body of ships and brought Lurcher alongside Mainz to take off the crew. Three British destroyers had been seriously damaged in the engagement.

Strassburg and Köln now attacked together, but the battle was interrupted by the further arrival of Beatty and the battlecruisers. An officer on one of the destroyers described the moment, There straight ahead of us in lovely procession, like elephants walking through a pack of... dogs came Lion, Queen Mary, Princess Royal, Invincible and New Zealand...How solid they looked, how utterly earthquaking. We pointed out our latest aggressor to them... and we went west while they went east... and just a little later we heard the thunder of their guns.


Strassburg managed to disengage and escape when the battlecruisers approached, but Köln was not so fortunate. Cut off from escape she was quickly disabled by the much larger guns of the battlecruisers. She was saved from immediate sinking by the sighting of another German light cruiser, Ariadne, to which Beatty gave chase and again quickly overcame. Ariadne was left to sink, which she eventually did at 3.10 pm, attended by the German ships Danzig and Stralsund who took off survivors. At 1.10 pm Beatty turned northwest and ordered all the British ships to withdraw since the tide had now risen sufficiently for larger German ships to pass out through the Jade estuary. Passing the Köln again he opened fire sinking her. Attempts to rescue the crew were interrupted by the arrival of a submarine: one survivor was rescued by a German ship two days later out of some 250 who had survived the sinking. Rear Admiral Maass perished with his ship.

Four German cruisers survived the engagement, which they would not have done except for the mist. Strassburg nearly approached the battlecruisers, but saw them in time and turned away. She had four funnels, like the Town-class British cruisers, which caused sufficient confusion to allow her time to disappear into the mist. The German battlecruisers Moltke and Von der Tann left the Jade at 2.10 p.m. and began a cautious search for other ships. Rear Admiral Hipper arrived with Seydlitz at 3.10 pm, but by then the battle was over.


The battle was a clear British victory. Germany had lost the three light cruisers Mainz, Köln and Ariadne and the destroyer V 187 sunk, and the light cruiser Frauenlob had been severely damaged. The light cruisers Strassburg and Stettin had also been damaged. German casualties were 1,242 with 712 men killed, including Rear Admiral Maass, and 336 prisoners of war. The Royal Navy had lost no ships and only 35 men killed, with 40 wounded.

The most significant result of the battle was the effect on the attitude of the Kaiser. To preserve his ships the Kaiser determined that the fleet should, "hold itself back and avoid actions which can lead to greater losses." Admiral Pohl, Chief of the German Naval Staff, wired Ingenohl that, "in his anxiety to preserve the fleet [William] ... wished you to wire for his consent before entering a decisive action."

Tirpitz was outraged by this decision. He wrote after the war, "The Emperor did not wish for losses of this sort ... Orders [were] issued by the Emperor ... after an audience with Pohl, to which I as usual was not summoned, to restrict the initiative of the Commander-in-Chief of the North Sea Fleet. The loss of ships was to be avoided; fleet sallies and any greater undertakings must be approved by His Majesty in advance. I took the first opportunity to explain to the Emperor the fundamental error of such a muzzling policy. This step had no success, but on the contrary there sprang up from that day forth an estrangement between the Emperor and myself which steadily increased."[16]

Churchill after the war observed:

All they saw was that the British did not hesitate to hazard their greatest vessels as well as their light craft in the most daring offensive action and had escaped apparently unscathed. They felt as we should have felt had German destroyers broken into the Solent and their battle cruisers penetrated as far as the Nab. The results of this action were far-reaching. Henceforward, the weight of British Naval prestige lay heavy across all German sea enterprise ... The German Navy was indeed "muzzled". Except for furtive movements by individual submarines and minelayers, not a dog stirred from August till November.

But he also observed: ‘The Germans knew nothing of our defective staff work or the risks we had run’.

One of the officers present on Southampton, Lieutenant Stephen King-Hall, later wrote about the battle:

As may be deduced from these extracts the staff work was almost criminally negligent and it was a near miracle that we did not sink one or more of our submarines or that one of them did not sink us. Furthermore if anyone had suggested, say in 1917, that our battle-cruisers should rush about without anti-submarine protection and hundreds of miles away from the battle fleet in a mine infested area a few miles from the German battle fleet, he would have been certified on the spot.

It was precisely because on paper the presence of the battle-cruisers (unsupported) was absurd that the logical Germans were sitting in Wilhelmshafen unable to move because the tide was too low on the bar of the Jade river!

I should like to be able to write that this important hydrographical circumstance was part of the plan, but it was only discovered long afterwards.

Nevertheless the strategical and indeed political consequences of this affair were of great importance.

The German Navy was manned by a personnel no less courageous and at least as well trained as our own; their ships were superior type for type; their gunnery was more accurate. Yet in the mind of every German seaman was the reflection that they were challenging the might of a navy which, by and large, had dominated the seas for four centuries. The German seaman had a respect and almost traditional veneration for the British Royal navy, and entered the war with an inferiority complex in striking contrast to the superiority complex which the German Army felt towards all other armies.

It was therefore a rude shock to the German Navy... to learn of this audacious manoeuvre and successfull engagement literally within sight of the main German base.


Both sides had lessons to learn from the battle. The Germans had assumed that their cruisers, leaving port one by one, would not meet larger ships or major forces. They failed to keep their ships together so they might have better odds in any engagement. Beatty, when faced with the choice of leaving one of his ships to finish off disabled enemies had elected to keep his squadron together and only later return in force to finish off those ships. Goodenough, on the other hand, had managed to lose track of two cruisers, which therefore played no further part in the battle.

German light cruisers armed with larger numbers of faster firing four inch guns proved inferior to similar British cruisers with fewer but more powerful six inch guns. However, their ships proved difficult to sink despite severe damage and impressed the British with the quality of their firing. Both British and German sources reported the determination and bravery of the defeated German ships when overwhelmed.

No one reported the presence of British cruisers to Admiral Hipper until 2.35 P.M.. Had he known, he could have brought his own battlecruisers to sea faster and consolidated his fleet, possibly preventing the German losses and instead inflicting some on the departing British ships. The British operation had dragged out longer than anticipated so that the large German ships would have had sufficient high water to join the battle.

The British side also suffered from poor communications, with ships failing to report engagement with the enemy to each other. The initial failure to include Jellicoe in planning the raid could have led to disaster had he not sent reinforcements, although the subsequent communications failures which meant British ships were unaware of the new arrivals could then have led to British ships attacking each other. There was no way to warn off British submarines which might have targeted their own ships. It had been the decision of Admiral Sturdee, Admiralty chief of staff, not to inform Jellicoe and also not to send additional larger ships which had originally been requested by Keyes. Jellicoe in effect countermanded this decision once he knew of the raid by sending ships which were part of his command. Keyes was disappointed that the opportunity for a greater success had been lost by not including the additional cruisers properly into the plan as he had originally intended. Jellicoe was disturbed by the Admiralty failure to discuss the raid with their commander in chief of the fleet at sea.

The Germans appreciated that constant patrols by destroyers was both wasteful of time and resources of those ships, and left them open to attack. Instead they designed defensive minefields to prevent enemy ships approaching and freed up the destroyers for duties escorting larger ships. In the future, ships were never to be sent out one by one.[23] The British realised it was foolish to have sent Arethusa into battle with inadequate training and jammed guns. British ships were criticised for having fired considerable ammunition and torpedoes with little effect: this criticism later proved counter-productive when at the Battle of Dogger Bank, ships became overly cautious of wasting ammunition and thus missed opportunities to damage enemy vessels.