While this thread is title as a question it is not one for which there is a factual answer–military historians and the public has disputed the outcome of the Battle of Jutland for over 100 years.
From 31 May to 1 Jun 1916, at the height of the first World War the 151 ships commanded by British Admiral John Jellicoe, constituting the British Grand Fleet (GF) met with the 99 ships under the command of Vice-Admiral Reinhold Scheer, constituting the German High Seas Fleet (HSF).
While long anticipated, this was the first large scale engagement between the two forces. Britain’s Naval superiority was vast and unquestioned against Germany, the Grand Fleet significantly outnumbered the High Seas Fleet, and was not even close to all of British Naval might. The German High Seas Fleet was the vast bulk of all of Imperial Germany’s surface ships. It had been designed over a period of many years, pushed by the Kaiser, to challenge British Naval supremacy.
The GF had 28 dreadnoughts to the HSF’s 16. Knowing his position was not tenable in a full scale engagement with the GF, Scheer had long sought to execute a strategy by which he could lure a portion of the GF out of port and defeat it with local numerical superiority, thus permanently weakening the GF and giving the HSF a chance to perhaps escape its “prison” that it had been kept bottled up in for the entirety of the war.
This page by the British Imperial War Museum has a good overview of the particulars of the timeline ( Battle of Jutland Timeline | Imperial War Museums (iwm.org.uk)). Suffice to say it appeared initially to Scheer that he had succeeded in his plot to lure out a portion of the GF, Vice-Admiral Franz von Hipper, commanding the HSF’s battlecruisers, had seemingly succeeded in luring the battlecruiser fleet of the British, commanded by Vice Admiral David Beatty, into separate combat. After initial exchange of fire and pursuing action, by 5pm on 31 May Scheer is about to engage the entirety of the GF and he does not see them coming.
In the ensuing battle the GF is able to “cross the T” of the HSF twice, Scheer flees to safe waters and never seriously threatens the British surface fleet again–in fact he reports to his superiors that Germany should focus entirely on unrestricted submarine warfare going forward.
At this point it seems obvious the British won, but that is not the story easily recorded by history. Instead, the results of the battle were widely seen as a disappointment back home. Jellicoe certainly never faced sanction (he was elevated to First Sea Lord, pushed out of that role and eventually became Governor-General of New Zealand and was granted a hereditary Earldom in retirement), but in the popular imagination Beatty was the British hero of Jutland and seen by many as the more competent naval commander (it didn’t hurt that Beatty was tight with Churchill.)
In Germany, Jutland was celebrated as a victory and its anniversary was celebrated as such for a number of years going forward.
The meat of the reason for this perception: despite an overwhelming advantage in force and in knowledge (the British knew Scheer’s plan in advance so were ready to lay the trap), the GF wasn’t able to decisively destroy the HSF. In fact, the HSF inflicted far more damage on the GF–the British lost over 6,000 sailors, 3 battlecruisers, 3 armored cruisers and 8 destroyers. The HSF comparatively lost 2500 sailors, 1 battlecruiser, 1 pre-dreadnought, 4 light cruisers and 5 small torpedo boats. Tonnage wise the British had lost 113,000 tons of ship and the Germans 62,300.
It has been said for many years there were serious defects in command by Jellicoe, and that there were additional failures in basic signaling, coordination, and seamanship exhibited by the British, that all contributed to Scheer escaping.
While opinions vary, it is my contention, that Admiral Jellicoe performed admirably at Jutland. Beatty’s advocates who would hold Jellicoe should not have turned away from Scheer’s mass torpedo firing advocate for a position that would have risked the entire British Empire for the questionable opportunity to take out the HSF. An HSF that was determined not to engage the full GF and was capably being maneuvered away by Scheer.
Jellicoe had command of the seas at the end of the battle, the GF was intact and the HSF was unable to seriously threaten it again. I believe the biggest failures by the British at Jutland were poor communication, which as ultimate commander Jellicoe does bear some responsibility for, but I think at least a decent portion of the disparity in casualty amounts related to improper armoring of the three sunk British battlecruisers that made them inappropriate for the type of fighting they were engaged in. The three cruisers–HMS Indefatigable, HMS Queen Mary and HMS Invincible comprised 3300 of the 6000 British killed. Each ended with fairly similar fates–they took hits in their turrets and subsequently their magazines exploded, in each case killing virtually everyone on board. The ill-named Invincible did succeed in delivering an ultimately mortal blow to Scheer’s flagship Lützow, but went down with almost all of its men including Rear-Admiral Hood.
Several German ships of equivalent class took far more hits in the battle and either sailed away and survived, or sailed away with enough life left in them to get their sailors home, even if they had to be scuttled later. Jellicoe shouldn’t be held responsible for the design of the ships under his command, albeit he did have some influence in ship design. He basically had some under-armored ships that had the poor fortune to be in the thick of it, and had the poor fortune to be hit mortally with only a few shells needed to do the job.
Ultimately if you view the GF as the HSF’s jailer, the HSF attempted a jailbreak, and failed. To me that’s a victory for the GF. I think the dreams of a Trafalgar style defeat of the HSF, which would have allowed the GF to be deployed elsewhere, were somewhat fanciful given Scheer’s commitment to not risking his entire fleet. It is non-trivial in the age of powered ships so close to home ports to catch out a force the size of the HSF and eradicate it when they are beating fast to escape. I think Beatty was a fine commander but Jellicoe saw a bigger picture in which the foolish loss of the GF could literally threaten the entire British Empire–the HSF would be able to get out of the Baltic/North Sea and ravage British transportation links with its dominions. Even if the odds were massively in his favor, they were not enough in his favor to have made the preferred risk by some of his detractors worthwhile.
I know Jutland has been discussed on these boards a few times, but not as far as I could tell precisely this topic,. I’m curious if any Naval history buffs have alternative or opposite views of the battle.