May 1916 saw the greatest sea battle of World War I when the British Grand Fleet tangled with the German High Seas Fleet off Jutland, part of Denmark.
The Germans had tried to tempt the British out of port into a U-boat trap, but poor weather ruined the plan, and it was purely by chance that the four fleets — each country had an advanced and a main battle fleet — met.
On May 31 the fleets steamed across the North Sea without knowing where the other was. Then HMS Galatea spotted a Swedish freighter blowing off steam on the horizon and went to investigate — just as a German warship did the same from the opposite direction.
The two advance fleets locked horns, and were then joined by the main fleets at around 6pm.
Mistakes in signalling and faulty designs in some British warships meant the Royal Navy suffered heavier losses than the Germans, but as night fell the Germans were facing defeat.
But as the two combined fleets steamed in night formation, the British trying to cut off the Germans’ escape route, the High Seas Fleet managed to cut across the path of the Grand Fleet and head for the safety of the minefields off Denmark.
Had the battle resumed on June 1, the Royal Navy would probably have won — but there was a strategic victory for the British in any case, as the Germans did not risk taking on the British in the North Sea for the remainder of the war.