In the early stages of the war, the two fleets
fought a number of small-scale battles. Any chance of a German invasion
of Britain receded after the Grand Fleet's victory at the Battle
Bight on 28 August 1914. Five months later, with the help of
a German codebook fortuitously captured by the Russians, it again
inflicted substantial damage on the High Seas Fleet in the North
Sea at the Battle of Dogger
Bank. However, neither of these victories, nor more distant
triumphs such as the Battle of the Falklands
(8 December 1914), proved decisive.
The great set-piece battle that the
Grand Fleet desired finally took place on 31 May 1916, when it clashed
with the High Seas Fleet at the Battle
of Jutland. After it was over, Britain still controlled the
sea, and Germany never again attempted a full-scale naval confrontation.
However, the number of British casualties was more than double Germany's,
and much of the High Seas Fleet had retreated successfully to base.
Both sides thus claimed Jutland as their triumph. British public
opinion, as Vera
Brittain remarked, was unsure whether it was 'celebrating a
glorious naval victory or lamenting an ignominious defeat'.