Tension between the British and German navies had been building since Kaiser Wilhelm II launched a naval arms race in 1898, and in the early afternoon of 31 May 1916 a climactic battle seemingly was at hand.
The German High Seas Fleet (99 total warships) intended to ambush and destroy a portion of the British Grand Fleet off the Norwegian coast. Having learned of an imminent enemy operation through radio intelligence, the Grand Fleet and Battlecruiser Fleet (151 warships) set sail before the Germans. But miscommunication later led Royal Navy commanders to assume that at most the German I Reconnaissance Group battlecruisers—but not the enemy’s battle fleet—had sortied.
The following maps illustrate the movements of the opposing forces’ capital ships during the subsequent battle.