Supremacy at sea and Britain’s geographical position allowed the establishment of a blockade of German trade as soon as war began. Patrols by the British Grand Fleet in the North Sea, minefields and cutting off access to the Channel increasingly undermined Germany’s ability to fight the war.
From early in the War the threat of German U-Boats to the British surface fleet resulted in a defensive strategy which avoided direct confrontation in favour of protecting trade routes, maintaining the blockade and developing anti-submarine devices.
Early battles saw the British fleet defeated at Coronel (November 1914), followed by success at the Falklands (December 1914). British ships played a major role in the failed Dardanelles campaign in 1915 both in bombing Turkish forts and transporting troops during the landings and later withdrawal.
Minor North Sea battles at Heligoland and Dogger Bank preceded the first major battle at Jutland on 31 May 1916. Despite higher losses, the British retained command of the sea. Men from Bradford were lost at Coronel, the Falklands and Jutland.
After Jutland the German Navy avoided engaging the Grand Fleet and concentrated on submarine warfare. The unrestricted warfare adopted in February 1917 led to huge losses of British shipping together with marine and civilian deaths. The Germans came close to success but their sinking of the Lusitania, continued threat to civilian lives and loss of four US merchant ships in March 1917 led to the USA declaring war on Germany in April 1917.