John Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe
Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Rushworth Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe OM, GCB, GCVO, (December 5, 1859–November 20, 1935) was a British Royal Navy admiral.
He was born in Southampton into a sea-faring family. He joined the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1872. His first active service was during the Egyptian War of 1882. He was appointed to the Admiralty in 1888.
Jellicoe was an intelligent and dedicated officer. Popular with his crews, he was very concerned with the well-being and morale of his sailors. He was also a micromanager, to the point of driving himself to exhaustion at times.
Promoted to commander in 1891, Jellicoe was the executive officer (i.e. second in command) of HMS Victoria when she was accidentally rammed and sunk with heavy loss of life in the Mediterranean in 1893.
Jellicoe had a number of commands in the 1890s, and, in 1900, he was part of the command for the land relief of Beijing during the Boxer Rebellion, the First Peking Relief Expedition. He showed conspicuous bravery at this time and was seriously wounded.
Under John Fisher, Jellicoe was Director of Naval Ordnance (1905-1907) and then Controller of the Navy (1908-1910). He pushed hard for funds to modernise the navy, supporting the construction of new designs of dreadnought and submarine. Jellicoe became very knowledgeable about his profession, much more so than most of his contemporaries, especially appreciating the strong points of the German navy.
He supported F C Dreyers improvements in gunnery fire-control systems and favoured the adoption of Dreyer's "Fire Control Table" a form of mechanical computer for calculating firing solutions for warships.
In 1911, Jellicoe became deputy to George Callaghan, the Commander of the Home Fleet. At the start of World War I, August 4, 1914, Callaghan was prematurely put on the shelf by Winston Churchill and Jellicoe was promoted to command in his place, the renamed Grand Fleet, though he was appalled by the treatment of Callaghan. Churchill described him as 'the only man on either side who could lose the war in an afternoon'.
Jellicoe was in command of the British fleet at the Battle of Jutland (1916), the greatest clash of big gun, armoured warships ever. His handling of the Grand Fleet during the Battle remains controversial, with some historians faulting the battle cruiser commander, Admiral David Beatty, and others criticizing Jellicoe. However, Jellicoe certainly made no significant mistakes during the battle. The worst that can be said is that he overestimated the danger from a massed attack by enemy destroyers. At Jutland his Flag-Captain aboard the Flagship HMS Iron Duke was Dreyer.
He was made First Sea Lord in November 1916. He was rather abruptly dismissed from this post in 1917 by the new First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir Eric Geddes and was succeeded by Rosslyn Wemyss, then by David Beatty.
Jellicoe was made a Viscount in 1918 and became Governor-General of New Zealand from September 1920 to November 1924. On his return to England in 1925, he was made an Earl. He died in November, 1935 and his estate was probated at 13,370 pounds sterling.
Jellicoe was a controversial figure after the war in British naval circles, with persons tending to be supporters of him or of Beatty. Part of his problem was a reticence to engage in the political manoeuvring needed in such a post.
A bust of Jellicoe rests on Trafalgar Square in London, alongside those of Beatty and Andrew Cunningham, Admiral of the Fleet in World War II. A blue plaque stands on the wall of his house in Blacklands Terrace, London.
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