1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Jellicoe, John Rushworth Jellicoe, Viscount

JELLICOE, JOHN RUSHWORTH JELLICOE, Viscount (1859–), British admiral, was born Dec. 5 1859. His family had for some generations been connected with Hampshire, and his father held an honourable position in the merchant service. Young Jellicoe, after a preliminary education at Rottingdean, entered the navy in 1872. He soon gave evidence of exceptional industry and ability, and was fortunate in seeing active service at an early stage of his career. He served in the Egyptian War in 1882, and on his examination for promotion to lieutenant took no less than three first-class certificates. As a lieutenant he laid the foundations of that special knowledge of gunnery which was so useful to him at a later stage. The science of naval gunnery was then being revived under the inspiration and inventive genius of Comm. Percy Scott. Jellicoe while a lieutenant won the gunnery prize of £80, and thus successfully identified himself with what was, if not a new science, a new scientific development of an old art. With that of Lord Fisher, who gave it his countenance and furthered its development, the names of Sir Percy Scott and Lord Jellicoe are those which deserve to be most honourably associated with this great revival. In 1893 Jellicoe was promoted to commander and joined the “Achilles,” passing soon after to the “Victoria,” flagship of Sir George Tryon in the Mediterranean. He was among the survivors from this ship when she was sunk in collision with the “Camperdown” in June 1893. In Aug. of the same year Jellicoe was appointed to the “Ramillies.”

In 1897 he was promoted to the rank of captain and took up his first Admiralty appointment on the ordnance committee, a service for which his proficiency in the science of gunnery had qualified him. A year later he was appointed to the “Centurion,” flagship of Sir E. H. Seymour on the China station, and as chief-of-staff took part in the expedition to relieve the legations at Pekin during the Boxer rising in 1900. After this he returned to the Admiralty for two years, this time to the department of the comptroller, to whom he became naval assistant in March 1902. In Aug. 1903 he went to sea for a year in command of the “Drake,” but in Nov. 1904 returned to the Admiralty for committee work, remaining there until 1907. He was a member of the design committee and in 1905 became director of naval ordnance. In 1907 he was promoted to rear-admiral and hoisted his flag (Aug. 1907) in the “Albemarle” in the Atlantic Fleet, where he remained for a year. He then once more returned to the Admiralty, this time as Third Sea Lord. In Dec. 1910 he received the appointment of vice-admiral (acting) commanding the Atlantic Fleet, the rank being made substantive in Nov. 1911. A month later he was appointed to the command of the 2nd Division of the Home Fleets; and in Dec. 1912 he returned to the Admiralty for two years as Second Sea Lord, during which time he took command of the Red Fleet in the naval manœuvres of 1913.

He was then designated as second-in-command of the Home Fleets, but on the outbreak of the World War this appointment was changed to that of commander-in-chief, Grand Fleet, in succession to Sir George Callaghan, whose term of service was in any case due to expire in a few months. He became admiral in March 1915, and admiral of the fleet in 1919. During his period of command the German fleet gave, on May 31st 1916, for the first and only time in the war, an opportunity to the British to fight a Grand Fleet action (see Jutland, Battle of); but after a brilliant encircling movement by Sir David Beatty with his battle cruisers, which crossed the enemy’s T and delivered him in confusion under the guns of the Grand Fleet, the Germans, aided by misty weather and successful torpedo threats on Sir John Jellicoe’s deployed divisions, succeeded in extricating themselves from a situation which had seemed, even to themselves, to be hopeless. A few months later Sir John Jellicoe was succeeded as commander-in-chief by Sir David Beatty, and returned to the Admiralty as First Sea Lord, where he remained until the end of 1917. After the signing of peace he visited the principal dominions in a semi-official capacity, and in 1920 was appointed governor-general of New Zealand.

A study of this brief record of his services reveals the fact that Sir John Jellicoe at different times and in various departments had a great deal to do with the welding and preparation of the weapon which the German menace had called into existence, and his service as commander-in-chief of the Grand Fleet is largely to be judged by the condition of that weapon when it came to be tried. If he is entitled to his full share of the credit for the marvellous efficiency shown by the navy as a whole, both in the departments of material and trained personnel, he can hardly, having regard to the long years he spent in the Admiralty in positions of high technical responsibility, escape some part of the responsibility for the matters in which the naval organization showed itself to be less than perfectly equipped and prepared. Many of these defects, which caused him great difficulty and anxiety as commander-in-chief, he himself pointed out in two books written after the war; but his criticism lay open to the rejoinder that no one who was to fight in the navy had had anything like his opportunities to see to it beforehand that the requirements of the navy were supplied. It is probable that in many cases, where he had foreseen these requirements, he was not strong enough to force them on the political heads by whom expenditure was controlled — a position in which the naval officer serving on the Admiralty board is always liable to find himself. Jellicoe had great administrative experience and ability, which proved invaluable in his organization of the Grand Fleet in the early stages of the World War, and he showed a conscientious and unwearying care for the interests of those serving under him which won him the loyalty of the entire service in a remarkable degree. His previous career, however, while marked by valuable technical work and covering long periods of administration, had been of a kind to develop the qualities of an organizer rather than a tactician and fleet commander; and he undoubtedly felt the heavy responsibility that rested upon him for carrying out the policy, by no means clearly defined or consistently observed, which was laid down by the Admiralty and the War Cabinet. For much that has, with apparent reason, aroused criticism with regard to his strategy and tactics in the North Sea warfare, the Cabinet and the Admiralty should properly be held responsible. It could be said of him, at all events, after Jutland, that if he did not then succeed in overwhelming the German fleet, it was very careful not to risk another fleet action up to the end of the war, when it surrendered under the terms of the Armistice.

He received the thanks of Parliament, together with a grant of £50,000, after the Armistice, and was raised in 1918 to the peerage as Viscount Jellicoe of Scapa. He also received the Grand Cross of the Bath, the O.M. and other decorations. In 1920 he was given the freedom of the City of London. In 1902 he married the daughter of Sir Charles Cayzer, Bart., and after he had had four daughters, a son and heir was born to him in 1918.  (F. Y.)