2nd March 2016: Jellicoe and Jutland

62 members gathered at the Society's March meeting to hear Richard Latham speak about 'Jellicoe and Jutland - The Man and the Battle'. Richard is a grandson of Lord Jellicoe and his only descendant to serve in the Royal Navy. He began his illustrated talk by describing Jellicoe's state funeral in 1935. Ten admirals marched either side of the coffin, including representatives from France and even Germany. Crowds lined the streets and 2,000 people attended the service at St Paul's.

John Rushworth Jellicoe (JRJ) was born into a seafaring family in 1857. Passing out in 1880 he served in several campaigns including the Anglo-Egyptian War and the Boxer Rebellion, where he was shot in the lung. Prince Henry of Prussia served under JRJ and became a close friend even after the war. In 1902 he married Gwen Cayzer and they had six children. He became Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet in 1910 and Second Sea Lord two years later. In 1914 he was sent to Scapa Flow where he was to take command of the Grand Fleet. However, it wasn't an easy post as it was ill-equipped at the end of the supply chain and there were no leisure facilities for the men.

JRJ's strategy in the North Sea was to blockade Germany to prevent supplies from getting through. On 30th May 1916 Jellicoe received intelligence that the Germans were planning a major attack so he put the whole fleet to sea. On the afternoon of the 31st May, JRJ manoeuvred and spread his fleet; when the Germans appeared he made a turn to the port so as to "cross the T" of the German fleet. The Germans retreated and JRJ later received criticism for not pursuing them - but his strategy was not to do this in case of a torpedo attack. Several similar manoeuvres were made by JRJ and Vice-Admiral Beatty. The British losses included HMS Queen Mary and HMS Invincible but the German fleet was greatly damaged too, though the design of the German ships made them difficult to sink. By the early evening the increasingly misty weather mixed with cordite reduced visibility greatly. JRJ also suffered from confused intelligence - he was not kept informed of the German position. Some had expected the battle to be "the next Trafalgar" but the weather and changes in seafaring technology made this unlikely. Although it wasn't the clear cut victory the public wanted it was a strategic one for the British as there was considerable damage to the German supply lines. More information on the battle can be found at www.jutland1916.com.

Ellie Morris