John Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe


John Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe : biography

5 December 1859 – 20 November 1935

Jellicoe continued to take a pessimistic view, declaring (during the War Policy Committee planning meetings for the Third Ypres Offensive in June and July) that nothing could be done to defeat the U-boats. However, removing Jellicoe in July, as Lloyd George wanted, would have been politically impossible given Conservative anger at the return of Churchill (still blamed for the Dardanelles) to office as Minister of Munitions. In August and September Lloyd George was preoccupied with Third Ypres and the possible transfer of resources to Italy, whilst the new First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir Eric Campbell Geddes, was reforming the Naval Staff (including creating a post for Wemyss as Deputy First Sea Lord). Geddes and Lloyd George met with Balfour and Carson (both former First Lords of the Admiralty) on 26 October to discuss sacking Jellicoe after he had failed to act on “secret, but absolutely reliable” information about a German attack on a Norwegian convoy, but again nothing came of this as Lloyd George was soon preoccupied by the defeat of Italy and the setting up of the Supreme War Council. Geddes wanted to return to his previous job in charge of military transportation in France, and by December it was clear that Lloyd George would have to sack Jellicoe or lose Geddes. Grigg 2002, p373

Jellicoe was rather abruptly dismissed by Geddes in December 1917.Heathcote, p. 131 Before he left for leave on Christmas Eve he received a letter from Geddes demanding his resignation. Geddes’ letter stated that he was still in the building and available to talk, but after consulting Admiral Halsey Jellicoe replied in writing that he would “do what was best for the service”. The move became public knowledge two days later.Grigg 2002, p371-3

The Christmas holiday, when Parliament was not sitting, provided a good opportunity to remove Jellicoe with a minimum of fuss. Geddes squared matters with the King and with the Grand Fleet commander Admiral Beatty (who had initially written to Jellicoe of his “dismay” over his sacking and promised to speak to Geddes, but then did not write to him again for a month) over the holiday. The other Sea Lords talked of resigning (although Jellicoe advised them not to do so), especially when Geddes suggested in a meeting (31 December) that Balfour and Carson had specifically recommended Jellicoe’s removal at the 26 October meeting; they had not done so, although Balfour’s denial was less than emphatic. There was no trouble from the generals, who had a low opinion of Jellicoe. In the end the Sea Lords remained in place, whilst Carson remained a member of the War Cabinet, resigning in January over Irish Home Rule.Grigg 2002, p374-5

Although it was pretended that the decision had been Geddes’ alone, he let slip in the Naval Estimates debate (6 March 1918) that he had been conveying “the decision of the Government”, i.e. of Lloyd George, who had never put the matter to the War Cabinet. MPs picked up on his slip immediately, and Bonar Law (Conservative Leader) admitted in the same debate that he too had had prior knowledge.Grigg 2002, p374

As First Sea Lord Jellicoe was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Belgian Order of Leopold on 21 April 1917, the Russian Order of St. George, 3rd Class on 5 June 1917, the Grand Cross of the Italian Military Order of Savoy on 11 August 1917 and the Grand Cordon of the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun on 29 August 1917.

Later War

Jellicoe was created Viscount Jellicoe of Scapa Flow on 7 March 1918

In June 1918, amidst concerns that the Germans were about to requisition the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Lloyd George proposed Jellicoe as Allied Supreme Naval Commander in the Mediterranean. The French were in favour of a combined Allied naval command, but the Italians were not, so nothing came of the suggestion. Grigg 2002, p372


High command

As a protege of Admiral John Fisher, Jellicoe became Director of Naval Ordnance in 1905 and, having been appointed a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order on the occasion of launching of on 10 February 1906, he was also made an Aide-de-Camp to the King on 8 March 1906. Promoted to rear-admiral on 8 February 1907, he pushed hard for funds to modernise the navy, supporting the construction of new -type battleships and s.Heathcote, p. 130 He supported F. C. Dreyer’s 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.Brooks, p. 135 Jellicoe arranged for the output of naval ordnance to be transferred from the War Office to the Admiralty.Grigg 2002, p371-2