Admiral of the Fleet John Rushworth Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe, GCB, OM, GCVO, SGM, DL (1859–1935) was an officer in the Royal Navy who fought in the Anglo-Egyptian War, the Boxer Rebellion and commanded the Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916 during the First World War. His handling of the fleet at Jutland was controversial as whilst he made no serious mistakes and the German High Seas Fleet retreated to port, the British public was disappointed that the Royal Navy had not won a victory on the scale of the Battle of Trafalgar. He later served as First Sea Lord, overseeing the expansion of the Naval Staff at the Admiralty and the introduction of convoys, but was removed at the end of 1917. He also served as the Governor-General of New Zealand in the early 1920s.
Jellicoe was educated at Field House School in Rottingdean and joined the Royal Navy as a cadet in the training ship HMS Britannia in 1872. He was made a midshipman in the steam frigate HMS Newcastle in 1874 before transferring to the ironclad HMS Agincourt in the Mediterranean Fleet in 1877. Promoted to sub-lieutenant in 1878, he joined HMS Alexandra, flagship of the Mediterranean Fleet, as signal sub-lieutenant in 1880 and was again promoted to lieutenant in 1880. He returned to HMS Agincourt in 1881 and commanded a rifle company of the Naval Brigade at Ismailia during the Egyptian war of 1882.
Qualified as a gunnery officer in 1883, he was appointed to the staff of the gunnery school HMS Excellent in 1884 and to the turret ship HMS Monarch as gunnery officer in 1885. He was awarded the Board of Trade Silver Medal for rescuing the crew of a capsized steamer near Gibraltar in 1886 and joined the battleship HMS Colossus in 1886. Then he was put in charge of the experimental department at HMS Excellent in 1886 before being appointed assistant to the Director of Naval Ordnance in 1889.
Promoted to commander in 1891 Jellicoe joined the battleship HMS Sans Pareil in the Mediterranean Fleet in 1892 and transferred to the flagship of the Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet Vice Admiral Sir George Tryon, the battleship HMS Victoria, in 1893. He was therefore aboard during the infamous incident when it collided with HMS Camperdown and was wrecked off Tripoli in Lebanon on 22 June 1893. He was then appointed to the new flagship, HMS Ramillies.
In 1897 he was promoted to captain and became a member of the Admiralty's Ordnance Committee. He then served as Captain of the battleship HMS Centurion and as chief of staff to Vice Admiral Sir Edward Seymour during the Seymour Expedition to relieve the legations at Peking during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 and was badly wounded during the Battle of Beicang. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath and given the German Order of the Red Eagle, 2nd class, with Crossed Swords for services rendered in China.
In 1902 he became Naval Assistant to Third Naval Lord and Controller of the Navy and in 1903 was given command of the armoured cruiser HMS Drake on the North America and West Indies Station. 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 HMS Dreadnought in 1906, and was also made an Aide-de-Camp to the King in 1906.Promoted to rear admiral in 1907, he pushed hard for funds to modernise the navy, supporting the construction of new Dreadnought-type battleships and Invincible-class battlecruisers.
Jellicoe was appointed second-in-command of the Atlantic Fleet in 1907, hoisting his flag in the battleship HMS Albemarle. He was appointed Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order on the occasion of the King's Review of the Home Fleet in the Solent in 1907 and went on to be Third Sea Lord and Controller of the Navy in 1908. Having taken part in the funeral of King Edward VII in 1910 he became Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, hoisting his flag in the battleship HMS Prince of Wales. He advanced to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath on the Coronation of King George V and was confirmed in the rank of vice admiral in 1911. He went on to be Second-in-Command of the Home Fleet, hoisting his flag in the battleship HMS Hercules, in 1911, was appointed commander of the 2nd Battle Squadron in 1912, and became Second Sea Lord also in 1912.
At the start of the First World War Jellicoe was promoted to full admiral and assigned command of the Grand Fleet and in 1915 was advanced to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath. He was still in command of the Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916, history's largest (and only major) clash of dreadnoughts, albeit an indecisive one. His handling of the Grand Fleet during the battle remains controversial, with some historians describing Jellicoe as too cautious and other historians faulting the battlecruiser commander, Admiral David Beatty, for making various tactical errors. Jellicoe certainly made no significant mistakes during the battle and based on limited intelligence, he correctly deployed the Grand Fleet with a turn to port so as to "cross the T" of the German High Seas Fleet as it appeared. After suffering heavy shell damage, the German fleet turned 180 degrees and headed away from the battle and Jellicoe was criticised for not pursuing, but it is unclear that this would have been sensible, given the risk of German torpedo attacks. Churchill described Jellicoe later as 'the only man on either side who could lose the war in an afternoon'—essentially hinting that Jellicoe's decision to prefer caution was strategically correct. Nevertheless, he was appointed a member of the Order of Merit and advanced to Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order and was awarded the Grand Cross of the French Legion of Honour.
Jellicoe was appointed First Sea Lord in November 1916 and his term of office role saw Britain brought within danger of starvation by German unrestricted U-Boat warfare. At a War Committee the admirals present, including Jellicoe, told Lloyd George that convoys presented too large a target for enemy ships, and that merchant ship masters lacked the discipline to “keep station” in a convoy and they were not in general use until August 1917, by which time shipping losses to U-boats were already falling. He was rather abruptly dismissed in December 1917. As First Sea Lord Jellicoe was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Belgian Order of Leopold, the Russian Order of St. George, 3rd Class, the Grand Cross of the Italian Military Order of Savoy and the Grand Cordon of the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun. He was created Viscount Jellicoe of Scapa Flow in 1918.
He was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet inl 1919 and became Governor-General of New Zealand in 1920. While out there he also served as Grand Master of New Zealand's Masonic Grand Lodge. Following his return to England, he was created Earl Jellicoe and Viscount Brocas of Southampton in the County of Southampton in 1925 and died of pneumonia at his home in Kensington, London, on 20 November 1935. He was buried in St Paul's Cathedral.
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