Jellicoe, John Rushworth

Jellicoe, John Rushworth
   British naval officer and commander of the Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland in 1916. Small in stature but academically brilliant, Jellicoe joined the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1872 and rapidly climbed the officer ranks. He served in the Egyptian expedition of 1882 and subsequently became chief of staff to John Fisher at the naval gunnery school, HMS Excellent. He remained close to Fisher throughout his career. He served with distinction in the Boxer Insurrection in 1900, being severely wounded in action. He played, under Fisher as First Sea Lord, a part in the development of the Dreadnought . Jellicoe was placed in command of the Grand Fleet in 1914, thanks to Fisher’s influence. The long-expected battle with the Germans arrived on May 31, 1916. After an initial clash of battle-cruiser squadrons in which British losses were significant, Jellicoe succeeded in engaging the main body of the German High Seas fleet in favorable circumstances, and inflicting significant damage. But when the Germans retreated, Jellicoe did not aggressively pursue, in part because of his fear of torpedoes, and therefore did not win the second Trafalgar that many had hoped for.
   The Royal Navy in the pre-World War I period has been accused of becoming a rigidly hierarchical and conservative organization far removed in spirit from the initiative and risk-taking of the age of Nelson. Jellicoe’s critics accuse him of exemplifying these faults, pointing to both his love of detail and his caution at Jutland. Characterized by Churchill as the only man who could lose the war in an afternoon, his caution was not unjustified. It is the case that the German fleet remained in harbor for the rest of the war, making Jutland a strategic victory even if it was not a tactical one.
   See also <>; <>; <> .
    Marder, A. J. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow: The Royal Navy in the Fisher Era. 5 vols. London: Oxford University Press, 1961–1970;
    Massie, Robert K. Castles of Steel. New York: Random House, 2003;
    Patterson, A. T. Jellicoe: A Biography. London: Macmillan, 1969.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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