John Rushworth Jellicoe

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John Rushworth Jellicoe

The English admiral John Rushworth Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe (1859-1935), was commander in chief of the British Grand Fleet during the first half of World War I. John Rushworth Jellicoe

Born on Dec. 5, 1859, at Southampton, John Jellicoe was the heir to a long naval tradition. Before he was 13 years old, Jellicoe was in the navy training to be an officer, and 2 years later he was a midshipman on a 2 1/ 2-year cruise of the sailing vessel New-castle. In 1877 he was with the fleet at the Dardanelles during the Russo-Turkish War and, as the result of his excellent record there, was sent to the Royal Naval College at Greenwich.

Until 1898 Jellicoe was assigned to various posts, including gunnery and torpedo schools and sea duty. He became closely associated with the naval reforms and innovations of John French. In 1898 he was sent to East Asian waters as chief of staff to Adm. Seymour. There he was largely responsible for setting up the Chinese village of Weihaiwei as a British naval station. He later went as the leader of an international force that tried unsuccessfully to relieve Peking during the Boxer Rebellion. He was assigned to the Admiralty in 1905 and given charge of naval ordnance.

In 1910, when his tour at the Admiralty was over, Jellicoe, then a vice admiral, was given command of the Atlantic fleet; in this position he was able to direct the new dreadnought-class battleships at sea. In 1912 he was back at the Admiralty as second sea lord. The prewar crisis moved rapidly toward its climax, and Jellicoe was assigned on Aug. 4, 1914, when Britain entered the war, to be commander in chief of the British Grand Fleet.

At the end of May 1916 the German High Seas Fleet challenged the Grand Fleet, resulting in the war's only great naval action, the Battle of Jutland. Both sides lost heavily, but the German fleet escaped destruction by slipping back safely to its bases. As commander in chief, Jellicoe had won a great strategic victory, for the German fleet never came out to fight again, but the government and public opinion demanded his removal for failure to crush the German fleet completely. In November 1916 Jellicoe was transferred to the Admiralty as first sea lord and remained in that post about a year.

After the war Jellicoe returned to service to tour the empire and assess its naval defenses before going to New Zealand as governor general (1920-1924). Jellicoe was made a viscount in 1918 and an earl in 1925. After 10 years of active retirement he died on Nov. 20, 1935. Jellicoe was married and had one son and five daughters.

Further Reading

The best full-scale biography of Jellicoe is A. Temple Patterson, Jellicoe (1969). The older standard work is Sir R. H. Bacon, The Life of John Rushworth, Earl Jellicoe (1936).

Additional Sources

Winton, John, Jellicoe, London: Joseph, 1981. □