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The Project Gutenberg eBook, Admiral Jellicoe, by Arthur Applin

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Title: Admiral Jellicoe

Author: Arthur Applin

Release Date: October 19, 2012 [eBook #41109]

Language: English

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Admiral JELLICOE
ARTHUR APPLIN



SIR JOHN JELLICOE AS CAPTAIN


ADMIRAL JELLICOE

BY
ARTHUR APPLIN

 

LONDON
C. ARTHUR PEARSON LTD.
Henrietta Street, W.C.
1915


CONTENTS

CHAPTER   PAGE
I.THE BOY AND THE MAN 11
II.EARLY DAYS ON THE “BRITANNIA” 19
III.CADET—MIDSHIPMAN—LIEUTENANT 26
IV.THE SINKING OF THE “VICTORIA” 38
V.THE BOXER RISING IN CHINA 48
VI.THE SPIRIT OF DRAKE 60
VII.AS ORGANISER 70
VIII.VICE-ADMIRAL 79
IX. 1911-1913 93
X.SUPREME ADMIRAL OF THE HOME FLEETS 103

FOREWORD

In trying to chronicle the events in Admiral Sir John Jellicoe’s life one is faced with many difficulties, the greatest of which is that hitherto his most important battles have been fought on land, behind closed doors and, as far as the public is concerned, in the dark.

Although Sir John Jellicoe has seen active service in Egypt and in China, has sailed his ships on many seas and gone down into the Valley of the Shadow on no fewer than three occasions, he has nevertheless managed to give valuable years to the Admiralty on shore; and it was during the periods when he became successively Assistant Director of Naval Ordnance, Naval Assistant to the Controller of Navy, Director of Naval Ordnance and Controller of the Navy that his most valuable work was done.

[Pg 7]
[Pg 8]

Another important position behind the scenes which he filled was that of Superintendent of the building of ships of war in private as well as in Royal Dockyards.

The object of this little book is better to acquaint the general public with the man who stands with his hand at the helm of the Ship of England’s destiny, the ship in which we must all sink or swim. Never since the days of Nelson has such a responsibility been vested in one man. Never in the history, not only of our Empire, but of the world, has the issue of the fight for sea power and supremacy been so vital, so tremendous.

What our ships and sailors have accomplished in the past gives us hope for the future, and courage to wait in the silence of the long night that now hides England and her defenders from one another.

But above all we are confident, because we have faith in the man who was sent us with the hour; the man on whom the cloak of the Emir of the Sea—“Emir-al-Bahr”—has fallen.

That this brief sketch of the Sea Lord and his career is altogether unworthy of him I am quite aware. My apology for offering[Pg 9] it to the public must be that it is the first attempt to give any coherent account of his life that has been made. A life, as I have already pointed out, which has been lived behind the scenes, devoted to duty, careless of opinion, fearful of applause.

For the details of his career and a brief outline of the work he has done I am indebted to his wife, Lady Jellicoe, who most kindly placed at my disposal the few chronicles she possessed of his services, and gave me all the help she could in my task even to the extent of reading the MSS. of the volume before it was set up in type.

A. A.


[Pg 10]
[Pg 11]

ADMIRAL JELLICOE


CHAPTER I
THE BOY—AND THE MAN

If Admiral Sir John Jellicoe had been born in 1858 instead of a year later, he would have first opened his eyes on this now sorely troubled world on the Centenary of Nelson’s natal day.

But the gods timed his arrival exactly one hundred and one years later, and it was on the cold and blustering dawn of December the 5th, 1859, that Captain John H. Jellicoe was informed of the happy event. How happy for the Empire, as well as for himself and his wife, the gallant Captain little dreamed at the time.

Southampton was Jellicoe’s birthplace, and he came of the race that the sea breeds. His father, who only died in the autumn of 1914 at the age of ninety, was Commodore[Pg 12] of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company until he retired from active service at the age of seventy years—still a young man. He then became a director of the Company and took an active part in its affairs almost until the day of his death.

Though as British as the seas which christened the Admiral of the Fleet and the Guardian of our Empire, Sir John Jellicoe’s name is derived from the French, and it is probable that the family originally was of French extraction:—“Admiral Sir John Jellicoe serait, parâite il d’origine française, et descendrait d’une famille protestante emigrée à la Révocation de l’édit de Nantes, et son Nom indiquerait son origine. Jellicoe serait une sorte de contraction de Angélycois, nom des habitants de St. Jean d’Angely.”

Gentilcorps—anglicized Noblebody—would be the modern French equivalent. There is an English surname somewhat similar, “Handsomebody,” a name that was found on the Honours List some five or six years ago. Jellicorse is another form of Sir John’s name, and it is doubtless from this that one of the nicknames has been derived[Pg 13] which is popular among the men of the Fleet—Jellymould.

Admiral Patton, Second Sea Lord at the time of the Battle of Trafalgar, was Jellicoe’s great grandfather; it is something of a coincidence that at the outbreak of the present World-War Admiral Jellicoe was also Second Sea Lord. Jellicoe’s youngest daughter is called Prudence Patton, and Prudence Patton served King Charles II. faithfully in the troubles and wars that filled that unfortunate monarch’s reign.

Like all popular men in the Service—with the sole exception of Admiral May, who, though loved and respected by everyone, has, like the Springtime, been always “May”—Sir John can boast a multitude of nicknames.

“Jacky-Oh!” “Hell Fire Jack!” (owing to the revolution he made in Naval gunnery), “All-Jelly” (reminiscent of Epsom Race Course on Derby Day, but again due probably to the deadly effect of his ship’s gunnery), “The Little Admiral” (this in polite society), “Silent Jack” and “Dreadnought Jack.”

Jellicoe, as everyone connected with the[Pg 14] Navy knows, was a Dreadnought man, and one of Lord Fisher’s most enthusiastic pupils.

The nickname most in favour in the “forecastle” for Sir John is Hell Fire Jack, yet there is nothing of the fire-eating commander or the bold buccaneer in Admiral Jellicoe’s personal appearance. He was always a little boy—his mother and father’s “little boy,” without a doubt—and, physically, he is a little man. Nelson might have been able to give him half an inch in height. And it is worth remembering that the majority of great leaders of men have been small of stature, from Julius Cæsar to Napoleon, Domville, Sir John French or the late great little Lord Roberts.

Marat was insignificant to look at, and the Kaiser, in his socks, hardly suggests the leader of the Race of Nietzsche’s Great Blonde Beasts.

Not only does Jellicoe lack inches, but Nature built him on the lean, light pattern, yet hard as well-tempered steel. He possesses a vast amount of vitality and reserve force.

Time has given his bright, piercing eyes shrewdness and kindliness; they are[Pg 15] the eyes of a man who, while he is willing to give all, demands all—or nothing—from those who serve. His nose is long and adventurous rather than Napoleonic.

Quiet as a boy, he has less to say as a man when he is at work. But among his intimate friends he has the reputation of a brilliant conversationalist and a wit, and when Jellicoe speaks those about him listen. At sea he has not the usual flow of highly-coloured language generally associated with those who go down to the sea in ships. A small vocabulary has always sufficed him. His mouth is remarkable; the thin, lightly-compressed lips suggest determination and severity; but they turn up at the corners in a curious way, and one feels instinctively that the disciplinarian has a delicious sense of humour.

Sir John has an elder brother, who is in the Church; beyond a general family likeness there seems little resemblance between the two men. It is enough that the life of each has been given to the services of his God and his Country.

Jellicoe’s sister, on the other hand, bears a quite remarkable likeness to the “Little[Pg 16] Admiral.” The same keen, flashing eyes, adventurous nose and firm mouth—a trifle more tender of course, but with the same delightful suggestion of fun lurking at the corners.

One day, not so very long ago, Miss Jellicoe and a friend had stopped at a street corner to watch a pavement artist at work. He had just completed a picture of the Kaiser, a not too flattering one, and he was busy on the outlines of another picture.

As the portrait progressed beneath his chalky fingers the man occasionally sat upright and surveyed his work and gave a sly chuckle.

A minute or two later the “Little Admiral’s” sister—who is as modest and retiring as her brother—started and gave a cry of embarrassment. A small boy, also watching the work of the pavement artist, had nudged her:

“He’s a drawing of yer picture, Miss!”

And so apparently he was. There, in bold chalky outlines, were the adventurous nose, the bright eyes, the humorous mouth.

Miss Jellicoe tried to escape through the gathering crowd.

[Pg 17]

“’Er portrait,” shouted the artist in disgusted tones. “Not likely! Carn’t you recognize Hell Fire Jack, you idjit—him as is going ter give the Road ’Og here a early mornin’ dip in the North Sea!”

If he had glanced at Miss Jellicoe he might have received a shock—and been able to congratulate himself on the cleverness of his portrait.

But she fled.

In Sir John Jellicoe one realizes a man, something infinitely greater than the human machine beloved of the Prussian Military Caste. A man, human and humane; devoid of fear, with an unbreakable will. Those gentle eyes can flame and the quiet voice thrill when a command is issued, though he seldom raises it above the ordinary conversational tone.

Probably no one really knows Admiral Jellicoe but his men. And the Navy likes to keep her heroes to herself. She does not talk about them: they are one of her secrets. She kept Nelson to herself, and no one talked about him—beyond the quarter deck or outside the forecastle—until after his death. Then the sea gave up her secret and entrusted[Pg 18] the memory of one of England’s greatest heroes to her keeping.

And to-day the sea has given us Jellicoe. Just in time—lest we forget.


[Pg 19]

CHAPTER II
EARLY DAYS ON THE “BRITANNIA”

Jellicoe commenced his education at a small school at Rottingdean. near Brighton, and though he was considered a bright little lad, he did not attract any more attention than the other boys. In holiday-time he loved nothing better than to be left alone in the company of his father and to hear from him the wonders of the Deep, and tales of the distant lands of Romance and Mystery which he had visited.

One can picture the big bronzed sailor and his little son walking about the lovely Isle of Wight watching the coming and going of the ships, and sniffing the salt of the breeze that flung the savour and thrill of unconquerable oceans against the shores of her faithful lover England; Little Jellicoe eagerly questioning Big Jellicoe; and Big Jellicoe recounting inexhaustible yarns and seaman’s tales that would have delighted the heart of and inspired Stevenson himself.

[Pg 20]

It was thus, on the shores of the Isle of Wight, and on the quays and docks of Southampton, in communion with his father and the sea, that the seeds of adventure and patriotism were first sown in Jellicoe’s heart—destined to flourish into such a rich harvest for his country.

There is a little story told of Master Jack soon after he learned to toddle which shows that his character was forming even at that early age.

“Jacky” had a habit of running ahead of his nurse and suddenly darting across the road. The spirit of adventure; probably he was ambitious to be a boy scout. Eventually, finding that warnings were not heeded, the nurse told him that when she saw a policeman she would ask the Representative of Law and Order to take him away and put him in prison.

Presently a policeman appeared on the horizon of the pavement.

“Now, Master Jacky, you’d better behave yourself!” the nurse whispered warningly.

But young Jellicoe was not the least afraid of the man in blue. He advanced to meet him and solemnly looked him up and down.

[Pg 21]

“Nurse says you’re to take me in charge,” he announced.

The constable, taken aback, smiled and asked the nature of the “Charge.”

“Disobeying orders,” was Master Jack’s reply. “And I say, policeman, what ripping buttons you’ve got on your uniform!”

Jellicoe never knew fear or favour. But evidently as a youngster he realized the meaning of discipline and order.

In telling this little incident the nurse is reported to have said that Master Jacky was extremely disgusted when the policeman refused to take him away and lock him up.

Maybe he thought that the policeman ought to have been reported for not doing his duty.

At twelve years of age young Jellicoe left the Rottingdean school, and it was then that Captain Jellicoe decided his boy should have his chance in the Royal Navy, instead of following in his footsteps and entering the Mercantile Marine.

So he went up for his preliminary examination and passed into the old Training Ship Britannia with flying colours. From this[Pg 22] moment there was no stopping young Jellicoe. As an Instructor tersely remarked, “He was a holy terror”—but not in the sense which that expression is generally meant to convey.

He was just as quiet and well-disciplined a boy as he has been since he grew to manhood’s estate. But he was “a holy terror” for work.

Any sort of work.

To whatever he put his hand—or his mind—he accomplished. At this period he is described by one who knew him as being short, thin but wiry, rather pale, with large determined mouth and nose, and a pair of extraordinarily bright eyes.

In spite of his aptitude for mental work (the first year or two on the Britannia is taken up with as much “book learning” as “boat learning”), there was nothing of the bookworm about young Jellicoe, and the most fierce youthful opponent of “swotting” could never have accused him of priggishness.

He was just born with a desire for knowledge and an aptitude for obtaining it without apparent effort.

[Pg 23]

At the same time he was as keen as any other boy on games. In spite of his diminutive inches he was useful with the gloves; he could swim like a fish; he was a good all-round cricketer, and a very deadly left-hand bowler. He is still a splendid “oar,” a first-class rifle shot, and on a grouse moor he lets very few birds “get away.”

His great game, however, turned out to be racquets, and even to-day it would be difficult to find a man to equal him on the courts. At tennis he is almost equally good, and he can give points to the average amateur. It was during a game of tennis at home one day that Jellicoe showed his delightful sense of humour and love of fun, peculiar to sailor-men, proving the truth of the old saying that the greatest men can also be the greatest children.

Just as a “set” had been finished sounds of a fierce quarrel came from the other side of the shrubbery. Strange oaths rent the air. Obviously tramps fighting over their ill-gotten gains! Sir John immediately disappeared to reconnoitre with one or two friends. They were absent a long time, and just as Lady Jellicoe was beginning to feel[Pg 24] anxious, her husband appeared, limping, supported by one of his guests, his head and face swathed in bandages.

The tramps had evidently shown fight, and a terrific encounter had taken place. Sir John was overwhelmed with sympathy for his wounds and congratulations for his victory. For quite a long time Jellicoe kept up the illusion that he had been “in action.”

As a matter of fact, the tramps had bolted without giving the Little Admiral even a sight of their heels.

Not so very long after this Jellicoe himself was fooling the “Blue,” or defending fleet during Naval manœuvres by disguising his ships as (sea-going) “tramps” and succeeded in eluding their vigilance and raiding an English port!

Probably Sir John learnt a few of his “tricks” during those early days on the Britannia.

The Britannia, with her sister ship the Hindustani, are no longer used as Training Ships for the Royal Navy, and though the fine modern College on the hill overlooking the River Dart is doubtless healthier and[Pg 25] more suitable in many ways, there was a glamour about the famous old Boat that a College can never possess.

Jellicoe was fortunate, therefore, in receiving his training on the seasoned oak timbers of a gallant ship in the midst of the waters, instead of in the modern nicely-arranged and hygienic edifice on shore, which was built a few years ago, and which took the place of the ancient Man-o’-War.

Always ready for work or play, he excelled at both, and was popular with everyone. From the very outset of his career he was “marked” as a boy who would achieve something great in the future.


[Pg 26]

CHAPTER III
CADET—MIDSHIPMAN—LIEUTENANT

Jellicoe’s life on H.M.S. Britannia was an interesting and varied one. Probably he looks back on the years spent in what has been aptly called “The Cradle of our Sea Kings” as the best years of his life. He joined at a very interesting period, too, just when the Franco-Prussian War was raging most fiercely.

For a healthy lad life on the Britannia must have been an ideal existence. Of course there were hardships, doubtless greater ones forty years ago than there are now. Hardships find out the weak spots in humanity—mental as well as physical. Hardships make men.

Discipline is strict in the Navy, stricter than in the sister Service, but it is of a different kind. Sailors see life from a quite different standpoint from that from which soldiers look at it. In the old days there was a great deal of brutality in the Navy, but with it, at the[Pg 27] same time, a great comradeship—a deep understanding of human nature. To-day brutality has practically disappeared, but the deep understanding of human nature remains, and with it brotherly love.

A sailor’s ship becomes his home, and happy as was young Jellicoe in his father’s house in Southampton, his heart was soon centred in the Britannia and the ever-varying round of work and play which used to keep the cadets busy from morning to night.

Captain W. Graham was in command of the Britannia during the greater part of the period Jellicoe served his apprenticeship to the sea—from 1874 to 1877.

Turning-out at sunrise and turning-in soon after sunset; parade, swim, drill, preparation; classes, ranging from Latin to Algebra, from gunnery to rope-splicing—this is a rough idea of a day on the training ship in the early ’eighties.

An old musty boat may not have been the healthiest place for a growing boy from a fond mother’s and a modern physician’s point of view, but the breeze which swept up the silvery Dart from the English Channel[Pg 28] and whistled through her rigging and portholes was stimulating and life-giving.

The Britannia still lies at her old moorings, between the little village of Dittisham and Dartmouth town, with Kingswear, the terminus of the Great Western Railway, on the left. The Dart is one of the most beautiful and romantic of English rivers. It rises only about a score of miles away from Dartmouth, right on the moorland, in a wilderness of gorse and heather.

It rushes through the granite-strewn valleys, past the glorious wooded banks of Holne Chase, roaring and tumbling until it reaches Totnes. Here its wild course is stopped with startling abruptness; from a foaming shallow trout stream it is turned into a stately river—broad, deep and calm. But the waters still carry the colour of the peat and the scent of the heather; the hills still rise from the mossy banks carpeted with daffodils and primroses in spring. And right down to the sea itself, thatch-roofed cottages, stately houses and ruined castles peer through the foliage.

Dartmouth is noted for three things—its cockles and plums from Dittisham, its orchards[Pg 29] and its annual Regatta, which in Jellicoe’s day was famous throughout the world.

The author has it from the best authority that young Jellicoe joined in some of the successful raids on the aforesaid orchards, that he tasted and approved of Dittisham plums and cockles, and it is more than likely that he attended the Regatta, which, from a boy’s point of view, as well as that of many grown-ups, was most attractive as a Fair.

At the end of Jack Jellicoe’s first year on the Britannia he showed his instructor and his fellow-cadets the kind of stuff of which he was made. He was quiet, unassuming, yet always ready for work, and equally ready to take his place in the cricket eleven, or to put in a little practice in the field between the goal-posts. When he came out at the head of his rivals in the examinations, and got first for every examination that it was possible for him to pass, he must have occasioned no inconsiderable surprise.

Next year much the same thing happened, though, at the same time, Jellicoe began to develop a penchant for left-hand bowling. He was useful with an oar, too. On the Britannia every kind of game was encouraged[Pg 30] among the cadets. Of course swimming, shooting, rowing, sculling and the “gym” came under part of the curriculum. A cadet need not play cricket or football, but he would probably have a bad time if he did not. If he wished, he got his chance at tennis and racquets and bowls; athletic sports were, of course, held regularly.

Besides the time-honoured paper chase, the Britannia had a pack of beagles, of which the lieutenant was generally master; the pack is still in existence to-day. The hounds met, during the season, once or twice a week, hunting the hillsides, and along the open country from the cliffs beyond Kingswear, inland, for several miles. Only the master is mounted, and sometimes he dispenses with his horse; everyone else is on foot, and, as a cadet remarked, “You have to be pretty nippy if you want to be in at the death.”

Amidst such surroundings, on one of the oldest ships belonging to His Majesty on the bosom of England’s most beautiful river, John Rushton Jellicoe’s character was developed. At the age of thirteen he found himself afloat—and he has kept afloat ever since. His ship has in very truth been his[Pg 31] home, for he has always been actively engaged, and never known—perhaps never wanted—a real rest or a proper holiday.

Of course Jellicoe passed out of the Britannia just as he had passed into her—first of his year by over a hundred marks. During the period he was on board as midshipman he took nearly all the prizes—though he was only allowed to keep a selection. But the future Admiral of the Fleet was not after prizes. He possessed what an old boatswain aptly described as a hungry brain. It is rather surprising that he never suffered from mental dyspepsia, since in his desire for knowledge he was absolutely avaricious. In his examination as sub-lieutenant a few years later, he took no fewer than three “firsts.”

It was not very long before Jellicoe saw active service. He was appointed to H.M.S. Agincourt in 1881, and was present at the bombardment of Alexandria. This was in July of 1882, just after the attacks made on the Europeans in Alexandria, for which Ahmed Arabi was held responsible. Arabi was then Prime Minister and leader of the Rebellion against the English. It was he[Pg 32] who had heavy guns mounted on the forts and ordered earthworks to be thrown up for their protection.

It is interesting to remember that Kitchener was in Egypt at this time, on furlough. He, of course, saw that a conflict was inevitable; and when the great exodus of foreigners from the town took place he remained behind.

But his furlough expired and he was due to return home. He applied for an extension, and obtained it. Meanwhile, the British battleships waited outside beyond the harbour, among them the Agincourt, with young Jellicoe on board. Arabi continued to strengthen the defences of Alexandria and to pour troops into the town.

On July the 10th Arabi received the British Ultimatum; the guns of the Fleet were trained on the fortifications, and steamers crowded with people crept out of the harbour, Kitchener on one of them. A few hours later the first shot was fired by one of the English boats—and Jellicoe received his baptism of fire.

The enemy’s guns were soon silenced, and Arabi withdrew his forces inland. But a terrible massacre took place in Alexandria;[Pg 33] houses were pillaged and burnt. Eventually a force of bluejackets and Marines was landed from the Fleet and order was restored.

Of course Arabi and his followers retreated. It was realized a big force would be required to suppress him, and an expedition was fitted out under the command of Sir Garnet Wolseley, and Kitchener (whose extension of furlough had again expired, and who ought to have returned to England) got his chance.

So it happened that thus early in their careers the two men, Lieutenant Kitchener, R.E., and Lieutenant Jellicoe, R.N., in whose hands, jointly, now rests the safety of the British Empire and the welfare of the world, saw War for the first time and fought for the first time together.

For Jellicoe, after taking part in the bombardment of Alexandria, was fortunate enough to accompany the Naval Brigade which was landed and marched with Wolseley’s troops on Cairo, and fought at Tel-el-Kebir, where Arabi had strongly entrenched his men.

The odds against the British forces were about two to one, but early in September a decisive victory was gained by us, and[Pg 34] Arabi’s army routed. For his share in this action Lieutenant Jellicoe was awarded the Egyptian Medal and the Khedive’s Bronze Star.

It is not recorded whether Jellicoe and Kitchener ever met on the battlefield, or, if they did, whether they ever spoke. For then, as now, both were men of few words.

“He is great,” Colonel Taylor said afterwards of Kitchener, “and he is clever.”

“He don’t waste words,” was a bluejacket’s criticism of Jellicoe, “but when he does speak, he hits the mark every time.”

Kitchener remained in Egypt—where he was fated to accomplish the first portion of his life’s work for the Empire. Jellicoe returned to England, and we next hear of him at the Royal Naval College at Greenwich, where he showed that his “mental appetite” was far from satiated. He won the £80 special prize for Gunnery Lieutenants; this was a significant moment in his career. As the world knows, British Naval Gunnery is unrivalled. It was Jellicoe who helped to place it in the enviable position it now holds.

[Pg 35]

After leaving Greenwich, Jellicoe served on H.M.S. Monarch. It was in May, 1886, while still a lieutenant on this ship, that he nearly lost his life. Sir John Jellicoe has had three very narrow escapes, and this was the first.

The Monarch, which had been lying off Gibraltar, went out for target practice. A stiff breeze was blowing and dirty weather was experienced. Soon a heavy sea got up, and presently the Monarch sighted a ship in difficulties; she turned out to be a cargo steamer from Glasgow, the Ettrickdale, and was fast on the rocks, with the waves breaking over her and threatening to knock her to pieces. The Monarch had only taken one cutter out with her, her smallest; but her Commander asked for volunteers to man it, so that an attempt should be made to rescue the crew of the shipwrecked boat.

There did not seem to be much chance of the small cutter living in such an angry sea; but this was the kind of job which appealed to Lieutenant Jellicoe, who was one of the first to volunteer, and he was given command of the crew.

With seven seamen he started on his[Pg 36] desperate—almost hopeless—enterprise. Though the cutter was splendidly managed, she capsized before the Ettrickdale could be reached, and Jellicoe was struggling with his men in the boiling waters.

Marvellous to relate, not a life was lost. More dead than alive, they all managed to reach the shore. For this attempt at saving life Jellicoe received a medal. It was given him by the Board of Trade. But he was not allowed to keep it very long, for he lost it when, in 1887, he went down with the Victoria. Fortunately for England and her Empire, Jellicoe came up again—but his silver medal did not.

Presumably the Board of Trade must have heard of the terrible accident which cost England so many valuable lives and horrified the whole world; but the officials did not offer to replace Jellicoe’s lost medal, and when he wrote and asked if they could obligingly supply him with a duplicate, he received a formal reply that he could have one if he chose to pay for it.

Up to the present we believe that he has not “paid,” and so probably he is without the silver medal he first won for gallantry.[Pg 37] Perhaps the Board of Trade is still debating whether it would be justified in going to the expense of providing the Admiral of the British Fleet with another.

Mrs. Jellicoe, Sir John’s mother, possesses an interesting little souvenir in the telegram which Jellicoe sent after he had been rescued, announcing that he was safe—

“Quite safe terrible affair love Jack”.

This simple message naturally brought great joy and relief to his father’s and mother’s hearts. And now the Nation confidently awaits, with Sir John Jellicoe’s family, the receipt at any moment of another telegram almost similarly worded—

“Quite safe splendid affair love Jack!”


[Pg 38]

CHAPTER IV
THE SINKING OF THE “VICTORIA”

For a short time Jellicoe served as Gunnery-Lieutenant on the Colossus, and then he was appointed Junior Staff Officer of the Excellent gunnery establishment, under the command of Lord Fisher—then Captain.

This meeting between the two men was fortunate for the Junior Officer. Fisher at once marked down Jellicoe as useful, and so, a few years later, when he was Director of Naval Ordnance at the Admiralty, it came to pass that Jellicoe joined Fisher there as his Assistant.

It was just subsequent to this appointment when Jellicoe was, we believe, serving as first lieutenant on board the Sans Pareil, that the German Emperor during the Naval Review put in an appearance with the powerful vessels of his new and comparatively small Navy. Needless to say, both the Kaiser and his officers, together with[Pg 39] their ships, were of the greatest interest to our men.

When the Review was over numerous were the discussions and fierce the arguments which centred around William the Second and his little fleet. Everyone present from Junior to Senior had something to say, some criticism to make.

Everyone except Lieutenant John Jellicoe. He kept his mouth shut and his eyes open, and he expressed no opinion either on the Kaiser, his officers or his ships.

Jellicoe only spent about three years at the Admiralty as Fisher’s assistant, but it was quite enough for the authorities to realize that he was an efficient and clever officer—a man who knew how to organize. Captain Fisher found his services invaluable, and as an “assistant” Jellicoe served him faithfully.

Jellicoe would probably be the first to admit that during the comparatively short time he spent at the Admiralty under Fisher he accumulated a vast amount of knowledge. A friendship sprung up between the two men, born of respect. Both were enthusiasts; both loved the Service[Pg 40] keenly. Both were ambitious—not for themselves. Neither sought personal aggrandizement. Their ambitions were noble. It was natural that both, later on, should meet with opposition. It was inevitable that the opposition should be overcome.

A greater contrast than the two men make—the “Little Admiral” and the “Big Admiral”—it would be difficult to find. Physically, Fisher is of the bulldog breed beloved of the public. The moment he enters a room you are conscious of his presence. “Jacky” Fisher exudes vitality; it surrounds him as a perfume surrounds a pretty woman. He carries it about with him. His figure is robust; he stands with feet wide apart and firmly planted. He is very straight up and down; his face is nearly the colour of mahogany; a large mouth, almost brutal until he smiles, when it becomes a veritable cavern of humour, and aggressive eyes that nevertheless shine and almost sparkle beneath big bushy brows; his hair is silver grey; his hands are titanic and generally hang loosely by his side, suggestive, and ready for action.

Physically, the difference between the two[Pg 41] men is the difference between a small smooth-haired terrier and one of Major Richardson’s Irish police dogs. Mentally, there is not much difference, and events have proved that both possess the same instincts.

One is the Dreadnought instinct; another, the faith that in action you must “hit quickly, hit hard, and keep on hitting.” A third instinct might be called the instinct of Silence. They have never attempted to emulate Lord Charles Beresford or Sir Edward Carson in discharging fierce literary broadsides.

Jellicoe was gazetted a Commander in 1891; after leaving the Sans Pareil he was appointed to the Victoria, then one of our largest battleships, sister ship (though of later date) to the Camperdown. It was while he was her Commander that the accident happened during manœuvres off Tripoli, on the Syrian Coast.

This was his second marvellous escape from death; all the more remarkable since Jellicoe was on the sick list, confined to his cabin with a sharp attack of Malta fever. The ship went down twenty minutes after she was struck, and twenty-two officers and three hundred and fifty men were drowned.

[Pg 42]

This was the most terrible disaster that has happened to the British Fleet in times of peace since the Royal George foundered one night, close to shore, and disappeared beneath the waves with her entire crew, including the brave Kempenfeldt.

The Victoria was the flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir George Tryon, Commander of the Mediterranean Fleet. The ships left Beyrout early in the morning of June the 22nd, 1893; they steamed in line abreast to the Syrian Coast, when the order was given to change their formation into two columns, line ahead, with an interval of six cables. The starboard column was headed by the Victoria under Tryon, and the port column by the Camperdown under Rear-Admiral Markham.

Tryon’s flag-lieutenant was Lord Gillford, and it was he who received the fatal order to signal to the two divisions to turn sixteen points inwards, the leading ships first, the others of course following in succession.

The smallest circle in which either the Victoria or the Camperdown could turn was six hundred yards—about three cables length—and therefore if Tryon’s orders were obeyed[Pg 43] a collision would be inevitable between the two ships.

Both Lord Gillford and the Admiral’s Staff-Commander must have realized this: every seaman on board the Fleet, when eventually the signal fluttered in the wind, knew what would happen.

The position must have been a terrible one for those on the bridge of the Camperdown, as well as the Victoria; for, not theirs to question but to obey.

But Staff-Commander Hawkins-Smith dared remind Tryon that they could not possibly turn in less than eight cables length.

Admiral Tryon agreed, but what was the Staff-Commander’s surprise a minute or two later to see the original signal “six cables length” go up. He spoke to Lord Gillford and advised him to again call Admiral Tryon’s attention to the impossibility of the manœuvre being successfully carried out.

This Gillford did: “You said it was to be more than six cables’ length, Sir.”

“Did I? Well, leave it at six cables,” Tryon replied, and turning round he entered into conversation with Captain Bourke.

One cannot help wondering what would[Pg 44] have happened if Jellicoe had been present, instead of confined below with fever. Presumably, he could have done no more than Gillford and Hawkins-Smith; the Victoria would have been lost just the same.

When the signal was read on the Camperdown Admiral Markham was puzzled and therefore he refrained from replying, thereby indicating that he did not understand his instructions.

The fleet steamed ahead in two columns line.

Tryon grew impatient and signalled to the Camperdown—“What are you waiting for?”

Markham had now no option but to obey. Perhaps he hoped that Admiral Tryon had some scheme for manœuvring his own ship.

The signal was obeyed. The leading ships of the two columns turned sixteen points inwards.

The men of the Fleet watched; amazed and horrified.

A minute passed. There was still time to change the signal. Two minutes passed, three. To those waiting and watching the minutes must have seemed an eternity.

Before the fourth minute had expired the Camperdown rammed the Victoria on her[Pg 45] starboard bow. When the great ships parted there was a big gash visible in the Victoria through which the sea poured. At once the boat began to list. But there was no panic. Jellicoe’s servant hurried below and warned the Commander that the Victoria was sinking. Jellicoe got up and went on deck. The order had already been given to pipe all hands. There was no rush or hurry. In the engine rooms the stokers remained at their posts, the artificer and engineers. It was the same in the boiler rooms.

Above, on deck, the men lined up, calm and quiet. But the Victoria was heeling over; sinking fast. Jellicoe, clad in pyjamas, had clambered on to the bridge, and accompanied by two junior officers, attempted to signal to the Camperdown.

It was too late. The Victoria lurched, turned on her side and poured her living freight into the Mediterranean. Those on the upper deck jumped or were flung into the waters. There were many still below, and as the ironclad sank they could be seen clambering through the port holes and sliding down the ship’s side. The majority were caught like rats in a trap.

[Pg 46]

Several of those who escaped from her were struck by the propellers, still racing madly. Others were sucked below when she finally sank and disappeared.

As she sank the Victoria turned right over and went down bottom upwards. Hardly had she disappeared from sight when there came a terrific explosion and a mighty mass of water was thrown high into the air.

Many of the men who had risen to the surface and were swimming about, were swept away and drowned in this waterspout.

Jellicoe, who had been flung from the bridge when the boat commenced to turn turtle, escaped the explosion—probably caused by the bursting of the boilers.

He was a sick man with a temperature over 100°. He swam as long as he could, but weakened by fever he was in danger of collapsing, when Midshipman West came to his rescue and supported him.

Very probably, but for young West, Jellicoe would have gone under. The nation owes him a debt to-day. Eventually they were both picked up by one of the boats sent from the Fleet.

The Camperdown herself was in a bad way;[Pg 47] her bows were crumpled up, and for a little while it looked as though she would sink too, and follow her sister-ship to the bottom of the Mediterranean. But thanks to the celerity with which the water-tight doors were closed and the collision-mats got out, she was saved; the crew were kept working right through the night to keep her afloat.

There were numerous instances of courage and devotion besides that quoted of Jellicoe, who, before going on deck, went below to warn and hurry up any men he might find there. One of the boatswains continued semaphoring until he was washed off his feet. Admiral Tryon refused to try and save himself though implored to do so by his coxswain. The last words he is reported to have said were addressed to a midshipman:

“Don’t stop here, youngster; get to a boat.”

He might have got to that boat himself, but he went down with his ship.

At the court martial Captain Bourke was exonerated from all blame, and the finding of the Court was that the collision had been caused by Admiral Tryon’s order.


[Pg 48]

CHAPTER V
THE BOXER RISING IN CHINA

After the loss of the Victoria Jellicoe served as Commander on H.M.S. Ramillies, flagship in the Mediterranean.

Early in January, 1897, he joined the Ordnance Committee, and received his promotion, attaining the rank of Captain.

But valuable as his services were now, as they had been when assistant to Fisher, he was again not allowed to remain at the Admiralty for long. Admiral Sir C. H. Seymour chose him as Flag Captain on the Centurion. It is hardly necessary to point out that the Centurion of 1898 is no longer on the active list, if indeed she exists at all. H.M.S. Centurion, now “watching and waiting” somewhere in the North Sea, was built in 1912, and belongs to the King George V. Class; she has a displacement of 25,000 tons, and a speed of 21½ knots.

The old Centurion was a very different class of boat. She was on the China Station, and[Pg 49] when the Boxer Rising occurred in 1900—just as we hoped we were finishing our work in South Africa under Kitchener—Jellicoe found himself in the firing line again.

The Boxers were the moving spirit in a vast organization which had for its object the extermination of Christian Missionaries and the aggressive commercial white men who followed in their train.

“China for the Chinese” might be translated as their popular war cry. The Dowager Empress of China was, if not at the head of the movement, certainly at the back of it, in spite of her protestations to the contrary.

The Chinese are the most conservative people in the world. They love and respect the traditions of their race as they love and respect their Ancestors. The “foreign” missionaries, railway concessionaries, mining agents and other outriders of modern civilization threatened to destroy and outrage their cherished ideas and institutions. They did not particularly object to the British; the Englishman—when he did not try to convert them—was the least hated of the foreign devils.

[Pg 50]

Americans, French, Russians, Germans, were all hated and feared.

The Boxers decreed that they would have to go. The rebellion started quietly enough, but once having started it spread with alarming rapidity until Europe saw itself face to face with the Yellow Peril. China threatened to over-run the Western Continent.

Proclamations were issued by the Boxers in all the towns and villages of the great Empire and appeared on the walls of Pekin itself.

“The voice of the great God of the Unseen World—

“Disturbances are to be dreaded from the foreign devils; everywhere they are starting missions, erecting telegraphs, and building railways; they do not believe in the sacred doctrine, and they speak evil of the gods. Their sins are numberless as the hairs of the head. Therefore am I wroth, and my thunders have pealed forth.... The will of Heaven is that the telegraph wires be first cut, then the railways torn up, and then shall the foreign devils be decapitated. In that day shall the hour of their calamities come....”

[Pg 51]

And forthwith the Boxers arranged that disturbances should commence at once. They commenced with pillages and robberies. The Empress launched edicts against the rising, while secretly she encouraged it. Soon a direct attack was made on all Christians; missionaries were tortured and murdered. Churches set on fire and houses torn down.

One or two Legations in Pekin were destroyed. On May the 1st the German Minister, Baron von Kettener, was assassinated.

This was the signal for a general rising, and all the Legations in Pekin were besieged, the Imperial troops joining in the attack. Sir Claude MacDonald had been assured that there was no danger whatsoever. He was appointed commander of the Legation Quarter by the foreign representatives, and a plucky resistance was made.

Early in June he sent a telegram to Sir Edward Seymour, Commander of the China Station, informing him the situation was perilous, and warning him that unless the Legations were soon relieved a general massacre would take place.

Seymour acted as quickly as possible,[Pg 52] and with a force of two thousand men he started to the relief of Pekin.

This little army was composed of men and guns drawn from the ships of the eight Great Powers then in Chinese waters. Great Britain—who provided nearly a thousand men—France, Italy, Russia, the United States, Japan, Austria and Germany. Their combined artillery consisted only of nineteen guns.

Captain Jellicoe was given command of the British Naval Contingent, and the whole force was under the command of Admiral Seymour. Mr. Whittall, Reuter’s correspondent, accompanied the column, and he gave, in the diary which he kept, a very graphic account of the fighting of the allied forces, their failure to relieve Pekin, their attempt to get back to Tientsin, Jellicoe’s bad luck in getting dangerously wounded—it was feared, fatally, at the time—and the narrow escape of the whole force from annihilation.

“We left Laufang at dawn on June the 13th,” he wrote, “and arrived at Tientsin at 12.30 p.m. without incident.

“We left Tientsin again at 2 a.m., but[Pg 53] the Marines were at Yangtsun, and the Chinese officials declined to take the responsibility of affording protection, so we took them on with us. At Lofa we found three trucks derailed, and so remained there all night outside ‘Fort Endymion.’ We moved out from Lofa about midnight on June 14th for headquarters, but found that they had been removed further up the line. A party of Americans, foraging, ran across a band of 150 Boxers and fired on them, killing six and wounding many others. The Aurora’s advance party was attacked about six-and-a-half miles up the line by a large force of the Boxers, who tried to rush them, but the bluejackets kept them off, killing and wounding some 150.

“Last night a courier arrived from Pekin, and said that everything was well in the city when he left, but that many Boxers were openly showing themselves in the city. At ten this morning a most determined attempt was made to rush the headquarters’ train by a large body of Boxers. The small-bore rifle bullets seemed to have no effect in stopping the rush, and the fanatics came on most gallantly. The Maxim was[Pg 54] got into action at the range of about fifty yards, and mowed the enemy like grass. This was enough for them, and they fled into the country.

“In the afternoon an attack was made on Lofa by two thousand Boxers, but they were driven off, with a loss of seventy-five men. Our casualties were said to be four slightly wounded. In the evening Johnstone returned, having raided all the villages bordering the line, killing forty or fifty Boxers. He reports all track in a fearful state, rails, etc., being up for miles at a stretch. The courier who brought letters from Pekin on Tuesday returned with letters for Pekin.

“Matters seem to be getting more serious. Report of the Japanese having been murdered by Tung Fu-hsiang’s men confirmed. Grand stand burned, students attacked by Boxers with swords, Boxers burning missions and foreign buildings other than Legations. Boxers cut the throats of the wounded before running. We had two of Endymion’s bluejackets wounded at Lofa, one shot through the lungs with a stone from a small iron cannon. We took two of these guns. The Italian dead were shockingly[Pg 55] mutilated. One Boxer, a boy of thirteen, was brought in wounded.

“Up at 4 a.m. and started again for Tientsin. Found the line below Lofa cut in four places, in one of which the embankment had been dug out to a depth of some four feet. We received the news that the Boxers were hard at work three miles above Yangtsun tearing up the track. At 5 a.m. saw a body numbering from 200 to 300 strong, enter a large village to the right of the line. We afterwards foraged in another village to the left, where we got some chickens and leeks and then set fire to it. We had this day a guard of 120 Germans and 50 French with us.”

The relief force had now been fighting for a week without making any real progress. Meanwhile, the news that came from Pekin was grave in the extreme. Several attempts were made to send messages through but without success.

Captain Jellicoe sent a body of marines and blue-jackets, under Major Johnstone, to Yangtsun with the intention of opening friendly relations with the people, and after a great deal of trouble, this was done, and food was obtained for the hungry troops.

[Pg 56]

But every day the situation became more serious. Owing to all the rails having been cut the trains were held up and a night attack was expected. For six days no news had come from Tientsin.

Eventually the order came to abandon the trains—fifty thousand pounds of rolling stock, and practically all the baggage—and march on Tientsin with half rations for three days.

This, of course, would meet with Jellicoe’s approval ... hitting quickly and hitting hard.

A day was spent making preparations for the march. Every man of the expedition knew it was a desperate venture, but not one was dismayed. But Mr. Whittall, in his diary, wonders how much of the unfortunate expedition is likely to reach Tientsin in safety.

“Progress was,” he says, “very slow at first owing to want of water for the boats, which were constantly getting ashore. At 7.20 p.m. the column halted and bivouacked for the night, which passed without incident. Gunfiring in the direction of Tientsin reported to have been heard.

[Pg 57]

“Réveillé sounded at 4 a.m. Column marched 6.15; Hangu, 7.30; halted while town was searched by advance guard; 8.5, Chinese army reported advancing; 8.25, American 3-inch opened on enemy in a copse flanking river in line of our advance.

“Conflicting reports as to character of enemy, some saying only Boxers, others Imperial troops. 9.5, I went up to the firing line. Enemy strongly posted in a village ahead. 9.0, our 9-pounders came into action at 450 yards. Enemy retired, under the heavy shrapnel fire, and a party of Americans went ahead to examine village. One Aurora wounded accidentally.

“First volleys fired very heavy; when enemy found range too close to be pleasant; 9.50, column resumed advance, two Russians wounded. Village ahead reported full of the enemy. Our 9-pounders ordered up; opened fire 10.31. Americans advance with French on left, our Marines advance under cover of the river bank. 2.20, while troops resting, we were attacked. Enemy driven off, one American dangerously wounded.

“Column resumed its advance on both banks of the river. Three Chinese field-guns[Pg 58] observed moving in the direction of Peitsang. Sounds of heavy firing in the direction of Tientsin again heard all the morning. Natives report it is General Nieh fighting Boxers.

“8.15, large body of cavalry seen on our left flank which were at first taken for Russians; but a shell pitched unpleasantly near our flanking parties from the left of the village the cavalry had just passed, convinced us that they must be Nieh’s cavalry. Our guns were soon in action, replying to the enemy’s fire, and the rattle of musketry became general.”

It was the mistaking this large body of enemy cavalry for a relieving force of Cossacks that nearly cost Jellicoe his life. The Chinese Cavalry was hailed, and replied with a volley. Jellicoe rallied his men and boldly charged them.

He helped clear them out, but fell shot in the chest. Mr. Whittall made the following brief entry in his diary at the time:

“Flag-captain Jellicoe, Centurion, dangerously wounded in the chest; feared mortally. Lieutenant Bamber, also of the Centurion, and Midshipman Burke also both wounded. The enemy’s fire throughout the day was[Pg 59] also terrific, and for the most part fairly well aimed.”

He pays a high compliment to Captain Jellicoe, for he says that it was owing to the splendid way in which the British troops were handled that the casualties were no heavier than they were.

The response of the men was splendid, and their behaviour under a terrific fire excellent.

But Mr. Whittall acknowledges that “it was a shocking business.”


[Pg 60]

CHAPTER VI
THE SPIRIT OF DRAKE

In a recent issue of the Pall Mall Gazette Mr. Whittall paints a very good pen portrait of Captain Jellicoe at this time.

“It was to him that I was referred for permission to accompany the relieving force, and I can see him now as he put a few terse, direct questions to me before granting the required permit. A man below middle height, alert, with that in the calm, grey eyes which spoke of decision and a serene confidence in himself, not the confidence of the over-sure, but that of the real leader of men. A man whose features would have been unpleasantly hard but for the lurking humour of the eyes and for certain humorous lines about a mouth that on occasion could take the likeness of a steel trap. A man to trust instinctively and one to like from the beginning. Those were my first impressions of him as he stood that June morning watching the troop trains discharge their freights on to a dusty North China[Pg 61] platform. Later when I came to know him he inspired me with the same feeling of affection with which he was regarded by every one with whom he had occasion to come into close contact. There was, and is, the magnetism about the man which stamps the personality of him who is indeed a commander rather than one who commands.”

Mr. Whittall was with him after he was wounded and while the allied forces were retiring on Tientsin. What Jellicoe must have suffered then no one will ever know. He was first of all placed for safety in a native house and later on moved into a small native boat. His wound must have pained him terribly. His case was considered hopeless, as the bullet had reached one of his lungs and recovery seemed impossible. Moreover, he knew that now Pekin would not be relieved; the mission had failed.

But his superb vitality pulled him through. He would not go under.

Mr. Whittall describes how he sent for him and asked to be told how things were progressing. “Foolishly perhaps,” says Mr.[Pg 62] Whittall, “I tried to make the best of affairs and said that I thought we should cut our way back to Tientsin or even to the coast if the foreign settlements had fallen.

“I don’t think I shall ever forget the contemptuous flash of the eyes he turned on me, or the impatient remark:

“‘Tell me the truth. Don’t lie.’

“I had thought to lessen the anxiety I knew he must have been feeling, but if I had known him as I learnt to do later on, I should have told him the plain truth straight out. He thanked me and, indicating his wounded shoulder with his eyes, remarked:

“‘Hard luck just now!’”

Captain Jellicoe, as all the world knows, completely recovered and has, we believe, lived to fight the battle of his life, the battle of the world. Nevertheless the doctors told him at the time that he would never regain the use of his left arm.

It would have been rather remarkable if this false prophecy had come true; it could scarcely have made any difference to his career—for Jellicoe was the man and he was bound to reach his present position[Pg 63] no matter the obstacles in his way—but the loss of his arm would have added yet another remarkable point of resemblance to the hero of Trafalgar.

And it may not be out of place here to give a story, which is almost a creed with many sailors and their folk in the South of England: the story so beautifully told by Alfred Noyes in his poem “The Admiral’s Ghost.”

This is what the simple Devonshire sea folk will tell you when Jellicoe’s name is mentioned—if you have gained their confidence. They do not talk about it to strangers; it has become a faith with them and is sacred.

When Drake was dying on board his ship in Nombre Dios Bay his thoughts turned of course to England, the country he loved, had fought and died for. He yearned to be back on the red cliffs of Devon; he wanted to sail once again through Plymouth Sound and to be laid at rest in the dear home waters that washed his native shores.

He was dying far from the beloved land. There were battles yet to be fought, victories[Pg 64] to be won for England. She might want him again and he would not be there to answer her call.

So he told his men to take back his drum and to hang it upon the sea wall, and if ever England was in danger and called, the sailors were to strike upon his drum and he would rise from the far seas and come back and fight for her.

When England was threatened two hundred years after Drake’s death his drum was heard one stormy night by the fisher folk. And there are those who will swear that a strange shadow shape was seen hovering about the old sea wall for many a night.

Then Nelson came to England’s rescue and saved her in her hour of need. But let Alfred Noyes tell the tale in his inspiring verse:

“D’you guess who Nelson was?
You may laugh, but it’s true as true!
There was more in that pore little chawed-up chap
Than ever his best friend knew.
“The foe was creepin’ close,
In the dark, to our white-cliffed isle;
They were ready to leap at England’s throat,
When—O, you may smile, you may smile;

EARLY PORTRAITS OF SIR JOHN JELLICOE
AS MIDSHIPMAN AS LIEUTENANT

“But—ask of the Devonshire men;
For they heard in the dead of night
The roll of a drum, and they saw him pass
On a ship all shining white.
“He stretched out his dead cold face
And he sailed in the grand old way!
The fishes had taken an eye and an arm,
But he swept Trafalgar’s Bay.
“Nelson—was Francis Drake!
O, what matters the uniform,
Or the patch on your eye or your pinned-up sleeve,
If your soul’s like a North Sea storm?”

When the author was in Devonshire a little while after the outbreak of the world-war he was talking to an old sailor who had seen service, now retired at the age of nearly eighty years. He stood on the red cliffs beyond Brixham close to the doors of his cottage straining his eyes, still clear and bright, seaward, watching for the ships he loved.

The author referred to this story and the sailor’s face grew grave and he was silent for a long time.

“The drum was beat,” he whispered at last. “Drake’s drum was heered to beat a while back; our lads heered ’er, one[Pg 65]
[Pg 66]
night when they was puttin’ out from Plymouth Sound.”

He nodded his head to and fro as he took off his cap: “But I knawed long back when I stood afore Jacky Jellicoe, close as I be standin’ to yew; I caught his eye—and I knawed it was Drake come back.... Yes, sir; the old drum beat and he come back as he said he would——”

“If England needs me, dead
Or living, I’ll rise that day!
I’ll rise from the darkness under the sea
Ten thousand miles away.”

That’s what he said; and he died.

“They lowered him down in the deep,
And there in the sunset light
They boomed a broadside over his grave,
As meanin’ to say ‘Good Night’
“They sailed away in the dark
To the dear little isle they knew;
And they hung his drum by the old sea-wall
The same as he told them to.”

And now once again the drum has beaten and the spirit of Drake has returned to England. The materialists may laugh; the superstitious may speculate. But the sea folk on the red cliffs of Devonshire, they know.

[Pg 67]


It was some months after Pekin had been relieved by the Allied forces of twenty thousand men—the British, under Lieutenant-General Sir A. Gaselee, being the first to enter the Legations—that Mr. Whittall met Jellicoe on board the Centurion. The latter told him that he had played cricket for the flagship on the way down and had made 124—not out!

His lung had healed and his left arm was as strong as his right.

A cheeky midshipman on hearing of Captain Jellicoe’s third and most marvellous escape from death said that obviously he was born to be hanged—or to be Commander-in-Chief of the whole British Navy.

On his return to England Jellicoe received the C.B. for his services, and the German Emperor decorated him with the Order of the Red Eagle of the Second Class with crossed swords.

Jellicoe learnt something about the fighting qualities of the German sailor during the attempt to relieve Pekin: later on he became a personal friend of the Emperor’s, and his portrait appears in the great picture which the Kaiser ordered to be painted of the Allied[Pg 68] Naval Brigades in action in China and which now hangs on the walls of the Imperial Palace at Potsdam.

A few months after his return from China, Captain Jellicoe married Gwendoline Cayzer, the daughter of Sir Charles Cayzer, Bart., of Gartmore, N.B., the chief of the Clan Steamship line. Curiously enough one of his best friends, Rear-Admiral Madden, married Sir Charles’ other daughter. Admiral Madden is now Jellicoe’s Chief-of-Staff.

Captain Jellicoe’s next appointment was to superintend the building of war-ships. At this task his success was phenomenal. A little later he was serving as assistant to the Controller of the Navy, and in 1903 he was given command of the Drake, then one of the latest additions to our fleet.

She was completed in 1902; her tonnage is 14,100; she has a Krupp armoured belt of six inches; she carries two 9·2 guns, sixteen 6-inch, twelve 12-pounders, and three 2-pounders, besides six machine guns and two torpedo tubes. The Drake is still in commission and heads the Drake Class of armoured cruisers. She is at present attached to the Sixth Cruiser Squadron of the Grand Fleet.

[Pg 69]

Under Jellicoe’s command the Drake became famous for her gunnery, and when he left her she had obtained the highest efficiency in shooting and was “top-dog” in the Navy.


[Pg 70]

CHAPTER VII
AS ORGANISER

In 1905 Captain Jellicoe went to the Admiralty as Director of Naval Ordnance. Having been Fisher’s assistant late in the ’eighties he knew his department and the men connected with it. He knew better than any other man of his age what the Navy wanted, and he evidently made up his mind that she should have it.

He was heart and soul a “Fisher man” and a great admirer of the splendid work Sir Percy Scott had performed. Indeed, much of Scott’s genius might have been lost or wasted without Jellicoe’s help and enthusiasm.

He took the part of Director of Naval Ordnance just at the right time. One of the most important reforms for which the Service has to thank him was fitting all guns mounted in ships of the first line with new day and night sights, and the installation of fire-control instruments for “spotting” and controlling at long range firing. He was also instrumental in getting rid of all gunnery[Pg 71] lumber, and he put his foot down on many little tricks and dodges which had been practised in shooting competitions.

It was almost entirely due to him that in a period of eighteen months the percentage of “hits” was raised from forty-two out of a hundred rounds to an average of seventy.

In recognition of this a knighthood was conferred upon him in 1909; though previous to this honour he was made Controller of the Navy.

Here, again, his knowledge of matériel necessary to the Service and his great technical ability were invaluable; his quickness, firmness and quiet manner had a great effect on the celerity with which work was done in private as well as in the royal dockyards. There had been a great deal of trouble in the past with contractors owing to the difficulty in getting plans and estimates passed quickly.

Jellicoe soon changed this, and inspired the men under him to be decisive and swift and thorough. Describing the work he accomplished during his Controllership of the Navy a critic in Engineering paid Sir John high and deserved tribute, on the[Pg 72] occasion of his leaving the Admiralty and hoisting his flag as Vice-Admiral of the Atlantic Fleet; this was in December, 1910.

After pointing out that Jellicoe’s tenure of office was marked by a period of unusual naval shipbuilding activity, the author of the article in Engineering gave the number of new vessels of all classes added to the Navy between 1907 and 1910 as ninety, including twelve battleships and armoured cruisers, eight protected and unarmoured cruisers, and seventy destroyers, torpedo boats and submarines.

In addition to the numbers given, there were then about sixty ships building, including eight battleships and armoured cruisers, seven protected and unarmoured cruisers, and forty-five destroyers and submarines, whilst the preliminaries to laying down were well advanced in the case of a further twenty-two ships; these, as enumerated in the current year’s naval estimates, included five battleships and armoured cruisers, three protected and unarmoured cruisers, and fourteen destroyers, submarines and fleet auxiliaries. The sea-going and fighting efficiency of all these warships was in advance of their[Pg 73] prototype in many important respects in matériel.

Shipbuilding output has thus been well maintained in the dockyards, and there, as in the private yards doing Admiralty work, the delay in beginning new vessels is now at a minimum. The whole machinery of administration in this respect has been accelerated. The period of construction of large armoured warships remained at two years, notwithstanding the great increase in the size and displacement of the latest types. Admiral Jellicoe was a frequent visitor at the works of contractors, and by this means was enabled to assist and encourage those responsible in realizing the best results and to infuse them with his characteristic enthusiasm for the efficiency of the Service.

“The repairs and maintenance of the Fleet have been well looked after by Sir John Jellicoe,” wrote the critic of Engineering, “who has realized throughout the importance of liberal financial provision to enable the prompt and proper execution of repairs. The total number of men employed (shipbuilding and repairs, etc.) in the home dockyards has considerably increased during[Pg 74] his period of office. Sir John, having at one time been associated with the building of warships in private yards, has devoted much attention to improving and extending the resources of the dockyards for shipbuilding and repair work. A recent important innovation in dockyard and port equipment is the adoption of large floating-docks for Dreadnoughts and floating-cranes to serve them, a policy which recognizes inter alia the importance of the quality of mobility in docks and cranes. The equipment of temporary bases in time of war becomes easy of arrangement when floating-docks and floating-cranes lie fully equipped and ready for use and transfer. Two such docks, capable of lifting 32,000 tons—one for Portsmouth and one for the Medway—are now under construction, whilst contracts for two large floating-cranes, capable of lifting 100 tons at a radius of 125 feet, and 150 tons at about 90 feet, will very shortly be placed.

“Sir John Jellicoe has been a strong Controller and his severance from the Admiralty is a matter of personal regret, which is not by any means confined to the members of the Board and the heads of departments.[Pg 75] No Controller has been more popular; none has commanded greater respect as an administrator.”

It has been stated that during this period Sir John Jellicoe would sometimes work for fifteen or sixteen hours a day, when business pressed. He never “fussed” or gave the impression of “rush,” and he neither worried nor drove his subordinates.

His words were few, but to the point. And he has never been known to make a request or give an order twice.

It was during the period Jellicoe began to carry on the good work Fisher had started at the Admiralty that the Emperor of Germany wrote a remarkable letter to the late Lord Tweedmouth, First Lord in 1908. At the time it was declared by Tweedmouth to be confidential and purely personal, but the contents have at last become more or less public.

This letter, in the light of latter-day events, is particularly interesting. It was quoted for the first time by The Morning Post, and it throws a strong light on the Kaiser’s real character. One can imagine the First Sea Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Fisher—whom the German Naval Party feared so keenly—[Pg 76]describing it in his frank fashion as an infernal piece of bluff.

“During my last pleasant visit to your hospitable shores,” the Emperor wrote, “I tried to make your authorities understand what the drift of the German Naval policy is. But I am afraid that my explanations have been misunderstood or not believed, because I see the ‘German Danger’ and the ‘German Challenge to British Naval Supremacy’ constantly quoted in the different articles. This phrase, if not repudiated or corrected, sown broadcast over the country and daily dinned into British ears, might in the end create most deplorable results.

“It is absolutely nonsensical and untrue that the German Naval Bill is to provide a Navy meant as a ‘challenge to British Naval Supremacy.’ The German Fleet is built against nobody at all. It is solely built for Germany’s needs in relation with that country’s rapidly growing trade.

“There is nothing surprising, secret or underhand in it, and every reader may study the whole course mapped out for the development of the German Navy with the greatest ease.”

[Pg 77]

After a long preamble on the subject of what England might do (from the Kaiser’s point of view) with regard to her shipbuilding programme, the letter refers to a letter written and published by Lord Esher, in which the Emperor accuses him of misinterpreting Germany’s feelings by alleging that “every German from the Emperor down to the last man wished for the downfall of Sir John Fisher”:

“As far as regards German Affairs Naval,” the letter continues, “the phrase is a piece of unmitigated balderdash, and has created an immense merriment in the circles of those ‘who know’ here. But I venture to think that such things ought not to be written by people who are high placed, as they are liable to hurt public feelings over here. Of course, I need not assure you that nobody here dreams of wishing to influence Britain in the choice of those to whom she means to give the direction of her Navy, or to disturb them in the fulfilment of their noble task....

“I hope your Lordship will read these lines with kind consideration. They are written by one who is an ardent admirer of your [Pg 78]splendid Navy, who wishes it all success, and who hopes that its ensign may ever wave on the same side as the German Navy, and by one who is proud to wear the British Naval Uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet, which was conferred on him by the late Great Queen of blessed memory.

“Once more. The German Naval Bill is not aimed at England, and is not a challenge to British supremacy of the sea, which will remain unchallenged for generations to come.”

The German Emperor’s “generations to come” has resolved itself into less than six years.


[Pg 79]

CHAPTER VIII
VICE-ADMIRAL

Sir John Jellicoe hoisted his flag as Vice-Admiral commanding the Atlantic Fleet, in succession to His Serene Highness, Prince Louis of Battenberg, on December 27th, 1911, and on the tenth of January, 1912, the Fleet assembled at Dover for the first time under its new Commander-in-Chief.

There was a suggestion about this time that the Atlantic Fleet and the Home Fleet were to be amalgamated. The change that had already been made in the Atlantic Fleet in linking it to the Home Fleet for purposes of combined training did not mean that either command was to be absorbed in the other. The Atlantic Fleet was henceforth to be under the command of a Junior instead of a Senior Admiral, and it would cruise in Home waters.

Both Fleets would have their war training together and the policy of concentration in Home waters was thus carried out.

How fully this policy was justified events[Pg 80] have fully proved. The Atlantic Fleet continued to use Gibraltar as its repairing base.

Admiral Jellicoe’s first cruise with the Fleets was to Vigo, on the Spanish coast, where manœuvres were carried out in conjunction with a portion of the Mediterranean Fleet.

These manœuvres were carried out on a large scale. There was a Naval Review of the Fleets, at which King Alfonso was present. Afterwards a mimic warfare was waged, the Home Fleet, under Admiral Sir W. H. May, representing the “Red,” the Mediterranean and Atlantic Fleets under Admiral Sir E. S. Poe and Vice-Admiral Jellicoe, respectively, being the “Blue.”

The principal “action” took place at night, and Jellicoe manœuvred his ships so cleverly that they almost escaped a vastly superior force.

After the “battle” was over Admiral May signalled to Jellicoe that he had put up a fine fight, and given the superior forces against him a very hard job.

Just at this time Sir John Jellicoe suffered a sad bereavement, losing his little daughter, Betty, at the age of five and a half years.[Pg 81] She was the second child, and was born on May 21st, 1905.

Sir John and Lady Jellicoe have four daughters, the eldest in her ninth year. They are delightful children, and all bear a strong family likeness to the “Little Admiral”; they possess many of their father’s characteristics, too: overwhelming good spirits and a keen sense of humour.

The author’s first introduction to them was when he was waiting in the hall of Sir John’s town house.

They were just going out for their morning constitutional, but as they were about to start, the eldest suddenly discovered that “some one” was missing who should have been present. A hurried search was instituted. Upstairs and downstairs the young Jellicoes raced, peering here and peering there, and continually calling for “Nanna!”

Believing that the nurse was the object of their search, the author told Miss Jellicoe that he had just seen her go upstairs. She shook her head:

“Oh, no she hasn’t. She came down with me just now and I know she hasn’t gone back. She does run away sometimes.”

[Pg 82]

It seemed a strange thing for a nurse to do, and while the author was debating in his mind whether he ought not to inform Lady Jellicoe, one of the little girls gave a cry of triumph and pointed to the sideboard standing against the wall in a dark corner of the hall.

“There she is. Isn’t she naughty!”

A sideboard did not seem the right place for the nurse—even the nurse of a Naval family—to choose as a hiding place; but though the author searched he could not see the culprit.

Little Miss Jellicoe grew impatient: “Oh, do try and get her out!” she begged. “Don’t you see, she’s crawled underneath!”

Down on his hands and knees went the author of this book—and there, tucked away under the sideboard, crouched the missing nurse.

“Please pull her out, we can’t go for our walk without her.”

Obediently the author seized the nurse by the scruff of the neck and dragged her from her hiding place.

“Nanna,”—on this occasion—was a Scotch terrier!

Undoubtedly the Admiral’s daughters have their father’s sense of humour.

[Pg 83]

Dear little Freda

I must write and thank you for your kind thought of the sailors. The one seaman to whom I gave your muffler was so much touched

Thank you dear

Yours

John Jellicoe

[Pg 84]

Admiral Jellicoe’s affection and consideration for children is shown in a variety of ways. The letter to a schoolgirl, reproduced on page 83, thanking her for a gift of a muffler for one of the sailors on the flagship, is a striking example of his thoughtfulness and the personal interest he takes in everything, and everyone, connected with the welfare of his men and with his fleet.

Another letter to his wife, which Lady Jellicoe kindly allowed the author to read and reproduce, was written on board the Iron Duke early in November. Though it was sent to Lady Jellicoe it was intended for all the wives, mothers, sisters, sweethearts and children of the British sailors at sea throughout the Empire, for Sir John wished them to know how gallantly his men (which are their men) were behaving and how proud he was to command them.

It is a brave letter, containing a brave message for the women and children.

[Pg 85]

H.M.S. “Iron Duke.”

14-11-’14.

I know you will be meeting the wives and families of the men, and I hope you will tell them of the magnificent spirit which prevails. Our troops have covered themselves with glory during this war. The Navy has not yet, as a whole, had the opportunity of showing that the old spirit which carried us to victory in the past is with us now, but when our men have had the opportunity of fighting a foe above the water, they have shown that they possess the same pluck and endurance as our comrades ashore. Nothing can ever have been finer than the coolness and courage shown in every case where ships have been sunk by mines or torpedoes. The discipline has been perfect, and men have gone to their death not only most gallantly, but most unselfishly. One hears on all sides of numerous instances of men giving up, on these occasions, the plank that has supported them, to some more feeble comrade, and I feel prouder with every day that passes that I command such men.

And during the period of waiting and watching they are cheerful and contented in spite of the grey dulness of their lives. I am sure you will tell the wives and children, and the sisters and mothers, of our men, of the spirit that prevails, and I know that it will make them too desire to show in their own lives that they are animated by the same desire to do the best they can for their country, so that they will be worthy of their men-kind, of whom it is difficult to say too much.

JN. JELLICOE.

[Pg 86]

When the Atlantic Fleet visited Gibraltar, Lady Jellicoe and her family joined Sir John at the Rock, staying at the Villa Victoria.

Jellicoe’s flagship was the Prince of Wales, and while she was in dock, many delightful entertainments were given on board, the Admiral’s daughters doing their share—even Miss Norah, “the baby of the fleet,” inviting equally small craft (of the human kind) to tea on the flagship with the request that they would “bring their own bottles.”

The Rock benefited considerably by the three months’ visit of the Fleet, under Vice-Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, and by the presence of Lady Jellicoe and her family.

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy, but Lady Jellicoe saw to it that Jack got his fair share of amusement. At the Annual Rifle Meeting, the Vice-Admiral’s Cup, presented by Vice-Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, was won by the Vice-Admiral’s B Team from his flagship, with A team, also from the flagship, second.

In the individual competitions the Five Hundred Yards was won by Sir John himself with the Commander of his flagship—Commander Dryer—second. The Prince of Wales took many other firsts and seconds, and to just show that he still kept hand and eye in practice, Sir John Jellicoe and Naval Instructor[Pg 87] Holt, representing the Navy, won the Garrison Racquet Tournament against the Army, by four games to one. Sir John also won the Racquet Handicap of the Atlantic Fleet, defeating Mr. Wardlaw in the final by three games to love.

Sir John’s handicap was minus eight.

These meetings took place during the first anniversary of King George’s accession; the celebrations lasted a week, and the Kaiser’s yacht, Hohenzollern, and the German cruisers Konigsberg and Sleepner were both in port and took part in the festivities; the Emperor’s Imperial Band from the Hohenzollern played at the Victoria Villa before Sir John and Lady Jellicoe and their guests.

It is rather interesting to note that the Musikfolge on this occasion commenced with a selection from Wagner and ended with the “British Grenadiers” March.

Vice-Admiral Sir John Jellicoe returned from Gibraltar to England in time to take part in the great Naval Review at Spithead on June 24th. H.M. King George, on board the Royal yacht, received a splendid welcome from the hundred and[Pg 88] sixty-seven British ships anchored off Spithead and the eighteen foreign warships which were also present. Our boats included twelve Dreadnoughts, thirty cruisers and seventy-two destroyers.

Among the foreign ships present were the Danton (France), Rossiza (Russia), Kurama (Japan), Radetzky (Austria), Von der Tann (German) and Hamídich (Turkey), all of which afterwards became involved in the world war.

After the Review the Naval Manœuvres took place, in which Jellicoe commanded the Atlantic Fleet. It was at the conclusion of these manœuvres that vague rumours of a crisis with Germany over the Moroccan affair appeared in certain newspapers. The “scare” was short-lived, and there was no real ground for the rumours of war between England, France and Germany that were circulated.

At this time a German training ship, with several young officers on board, was cruising in Home waters, doubtless picking up much valuable information. The commander of this ship is reported to have said that war between England and Germany was unthinkable.

[Pg 89]

Late in July the Atlantic Fleet went to Cromarty for general exercises, and afterwards the Atlantic Fleet Regatta was held at Berehaven. On this occasion Jellicoe’s flagship, the Prince of Wales, again distinguished herself in a remarkable manner.

Out of thirty events on the programme for the first two days’ racing, her boats were first, second or third in twenty-eight events, taking fourteen “firsts.” In the Veteran Officers’ Skiffs Race Vice-Admiral Jellicoe stroked the winning boat. Of course the Prince of Wales was first on the list of points in the regatta, getting fifty-and-a-half to the Argyll’s forty, and won the silver trophy—a figure of a giant cock.

One amusing incident occurred at the conclusion of the regatta, when bands from the various ships went down the course in their big barges playing a selection of tunes. When they passed the London, last but one in the “race” for points, they played “When London Sleeps”—a sly dig at that boat’s poor performance.

On passing Jellicoe’s flagship each band played “Cock of the Walk” to the accompaniment of deafening cheers.

[Pg 90]

Sir John, as every man in the Senior Service knows, is a keen temperance man; it was he who was credited with the phrase “the grog curve.” He believes that a sailor should have his glass of grog so long as he never takes more than he can carry, and he does not “carry” even that amount when on duty.

Jellicoe delivered an epoch-making speech on this very important question at a great temperance meeting held at Gibraltar in November, 1911. On this occasion he said that everyone responsible must recognize the value of temperance in fighting efficiency.

In the Navy there are three qualities upon which efficiency mainly depends—discipline, shooting, and endurance, and temperance unquestionably tends greatly to the promotion of these qualities. In regard to discipline one has only to look at the punishment returns to realize how many of the disciplinary offences are at the outset due to intemperance.

As for endurance, medical research has amply proved the fact that temperance is a great asset in improving the physical qualities, and therefore the endurance, of[Pg 91] the human race. As regards straight shooting, which is so largely a question of eye, it is everyone’s experience that abstinence is necessary for the highest efficiency. “If I am going to a rifle meeting in the afternoon,” Vice-Admiral Jellicoe said, “I don’t take a whisky and soda after lunch. If I did, I know I should have no chance of making a possible.”

It was the late Captain Ogilvy who pointed out that efficiency in shooting was thirty per cent. better before the issue of grog than after.

In the Honours’ List at the time of the Coronation celebrations a K.C.B. was bestowed on Vice-Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, and on November 28th he was given the command of the Second Division of the Home Fleet. There were numerous changes now made at the Admiralty, Admiral Sir Francis Bridgeman becoming First Sea Lord in place of Sir Arthur Wilson. With him were H.S.H. Prince Louis of Battenberg and Captain William Pakenham, all men of the new school.

At the time the changes made were considered to be startling. Mr. Winston Churchill,[Pg 92] the new broom, practically made a clean sweep of the old Board. It was a case of putting youth (as youth is counted in the Senior Service) at the helm—and youth had the courage to give youth, allied with experience, a chance—for Mr. Churchill himself was at the time only thirty-seven years of age. Sir Francis Bridgeman was sixty-two, Prince Louis of Battenberg fifty-seven and Captain Pakenham fifty. Jellicoe’s age was fifty-two.

Mr. Churchill in his speech in the House of Commons explained that the changes on the Board were necessary, and said it would lead to a more effective working in the interest of administrative efficiency. All former precedents had been observed. As to the question whether the Sea Lords had resigned or been removed he had to say that when he apprised them of the fact that His Majesty had given his assent to certain changes on the Board they accepted those changes in the true spirit of the Naval Service.


[Pg 93]

CHAPTER IX
1911-1913

In December of 1911 Vice-Admiral Jellicoe was back in Gibraltar, which thanks to the presence of the Fleet and its Commander’s popularity experienced quite the most successful season it had ever known. The American cruiser Chester was in port and did her share in the round of balls, dinners and sports which were held. The Gibraltar Jockey Club held its winter meeting on the picturesque North Front racecourse and attracted a remarkable and cosmopolitan gathering.

It was on December 13th that the Peninsular and Oriental steamer Delhi, conveying the Princess Royal and the Duke of Fife and their family to Egypt, ran ashore on the Moroccan coast off Cape Spartel.

The Delhi left London on December 8th, and just outside the Straits of Gibraltar she encountered a terrific gale.

The Atlantic Fleet should have left the Rock on the thirteenth, but when news was received of the disaster Jellicoe immediately[Pg 94] sent battleships and cruisers to the assistance of the Delhi.

Great anxiety had been felt at Gibraltar throughout the previous night at the non-arrival of the Delhi, which was due the previous day, and arrangements had been made by the Governor and Admiral Jellicoe to visit the Princess.

The French cruiser Friant was the first to learn of the wreck, by wireless, and she was immediately sent to the scene: the sea was running very high, but at ten o’clock in the morning a steam launch put out from the Friant and succeeded in taking off twenty women and children and transferring them to the cruiser Duke of Edinburgh, which had arrived.

The gale increased in violence, but once again the Friant’s launch attempted to cross the boiling waters and rescue more of the Delhi’s passengers. The heavy seas, however, put out her fires and drove her ashore; nevertheless her plucky French sailors re-lit the fires and again launched their boat. But the breakers soon capsized her and threw her crew into the water, three of whom were drowned.

[Pg 95]

Towards the afternoon the seas went down and the British cruisers managed to establish communication between the Delhi and the shore.

Admiral Cradock was able to reach the Delhi in his pinnace and took off the Princess Royal and the Duke of Fife and put them ashore. But in landing they were nearly swept away and only reached the beach after a desperate struggle.

Eventually, all the passengers were safely got off the Delhi, and though part of her cargo was saved—including bullion to the extent of £500,000 which she was bringing back from India—she became a total wreck.

Admiral Jellicoe reached England in time to meet the King and Queen on their return from India, in the New Year; and in command of the Second Division of the Home Fleet he had the honour of escorting their Majesties—in the Medina—up the English Channel.

The ships under Jellicoe’s command which performed this duty were the Agamemnon, Colossus, Hercules, Lord Nelson, Britannia, Dominion, Hindustan and Orion, together with five cruisers.

[Pg 96]

Early in February Admiral Jellicoe had the honour of being received by His Majesty at Buckingham Palace, when the King invested him with the insignia of a Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.

At this time Mr. Arnold White wrote a very interesting appreciation of Jellicoe which appeared in The Throne and which in many respects was almost prophetic. The article was headed “The Man and the Moment,” and in referring to the task which would confront Admiral Jellicoe—if war ever broke out—as Commander of the British forces at sea, he wrote as follows:

“Vice-Admiral Sir John Jellicoe is the Emir upon whom our rulers have thrust the heaviest responsibility that rests on the shoulders of any man born of a woman. He is the man who has been told off to the job of commanding the British forces at sea when war breaks out. …

“Imagine what this means. Nelson’s supreme task, heavy as it was, was child’s play compared to the work that lies ahead of the Admiral who is now Second-in-Command of[Pg 97] the Home Fleet. Nelson had hours to make up his mind before attacking his foe at the Nile, at Copenhagen, off the Spanish coast, and at the ‘crowning mercy’ of Trafalgar. Jellicoe will have ten minutes from the time that the best look-out man in his Fleet first sights the enemy’s Fleet through a modern telescope. Nelson could sleep o’ nights, undisturbed by wireless messages, torpedo attack, submarines, floating mines or aeroplanes. …

“The night before the great sea fight that will settle the future of Europe and the British Empire for two centuries, it is improbable that Jellicoe will lie down to sleep. Therefore it is obvious that he must be a man of great vitality, physical fitness, and tranquil mind, or the Government would never have placed eleven vice-admirals on the shelf—or ‘on the beach,’ as they say in the Navy—in order that a mere Second-in-Command of the Mediterranean Fleet should be lifted over the heads of all the senior officers who stood between Jellicoe and the command of England’s Home Fleet.” …

[Pg 98]

On May 8th, the King visited Portsmouth to inspect his Fleet and witness certain technical exercises and manœuvres carried out. By far the most interesting event was Commander Samson’s flight in a hydro-aeroplane.

It was a wonderful performance, Commander Samson making his machine perform the most astounding evolutions. Other members of the Air Squadron gave superb exhibitions. The following day further remarkable evolutions were performed on, under and above water.

There followed a mimic naval battle between the “Red” Fleet under Admiral Sir George Callaghan and the “Blue” under Vice-Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, in which the “Blue” distinguished itself and “sank” and captured a great number of “Reds.”

In July a Royal Commission was appointed to investigate and report on the supply of oil fuel for the Navy, and Jellicoe was chosen as one of the members of the Commission. Lord Fisher was Chairman.

The significance of the appointment of this Commission was very great. It meant that the Navy was again faced with a revolution.[Pg 99] The result of the investigations and the reports that were made we are now able to learn and appreciate.

In the fall of the year there were further changes made by the Admiralty. Prince Louis of Battenberg succeeded Sir Francis Bridgeman as First Sea Lord and Jellicoe was appointed as Second Sea Lord, which practically put him in complete control at Whitehall. The greatest satisfaction was caused in Naval circles by these changes.

When Jellicoe gave up his command of the Second Squadron of the Home Fleet he was given a great send-off by the ships assembled there and the following signal was flown from the flagship:

“The Rear-Admiral, Captains, Officers, and Ships’ Companies of the Second-Squadron express regret at the departure of the Vice-Admiral and wish him every success in his new appointment.”

Jellicoe replied by signalling his thanks and wishing the Squadron all prosperity.

One of the first important steps taken by the new Sea Lord in 1913 was to adopt the “Director” firing apparatus invented by Sir Percy Scott. It was decided to supply all[Pg 100] ships of the Dreadnought type with this apparatus.

It was with the Thunderer and Orion that trials were first of all carried out, in the presence of Admiral Jellicoe and other naval experts.

The Thunderer was built at the Thames Ironworks and fitted with the “Director”; the Orion, a sister ship, was equipped with the “fire-control” apparatus.

The Thunderer and Orion are both of the same design and both cost the same amount to build.

The Thunderer, fitted with the “Director,” at a target 10,000 yards distant made eighty per cent. of hits. Such shooting as this was a revelation; nothing like it had ever been dreamed of. It was four or five times better practice than the Orion could make fitted with the “fire-control” system. It was better than any record made at 2,000 yards in the gunlayer’s tests.

In simple language Sir Percy Scott’s invention increased the hitting power of a ship, at long range and in a heavy sea, by four hundred per cent.

With its aid a tremendous broadside can[Pg 101] be fired from a Dreadnought. The officer in charge of the “Director” has a special “cabin” or “room” in the fore of the ship, from which he can control and fire every gun. He can discover the exact range of the enemy, and the precise elevation for the guns. Every operation is controlled by the “Director”—excepting, of course, loading and cleaning the guns.

The Thunderer in 1913 could fire ten shells, each weighing 1,250 lbs., in one broadside. Each shell has a penetrating power of 1 foot at 10,000 yards.

The Iron Duke, Admiral Jellicoe’s flagship in 1914, can do even better than this.


[Pg 102]

CHAPTER X
SUPREME ADMIRAL OF THE HOME FLEETS

Nineteen hundred and thirteen was a very busy year for Sir John Jellicoe. On May 16th he left England for Germany to attend the wedding festivities of the Emperor’s only daughter, Princess Victoria Louise, who was to be married to Prince Ernest of Cumberland.

Sir John and Lady Jellicoe were, curiously enough, the first English guests to reach Berlin. The King and Queen of England left Sheerness on the 20th on board the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert, the Duchess of Devonshire accompanying Her Majesty and Sir Frederick Ponsonby and Sir Colin Keppel being Equerries in Waiting to the King.

Berlin was en fête for over a week, and among those present at Princess Victoria’s wedding, besides our own Royal Family, were the Czar of Russia, the Grand Duchess of Baden, the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland, the Grand Duke of Hesse and ambassadors from nearly every country in the world.

Festivities commenced with a gala dinner given the day the Czar of Russia arrived in Berlin. The following morning there was[Pg 103] a luncheon at the British Embassy in honour of King George and Queen Mary, at which the Imperial Chancellor, the Ambassador in Berlin and Sir John and Lady Jellicoe were among the principal guests. That same evening there was a gala performance at the Opera. “Lohengrin” was performed at the special request of Princess Victoria.

The Opera House presented a wonderful appearance; from foyer to ceiling it was decorated with red and white carnations, the outsides of all the loges being turned into great banks of these flowers. Sir John and Lady Jellicoe occupied one of the loges near the stage, where the ambassadors, ministers and distinguished officers were seated. The royal party not only filled the vast court box but overflowed into the boxes at the back of the dress circle. There was, of course, a brilliant display of uniforms and decorations, and against the background of red and white carnations the colour scheme was extraordinarily effective.

Earlier in the day King George and Queen Mary entertained the English Colony in Berlin, and the King made a short speech which is worth quoting:

“We are exceedingly happy to be the guests of the Sovereign of this great nation in order to celebrate the marriage of two young people which we pray may be[Pg 104] fraught with every blessing. Fostering and maintaining friendly relations between yourselves and the people of this your adopted home you will help to insure the peace of the world, the preservation of which is my ardent desire as it was the principal aim of my dear father’s life.”

Sir John Jellicoe spent some little time in Berlin, where he made himself exceedingly popular, being entertained by all the great officers of State, the Army and Navy, including Admiral Von Tirpitz—fated just a year later to be his great rival. But the meeting between these two great men must have been interesting as we may rest assured it was friendly.

Jellicoe had the honour of dining with the Emperor at Potsdam, and on May 20th he cruised for two hours in the Zeppelin airship Hansa accompanied by Captain Watson, the British Naval Attaché in Berlin.

Jellicoe returned to England in time to prepare for the naval manœuvres which commenced early in July. No manœuvres which the British Fleet has undertaken attracted so much attention or were fraught with such vital issues as those of 1913. At the same time there has never been so much mystery attached to the movements of the ships or to the result of the mimic warfare which took place.

[Pg 105]

There were six squadrons of battleships involved, two of them, the Fourth and Sixth squadrons, being much below strength. There were ten squadrons of cruisers and torpedo destroyers and submarine flotillas. There were also mine layers and mine sweepers, and three aeroplanes actively employed.

Tests of fuel and its conveyance to any point necessary and its quick transference to ships in action were carried out.

By far the most important part of the manœuvres was an attempt to invade these shores and land a large force of men on them. For this purpose the Fleet was divided into two parts. The Red or hostile Fleet being under the command of Jellicoe and the Blue or defending Fleet under Callaghan.

The Red Fleet had not only to contend against a superior force, but supposing her ships were able to defeat or avoid the defenders, she still had the battleships, cruisers, destroyers and submarines waiting for her at Sheerness, Harwich, Rosyth, Dundee and Cromarty. And supposing she escaped the attentions of all these forces, the East Coast from the North to the South was guarded by forces of Infantry and mounted troops with their machine gun sections. Large forces[Pg 106] drawn from the Territorials were also said to be held in reserve further inland.

Criticising these manœuvres before they took place, which is obviously a dangerous thing to do, the critic in the Evening Standard of July 10th made the following announcement:

“If Sir John Jellicoe, heavily handicapped, fails, as no doubt he is meant to fail, we shall be told that this only proves how safe we are against a raid in force or an invasion. Of course all it will prove is that if you are allowed to arrange the terms beforehand, load the dice in your own favour, you can win the game—especially when it is only a game and the elements of accident, luck and human personality are rigorously excluded. It will show that a raid might fail in certain conditions ... and then no doubt we shall be informed by Ministers that Britain is invulnerable against all assault; that we can all sleep quietly in our beds under the protection of a sham Territorial Army and a Navy proved to be of overwhelming superiority to any possible foe. It is not a game of strategy that is being played, but a game of politics. The German Admiralty will not be deceived, but perhaps the British Electorate may be.”

[Pg 107]

Now what really happened when the manœuvres commenced was a very successful raid by the enemy on the Norfolk coast in which a portion of the Blue Fleet was defeated. Jellicoe’s next move was an attack on the Humber and the capture of Grimsby and Immingham. Nearly 3,000 men with their guns were landed. They seized the railway, and commandeering trains they sent troops inland. The docks and wireless stations were seized and Cleethorpes and New Holland were also taken. This raid on the Humber was evidently a complete surprise to the defenders.

While this was taking place, the Red Fleet was scoring other successes elsewhere. A cruiser and destroyers appeared off Sunderland with two troopships from which over a thousand men were landed at the docks. Blyth was also captured on the Northumberland coast, and a force of infantry with a battery of 12-prs. was landed.

Now these raids by the Red Fleet under Jellicoe were not just ordinary manœuvres. He struck just where he knew our enemies would try to strike. He landed men and guns, captured railways, docks and wireless stations; held the position which he[Pg 108] captured and, when discovered by the defending fleet, he either eluded or kept their ships at bay. Perhaps the landing at Blyth was the most important, and the transport Rohilla was congratulated for the excellent work she did.

Whatever those manœuvres proved they undoubtedly proved that men are greater than warships—and that Jellicoe is a very great man. It was practically admitted that the defence had failed and had failed through the brilliant strategy of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe.

The full history of the naval manœuvres of 1913 was never written. The Press of course indulged in a wordy warfare, and the battles of the Red and Blue were—on paper—fought over and over again.

The men who knew most said nothing, and Jellicoe, a silent man, having done his job, slipped out of the limelight, which he hates so keenly, as quickly as possible.

But very probably his successful raid on the Humber was responsible for the crisis which occurred in the Cabinet when the Naval Estimates came up for discussion early in the New Year. Mr. Winston Churchill, who had been accused of not spending enough money on the Navy, was now accused[Pg 109] of wanting to spend too much. As a matter of fact Mr. Churchill did not on behalf of the Admiralty put forward any new proposals, but simply wished to carry out the policy which had already been adopted by the Cabinet. The Admiralty had long ago decided that it was necessary to have 60 per cent. superiority in Dreadnoughts over the next greatest naval power to ours in place of the former two-power standard.

It was as early as February, 1914, that the name of Vice-Admiral Sir John Jellicoe was mentioned as being the probable successor to Sir George Callaghan as Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleets. It was on March 17th that Mr. Winston Churchill fought his battle in the Cabinet on the Navy Estimates. The Board of Admiralty was with him, and he received authority to ask Parliament to devote over £15,000,000 to new naval construction—the largest sum that has ever been devoted to that purpose.

In July the test mobilization of our Fleets was carried out, the ships passing His Majesty the King off the Nab lightship, seaplanes and aeroplanes hovering high above them in the air, while submarines slipped beneath the waters underneath. After the Review[Pg 110] was over our ships steamed up the Channel in order to carry out certain peace exercises in manœuvres, while a patrol flotilla was actively employed in testing a scheme for sealing the exit which the Channel makes to the North Sea. Less than a fortnight later the incredible thing happened.

Rumours of war, sudden, by the majority unexpected.

Then war.

It could not have happened at a more auspicious moment as far as the British Navy was concerned. Sir John Jellicoe was appointed supreme Admiral of the Home Fleets. Two destroyers building for Chile were compulsorily purchased by the Admiralty as well as two battleships just completed for Turkey.

Drake’s drums had rattled.

England in her hour of need had found two great leaders—Jellicoe and French at the head of her Navy and Army. And behind them two brilliant Statesmen—Asquith and Churchill at the head of her people.

What these four men have already done is history. What remains to be done, and what they will do unflinchingly, no matter the cost, will, we all know, make history.

[Pg 111]

But it is only natural that we, the sons and daughters of the greatest Empire the world has ever seen, who are left in our little sea-girt isle, and strain our eyes through the mist and foam to those seas beyond the North toward one man in whose keeping more than that of any other man lies the destiny of our race; the fate perhaps not only of our great Empire but of the world.

Never before has silence spoken so eloquently as it spoke from the North Sea when Jellicoe led our ships into her mists and storms.

“Not unto us,”
Cried Drake, “not unto us—but unto Him
Who made the sea, belongs our England now!
Pray God that heart and mind and soul we prove
Worthy among the nations of this hour.”
Alfred Noyes.

That we shall prove worthy among the nations it is almost impossible to doubt. With such leaders how could a people fail?

With an Empire on which the sun never sets, and which has given men, gold and even food to the Mother Country with a lavish hand, will not her rich merchants as well as her poorer sons of the Mother Country make as great sacrifices and show as much[Pg 112] heroism as the sons of France, of Russia and Belgium?

We cannot doubt it. Though, after three months of the bloodiest warfare the world has ever seen, several million young Englishmen were still listening unmoved to the Drums of Drake—to the call of England, their England, for men to defend her in her hour of danger yet we know that, though slow to understand and hard to move, Englishmen, once they have understood and once they have been moved, will be true to themselves, their inheritance and their beloved little island. With Henley they will cry with one voice and one soul:

“England, My England—
Take and break us: we are yours,
England my own!
Life is good, and joy runs high
Between English earth and sky:
Death is death; but we shall die
To the song on your bugles blown.”

And they will follow their devoted leaders into battle—French on the land and Jellicoe on the wild North seas.

And those who are left at home to carry on “business as usual,” will not they make some sacrifices too?

Miller, Son, & Compy., Ltd., Printers, Fakenham and London.


Transcriber’s Note:

Archaic and inconsistent spelling and punctuation were retained.

 

 


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