John Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe

5 Dec 1859
20 Nov 1935
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Admiral of the Fleet John Rushworth Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe, GCB, OM, GCVO, SGM (5 December 1859 – 20 November 1935) was a Royal Navy officer. He fought in the Anglo-Egyptian War and the Boxer Rebellion and commanded the Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916 during World War I.

His handling of the fleet at that battle was controversial: he made no serious mistakes and the German High Seas Fleet retreated to port – at a time when defeat would have been catastrophic for Britain – but at the time the British public were disappointed that the Royal Navy had not won a victory on the scale of the Battle of Trafalgar.

Jellicoe later served as First Sea Lord, overseeing the expansion of the Naval Staff at the Admiralty and the introduction of convoy, but was removed at the end of 1917. He also served as the Governor-General of New Zealand in the early 1920s.

Born the son of John Henry Jellicoe, a captain in the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company and Lucy Henrietta Jellicoe (née Keele) and educated at Field House School in Rottingdean, Jellicoe joined the Royal Navy as a cadet in the training ship HMS Britannia in 1872.

He was made a midshipman in the steam frigate HMS Newcastle in September 1874 before transferring to the ironclad HMS Agincourt in the Mediterranean Fleet in July 1877.

Promoted to sub-lieutenant on 5 December 1878, he joined HMS Alexandra, flagship of the Mediterranean Fleet, as signal sub-lieutenant in 1880. Promoted to lieutenant on 23 September 1880, he returned to HMS Agincourt in February 1881 and commanded a rifle company of the Naval Brigade at Ismailia during the Egyptian war of 1882.

Jellicoe qualified as a gunnery officer in 1883 and was appointed to the staff of the gunnery school HMS Excellent in May 1884. He joined the turret ship HMS Monarch as gunnery officer in September 1885 and was awarded the Board of Trade Silver Medal for rescuing the crew of a capsized steamer near Gibraltar in May 1886.

He joined the battleship HMS Colossus (1882) in April 1886 and was put in charge of the experimental department at HMS Excellent in December 1886 before being appointed assistant to the Director of Naval Ordnance in September 1889.

Promoted to commander on 30 June 1891, Jellicoe joined the battleship HMS Sans Pareil in the Mediterranean Fleet in March 1892.

He transferred to the battleship HMS Victoria in 1893 (the flagship of the Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, Vice-Admiral Sir George Tryon) and was aboard when it collided with HMS Camperdown and was wrecked off Tripoli on 22 June 1893. He was then appointed to the new flagship, HMS Ramillies, in October 1893.

Promoted to captain on 1 January 1897, Jellicoe became a member of the Admiralty’s Ordnance Committee. He served as Captain of the battleship HMS Centurion and chief of staff to Vice Admiral Sir Edward Seymour during the Seymour Expedition to relieve the legations at Peking during the Boxer Rebellion in June 1900.

He was badly wounded during the Battle of Beicang and told he would die but confounded the attending doctor and chaplain by living.

He was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath and given the German Order of the Red Eagle, 2nd class, with Crossed Swords for services rendered in China. Centurion returned to the United Kingdom in August 1901, and was paid off the following month, when Captain Jellicoe and the crew went on leave. He became Naval Assistant to Third Naval Lord and Controller of the Navy in February 1902 and was given command of the armoured cruiser HMS Drake on the North America and West Indies Station in August 1903.

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

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

Jellicoe was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet on 3 April 1919. He became Governor-General of New Zealand in September 1920 and while out there also served as Grand Master of New Zealand’s Masonic Grand Lodge.

Following his return to England, he was created Earl Jellicoe and Viscount Brocas of Southampton in the County of Southampton on 1 July 1925.

He died of pneumonia at his home in Kensington in London on 20 November 1935 and was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral.

In July 1902 Jellicoe married Gwendoline Cayzer, daughter of the shipping magnate Sir Charles Cayzer; they had a son and five daughters.

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