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Admiral of the Fleet The Earl Beatty
Admiral of the Fleet The Earl Beatty
Born (1871-01-17)17 January 1871
Died 12 March 1936(1936-03-12) (aged 65)
Place of birth Nantwich, Cheshire, England
Place of death London, England
Allegiance  United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Service/branch Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.png Royal Navy
Years of service 1884–1927
Rank Admiral of the Fleet
Commands held HMS Juno
HMS Arrogant
HMS Suffolk
HMS Queen
1st Battlecruiser Squadron (1913–1916)
Grand Fleet (1916–1918)

Mahdist War

Boxer Rebellion
World War I

Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Order of Merit
Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order
Distinguished Service Order

Admiral of the Fleet David Richard Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty PC, GCB, OM, GCVO, DSO (17 January 1871 – 11 March 1936) was a Royal Navy officer. After serving in the Mahdist War and then the response to the Boxer Rebellion, he commanded the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron at the Battle of Jutland in 1916, a tactically indecisive engagement after which his aggressive approach was contrasted with the caution of his commander Admiral Sir John Jellicoe. He is remembered for his comment at Jutland that "There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today", after two of his ships exploded. Later in the war he succeeded Jellicoe as Commander in Chief of the Grand Fleet, in which capacity he received the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet at the end of the War. He then served a lengthy term as First Sea Lord in which capacity he was involved in negotiating the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 in which it was agreed that the USA, Britain and Japan should set their navies in a ratio of 5:5:3, with France and Italy maintaining smaller fleets.

Family and childhood

Beatty was born at Howbeck Lodge in the parish of Stapeley, Cheshire, on 17 January 1871.[1] He was the second son of five children born to Captain David Longfield Beatty and Katherine (or Katrine) Edith Beatty (née Sadleir), both from Ireland: David Longfield had been an officer in the Fourth Hussars where he formed a relationship with Katrine, the wife of another officer.[2]

Katrine had fair hair and blue eyes, soft wide lips, and overall an air of command. Beatty's father was 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) tall, dark haired with big hands and feet. Both David and his elder brother Charles were short, about 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m) with small hands and feet. Charles was fair haired taking after his mother's features, whereas David had more the look of his father. After the affair between David Longfield and Katrine became known, David Longfield's father (Beatty's grandfather), David Vandeleur Beatty (1815–1881), arranged for his son to be posted to India in the hope that the scandalous relationship might end. David Longfield resigned from the regiment on 21 November 1865, with the honorary rank of Captain. He took up residence with Katrine in Cheshire and in 1869 sold his commission.[3] David Longfield was unable to marry Katrine until Katrine had obtained a divorce on 21 February 1871, after the birth of their first two sons. Beatty's birth certificate recorded his mother's surname as Beatty, and his parents' eventual marriage at St Michael's Church in Liverpool was kept secret.[4]

Beatty's early education concentrated on horsemanship, hunting and learning to be a gentleman. Beatty had a close relationship with his elder brother Charles, who became his ally against their oppressive and overbearing father. They remained close throughout life, so much so that the only time Beatty felt despair was at his brother's death. Beatty later wrote to his wife about Charles, we lived together, played together, rode together, fought together.[5] His brothers would later join the British Army, but early on young David developed an interest in ships and the sea and expressed a desire to join the Royal Navy. In 1881 Beatty's grandfather died and David Longfield succeeded to the 18th century mansion, 'Borodale', outside Enniscorthy, in County Wexford. After retiring from the army David Longfield established a business training horses first in Cheshire and then at 'The Mount', near Rugby. On inheriting and following the death of his wife at 'The Mount', David Longfield returned to Ireland abandoning the training business.[6]

In 1882 Beatty entered Burney's Naval Academy at Gosport, which was a 'crammer' for boys wishing to take the entrance examinations for the Royal Navy.[7]

Early career

Rear-Admiral David Beatty

Beatty joined the Royal Navy as a cadet passing into the training ship HMS Britannia tenth out of ninety-nine candidates in January 1884.[8] During his two years at Britannia, moored at Dartmouth, he was beaten three times for various infractions. He passed out of Britannia eighteenth out of the thirty-three remaining cadets at the end of 1885.[8] Beatty's letters home made no complaint about the poor living conditions in Britannia, and generally he was extrovert, even aggressive, and resented discipline. However, he understood how far he could transgress without serious consequences, and this approach continued throughout his career.[9]

Beatty was given orders to join the China Station in January 1886, but the posting did not appeal to his mother, who wrote to Lord Charles Beresford, then a senior naval officer, member of parliament and personal friend, to use his influence to obtain something better.[10] Beatty was, in February 1886, instead appointed to HMS Alexandra, flagship of Admiral the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Victoria's second son, who was Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Squadron.[11] This proved an excellent social opening for Beatty, who established a longstanding relationship with the Duke's eldest daughter, Marie, and with other members of the court. Alexandra was a three-masted sailing ship with auxiliary steam power, and despite remaining flagship was already outdated in a navy which was steadily transitioning from sail to steam. Life in the Mediterranean fleet was considerably easier than cadet life, with visits to friendly ports all around the Mediterranean, but Beatty was concerned to work diligently towards naval examinations, which would determine seniority and future promotion prospects.[12] Beatty was promoted to midshipman on 15 May 1886[2] and assigned to assist lieutenant Stanley Colville on watchkeeping duties: Colville was to play an important part in Beatty's future career.[13]

Beatty left HMS Alexandra in March 1889 and joined the cruiser HMS Warspite in July 1889 for manoeuvres before joining the sailing corvette HMS Ruby in September 1889, in which he was promoted to sub-lieutenant on 14 May 1890.[14] Next he attended courses at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich during which he was somewhat distracted from his naval career by the delights of London. Beatty scored a first-class examination pass in Torpedoes, but only seconds in Seamanship, Gunnery and Pilotage, and a third in Navigation. A biography states that "his cabin at Greenwich was full of photographs of actresses, some of which were signed in the most endearing terms".[15] After attending the gunnery school, HMS Excellent, he undertook a posting to a torpedo boat in July 1891 and then a tour in HMS Nile from 19 January 1892.[2]

Beatty joined the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert in July 1892 while Queen Victoria was holidaying in the Mediterranean: Victoria was in mourning for her grandson, Albert Duke of Clarence, who had died January 1892.[16] Promoted to lieutenant on 25 August 1892,[17] he rejoined HMS Ruby in August 1892 and then transferred to the battleship HMS Camperdown in September 1893 (which had only recently been involved in the fleet accident where she had rammed and sank the battleship HMS Victoria).[2] He transferred to the battleship HMS Trafalgar in September 1895.[2]

Sudan Campaign

Beatty gained recognition during the Mahdist War for his actions in the campaign to recapture of the Sudan. Stanley Colville was placed in command of the gunboats attached to the British expeditionary force in Egypt and as Beatty's former commander in HMS Trafalgar and superior in HMS Alexandra he requested that Beatty join him. Control of the river Nile was considered vitally important for any expedition into Egypt and the Sudan. Beatty was seconded to the Egyptian government on 3 June 1896 and appointed second in command of the river flotilla.[2] Colville was wounded during the operation, leaving Beatty in command of the gunboats for the successful attack on Dongola.[2] The campaign halted at Dongola to regroup and Beatty returned to Britain on leave. He was commended by Kitchener for his part in the campaign and as a result was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.[18]

Beatty was again seconded to the Egyptian government for the next phase of the campaign. This was now at Lord Kitchener's specific request, for the Khartoum expedition. Beatty first commanded the gunboat El Teb but this was capsized attempting to ascend the Fourth Cataract.[2] Beatty then took command of gunboat Fateh between October 1897 and August 1898:[2] the gunboats were frequently in action advancing along the Nile ahead of the army and saw action at the Battle of Omdurman, where Beatty made the acquaintance of Winston Churchill who had become a cavalry officer in Beatty's father's old regiment, the 4th Hussars, and had there learnt his family history. In a few hours 10,000 Dervishes were killed by rifle and machine gun fire without any of them getting within 600 yards of the British force.[19] This battle marked the effective end of resistance to the expeditionary force, but the gunboats were called into service to transport troops to Fashoda, 400 miles (640 km) south along the White Nile, where a small force of French troops had made a difficult land crossing and staked a claim to the area: the French were persuaded to withdraw without incident.[20] Kitchener commended Beatty for his efforts in the campaign[21] and as a result Beatty was promoted to commander, ahead of 400 other lieutenants,[20] on 15 November 1898.[22]

Boxer Rebellion

Beatty was appointed executive officer of the small battleship HMS Barfleur, flagship of the China Station, on 20 April 1899.[20] The first year of his tour of duty was uneventful, but unrest against foreigners was growing in China. The Boxer movement was a secret Chinese peasant society committed to resisting oppression both from foreigners and from the Chinese government. The Empress Dowager Tzu-his partly encouraged the Boxer's opposition to foreigners in an attempt to turn their attention away from herself. The name was derived from ritual exercises supposed to make their users immune to bullets, which resembled boxing.[23]

In the summer of 1900 the rebellion reached Peking, where the German legation was attacked and foreign nationals withdrew to the relative safety of the Legation Quarter. Government troops joined forces with the rebels and the railway to the Treaty Port of Tientsin was interrupted. Admiral Sir Edward Seymour, then the Commander-in-Chief of the China Station, sent reinforcements to Peking, but they were insufficient to defend the Legation. An attempt was therefore made to send more troops from Tientsin, where British ships had been joined by French, German, Russian, Austrian, Italian and Japanese. The international naval brigade force of naval marines placed itself under the senior officer present, which was Seymour. After an urgent call for help from the Legation, Seymour set out on 10 June 1900 with 2,000 troops to attempt to break through to Peking. The force got about half way before abandoning the attempt because the railway line had been torn up. By now rebels had begun destroying the track behind the force, cutting it off from Tientsin.[24]

Admiral Seymour returning to Tientsin with wounded men

On 11 June 1900, Beatty and 150 men from HMS Barfleur landed as part of a force of 2,400 defending Tientsin from 15,000 Chinese troops plus Boxers. On 16 June 1900 the Taku forts were bombarded and captured to ensure ships could still reach the port. Fierce fighting broke out throughout the foreign areas and railway station, and Beatty was injured.[20] He later took part in the successful relief of the naval brigade and was promoted to captain on 8 November 1900.[25] Beatty returned to Britain, where he required an operation to restore proper use of his left arm.[26]


Beatty had returned from leave after the Sudan campaign, but finding life in Ireland at the family home not to his taste, stayed instead with his brother at Newmarketdisambiguation needed. The location allowed him good hunting, and access to aristocratic houses where his recent heroic reputation from the campaign made him an honoured guest. Out hunting one day he chanced to meet Ethel Tree, daughter of Chicago department store founder Marshall Field. Beatty was immediately taken with her, for her good looks and her ability to hunt. The immediate difficulty with the match was that Ethel was married already to Arthur Tree, with a son, Ronald.[27]

After the Boxer Campaign, the couple had at first exchanged letters, which Beatty signed 'Jack', as Ethel was still a married woman and discretion was advised. Ethel became involved with another man and the exchange of letters ceased but on Beatty's return she sent him a telegram and letter inviting him to resume their friendship. Beatty did not respond until after surgery on his arm in September 1900 when he wrote, I landed from China with my heart full of rage, and swore I did not care if I ever saw you again, or if I were killed or not. And now I have arrived with the firm determination not to see you at all in my own mind... Unfortunately I shall go on loving you to the bitter end... To me always a Queen, if not always mine, Good-bye.[28]

Despite this estrangement, the couple again met foxhunting and resumed a discreet relationship. Marshall Field was at first unimpressed by the impecunious Beatty as a future son-in-law, but was persuaded by his heroic reputation, impressive record of promotion and future prospects. There was the possibility that Field might revoke the settlement he had made on his daughter at the time of her first marriage and the new couple would have no means of support. Beatty's father was also unhappy about the match, fearing a repeat of the difficulties he had faced with his own relationship with a married woman, but with the added risk of publicity because both Beatty and Ethel were famous and the risk that Beatty's illegitimacy might be exposed. Beatty went so far as to consult a fortune teller, Mrs. Roberts, who predicted a fine outcome to the match. Ethel wrote to Arthur, telling him that it was her firm intention never to live with him again as his wife, though not naming any particular person or reason. Arthur agreed to cooperate, and filed for divorce in America on the grounds of desertion, which was granted 9 May 1901. Beatty and Ethel married on 22 May 1901 at the registry office, St. George's, Hannover Square, London with no family attending. Although Arthur Tree was himself from a wealthy American family, he now had to adjust to reduced circumstances without Ethel's support. He elected to remain in Britain and their son Ronald remained with him. Ronald and his mother were never reconciled from his perception that she had deserted his father, but he visited in later life and became friendly with Beatty. Ronald later became a member of parliament and, during World War II became a link between the British and United States governments, lending his country house, Ditchley Park near Oxford, to Winston Churchill for weekend visits when the official residences were considered unsafe. Beatty and Ethel set up home at Hanover Lodge in Regent's Park, London.[29]

The couple had two sons, David Field Beatty, 2nd Earl Beatty (1905–1972) born at the Capua Palace in Malta, and the Hon. Peter Randolph Louis Beatty (1910–1949). His marriage to a very wealthy heiress allowed Beatty an independence that most other officers lacked. She is reputed to have commented after he was threatened with disciplinary action following the straining of his ship's engines, "What? Court-martial my David? I'll buy them a new ship."[30]


In May 1902 he was passed fit for sea duty and was appointed captain of the cruiser HMS Juno in June,[20] spending two months in exercises with the Channel Fleet under Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson before joining the Mediterranean Fleet.[20] Beatty worked hard to raise efficiency so that she was highly rated in gunnery and other competitions by the time he left the ship 19 December 1902. Ethel decided not to be left behind so rented the Capua Palace on Malta, home port of the Mediterranean Fleet, where she became part of the island's high society.[31]

Beatty took command of the cruiser HMS Arrogant in the Mediterranean Fleet in November 1903 and then commanded the cruiser HMS Suffolk in the Mediterranean Fleet from October 1904.[20] He then became the naval advisor to the Army Council in 1906 and, after having been appointing a naval Aide-de-Camp to the King on 5 November 1908,[32] he became captain of the battleship HMS Queen in the Atlantic Fleet in December 1908.[20] He was promoted to rear-admiral on 1 January 1910[33] by a special order in council since he had not completed the requisite time as a captain.[34] He was offered the post of second-in-command of the Atlantic Fleet, but declined it and asked for one in the Home Fleet.[20] As the Atlantic Fleet post was a major command, the Admiralty were very unimpressed and his attitude nearly ruined his career.[20] Beatty, as a rapidly promoted war hero, with no financial worries and with a degree of support in Royal circles, felt more confident than most naval officers in standing firm on requesting a posting nearer home. He was approaching two years on half pay (which would trigger automatic retirement from the navy) when on 8 January 1912 his career was saved by the new First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill.[35] Churchill had met Beatty when Beatty was commander of a gunboat on the Nile supporting the army at the Battle of Omdurman, in which Churchill took part as a cavalry officer. A "probably apocryphal"[36] story relates that as Beatty walked into Churchill's office at the Admiralty, Churchill looked him over and said, "You seem very young to be an Admiral." Unfazed, Beatty replied, "And you seem very young to be First Lord." Churchill – who was himself only thirty-eight years old in 1912 – took to him immediately and he was appointed Private Naval Secretary to the First Lord against the advice of First Sea Lord Sir Arthur Wilson.[37]

HMS Lion, flagship of the battlecruiser squadron

Beatty became Rear-Admiral Commanding the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron on 1 March 1913.[38] Beatty was late taking up his new post, choosing not to cut short a holiday in Monte Carlo. On his eventual arrival, he set about drafting standing orders regarding how the squadron was to operate. He noted, " be successful must possess, in a marked degree, initiative, resource, determination, and no fear of accepting responsibility". He went on " a rule instructions will be of a very general character so as to avoid interfering with the judgement and initiative of captains...The admiral will rely on captains to use all the information at their disposal to grasp the situation quickly and anticipate his wishes, using their own discretion as to how to act in unforeseen circumstances..." The approach outlined by Beatty contradicted the views of many within the navy, who felt that ships should always be closely controlled by their commanding admiral, and harked back to reforms attempted by Admiral George Tryon. It is argued that Tryon had attempted to introduce greater independence and initiative amongst his captains, which he believed would be essential in the confusion of a real war situation, but had ironically been killed in an accident caused by captains rigorously obeying incorrect but precise orders issued by Tryon himself.[39]

Beatty chose Lieutenant Ralph Seymour as his flag lieutenant, despite Seymour being unknown to him. Seymour had aristocratic connections, which may have appealed to Beatty since he sought connections in society, but it was also the case that Seymour's sister was a longstanding close friend of Churchill's wife. Appointments by influence were common in the navy at this time, but the significance of Beatty's choice lay in Seymour's relative inexperience as a signals officer, which later resulted in difficulties in battle.[40]

World War I

On the eve of the First World War in 1914, Beatty was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath[41] and promoted to acting vice-admiral a month later. He was confirmed in the rank of vice-admiral on 9 August 1915.[42] He led the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron at the actions at Heligoland Bight (1914), Dogger Bank (1915) and Jutland (1916).[43]

Jutland proved to be decisive in Beatty's career, despite the loss of two of his battlecruisers. Beatty is reported to have remarked (to his Flag Captain, Ernle Chatfield, later First Sea Lord in the early 1930s), "there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today," after two of them had exploded within half an hour during the battle.[43] In any case Beatty's actions succeeded in drawing the German High Seas Fleet into action against the British Grand Fleet.[43]

Beatty succeeded Admiral John Jellicoe as commander-in-chief of the Grand Fleet and received promotion to the acting rank of admiral in December 1916.[43] With his dashing style, he was the antitheseis of his predecessor.[43] Beatty's marriage was failing disastrously at the time, and the result was to be a decade-long love affair between Beatty and Eugénie Godfrey-Faussett, wife of Captain Bryan Godfrey-Faussett.[44] Under Beatty's command the Grand Fleet maintained its dominance of the North Sea until the end of the War.[43]

Beatty escorted the German High Seas Fleet to internment at Scapa Flow in November 1918 giving the order from his flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth that "the German Flag will be hauled down at sunset and will not be raised again without permission".[43] This was not a lawful order, as the fleet remained the property of the German Government having been interned rather than having surrendered, but nevertheless Beatty enforced it.[45]

First Sea Lord

Portrait of Beatty by William Orpen

Beatty was promoted to full admiral on 1 January 1919[46] and to Admiral of the Fleet on 1 May 1919.[47] He was created 1st Earl Beatty, Viscount Borodale and Baron Beatty of the North Sea and Brooksby on 18 October 1919.[48] He became First Sea Lord on 1 November 1919.[45] In this capacity he was involved in negotiating the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 in which it was agreed that the USA, Britain and Japan should set their navies in a ratio of 5:5:3, with France and Italy maintaining smaller fleets.[49]

During the First Labour Government of 1924, with Japan increasingly hostile to the UK, Beatty lobbied the Clynes Committee for construction of the Singapore Naval Base to continue. Beatty wrote out, but did not send, a threat of resignation. The government were trying to cut back on the numbers of cruisers constructed; the other Sea Lords attributed the building of the Kent class to Beatty's lobbying, but government desire to alleviate shipyard unemployment was probably a more important factor.[50]

Despite further rumours that he would resign, Beatty remained in office when the Conservatives took power in the autumn of 1924.[51] Supported by the First Lord of the Admiralty William Bridgeman, he clashed with the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Winston Churchill, once again over the number of cruisers required by the Royal Navy. At this stage of his career Churchill was opposed to what he saw as excessive defence spending. This may seem odd in light of his previous and subsequent reputation, but in the 1920s no major war seemed to be on the horizon.[52][53] Beatty also at this time pressed hard for the return of responsibility for naval aviation from the newly formed Royal Air Force to the Royal Navy.[45]

In 1926 Beatty was considered for the post of Governor General of Canada but was rejected by the Colonial Secretary Leo Amery as he had “no manners and an impossible American wife”.[54]

By the time of his retirement from the Royal Navy in July 1927[55] a great deal of time was being spent preparing for the Coolidge Conference in Geneva, although Beatty did not himself attend as he had to remain in London to supervise the deployment of naval and marine forces against nationalist unrest in China and Egypt. On his last day in office (30 July) he attended a Cabinet at which Bridgeman reported the breakdown of the Geneva Conference as the Americans refused to accept any gun smaller than 8-inch for their cruisers, and after leaving office he congratulated Bridgeman that the Americans had not been able to achieve “command of the sea at any cost”.[56] Beatty was appointed a member of the Privy Council on 25 July 1927.[57] Stephen Roskill wrote that whilst Beatty and his disciple Chatfield deserve some praise for the Royal Navy’s comparative readiness in 1939, his main achievement was to maintain the morale of the Navy at a time of serious defence cuts. Without his strong leadership events like the Invergordon Mutiny of 1931 might have been seen.[58]

Retirement and Death

Beatty spent much of his life (when not at sea) in Leicestershire, and lived at Brooksby Hall and Dingley Hall. Beatty's old commander Admiral John Jellicoe died on the 19th November 1935.[59] Already suffering from heart failure, and sick with influenza, Beatty defied doctors' orders and left his bed to act as a pallbearer, saying, "What will the Navy say if I fail to attend Jellicoe's funeral?" He was so obviously ill that, as the funeral procession passed up Fleet Street, a bystander sent a glass of brandy out to him. He also insisted on attending the funeral of King George V in January 1936. These acts hastened his own death.[60]

Beatty died at around 1am on 12 March 1936.[61][62][63]

At Beatty's funeral his coffin was draped in the Union Flag flown by his flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth in 1919. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Lang, said “In him something of the spirit of Nelson seemed to have come back”. The Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, called in the House of Commons for a public memorial to Beatty to be erected, but no action was taken until after the Second World War, when busts of Beatty and Jellicoe were unveiled in Trafalgar Square on 21 October (Trafalgar Day) 1948.[61]

Beatty had requested in his will that he would like to be buried next to his wife Ethel at Dingley: however he was actually buried at St Paul's Cathedral and therefore the double grave at Dingley Church only contains his wife's body.[64]


The battle of Jutland was the major naval engagement of the First World War and marked a turning point in the naval war. Although it was tactically inconclusive, with significantly higher losses in the British fleet but with the German fleet fleeing the field of battle, it was effectively a strategic defeat for Germany. The Royal Navy could much more readily replace its losses with ships already under construction, while the engagement ended with the German fleet retreating as fast as possible from the British. Thereafter the Imperial German Navy ceased any serious attempts to engage the British fleet and remained at home as a 'fleet in being'. British public perception of the engagement was initially as a serious defeat, at a time when popular opinion expected great things from the Royal Navy. As admiral in command, John Jellicoe received much of the blame for this 'defeat', despite the fact that most of the significant losses were amongst the independent battlecruiser squadron commanded by Beatty. A number of serious errors have been identified in Beatty's handling of this squadron. These included:

  • Failing to engage the German battlecruiser squadron with all his ships, thus throwing away a two to one numerical superiority and instead fighting one-to-one. Beatty was given command of the 5th Battle Squadron to replace a squadron of battlecruisers away for training. These were four of the most powerful ships in the world, but he positioned them so far away from his six battlecruisers that they were unable to take part in most of the engagement with Admiral Hipper's squadron of five battlecruisers.[65]
  • Failing to take advantage of the time available to him between sighting the enemy and the start of fighting, to position his battlecruisers to most effectively attack the enemy. At the point the German ships opened fire with accurately determined ranges for their guns, Beatty's ships were still maneuvering, some could not see the enemy because of their own smoke, and hardly any had the opportunity of a period of steady course as they approached to properly determine target range. As a result the German ships had a significant advantage in early hits, with obvious benefit. During this time he also lost the potential advantage of the larger guns on his ships: they could commence firing at a longer range than the German ships.[66]
  • Failing to ensure that signals sent to his ships were handled properly and received by the intended ships. Lost signals added to the confusion and lost opportunities during the battle. This issue had already arisen in previous battles, where the same signals officer had been involved, but no changes had been made.[67]
  • Failing in his role as fast armoured scout to report to Jellicoe the exact position of the German ships he encountered, or to keep in contact with the German fleet while he retreated to the main British Grand Fleet. This information was important to Jellicoe to know how best to position the main fleet to make the most of its eventual engagement with the German High seas fleet. Despite this, Jellicoe succeeded in positioning his ships to good advantage, relying on other closer cruisers for final knowledge of the German's position, but necessitating last-minute decisions.[68]
  • The gunnery of his ships was generally poor compared to the rest of the fleet. This was partly a consequence of his ships being stationed at Rosyth, rather than Scapa Flow with the main fleet, since local facilities at Rosyth were limited, but this was a problem identified months before Jutland which Beatty had failed to correct.[69] He preferred to trust to rapid close-range fire rather than deliberate ranging and operating at extreme range, a failing which had also been pointed out to him previously. His battlecruisers achieved few hits on the enemy, with most of the damage being inflicted by the battleships when they eventually came close enough to take part.

After the war a report of the battle was prepared by the Admiralty under First Sea Lord Wemyss. Before the report was published, Beatty was himself appointed First Sea Lord, and immediately requested amendments to the report. When the authors refused to comply, he ordered it to be destroyed and instead had prepared an alternative report, which proved highly critical of Jellicoe. Considerable argument broke out as a result, with significant numbers of servicemen disputing the published version, including Admiral Bacon, who wrote his own book about the battle, criticising the version sponsored by Beatty and highly critical of Beatty's own part in the Battle.[70]

Besides actively encouraging the publication of books and articles designed to praise his role at the Battle of Jutland and denigrate Jellicoe’s, after his retirement Beatty assisted with the preparation of a 5,200 line poem “The Epic of Jutland” by Shane Leslie.[71]

Bust of Beatty by William McMillan in Trafalgar Square, London. The two fountains were redesigned as memorials to Beatty and Jellicoe

Honours and awards

(ribbon bar, as it would look today)

Order of the Bath UK ribbon.png

Galó de l'Orde del Mèrit (UK).png Royal Victorian Order ribbon sm.jpg Dso-ribbon.png Queens Sudan Medal BAR.svg

Third China War Medal BAR.svg 1914 1915 Star ribbon bar.svg British War Medal BAR.svg Victory Medal ribbon bar.svg

King George V Coronation Medal ribbon.png GeorgeVSilverJubileum-ribbon.png Order of the Medjidie lenta.png OrderStGeorge4cl rib.png

Grande ufficiale OMS BAR.svg JPN Kyokujitsu-sho 1Class BAR.svg Legion Honneur GC ribbon.svg Croix de Guerre 1914-1918 ribbon.svg

Star of Romania Ribbon.PNG GRE Order Redeemer 1Class.png Navy Distinguished Service ribbon.svg JPN Kyokujitsu-sho Paulownia BAR.svg




In the afternoon [of 1 June 1916] Beatty came into the Lion's chart-house. Tired and depressed, he sat down on the settee, and settling himself in a corner he closed his eyes. Unable to hide his disappointment at the result of the battle, he repeated in a weary voice, 'There is something wrong with our ships', then opening his eyes and looking at the writer, he added, 'And something wrong with our system'. Having thus unburdened himself he fell asleep.

—Lieutenant W. S. Chalmers, Assistant Navigating Officer of HMS Lion at Jutland[91]

At 4.25, soon after we had resumed our position ahead of the Princess Royal, the third ship in the line, the Queen Mary (Captain Prowse) blew up exactly as had the Indefatigable. I was standing beside Sir David Beatty and we both turned round in time to see the unpleasant spectacle. The thought of my friends in her flashed through my mind; I thought also how lucky we had evidently been in the Lion. Beatty turned to me and said, "There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships to-day," a remark which needed neither comment nor answer.

—Captain Ernle Chatfield, Captain of HMS Lion at Jutland.[92]


  1. Roskill, p. 20
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Heathcote, p. 23
  3. Beatty (1980), p.4-5
  4. Beatty (1980), p.1-3
  5. Beatty (1980), p. 20 citing letter to Beatty's wife
  6. Beatty (1980), p.31
  7. Beatty (1980), p.11
  8. 8.0 8.1 Roskill, p. 21
  9. Beatty (1980), p. 11-12
  10. Beatty (1980), p. 14
  11. Roskill, p. 22
  12. Beatty (1980), p. 15, 21
  13. Chalmers, p. 12
  14. "No. 26253". 2 February 1892. 
  15. Roskill, p. 24 citing Shane Leslie draft biography of Beatty which was discontinued at the request of the family
  16. Beatty (1980), p. 22
  17. "No. 26322". 2 September 1892. 
  18. Roskill, p. 26-27, 29
  19. Beatty (1980), p. 29-30
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 20.5 20.6 20.7 20.8 20.9 Heathcote, p. 24
  21. "No. 27009". 30 September 1898. 
  22. "No. 27023". 15 November 1898. 
  23. Roskill, p. 30
  24. Roskill, p. 31-32
  25. "No. 27245". 9 November 1900. 
  26. Roskill, p. 32-33
  27. Beatty (1980), p.31-35
  28. Beatty (1980), p.38
  29. Beatty (1980), p.38-44
  30. Massie, p.89
  31. Roskill, p. 40–41
  32. "No. 28195". 10 November 1908. 
  33. "No. 28325". 1 January 1910. 
  34. "No. 28317". 14 December 1909. 
  35. Roskill, p. 48-52
  36. Massie, p. 92
  37. Gordon, p. 381
  38. Beatty Papers. I. p. 57. 
  39. Gordon p.381-382. For a rebuttal of Gordon's thesis on tactics in the late-nineteenth century Royal Navy see Allen, Matthew (July 2008). "The Deployment of Untried Technology: British Naval Tactics in the Ironclad Era". pp. pp. 269–293. Digital object identifier:10.1177/0968344508091324. 
  40. Gordon p.384-385
  41. 41.0 41.1 "No. 28842". 19 June 1914. 
  42. "No. 29262". 9 August 1915. 
  43. 43.0 43.1 43.2 43.3 43.4 43.5 43.6 Heathcote, p. 25
  44. "The Shane Leslie-Godfrey Faussett Archive". Retrieved 11 November 2012. 
  45. 45.0 45.1 45.2 Heathcote, p. 26
  46. "No. 31104". 3 January 1919. 
  47. "No. 31327". 6 May 1919. 
  48. 48.0 48.1 "No. 31610". 21 October 1919. 
  49. "Conference on the Limitation of Armament". Retrieved 11 November 2012. 
  50. Roskill 1980, pp343-5
  51. Roskill 1980, pp343-8
  52. Roskill 1980, pp351-3
  53. "Churchill Archives". Churchill College, Cambridge.;reference=CHAR%201%2F179%2F8-9. Retrieved 11 November 2012. 
  54. Roskill 1980, pp355
  55. Heathcote, p. 27
  56. Roskill 1980, pp358
  57. "No. 33298". 29 July 1927. 
  58. Roskill 1980, pp360
  59. Andrew Lambert, ‘Jellicoe, John Rushworth, first Earl Jellicoe (1859–1935)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2013 accessed 16 Oct 2013
  60. Roskill 1980, pp365-8
  61. 61.0 61.1 Roskill 1980, pp368
  62. Bryan Ranft, ‘Beatty, David, first Earl Beatty (1871–1936)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2012 accessed 16 Oct 2013
  63. Beatty's biographer Stephen Roskill discusses his last words with his son on the evening of 11 March, before stating that he died at around 1am. Heathcote (2002, p27) gives the date of his death as 11 March, which appears to be an error.
  64. Roskill, p. 366
  65. Brooks p. 232-234
  66. Brooks p. 234-240
  67. Brooks p. 232-233, 237
  68. Brooks p. 232-240
  69. Brooks p.226-227
  70. Bacon, p. 1-253
  71. Roskill 1980, pp322-29
  72. "No. 26795". 17 November 1896. 
  73. "No. 29751". 15 September 1916. 
  74. "No. 28505". 19 June 1911. 
  75. "No. 30156". 25 June 1917. 
  76. "No. 29629". 20 June 1916. 
  77. "No. 27792". 28 April 1905. 
  78. "No. 31379". 3 June 1919. 
  79. "No. 27012". 3 October 1898. 
  80. "No. 29727". 25 August 1916. 
  81. "No. 30227". 10 August 1917. 
  82. "No. 30258". 28 August 1917. 
  83. "No. 31360". 23 May 1919. 
  84. "No. 29751". 15 September 1916. 
  85. "No. 31182". 15 February 1919. 
  86. "No. 31236". 17 March 1919. 
  87. "No. 31413". 21 June 1919. 
  88. "No. 31553". 16 September 1919. 
  89. London Gazette, 22 January 1920
  90. London Gazette, 24 January 1922
  91. Chalmers, p. 262
  92. Chatfield, p.143

Further reading

  • Bacon, Admiral Sir Reginald Hugh (1933). The Jutland Scandal. London: Hutchinson. ASIN B008MXL94I. 
  • Beatty, Charles (1980). Our Admiral, a biography of Admiral of the Fleet Earl Beatty. London: W. H. Allen. ISBN 978-0-491-02388-7. 
  • Beatty, Admiral of the Fleet David, First Earl Beatty (1989). Ranft, Bryan McL.. ed. The Beatty Papers. Volume I. London: Navy Records Society. ISBN 0-85967-807-5. 
  • Brooks, John (2005). Dreadnought Gunnery at the Battle of Jutland: The Question of Fire Control. London: Frank Cass Publishers. ISBN 0-7146-5702-6. 
  • Chalmers, Rear-Admiral W. S. (1951). The Life and Letters of David, Earl Beatty. London: Hodder and Stoughton. ASIN B0007ITISK. 
  • Chatfield, Ernle (1942). The Navy and Defence. Heinemann. ASIN B0006APX92. 
  • Gordon, Andrew (1996). The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command. London: John Murray. ISBN 0-7195-5533-7. 
  • Heathcote, T. A. (2002). British Admirals of the Fleet 1734–1995: A Biographical Dictionary. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Leo Cooper. ISBN 0-85052-835-6. 
  • Massie, Robert Kinloch (2003). Castles of Steel: Britain Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea. New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-40878-0. 
  • Ranft, Bryan McL. (1995). Murfett, Malcolm H.. ed. The First Sea Lords: From Fisher to Mountbatten. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers. ISBN 0-275-94231-7. 
  • Roskill, Captain Stephen Wentworth (1980). Admiral of the Fleet Earl Beatty – The Last Naval Hero: An Intimate Biography. London: Collins. ISBN 0-689-11119-3. 

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Ernest Troubridge
Naval Secretary
Succeeded by
Dudley de Chair
Preceded by
Sir John Jellicoe
Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet
Succeeded by
Preceded by
The Lord Wester-Wemyss
First Sea Lord
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Madden
Academic offices
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Earl Kitchener
Rector of the University of Edinburgh
Succeeded by
David Lloyd George
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New Creation
Earl Beatty
Succeeded by
David Field Beatty

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