Military Wiki
Admiral of the Fleet The Right Honourable
The Earl Jellicoe
2nd Governor-General of New Zealand

In office
27 September 1920 – 12 December 1924
Monarch George V
Preceded by The Earl of Liverpool
Succeeded by Sir Charles Fergusson
Personal details
Born (1859-12-05)December 5, 1859
Southampton, Hampshire,
United Kingdom
Died 20 November 1935(1935-11-20) (aged 75)
London, United Kingdom
Military service
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Years of service 1872–1919
Rank Admiral of the Fleet
Commands HMS Centurion
HMS Drake
Atlantic Fleet
Grand Fleet
Battles/wars Egyptian 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

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 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 but was removed at the end of 1917 as a result of his pessimistic view, declaring that nothing could be done to defeat the U-boats. He also served as the Governor-General of New Zealand in the early 1920s.

Early career

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.[1] 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.[1] Promoted to sub-lieutenant on 5 December 1878, he joined HMS Alexandra, flagship of the Mediterranean Fleet, as signal sub-lieutenant in 1880.[1] Promoted to lieutenant on 23 September 1880,[2] 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.[1]

Jellicoe qualified as a gunnery officer in 1883 and was appointed to the staff of the gunnery school HMS Excellent in May 1884.[1] 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.[3] 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.[4]

HMS Victoria sinking

Promoted to commander on 30 June 1891, Jellicoe joined the battleship HMS Sans Pareil in the Mediterranean Fleet in March 1892.[4] He transferred to the battleship HMS Victoria in 1893 and was aboard when it collided with HMS Camperdown (the flagship of the Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, Vice-Admiral Sir George Tryon) and was wrecked off Tripoli on 22 June 1893.[4] He was then appointed to the new flagship, HMS Ramillies, in October 1893.[4]

Promoted to captain on 1 January 1897,[5] Jellicoe became a member of the Admiralty's Ordnance Committee.[4] 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.[4] He was badly wounded during the Battle of Beicang[6] and told he would die but confounded the attending doctor and chaplain by living.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9] 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.[4]

High command

Jellicoe as Captain, in command of HMS Centurion, flagship on the China Station (his depiction on a contemporary cigarette card shows he was in the public eye long before becoming an admiral).

File:KitchenerJellicoe French.jpg

Kitchener, Jellicoe and French

Admiral, or as the French knew him: Amiralissime Jellicoe

As a protege of Admiral John Fisher, Jellicoe became Director of Naval Ordnance in 1905 and, having been appointed a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order on the occasion of launching of HMS Dreadnought on 10 February 1906,[10] he was also made an Aide-de-Camp to the King on 8 March 1906.[11] Promoted to rear-admiral on 8 February 1907,[12] he pushed hard for funds to modernise the navy, supporting the construction of new Dreadnought-type battleships and Invincible-class battlecruisers.[13] He supported F. C. Dreyer's improvements in gunnery fire-control systems, and favoured the adoption of Dreyer's "Fire Control Table", a form of mechanical computer for calculating firing solutions for warships.[14] Jellicoe arranged for the output of naval ordnance to be transferred from the War Office to the Admiralty.[15]

Jellicoe was appointed second-in-command of the Atlantic Fleet in August 1907, hoisting his flag in the battleship HMS Albemarle.[13] He was appointed Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order on the occasion of the King's Review of the Home Fleet in the Solent on 3 August 1907.[16] He went on to be Third Sea Lord and Controller of the Navy in October 1908 and, having taken part in the funeral of King Edward VII in May 1910,[17] he became Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet in December 1910, hoisting his flag in the battleship HMS Prince of Wales.[13] He advanced to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath on the Coronation of King George V on 19 June 1911 and confirmed in the rank of vice-admiral on 18 September 1911.[13] He went on to be Second-in-Command of the Home Fleet, hoisting his flag in the battleship HMS Hercules, in December 1911 and joined an inquiry into the supply and storage of liquid fuels in peace and war on 1 August 1912.[18] He became Second Sea Lord in December 1912.[13]

World War I

Grand Fleet

At the start of World War I, Admiral George Callaghan, Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleet, was removed by First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill.[13] Jellicoe was promoted to full admiral on 4 August 1914 and assigned command of the renamed Grand Fleet in Admiral Callaghan's place, though he was appalled by the treatment of his predecessor.[13] He was advanced to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath on 8 February 1915.[19]

When Fisher (First Sea Lord) and Churchill (First Lord of the Admiralty) both had to leave office after their quarrel over the Dardanelles, Jellicoe wrote to Fisher: “We owe you a debt of gratitude for having saved the Navy from a continuance in office of Mr Churchill, and I hope that never again will any politician be allowed to usurp the functions that he took upon himself to exercise”.[15]

Jellicoe was in command of the British Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916, history's largest (and only major) clash of dreadnoughts, albeit an indecisive one.[13] His handling of the Grand Fleet during the battle remains controversial, with some historians describing Jellicoe as too cautious and other historians faulting the battlecruiser commander, Admiral David Beatty, for making various tactical errors.[20] Jellicoe certainly made no significant mistakes during the battle: based on limited intelligence, he correctly deployed the Grand Fleet with a turn to port so as to "cross the T" of the German High Seas Fleet as it appeared.[21] After suffering heavy shell damage, the German fleet turned 180 degrees and headed away from the battle.[22] Jellicoe was criticised for not pursuing the German High Seas Fleet, but it is unclear that this would have been sensible, given the risk of German torpedo attacks.[15] 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.[13] Churchill described Jellicoe later as 'the only man on either side who could lose the war in an afternoon'.[13] Nevertheless he was appointed a member of the Order of Merit on 31 May 1916,[23] advanced to Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order on 17 June 1916[24] and awarded the Grand Cross of the French Legion of Honour on 15 September 1916.[25]

First Sea Lord

Jellicoe was appointed First Sea Lord in November 1916.[13] His term of office role saw Britain brought within danger of starvation by German unrestricted U-Boat warfare.[26]

At the War Committee (a Cabinet Committee which discussed strategy in 1915-16) in November 1916, the admirals present, including Jellicoe, told Lloyd George that convoys presented too large a target for enemy ships, and that merchant ship masters lacked the discipline to “keep station” in a convoy. In February 1917, Hankey wrote a memorandum for Lloyd George calling for the introduction of “scientifically organised convoys”, almost certainly after being persuaded by Commander Henderson and the Shipping Ministry officials with whom he was in contact. After a breakfast meeting (13 February 1917) with Lloyd George, Carson (First Lord of the Admiralty) and Admirals Jellicoe and Duff agreed to “conduct experiments”. However, convoys were not in general use until August 1917, by which time shipping losses to U-boats were already falling from their April peak.[27]

Jellicoe continued to take a pessimistic view, declaring (during the War Policy Committee planning meetings for the Third Ypres Offensive in June and July) that nothing could be done to defeat the U-boats. However, removing Jellicoe in July, as Lloyd George wanted, would have been politically impossible given Conservative anger at the return of Churchill (still blamed for the Dardanelles) to office as Minister of Munitions. In August and September Lloyd George was preoccupied with Third Ypres and the possible transfer of resources to Italy, whilst the new First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir Eric Campbell Geddes, was reforming the Naval Staff (including creating a post for Wemyss as Deputy First Sea Lord). Geddes and Lloyd George met with Balfour and Carson (both former First Lords of the Admiralty) on 26 October to discuss sacking Jellicoe after he had failed to act on “secret, but absolutely reliable” information about a German attack on a Norwegian convoy, but again nothing came of this as Lloyd George was soon preoccupied by the defeat of Italy and the setting up of the Supreme War Council. Geddes wanted to return to his previous job in charge of military transportation in France, and by December it was clear that Lloyd George would have to sack Jellicoe or lose Geddes.[28]

Jellicoe was rather abruptly dismissed by Geddes in December 1917.[26] Before he left for leave on Christmas Eve he received a letter from Geddes demanding his resignation. Geddes’ letter stated that he was still in the building and available to talk, but after consulting Admiral Halsey Jellicoe replied in writing that he would “do what was best for the service”. The move became public knowledge two days later.[29]

The Christmas holiday, when Parliament was not sitting, provided a good opportunity to remove Jellicoe with a minimum of fuss. Geddes squared matters with the King and with the Grand Fleet commander Admiral Beatty (who had initially written to Jellicoe of his “dismay” over his sacking and promised to speak to Geddes, but then did not write to him again for a month) over the holiday. The other Sea Lords talked of resigning (although Jellicoe advised them not to do so), especially when Geddes suggested in a meeting (31 December) that Balfour and Carson had specifically recommended Jellicoe’s removal at the 26 October meeting; they had not done so, although Balfour’s denial was less than emphatic. There was no trouble from the generals, who had a low opinion of Jellicoe. In the end the Sea Lords remained in place, whilst Carson remained a member of the War Cabinet, resigning in January over Irish Home Rule.[30]

Although it was pretended that the decision had been Geddes’ alone, he let slip in the Naval Estimates debate (6 March 1918) that he had been conveying “the decision of the Government”, i.e. of Lloyd George, who had never put the matter to the War Cabinet. MPs picked up on his slip immediately, and Bonar Law (Conservative Leader) admitted in the same debate that he too had had prior knowledge.[31]

As First Sea Lord Jellicoe was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Belgian Order of Leopold on 21 April 1917,[32] the Russian Order of St. George, 3rd Class on 5 June 1917,[33] the Grand Cross of the Italian Military Order of Savoy on 11 August 1917[34] and the Grand Cordon of the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun on 29 August 1917.[35]

Later War

Jellicoe was created Viscount Jellicoe of Scapa Flow on 7 March 1918[36] 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.[37]


Lord and Lady Jellicoe, 1924

Jellicoe was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet on 3 April 1919.[26] He became Governor-General of New Zealand in September 1920[38] and while out there also served as Grand Master of New Zealand's Masonic Grand Lodge.[39] Following his return to England, he was created Earl Jellicoe and Viscount Brocas of Southampton in the County of Southampton on 1 July 1925.[40] He died of pneumonia at his home in Kensington in London on 20 November 1935 and was buried in St Paul's Cathedral.[26]


In 1919, "Sleep, beneath the wave! a requiem" with words by Rev. Alfred Hall and Music by Albert Ham. was "Dedicated to Admiral Viscount Jellicoe." [41]

The attempt of his official biographer Admiral Bacon to portray him as the conqueror of the U-Boats is, in John Grigg’s view, absurd, as the main decisions were taken by other men. Bacon also claimed that his elevation to a viscountcy on dismissal was a deliberate snub, but in fact Sir John French, the former Commander-in-Chief of the BEF, was only a viscount at the time (both he and Jellicoe became Earls subsequently), whilst Fisher was never more than a Baron. Bacon's neutrality may be questionable as he had himself been sacked by Geddes from command of the Dover Patrol, replaced by Roger Keyes, shortly after Jellicoe’s removal.[37]


Bust in Trafalgar Square.

In July 1902 Jellicoe married Gwendoline Cayzer, daughter of the shipping magnate Sir Charles Cayzer; they had a son and five daughters.[4]


Ribbon bar (incomplete)

Order of the Bath UK ribbon.png Galó de l'Orde del Mèrit (UK).png Royal Victorian Order ribbon sm.jpg SGM(UK)ribbon.jpg Egypt 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 Ord.Aquilarossa-COM.png Legion Honneur GC ribbon.svg Grand Crest Ordre de Leopold.png BEL Croix de Guerre WW1 ribbon.svg

OrderStGeorge3cl rib.png Cavaliere di gran croce OMS BAR.svg JPN Kyokujitsu-sho Paulownia BAR.svg Croix de Guerre 1914-1918 ribbon.svg Navy Distinguished Service ribbon.svg


  • Sea Gallantry Medal (SGM) - 1886
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB) - 8 February 1915[19] (KCB: 19 June 1911;[42] CB: 9 November 1900[43])
  • Order of Merit (OM) - 31 May 1916[23]
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) - 17 June 1916[24] (KCVO: 3 August 1907;[16] CVO: 13 February 1906[10])


  • Viscount Jellicoe of Scapa Flow - 7 March 1918[36]
  • Earl Jellicoe and Viscount Brocas of Southampton in the County of Southampton - 1 July 1925[40]


  • Order of the Red Eagle with Swords, 2nd Class of the German Empire - 1900
  • Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour of France - 15 September 1916[25]
  • Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold of the Kingdom of Belgium - 21 April 1917[32]
  • Belgian Croix de Guerre - 21 April 1917[32]
  • Order of St. George, 3rd Class of the Empire of Russia - 5 June 1917[33]
  • Grand Cross of the Military Order of Savoy of the Kingdom of Italy - 11 August 1917[34]
  • Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers of the Empire of Japan -29 August 1917[35]
  • Croix de Guerre of France - 21 February 1919[44]
  • Navy Distinguished Service Medal of the United States - 16 September 1919[45]

Ancestry, Arms, Residences


Some of Admiral Jellicoe's ancestors
John Rushworth Jellicoe (1859–1935)
JohnHenryJellicoe.jpgCaptain John Henry Jellicoe (1825–1914) of Southampton

Samuel Jellicoe (1788–1861), contractor/banker of Millbrook (Hants) then 12, Portland Terrace, All Saints, Southampton.

Samuel Jellicoe (c1758-1843), ironmaster/contractorof Fontley, then Uplands House, Fareham, then of Brighthelmstone, Brighton.

Catherine Lee

Elizabeth Jane Whalley (Smythe Gardiner) (1792–1872), also of 30 Portland Street, Southampton

Sir James Whalley Smythe Gardiner, 2nd Bt. (d.1805) of Clerk Hill, Whalley, Lancs., & Tackley, & Cuddesdon (Oxon), & Roche Court, Fareham

Jane Master

LucyHenriettaJellicoe.jpgLucy Henrietta Keele (1834–1916)

Dr. John Rushworth Keele (1787–1856) Mayor of Southampton 1823–26

John Keele (1760–1835) surgeon of Southampton & Hythe

Elizabeth Rushworth (1761–1817), daughter of Capt. Edward Rushworth, RN, sister of Edward Rushworth, MP

Constantia Patton (1798–1854)

Admiral of the Red Philip Patton (1739–1815) of Fareham

Elizabeth Dixon


Blue plaque at 25 Draycott-place, (Blacklands Terrace), Cadogan gardens, London, SW3


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Heathcote, p.128
  2. "No. 24876". 24 August 1880. 
  3. "Auction 26 Orders, Decorations and medals". San Georgio. April 2012. Retrieved 1 December 2012. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 Heathcote, p.129
  5. "No. 26809". 1 January 1897. 
  6. "No. 27235". 5 October 1900. 
  7. Bacon, p. 109
  8. "Admiral Sir John Jellicoe". 19 October 1914. Retrieved 1 December 2012. 
  9. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 20 September 1901. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "No. 27885". 13 February 1906. 
  11. "No. 27897". 23 March 1906. 
  12. "No. 27993". 8 February 1907. 
  13. 13.00 13.01 13.02 13.03 13.04 13.05 13.06 13.07 13.08 13.09 13.10 Heathcote, p. 130
  14. Brooks, p. 135
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Grigg 2002, p371-2
  16. 16.0 16.1 "No. 28048". 6 August 1907. 
  17. "No. 28401". 26 July 1910. 
  18. "No. 28632". 2 August 1912. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 "No. 29066". 12 February 1915. 
  20. Brooks, p. 232-237
  21. Massie, p. 621
  22. Massie, p. 645
  23. 23.0 23.1 "No. 29751". 15 September 1916. 
  24. 24.0 24.1 "No. 29629". 20 June 1916. 
  25. 25.0 25.1 "No. 29751". 15 September 1916. 
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 Heathcote, p. 131
  27. Grigg 2002, p49, 51, 53
  28. Grigg 2002, p373
  29. Grigg 2002, p371-3
  30. Grigg 2002, p374-5
  31. Grigg 2002, p374
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 "No. 30029". 20 April 1917. 
  33. 33.0 33.1 "No. 30116". 5 June 1917. 
  34. 34.0 34.1 "No. 30227". 10 August 1917. 
  35. 35.0 35.1 "No. 30258". 29 August 1917. 
  36. 36.0 36.1 "No. 30565". 8 March 1918. 
  37. 37.0 37.1 Grigg 2002, p372
  38. "No. 31983". 16 July 1920. 
  39. "Grand Master & Past Grand Masters". The New Zealand Freemasons. Retrieved 1 December 2012. 
  40. 40.0 40.1 "No. 33063". 3 July 1925. 
  41. "Sleep, beneath the wave! a requiem" with words by Rev. Alfred Hall and Music by Albert Ham. Winnipeg, Manitoba: Waley, Royce and Co., 1919
  42. London Gazette, 19 June 1911
  43. London Gazette, 13 November 1900
  44. Edinburgh Gazette, 21 February 1919
  45. Edinburgh Gazette, 16 September 1919


  • Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon (1936). The Life of John Rushworth, Earl Jellicoe, G.C.B., O.M., G.C.V.O, L.L.D., D.C.L.. Cassell. ASIN B00085MS20. 
  • Brooks, John (2005). Dreadnought Gunnery and the Battle of Jutland: The Question of Fire Control. Routledge. ISBN 0714657026. 
  • Grigg, John (2002). Lloyd George: War Leader, 1916–1918. Allen Lane. ISBN 978-0571277490. 
  • Heathcote, Tony (2002). The British Admirals of the Fleet 1734 - 1995. Pen & Sword Ltd. 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. 

Further reading

  • Jellicoe, Admiral John Rushworth (December 2013). The Grand Fleet: Its creation, development and work 1914-1916. Not So Noble Books. ASIN B00C6BFG3W. 
  • Jellicoe, Captain John Rushworth (26 December 1906). Men of the Day: Naval Ordnance (MXLVI). Vanity Fair. 
  • Jellicoe, John Rushworth,1st Earl Jellicoe (2011). The Crisis of the Naval War. Tredition. ISBN 978-3842425057. 
  • Murfett, Malcolm (1995). The First Sea Lords from Fisher to Mountbatten. Westport. ISBN 0-275-94231-7. 
  • Winton, John (1981). Jellicoe. M Joseph. ISBN 978-0718118136. 

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Henry Jackson
Third Sea Lord and Controller of the Navy
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Briggs
Preceded by
Prince Louis of Battenberg
Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet
Succeeded by
Sir Cecil Burney
Preceded by
Prince Louis of Battenberg
Second Sea Lord
Succeeded by
Sir Frederick Hamilton
Preceded by
Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet
Succeeded by
Sir David Beatty
Preceded by
Sir Henry Jackson
First Sea Lord
Succeeded by
Sir Rosslyn Wemyss
Government offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Liverpool
Governor-General of New Zealand
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Fergusson, Bt
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Earl Jellicoe
Succeeded by
George Jellicoe
Viscount Jellicoe

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