‘Jellicoe is the only man on either side who could lose the war in an afternoon’
Winston Churchill, ‘The World Crisis’
.. But fortunately for the whole world, being calculating and far-seeing, rather than hot-headed, he didn’t.
Seaforth here present in paperback a reprint of Professor Marder’s 1975 second edition of his analysis of Jutland, which he had been able to tune using input from a very long list of Jutland veterans who wrote in following the original publication of the work.
The first half of the book is devoted to an exhaustive and authoritative account of the battle itself, which will forever be the greatest sea battle in the history of the world. It has been fought over ever since, from tactical floor to tablecloth, floodlit by hindsight and the audience misled by partisan efforts to big up favoured participants, Churchill’s ill-informed and ignorant comments in ‘The World Crisis’ (apart from his lambent insight quoted above) and Beatty’s deliberate tampering with the official record, and widespread mistaken belief that sea battles are an end in themselves. Here in Marder, an academic historian and an American at that, we have an absolutely neutral commentator who cuts through all this to present us with the ultimate, wholly objective account, analysing all available detail (much only unearthed due to his diligent ferreting) with scrupulous fairness to the participants of whom he provides interesting character sketches. In the process he demolishes or qualifies several popular myths. His exhaustive research apart, it is remarkable that a civilian can get so accurately under the skin of naval events. His analysis benefits from his own WW2 intelligence experience.