Books on Battle of Jutland

BaronBoy

Midshipman
I have just posted this on the green side of things and thought that it should also be here.

The Jutland Scandal, which, if you want value for money is actually two books; The Truth About Jutland by Rear-Admiral John Harper, and The Jutland Scandal by Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon. As astute readers will know the Jutland battle has been a controversial subject in naval history almost since the day of the battle itself. The protagonists have long argued between the merits of a victory versus defeat, Jellicoe versus Beatty, ships sunk versus control of the seas.

Both books have a convoluted history. Harper was originally tasked to produce an account of the Jutland battle by the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Wester Wemyss, at the time of the battle. Harper was the senior navigation officer and it was thought that because he was not present at the battle he would have no preconceived notions. The source material for his report was unfettered access to the logbooks of all the ships that survived the battle. Wemyss had left the position by the time the report was ready and the new Board got cold feet at releasing it and there were repeated delays despite calls in parliament for its release. When Beatty became First Sea Lord of the Admiralty he requested Harper to make changes which Harper refused. Beatty then buried the report and had the Admiralty publish a Jutland Narrative which was roundly condemned. Harper then wrote The Truth About Jutlandwhich was largely based on his original report with explanatory additions.

The second book came out of a request by Jellicoe to Bacon to prepare a response to the Admiralty narrative which Jellicoe had taken exception towards, not unsurprisingly as it benefitted Beatty to the expense of Jellicoe. In the end it wasn't required but some years later several accounts of the battle were published including one by Winston Churchill that so appalled Bacon that he wrote his book in response.

Bacon's book is longer and includes a lot of extra detail about ship handling, gunnery and signalling that would be unknown to the layman. He divides the battle into 4 phases and spends some time putting the actions taken, or not taken, into context. The descriptions of the actual battle are quite short, as were the actual periods of gunnery exchanges. He does spend some time refuting the arguments that had been put forward in the other publications and I doubt whether he and Churchill could have ever sat down at dinner table together. He absolutely excoriates Churchill's arguments.

Harper's book is more condensed and he notes that it is not the "Harper Record" that was requested by Wemyss but he does record the attempts by the Admiralty to influence what he produced. He also gives some background to the problems of weather and torpedo danger that existed in 1916. His account of the battle is also broken into 4 parts and are quite brief. He also takes to task other commentators on the battle who, in his judgement, show no understanding of the realities of a fleet engagement and this also includes Churchill, who at one point he damns by describing his view as being formed by, "...a wealth of geometrical reasoning and no practical knowledge...".

Both books come down heavily on the side of Jellicoe and are critical of Beatty, mainly on 3 counts; that he failed to consolidate his fleet prior to engaging the German battlecruiser fleet, that he failed to keep the German High Seas fleet in sight on the run to the north to rejoin the Grand Fleet and for having a very poor standard of gunnery and signalling in his fleet. Both books are also highly critical of several capital ships who failed to report that the German fleet was breaking through the destroyer screen to the rear of the Grand Fleet during the night. Only a destroyer who was in the thick of the action tried to report the German presence but their wireless it was thought was jammed by the Germans or was not working properly. It was this that allowed the German fleet to regain its home ports.

For anyone interested in military history they make fascinating reading. The battle was fought over a century ago now before such things as radar and aeroplanes made intelligence gathering somewhat easier and the problems of determining just where the enemy was when sea mist, gun smoke and coal fired ships all added to the confusion. Well worth a read.
 
The Jutland Scandal ... Well worth a read.
Aye - BTW these reprinted tomes were reviewed on RR & ARRSE on 17th April 2016 by @Seaweed (Our star RN history buff & top bookworm)

at: https://www.navy-net.co.uk/community/reviews/the-jutland-scandal-by-admirals-harper-and-bacon.87/


Yourself and other Jutland buffs should also find these two books & reviews of equal interest:

Jutland - the Unfinished Battle by Nicholas Jellicoe

Reviewed by Seaweed · Apr 11, 2016 "An excellent, clear, considered analysis of Jutland and its chief participants"

https://www.navy-net.co.uk/community/reviews/jutland-the-unfinished-battle-by-nicholas-jellicoe.86/

and

Jutland, the Naval Staff Appreciation ed. William Schliehauf

Reviewed by Seaweed · Apr 5, 2016 "A biased appreciation of Jutland interpreted for us and giving an insight into the Jellicoe/Beatty controversy of the 1920s".
 

WreckerL

War Hero
Super Moderator
I've read "The Battle of Jutland" by HH Frost, written in 1936.

It's a good in depth study of the battle and the Admirals of both sides. It cost 99p on kindle, £80 for hardback!
 

BaronBoy

Midshipman
Aye - BTW these reprinted tomes were reviewed on RR & ARRSE on 17th April 2016 by @Seaweed (Our star RN history buff & top bookworm)

at: https://www.navy-net.co.uk/community/reviews/the-jutland-scandal-by-admirals-harper-and-bacon.87/


Yourself and other Jutland buffs should also find these two books & reviews of equal interest:

Jutland - the Unfinished Battle by Nicholas Jellicoe

Reviewed by Seaweed · Apr 11, 2016 "An excellent, clear, considered analysis of Jutland and its chief participants"

https://www.navy-net.co.uk/community/reviews/jutland-the-unfinished-battle-by-nicholas-jellicoe.86/

and

Jutland, the Naval Staff Appreciation ed. William Schliehauf

Reviewed by Seaweed · Apr 5, 2016 "A biased appreciation of Jutland interpreted for us and giving an insight into the Jellicoe/Beatty controversy of the 1920s".

Thank you for the links. I think it was his reviews that prompted my purchase of the book. I have viewed Nicholas Jellicoe's video on the battle on YouTube and I may well pursue his book. I have to admit that I did not realise until after posting that Bacon was Jellicoe's biographer which may explain some of his vehemence but I still think it is worth a read.
 
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