the tragic lies of Admiral Jellicoe


War Hero
I have read history,particularly Royal Navy, history, most of my life and now I find it hard to read about the slaughter in the trenches during WW1.
The carnage was so unnecessary and pointless and as so often said, Lions led by Donkeys.
As someone who has always thought Gen Haig should have been tried as a war criminal for making men walk towards the guns with heavy packs and getting caught up on the wire,and no running or else they would be shot! it came as a bit of surprise to find out that one of the biggest idiots was an Admiral!
After the slaughter on the Somme,Haig was called to London and told enough is enough, no more trench stupidity, attacks will be from the underbelly around Italy and into Germany that way.
Haig was made to agree but Admiral Jellicoe then piped up and said we were losing too many ships to German submarines sailing from Ostend so Haig had to go through Passchendaele to capture the port , Jellicoe said that we can't carry on with these losses due to these submarines.
Haig was delighted so off he went to slaughter another hundred thousand Tommies in the mud and horror that was Passchendaele.
Point is! Jellicoe was lying,he knew that shipping attacks,in 1917, from German subs were well down on previous years , and even more of a lie was the fact that those who did sail,set off from German ports,Ostend was hardly ever used to launch German vessels. He also knew that 300 anti -sub destroyers being built in the USA were nearly completed and would be operational here within a month,
Why did the Admiral lie and for what reason?I can find no answer up to now but this Admiral,one of our supposed heroes,caused the deaths of over a hundred thousand soldiers by his remarks made through lies and with no valid real reason that I can find.
Hardly our finest hour at the Admiralty an act of complete stupidity probably connived over a glass of Port in White's club.
Lloyd George now had his hands tied,but why did Jellicoe do it?Anyone know or even guess?got me beat and I have read extensively on WW1 but this has just surfaced,kept this quiet I reckon.
He was dismissed later after a disagreement with a minister but after the war,along with Haig,was revered and promoted.
We really did have some stupid decision makers with no trace of humanity in them.
Bit of a long time to look back I know but the answer to his stupidity eludes me and someone may know.
Jellicoe and the other beings constituting the Lords of Admiralty were in fact losing ships -------------however the information given from the ports
regarding ships sailing and arriving and non arrivals was false.

Also the protection for merchantile shipping was not provided --the convoy system was not introduced untill later in the war . The Admiralty was relying on ''hunting groups '' to seek out Uboats and not having very much success!

Once the Admiralty realised the shipping losses were getting very critical
--the Government stepped in and basically ordered the RN to do convoy escort work ---------a time honoured system that worked ie let the Uboats come to where the targets were and then hunt them.

The Convoy system was kept and used in the second world war and proved a success then too.

Other U boat deterrents were the mine fields to blockade the German coastlines and Uboat passage routes.

Basically Jellicoe was quoting the mis information he'd been supplied with --- yes shipping losses and thinking his ''hunting groups' were doing a good job !!



War Hero
Thanks for the replies,I will hunt out these titles.My outlook is the same,he should have known what the position was re.shipping and U-boat sailings based on his officer staff.
If he did not then his staff was incompetent,if the they were competent then he was lacking in judgement.
It's too late to rake up the past,except for the firing squad of shell shocked soldiers which will never go away.
I am just researching this period and this came up in an obscure book and I wondered why.Regards
Hello Seafarer1939,

All credit to your interest in history; I respect that, your experience & your opinion.

Without disputing that opinion I would however like to offer a few words of general caution.

All historians have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. The genuine historians will sift through as many ‘primary sources’ as they can find, or have access to, and provide their own brand of condensate. But this is almost always coloured by their particular perspective (bias?) on events and personalities.
Otherwise ‘History’ would just become a raw chronology.

This you will know already, and I hope that you have not been seduced by colourful, but sensational, coffee table ‘histories’.

As a skeptic I believe (besides the primary and secondary sources – and how accurate are THEY?) that there is so much of history that is always inaccessible. Often because materials were not recorded/incorrectly recorded/mislaid, etc. Later historians will always unearth more material and can sometimes cause a revision of a previous established version, often with apparently shocking headlines; like your thread title.

I also believe that any historical work should always be presented/related with frequent reference to the context and mores of that specific period, not just by today’s standards.

This is only now being re-introduced into our ‘histories’; ‘The British Empire’ (oppressive) and ‘Rudyard Kipling’ (jingoist) are just two examples where history is over-ripe for a revisit.

(Aside: I often wonder who will benefit from such studies? Besides the academic interest, how can we ensure that our rich legacy survives within our fabric?)

SF’39 - The above is just my observation, not a ‘rant’.

Finally, (please do not take me for a pedant, there are enough of those on any ‘fora/forums’ already!) just a friendly word about your signature, mon brave sir, not Monsarret, sp:

Commander Nicholas John Turney Monsarrat RNVR (22 March 1910 – 8 August 1979)

The Visitor - play
This Is The Schoolroom
My brother Denys
Three Corvettes (1945 and 1953)
H.M.S. Marlborough Will Enter Harbour (1949)
The Cruel Sea (1951)
The Story of Esther Costello (1952)
The Ship That Died of Shame (1959)
H M Frigate
The Tribe That Lost Its Head (1956)
The Nylon Pirates (1960)
The White Rajah (1961)
The Time Before This (1962)
Smith and Jones (1963)
Something to Hide (1963)
A Fair Day's Work (1964)
Life is a four letter word: Breaking in (London, 1966) - autobiography
Richer Than All His Tribe (1968)
Life is a four letter word: Breaking out (London, 1970) - autobiography
The Kappillan of Malta (1973)
The Master Mariner – unfinished

I read many of these as a v-keen-on-the-RN youngster and have re-read some, including the last two, recently: Cracking Historical Novels, IMHO.

(Must tell Flymo about ‘The Kappillan of Malta’.)

Adios – Bob

PS Re: Your Conclusion: “with no valid real reason that I can findâ€. Please keep looking. We need to know the truth, too.

PPS At your/my age perhaps we should be writing history, not reading it……
Seafarer ---am myself interested in the fiasco that was WW1 .

Haig and his ''one last assault'' to carry the battle after losing so many in futile assaults and still not winning anything significant.
Staff Officers planning reports --expect high casualties ---very high !!

Haig was a cavalry man---had friends in high places and kept his job till the end of the war 1919.
The American entry into the war was basically the deciding factor
for the German Armistice .

The usual excuse for the way the war was fought was the fact that the
introduction of 'modern' weapons --the machine gun/ artillery/aeroplanes
Tanks the Army Generals old ideas and tactics couldn't handle it!
Trench warfare was relatively unknown aswell.

Good book ----Butchers and Bunglers of WW1! Written by an Australian
who lost quite a few relatives .Lots of truths in it about the land war casualties and cock ups!!

The RN was similar --the Uboat war was under hand and not very british !!
Uboat detection methods were basic .



War Hero
Very interesting topic '39 and not something I know much about.

Fully agree with BOOTWU though - primary sources are needed - it is all too easy to be influenced by opinions/heresay, even with such recent history.
For some personal accounts of the naval/military situation towards the end of WWI, you might look at contemporary issues of the deliberately independent and often irreverent Naval Review. For a flavour, this passage is taken from Vol V (1917):

Naval Review Vol V Page 23 said:
...Before the submarine campaign began the enemy had come into possession of two valuable bases of operations - Zeebrugge and Ostend. These ports, ready for use, except that they were undefended, had fallen undamaged into their hands. As it is impossible that the use of those ports against British trade on the east coast, and in particular in the vital approaches to the Thames, was not foreseen, the reason why no attempt was made to render them unserviceable before they were evacuated will be of interest to the future historian. Naval interests could only demand the destruction of the ports in conformity with the immutable axiom that, given a base, commerce destroyers will act from it and that the difficulties of dealing with them will be increased.

From a military point of view the ports would be of service for supply of the British Army if they should be retaken and a further advance made; but this very usefulness must have precluded any chance that a retreating German Army would leave assets of such value behind him. It is unusual for an army in retreat to leave bridges in its rear in case they shall be needed for a subsequent offensive return; Ostend and Zeebrugge were bridgeheads in the maritime line of communication.

There remains the political point of view. Our Belgian ally may have viewed with the strongest distaste a measure so seriously affecting the commerce of Belgium. These two commercial ports, constructed at great expense, would return to her after the war. Was it desirable, it may have been asked, even if some military disadvantage might accrue, that public works of such importance shoulld be destroyed? If such reasons were put forward the answer lies in the results. The losses of tonnage, the great deflection of naval forces, and the subsequent effect upon the military campaign furnish the reply. The mistake was not left unnoticed. Plans for blocking were suggested, after the Germans had occupied the ports; but they were considered impracticable and were not carried out...


War Hero
Re the First World War:
somewhere in the National Archive is a document which gives Admiral Sir John Fisher's story of his dispute with Churchill in 1915. This led to him picking up his kitbag, hammock and hat box and retire to the Scottish Highlands to go fishing. He ignored all pleas to return to his post as First Sea Lord until he received a telegram which said "The King orders you to return to your duty". He did, but was given the push soon after - the fact that Churchill lost his job at the Admiralty soon after must have been some consolation after Gallipoli.
I particularly remember this, as I sent it to the then PRO in the late 90's, endorsing the form to the effect that the release of this document should be accompanied by a press release thaet this was the first time that Fisher's side of the story had been told - up until then, everything had been told by Churchill and his biographers (probably to Fisher's detriment no doubt). I spent 2 hours trawling through the catalogue on the Nationl Archive website, but I'm damned if I can find it. If anyone does manage to locate it, it's well worth the reading, especially as Churchill and his adherents had 80 years to muddy the waters.

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