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Battle of Jutland
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tone
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Joined: 29 Oct 2004
Posts: 479
Location: Boston

PostPosted: Fri Feb 29, 2008 12:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think Gordon's book is amazing, though I am not prepared to sign on to his every conclusion. It is just so rich, that anyone (even Harley!) who reads it without feeling he must take a stance of uniform agreement or disagreement will find his interest in the battle rekindled, often in a detailed area.

My initial understanding of flag signaling methods was taken from this book, and I have pursued a good many of his well-noted sources. It should prove catalytic to many minds.

Here is how I reviewed it on Amazon. I'd say I regret my wish for a "massive" print run for this, but they were proving hard enough to find that I see someone trying to sell his PAPERBACK of the 2000 edition for $175:

Quote:

A corporate failure revealed in the crucible of battle, May 23, 2007

I have copied my review from the 2000 paperback edition. It's curious that Amazon does not carry them over.

I have read many books of military history covering a variety of campaigns, but never have I read one with such breadth and insight as this. The enormity of the drama embodied in the moment the fleets met at Jutland is for the first time matched by an author's ability to depict a context rich enough to help us understand the influences which fed this cataclysmic misfire of naval strength.

Gordon focuses on the tension between doctrine's role as a useful tool for helping a widely flung set of commanders act in concert when distance, smoke, and angst prevent their communication and how a careless search for practical doctrine might invite a stifling dogma in its stead. As Gordon so fluidly writes of the malaise gripping the "fleet that had dozed unchallenged in the long calm lee of Trafalgar", the trust Nelson placed in subordinates had not long survived his death in that battle and its heir was an officious busyness centered on sparkle and conformity.

Particularly delightful in this work and an aspect not to be missed is the benefit to be realized by using two bookmarks when reading it, with the second preserving your spot in the end notes. Its 100+ pages of notes manifest a stringent and complete attribution of his borrowings, but a great many of the notes are not simply citations of others work but illuminating tidbits well worth savoring as you plow along the main text.

A new reader will also find that color has not been sacrificed in the rush to meet the obligations of covering so large a battle. My favorite anecdote was one of an untroubled officer on HMS Lion who, unaware that the Germans had truly been sighted, calmly finished preparing his sandwich as action stations were rung. The mental picture formed of his arriving on the bridge with mouth full and hoagie in hand is not unlike someone doing "the wave" in the audience at Ford's Theatre as Lincoln takes his seat.

I mean the 5 stars. I have given 5 copies of this book to people I know, simply to ensure that they might understand the mania for naval history it has fanned in my heart. If there is any justice in this world, this book will enjoy a massive new print run.


tone
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Harley



Joined: 23 Oct 2005
Posts: 131
Location: Great Britain

PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2008 6:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

tone wrote:
It is just so rich, that anyone (even Harley!) who reads it without feeling he must take a stance of uniform agreement or disagreement will find his interest in the battle rekindled, often in a detailed area.

tone


You're certainly right there. I think I may well devote my life to rebutting his entire book. Having gone through it since last Wednesday it is now a rash of red crayon where I've underlined it or made notes.

There are aspects of his book I can live with - there are elements of very good technical history there. But his style is utterly outrageous, and while he might stick to Beatty somewhat, he does it so dispassionately compared to his laying into Jellicoe. Some of his sources are dodgy as well from what I gather and some of his notes make no sense. If his book wasn't so full of provocative prejudice, it would be a classic. As it is I'm appalled that so many respectable historians endorsed it.

Harley

P.S. Quite apart from his in retrospect foolish stance on the Pollen Dreyer debate, why was he utterly unable to spell Dreyer's first name correctly or even get the title of his memoirs right??
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Harley



Joined: 23 Oct 2005
Posts: 131
Location: Great Britain

PostPosted: Sun Mar 09, 2008 5:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A question for the more knowledgable. Why is it, despite the statement of Scheer himself, that everyone "states" that the HSF's only plan was to bombard Sunderland and that the cruise to the north was just a back-up plan. Am I the only one to draw a distinction between having an alternative plan, which is just as important and inordinately (so Scheer believed) safer, and a reserve plan which suggests you're doing something against your will and you just pulled it out of your head. Even Gordon seems to follow this line.

Or am I just crazy?

Harley
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bargami



Joined: 11 Dec 2007
Posts: 75
Location: Richmond, Virginia

PostPosted: Sun Mar 09, 2008 8:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Regarding Scheer's plan my reading is that the alternative plan was just that;
not the preferred option but still intended to accomplish the desired goal common to both plans, ideally the destruction of the BCF, as well as any battleships of the Grand Fleet which might be torpedoed coming out.

And the central factor in deciding Scheer to go with the alternative highlights a kind of commonality with Jellicoe, an unwillingness to proceed unless "all" elements were in place. In this case, the weather precluded getting the Zeppelin reconaissance ahead, and Scheer would not plunge into the North Sea without it. A meeting with the full Grand Fleet, as indeed eventuated, was not the plan.

I'd say simply a less-ambitious, pared-down, version of the first plan. The main objectives and elements still remained.

bargami
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bargami



Joined: 11 Dec 2007
Posts: 75
Location: Richmond, Virginia

PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 12:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm in the process of working my way through "Rules of the Game" now, and will have more to say about it. If one looks at it from the point of view of the Jellicoe vs. Beatty blame game, I would say that Beatty gets the worst of it here, although Jellicoe takes the special heat as exemplifying in many ways what Gordon sees as the command-and-control obsession. Indeed, as Gordon lays this out with Jellicoe and Beatty one sees the penalties of too much control and too little.

However, just for now, one famous controversy Gordon doesn't discuss, understandably I suppose as this Beatty error, if such it was, is not one that is not relative to the theme of central control vs. initiative, namely Beatty's failure to open fire early at the start of the Run to the South, the matter upon which Brooks spends much time in his book. Gordon mentions it, but neither critiques it nor examines it. Beatty skates on that one because Gordon sticks strictly to his thesis.

bargami
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bargami



Joined: 11 Dec 2007
Posts: 75
Location: Richmond, Virginia

PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2008 9:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A little more about "Rules of the Game." This is certainly an admirable history book making a compelling point, not a straightforward account of Jutland, complete with events leading preceding and aftermath, of which there are many, but more like an enormous master's or doctrinal thesis.
Jutland is at the heart of the book because events their arguably epitomize the "something wrong with our system."

Because Gordon stays strictly with his thesis, some major Jutland gaffs, as I mentioned in another post, escape discussion because they're not related to comand-and-control, failure to exercise initiative, and the effect of signals on all of this. So Beatty gets a "little" help here in Gordon's Jutland account because he is set up as the most important commander on the day capable of bucking the system, one whose career was an anomaly and doesn't fit the mould which Evan-Thomas exemplifies (refusing promotions, advancing in society by virtue of a relentless American department store heiress he married, cheating on that same heiress for years). Mind you even in Beatty's case connections helped; that early meeting with Churchill in the Sudan arguably revived his career
when Churchill brought him into the Admiralty.


Having said that, Beatty takes a fair pounding here. Gordon makes clear that Beatty had the unique potential, among the high-profile commanders,
to push the initiative concept Tryon tried to get going. However, at Jutland,
what he actually did was to utilize Jellicoe's established command-and-control procedures, complete with elaborate signalling (so that all commanders in the BCF are set up for this), and then uses it carelessly and sloppily, as he did at the Dogger Bank. And as Gordon makes very clear, in the days preceding Jutland he didn't brief Evan-Thomas at all, a man who needs to be told the game plan; if Beatty's plan was to go with the "just conform to my line" approach, observe and use your common sense, someone like Evan-Thomas absolutely had to be told that (as did all the rest).

Enough about that. Here's a bit of an enigma. Jellicoe, as Gordon makes clear, exemplifies the problem; rigid command and control and stifling of initiative. Who was Jellicoe's primary patron throughout the Edwardian era and right into the command of the Grand Fleet? Fisher of Kilverstone, an apparent renegade without-equal. So, in terms of the naval war 1914-18,
strategy and tactics, where "was" Fisher really? I think perhaps more conservative than popularly believed.

bargami
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