Grand Fleet

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The Grand Fleet was the British Royal Navy's main naval fleet during the First World War. Its nemesis across the North Sea during the conflict was the German's opposing High Sea Fleet.

Background

Grand Fleet flag officers at the fleet boxing championship, 3 August, 1916. Left to right: Commodore, First Class Lionel Halsey, Vice-Admiral Sir T. H. Martyn Jerram, Admiral Sir Cecil Burney, Rear-Admirals Herbert L. Heath, Hugh Evan-Thomas and William C. M. Nicholson, and Vice-Admirals Sir Charles E. Madden and Sir F. C. Doveton Sturdee.

Prior to the outbreak of war all British vessels in Home waters formed part of the Home Fleets, which was divided into three fleets. The First Fleet was composed of ships in full commission; the Second Fleet of ships with 60% crews which could be manned by emptying the barracks and schools on shore; and the Third Fleet whose ships would be brought up to complement in an emergency.[1] On the outbreak of war with Germany the First Fleet become the "principal or Grand Fleet" directly under the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleets. His orders were:

To bring the enemy to battle on a good occasion, and to frustrate any efforts on his part, whether they are directed towards the landing of an invading or raiding force, or to the break-up of the patrol lines at the entrances to the North Sea.[2]

In 1914 no annual manœuvres were held. Instead a Test Mobilisation of the Second and Third Fleets was performed between 19 and 25 July. On 23 July the First Fleet proceeded to Weymouth Bay and on the 25 the Second and Fleets returned to their Home ports. On 26 July the Admiralty ordered that no more ships of the First Fleet or flotillas were to leave Portland until further notice. Long leave for officers and for second watches was cancelled, and the reopening of schools was postponed. The Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleets, Sir George A. Callaghan, was ordered to report to the Admiralty in London in the evening of 28 July, and the following day the First Fleet was ordered to Scapa Flow under Vice-Admiral Sir George J. S. Warrender, Bart., Vice-Admiral Commanding the Second Battle Squadron. The Grand Fleet passed the Straits of Dover at Midnight on 29-30 July, and on 31 July Admiral Callaghan rejoined the fleet.[3]

War

By 20 August all dreadnoughts in the fleet had completed with ammunition up to 90 to 100 rounds per gun, and all had been painted light grey down to the upper deck.[4]

Jutland

The fleet had the following stray ships attached to it for the battle:[5]

Post-Jutland

Following the conference at Rosyth, on 23 September the Admiralty sent Jellicoe a letter entitled "Considerations as to the Employment of the Grand Fleet in the North Sea."[6]

At the end of the letter direct reference was made to Jellicoe's letter of 30 October, 1914, and Their Lordships' approval of its contents at the time. "Later experience has shown no reason to modify the approval then expressed."[7]

The King and Queen of the Belgians on the Quarter Deck of the fleet flagship Queen Elizabeth in July, 1918. Left to right: Rear-Admiral Sir William E. Goodenough, Vice-Admiral Sir Hugh Evan-Thomas, Admiral Sir David R. Beatty, King Albert of Belgium, Vice-Admiral Sir John M. de Robeck, Elizabeth (Queen Consort of the Belgians), Rear-Admirals Sir Richard F. Phillimore and William Nicholson, and Vice-Admiral Osmond de B. Brock.
Photo: Imperial War Museum.

Commanders-in-Chief

Chiefs of Staff to the Commander-in-Chief

Commodore of Flotillas, Grant Fleet

See Also

Footnotes

  1. Naval Staff Monographs. Volume X. pp. 3-4.
  2. M-0053/15. Dated July, 1914. Copy in The National Archives. ADM 137/818. f. 308.
  3. Naval Staff Monographs. Volume X. pp. 24-28.
  4. "Grand Fleet Operations - Narrative of Events." Jellicoe Papers. British Library. Add MS. 48995. f. 47.
  5. Naval Operations. Volume III. p. 425.
  6. Revised Final Form in The National Archives. ADM 196/1645. ff. 350-355.
  7. The National Archives. ADM 196/1645. f. 355.
  8. Jellicoe Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/38. f. 693.
  9. Jellicoe Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/38. f. 693.
  10. Madden Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/87. f. 124.
  11. Madden Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/87. f. 124.
  12. Brock Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 49.
  13. Brock Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 49.
  14. Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. p. 44.
  15. Tweedie Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 332.
  16. Tweedie Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 332.

Bibliography