Harper's Narrative

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I, JOHN ERNEST TROYTE HARPER of "Ilam", Hawkhurst in the County of Kent, Vice-Admiral (retired), do Solemnly and Sincerely Declare—

1. THAT the attached Statement of Facts dealing with the compilation of the Official Record of the Battle of Jutland was prepared by me and is to the best of my belief a true statement in every respect.

2. AND I make this solemn Declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true and by virtue of the Statutory Declarations Act 1835.

DECLARED this Thirtieth day of September 1935 at Cranbrook, Kent.


Before me,


A Commissioner for Oaths.

Statement of Facts

This is the "Statement of Facts" referred to in the Declaration of John Ernest Troyte Harper made this 30th day of September 1935 before me Eric Clarke

A Commissioner for Oaths.






Introduction consists of 4 Pages; Part I consists of 27 Pages and 4 Footnotes; Part II consists of 10 Pages and 1 Footnote; Total 41 Pages and 5 Footnotes.



The following bald statements of actual facts connected with what it is no exaggeration to describe as one of the worst scandals of modern times so far as the Royal Navy is concerned, is sufficient to convince anyone that the campaign waged for so many years against Admiral-of-the-Fleet Lord Jellicoe was both unfair and unwarrantable.

In my book [The Truth about Jutland] the scandal was, to some extent, exposed; but at that time [1927] it was obviously out of the question for me to publish the details of the unfair manœuvring resorted to by the First Sea Lord to mislead the public as to the share he took in the Battle of Jutland. The truth was, however, known to the First Lord, and to the Naval members of the Board, and presumably to the Prime Minister, Mr. Lloyd George, as he replied to several of the questions in the House of Commons. Yet Lord Beatty's political power was such that he was able to sway the First Lord and the Prime Minister to countenance the publication of deliberate mis-statements. By publication I refer mainly to the answers given in the House to questions relating to the Official Record. The true answers, to questions for which notice had been given, were, in most cases, written by me but were not given to the House. Some totally inaccurate reply which would mislead and confuse the public was substituted.

It was transparent from the day Lord Beatty assumed office as First Sea Lord that attempts were being made to neutralize the effect of the plain, unvarnished, chronological Record of facts. Articles, inspired it would seem from inside the Admiralty, appeared in the Press; they first hinted at Lord Jellicoe's failures and Beatty's successes at Jutland, and later openly blamed Lord Jellicoe. Books were published which contained inaccuracies and innuendoes it would be hard to beat. The most unscrupulous attempt to influence the public and disparage the Official Record was that made by Commander Carlyon Bellairs, M.P. in his book [The Battle of Jutland: The Sowing and the Reaping]. The inaccuracies contained therein were exposed in my book.

So far as I knew at the time the manuscript of the Official Record was in possession of Lord Beatty from November 1919 until February 1920, when he returned it to me. While Bellairs' book was being prepared, however, it is not easy to believe that he did not have access to this then confidential manuscript.

It later became apparent that instead of merely disparaging the Official Record attempts were being made to so alter it that a wrong impression would be given to the public. In particular, by insertions or omissions, attempts were made to disguise the fact that, as Vice-Admiral Commanding the advanced forces at Jutland, Admiral Beatty had seriously neglected the duties allotted to him, that of giving his Commander-in-Chief frequent and precise information of the position of the enemy: that he had failed to inflict damage on a greatly inferior enemy owing to incorrect dispositions of his ships and faulty signalling; and that the shooting of his Battle Cruisers was far below the standard expected, at that time, in the Royal Navy.

The attempt to alter the Record so as to give the desired effect might have succeeded had the First Sea Lord's demands been moderated, but the inaccuracies which he ordered to be inserted (including that of altering his official despatch before including it as an Appendix) were so numerous and palpable as to frustrate his object. It became necessary for me to forward my letter to the Secretary of the Admiralty, and this prevented the publication of the Record at that time. The publication, when the delay of seven years had rendered the Record useless, was the last and most transparent attempt to disguise the truth. It is obvious that the notice of the coming publication of my book on 26th May 1927 was the reason for Lord Beatty withdrawing his objections to the publication of the Record; in fact strenuous efforts were made to get it issued before the publication of my book. Even when published several of the inaccuracies were allowed to remain.

The mischief done, not only to Lord Jellicoe, but to the Navy during these seven years is incalculable. Admiral Jellicoe was be-littled and criticised while his onetime subordinate was lauded by a crowd of unscrupulous scribblers. With no damage to his own reputation Lord Beatty was in a position to stop this campaign of calumny by the utterance of one word said in season, but he did not utter that word. He could have saved his former C-in-C from unfair and unjustifiable criticism, and the Navy from an unsavoury scandal. Lord Jellicoe, from the highest motives, preserved a complete silence through this trying time, as he well knew that "truth will out" and he had only to wait for not only the Service but every fair-minded man to give him the credit which was his due.

As stated in Part 2, the First Lord of the Admiralty—Mr. W. Bridgeman—was the first person to read this paper.

Part 1 of which was compiled by me in 1924 and Part 2 in 1928. This introduction was written in 1928.



December 1928.

The following is compiled from notes made at the time. All quotations from minutes are from original documents not marked either "Secret" or "Confidential" and can therefore be checked. Remarks quoted as being made at interviews, meetings, etc., were noted down at the time in, as nearly as possible, the actual words used.


Part I.

On 23rd January, 1919, the First Sea Lord—Admiral Sir R. Wemyss—forwarded a memo, to the First Lord—Mr. Walter Long—pointing out the desirability, even the necessity, of having a detailed Record of the Battle of Jutland, from an historical point of view, produced. [1] He suggested that a suitable post-Captain, with assistants, should be attached to the Operations Division of the Naval Staff for the purpose of preparing this Record for the Admiralty. This suggestion was concurred in and on 6th February, 1919, the compilation of an "Official Record of the Battle of Jutland" was commenced by me. My orders were to prepare a Record, with plans, showing in chronological order what actually occurred at the battle. No comment or criticism was to be included and no oral evidence was to be accepted. All statements made in the Record were to be in accordance with evidence obtainable from Admiralty records.

In March, 1919, questions were asked in the House [of Commons] in regard to the production of an Official Record. Against all precedent, and in spite of my verbal protests, my name was given to the House, on 26th March, as the compiler of the Record.

On 17th April official permission was asked to locate the wreck of Invincible, to settle once and for all the exact geographical position of the battle, my reckoning of the position of this wreck being some 4 miles distant from that given in official Despatches. On 3rd July the wreck was located and fixed; my position proving exactly correct. [2] On 28th May Commander Bellairs asked, in the House, if the wreck could be located, and on 9th July he asked if it had been found.

On 2nd October, 1919, the Record and track charts were completed and were passed by me to the Board of Admiralty for approval before printing and publication [3], publication having been asked for in the House, and finally promised by the First Lord on 29th October, 1919.

During October conversations were frequent in regard to the desirability of publishing certain very secret Wireless messages which had been sent by the Admiralty to the Commander-in-Chief. No Record could be complete if any, even the most secret, messages were omitted, but it was finally decided that two or three of the messages must be deleted.

After about three weeks everything had, apparently, been settled and only the approval of the Board was necessary. The First Sea Lord—Sir R. Wemyss—was at this time on leave [in Paris] and I asked Vice-Admiral Sir O. de B. Brock, the Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff, to give the necessary approval. On 24th October, in my presence, Admiral Brock was on the point of signing his name, signifying Board approval, when he changed his mind and remarked: "As Lord Beatty is assuming office as First Sea Lord in a few days it must wait for his approval". It is of interest to consider that if Admiral Brock had signed his name, on this occasion, and the Record [465] had been published forthwith, there would have been no "Jutland controversy" in the Press and thousands of pounds of public money would have been saved.

On 1st November, 1919, Lord Beatty became First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff.

During December Lord Beatty frequently sent messages to me by one of his Naval assistants—Commander Seymour—in regard to the desirability of altering certain details in the text of the Record. He also sent for me a few times and discussed the suggested alterations. The alterations and deletions suggested by the First Sea Lord, although small in themselves, collectively affected the accuracy of the Record, and were mostly proposals to delete certain portions dealing with the Battle Fleet action. During the last of the interviews (on 18th December) I had with Commander Seymour he made the following remark, in explanation of the reason of the proposed deletions: "We do not wish to advertise the fact that the Battle Fleet was in action, more than we can help".

It appeared undesirable to make alterations, of the nature proposed, on verbal authority, so on 18th December a note was sent to Commander Seymour requesting him to obtain and forward written orders from the First Sea Lord for the alterations to be made. A reply [6] was received, from Commander Seymour, expressing the First Sea Lord's wishes; but as this could not be considered sufficient authority in such an important matter two submissions were forwarded, through the Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff, (then Admiral Fergusson) under whose orders I was working, for definite authority. The first submission forwarded on 20th December [7], was in connection with a turn of about 360 degrees made by the Battle Cruiser Fleet at about 7 p.m. on 31st May 1916. The First Sea Lord had verbally instructed me to alter this track on the track chart, but as the documentary evidence, which included the track chart showing this turn, signed by the Vice-Admiral Commanding Battle Cruiser Fleet himself and forwarded with his despatch, was in my opinion conclusive, I asked to be allowed, on this occasion only, to obtain oral evidence from Vice-Admiral Brock and Captain Chatfield, the former having been in Princess Royal and the latter Admiral Beatty's Flag-Captain, to assist me in forming some idea what alternative track to plot. This suggestion was not approved and the paper was returned to me with the following minute by the First Sea Lord:

"All the evidence in the world will not alter the fact that we did not turn 32 points to starboard. We did turn to starboard about 16 points and then back 16 points to port. The object was to turn 8 points to see what the Battle Fleet were doing but owing to a Gyro failure we turned more before it was noticed. We could not have turned 32 points without colliding with the rear ships". (Signed) B. [7, p. 4].

It is inconceivable how any tactician could write the last sentence. It would [466] not, of course, be concurred in by anyone with even an elementary knowledge of Fleet tactics. It has since been conclusively proved that the Battle Cruisers did make the 32 point turn, and it is so stated in Sir Julian Corbett's account.

For the benefit of the uninitiated it may be desirable to amplify the above: If Lion had turned 32 points she would, about eleven minutes after commencing to turn, have been in the same position as when the turn commenced; whereas if she had turned 16 points to starboard and then back 16 points to port she would, after the same interval, have been some 2000 yards further to the Westward, i.e., nearer the enemy, than when the turn commenced.

The second submission, which enumerated the various alterations and deletions which Commander Seymour had stated were desired by the First Sea Lord, was forwarded on 23rd December 1919. [8] This was returned on 11th February 1920 with an order signed by the First Sea Lord for the alterations to be made. On the same day Commander Carlyon Bellairs' book Jutland: The sowing and the reaping, was published. In this book Commander Bellairs made untrue and disparaging remarks about me, presumably with the object of influencing the public against the Official Record as originally compiled by me. This book also quoted the text of wireless messages which could only have been obtained from confidential Admiralty records (See Footnote). The book was obviously written, to say the least of it, with a biased mind, as facts are omitted or altered to suit the author's convenience.

As a result of the untrue statements made about me by Commander Bellairs in his book and also in the review of this book in the Daily Mail, the First Lord—Mr. Walter Long—sent for me on 12th February and, after giving me his opinion of Bellairs which was not complimentary, [467] advised me to take no notice of Bellairs' untrue statements, as no one whose opinion was worth having paid any attention to him. He then asked me what was actually causing the delay in the publication of the Record. When he heard that the delay was due to the number of alterations desired by Lord Beatty, he informed me that in his opinion Lord Beatty should not have read the Record and that he intended telling him so. He further informed me that alterations should not have been made on the orders from the First Sea Lord only. I submitted that no alterations had been made on verbal orders, but that as written orders had been received by me it was not for me to question them, but carry them out. On the following day—13th February—Mr. Walter Long again sent for me and enquired carefully into the nature of the various alterations which had been made. He then asked if I had formed any opinion as to why these alterations had been suggested by the First Sea Lord. I had formed one, but replied to the effect that it was not for me to express an opinion or to question the orders.

On 18th February the First Sea Lord sent for me, returned me the original charts and told me to get on with the printing of the Record. Consequently on the 20th February a submission was forwarded asking for final approval and enumerating all alterations and deletions which had been made. This was approved and returned to me the same day, and steps were immediately taken to commence printing. [9]

On 24th February 1920 Mr. Walter Long again interviewed me and explained that he was particularly anxious that no alterations, which could in any way affect Lord Jellicoe's position in the future, should be made to the Record by any member of the Board of which he was the head. Mr. Long stated that as he found it difficult to appreciate the technicalities and possible effect of the alterations and deletions suggested by the First Sea Lord he wished me to consider myself his adviser on this matter. I submitted that, in my opinion, my position at the Admiralty did not justify me acting in this capacity. To act as he suggested would make it necessary for me to approach him, and to report matters to him direct, and not through my Senior Officers. This was not in accordance with the custom of the Service. He saw my point and decided that, in future, all matters relating to the Record were to be submitted to him through the Naval Secretary and not to the Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff, as formerly. The First Lord also informed me that he was taking steps to have all orders, previously given to me by the First Sea Lord, cancelled. [10]

On 9th March I accompanied the Director of Naval Intelligence to Portsmouth to confer with Lord Jellicoe in regard to the paraphrases proposed for certain secret Wireless messages. Lord Jellicoe agreed to the paraphrases and was then asked if he would read the Record and make any [468] criticisms in regard to it. He said that he preferred not to read the Record before publication.

On 11th March the following minute [10] was forwarded to me:

"The written orders to Captain Harper by me are cancelled." (Signed) B.

It now appeared that everything would go smoothly and that no further alterations would be made in the Record which was now being printed. There was, however, more trouble to come. On May 14th 1920 a copy of the final proof was handed to the First Lord, and a copy to the First Sea Lord, accompanied by a report to the effect that as no alterations had been made since Board approval was obtained, the Stationery Office had been requested to proceed with the printing. [14] Almost immediately after receiving his copy the First Sea Lord sent for me and questioned the necessity of certain passages being included and, on 19th May, written orders were received from him to alter the wording of one paragraph. [15] It appeared certain that there would be further developments, so the printing was postponed. [16]

On 26th May a written list of alterations which the First Sea Lord proposed should be made to the Record, was forwarded from the First Lord for my remarks thereon. These proposed alterations and deletions were much the same as those which the First Sea Lord had ordered me to make previous to the First Lord taking the matter in hand on 24th February. They mainly consisted of proposed deletions of matters connected with the Battle Fleet action, such as times and ranges at which the Battleships opened fire, and of those passages which dealt with the messages, mutilated and otherwise, which were sent to the Commander-in-Chief from the advanced forces. [Document not present in file HP 4.]

We were now back to where we were in February and there seemed to be no prospect of completing the Record. The former decision that no more alterations were to be made by the First Sea Lord had, apparently, served no useful purpose.

It was now decided by the First Lord that each of the Sea Lords should be provided with a proof copy of the Record; that they should be asked to forward, in writing, their proposals for alterations, additions or deletions; that these proposals should then be forwarded to me for remarks and that finally all Sea Lords should meet together, with the First Lord, to consider the proposals and my replies thereto, and that the Record should then be approved by the whole Board.

This appeared to be the reverse of usual Admiralty procedure. As a rule proposals are submitted to the Sea Lords from officers working under their orders and the supervising Lord concerned gives his decision, after which the matter is considered settled. In this case the Sea Lords made the [469] proposals and their proposals were sent to me for remarks, which, of necessity, resolved themselves in some cases to criticisms of the proposals of senior officers.

Criticisms of certain small details in the Record were made by the Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff (Vice-Admiral Brock), Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff (Captain Chatfield) and Second Sea Lord (Admiral Browning). No criticisms were received from the Third Sea Lord or the Fourth Sea Lord.

Certain members were not satisfied with the general tone of the Record, which they stated left a wrong impression on the reader; because, being compiled almost entirely from British evidence, there was more detail in regard to the damage incurred by British ships than in regard to that incurred by German ships. This was obviously unavoidable, because complete records had not been, at this time, received from Germany.

A meeting consisting of the First Lord and all the Sea Lords was held from 4.45 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. on 21st June. [19] At this meeting the various suggestions made by the Sea Lords were discussed and before a decision was arrived at in each case, my remarks were invited. It was also proposed to add a foreword to remove the incorrect impression which might be caused by the predominance of British evidence. Some sample paragraphs were submitted by me but finally the following, which was proposed by the First Sea Lord, was decided on:

"The following narrative of events, amplified by detailed proceedings of each Squadron and Flotilla, shows that the enemy's advanced forces were reinforced by their main Fleet some hours before the British main Fleet was able to reach the scene of action. During this period, therefore, the British were in greatly inferior force.

"On learning of the approach of the British main Fleet the Germans avoided further action and returned to the Base.

"Our losses in ships sunk were greater than those of the enemy, but a comparison of the rounds fired and hits received by capital ships shows that the percentage of hits to rounds fired by British ships was nearly double that of the enemy. This is inclusive of hits made on ships sunk. It is estimated that only 13 hits were made on the three Battle Cruisers—Queen Mary, Indefatigable and Invincible—whereas Lützow received about 40 hits, but did not sink for some hours.

"The enemy has acknowledged that the 1st Scouting Group was unfit for further action on the 1st June, as a result of the Battle Cruiser action, whereas the efficiency of the British ships to which they had been opposed was not seriously impaired.

"A comparison of the dates on which the repairs to damaged ships were completed also points to the fact that the enemy received more severe punishment than our ships.

"The result of the Battle was that the German High Sea Fleet retired into its protected waters. It made a short excursion in August 1916, but with this exception it only emerged to surrender to the Grand Fleet in November 1918."

Footnote No. One

I took legal advice and was informed that I had a clear case for libel against Bellairs and the Daily Mail, which paper reviewed his book, on account of the mis-statements, which must have been deliberate, which were made about me. Mr. Walter Long was, however, anxious for me to let the matter rest, and also I was informed that if the case was fought, although bound to win, the damages would probably not cover my expenses. I therefore ignored the untruths. In regard to one of the secret wireless messages which is quoted in Bellairs, book he says, on P. 221, "... a message was sent to the Grand Fleet, at 1.52, by wireless, as follows: 'Enemy battleships steering S.E., approximate bearing S.W___" There is no message thus worded in the Official list of signals, so it might, at first sight, be thought that Bellairs invented this. Not so. A message occurs in the official list at this time, the wording being: "Enemy battleships in sight..." How then did Bellairs know that such a message had been sent (It was not received)hui not know the correct wording? The wording used by Bellairs is exactly similar to that inserted, by a clerical error, in the type-script of the Official Record which was, officially, in Lord Beatty's possession while Bellairs' book was being prepared. In no place outside this official record have I seen this message thus worded.