Jellicoe:Flag Rank and Controller

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The Life of Admiral of the Fleet
John Rushworth Jellicoe,
First Earl Jellicoe

5 December, 1869 – 20 November, 1935
Jellicoe, 1920.JPG
Background and Early LifeService as LieutenantCommanderCommand and ChinaDirector of Naval OrdnanceFlag Rank and ControllerSea Service and Second Sea LordCommand of the Grand FleetThe War at Sea, 1914-1916The Battle of JutlandAfter JutlandFirst Sea Lord and the Submarine MenaceControversy and DismissalEmpire TourGovernor-General of New ZealandThe Jutland ControversyRetirementDeath and Legacy

Atlantic Fleet

Albemarle, wearing Jellicoe's flag at the fore, in Quebec for the Tercentenary in July, 1908.
Library and Archives Canada.

On 25 August Jellicoe was appointed Rear-Admiral (Second-in-Command) of the Atlantic Fleet, Vice-Admiral The Honourable Assheton G. Curzon-Howe, hoisting his flag in Albemarle on 26 August.[1] On the 28th he wrote to the First Lord, Tweedmouth, that "I look forward to a most interesting year in this Fleet."[2]

He asked Captain William E. Goodenough, who considered Jellicoe a "close personal friend," to come as his Flag Captain. Goodenough later recalled:

Serving for a year in close association with Sir John Jellicoe was an education in itself. The duties of the second-in-command of a Channel Squadron, or Atlantic Fleet, as I think it was called at the time, were not heavy. Sir John was able to take, if not exactly a rest, at least opportunities for a broader view that his mental occupation with naval materiel had given him. With the zest that he possessed for enjoyment: cricket, golf, a day with the Calpe hounds, or a walk over the hills from Berehaven, he was in the full tide of physical strength and health. But more than that, he was able to devote more time to thought for the future than had had hitherto been possible.[3]

While Jellicoe was in Quebec the new First Lord, Reginald McKenna, wrote offering him the post of Third Sea Lord and Controller of the Navy, as he was "the officer most qualified to succeed to this most important office."[4] Jellicoe's letter of provisional acceptance of 18 July is worth quoting in full:

Dear Mr McKenna,
I only received your letter of July 2nd, yesterday, and hope that the delay in my reply has not put you to any inconvenience. I am very sensible of the great honour you do me in offering the post of Controller and wish I could share the opinion so kindly express as to my fitness for the position. My inclination - in common with that of most of us - is for seagoing, as compared to Admiralty work, but as you are good enough to consider that I can be of service as Controller I feel it is my duty to accept the post, and do so with many thanks for the honour done me, if the views which I now venture to lay before you are not such as to rend it undesirable in your opinion that I should join the Board.
These views relate to the shipbuilding programmes of the future. I am not of course in a position to know the extent to which Germany and other nations are carrying out their building programmes, but an analysis of the case so far as the information at my disposal permits, leads me to the conclusion that it will be necessary for this country to lay down at least 3 to 4 battleships a year for some little time to come (completing them in 2 years) if we are to retain the two power standard in this class of vessel.
A strong programme of destroyers and a moderate one of small cruisers will also be necessary but our present superiority in armoured cruisers admits of a smaller programme in vessels of the latter class.
The more correct information available at the Admiralty will naturally lead to a modification of these views, but I feel that it is better that you should be in possession of the facts of the case as they appear at present to me, before you definitely decide to give me the appointment.
Believe me
Yours very truly[5]


On 16 October Jellicoe was appointed Third Sea Lord and Controller of the Navy in succession to Sir Henry Jackson.[6]

Jellicoe later wrote:

In order to determine the effectiveness against armoured ships of the shell supplied for the various guns I arranged for extensive firing trials to be carried out in 1910 against the old battleship Edinburgh, which had been specially prepared by the addition of modern armour plates. As a result of these trials, before the end of my term of office as Controller, the Ordnance Board were asked in October 1910 to endeavour to produce an armour piercing shell which would perforate armour at oblique impact and go on in a fit state for bursting. The minute of the D.N.O. on the subject and the Ordnance Board reply were as follows: -
Minute No.3284.
D.N.O. 18.10.10. states that the trials recommended by the Board are approved. Ordnance Board reply.
He asks them to consider the possibility of increasing the chance of A.P. shell carrying their burster through armour plates when striking obliquely by increasing the thickness of the walls of the shells, or by carrying out trials with shell of various shaped cavities, i.e. ribbed, which may be stronger than the cylindrical cavities, observing that the introduction of lyddite seems to render this question more feasible than formerly. Ask C.S.O.F. [Chief Superintendent of Ordnance Factories] to consider the D.N.O.'s proposals, and the favour the Board with his remarks.[7]

Fisher later wrote to Jellicoe, "I don't think myself you will ever again be so pressed as in your closing months as Controller!"[8]


  1. ADM 196/38. f. 693.
  2. Letter of 28 August, 1907. Tweedmouth Papers. National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth. MSS 254/634.
  3. Goodenough. p. 65.
  4. McKenna to Jellicoe. Letter of 2 July, 1908. Jellicoe Papers. British Library. Add. MSS. 49035. f. 4.
  5. Jellicoe to McKenna. Copy of letter of 18 July, 1908. Jellicoe Papers. British Library. Add MS 49035. ff. 6-7.
  6. ADM 196/38. f. 693.
  7. Jellicoe Papers. British Library. Add. MSS. 49038. ff. 211-212.
  8. Fisher to Jellicoe. Letter of 16 September, 1913. Jellicoe Papers. British Library. Add MS 49006. f. 20.