Tributes to Lord Jellicoe
After Lord Jellicoe's Death
The British Legion
Sir Josiah Stamp writes:— Lord Jellicoe's last public engagement on November 12 was, fittingly enough, in the servce of the British Legion, at which there were present General Sir Herbert Lawrence, Lord Derby, and many who had a peculiar interest in the occasion. The effects of the chill he had on the previbus day had not then developed in any way, and he was full of youthful spirits and renilniscence. The last public speech he made was when inspecting a number of ex-Service men, as standard-bearers, and unveiling the name-plate "British Legion " on a new locomotive. He was standing on a specially constructed dais under the glare of cinema searchlights, and his words have not been reported-only a few Press references to the "Mr. Jessop incident" appeared-and it might well be of public interest that his speech should be put on record. It was taken down verbatim as follows:—
- This is, I am sure, a unique occasion in the course of my long life, which has been one of very varied experience. I have never named an engine before. But I regard it as a great honour which is being done to-day to the British Legion, and I myself feel immensely privileged in being asked to be associated with the ceremony. Sir Josiah Stamp, in his kind and interesting address, has spoken of the many associations which the Royal Navy has had with the great railways of the country, and especially during the Great War, with the railways that go to constitute the London, Midland and Scottish group. He has mentioned some of them. He has said that we in the Grand Fleet depended to a considerable extent on the railway for the transportation of our personnel, our stores, and our munitions; but most of all for our food, otherwise we might have starved, left as the Grand Fleet necessarily was in those remote northerly waters during the whole of that struggle.
- You, Sir Josiah, have also recalled the special train services which were established by the railways between Thurso and London during those memorable days. That special train service carried such of our fleet officers and men who could be spared for a short period on leave from Scapa Flow while the Grand Fleet was waiting and watching long and anxiously, and I am glad to think that those who obtained the facilities of the Thurso-London train were most grateful for the way in which they were served. Personally on the three or four occasions I travelled by it to London to consult with the Government and the Admiralty, it became necessary for me to use an assumed name on the insistence of Lord Fisher, who had an idea there were some Germans about who desired to assassinate me. So I was always referred to as Mr. Jessop whenever I went ashore or undertook the hospitality of your railway.
- As you may know, life in the Grand Fleet was inevitably dull for the blockading ships, and in 1915. by arrangement with Lord French, I gave permission for occasional parties of officers and men to be sent by the Thurso-London route to France to see the more exciting times of the sister Service and obtain impressions of what was being done in tliat field of the general campaign. The parties enjoyed these trips. They would come back quite enthusiastic, and on one occasion two of them returned with the D.S.O. for gallantry while taking part in trench raids. Again, I remember that during an early period of the Great War that wonderful Russian Army that was supposed to have come to Britain en route for France must have travelled from Thurso by the L.M.S. I confess that none of us in the Grand Fleet ever saw a unit of that Army, but those of us who had a knowledge of the facts fell in with the idea and left to the popular belief that there was such an army in existence.
- I say without exaggeration that the record of this great railway during the War was wonderful, and the fact that there is such an immense number of ex-Service men now employed by the L.M.S. is one for which we are profoundly grateful. You have said that there are no fewer than 9,000 disabled men alone who have found employment with the company, and that is another fact that inspires the greatest possible gratitude, and is an example I should like to see followed by all large employers of labour. For let me remind you that those men saved the Empire, aye, saved civilization, and no recompense should be too great for them. To-day the British Legion stands in a peculiar position of trust to them, and all the support which a grateful public can give to that organization helps the great work of administering the interests of those who returned from the War and suffered from the perils of that conflict.
Lord Jellicoe then drew the curtain hiding the name-plate of the engine, against which he broke a bottle of wine, saying: "I name this engine the British Legion. I wish her all success, and all success to those by whom she is 'towed.'" Lord Jellicoe was afterwards introduced to the driver and fireman of the engine-two members of the Legion-and, in shaking hands with the men, apologized for the slight cut in his finger caused by a splinter of glass from the bottle of wine he broke.
The Battle of Jutland
It was the author's curious fate to have been admitted to close coöperation and friendship with Lord Jellicoe; to have been entrusted with a confidential mission to him before Jutland was fought; and to have found himself in sharp controversy and estrangement in after years. It is a temptation to emphasize and qualify three points suggested by your admirable appreciation of his great career:—
First, it was surely a happy fate that one who had risked his.ife so often to save others in action shoold receive his mortal wound in the discharge of a last duty to his faithful legionaries.
Next, you do well to quote Scott's saying that. when Jeilicoe, he, and Hamilton had charge of naval gunnery in 1905, there was record progress, because never before had there been such harmonious working. The tragedy is that this conjunction never occurred again. His successors at Whitehall were not, despite their ability, gunnery men and the command at Whale Island was not again confided to a specialist. The Inspector of Target Practice thus played a lone hand until, just before the War, the office was abolished and criticism ceased.
Lastly, while it was inevitable that the controversy should start from the contrast between the offensive tactics of the battle cruiser leader and the determined caution of the Commander-in-Chief, this was both unfortunate and unjust. Jetlicoe was Fisher's selection as Commander-in- Chief in war because he exactly represented the Fisher policies. The Dreadnought Fleet had not been built to force action on a reluctant enemy, but to be definitely impregnable to an inferior enemy's attack. This, in the Fisher theory, was to be equivalent to victory. When victory was missed no one saw the fallacy involved more clearly than Jellicoe himself. Did not his signal to the Fleet say that it was the weather alone that had robbed us of the "complete victory that was essential to the safety of the Empire"?
If he is to be criticized for Jutland it can only be for his share, and that a small one, in prescribing the principles on which the force under his command was to be employed. The greatest of the injustices of which Lord Jellicoe was the victim was his final disownment by Lord Fisher. And it was the least deserved."