A naval travesty : the dismissal of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, 1917
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This dissertation relates to the dismissal of Admiral Jellicoe, First Sea Lord from November 1916 to December 1917, by Sir Eric Geddes, First Lord of the Admiralty, at the behest of the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George. The dismissal was peremptory and effected without rational explanation, despite Jellicoe having largely fulfilled his primary mission of combating the German U-boat threat to British merchant shipping. The outcome of the war may well have been affected if the level of shipping losses sustained through U-boat attack in April 1917 had continued unabated. The central argument of the dissertation is that the dismissal was unjustified. As an adjunct, it argues that the received view of certain historians that Jellicoe was not successful as First Sea Lord is unwarranted and originates from severe post war critism of Jellicoe by those with a vested interest in justifying the dismissal, notably Lloyd George. Supporting these arguments, the following assertions are made. Firstly, given the legacy Jellicoe inherited when joining the Admiralty, through the strategies adopted, organisational changes made and initiatives undertaken in anti-submarine weapons development, the progress made in countering the U-boat threat was notable. Secondly, the universal criticism directed at the Admiralty over the perceived delay in introducing a general convoy system for merchant shipping is not sustainable having regard to primary source documentation. Thirdly, incidents that occurred during the latter part of 1917, and suggested as being factors which contributed to the dismissal, can be discounted. Fourthly, Lloyd George conspired to involve General Haig, Commander of the British Forces France, and the press baron, Lord Northcliffe, in his efforts to mitigate any potential controversy that might result from Jellicoe’s removal from office. Finally, the arguments made by a number of commentators that the Admiralty performed better under Jellicoe’s successor, Admiral Wemyss, is misconceived.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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