David Richard Beatty, First Earl Beatty

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Admiral of the Fleet David, Earl Beatty.
Portrait: Sir William Orpen.

Admiral of the Fleet THE RIGHT HONOURABLE David Richard Beatty, First Earl Beatty, G.C.B., O.M., G.C.V.O., D.S.O., P.C., Royal Navy (17 January, 1871 – 11 March, 1936) was an officer of the Royal Navy.

Contents

Early Life & Career

Beatty was born David Richard Beatty on 17 January, 1871 at Howbeck Villa, Stapeley, in the Registration District of Nantwich, in the County of Chester. His birth was registered on 17 February.[1] He was the second of four sons of Captain David Longfield Beatty (1841–1904), of the Fourth Hussars, and his first wife, Catherine Edith (d. 1896), daughter of Nicholas Sadlier of Dunboyne Castle, County Meath, Ireland. David Richard and his elder brother Charles were both born out of wedlock, as David Longfield Beatty and Catherine Sadlier were not married until nearly six months after David Richard was born.[2]

On 28 January, 1892, he was confirmed in the rank of Sub-Lieutenant, dated 14 May, 1890.[3] On 25 August, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.[4]

A fellow officer in Trafalgar, Lieutenant Sydney Fremantle, later recalled of Beatty:

We had some enjoyable shooting trips together. He was a conscientious officer who never failed in his duties and obligations, but showed little interest in the Service outside his immediate functions, and when our ship was at Malta distinguished himself as a member of the naval polo team.[5]

On 18 November, 1896, Beatty was appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) for his services in the Sudan.[6] He was specially promoted to the rank of Commander on 15 November, 1898, aged twenty-seven years, nine months, and twenty-nine days.[7]

For his service in China he was promoted to the rank of Captain on 9 November, 1900, aged just twenty-nine.[8] C. S. Forester was later to claim, and Andrew Gordon to repeat, that the average age of officers promoted Captain at the time was forty-two.[9] Actually the average of forty-two was for 1899, and with Beatty's promotion the average age in 1900 was forty years and seven months. Apart from a slight rise in 1901 the average would be forty or thirty-nine years old for the next decade.[10]

Captain

On 2 March, 1902, Beatty was appointed Captain of the cruiser Juno in the Cruiser Squadron. He was appointed Captain of the protected cruiser second class Arrogant in the Mediterranean Cruiser Division on 3 March, 1903. When Arrogant's propeller was fouled by a 2½-inch wire he was "cautioned to take better precautions" in January, 1904.[11] On 30 September he took command of the cruiser Diana. On 12 October he was given command of the battleship Mars in the Channel Fleet.[12] On 25 October he was transferred to the new armoured cruiser Suffolk in the Mediterranean. He was disciplined in 1905 after fouling Suffolk's port propeller at Port Said on 26 June. He was adjudged to have committed an "error of judgement." A perhaps apocryphal story from this time has it that Beatty damaged the engines of the ship in order to return to Malta as quickly as possible, overriding the warnings of the Chief Engineer. Having heard that Beatty might be censured for this, Ethel is supposed to have said, "What — court martial my David? I'll buy them a new ship."[13]

Beatty was succeeded in command of Suffolk on 1 September, 1905, by Captain Rosslyn E. Wemyss. According to Lady Wester Wemyss, Sir John Fisher had laughingly described Suffolk as "the worst ship in the navy,"[14] and upon taking command Wemyss had supposedly "found the ship plunged in the deepest gloom, the officers discontented, the men unwilling."[15] Beatty meanwhile returned to Britain and on 21 December, 1906, was appointed Naval Adviser to the Army Council. He was discharged from this duty on 15 December, 1908, upon the abolition of the position, and on 26 December the "War Office express apprecn of ready co operation & expert knowledge as Adviser to Army Council."

On 15 December Beatty was appointed Captain of the battleship Queen in the Atlantic Fleet. At a gathering of the Home Fleet at Cromarty in 1909, Beatty complained to his wife, "Many admirals, and not one that inspires a great deal of confidence, this is private, unless it be Prince Louis, and his national or birth qualifications are against him."[16]

Beatty had reached the top of the Captains' list without the necessary six years' of peacetime service, and an Order in Council was obtained on 2 December, 1909, sanctioning Beatty's promotion to Flag rank, the regulations notwithstanding.[17] No-one has yet offered a satisfactory reason as to why this privilege was granted Beatty. Roskill merely comments that the Order in Council was "exceptional proof of the high regard in which he [Beatty] was held."[18] That explanation which Professor Lambert proffers, that "Beatty was a very good seaman, [who] had commanded four ships and had nothing left to prove,"[19] is really rather unconvincing. Ranft doesn't even attempt to explain away the dispensation.[20]

The real reason would appear to lie in a letter the Fourth Sea Lord, Vice-Admiral Sir Alfred L. Winsloe, wrote to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Reginald McKenna, on 12 August, 1909:

I want to bring to your special notice the case of Capt Beatty who will get to the top of the Captains List before he has his 6 years time in. He has had a distinguished career in the service and was badly wounded in China, so much so that he was 1½ years before reported fit to serve. He will only be some 3 months short of his time and as this has undoubtedly been brought about by the changes introduced by Admiralty whereby the time of Captains has been shortened from 12½ years to 9 years on the Captains List, I would like to recommend to you that a special O in C [Order in Council] and Treasury sanction should be asked for his promotion when he comes to the top of the List, and I shall be much indebted to you if you will favourably consider this.[21]

Beatty was accordingly promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral on 1 January, 1910, vice Cross, promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral.[22]

Flag Rank

He attended the June, 1911 War Course, where he placed fifth out of seven Rear-Admirals. He was judged to be "Well set, an excellent example to the juniors. Smart and able, apt to be rash in conclusion".[23] On the occasion of King George V's coronation he was appointed an Additional Member of the Third Class, or Companion, in the Military Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (C.B.) on 19 June.[24]

He had apparently asked the Private Secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Captain Ernest C. T. Troubridge, to be considered for a number of positions, for on 5 July Troubridge wrote to him about his choices. He had evidently asked to be Rear-Admiral Second-in-Command in either the First or Second Divisions of the Home Fleet, or to succeed Rear-Admiral Herbert G. King-Hall as Director of Naval Mobilisation at the Admiralty:

You want:

1st Division H.F. vice Peirse Jan 12

or

2nd Division H.F. vice Patey Oct 11

Director of Mobilisation - when vacant.

"Your not wanting the IIIrd Division or Atlantic has rather narrowed the choice, it must be admitted," wrote Troubridge, "and the business of the other post [Director of Naval Mobilisation] is so far in the future that I am at somewhat at a loss to give you any reply."[25] On 25 July Beatty wrote to the First Lord, Reginald McKenna, apologising for the delay in replying to his letter of the 21st (he had been "up North"), and:

I thank you for the time to think it over which you kindly gave and regret extremely that I am unable to accept the offer of the 2nd in Command of the Atlantic Fleet. As I informed your Private Secretary in the course of several conversations I was ready for service anywhere at the Admiralty or at sea where there was work to do and experience to be gained. But preferably a sea appointment — and being invited by him where, I as early as the beginning of March, asked that my name might be listed for the Home Fleet, where the greatest experience afloat is to be gained, where the work is continuous. I was given to understand that this was quite like to be favourably considered and I stood as good a chance as any and that my seniority would be about right. I have always stated that the one appointment I did not wish to be considered for was that of 2nd in Command Atlantic Fleet. There the work to be done and experience to be gained is of the minimum quality & a Rear-Admiral with a nominal squadron of 6 ships frequently reduced to 5 and even 4 ships, has absolutely nothing to do and occupy himself with — except a study of naval history.[26]

Troubridge replied the following day:

I have your letter today and am truly sorry you have decided to refuse, for one can never tell from day to day whether an appointment afloat will turn out strenuous or otherwise. The fact is that the Admiralty view is that officers should serve where they, i.e. the Admiralty, wish and not where they themselves wish. This is the cold and brutal explanation of your being offered the appointment although I informed the Powers That Be that you did not wish to be offered it.[27]

Beatty was rescued from half pay by Winston Churchill's becoming First Lord of the Admiralty in late 1911. Fisher gave Churchill a list and told him, "you have heaps of time to choose and it must be a personal choice."[28] Churchill selected Beatty. According to Admiral Sir Dudley de Chair, when Beatty met Churchill the latter said, "You seem very young to be an admiral." To which Beatty replied, "And you seem very young to be First Lord of the Admiralty."[29]

Churchill's approbation led to Beatty's taking temporary command of the Sixth Cruiser Squadron, with his flag in Aboukir for the fleet manoeuvres of July 1912.

The Battle Cruiser Squadron, 1913-1914

On the occasion of King George V's birthday Beatty was appointed an Ordinary Member of the Second Class, or Knight Commander, in the Military Division of the Order of the Bath (K.C.B.) on 22 June, 1914.[30]

Great War

On 9 August, 1915, Beatty was confirmed in the rank of Vice-Admiral.[31]

Jutland and After

Around 7 p.m., G.M.T., various sources allege that the battlecruisers following H.M.S. Lion circled to starboard – a full 32 point turn around the time when Captain Chatfield left the bridge to inspect damage to his ship. Andrew Gordon implies that David Beatty sought to expunge this from the record of the battle,[32] a suggestion supported by the B.C.F.'s track chart (as prepared under Beatty's authority) showing not a circle but an inquisitively aggressive slalom towards the High Sea Fleet.[33][34] Gordon further supposes that the turn may have been attributable to a steering casualty in Lion of some kind or to a human failure to arrest an intended but more modest turn in an attempt to conform to the Grand Fleet's then southerly heading heading, which he'd just declared by wireless broadcast addressed to Beatty et alia at 6.54.[35] But the track chart of light cruiser Falmouth, flagship leading Third Light Cruiser Squadron in the Official Despatches shows this turn commencing at 6.52 and ending at 7.06,[36] as does the officially submitted track for H.M.S. New Zealand,[37] at just the same time. Moreover, Lion's own gunnery report of the battle indicates the ship was in a protracted turn to starboard from 6.38 to 7.07.[38]

No record of executive intent regarding the turn has been found in the narrative reports of the action. Why Beatty might choose to alter the nature such a turn is also worthy of discussion, as it would seem that a line of ships performing an "S" turn toward an enemy rather than wheeling in place would suffer much the same penalties in masking his own ships – only the final range to the enemy would differ substantially. If Beatty were indeed trying to tune the record regarding such a widely witnessed navigational matter, his success seems partial, at best.

On 15 September he was appointed an Additional Member of the First Class, or Knight Grand Cross, in the Military Division of the Order of the Bath (G.C.B.) dated 31 May.[39]

Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet, 1916–1919

Asquith wrote to Balfour on 20 November of a successor to Jellicoe, "I quite realise the difficulty of taking him at this moment from the Grand Fleet, especially as his only possible successor in the command (I am sure you would agree) from the combatant point of view is Beatty, who, with all his fine fighting qualities, is yet comparatively untried in the domain of fleet administration on a large scale."[40]

On 1 January, 1919, Beatty was confirmed in the rank of Admiral, with seniority of 27 November, 1916 while holding command of the Grand Fleet.[41]

First Sea Lord, 1919–1927

On 18 October, 1919, Beatty was granted an Earldom of the United Kingdom, with the courtesy titles Baron Beatty of the North Sea, and of Brooksby in the County of Leicester, and Viscount Borodale of Wexford in the County of Wexford.[42]

Beatty's Service

Chronological Record of Services of Admiral of the Fleet Earl Beatty[43]
Ship Rank Period of Service Remarks
From To
Britannia Naval Cadet 15 January, 1884 14 January, 1886
Alexandra Naval Cadet 15 January, 1886 14 May, 1886
Alexandra Midshipman 15 May, 1886 20 July, 1888
Cruiser Midshipman 21 July, 1888 20 October, 1888
Alexandra Midshipman 21 October, 1888 19 March, 1889
Duke of Wellington Midshipman 20 March, 1889 14 September, 1889
Ruby Midshipman 15 September, 1889 13 May, 1890
Ruby Sub-Lieutenant 14 May, 1890 15 May, 1890
Duke of Wellington Sub-Lieutenant 16 May, 1890 10 June, 1890
Ruby Sub-Lieutenant 11 June, 1890 31 August, 1890
Duke of Wellington Sub-Lieutenant 1 September, 1890 1 September, 1890
Excellent Sub-Lieutenant 2 September, 1890 13 January, 1892
Victory II Sub-Lieutenant 14 January, 1892 4 February, 1892
Nile Sub-Lieutenant 5 February, 1892 6 July, 1892
Victoria and Albert Sub-Lieutenant 7 July, 1892 30 August, 1892
Ruby Lieutenant
(Seniority of 25 August, 1892)
31 August, 1892 30 September, 1893
Camperdown Lieutenant 1 October, 1893 2 October, 1895
Trafalgar Lieutenant 3 October, 1895 18 May, 1896
Victory I Lieutenant 19 May, 1896 2 June, 1896
Egyptian Government Lieutenant 3 June, 1896 19 November, 1896 Half Pay
Victory III for Ranger
in command
Lieutenant 9 January, 1897 30 June, 1897
Egyptian Government Lieutenant 1 July, 1897 24 October, 1898 Half Pay
Commander 15 November, 1898
Barfleur Commander 20 April, 1899 12 September, 1900 Wounded
Duke of Wellington Commander 13 September, 1900 30 September, 1900
Captain 9 November, 1900 Half Pay
Juno Captain 2 June, 1902 17 December, 1902 Half Pay
Arrogant Captain 3 November, 1903 29 September, 1904
Diana Captain 30 September, 1904 11 October, 1904
Mars Captain 12 October, 1904 24 October, 1904
Suffolk Captain 25 October, 1904 19 September, 1905
Victory I Captain 20 September, 1905 14 October, 1905
Half Pay
Naval Adviser to the Army Council Captain 21 December, 1906 14 December, 1908
Queen Captain 15 December, 1908 3 January, 1910 Half Pay
Naval Secretary to the First Lord Rear-Admiral
(Seniority of 1 January, 1910)
8 January, 1912 1 July, 1912
Aboukir (Sixth Cruiser Squadron) Rear-Admiral 2 July, 1912 27 July, 1912
Naval Secretary to the First Lord Rear-Admiral 28 July, 1912 8 January, 1913
Half Pay
Lion Rear-Admiral 1 March, 1913 2 August, 1914
Lion Acting Vice-Admiral 3 August, 1914 28 January, 1915
Princess Royal Acting Vice-Admiral 29 January, 1915 8 April, 1915
Lion Acting Vice-Admiral 9 April, 1915 8 August, 1915
Lion Vice-Admiral 9 August, 1915 27 November, 1916
Iron Duke Acting Admiral
(Seniority of 27 November, 1916)
28 November, 1916 15 February, 1917
Queen Elizabeth Acting Admiral 16 February, 1917 31 December, 1918
Queen Elizabeth Admiral 1 January, 1919 2 April, 1919
Queen Elizabeth Admiral of the Fleet 3 April, 1919 7 April, 1919
President Admiral of the Fleet 8 April, 1919 31 October, 1919
First Sea Lord Admiral of the Fleet 1 November, 1919 29 July, 1927 Half Pay

Bibliography

  • "Lord Beatty, O.M." (Obituaries). The Times. Wednesday, 11 March, 1936. Issue 47320, p. 17.
  • "Funeral of Lord Beatty" (Obituaries). The Times. Wednesday, 17 March, 1936. Issue 47325, p. 21.
  • Beatty, Charles (1980). Our Admiral. London: W. H. Allen / Virgin Books. ISBN 049102388X.
  • Beatty, Admiral of the Fleet David, First Earl Beatty (1989). Ranft, Bryan McL.. ed. The Beatty Papers. Volume I. London: Navy Records Society. ISBN 0859678070.
  • Beatty, Admiral of the Fleet David, First Earl Beatty (1993). Ranft, Bryan McL.. ed. The Beatty Papers. Volume II. London: Navy Records Society. ISBN 0859679640.
  • Chalmers, Rear-Admiral W. S. (1951). The Life and Letters of David, Earl Beatty Admiral of the Fleet. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
  • Churchill, Randolph Spencer (1967). Winston S. Churchill: Young Statesman 1910–1914. II. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0395075262.
  • De Chair, Admiral Sir Dudley (1961). The Sea is Strong. London: George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd..
  • Lambert, Andrew (2009). Admirals: The Naval Commanders who made Britain Great. London: Faber and Faber Limited. ISBN 978-0-571-23157-7.
  • Roskill, Captain Stephen Wentworth (1980). Admiral of the Fleet Earl Beatty: The Last Naval Hero: An Intimate Biography. London: Collins. ISBN 0-689-11119-3. (on Bookfinder.com).

Papers

See Also

Service Records

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
?
Captain of H.M.S. Ranger
9 Jan, 1897[44] – ?
Succeeded by
Francis G. St. John
Preceded by
Henry P. Routh
Captain of H.M.S. Juno
9 Mar, 1902[Citation needed] – ?
Succeeded by
William F. De Salis
Preceded by
Henry C. B. Hulbert
Captain of H.M.S. Arrogant
3 Mar, 1903[Citation needed] – ?
Succeeded by
John P. Rolleston
Preceded by
Edmond J. W. Slade
Captain of H.M.S. Diana
30 Sep, 1904[Citation needed] – ?
Succeeded by
Robert S. P. Hornby
Preceded by
John L. Marx
Captain of H.M.S. Mars
12 Oct, 1904[45] – ?
Succeeded by
Henry L. Tottenham
Preceded by
?
Captain of H.M.S. Suffolk
25 Oct, 1904[Citation needed] – ?
Succeeded by
Rosslyn E. Wemyss
Preceded by
Ernest C. T. Troubridge
Captain of H.M.S. Queen
1 Dec, 1908[Citation needed] – ?
Succeeded by
Ernest F. A. Gaunt
Preceded by
Ernest C. T. Troubridge
as Private Secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty
Naval Secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty
8 Jan, 1912[46] – ?
Succeeded by
Dudley R. S. de Chair
Preceded by
Douglas A. Gamble
Rear-Admiral Commanding, Sixth Cruiser Squadron
2 Jul, 1912[47] – 27 Jul, 1912[48]
Succeeded by
Dudley R. S. de Chair
Preceded by
Lewis Bayly
as Rear-Admiral Commanding, First Battle Cruiser Squadron
Vice-Admiral Commanding, First Battle Cruiser Squadron
1 Mar, 1913[49] – ?
Succeeded by
Osmond de B. Brock
as Rear-Admiral Commanding, First Battle Cruiser Squadron
Preceded by
?
Vice-Admiral Commanding Battle Cruiser Fleet
8 Feb, 1915[50] – ?
Succeeded by
William C. Pakenham
as Vice-Admiral Commanding Battle Cruiser Force
Preceded by
John R. Jellicoe
Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet
28 Nov, 1916[Fact Check] – ?
Succeeded by
Command Dispersed
Preceded by
Rosslyn E. Wemyss
First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff
1 Nov, 1919[51] – ?
Succeeded by
Charles E. Madden

Footnotes

  1. Beatty. Our Admiral. p. 2. The 1871 Census shows the Beattys as living in Howbeck VIlla, not Howbeck Lodge as is commonly recorded. The census has been deemed to be more accurate.
  2. Beatty. Our Admiral. p. 3. Apparently Beatty Senior's marriage certificate may be found in volume 8b, f. 121, for the district of Liverpool.
  3. The London Gazette: no. 26253. p. 544. 2 February, 1892.
  4. The London Gazette: no. 26322. p. 5016. 2 September, 1892.
  5. Fremantle. My Naval Career. p. 68.
  6. The London Gazette: no. 26795. p. 6271. 17 November, 1896.
  7. The London Gazette: no. 27023. p. 6692. 15 November, 1898.
  8. The London Gazette: no. 27245. p. 6855. 9 November, 1900.
  9. Chalmers. p. xxi. Gordon. p. 26.
  10. "Report of the Conference on the Executive Lists of the Royal Navy. 1913." f. 21. in The National Archives. ADM 1/8370/65.
  11. The National Archives. ADM 196/87. f. 102.
  12. Beatty Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 156.
  13. Quoted in Roskill. p. 41.
  14. Quoted in Wester Wemyss. Life and Letters. p. 76.
  15. Wester Wemyss. Life and Letters. p. 78.
  16. Letter of 13 April, 1909. National Maritime Museum. Beatty Papers. BTY/17/13/68-71. Reproduced in Beatty Papers. I. p. 22.
  17. The London Gazette: no. 28317. p. 9514. 14 December, 1909.
  18. Roskill. Earl Beatty. p. 43.
  19. Lambert. Admirals. p. 344.
  20. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  21. Winsloe to McKenna. Letter of 12 August, 1909. McKenna Papers. Churchill Archives Centre. MCKN 3/5/6.
  22. The London Gazette: no. 28325. p. 30. 4 January, 1910.
  23. ADM 203/99. f. 45.
  24. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28505. p. 4588. 19 June, 1911.
  25. BTY 2/2/1. Beatty Papers. I. p. 32.
  26. Draft in BTY 2/2/24. Beatty Papers. I. p. 33.
  27. BTY 2/2/2. Beatty Papers. I. p. 34.
  28. Quoted in Churchill. Winston S. Churchill. p. 532.
  29. de Chair. The Sea is Strong. p. 142.
  30. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28842. p. 4876. 22 June, 1914.
  31. The London Gazette: no. 29262. p. 8016. 13 August, 1915.
  32. The Rules of the Game. p. 457.
  33. Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. boxed chart 8a.
  34. The Rules of the Game. p. 559.
  35. Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. p. 461. Relating Gordon's meaning to a specific order is Tone's inference.
  36. Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. Plate 10.
  37. Battle of Jutland Official Despatches. Plate 31.
  38. Beatty Papers at the National Maritime Museum. BTY 6/6.
  39. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29751. p. 9070. 15 September, 1916.
  40. Letter of 20 November, 1916. Balfour Papers. British Library. Add. MSS. 49692. ff. 175-178.
  41. The London Gazette: no. 31104. p. 199. 3 January, 1919.
  42. The London Gazette: no. 31610. p. 12889. 21 October, 1919.
  43. Chalmers. Life and Letters of David Beatty. pp. 434-435.
  44. Chalmers. Life and Letters of David Beatty. pp. 434-435.
  45. Beatty Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 156.
  46. "Changes and Appointments" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Monday, 8 January, 1912. Issue 39789, col B, p. 10.
  47. Beatty Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 156.
  48. Beatty Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 156.
  49. The Navy List. (September, 1914). p. 4.
  50. Squadrons and Senior Naval Officers in Existence on 11th November, 1918. f. 8.
  51. The Naval Staff of the Admiralty. p. 119.

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