Jellicoe:First Sea Lord and the Submarine Menace

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On 4 December Jellicoe had an audience with the King at Buckingham Palace upon his appointment as First Sea Lord, when he was also invested with the Insignia of a member of the Order of Merit. Admiral Sir Henry Jackson also had an audience with the King, upon taking up the position of President of the Royal Naval College.[1]

Soon after becoming First Sea Lord Jellicoe received a visit from Fisher, who wrote to an unidentified correspondent:

When I got back from this sermon, I found a telephone message from Jellicoe asking me to speak to him. I found he was ill in bed with neuritis, so I went to his bed-side — his wife saying I must stay only 10 minutes, but he made me stay an hour. Having cleared the ground by reiterating to him what a criminal he was to have given up Command of the Grand Fleet — all the reasons you know — I abandoned myself to my former close communion with him — he's as deaf as a post, but some man has been putting something into his nose that came out at the ear, and he hopes to be better. Poor chap! he was very seedy, but indomitable. and I felt I could have made a dozen of him! his one and only terror is the German submarine menace which, as he truly says, 11/2 years Admiralty apathy has made so prodigious as to be almost beyond cure! But Jellicoe is not Satanic! I told him so.[2]


Jellicoe later claimed in The Submarine Peril that before becoming First Sea Lord, "I had at an earlier date suggested to the Admiralty the desirability of instituting ocean convoys as a protection against raiders, but was informed that this was quite impossible owing to shortage of vessels for the ocean escort."[3]


When asked many years later about the state of Jellicoe's health at the time, Reginald McKenna, a former First Lord and colleague of his, wrote:

The suggestion that Jellicoe was suffering from strain is news to me. I saw him constantly at the time and he certainly showed no indication whatever of fatigue.[4]


  1. "Court Circular" (Court and Social). The Times. Tuesday, 5 December, 1916. Issue 41342, col B, p. 11.
  2. Letter of 8 January, 1917. The National Archives. ADM 116/3454.
  3. Jellicoe. The Submarine Peril. p. 7.
  4. McKenna to Bacon. Letter of 21 August, 1936. British Library. Add MSS 49044. f. 27.