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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

Royal Naval College, Greenwich

Jellicoe was appointed to the Royal Naval College, Greenwich as of 5 December, 1878.[1] He arrived back in Britain on 10 January, 1879, and was posted to the Royal Naval College on 19 January. On 13 October he was posted to H.M.S. Excellent for gunnery and torpedo training.[2][1] On 23 January, 1880, Jellicoe obtained a First Class Gunnery Certificate, for which he was "awarded [a] prize of books for meritorious passing."[2] He also obtained a First Class certificate in his studies at Greenwich,[3] where his favourite pastimes are said to have been rugby, rackets, and cricket. With his firsts in seamanship, gunnery and study at Greenwich, Jellicoe would normally have been promoted to Lieutenant straight away, but for the fact that there were four other Sub-Lieutenants in his class who also had three firsts. The Admiralty decided that the five officers would be promoted according to seniority. Jellicoe, being the most junior, had to wait eight months before he was promoted.[4]

On 5 February, 1880, Jellicoe was appointed to H.M.S. Inconstant for service in the flag ship of the Mediterranean Squadron, H.M.S. Alexandra, to which he was appointed on 12 March as Signal Mate. The Commander-in-Chief at the time was Admiral Sir Beauchamp Seymour and the Captain was Lord Walter Kerr.[2][4] He apparently found Malta pleasant, and improved his rackets game. On 5 April, he wrote to his mother about a dance he had been to:[4]

I went to a large dance at the Club here on Tuesday given by the Xth. I was afraid I shouldn't get any partners as I did not know a soul, but I danced all except the square dances, and not come away until it was all over. I did not get on board till 4 a.m. It was a very jolly dance and I liked it very much but of course as she was not there my thoughts were away the whole time.[5]

He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 23 August,[6] and his term of service in Alexandra ended on 31 August.[7] He left for Britain vîa the overland route from Italy, visiting Rome and Florence among other places. At Florence he contracted dysentary and returned to the family home at Surbiton in great pain. He was hors de combat for three months, the only time he was on half-pay in his naval career, he later recalled with pride. In the meantime, he had applied to specialise in gunnery, but first had to complete one year's service as a watch-keeping Lieutenant at sea.[8]


On 3 February, 1881, Jellicoe was again appointed to the Agincourt,[7] serving in the Channel Squadron as flag ship. In May, 1882, the squadron was ordered to the Mediterranean after the revolt in Egypt of Arabi Pasha. On 4 July, Agincourt left Malta with a battalion of the 60th Rifles on board, and stopped at Cyprus to embark General Sir Archibald Alison with other stores.

Qualifying for Gunnery Duties

On 30 September, 1882, Jellicoe was appointed to Excellent,[2] for the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, to qualify for gunnery duties. According to the Admiralty announcement eleven officers were appointed to qualify, among them G. E. (later Admiral Sir George) Patey, E. E. (later Admiral Sir Edward) Bradford, C. H. (later Admiral Sir Charles) Coke, H. P. (later Admiral Hugh) Williams, H. C. (later Admiral Henry) Kingsford, T. P. (later Admiral Thomas) Walker, and H. C. A. (later Rear-Admiral Henry) Baynes.[9] Bacon claims only nine officers went on the qualifying course, which lasted nine months. By studying late at night, Jellicoe was able to devote time during the day to sports, apparently improving his rackets, tennis, and rugby. In rugby he played as a wing, and as part of the Royal Naval College XV played against Oxford University, Richmond and Blackheath. At the end of the course he passed out first in his class, and with 2,911 marks obtained a first class certificate in the final examination at the college in July, 1883 (the threshold for first class being 2,700 marks). For coming first he was awarded a prize of £80, less income tax. At Excellent back in Portsmouth he obtained first classes in the gunnery and torpedo courses and on 16 May, 1884 he received a first class gunnery certificate.[2][10]

Gunnery Officer

A young Lieutenant Jellicoe (back left) as a Junior Staff Officer in Excellent, 1884. Lieutenant Percy M. Scott at back right. Captain John A. Fisher sits second from left.

Having qualified as a gunnery officer, on 19 May Jellicoe was appointed to Excellent as a Junior Staff Officer.[2] Also appointed as Junior Staff Officers were Lieutenants George J. S. Warrender and Hugh Williams. Lieutenant Percy M. Scott was on the Senior Staff, and John A. Fisher was Captain.[11]

On 8 June, 1885, Jellicoe was lent to the Minotaur, Sir Geoffrey Phipps Hornby's flagship

On 4 July, 1888, Jellicoe was lent to the Inflexible for gunnery duties[2] during the annual manœuvres. R. F. (later Admiral Sir Richard) Phillimore, then a Lieutenant, later recounted his experience of Jellicoe in Inflexible:

Lionel Wells, the torpedo lieutenant, had managed to wangle some foreign service leave, so Jellicoe did his work too.
Jellicoe was simply the main-spring that drove the ship. He explained the capstan gear to the first lieutenant, told the commander where everything was stowed, and generally helped everybody, as if he had served a commission in the ship already. Our dear old west country staff commander (also an old shipmate of mine) used to say to everyone who asked him anything "Ask our Mr. Jellicums" or "Go to Mr. Jellicums." He had the greatest admiration for his capacity.
When a man fell overboard on one occasion Jellicoe was in the seaboat before most of the crew. In the dog watches at sea and in harbour, he would get up a skirmishing panty to shoot for sherry and bitters. A line of Morris tube targets was placed across the stern of the ship, the competitors advancing, halting and opening fire by word of command. So infectious was his keenness that everyone joined in, the fat old purser and the senior doctor dropped on the knee (despite the shingle with which the decks were covered) and opened fire with the youngest member of the mess.[12]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Bacon. Earl Jellicoe. p. 41.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Jellicoe Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/38. p. 691.
  3. Bacon. Earl Jellicoe. pp. 41-42.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Bacon. Earl Jellicoe. p. 42.
  5. Quoted in Bacon. Earl Jellicoe. p. 43.
  6. London Gazette: no. 24876. p. 4623. 24 August, 1880.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Jellicoe Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/20. p. 136.
  8. Bacon. Earl Jellicoe. p. 43.
  9. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Wednesday, 7 June, 1882. Issue 30527, col G, p. 7.
  10. Bacon. Earl Jellicoe. pp. 46-47.
  11. Bacon. Earl Jellicoe. p. 47.
  12. "Admiral of the Fleet Earl Jellicoe." Naval Review. p. 9.