Book Review: Jutland: The Unfinished Battle: A Personal History of a Naval Controversy


by Nick Jellicoe

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2016. Pp. xxii, 402. Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $35.95. ISBN: 1848323212

A Fresh Look at the Greatest Battleship Fight

A grandson of the British admiral, the author draws upon the latest scholarship, as well as official documents and family papers not hitherto available to scholars, to throw fresh light on the great naval battle of May 30-June 1, 1916. The book is divided roughly into three parts.

The first deals with the long term events that brought the British and German fleets to clash in the North Sea. This introduces us to the rival fleets and their commanders, naval strategy and planning, and operations in the North Sea from the outbreak of the Great War through May of 1916.

The second, and longest part, covers the events of the battle. Jellicoe discusses the strategic situation and the intentions of the respective commanders, his grandfather John Jellicoe and Reinhard Scheer. He then follows the operations from the departure of the fleets through their initial contacts, the battle, the subsequent pursuit, and the return of the fleets to port. This is done in great detail, with many cuts back and forth so that we can see events as experienced by both sides. Jellicoe frequently draws up personal accounts from letters, diaries, and memoirs, to bolster the narrative.

The third section covers the aftermath of the battle, both in its long term effect on the war, primarily Germany’s decision to resort to unrestricted submarine warfare, and thus ultimately leading to American intervention. Jellicoe also addresses the post-war controversies surrounding the battle and the admirals, about which he tends to come down on the side of his grandfather, but is hardly uncritical of the man, which is generally the current historical conclusion as well.

Throughout the book, Jellicoe offers some excellent profiles of many officers and even some enlisted men, with often touching detail, among them his grandfather’s postwar long distance friendship with the German Adm. Scheer. Jellicoe makes frequent use of sidebars, to cover technical matters or complex problems, such as how range finding worked, the precise route the German fleet took home, and so forth.

A dramatic, often gripping, and surprisingly objective, look at the battle, any student of naval warfare will find this a rewarding read.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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