Admiral Sir John Jellicoe was born in Southampton in 1859 to a seafaring family; his father was a commander in the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. At the time of his birth the family was living in a house on the High Street, but later moved to Anglesea Place in Above Bar, and then to East Park Terrace. John was educated at Banister Park School in Southampton and Field House School in Rottingdean, before joining the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1872. He was made a captain in 1897 and after spending a successful term as director of naval ordnance, was promoted to rear-admiral in 1907. Promotions to vice-admiral and second sea lord followed. At the outbreak of World War One, at which time he was regarded as Britain’s foremost naval officer, he was appointed as commander of the grand fleet.
His reputation, however, was irretrievably damaged at the Battle of Jutland in 1916, during which the Royal Navy lost a number of ships and 6000 sailors. Winson Churchill was later to say that he was “the only man who could have lost the war in an afternoon”. Attempts have been made more recently to restore his reputation.
By the end of 1916 Commander Beattie had taken over command of the fleet and Jellicoe had been made first sea lord, a post from which he was dismissed at the end of 1917. In 1918 he was raised to the peerage for his services during the war as Viscount Jellicoe of Scapa . In 1920 he was appointed governor general of New Zealand. On his return from New Zealand and in recognition of his services as governor, Jellicoe was created an earl.
In 1929 Southampton awarded him the Freedom of the Borough in a ceremony at the Empire Theatre (now the Mayflower). The townsfolk did not appear to harbour resentment towards him over Jutland; they cheered him along the entire route of his ceremonial carriage drive (image 2). He died on 20 November 1935.
Southampton People, by John Edgar Mann, p60-61. (HS/t)
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, Volume 29
Submarine Peril, by John Rushworth Jellicoe. (HS/u)
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