17 MAY 1957, Page 17

Letters to the Editor

Battle of Jutland Sir Robert Boothby, MP

Mr. Churchill and the Press Council

Sir Linton Andrews

Easter Morning Kenneth de Courcy The Partition of Ireland T. Feehan, Joan Buckley Cyprus A. Rizo-Rangabd Books for Eastern Europe George Watson SWI and SW3 Antony D. Hippisley Coxe Shop Talk George W. Mealor Rt. Hon. W. M. Hughes, PC L. F. Fitzhardinge


SIR,—The absorbing interest of the Jutland story is my excuse for trespassing further on your space. Jutland and Gallipoli were two self-contained and completed dramas of the First World War which in themselves altered the course of history. Victory in either case would have enabled us to establish direct and massive contact with Russia, through the Baltic or the Black Sea. The carnage of 1916-18 would then have been avoided, and the Russian revolution would almost certainly have taken a different course.

There can be no doubt that, as Admiral Sir William James says, the Admiralty made a grave mistake in assuming that one signal to the Commander-in-Chief was enough; and in not passing on Scheer's subse- quent request for air reconnaissance off the Horn Reef. The fact remains that, in the final analysis, the preponderant blame for our failure to achieve victory lies not in the Admiralty but in the Fleet Flagship.

Mr. Kennedy is surely wrong in saying that such intelligence as the Commander-in-Chief had pointed to Scheer making for the Ems or Heligoland. Almost all the evidence was to the contrary. A tierce night action was going on in the rear of the battle fleet; and the repeated bursts of firing taking place in suc- cession from west to east were not, in the light of the Admiralty message, capable of more than one inter- pretation.

Upon this Sir Winston Churchill comments, in the Jutland chapter of The World Crisis: 'Certain it is that if Sir John Jellicoe had acted in accordance with the Admiralty message he would have had—even if that message had proved erroneous—a justification for his action which could never have been impugned. He was Leaving so many favourable chances behind him as he sped to the south, and guarding against so few, that it is 'difficult to penetrate his mind.' The following entry from the diary of the late Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond, dated May 7, 1917, seems to me to be decisive : 'Dined with Hyde Parker on board Superb last night. How unanimous all these captains are that Jutland was a failure! They can hardly beat to speak of it. Goodenough, Baird, Borrett, Parker — everyone said the same. . . . Parker told me that from the Superb, two ships astern of Iron Duke, they could see the flashes of the night action between destroyers and the enemy passing from west to east. First they bore NWly, next another burst to NWW, then another to the north, then NNE, clearly giving the inference that the enemy had turned and was crossing our stern. Yet we stood on south till long after daylight and eventually turned north, leaving all the area 'to the eastward unsearched. No attempt was made to use the cruisers to find the enemy; nor the destroyers. No reports were asked for. All we did was to steer small and get out of it? (My italics.)

The clue to the Battle of Jutland is, I suggest, to be found in the last four words. The tremendous burden of his responsibility as 'the only man on either side who could lose the war in an afternoon' had in- duced in Sir John Jellicoe a defensive attitude of mind which caused him to lack the sincere desire to engage and destroy the enemy which is the essential prelude to victory. No one can say that of Admiral Pound, or of any of the Fleet Commanders who served him in the last war, or indeed of Mr. Kennedy's gallant father.

As is so often the case when it comes to the turn- ing points in the history of arc fearful era in which we live, the final verdict on Jutland rests with Sir Winston : 'The chance of an annihilating victory had been perhaps offered at the moment of deployment, had been offered again an hour later when Scheer made his great miscalculation (turning towards the centre of the British line of battle), and for the third time when a little before midnight the Commander- in-Chief decided to reject the evidence of the Admiralty message. Three times is a lot.'—Yours