David Beatty, first Earl Beatty (1871–1936), naval officer, was born on 17 January 1871 at Howbeck Lodge, Stapeley, Nantwich, Cheshire, the second of four sons of Captain David Longfield Beatty (1841–1904), of the 4th hussars, and his first wife, Katherine Edith (d. 1896), daughter of Nicholas Sadleirof Dunboyne Castle, co. Meath, Ireland.
David's brothers all served in the army, and his one sister, Kathleen, known as Trot, married Colonel Miles Courage, of the brewing family, who became master of the Hampshire hunt. David inherited his family's love of hunting, horsemanship, and all country sports, but as a young boy showed such interest in ships and the sea that his parents had him prepared for the navy. In January 1884, at thirteen, the normal age for officer entry, he passed into the Britannia, the training establishment on the Dart, tenth out of ninety-nine candidates. He passed out in January 1886, eighteenth of his term of thirty-three. He was not amenable to the punitive discipline and rigid routine of Britannia, the training ship, and so was never chosen as a cadet captain. He described himself as 'essentially Irish', and perhaps his high spirits and generally attractive personality were seen as redeeming features. On the other hand he had ‘interest’, that established factor in furthering a successful naval career. His mother, relying on their shared Irishness, personally appealed to Charles Beresford and had his original appointment to the China station changed to one on Alexandra, the flagship of the Mediterranean Fleet, where the commander-in-chief, Queen Victoria's second son, the duke of Edinburgh, gained a sound professional reputation.
Such a ship attracted an unusual number of officers who subsequently achieved high rank, among them Colin Keppel and Stanley Colville, who could provide valuable role models for the cadets and midshipmen. Beatty's companions in the gun room included Walter Cowan, Richard Phillimore, and Reginald Tyrwhitt, who later served under him as flag officers in the North Sea. Others of his seniors became influential in court circles during the reigns of Queen Victoria's successors. In the meantime his manners, cheerfulness, and good looks made him popular with the royal and other highly placed visitors to the flagship, while his skills as a horseman gained him additional friends and admirers. Alexandra was typical of the capital ships of the day: fully rigged for sail, but equipped for steam propulsion and strongly armoured, it mounted heavy, muzzle loading guns and carried Whitehead torpedoes.
Beatty was rated midshipman on 15 May 1886, was promoted sub-lieutenant on 14 May 1890, and began scientific and technical courses at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and specialist establishments in Portsmouth in September. In contrast to these he had three periods of sea service under sail in the corvette Ruby. The last of these followed his promotion to lieutenant on 25 August 1892; he had not been attracted by the six months' accelerated advancement gained by high performance in the courses and achieved a first-class pass only in torpedoes.
More directly relevant to the newer navy was Beatty's appointment to the battleship Camperdown in October 1893, when he entered the world of steam tactics. In 1895 he joined the battleship Trafalgar, whose executive officer Stanley Colville had formed a high opinion of his potential during their time in Alexandra. This led to promotion and distinction, which enabled Beatty to out-distance his contemporaries for the rest of his career. When Colville was appointed to command the gunboats supporting General Sir Herbert Kitchener's Sudan expedition of 1896 he selected his protégé to command one of his craft.
Beatty did not disappoint him. When Colville was wounded by shore fire, he assumed command of the whole flotilla in its hazardous passage through the cataracts of the Nile, showing exemplary initiative, leadership, and courage under fire. On 22 September 1896 the British forces reached Dongola, and Kitchener halted his advance. At Kitchener's personal request he rejoined for the 1897 completion of the campaign.
The new flotilla under the command of Colin Keppel, another former Alexandra man, also performed well. Beatty's exploits gained him wider recognition, including the DSO, while Kitchener in his dispatch of 1898 substantially contributed to his special promotion to commander on 15 November. Aged twenty-seven, and with only six years' service as lieutenant rather than the normal eleven or twelve, he was now well ahead of his contemporaries on the ladder of promotion. He had shown exceptional boldness and also became known to Winston Churchill, another participant in the Sudan expedition.
Beatty was appointed executive officer of the battleship Barfleur, flagship of the second in command of the China station, in April 1899. Her captain, Stanley Colville, had again asked for him. Initially he concentrated on the internal working of the ship to ensure the smartness in appearance and drills on which a commander's promotion traditionally depended. But wider events gave him opportunity for more exciting activity and professional advancement. China was in the grip of an uprising by the Boxer nationalist movement, which was opposed to external influence and threatened foreign nationals in Beijing. In subsequent land operations around Tientsin (Tianjin), Beatty played a prominent part, but he was seriously wounded in his left arm. Also wounded was Captain John Jellicoe, Admiral Seymour's flag captain. Beatty's gallantry and leadership were duly noted, and on 9 November 1900 he received one of four special promotions to captain. He was now twenty-nine, compared with the normal age for that promotion of forty-two, and thus further ahead than ever in the race to qualifying for flag rank. It was not however until 2 June 1902 and after prolonged medical treatment that Beatty assumed his first captain's command.
On home leave in 1899 Beatty met his future wife, Ethel (d. 1932), daughter of Marshall Field, the Chicago millionaire and chain-store proprietor. They met in the hunting field, where her hard, almost reckless, riding gave them common ground. A strong mutual attraction developed. On his return from China with an enhanced reputation, her interest increased, and he remained entranced by her complex personality. He was well aware of the advantages of her great wealth, but she was a married woman, although separated from her American husband, Arthur M. Tree. Beatty's career could have suffered as a result of an illicit relationship, and they had to assume complete discretion in their conduct and correspondence. However, Tree obtained a divorce in America on the grounds of his wife's desertion, and despite objections from both families they married at Hanover Square register office in London on 22 May 1901, only ten days after Ethel's divorce was publicized.
Beatty's appointment as captain of the cruiser Juno (launched 1895, 5600 tons) on 2 June 1902 inaugurated a critical period in his career. His qualities of leadership were well established, but his ability to master the problems arising from changing propulsion, weaponry, and communications systems had yet to be tested. The Mediterranean Fleet, in which he was to serve, had been trained by Sir John (Jacky) Fisher, its commander-in-chief from 1899 to 1902, to a high pitch of readiness for war, based on speedy manoeuvring and offensive action. Captains and admirals were tested in regular fleet manoeuvres in which the advent of wireless telegraphy introduced new complications. Beatty's command of Juno began with a short attachment to the Channel Fleet under the command of Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson, renowned for his skills in the tactical handling of fleets and squadrons and for the heavy demands he made on his subordinates. In his letters to his wife Beatty admitted to losing his temper with his own officers, who did not match up to the standards he required in the highly competitive rivalry between ships to meet his admiral's requirements. He also reacted more positively, not only by entertaining his officers in the traditional way but also by trying to lead them into discussions designed to bring out the lessons to be learned from exercises and manoeuvres. Also, and very characteristically, in his letters to his wife he strongly criticized his superiors for not following suit. He was particularly critical of his last commander-in-chief, Lord Charles Beresford, for imposing too much detailed control over his subordinates, while skilful in avoiding involvement in Beresford's quarrel with Fisher, which was splitting the higher ranks of the navy. He became increasingly critical of the repetitive nature of fleet exercises, and especially of the favourite one of blockading the ‘enemy’ fleet in its own harbour without recognizing that the development of effective torpedoes had made this a risky operation. That his overall performance satisfied his superiors was demonstrated when he was given command of the new cruiser Suffolk (9800 tons) on 25 October 1904 for his last eleven months in the Mediterranean.
Long periods of separation had always been resented by naval wives, and Ethel was no exception. She became jealous of David's deep involvement in his professional and social life in Malta, and he, in turn, became critical of the frivolity of her life in London society and of the carping tone of her letters. Their relationship was never easy, but it never lacked vitality and affection. Eventually she joined him in Malta, where they lived in great style; on 22 February 1905 she gave birth to their first son, David Field (later second Earl Beatty). Their second son, Peter, was born on 2 April 1910.
The couple returned to England towards the end of 1905, and after a period on half pay Beatty became naval adviser to the Army Council on 21 December 1906. He was involved in planning the movement of the expeditionary force to France. Owing to Fisher'srefusal to disclose his war plans, joint operations were not formally discussed with the military.
Beatty moved towards fulfilling the remaining requirement for flag rank by his successful command of the battleship Queen (completed 1904, 15,000 tons), serving in the Atlantic Fleet under Prince Louis of Battenberg as part of Fisher's concentration against the German high seas fleet. He exempted his new commander-in-chief from his condemnation of British admirals for their lack of imagination on the nature of future warfare, and the consequent unrealism of their training exercises. In general he approved of Fisher's wholesale reforms but disliked his devious methods of introducing them. His own captaincy of Queen was highly commended by Battenberg, and his promotion was promulgated on 1 January 1910 after an order in council had waived the regulation which stipulated that advancement to flag rank should be preceded by six years of sea command. Save for attendance at the war college in spring 1911, he was not employed until January 1912, largely owing to his refusing the Admiralty's offer of an appointment as second in command of the Atlantic Fleet instead of the Home Fleet, which he preferred, judging it to be most important in a future German war. In view of his comparative youth for flag rank, this was perceived as arrogance; along with his wealth, this provoked criticism and jealousy.
Beatty was rescued from this impasse by Winston Churchill's becoming first lord of the Admiralty in 1911. Advised by Fisher to exercise particular care in his choice of naval secretary, Churchill selected Beatty after an interview in which he demonstrated 'the profound sagacity of his comments expressed in language free from technical jargon' (R. Churchill, 550).
In the absence of an organized naval staff, an able and determined naval secretary could exercise considerable influence over his political master. Beatty used the opportunity to the full, and despite his earlier suspicion began to appreciate Churchill'sgenuine enthusiasm for the navy and his ability in cabinet to further its interests. A paper that he addressed to Churchill in April 1912 on naval dispositions in a German war shows the maturity and perceptiveness of Beatty's contributions to their discussions (Beatty Papers, 1.36–45).
The practical result of Churchill's approbation led to Beatty's taking temporary command of an armoured cruiser squadron, with his flag in Aboukir for the fleet manoeuvres of July 1912. His success in bringing his command to fighting efficiency must have reminded his critics of his high leadership qualities. It certainly justified Churchill's decision to award him command of the battlecruiser squadron.
As always, difficulties in his marriage accentuated the problems of Beatty's naval career. Ethel seemed to take his successes for granted and did not offer the constant emotional support he expected. Her wealth opened the doors of London society and great country houses, but her divorced status prevented formal presentation at court and led to unrealistic arguments about his seeking another profession.
Ethel was determined to maintain her standard of living, and in July 1905 she had negotiated with her father a permanent financial settlement on which—as she triumphantly told her husband—they could live happily without getting into debt or needing to worry any more about money matters (Beatty Papers, 1.15–16). They certainly spent lavishly, with outgoings on houses bought or rented in London and the country, Ethel's extravagant holidays on the continent, horses, gambling, and eventually a steam yacht, Sheelah, which seemed to offer relief from her frenetic restlessness.
The battlecruiser squadron, 1913–1916
Beatty's appointment to the battlecruiser squadron did arouse some doubts. He was fourteen years younger than his predecessor and without fleet command experience, but he had the backing of Fisher, Churchill, and influential sections of the press. His temperament seemed ideally matched with the unique speed and hitting power of the force designed to locate the German fleet and prevent it from evading the stronger Grand Fleet.
In the months following his appointment Beatty defined the squadron's role: it should be the essential element in scouting sweeps through enemy waters in a strength that could be countered only by equivalent capital ships, and thus precipitating the desired fleet action. As the contact developed it would directly support the Grand Fleet by defending its scouting forces and then forming the leading division of the whole line of battle. For such complex tasks the battlecruisers' crews had to display specific qualities of leadership, discipline, and fighting spirit. Captains had to be ready to take the initiative and not wait for detailed orders from Beatty when the circumstances of battle limited his knowledge of a rapidly changing situation, as long as they acted in accordance with his central aim, the annihilation of the enemy. He expected his officers to train their crews accordingly. Throughout the war Beatty consciously designed his visits to ships to inspire his men with his own offensive spirit and his confidence in victory.
At the beginning of war Beatty was confident of the readiness of his command and of the competence of his new commander-in-chief, Jellicoe, and of the Admiralty's ability to exercise overall control. The first months of hostilities soon made him realize that the navy's aim of early victory through a decisive fleet action would be far more difficult to achieve than he and the nation at large had foreseen. The enemy's realistic decision not to risk such an action, together with his own increasing awareness of the inhibition cast by mines and torpedoes on freedom of strategic and tactical mobility, along with the vagaries of weather and visibility in the North Sea, combined to obstruct the fleet's hopes. The Admiralty soon found it difficult to assess enemy intentions correctly and to convey clear information to the fleet, with a consequent growth of distrust among the sea commanders. Beatty faced the prospect of a future characterized by fruitless searches for an elusive enemy, each one followed by a return to base, the exhausting labour of coaling, and a wait for the next alarm, all leading to an increase in frustration throughout the squadron.
The action in the Heligoland Bight on 28 August 1914 was a positive relief. It established Beatty's force's readiness for combat and his own capacity to take responsibility in risking offensive action. His sweep into enemy waters in support of light forces resulted in the destruction of three enemy light cruisers and one destroyer; this was set against one British light cruiser seriously damaged and correspondingly fewer human casualties. Beatty's decision to withdraw his whole force without encountering enemy capital ships demonstrated his grasp of strategic priorities. But investigations after the event revealed omens for the future, prominent among them a weakness in reporting enemy movements, and inaccurate gunnery owing to the battlecruisers' speed and frequent changes of course. The most significant result of the battle was Beatty'sdisgust at the Admiralty's failure to co-ordinate the elements it had added to his command. This loss of trust in the Admiralty's competence was reinforced by the defeat of Admiral Christopher Craddock at Coronel, and, directly related to Beatty'sown responsibilities, the enemy battlecruisers' success in evading interception after mining and bombardment raids on England's north-east coast in November and December 1914. The latter provided opportunity for fleet action, as the high seas fleetsailed in support of the battlecruisers. The Admiralty's intelligence organization directed the battlecruisers' movements, and Beatty—supported by a battleship squadron—was directed towards a good position for interception. But the sailing of the enemy battle fleet was not detected, and Jellicoe did not realize the urgency of approaching the combat area. Beatty's force never engaged his rival Franz von Hipper, largely because of repeated failures in reporting by his scouting cruisers—a situation made worse by Beatty and his signals staff, who caused the cruisers to lose contact with the enemy in the appalling weather which dominated the whole action. In turn, the German fleet commander, von Ingenohl, missed the opportunity to destroy Beatty'sbattlecruisers with his overwhelming force. On learning of the desultory encounter with light cruisers he decided that the Grand Fleet was approaching and returned to base.
Dogger Bank, 23 January 1915
After the failure to intercept the raid of December 1914 the Admiralty reshaped the Grand Fleet's organization and command structure. The battlecruiser base was moved from Cromarty to Rosyth. Jellicoe remained in overall fleet command, but on the first report of German fleet activity the Admiralty would take control of Beatty's squadron and the submarine, cruiser, and destroyer forces at Harwich and order them to an appropriate rendezvous. Once Jellicoe was at sea and in communication, he would assume operational control of the whole fleet. The battlecruisers were at sea on Christmas day 1914 in support of a seaplane raid against Cuxhaven and again on 18–19 January 1915 in support of a sweep by Commodore Tyrwhitt's Harwich force. No battlecruiser contacts were made, and the German commander-in-chief became confident that further sweeps could be repulsed by battlecruisers without support from the high seas fleet. The Admiralty, warned by the activity of Hipper's battlecruisers on 23 January, planned to cut them off from their base. Beatty was ordered to rendezvous with Tyrwhitt 30 miles off Dogger Bank. A battleship squadron and an armoured cruiser were ordered to positions 40 miles north-west to prevent any German breakaway, and the Grand Fleet was to move south from Scapa to confront any move by the high seas fleet. This plan succeeded when contact was made at 8 a.m. on 24 January, and Beatty, with superior force, stood between Hipper and his base. Lion, Tiger, Princess Royal, New Zealand, and Indomitable should have overwhelmed Seydlitz, Moltke, Derfflinger, and the armoured cruiser Blucher. Hipper turned for home as soon as he identified his enemy's battlecruisers, and Beatty followed in pursuit. Blucher and Seydlitz (the flagship) were both severely damaged, but events then turned against Beatty. His fire distribution orders were misinterpreted; Moltke, being free from attack by a British battlecruiser, concentrated its fire on Lion, which was hit repeatedly. Her speed was reduced, and at 10.50 a.m. she lost all electrical power, leaving only flag signals for communicating Beatty's orders. Princess Royal, Tiger, and New Zealand overhauled Lion, but their close pursuit was delayed by Beatty's ordering a change of course; he claimed that he had seen an enemy submarine, but the claim was never confirmed. Rear-Admiral Archibald Moore in New Zealand, wrongly influenced by an ambiguous signal from Beatty, concentrated his fire to sink the crippled Blucher, thus allowing the battlecruisers to escape. When Beatty transferred to Princess Royal and resumed command he decided that it was too late to steam further into German waters and at 12.54 p.m. turned for home.
Modern research has stressed the poor performance of the British battlecruisers' gunnery; aside from the original shooting against Blucher, they achieved only six hits but received twenty in return. The bad shooting was due to smoke and the absence of effective director control (or range-finding apparatus) from all but Tiger, whose equipment failed during the action. Beatty's signalling difficulties ultimately led him to have the traditional signal 'engage the enemy more closely' reintroduced, and although he reluctantly admitted that the incompetence of his flag lieutenant had been partly responsible for his communication failures, he did not replace him.
The failure to crush his enemy counterparts was Beatty's responsibility. The Admiralty's plan was sound, the weather was neutral, and it was inevitable that after the event his inquiries and actions should be thorough. His most important practical conclusion was that the most favourable range for future engagements was 12,000–14,000 yards. Hitting could be effective at this distance; and it would be outside the reach of enemy secondary armament and surface-launched torpedoes. He was satisfied by the battlecruisers' ability to maintain their top speed, their chief defence against enemy attack, especially as their armour protection was inadequate against German armour-piercing shells. In any future battle, main and secondary armament firing should be as heavy as possible, and supplemented by cruiser and destroyer gunnery and torpedo attacks in a concentrated offensive, which itself was the best form of defence.
Beatty placed the responsibility for failure mainly on Rear-Admiral Archibald Moore, commanding the 2nd battlecruiser squadron in New Zealand, for not showing attacking initiative when his superior had to give up command, and on Captain Henry Pelly of Tiger for concentrating his fire on Blucher instead of Moltke. Both had failed to grasp that the objective was 'the complete destruction of the enemy … My signals and Standing Orders are intended for guidance as I have often stated, and not for rigid obedience if they tend to hinder the destruction of the enemy' (Beatty Papers, 1.247).
In a revision of his standing orders on 18 February 1915 Beatty developed his thought on the battlecruisers' role when working in close support of the battle fleet. They should avoid obstructing the vision or manoeuvring freedom of the heavier ships, and 'they should not come within range of enemy Dreadnoughts until our own Battle Fleet is engaged' (Beatty Papers, 1.254). They should then open fire immediately.
After Dogger Bank, Beatty's frustration increased with his inability to achieve a fleet action and with the navy's failure to find a solution to the enemy's submarine campaign. Moreover his relations with Jellicoe became increasingly delicate, although he continued to hold him in genuine respect and agreed with him on major strategic issues, particularly in thinking that the Grand Fleet's prime task was the negation of its German rival and that no risks must be taken with its precarious superiority. Beattyparticularly feared the enemy's increasing strength in torpedo craft, submarines, and the unique reconnaissance capability of Zeppelins; he thought that Jellicoe was not strong enough in his complaints to the Admiralty on these and other shortcomings. He admitted that the whole naval situation left him strained in temper and prone to minor ailments.
The Dogger Bank failure did not break Churchill's or Fisher's confidence in Beatty. In February 1915 Beatty's command was retitled the Battle-Cruiser Fleet and divided into three squadrons, each of three battlecruisers, with Lion as fleet flagship in addition. They were to be supported by three light cruiser squadrons, totalling thirteen ships and sixteen modern destroyers, all based at Rosyth. Beatty still agreed with Jellicoe that Scapa was the safer base for the Grand Fleet. What he did press for was greater community of thought with the Admiralty and for opportunities for discussion. His meeting with Jellicoe on 3 February 1916 was the first for five months, and he followed it up with increasing pressures on his commander-in-chief by passing on to him recommendations by two of his squadron commanders, Osmond de Brock and William Pakenham, that the Battle-Cruiser Fleet should be strengthened to balance the new more powerful vessels that were about to join the enemy fleet.
Beatty embodied these views in his own submission to the Admiralty, suggesting that the appropriate answer was to add the fast 5th battleship squadron to his force at Rosyth. Jellicoe argued that the battleships lacked the speed that Beatty claimed, but perhaps his main fear was that Beatty, so strengthened, would be tempted to fight a prolonged action with the high seas fleet rather than concentrate on his primary duty to lead it towards the superior Grand Fleet. This suspicion was probably unjustified, but it reflected the growing gulf between the two men and Jellicoe's resentment at his subordinate's direct correspondence with the Admiralty.
Alongside his professional burdens, Beatty's marriage brought additional strains. Ethelhad persuaded the Admiralty to take up her yacht Sheelah as a hospital ship. Her genuine interest in the ship gave her grounds to rent Aberdour House, which was near enough to Rosyth for her husband to pay brief visits when the naval situation permitted. These were marked by mutual lack of sympathy and understanding.
Jutland: a marred victory
Beatty's command on 31 May 1916 included six battlecruisers, with Lion as flagship; the 5th battle squadron of four fast ships under Rear-Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas in Barham; twelve light cruisers; twenty-seven destroyers, plus three light cruisers as flotilla leaders; and the seaplane carrier Engadine. The battleships were there as a temporary replacement for three Invincible class battlecruisers detached to Scapa Flow for gunnery practice.
The battle of Jutland originated in a plan by the new German fleet commander, Rheinhard Scheer, to cut off Beatty's force without engaging the Grand Fleet. The Admiralty were alerted by enemy radio activity on 30 May and ordered Jellicoe and Beatty to sea. The benefits of this early warning were reduced by a lack of co-operation between the uniformed naval staff and the largely ‘amateur’ analysts of Room 40 in naval intelligence. Jellicoe was given an overestimate of German battleship strength and, more importantly, was told that it was still in port after it had sailed. This resulted in his moving south slowly and in Beatty's being unaware, when he intercepted the enemy, that he was soon to face not only the five battlecruisers but also the main German battle fleet. His confidence in the naval staff was permanently undermined.
When Beatty's battlecruisers opened fire at 3.48 p.m. on 31 May he failed to co-ordinate his attack with Evan-Thomas's battleships, which did not engage until twenty minutes later. He was totally unaware of the presence of the high seas fleet, but soon realized the destructive power of the German battlecruisers' gunnery; Lion was hit on her midship's turret. Worse was to come when Indefatigable and Queen Mary exploded before his eyes, with the loss of 1283 officers and men. This was the occasion of Beatty'soften quoted remark to Chatfield, 'There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today' (Roskill, 160). His battleships were now in effective action; he ordered a destroyer attack against what he saw as a fleeing enemy, and seemed on the point of achieving his decisive victory despite his heavy losses. But the arrival of the high seas fleet reversed the situation, and he turned to lead the enemy into the jaws of Jellicoe'sGrand Fleet, which unknown to the Germans was approaching the battle area. Beattywas later criticized for the inadequacy of his reporting of the situation, which caused Jellicoe to signal to him twice, 'Where is the enemy's Battle Fleet?' (ibid., 169), and for having to make his fundamental decision on deploying his own fleet to block the enemy retreat to its home ports without knowing its exact location and course. At 6.07 p.m. Beatty took up his allotted position ahead of the Grand Fleet. From then on he had to conform to the fleet's movements. But at 7.47 p.m., apprehensive that Jellicoe's pursuit was lagging, he signalled to him, 'Submit that van of battleships follows battle-cruisers. We can then cut off the whole of the enemy's battle fleet' (ibid., 177). Surprisingly, in view of his distaste for any independent movement by divisions of his fleet, Jellicoe agreed. However, Vice-Admiral Sir Martyn Jerram, commanding the leading division, claimed that he was unable to gain close contact with the battlecruisers, much to Beatty's suspicion and anger. This was an opportunity missed. Beatty did sight and engage the already seriously damaged Seydlitz and Derfflinger and a squadron of old battleships which, with Jerram's support, could well have been overcome. Beatty played no distinctive part in the confused night action, which ended in Sheer's escape. On 2 June he returned to Rosyth to join the gloom and controversy that followed.
Beatty's early correspondence with Jellicoe was free from rancour and full of sorrow for the heavy losses of ships and men, as well as frustration at the enemy's escape. He did share, however, in the fleet's general anger with the Admiralty's unduly alarmist releases to the press. He also reacted angrily at an Admiralty meeting with Jellicoewhen the first sea lord, Sir Henry Jackson, criticized his failure to keep the 5th battle squadron in line with Jellicoe at the opening of the action. Beatty responded that if his earlier request for the battleships to be put under his command had been approved, Rear-Admiral Evan-Thomas and his ships would have absorbed the battlecruisers' combat procedures, and the delay in coming into action would never have occurred. This was a warning of future disputes, as was his wife's contribution to London gossip on Jellicoe's conduct of the battle. Despite its losses, the Grand Fleet was ready for action almost immediately, in numbers superior to those of a high seas fleet so seriously damaged in the battle that it never sought fleet action until October 1918 when, in desperation at Germany's plunge into defeat, the high command ordered it to do so and its crews mutinied.
Commander-in-chief of the Grand Fleet, 1916–1919
When Jellicoe was appointed first sea lord in November 1916 to revitalize the anti-submarine campaign, there was no realistic alternative to Beatty to succeed to the command of the Grand Fleet. He hoisted his flag on board Iron duke on 28 November, having been promoted acting admiral on the previous day. Some doubted his ability to handle and administer so huge a force; it had twenty-four battleships, three battlecruisers, nineteen cruisers, and fifty destroyers under direct command at Scapa Flow, in addition to the battlecruiser force at Rosyth now under his friend William Pakenham. The Grand Fleet itself comprised some 35,000 officers and men afloat, including three vice-admirals and six rear-admirals.
Beatty had prepared himself for this gigantic responsibility under the shadow of Jutland, determined that the failures of that day should not be repeated. The technical problems he left to his senior subordinates and his personal staff, but for tactical and strategic doctrine and above all for leadership he drew on his own resources. First was his confidence that victory could be gained, and second was his ability to convey this confidence to his subordinates, from flag officers to stokers. He cultivated decisiveness of speech, eccentricities of uniform, and as much personal contact as possible. 'The first thing that strikes you about him are his penetrating eyes. He has a phenomenally quick brain and he can take in all he wants to know in one glance … and decisions are given without a moment's hesitation' (Roskill, 148).
Beatty's experience since 1914 had increased his awareness of the uncertainties of sea warfare and hardened his insistence that decisive victory could come only from commitment to the offensive and to personal initiative at all levels of command. His display of self-confidence won over the most critical of his senior subordinates, sustained the loyalty of his personal staff, and maintained the fighting spirit of his men throughout the years of frustration that lay ahead. Hence his Nelsonic reputation. His grasp of strategic realities and the need to avoid unnecessary risks has been less clearly appreciated. Despite his hopes for a second Jutland, he accepted that a superior Grand Fleet, vigilant and informed by an efficient Admiralty intelligence system, would provide the essential basis of both a devastating economic blockade and the eventual defeat of the enemy's submarine campaign. He would not agree to any weakening of the fleet to deal with the unlikely danger of invasion. Sufficient deterrence could be provided by the light and submarine forces at Harwich, supported by a squadron of older battleships in the Thames estuary. Connected with this was his conviction, shared with the Admiralty and Jellicoe, of the dangers of any section of the fleet being deployed for battle in the southern North Sea; there German strength in submarines and mines and her Zeppelin reconnaissance might enable her to weaken his force so that it could no longer discharge its fundamental strategic roles.
Although his analysis of grand strategy was realistic, Beatty's hopes always focused on the achievements of the decisive battle which would compensate for the shortcoming of Jutland. His 'Grand fleet battle instructions', promulgated in 1916–18 (Beatty Papers, 1.456–506), replaced Jellicoe's 'Battle orders' and embodied his basic demands on his subordinates. They should always concentrate on annihilating the enemy without waiting for detailed orders. To achieve this they should attack with every available means: guns, underwater weapons, and aircraft. The last were to be used both in reconnaissance and in attack with bombs, torpedoes, and machine-guns. A retreating enemy must be hotly pursued by day and night. To avoid torpedo attack, ships should turn towards the enemy rather than away (as had happened at Jutland). The spirit of these instructions was instilled in all ranks by training and exercises. Beatty produced a visible demonstration of this commitment when in February 1917 he transferred his flag from Iron duke to Queen Elizabeth, which had a design speed of 25 instead of 21 knots. Even more significant were the removal of the Grand Fleet's base from Scapa Flow to the Firth of Forth in July 1917 and Beatty's pressure on the Admiralty to authorize aircraft-carrier strikes on the enemy fleet in harbour.
Events showed that even an imaginative combat doctrine and greater fighting resources could not overcome the uncertainties of sea warfare or individual failures of judgement. In October and December 1917 two lightly defended Scandinavian merchant convoys sustained heavy losses, and on 17 November an unsuccessful sweep by Pakenham's battlecruisers had missed an opportunity to inflict heavy losses.
The likelihood of Beatty's second Jutland receded, and 23 April 1918 was the last time on which he took his entire fleet to sea. In the following months the morale of the high seas fleet, already shaken by protests against poor conditions and harsh repression in August 1917, was hastened by signs of the breakdown of the imperial government and general social discontent caused by the economic blockade. Although Hipper, now commander-in-chief, repeated his readiness to seek action, his ability to do so declined, and with it Beatty's opportunity for battle.
This drawn-out disappointment at failure to secure his objective added to Beatty'sexasperation with what he saw as the Admiralty's failure to counter the dangers to the alliance's war effort from the submarine campaign against merchant shipping. Although long aware of the threat of submerged weapons, he had never expected the type of unrestricted operations implemented by Germany in 1917. He never fully appreciated the technical and scientific difficulties of submarine detection and destruction, and denounced the Admiralty for not organizing offensive hunting operations. He was prevented from extreme denunciation of the lack of success only by the apprehension that he might be ordered to the Admiralty to give this leadership himself. He afterwards claimed to be an early advocate of the convoy system, which proved to be a solution to the problems, but he supported it only after deciding that all else had failed. And later he actually released some of his Grand Fleet destroyers for merchant convoy duties.
Perhaps Beatty's most important contribution was to use a meeting with Lloyd Georgeto tackle the Admiralty on its opposition to convoy. In addition, however, he used his position as the allies' leading naval commander to intervene in political and diplomatic issues. He approached these with supreme self-confidence in correspondence and personal interviews with ministers, other influential politicians, and the king.
After the United States entered the war in April 1917 she put six battleships under Rear-Admiral Hugh Rodman at Beatty's disposal. A close professional accord developed between the two, and Beatty was soon reporting that the new ally was enthusiastically accepting his tactical doctrine and command style. But he never allowed himself to be overawed by America's wealth and power. He remained sceptical of her great technical contribution, the North Sea mine barrage. He also persuaded the minister for blockade, Robert Cecil, to modify his strong pressures on Norway, which he thought incompatible with the allies' claim to fight for the freedom of small nations.
Beatty's most significant political impact was made on the armistice of 1918. He insisted that the German fleet should surrender unconditionally to the Royal Navy, while the entire U-boat force should also be handed over. He personally staged the arrival in the Firth of Forth of the German fleet on 21 November so that they moved as prisoners between the lines of the Grand Fleet to receive his unauthorized signal: 'The German flag will be hauled down at sunset today, Thursday, and will not be hoisted again without permission' (Roskill, 279). The symbolism of the surrender was completed on 24 November when the enemy ships moved out of the Firth of Forth to be interned at Scapa Flow, escorted by the 1st battlecruiser squadron, his former command.
Two of Beatty's political objectives were not achieved. First, despite his arguments before the war cabinet, his case for depriving Germany of Heligoland was not pursued. Second, his claim that in the final peace terms the bulk of Germany's most modern capital ships should be allotted to Britain, rather than to her allies, foundered on 21 June 1919 when the ships were scuttled by their crews at Scapa Flow. By then Beatty, having been promoted admiral of the fleet (the youngest ever) on 3 April, had hauled down his flag on 7 April, avoiding responsibility for this ironic achievement of his victory over the high seas fleet.
The period from the immediate aftermath of Jutland to the end of the war was the most testing time of Beatty's career. It also coincided with occasional meetings with his wife that were full of mutual misunderstanding. However, he wrote to her almost daily: sometimes apologizing for his fits of bad temper; more often taking her into his confidence over his professional difficulties and his uninhibited criticisms of his naval and political colleagues. He was to find consolation in his increasingly close relationship with Eugénie Godfrey-Faussett, the wife of Captain Bryan Godfrey-Faussett, an equerry and friend of George V. She was a beautiful woman well known in London society for her wit and gaiety. Beatty at first reacted cautiously to her letters of admiration for the hero of Jutland, but soon responded with increasing warmth. Public scandal had to be avoided, but they probably became lovers during his visit to London in April 1917 and met again during her visits to Scotland. When he became first sea lord more opportunities arose, but the need to maintain secrecy and Beatty's continuing loyalty to Ethel, as her mental instability became more apparent, meant that the relationship with Eugénie was never free from strain.
First sea lord, 1919–1927
Beatty's failure to invite Fisher and Jellicoe to witness the German surrender was typical of the arrogance that characterized the end of his sea service and delayed his appointment as first sea lord until September 1919. He took his succession for granted, argued that his views on future policy were being ignored, and proposed a change in his title, substituting 'commander of his majesty's fleet' for 'chief of the naval staff'. He also quarrelled with the current first sea lord, Sir Rosslyn Wemyss, who had always treated him with consideration. The Northcliffe press strongly argued for Beatty'simmediate appointment. In contrast, Churchill, now secretary for war and air in Lloyd George's coalition government, warned that it was necessary to wait for the present Admiralty board to accept deep cuts in naval expenditure before Beatty arrived to provide effective opposition. When the position was formally offered, Beatty accepted it on the traditional terms and soon enjoyed excellent relations with the first lord, Walter Long, who had been exasperated by his previous cantankerous attitude.
As professional head of the navy, Beatty considered that his primary duty was to ensure that Britain maintained the predominance at sea essential to her security, imperial power, and maritime trade. This depended on his ability to secure adequate funding from governments under strong pressures for economic and social reform and conscious of a widespread public abhorrence of preparations for war after the horrors and waste of 1914–18. This entailed working closely with politicians of all parties, fostering support from the press and organizations influential with public opinion. His impact on policy depended on the ability of his political superior, the first lord, to overcome the opposition of the Treasury, headed by the chancellor of the exchequer. Four of the five first lords under whom he served, Walter Long (who suffered from chronic ill health), Leopold Amery, Viscount Chelmsford, and William Bridgeman, respected his professional judgement and his genuine attempts to increase efficiency. They were equally impressed by his powers of argument in presenting the naval case in committee, relying on him to lead in all meetings except those of the cabinet. Occasionally the smooth relationship worked in reverse. During the struggle by the Admiralty in 1922–3 to regain control of naval aviation, Amery supported Beatty'sarguments in cabinet, but persuaded him not to lead a resignation of all the naval members of the Admiralty board when the final decision went against him.
The one exception to Beatty's successful partnerships with his first lords was his relationship with Lord Lee of Fareham, who led the British delegation to the Washington conference. Beatty appealed to Arthur Balfour, the foreign secretary and a former first lord. Balfour agreed with Beatty that the American policy for an immediate ‘holiday’ for capital ship construction harmed Britain, but accepted his cabinetcolleagues' decision that close political agreement with the Americans was the greater priority.
Beatty also showed considerable skill throughout his long term in office at cultivating political support for his naval policies: notably from Winston Churchill before he became chancellor of the exchequer; from Lord Curzon, foreign secretary; and from Lord Birkenhead, successively lord chancellor and secretary for India. He even found allies in the Labour government of 1924: J. H. Thomas, colonial secretary, Stephen Walsh, war secretary, and the lord chancellor, Haldane. He was pleasantly surprised by the active support given by the politically neutral Viscount Chelmsford, who accepted office as first lord only on the understanding that he would support Beatty'sconstruction programme and the development of the Singapore base.
Convinced that his major role was to be on the political stage, Beatty ensured that he was freed from detailed administrative labours by a trusted naval staff. These included Osmond de Brock, his former chief of staff, who had been deputy chief of naval staff since August 1919; Chatfield, his flag captain throughout the war, became assistant chief of naval staff in 1920 and controller in 1925. Roger Keyes, a close friend and admirer, succeeded de Brock in 1921, and he himself was succeeded by Frederick Field, whose professionalism Beatty highly respected. Personally close was the fleet paymaster Frank Spickernell, his secretary since his command of the battlecruiser squadron. These men supplied him with the technical information and draft policy papers which he needed to persuade cabinets, imperial conferences, and other influential bodies and occasions. He accepted that America's demand for naval parity could not be denied, but insisted that Britain's dependence on sea use necessitated superiority in cruisers.
It was inevitable that Beatty's most prominent political opponents were the successive chancellors of the exchequer, who were all equally convinced that drastic reductions in government expenditure were required to redress the vast expenditure and destruction of the war. The preparation of the annual naval estimates and the interdepartmental negotiations, and the ensuing parliamentary debates and final discussion with ministers to reach acceptable compromises, were at the centre of Beatty's attention.
Even before Beatty's arrival at the Admiralty, the board had warned the government that without immediately replacing battleships Britain would become the second naval power, with the battle cruiser Hood the only unit equal to the USA's capital ships after 1914. By 1920 the government was demanding a reduction of the 1920/21 naval estimates from £75 to £60 million, and set up a cabinet committee in December under Bonar Law, the leading Conservative in Lloyd George's coalition. Owing to Long's ill health, Beatty acted as a full member of the committee. This enabled him not only to present the Admiralty's case but also to select witnesses and cross-examine those hostile to his arguments. These included some senior officers, Herbert Richmondamong them, who alleged that the advent of submarine and air weapons could threaten the supremacy of the battleship. The committee agreed that their case had not been established, but split on the need for immediate construction. Beatty correctly stressed that the expertise of the British battleship-building industry would be dissipated, and this proved a major impediment to naval rearmament in the 1930s. Further deliberations were superseded by the Washington conference of 1921, and it was within its limitation of numbers and size of capital ships that the Royal Navy had to develop for the remainder of Beatty's term of office.
Feeling that he could play no decisive part in the closing stages at Washington, Beattyhad no hesitation in returning to London to counter a more serious threat to the navy's future. This was the 'Geddes Axe': The Interim Report on National Expenditure (1922), which recommended cuts in all elements of public expenditure. The naval estimates of 1922/3 were to be reduced from £81 million to £60 million, involving cuts in the numbers of officers and men. In his determination to limit the damage, Beatty received strong support from Churchill and Lord Birkenhead. The former was favourably impressed by the economies Beatty had already made, but the heavy reductions still remained, causing anger and bitterness in the service. The final result was a compromise, with estimates of just under £65 million being presented to parliament. The breakup of the coalition government and the Conservative administrations from October 1922 to January 1924 brought no respite. Disagreement over the estimates for 1924/5 was particularly fierce. Beatty decided to introduce a long-term building programme for cruisers, destroyers, aircraft-carriers, and submarines, estimated to cost £32.5 million over five years. This was opposed by Neville Chamberlain, the chancellor, but Leopold Amery, as first lord, secured estimates of £62 million, enabling the cruiser programme to begin. However, the fall of Baldwin and the succession of Ramsay MacDonald with a Labour minority government in January 1924 presented Beatty with an ideologically hostile cabinet, while Chancellor Philip Snowden was a particularly strong advocate of national economy. Beatty confronted them with a building programme of £260 million over nineteen years which would give Britain a 25 per cent superiority over Japan in cruisers and destroyers, as well as providing eighty submarines and four aircraft-carriers. A cabinet committee under J. R. Clynes (lord privy seal) considered Snowden's rejection of the expenditure involved. Beatty'sperformance in committee was highly impressive, and he gained parliamentary approval for his cruiser construction programme.
With the succession of Baldwin's second administration (December 1924–June 1929) Beatty might well have expected a more peaceful existence, but Winston Churchill, having rejoined the Conservatives, was determined to show himself a strong defender of the national purse against the spending departments. He used all his knowledge of the Admiralty's workings in the prolonged discussions of the 1925/6 estimates. He gradually shifted his attacks away from technical and financial matters to challenge Beatty's anticipation of Japan's likely hostility and naval capabilities over the next ten years. He proposed estimates of £60.5 million in reply to Beatty's proposed amounts, £65 million plus an additional sum for construction. A cabinet committee, this time under Lord Birkenhead, approved a programme of £58 million but extended it over seven years rather than the five favoured by Beatty.
Equally prominent in the continuous struggle for financial resources was Beatty's view of how to maintain Britain's position in the post-war world. He accepted that war with America was inconceivable. In Europe, after the defeat of Germany and the immersion of Russia in post-revolutionary chaos, a major war was improbable. The Far East was much more threatening. Japan was tending towards militaristic expansionism, and the likelihood that China would disintegrate, added to the spread of anti-colonialism throughout the area, would threaten the white dominions and India as well as Britain's vast commercial interests. America was unlikely to give active support, and the only possible defence should be provided by the presence of a British fleet to match Japan's naval potential. Such a fleet would require a base at Singapore to supply and maintain a force sent from European waters. This added greatly to the expense, and Beatty sought to persuade the overseas possessions to contribute to their own defence by joining an imperial navy under the Admiralty's strategic direction. This last requirement aroused strong suspicion from the increasingly independent dominions.
The control of naval aviation
In 1917 Beatty had welcomed the new Air Ministry and Royal Air Force as institutions likely to produce more effective maritime air power than the contemporary Admiraltycould. He was therefore willing to accept the proposal of the first chief of the air staff, Sir Hugh Trenchard, that the army and navy should refrain from controversy until the RAF had completed its organization. His own commitment to air power was fully illustrated during his command of the Grand Fleet and was shared by his predecessor as first sea lord, Rosslyn Wemyss. As soon as he entered the Admiralty, however, he decided that the existing arrangements with the Air Ministry were unsatisfactory and must be ended. Maurice Hankey, secretary of the committee of imperial defence, advised that this inter-service dispute demanded a high-level inquiry. This was established in 1923 under Balfour. Beatty skilfully narrowed his presentation to the committee to the demand that the navy should have its own small air arm, in the interests of both efficiency and economy. The existing arrangements produced a shortage of naval officers among aircrew, which would increase as more aircraft-carriers appeared. He argued that a sea commander must have confidence in air officers, whom he had himself trained, manning the planes, which were as much a part of the fleet as the guns of the ships. Despite the force of his advocacy, Beatty failed to convince the committee, who suspected that his ultimate aim was to weaken the Air Ministry. However, discussion in 1924 between Trenchard and Keyes, as deputy chief of naval staff, under the guidance of Haldane, decided that all future observers and ratings on the new carriers should be navally entered and trained. It was not until 1937 that full Admiralty control was established. The validity of Beatty's aim was demonstrated during the Second World War, when the Japanese and American navies, which had retained their own air forces, made such decisive use of air power in the war at sea.
As the construction of the Singapore base proceeded, the question of its defence raised a new dispute between the navy and the air force. Beatty's argument was that the base must be available by 1931, when navies would be free from the Washington limitations. He was sure that Japan would take advantage of this, and that only the completion and security of the naval base could provide a deterrent or actual defence. By 1924 the Admiralty planned to send a powerful fleet from home waters through the Mediterranean to Singapore. The most likely enemy attack would be by naval gunfire from Japan's fleet. Beatty argued that this should be provided in the time available by the mounting of heavy guns, which would keep Japan's fleet out of bombarding range. When the fleet had arrived and replenished itself and the base depots, it would move out to destroy the Imperial Japanese Navy. However, Trenchard and his supporters maintained that, given the government's belief in the unlikelihood of major war within ten years, the RAF should be equipped with torpedo bombers and fighter escorts capable of winning any naval action. This was ‘substitution’ in its starkest form, and Beatty fiercely resisted, particularly in the new forum of the chiefs of staff committee inaugurated in 1923. He was appointed chairman and was strongly supported by two successive chiefs of the imperial general staff, Lord Cavan and Sir George Milne, on this and other disputes with Trenchard.
Despite the continuing dispute over air power, Beatty's conduct of the business of the chiefs of staff committee showed a broadening of his views on inter-service relationships. In 1925 he initiated the chiefs' production of an annual review of defence policy. This was supplemented by increased attention to the quality of joint staff training and the preparation of war plans. He also took the lead in the organization and syllabus of the new imperial defence college, which studied problems forwarded by the chiefs. He was even willing to consider the creation of a Ministry of Defence, provided that the three single service ministers disappeared and the chiefs of staff were made directly responsible only to a secretary of state for defence.
The Jutland controversy, 1916–1927
The post-war analysis of Jutland proved controversial. The technological novelty of the battle, the impact on the guns' effectiveness of frequent changes in visibility, and the difficulties of keeping accurate records all combined to produce widely differing views on what had actually happened. The controversy in Britain was bound to be particularly bitter because her numerically superior fleet, positioned between the enemy and his base, failed to bring about the decisive action expected by the nation and the navy. Was it due to errors in command judgement, gunnery skill, or defective ammunition? The popular press took sides in the disputes which broke out in the service.
Jellicoe led the way with The Grand Fleet (1919), which tended to under-represent the achievement of the battlecruiser force. Beatty's response was more bitter and prolonged. Year by year he became increasingly convinced that a decisive victory could have been won but for Jellicoe's lack of offensive spirit and willingness to take risks. This was a valid criticism. Less acceptable was the use of his personal authority to draw a contrast in all Admiralty publications between the battlecruisers' success in achieving their mission of leading the enemy into Jellicoe's grasp and the battle fleet's failure to seize the opportunity offered it. He never admitted any failures on his own part. Above all, he never produced a convincing answer to Jellicoe's complaint at his failure to report the enemy's exact position and course; the commander-in-chief needed this to guide his crucial decision on how to deploy the Grand Fleet in such a way as to cut off the enemy from its home ports. On the contrary, he ordered Captain J. E. T. Harper, the principal author of the Official Record of the Battle of Jutland, to alter diagrams and text to reinforce his interpretations. Although Harper's work was completed in 1920, it was not published in full until 1927 because of irreconcilable disagreements with Jellicoeand his supporters. Beatty also backed 'The naval staff appreciation of Jutland', written by Commander A. C. Dewar and Captain K. G. B. Dewar as a confidential book; completed in 1922, it was never authorized for issue in full because of its partisan interpretations and criticism of Jellicoe. It was never officially issued, and Beatty'simmediate successor, Charles Madden, ordered it to be destroyed in an attempt to end the harmful effects of the dispute. Beatty's copy survives in his papers in the National Maritime Museum. The material was sent to Sir Julian Corbett, author of The History of the Great War: Naval Operations, but this did not protect him from the Admiralty'sinsertion of disclaimers of his judgements in general and from its rejection in volume 3, dealing with Jutland specifically, of his tendency to dilute the operational primacy of the decisive battle. The bitter denunciations between contemporary supporters of Beatty and Jellicoe inevitably died away, but the controversy about what happened at Jutland, and why, retains its inexhaustible fascination for naval historians.
The 1926 review of defence policy, reiterated in Beatty's address to the imperial conference and supported by Sir George Milne (chief of imperial general staff), pointed to a basic degree of tri-service thinking. Politicians agreed that British interests demanded global military capability, and that this depended on freedom of sea passage, without which any system of imperial defence would collapse. This could be provided only by a fleet built to Washington standards, including battleships and aircraft-carriers, and, because aircraft would be used in the security of sea passage, air developments should be carefully watched.
At Beatty's death ten years later the international scene had changed for the worse. But Britain's relative weakness was due more to lack of political will and inadequate provision for defence than to naval conservatism. In his farewell letter Hankeydescribed him as the only first sea lord of the twentieth century
who could really talk on even terms to the highest cabinet ministers, and stand up to them in argument. Fisher is an exception, but Fisher was a crank, and even he didn't really state a case clearly … you have tremendous achievements to your name but your successful piloting of the COS Committee through its early days … will be one of your great contributions to the Empire's welfare.Beatty Papers, 2.349
Retirement and last years
Retiring in his fifty-seventh year, Beatty could well have expected many years with adequate time and money for the country pursuits which meant so much to him. He could also look back with satisfaction on the outstanding marks of distinction awarded to him in 1919: the earldom, with its well-chosen courtesy title, baron of the North Sea, the parliamentary grant of £100,000, and the Order of Merit. Wider recognition had come from the universities, with their honorary doctorates, and from the acclamation of the press. Similar recognition was given to other war leaders, including Jellicoe, but none shared Beatty's popularity on the lower deck.
On his retirement on 29 July 1927 Beatty was sworn of the privy council, which facilitated his continuing membership of the committee of imperial defence, and in the following years he used his membership of the House of Lords to speak on naval matters. He spoke from the cross-benches to mark his freedom from party allegiance, and his major speeches were praised for their conciseness and clarity. He was rightly famous for his bravery and spirit; his capacity for mature thought and judgement should equally be recognized.
Despite these official opportunities to further the navy's interests, extended as they were by supporting many voluntary organizations such as the Navy League, there were clouds over the future. Beatty's personal bitterness about Jutland, and the continuing dispute between his and Jellicoe's more extreme partisans, did no credit to the service. The flames of controversy were fanned among his supporters by political memoirs such as Churchill's The World Crisis (1923–31) and Lloyd George's War Memoirs (1933–6).
At a personal level, Beatty's peace of mind was constantly disturbed by his wife's mental instability. From 1919 she resumed the continental excursions which had relieved her chronic restlessness, now more significantly seeking a ‘cure’. Once back in Britain she became increasingly subject to varying periods of eccentric behaviour and depression. Despite her frequent charges of lack of sympathy, her husband was remarkably tolerant for one who had long admitted to a bad temper. He refused to seek separation or divorce, and persuaded his close friends, including Eugénie, to give her companionship and diversion, and himself gave her constant support in the deepening melancholia in which she died at home on 17 July 1932.
By this time Beatty's own physical weakness was becoming apparent. A motoring accident in 1922 had fractured his breastbone, and this led to recurrent problems. In the 1930s a series of riding accidents resulted in a broken arm and a shattered jaw, which required immobility for three months. Recovery was followed by a further fall, resulting in more broken ribs. By 1935 this catalogue of accidents resulted in breathing difficulties and heart strain. He was the last man to accept medical advice for complete rest when it conflicted with his sense of duty. He insisted on acting as a pallbearer at Jellicoe's funeral in November 1935 and on attending George V's funeral in January 1936. After this he did rest, but it was too late, and he died of heart failure at his London home, 17 Grosvenor Square, on 12 March 1936. At his own funeral procession four days later his coffin was draped with the union flag, which he had so proudly flown as admiral of the fleet on Queen Elizabeth in April 1919. He was buried on 16 March in the crypt of St Paul's, close to Nelson and to Jellicoe. On 5 May 1936 Baldwin's motion for a memorial was carried in the Commons. However, it was not until 21 October 1948 that memorial busts to Jellicoe and himself were unveiled in Trafalgar Square.
Although best known as the gallant battlecruiser commander of 1914–16, Beatty proved himself as a highly effective fleet commander-in-chief, first sea lord, and chief of defence staff. The ability to meet new challenges demanded deep professional commitment and mental toughness, and he demonstrated possession of these qualities heroically throughout an exceptionally long career of high responsibility. DNB Bryan Ranft
Henry L Gates was a portrait painter , he painted noteable personalites such as Arthur Conan Doyle, William Morris, Viscount Nuffield; Evan Frederick Morgan, 2nd Viscount Tredegar; Charles Gordon-Watson and many others.