The Grand Fleet, 1914-1910: Its Creation, Development, and Work

By ADMIRAL VISCOUNT JELLICOE OF SCAPA. New York: George H. Doran Company. 1919. Large 8vo, xvi+510 pp. Illustrated by photographs, plans, and diagrams. $6.00.
THIS fine book is an historical document of immense value; indeed, we can reach an idea of ils importance only by imagining what it would have meant to us if Nelson, while still on active service, had written the epic of Trafalgar and the Nile. Yet the book — and this is one of its most admirable qualities — is no historical treatise, but a narrative as plain, modest, and straightforward as its author s mind. Nowhere is it polemic in tone; nowhere does the author, often the object of the bitterest personal attack, seek justification. No book has ever borne braver witness to the comradeship, gallantry, and simplicity born of the great traditions of the sea.
The book begins with Lord Jellicoe’s appointment. to the command of the home fleets; there follows a history of the preparations taken at the outbreak of the war. a survey of the condition of the Fleet, and certain chapters which the general reader is frankly warned against as being of a ‘technical character’ — a warning which the general reader, however, will do well to disregard.
The second half of the book contains a record of the Dogger Bank action, which, although interesting, sheds no fresh light on the battle; a history of the attempts made to entice the enemy lo action; and four long chapters on the greatest action of all. The most significant matter dealt with in the first half of the book is the astounding condition of the great fleet; the point of the second being, of course, the Commander in Chief’s own résumé of Jutland the disputed.
For the first time we learn that ‘the Fleet, the one and only factor vital to the existence, of the Empire.’ possessed, at the outbreak of the war, not a single port safe from submarine attack (the pictures of the battleships flurrying like frightened birds from Scapa to Lough Swilly would be a matter of sardonic jest were it not genuinely tragic); that there was a shortage of destroyers; that the arrangements for air-scouting were primitive; that the searchlight problem had been overlooked; and that in October. 1914, the German fleet of 15 dreadnoughts, 4 battleCruisers, and 88 destroyers, if it had put to sea, would have found a British fleet of only 17 dreadnoughts, 5 battle cruisers, and 42 destroyers ready to give it battle. On so uncertain a superiority hung the future of the world!
Lord Jellicoe offers no defense of his tactics at Jutland. Feeling certain that all careful readers cannot fail to approve his decisions, he gives us in clear straightforward terms his own story of the battle. And what a story it is — the epic of a hundred thousand men, of battle by night and day over 64 miles of the tragic and violated sea!
A Hue book, a great book, of gallant work gallantly told. H. B. B.