What proves that one is a "professional," in the best sense
of the word? What convinces others that one is a "professional"
naval officer? Is it charisma? Is it, perhaps, a way of walking or talking,
or even the display of mannerisms such as gesturing, or how one holds
one's head? The Baron, like many in the navies of both Germany and Great
Britain, had studied the likely leaders of the foe during the years before
the Great War. His letters indicate appreciation for the dash of Vice-Admiral
Beatty and the elan he inspired in others. He did not, it seems, hold
as high an opinion of Vice-Admiral Sturdee. The appointment of Admiral
J[ellic]oe to lead the Grand Fleet came as somewhat of a surprise to many,
but my great-grandfather held him in high regard, deeming J[ellic]oe a
"consummate professional naval officer." There were several
other, more senior RN admirals (all seemingly more eligible for J[ellic]oe's
post) that the Baron would have far preferred to face. Events would, of
course, validate that opinion after Admiral J[ellic]oe placed the main
body of the Grand Fleet where the RN had always specified it should go:
alongside the foe, beam-to-beam, guns blazing. Faced with unexpected reverses,
suddenly and unaccountably at risk of a fleet-threatening disaster, J[ellic]oe
promptly and cooly cast off that same hoary tradition, extricated ex
tempore what was physically possible, and got them home without any
outward evidence of considering the personal cost to himself.
Admiral J[ellic]oe's apologists and detractors within the RN and the
British government were legion after Die Kaiserschlacht, indeed,
their numbers may be growing still. His supporters asserted that he would
have decisively crossed the "T" of the HSF, save for Sturdee's
failure. His detractors claimed, variously, that he should have stayed
in the Line vs. Line duel longer, or that he should have turned (later)
onto 090 instead of his choice of 270. This historian feels the former
underestimate J[ellic]oe's foe that day, and the latter underestimate
the risk to the entire GF. Any student who seeks balance must look for
sources outside the organizations of study. For that reason, historians
have always turned to the work of Admiral Bradford Bonhomme Smith of the
United States Navy. Admiral BB Smith, then a captain, was somehow allowed
the apparent free run of the bridge of J[ellic]oe's flagship, HMS Iron
Duke, throughout Die Kaiserschlacht.* How Smith, an officer
of a major, supposedly-neutral power came to be there was one of the subjects
of the later famous diplomatic inquiries.
Admiral Smith found no fault in J[ellic]oe's handling of the GF main
body in the hours and minutes before the Lines engaged. Smith saw no alternative
other than proceeding in support of hard-hit Sturdee, whose force was
being pursued by the enemy. As one British source put it in an earlier
conflict, "[i]t was a very near thing." This time, however,
it did not go for the British as the Baron's forces caught and again attacked
Sturdee as the GF main body just reached sight distance. Smith saved his
strongest praise, however, for J[ellic]oe's personal demeanor after the
battle was over and the shattered GF struggled to reach port. Smith wrote,
echoing the earlier words of Vice-Admiral Baron Letters, that Admiral
J[ellic]oe demonstrated then that he was a "consummate professional
------------------------ Lady Christine Letters, ibid, Appendix D
(* Footnote: Another officer of a neutral country was also there, Admiral
(then also a captain) Guilherme Loureiro of Brazil. Admiral Loureiro confined
his subsequently published material to his impressions of the battle itself.
The material (all by Melancia Press, Rio de Janeiro) is of considerable
interest in its own right but, regrettably, Loureiro did not write to
the character of Admiral J[ellic]oe. In his later years, Loureiro retired
to his vast estates and refused all requests for interviews, content,
instead, to putter in his beloved vineyards and melon groves.)
---- On the Approaches to Scapa Flow, Iron Duke, #2 barbette
"Run your fingers over that," Captain Smith suggested, pointing
to the scorch marks on the flash doors.
"My fingers should 'run,' ah, very well," replied Captain Loureiro,
who had reluctantly assented to climb down there to see what the American
so diffidently offered to show him. Once again, the "English"
spoken by the American officer had confounded him, used as he was to the
speech of their RN counterparts. His own language also was rich with idiom,
so it did not really bother him. He extended his hand to the area the
other had indicated.
"Ah, the metal is deeply, ah, scored and pitted. Even well into
"Yes," Smith nodded his head. "Embossed," got it,
he thought. "The other side of the doors shows burn, as well. I checked."
The American looked around, sweeping the inside of the barbette again
with his eyes. Scorch marks were everywhere in grim mosaics. The extent
and depth of the scoring varied, seemingly without a pattern. Others spots
showed gouges from objects unknown, the metal splashed in ductile response
to the impacts. Stains of hydraulic fluid and worse hinted at the other
results of the event within the second turret of Iron Duke. Members
of the crew were struggling with one hoist mechanism. From time to time,
glances were cast their way. Pursuant to orders, however, none of the
crew had attempted to police the barbette itself further.
Smith, reflecting further as the other attache crouched closer to the
closure line, had been on the bridge when the order was given. Once dawn
approached and it was clear that the battle was over, the admiral had
ordered a halt to all non-essential repairs. Never had Smith imagined
such an order.
"Am I not clear, gentlemen?" J[ellic]oe had demanded, as apparently
the expressions on the RN officers betrayed that they, too, were unfamiliar
with that command. "The evidence is to be preserved in situ and not
to be disturbed without my expressed authorization." For just a moment,
Smith had seen the banked fire in the man as his glance had tracked across
the others as threateningly as Iron Duke's own turrets. The chorus
of "aye, aye, sir" had been immediate and vigorous, and the
officers had hastened to dispatch the commands to the rest of the main
It must have been like the fires of hell in here, thought Smith again.
He had heard that about 80 men had died in here. Looking around, he did
not doubt it.
"Merda," uttered the other attache softly. His voice was muffled,
still bent over the flash doors.
"Murder?" Smith asked.
"Yes, we almost all were, right here."
"Uh-huh, it's a possible explanation, don't you think?"
"It is true. I would argue it not. Not after this."
They both stared at what they now realized was nearly their death. A
brilliant order, Smith was thinking. After a few moments, the Brazilian
attache spoke again. Somewhat in shock, he struggled for words.
"The battle was, um, abslutamente, an absolute, er, barafunda, confusion.
Those hits up above struck down many with their impact and splinters.
Some of it was very near us, yes. But the greatest threat was not there
at all. Instead, it was down here, por detrás dos bastidores, where
we could not see, that we almost died." He swallowed. "It changes
this battle, for me. We are alive, but so close it was. And I did not
The Brazilian officer stood back up and turned to Smith.
"I want to see the sky again. Let us ascend from this place."
Smith was not alone in thinking hellfire had been here.
Later, back on the bridge, Smith spent the time watching the diminished
formation working its way into harbor. As unobtrusively as possible, he
continued his study of the GF CO. At some point, the other had accomplished
a change of uniform, as the torn and stained sleeve was no longer in evidence.
If there had been a wound beneath the braided fabric, the admiral had
given no indication of it. His cheek and ear on that side, though, still
showed the marks of the flying shards of one of the hits that had struck
the bridge area just after 7:00 PM yesterday.
A cruiser group neared. It was one that had not been at the battle. He
thought it was part of the Harwich Force, but Smith had long lost track
of the disparate RN light ship formations. The crew of the unmarked ship
gaped at the damage on Iron Duke, but Smith saw petty officers
quickly put an end to it. There were still stares, but they were more
covert. Smith would see this pattern repeat itself several times on the
way into the harbor.
One of the aides came onto the bridge and approached the admiral.
"Sir, the report has been confirmed. Phaeton's group does
have prisoners. The number they give is 102. Most are from CL Elbing,
the others apparently from two or more TBs."
Excellent, thought Smith. At least there'll be some chance to figure
out what had happened on the other side. He, for one, would like to know
what orders Scheer had given or been given. They must have been far, far
different from what he and the British had ever been told. The apparent
breakdown in intelligence was dismaying. Perhaps a senior officer was
among the rescued and would be eager to brag a bit and, in so doing, lift
a bit of the fog of war.
"Sir, KGV reports they're down to 8 knots, but the bulkhead
appears still to be holding."
Erin's report, an hour before, had been much the same. Sprung
hatches and buckled plating had made flooding on both ships a constant
threat all night.
J[ellic]oe spoke quietly to a senior aide, who nodded and headed off
the bridge. The rest of the admiral's party was making preparations for
going ashore, presumably for the admiral to make his report in person.
Smith realized he was along the other's general path, nodded to the other
(the officer's deeply circled eyes did not give any indication that he
had noticed), and turned to follow after a moment. The aide went directly
to the wireless where he made inquiries. "Any more on rescues?"
Smith heard, shamelessly eavesdropping out in the passageway. "No,
sir. And we've heard from all the groups now, sir."
Smith continued towards the wardroom for another mug of tea. He'd've
preferred scalding black, viscous, USN chief's mess coffee. Actually,
after that last bit, a heavy slug of rum might have been better still.
There were thousands missing. Thousands! He didn't need to return to the
bridge to see the admiral's reaction. It'd be a simple "very well,"
and that's all. But Smith would remember that briefest glance into the
controlled furnace within the man. Outside, J[ellic]oe was cool, even
cold. Revealed in that moment, though, was a fire as hot as any of the
towers that had flared above his ships.
Professional, Smith thought. The man was a consummate professional.