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Beatty, Admiral of the Fleet Earl David

Admiral Beatty himself was not a native of the county. He was, in fact, born in County Wexford, Ireland in the year 1871.

Beatty joined the Royal Navy in 1884, and partook in several conflicts of the era, including the Sudan (1896 – 1898). In 1912, he was appointed Commander of the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron. The Great War broke out two years later, and Beatty’s competence as a Naval Commander would be put to the test.

Previous to the war, the navy had heavily invested in HMS Dreadnaught and the subsequent class of the same name. The Grand Fleet, containing many such vessels, was assembled in northern Scotland, with Admiral John Jellicoe in command. This fleet became very important during Beatty’s life in the Navy.

Earl Beatty did prove his competence as a naval commander at battles, partaking in such battles as Heligoland Blight, and Dogger Bank. However, his true chance came at the Battle of the Jutland. It was at this battle that he made his famous statement “there appears to be something wrong with our bloody ships today”.

The Battle Cruiser Squadron faced heavy losses, however the main part of the Grand Fleet, under Jellicoe, and did not engage the enemy. Both governments claimed victory, Britain suffered heavy losses and a “scape goat” was needed. The admiralty looked towards the difference in loss figures between the Grand Fleet and Beatty’s battle cruisers. Jellicoe was criticised for not taking the fleet into action, and allowing the German Navy to escape. Jellicoe was appointed First Sea Lord, and he was replaced by Beatty as the Grand Fleet commander.

He disappointed many of his supporters, continuing many of Jellicoe’s policies, however he did support Lloyd George in the introduction of convoys in the Battle of the Atlantic.

In 1919, he was appointed Admiral of the Fleet and First Sea Lord until 1927 on his retirement. Also during 1919, he was created 1st Earl Beatty, Baron Beatty of the North Sea and Brooksby.

His life in Leicestershire was spent at Brooksby Hall (now an agricultural college), and during the war he and his wife performed many services for the public of Leicestershire, including opening up their home first as a VAD Hospital under the 5th Northern General Hospital, and later a hospital for Naval Personnel.

By Thomas J Williams