David Beatty
Royal Navy admiral of the fleet
David Beatty
Admiral of the Fleet David Richard Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty, GCB, OM, GCVO, DSO was an admiral in the Royal Navy. Achieving career success at an early age, he commanded the British battlecruisers at the Battle of Jutland in 1916, a tactically indecisive engagement after which his aggressive approach was contrasted with the caution of his commander Admiral Jellicoe.
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  • 1936
    Beatty died at around 1 am on 12 March 1936.
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  • 1935
    Beatty spent much of his life (when not at sea) in Leicestershire, and lived at Brooksby Hall and Dingley Hall. Beatty's old commander Admiral John Jellicoe died on 19 November 1935.
    More Details Hide Details Already suffering from heart failure, and sick with influenza, Beatty defied doctors' orders and left his bed to act as a pallbearer, saying, "What will the Navy say if I fail to attend Jellicoe's funeral?" He was so obviously ill that, as the funeral procession passed up Fleet Street, a bystander sent a glass of brandy out to him.
  • 1931
    Stephen Roskill wrote that whilst Beatty and his disciple Chatfield deserve some praise for the Royal Navy's comparative readiness in 1939, his main achievement was to maintain the morale of the Navy at a time of serious defence cuts, and that without his strong leadership the Royal Navy might have suffered more events like the Invergordon Mutiny of 1931.
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  • 1927
    Beatty was appointed a member of the Privy Council on 25 July 1927.
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    By the time of his retirement from the Royal Navy in July 1927 a great deal of time was being spent preparing for the Coolidge Conference in Geneva, although Beatty did not himself attend as he had to remain in London to supervise the deployment of naval and marine forces against nationalist unrest in China and Egypt.
    More Details Hide Details On his last day in office (30 July) he attended a Cabinet at which Bridgeman reported the breakdown of the Geneva Conference as the Americans refused to accept any gun smaller than 8-inch for their cruisers, and after leaving office he congratulated Bridgeman that the Americans had not been able to achieve "command of the sea at any cost".
  • 1926
    In 1926 Beatty was considered for the post of Governor General of Canada but was rejected by the Colonial Secretary Leo Amery as he had "no manners and an impossible American wife".
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  • 1924
    Despite further rumours that he would resign, Beatty remained in office when the Conservatives took power in the autumn of 1924.
    More Details Hide Details Supported by the First Lord of the Admiralty William Bridgeman, he clashed with the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Winston Churchill, once again over the number of cruisers required by the Royal Navy. At this stage of his career Churchill was opposed to what he saw as excessive defence spending. This may seem odd in light of his previous and subsequent reputation, but in the 1920s no major war seemed to be on the horizon. Beatty also at this time pressed hard for the return of responsibility for naval aviation from the newly formed Royal Air Force to the Royal Navy.
    During the First Labour Government of 1924, with Japan increasingly hostile to the UK, Beatty lobbied the Clynes Committee for construction of the Singapore Naval Base to continue.
    More Details Hide Details Beatty wrote out, but did not send, a threat of resignation. The government were trying to cut back on the numbers of cruisers constructed; the other Sea Lords attributed the building of the Kent class to Beatty's lobbying, but government desire to alleviate shipyard unemployment was probably a more important factor.
  • 1922
    In this capacity he was involved in negotiating the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 in which it was agreed that the USA, Britain and Japan should set their navies in a ratio of 5:5:3, with France and Italy maintaining smaller fleets.
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  • 1919
    Beatty was granted the Freedom of the City of London on 16 June 1919 at the same ceremony as Lord Haig.
    More Details Hide Details In June 1920, the Great Central Railway gave the name Earl Beatty to one of their newly built 4-6-0 express passenger locomotives, no. 1164 of class 9P (LNER class B3). It carried the name until withdrawal in September 1947.
    At Beatty's funeral his coffin was draped in the Union Flag flown by his flagship in 1919.
    More Details Hide Details The Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Lang, said "In him something of the spirit of Nelson seemed to have come back". The Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, called in the House of Commons for a public memorial to Beatty to be erected, but no action was taken until after the Second World War, when busts of Beatty and Jellicoe were unveiled in Trafalgar Square on 21 October (Trafalgar Day) 1948. Beatty had requested in his will that he would like to be buried next to his wife Ethel at Dingley: however he was actually buried at St Paul's Cathedral and therefore the double grave at Dingley Church contains only his wife's body. A number of serious errors have been identified in Beatty's handling of his squadron at the Battle of Jutland: After the war a report of the battle was prepared by the Admiralty under First Sea Lord Rosslyn Wemyss. Before the report was published, Beatty was himself appointed First Sea Lord, and immediately requested amendments to the report. When the authors refused to comply, he ordered it to be destroyed and instead had prepared an alternative report, which proved highly critical of Jellicoe. Considerable argument broke out as a result, with significant numbers of servicemen disputing the published version, including Admiral Reginald Bacon, who wrote his own book about the battle, criticising the version sponsored by Beatty and highly critical of Beatty's own part in the battle.
    He became First Sea Lord on 1 November 1919.
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    He was created 1st Earl Beatty, Viscount Borodale and Baron Beatty of the North Sea and Brooksby on 18 October 1919.
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    Beatty was promoted to full admiral on 1 January 1919 and to Admiral of the Fleet on 1 May 1919.
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  • 1918
    Beatty escorted the German High Seas Fleet to internment at Scapa Flow in November 1918 giving the order from his flagship that "the German Flag will be hauled down at sunset and will not be raised again without permission".
    More Details Hide Details This was not a lawful order, as the fleet remained the property of the German Government having been interned rather than having surrendered, but nevertheless Beatty enforced it.
  • 1916
    Beatty succeeded Admiral John Jellicoe as commander-in-chief of the Grand Fleet and received promotion to the acting rank of admiral in December 1916.
    More Details Hide Details With his dashing style, he was the antithesis of his predecessor. Beatty's marriage was failing disastrously at the time, and the result was to be a decade-long love affair between Beatty and Eugénie Godfrey-Faussett, wife of Captain Bryan Godfrey-Faussett. Under Beatty's command the Grand Fleet maintained its dominance of the North Sea until the end of the War.
  • 1915
    He was confirmed in the rank of vice-admiral on 9 August 1915.
    More Details Hide Details He led the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron at the actions at Heligoland Bight (1914), Dogger Bank (1915) and Jutland (1916). Jutland proved to be decisive in Beatty's career, despite the loss of two of his battlecruisers. Beatty is reported to have remarked (to his Flag Captain, Ernle Chatfield, later First Sea Lord in the early 1930s), "there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today," after two of them had exploded within half an hour during the battle. In any case Beatty's actions succeeded in drawing the German High Seas Fleet into action against the British Grand Fleet.
  • 1914
    On the eve of the First World War in 1914, Beatty was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath and promoted to acting vice-admiral a month later.
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  • 1913
    Beatty became Rear-Admiral Commanding the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron on 1 March 1913.
    More Details Hide Details Beatty was late taking up his new post, choosing not to cut short a holiday in Monte Carlo. On his eventual arrival, he set about drafting standing orders regarding how the squadron was to operate. He noted, "Captains to be successful must possess, in a marked degree, initiative, resource, determination, and no fear of accepting responsibility". He went on " as a rule instructions will be of a very general character so as to avoid interfering with the judgement and initiative of captains The admiral will rely on captains to use all the information at their disposal to grasp the situation quickly and anticipate his wishes, using their own discretion as to how to act in unforeseen circumstances " The approach outlined by Beatty contradicted the views of many within the navy, who felt that ships should always be closely controlled by their commanding admiral, and harked back to reforms attempted by Admiral George Tryon. It is argued that Tryon had attempted to introduce greater independence and initiative amongst his captains, which he believed would be essential in the confusion of a real war situation, but had ironically been killed in an accident caused by captains rigorously obeying incorrect but precise orders issued by Tryon himself.
  • 1912
    Churchill – who was himself only thirty-eight years old in 1912 – took to him immediately and he was appointed Private Naval Secretary to the First Lord against the advice of First Sea Lord Sir Arthur Wilson.
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    He was approaching two years on half pay (which would trigger automatic retirement from the navy) when on 8 January 1912 his career was saved by the new First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill.
    More Details Hide Details Churchill had met Beatty when Beatty was commander of a gunboat on the Nile supporting the army at the Battle of Omdurman, in which Churchill took part as a cavalry officer. A "probably apocryphal" story relates that as Beatty walked into Churchill's office at the Admiralty, Churchill looked him over and said, "You seem very young to be an Admiral." Unfazed, Beatty replied, "And you seem very young to be First Lord."
  • 1910
    He was promoted to rear-admiral on 1 January 1910 by a special order in council since he had not completed the requisite time as a captain.
    More Details Hide Details He was offered the post of second-in-command of the Atlantic Fleet, but declined it and asked for one in the Home Fleet. As the Atlantic Fleet post was a major command, the Admiralty were very unimpressed and his attitude nearly ruined his career. Beatty, as a rapidly promoted war hero, with no financial worries and with a degree of support in Royal circles, felt more confident than most naval officers in standing firm on requesting a posting nearer home.
  • 1906
    He then became the naval advisor to the Army Council in 1906 and, after having been appointed a naval Aide-de-Camp to the King on 5 November 1908, he became captain of the battleship HMS Queen in the Atlantic Fleet in December 1908.
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  • 1903
    Beatty took command of the cruiser HMS Arrogant in the Mediterranean Fleet in November 1903 and then commanded the cruiser HMS Suffolk in the Mediterranean Fleet from October 1904.
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  • 1902
    Beatty worked hard to raise efficiency so that she was highly rated in gunnery and other competitions by the time he left the ship 19 December 1902.
    More Details Hide Details Ethel decided not to be left behind so rented the Capua Palace on Malta, home port of the Mediterranean Fleet, where she became part of the island's high society.
    In May 1902 he was passed fit for sea duty and was appointed captain of the cruiser HMS Juno on 2 June, spending two months in exercises with the Channel Fleet under Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson before joining the Mediterranean Fleet.
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  • 1901
    Beatty and Ethel married on 22 May 1901 at the registry office, St. George's, Hanover Square, London with no family attending.
    More Details Hide Details Although Arthur Tree was himself from a wealthy American family, he now had to adjust to reduced circumstances without Ethel's support. He elected to remain in Britain and their son Ronald remained with him. Ronald and his mother were never reconciled from his perception that she had deserted his father, but he visited in later life and became friendly with Beatty. Ronald later became a member of parliament and, during the Second World War became a link between the British and United States governments, lending his country house, Ditchley Park near Oxford, to Winston Churchill for weekend visits when the official residences were considered unsafe. Beatty and Ethel set up home at Hanover Lodge in Regent's Park, London. The couple had two sons, David Field Beatty, 2nd Earl Beatty (1905–1972) born at the Capua Palace in Malta, and the Hon. Peter Randolph Louis Beatty (1910–1949). His marriage to a very wealthy heiress allowed Beatty an independence that most other officers lacked. She is reputed to have commented after he was threatened with disciplinary action following the straining of his ship's engines, "What? Court-martial my David? I'll buy them a new ship."
    Arthur agreed to co-operate, and filed for divorce in America on the grounds of desertion, which was granted 9 May 1901.
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  • 1900
    Beatty did not respond until after surgery on his arm in September 1900 when he wrote, I landed from China with my heart full of rage, and swore I did not care if I ever saw you again, or if I were killed or not.
    More Details Hide Details And now I have arrived with the firm determination not to see you at all in my own mind... Unfortunately I shall go on loving you to the bitter end... To me always a Queen, if not always mine, Good-bye. Despite this estrangement, the couple again met foxhunting and resumed a discreet relationship. Marshall Field was at first unimpressed by the impecunious Beatty as a future son-in-law, but was persuaded by his heroic reputation, impressive record of promotion and future prospects. There was the possibility that Field might revoke the settlement he had made on his daughter at the time of her first marriage and the new couple would have no means of support. Beatty's father was also unhappy about the match, fearing a repeat of the difficulties he had faced with his own relationship with a married woman, but with the added risk of publicity because both Beatty and Ethel were famous and the risk that Beatty's illegitimacy might be exposed. Beatty went so far as to consult a fortune teller, Mrs. Roberts, who predicted a fine outcome to the match. Ethel wrote to Arthur, telling him that it was her firm intention never to live with him again as his wife, though not naming any particular person or reason.
    He later took part in the successful relief of the naval brigade and was promoted to captain on 8 November 1900.
    More Details Hide Details Beatty returned to Britain, where he required an operation to restore proper use of his left arm. Beatty had returned from leave after the Sudan campaign, but finding life in Ireland at the family home not to his taste, stayed instead with his brother at Newmarket, Suffolk. The location allowed him good hunting, and access to aristocratic houses where his recent heroic reputation from the campaign made him an honoured guest. Out hunting one day he chanced to meet Ethel Tree, daughter of Chicago department store founder Marshall Field. Beatty was immediately taken with her, for her good looks and her ability to hunt. The immediate difficulty with the match was that Ethel was married already to Arthur Tree, with a son, Ronald Tree. After the Boxer Campaign, the couple had at first exchanged letters, which Beatty signed 'Jack', as Ethel was still a married woman and discretion was advised. Ethel became involved with another man and the exchange of letters ceased but on Beatty's return she sent him a telegram and letter inviting him to resume their friendship.
    On 11 June 1900, Beatty and 150 men from HMS Barfleur landed as part of a force of 2,400 defending Tientsin from 15,000 Chinese troops plus Boxers.
    More Details Hide Details On 16 June 1900 the Taku forts were bombarded and captured to ensure ships could still reach the port. Fierce fighting broke out throughout the foreign areas and railway station, and Beatty was injured.
    In the summer of 1900 the rebellion reached Peking, where the German legation was attacked and foreign nationals withdrew to the relative safety of the Legation Quarter.
    More Details Hide Details Government troops joined forces with the rebels and the railway to the Treaty Port of Tientsin was interrupted. Admiral Sir Edward Seymour, then the Commander-in-Chief of the China Station, sent reinforcements to Peking, but they were insufficient to defend the Legation. An attempt was therefore made to send more troops from Tientsin, where British ships had been joined by French, German, Russian, American, Austrian, Italian and Japanese. The international naval brigade force of naval marines placed itself under the senior officer present, which was Seymour. After an urgent call for help from the Legation, Seymour set out on 10 June 1900 with 2,000 troops to attempt to break through to Peking in the Seymour Expedition. The force got about half way before abandoning the attempt because the railway line had been torn up. By now rebels had begun destroying the track behind the force, cutting it off from Tientsin.
  • 1899
    Beatty was appointed executive officer of the small battleship HMS Barfleur, flagship of the China Station, on 20 April 1899.
    More Details Hide Details The first year of his tour of duty was uneventful, but unrest against foreigners was growing in China. The Boxer movement was a secret Chinese peasant society committed to resisting oppression both from foreigners and from the Chinese government. The Empress Dowager Tzu-hsi partly encouraged the Boxer's opposition to foreigners in an attempt to turn their attention away from herself. The name was derived from ritual exercises supposed to make their users immune to bullets, which resembled boxing.
  • 1898
    Kitchener commended Beatty for his efforts in the campaign and as a result Beatty was promoted to commander, ahead of 400 other lieutenants, on 15 November 1898.
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  • 1897
    Beatty then took command of gunboat Fateh between October 1897 and August 1898: the gunboats were frequently in action advancing along the Nile ahead of the army and saw action at the Battle of Omdurman, where Beatty made the acquaintance of Winston Churchill who had become a cavalry officer in Beatty's father's old regiment, the 4th Hussars, and had there learnt his family history.
    More Details Hide Details In a few hours 10,000 Dervishes were killed by rifle and machine gun fire without any of them getting within 600 yards of the British force. This battle marked the effective end of resistance to the expeditionary force, but the gunboats were called into service to transport troops to Fashoda, south along the White Nile, where a small force of French troops had made a difficult land crossing and staked a claim to the area. Despite the ensuing crisis, the French were persuaded to withdraw without incident.
  • 1896
    Beatty was seconded to the Egyptian government on 3 June 1896 and appointed second in command of the river flotilla.
    More Details Hide Details Colville was wounded during the operation, leaving Beatty in command of the gunboats for the successful attack on Dongola. The campaign halted at Dongola to regroup and Beatty returned to Britain on leave. He was commended by Kitchener for his part in the campaign and as a result was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. Beatty was again seconded to the Egyptian government for the next phase of the campaign. This was now at Lord Kitchener's specific request, for the Khartoum expedition. Beatty first commanded the gunboat El Teb but this was capsized attempting to ascend the Fourth Cataract.
  • 1895
    He transferred to the battleship HMS Trafalgar in September 1895.
    More Details Hide Details Beatty gained recognition during the Mahdist War for his actions in the campaign to recapture the Sudan. Stanley Colville was placed in command of the gunboats attached to the British expeditionary force in Egypt and as Beatty's former commander in HMS Trafalgar and superior in HMS Alexandra he requested that Beatty join him. Control of the river Nile was considered vitally important for any expedition into Egypt and the Sudan.
  • 1892
    Promoted to lieutenant on 25 August 1892, he rejoined HMS Ruby in August 1892 and then transferred to the battleship HMS Camperdown in September 1893 (which had only recently been involved in the fleet accident where she had rammed and sunk the battleship HMS Victoria).
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    Beatty joined the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert in July 1892 while Queen Victoria was holidaying in the Mediterranean: Victoria was in mourning for her grandson, Albert Duke of Clarence, who had died January 1892.
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  • 1891
    After attending the gunnery school, HMS Excellent, he undertook a posting to a torpedo boat in July 1891 and then a tour in HMS Nile from 19 January 1892.
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  • 1889
    Beatty left HMS Alexandra in March 1889 and joined the cruiser HMS Warspite in July 1889 for manoeuvres before joining the sailing corvette HMS Ruby in September 1889, in which he was promoted to sub-lieutenant on 14 May 1890.
    More Details Hide Details Next he attended courses at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich during which he was somewhat distracted from his naval career by the delights of London. Beatty scored a first-class examination pass in Torpedoes, but only seconds in Seamanship, Gunnery and Pilotage, and a third in Navigation. A biography states that "his cabin at Greenwich was full of photographs of actresses, some of which were signed in the most endearing terms".
  • 1886
    Beatty was promoted to midshipman on 15 May 1886 and assigned to assist Lieutenant Stanley Colville on watchkeeping duties: Colville was to play an important part in Beatty's future career.
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    Beatty was, in February 1886, instead appointed to HMS Alexandra, flagship of Admiral the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Victoria's second son, who was Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Squadron.
    More Details Hide Details This proved an excellent social opening for Beatty, who established a longstanding relationship with the Duke's eldest daughter, Marie, and with other members of the court. Alexandra was a three-masted sailing ship with auxiliary steam power, nonetheless, remaining flagship in a navy which was steadily transitioning from sail to steam. Life in the Mediterranean fleet was considerably easier than cadet life, with visits to friendly ports all around the Mediterranean, but Beatty was concerned to work diligently towards naval examinations, which would determine seniority and future promotion prospects.
    Beatty was given orders to join the China Station in January 1886, but the posting did not appeal to his mother, who wrote to Lord Charles Beresford, then a senior naval officer, member of parliament and personal friend, to use his influence to obtain something better.
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  • 1885
    He passed out of Britannia eighteenth out of the thirty-three remaining cadets at the end of 1885.
    More Details Hide Details Beatty's letters home made no complaint about the poor living conditions in Britannia, and generally he was extrovert, even aggressive, and resented discipline. However, he understood how far he could transgress without serious consequences, and this approach continued throughout his career.
  • 1884
    Beatty joined the Royal Navy as a cadet passing into the training ship HMS Britannia tenth out of ninety-nine candidates in January 1884.
    More Details Hide Details During his two years at Britannia, moored at Dartmouth, he was beaten three times for various infractions.
  • 1882
    Beatty was educated at Kilkenny College and in 1882 entered Burney's Naval Academy at Gosport, which was a 'crammer' for boys wishing to take the entrance examinations for the Royal Navy.
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  • 1881
    In 1881 Beatty's grandfather died and David Longfield succeeded to the 18th century mansion, 'Borodale', outside Enniscorthy, in County Wexford.
    More Details Hide Details After retiring from the army David Longfield established a business training horses first in Cheshire and then at 'The Mount', near Rugby, Warwickshire. On inheriting and following the death of his wife at 'The Mount', David Longfield returned to Ireland abandoning the training business.
  • 1871
    David Longfield was unable to marry Katrine until Katrine had obtained a divorce on 21 February 1871, after the birth of their first two sons.
    More Details Hide Details Beatty's birth certificate recorded his mother's surname as Beatty, and his parents' eventual marriage at St Michael's Church in Liverpool was kept secret. Beatty's early education concentrated on horsemanship, hunting and learning to be a gentleman. Beatty had a close relationship with his elder brother Charles, who became his ally against their oppressive and overbearing father. They remained close throughout life, so much so that the only time Beatty felt despair was at his brother's death. Beatty later wrote to his wife about Charles, we lived together, played together, rode together, fought together. His brothers would later join the British Army, but early on young David developed an interest in ships and the sea and expressed a desire to join the Royal Navy.
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