The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command
Naval Institute Press
, 1996 - History
- 708 pages
At the Battle of Jutland eighty years ago in May 1916, 250 warships of the two most powerful fleets in the world clashed in an encounter which might potentially have reshaped forever the political map of Europe and the world beyond. In the event, though one in ten of the ships went to the bottom, and 9,000 men died, its consequences were less spectacular. The British Grand Fleet, which lost more ships and many more men than did its German opponent, had already enjoyed most of the strategic advantages of a victorious fleet before the action, and continued to do so afterwards in, if anything, even greater measure. However, the battle became an enduring source of controversy not so much over the outcome but rather over the handling of the much superior British fleet. There had clearly been important failures of communication and command. This book explores those failures, revealing their origin in conflicting styles of command and different understandings of the rules of the game. In fact it digs far deeper than the events of 31st May 1916, and traces the conflict of style back into the heady days of the Victorian Empire, when the Royal Navy was assimilating the advent of mechanization, and forming its future combat doctrine in the artificial conditions of peacetime. Andrew Gordon shows how the gallant admirals of the First World War were taught their trade, and how the doctrinal rifts exposed by Jutland were by no means new. But the significance of his book is far wider than that. By showing how far the Victorian suffocation of Nelsonic values was caused by doctrines and attitudes that tend to arise in times of peace, he identifies issues that may hold eternal relevance to the fighting services.