Was Beatty A Good Admiral?

Was Beatty A Good Admiral?

Military History

King George V in addition his son the Prince of Wales visiting the Grand Fleet in 1918. From left to right: Admiral David Beatty, RN Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman, USN King George V Prince Edward (later King Edward VIII) Vice Admiral William S. Sims, USN

Like Mountbatten (who seems to have modelled himself on Beatty, to an extent), he was a good desk man, who was, perhaps, out of his depth at sea. Had the First World War not come, or not come when it did, he would probably have had the option of serving at the Admiralty again (Third Sea Lord, probably), or on an overseas station.

If that had been the North America and West Indies, his wife would probably have been happy.

If it had been the China Station, then the marriage would have spiraled to destruction, and his mental health with it.

Royal Navy Office, Singapore

Beatty was a seriously ill man, and in the modern Royal Navy (or any similar service) he would have been discharged.

Admiral of the Fleet Sir David Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty, 1871-1936 A life sketch for the painting of a group of officers, ‘Naval Officers of World War I’, 1921. At the National Portrait Gallery (NPG1913), by Sir Arthur Stockdale Cope. This sketch is a half-length portrait of David, first Earl Beatty. Facing left, and wearing undress uniform.

Whether his depression was chronic or bipolar, it’s impossible to say, however it almost certainly accounted for some of his judgement calls (the phantom periscope at Dogger Bank, the bizarre maneuvering across the face of the Grand Fleet at Jutland). Of course, if he had not been a seagoing admiral for the entire course of WW1, he wouldn’t have been First Sea Lord. A job which probably only he could have done in the 1920’s. It was, perhaps, just as well that he died relatively young, before WW2.

Military at White House, Washington, D.C. LCCN2016890938.jpg
Beatty at the White House, Washington, D.C

As an eminence grise, he would undoubtedly have been an awkward presence in the House of Lords, for Churchill and the Admiralty. That’s hindsight, though.

The man undoubtedly best suited for command of the Battle Cruisers at Jutland was Hood. He would have done everything that Beatty did right, but not done most of the things he did wrong.

Written by Hadrian Jeffs

Military History

Was Beatty A Good Admiral?