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A Letter from Lady Jellicoe, 4 June 1916

Posted by James Goldrick, on July 20th, 2018


This letter is from Gwendoline, Lady Jellicoe, wife of the C-in-C of the Grand Fleet to the newly widowed Lina, Lady Arbuthnot, wife of Rear Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot, written a few days after the Battle of Jutland in 1916. It is evidence of the first reactions to the battle, and casts light upon the social networks of the Royal Navy’s officer corps.

Gwen Jellicoe’s capacities for friendship, as well as her practicality are evident in her concern for Lady Arbuthnot and the offer of accommodation and transport. Devoted to her husband, Lady Jellicoe was also committed to caring for the personnel of the Grand Fleet, evinced by her comment about visiting the casualties of the battle. Lady Jellicoe explains that Jellicoe had shared with her his bleak views of the survivability of his ships in battle, and some of the core topics of the future Jutland controversy are suggested in the text.

Letters of this type confirm that there are wide gaps in the historiography of the Royal Navy.  The story of the wives of naval officers is largely untold, but they were a key influence on establishment opinion, as well as within the Navy.

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