Admiral Sir John Rushworth Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe, GCB, OM, GCVO (1859-1935)

John Jellicoe (Jack to his family) was to become a major figure in British naval history, as well as playing a part in the story of the Cayzer family and the firm of Cayzer, Irvine & Co.   Sea-faring was in his blood.   His maternal great-great grandfather was Captain Edward Rushworth of the Royal Navy and his father, John Henry Jellicoe, was a captain in the merchant service for the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company.

Framed portrait of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, Commander of the Grand Fleet painted by Sir Arthur Stockdale Cope, 1921
Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, Commander of the Grand Fleet by Sir Arthur Stockdale Cope, 1921

He was born in Southampton on 5th December, 1859.   As a young man he became a cadet in the Royal Navy being posted to the Royal Naval training ship HMS Britannia at Dartmouth.   By the time he married Sir Charles Cayzer‘s second daughter, Florence Gwendoline (Gwen) in 1902, he was a captain and Naval Assistant to the Controller of the Royal Navy.   John had first met Sir Charles in 1897, when the latter was M.P. for Barrow-in-Furness, during a visit to Barrow to trial a gun developed by Vickers.   John was to make many visits to Glasgow on naval business and spent much time with the Cayzer family before eventually marrying Gwen.

Black and white photograph of Admiral Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe circa 1925 in full uniform
Admiral Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe circa 1925

When Sir Charles Cayzer died in 1916, Sir John Jellicoe (KCVO 1907) was appointed one of the trustees under his will to help preserve the family’s interest in their businesses and protect the capital.   In addition, he received a legacy of £10,000.   He had been a director of Cayzer, Irvine & Co for some time, but was largely absent from board meetings during the First World War being on naval service.

On the outbreak of war in 1914 Sir John, already a Vice-Admiral, was promoted to Admiral in command of the Grand Fleet.  During this command he played a central role in the Battle of Jutland (1916), a major clash of dreadnoughts with no decisive outcome.   His part in the battle is still subject to controversy, although no major fault could be attributed to him.   He became First Sea Lord in November 1916, but was abruptly dismissed by the Prime Minister, Lloyd-George in 1917.

In 1918 he was created Viscount Jellicoe of Scapa, and in the early 1920s served as Governor-General of New Zealand.  He died in November 1935 and is buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral.   His son, George, succeeded as second Earl and was to distinguish himself during the Second World War before going on to become a diplomat and politician.