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An Unadmirable Admiral

In response to:

Hello to All That from the March 26, 1992 issue

To the Editors:

Noel Annan does his usual excellent job on World War I books in your March 26 issue [“Hello to All That”]. There is one place, however, where he slips. His account of Jutland is much better than the normal one, but he still accepts the myth that the German fleet never came out to sea again. This is almost the exact opposite of what actually happened.

As a matter of fact the German fleet entered the North Sea and sailed considerably north of the battle area of Jutland almost monthly throughout the rest of the war. The reason there were no more battles was that Jellicoe came to the conclusion that the prospect of mines, submarines, and possibly the high seas fleet made the southern part of the North Sea too dangerous and therefore ordered the British fleet not to enter. As a consequence there were no further battles involving capital ships except a very minor one in which the high seas fleet sank some British cruisers.

It’s an intriguing fact that this myth has lasted in the literature for so long. I cannot blame Annan for missing on the matter. In fact the whole thing seems to indicate, as a detailed study of the Battle of Jutland will also indicate, that Jellicoe just wasn’t a very good admiral.

Gordon Tullock
Karl Eller Professor of Economics and Political Science
The University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona

Noel Annan replies:

I must thank Professor Tullock for correcting my error so courteously.

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