David Beatty was a leading British naval officer in World War One. David Beatty was born in January 1871 and joined the Royal Navy in January 1884. In 1896, he was second in command of the Nile naval brigade and Lord Kitchener personally selected him for his 1898 Khartoum expedition. Beatty served in the China War of 1900 during the Boxer Uprising. Here he was promoted to captain at the age of 29 and commanded a battleship.
In 1910, Beatty was promoted to Rear Admiral aged just 39 – the youngest non-royal to do so since Lord Nelson.
In1913, he was appointed commander of the First Battlecruiser Squadron and in July 1914, he joined the Grand Fleet off of Scotland as the storm clouds of war fast approached.
Beatty served in the battles at Heligoland (August 1914) and Dogger Bank (January1915). At Heligoland, his fleet, aiding Commodore Tyrwhitts Harwich, sank three German cruisers. At Dogger Bank, Beatty’s fleet sunk the “Blucher” but his flagship “Lion” was badly damaged and had to be towed back to base.
Beatty’s bold tactics during a battle, combined with his reputation for daring and aggression, created concern among some leading naval officers – primarily Admiral John Jellicoe. However, after Jellicoe’s performance at the Battle of Jutland – whereby Britain claimed a victory but the Germans destroyed more British ships and killed more British sailors than they lost – he was replaced by Beatty.
In late 1916, Jellicoe was appointed First Sea Lord and Beatty was appointed Commander of the Grand Fleet. Ironically, like Jellicoe, he believed that the Grand Fleet needed to be protected against a possible defeat against the Germans. So from the time of his appointment to the end of the war, there were no more major naval engagements. It is possible that for all the claims of a victory at Jutland, the battle had shown Beatty just how close a victory and defeat can be. Be erring on the side of caution, Beatty ensured that the North Sea remained out of the hands of the Germans. If the unthinkable had happened – another major naval battle that had led to a British defeat – the Germans would have had control of the North Sea with all the threats this would have presented to the British.
In 1919, Beatty was appointed Admiral of the Fleet – a post he held until 1927. In October 1919, Beatty was also appointed First Sea Lord. Parliament also voted him £100,000 in recognition of what he had done for his country. In 1919, he was also granted a peerage and became Earl Beatty, Baron Beatty of the North Sea and Brooksby.
Admiral David Beatty died in March 1936.
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