Writing the Battle: Jutland in Sir Julian Corbett’s Naval Operations
This article examines the origins, development and purpose of Sir Julian Corbett’s account of the controversial battle of Jutland. Naval Operations is seen as an extended analysis of how British strategy was intended to work and why it had failed on this occasion. The argument was carefully constructed to explain the failure without challenging the underlying pattern. Corbett used Trafalgar to claim that the battle of Jutland had ultimately achieved its aim, under the able command of Admiral John Jellicoe, but made it clear that Vice-Admiral David Beatty’s actions hampered a more decisive outcome. Naval Operations was written to support post-war naval education and doctrine development and to connect the First World War with past practice. The text was publicly disowned by the Board of Admiralty, which had failed to have it modified to meet the demands of the newly promoted First Sea Lord, Earl Beatty, and the Battle Cruiser Fleet officers on his staff. Corbett was correct on all the contested points, while Beatty’s attempt to alter this and other official texts raised important questions about the nature and purpose of official history.