Book Review: The Unfinished Battle: A Personal History of a Naval Controversy by Nick Jellicoe

Nick Jellicoe’s Jutland: The Unfinished Battle: A Personal History of a Naval Controversy is quite an interesting read; it’s a look at the World War I naval battle from the perspective of the grandson of the commander of the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet. I didn’t know quite what to expect objectivity-wise given the author’s relationship to one of the controversial figures of the Battle of Jutland, but I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t an issue; to some extent, it is a defense of Admiral Jellicoe but in some form or fashion, an honest assessment of the battle is going to come to defend Jellicoe from some of what was said after the battle. Nick Jellicoe does a wonderful job of giving the reader some biographical background on Jellicoe, Beatty, Scheer, and Hipper, the British and German commanders at Jutland. Knowing about their backgrounds and careers up to the battle helps you understand their decision-making processes. In the process, he also gives you an idea of how the two navies have built up their fleets and what the service philosophies are. He then gives a detailed account of the actual battle, explaining what happened and the controversy that surrounded it and its outcome. He closes out the book with a historiography of what was written after the battle and the war had ended. I think some prior knowledge of World War I, the Battle of Jutland, and Jutland’s place in the war is somewhat of a prerequisite for this book, but for those with an interest in Jutland or naval history in general, I think that it would be a fascinating read. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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