SELECTED SOJOURNS ON THE ISLE OF WIGHT

Posted by Admin on Monday, 25th July 2011, 12:40

Continuing to look at John Rushworth Jellicoe’s family tree, we find his second name came from his grandfather, John Rushworth Keele, whose mother was Elizabeth Rushworth. Her father, Captain John Rushworth (1721-1780) was buried in Northwood, Isle of Wight. Her brother, Edward, was without a break the MP for either Newport or Yarmouth from 1784 until 1797. In 1780 he had been ordained, but he abandoned Holy Orders when protests were raised against a deacon entering Parliament. His wife, Catherine, the second daughter of Lord Holmes, built Farringford Hall. Jellicoe’s distaff line shows strong Naval associations and includes a surgeon and an admiral. Another John Rushworth Keele (born 1787) married Constantia, the daughter of Admiral Philip Patton whose line included a midshipman who fought at Trafalgar in the Bellerophon. Another Isle of Wight connection was Jellicoe’s aunt, Helen Keele, a spinster who lived in Bonchurch.

By 1877, having reached the age of eighteen, John had become proficient at tennis, rackets, and as a Rugby wing forward. At cricket his only century was made when he was on the China station. He was also a good marksman with a rifle.

In his next ship, HMS Agincourt, he was sent to the Dardanelles to counter the Russian threat to Constantinople, and while there he was called upon to act as an equestrian despatch-rider. Seconded to a sloop to instruct midshipmen and ordinary seamen, his skill at handling the vessel was noted by Admiral Sir Geoffrey Phipps Hornby. Attracted by two daughters of the Swedish Ambassador with whom he spent much of his spare time, it is possible that, had not Agincourt sailed too soon, he might have fallen in love. To deal with trouble in Egypt caused by Arabi Pasha, Jellicoe after rising to lieutenant again sailed in the same ship.

In the meantime, having returned to England, he studied at the Royal Naval College at Greenwich where he scored a hundred and one more marks than the required number, and won a prize of £80. Then, taking gunnery and torpedo examinations at Portsmouth, he again excelled. Promoted to sub-lieutenant, he joined HMS Alexandra and visited Italy – a spell of duty cut short by dysentery that incapacitated him for three months.

Restored to health, he served in HMS Excellent as Gunnery Lieutenant, in Monarch, Colossus, and Mercury – the last taking part in Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Review. At Cowes HMS Colossus was visited by Princess Alexandra, and there Jellicoe inaugurated the competition for field-gun crews. Admiral Bacon says only that crews were landed. It would be interesting to know where on the Island the competition was held.

The years 1889-1896 saw Jellicoe again in HMS Excellent, this time as Lieutenant Assistant to the Director of Naval Ordnance, Captain John Fisher: in HMS President as a Commander: and in Sans Pareil, Achilles, Victoria, Victory, and Ramilles. While working for Fisher, he visited factories and shipyards where a new programme (for which £21 million had been allocated) included the building of ten battleships, nine first class, and thirty-three second class cruisers.

In 1891, under the command of Captain A. K. Wilson, he sailed fro the Mediterranean. By this time his reputation was such that, in 1893, Admiral Sir George Tryon requested that the young man serve under him in HMS Victoria – the ship in which he was suffering from Malta fever when Sir George made a fatal error of judgment and caused the collision between his ship and HMS Camperdown. Weak from his illness, Jellicoe rose from his bed, and slid down the ship’s side into the water where help from Midshipman Roberts-West probably saved his life.

In good health again, Jellicoe was appointed Commander in HMS Ramilles, Sir Michael Culme-Seymour’s flagship, his first job being to supervise her fitting out in the Portsmouth Dockyard, which enabled him to live with his parents in Ryde. The next request came from Lord Kitchener who wanted him to command a gunboat on the Nile – a request to which Sir Michael would not accede.

In 1897 John Jellicoe rose to be a Captain who presided over the Ordnance Committee in the board-room at the Woolwich Arsenal. Then, from that year until 1900 he was in HMS Centurion after being invited by Admiral Seymour to join him as Flag Captain on the China station; China at that time, having been defeated by Japan, being a prize which Belgium, France, Germany, and Russia hoped to share. In protecting her possessions Great Britain came close to being at war with France and Russia. Leaving England in 1898, Seymour and Jellicoe went to Hong Kong and from there in the Admiralty yacht Surprise to join HMS Centurion at Chusan.

While stationed in the Far East John Jellicoe was befriended by another crack shot, Prince Henry of Prussia. In a match at two and three hundred yards Jellicoe beat the Prince in the former and drew with him over the longer range. Other royal personages met there were the King of Siam, with whom he dined; the Mikado; and Prince Damrong of Bangkok. Many years later he was photographed with King George the Fifth aboard the King’s cutter, Britannia, and with the King and Duchess of York on the Victoria and Albert. Another photograph in Admiral Bacon’s book shows Queen Mary at the Jellicoes’ Isle of Wight home, St Lawrence Hall.

Jellicoe’s next adventure was experienced when, in 1900, he was involved in the Boxer Campaign. Urged by the Empress of China to rid the country of foreigners, the Iochuans supported by the armies of Prince Ching and Prince Tuan, which totalled sixty thousand warriors, and the Imperial Guard with twelve thousand, presented a grave danger to the British Legation trapped in Peking – a situation to relieve which Jellicoe led a land-based expedition that never reached its destination. Close to death after being shot in the chest (an X-ray examination in 1934 showed the bullet still in his lung) he made his will.

To be continued.

T. C. Hudson

© T. C. Hudson.
This article may not be reproduced without prior permission of the author.

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