Admiral Beatty

Earl Beatty of The North Sea and Brooksby – his naval career

Captain David Beatty (as he was then) and his wife Ethel first rented Brooksby Hall in 1905, and subsequently purchased it in 1911, to ride with the local hunts.

David Beatty was born in January 1871 in Howbeck Lodge, Stapely near Nantwich, Cheshire. He was the second son of five children born to Captain David Longfield Beatty and Katherine (or Katrine) Edith Beatty (née Sadleir), both from Ireland.

At the age of twelve  in 1884 the young Beatty entered Burney’s Naval Academy in Gosport and the following year he joined the training establishment HMS Brittania.

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.He was appointed private secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty (Winston Churchill) in 1911.  In 1913, he became commander of the First Battlecruiser Squadron and in July 1914, he joined the Grand Fleet off Scotland as the storm clouds of war fast approached.

Beatty served in the battles at Heligoland (August 1914) and Dogger Bank (January 1915). At Heligoland, his fleet, aiding Commodore Tyrwhitt’s 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 victory and defeat can be. By 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.  Admiral Beatty as Commander in Chief of the Grand Fleet, received the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet and flew the Union flag from his flagship Queen Elizabeth – the only commoner in command of a Battle fleet to fly the Union flag.  The Union flag can be found in Brooksby Church together with a plaque commemorating this event.  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 Beatty spent much of his life (when not at sea) in Leicestershire, and lived at Brooksby Hall. During the war David Beatty and his wife performed many services for the public of Leicestershire, including opening up their home first as a VAD Hospital under the 5th Northern General Hospital, and later a hospital for naval personnel.