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National Maritime Museum

Beatty, David (1871-1936)


Reference code(s): GB 0064 BTY

Held at: National Maritime Museum

Title: Beatty, David (1871-1936)

Date(s): [1871-1936]

Level of description: Collection


Name of creator(s): Beatty | David | 1871-1936 | 1st Earl Beatty | Admiral of the Fleet


Administrative/Biographical history:

David Beatty entered the navy in 1884 as a cadet on board the BRITANNIA. Two years later he was posted as a midshipman to the ALEXANDRA, flagship of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, after which he served in the CRUISER and TAMAR. As an acting Sub-Lieutenant, he underwent training between 1890 and 1892 at Portsmouth and at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. Promoted Lieutenant in 1892, he spent most of the next four years in the RUBY corvette, and battleships CAMPERDOWN and TRAFALGAR. Between 1896 and 1898, in the efforts to retain the Sudan under Egyptian control, he distinguished himself in operations involving a flotilla of gunboats on the Nile; in addition in 1898 he commanded a rocket battery on shore. For these services he was promoted Commander in November 1898 (see BTY/1/2 and BTY/24/1-6).

The following year, Beatty went as commander in the BARFLEUR to China, then in the throes of the Boxer rebellion. Again he distinguished himself in reinforcing the garrison at Tientsin and in leading sorties against the besieging rebels (see BTY/1/3). Although only 29, in November 1900 he was promoted captain. Between 1902 and 1910, Beatty commanded the cruisers JUNO, ARROGANT, DIANA and SUFFOLK and the battleship QUEEN. Memoranda survive relating to his command of the JUNO (BTY/2/1). In 1910 Beatty was promoted Rear-Admiral, the youngest flag-officer for over a hundred years, at 39. In 1911 he was offered a Flag post in the Atlantic Fleet, which he refused (see BTY/2/2), and after Winston Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty in October 1911, he chose Beatty for his naval secretary (see BTY/2/3). To test Beatty's aptitude for sea command, Churchill gave him commane of a cruiser squadron during the manoeuvres of 1912 (see BTY/22/1). In 1913 Churchill gave Beatty command of the battlecruiser squadron based at Scapa Flow, with his flag in the LION (see BTY/2/4). Beatty took a leading part in the naval operations of the Grand Fleet throughout the First World War Admiral Sir John Jellicoe became first Sea Lord and Beatty as Commander-in-Chief and Jellicoe's subordinate, the correspondence with Jellicoe is a key source for the history of naval operations for the whole war (see BTY/13/21-23).

Other important correspondence is that between Beatty and Sir Rosslyn Wemyss (1864-1933) (see BTY/13/39, 40). In 1901 Beatty married Ethel (1874-1932), daughter of Marshall Field of Chicago and former wife of the american, Arthur Tree. They had two sons, David (1905-1981) and Peter (b 1910). Their correspondence (BTY/17 and 18) is an important source for the war as well as for pre- and post-war periods, extending from 1900 to 1927. In 1919 Beatty succeeded Wemyss as first sea lord at the Admiralty, a post he held until 1927. Beatty's correspondence with W H Long (1854-1924), then First Lord, covers the terms of his appointment and his first three years at the Admiralty (BTY/13/28). Dominating his first three years at the Admiralty was the controversy over what actually happened at the battle of Jutland, and the succession of efforts to produce a version of events for public comsumption. Particularly important are the memoranda relating to the production by Captain J E T Harper (1874-1949) of the 'Official Record' of the battles and the decision not to publish it (BTY/9/2 and 3). In 1927 Beatty was elevated to the peerage and took his place in the House of Lords. He died in 1939 and was buried in St Paul's Cathedral.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of David Beatty, an extensive collection covering his naval career as well as his private life.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

When the collection came to the museum the naval administrative papers were together in their original files, while his semi-official, private and family correspondence was still in rough sequence. The second Earl added the letters and papers relating to the funeral and attempted biographies; and Mr A Hobson, who listed the papers prior to their purchase by the Museum, arranged the greater part of the collection in a chronological order. At the museum most volumes and charts have, for storage convenience, been removed from the place in which Mr Hobson listed them. Most correspondence has also been grouped together, although items that were among the administrative papers and appeared to relate to them have retained their position. To obtain reference to any such letters, the manuscript card index should be consulted. Some correspondence, Beatty's letters to and from his wife in particular, was in no order and this has been put into chronological sequence. The Heritage Lottery Fund has supported the puchase of additions to this collection.

Conditions governing access:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue online at the: National Maritime Museum website .


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers were purchased from the executors of the second Earl Beatty in 1981. The second Earl, who died in 1972, had inherited the papers from his father.



Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: 2010-08-26

Naval battles | Battles
Naval history | History
World War One (1914-1918) | World wars (events) | Wars (events)

Personal names
Beatty | David | 1871-1936 | 1st Earl Beatty of the North Sea and of Brooksby | Admiral of the Fleet

Corporate names
Royal Navy