The Rules of the Game

bookAfter a very long slog, I have finally finished The Rules of the Game by Andrew Gordon. The subtitle “Jutland and British Naval Command” I found to be misleading.

While many parts of the book are good and interesting there is more emphasis placed on the issues of signaling and the culture around it. The reader finds that advancement in the Victorian and Edwardian Navies is based more on status and how well a ship is dressed than actually fighting the ship. Fire control and signals are shown to be not far removed from Nelson and Trafalgar.

This issue of command and signal development is set back after the HMS Camperdown sank the HMS Victoria. While the reason why this happened takes up a quarter of the book, it is enough to say that the development of simplified signals stopped and the officers of the Mediterranean Fleet (the most important in the prewar Royal Navy) were tainted over any new changes. This affects the Battle of Jutland in how orders were received and carried out.

What I ended up taking away from this book is an interest in reading seven books found in Gordon’s bibliography and several pages of notes on early wireless signals. I found a connection here as in the Edwardian navy wireless was part of the torpedo (my old stomping grounds) school and not signals.

A sub plot of this book is watching the rise of the commander of the 5th Battle Squadron, Rear Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas. Sir Thomas had close connections to the royals and their influence is seen on his and other careers. Unfortunately he was also made into a pawn in the Beatty – Jellicoe feud that occurred after the battle and well into the Inter-War period.

I will only add that if you are knowledgeable on the Battle of Jutland this can be an interesting read. If you are a novice please stay away.

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