The Great Edwardian Naval Feud
Beresford’s Vendetta against ‘Jackie’ Fisher
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This is the story of the clash between two gigantic personalities in the early years of the twentieth century.
On one side was Admiral Lord Charles Beresford. Physically strong, courageous and hot-headed, he was the most popular admiral in the navy. Addicted to the sound of his own voice, he drew crowds of thousands whenever he spoke in public. On the other side was the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir John Fisher. Of humble origin, he had risen through hard work and genius to become the greatest naval reformer that Britain has ever known.
Both men wished to be First Sea Lord. When the prize went to Fisher, Beresford determined to unseat him at any cost. He launched attacks in Parliament, he plotted with Unionist politicians, he leaked state secrets and he courted public opinion. As a popular public figure, no one dared act against him until he finally overstepped the mark and viciously hounded a rear-admiral out of his fleet.
A Cabinet inquiry followed, sitting for fifteen days. Its five members listened to Beresford’s incoherent account of his eight charges. In the end, they dismissed the charges, but failed to show any warm support for either man. Fisher’s resignation followed and Beresford’s career came to an end.
- Pen and Sword, November 2009
Pen and Sword
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