Any Fool Can Obey an Order

“In war the first principle is to disobey orders. Any fool can obey an order. He ought to have gone on, had he the slightest Nelsonic temperament in him.” So wrote First Sea Lord Jacky Fisher in angry critique of Capt. H.M. Pelly, a cruiser captain under Adm. Beatty at the Battle of Dogger Bank in 1915. Beatty had signaled, “Attack the enemy’s rear” and then lost communication with his four cruisers pursuing the German rear contingent of four cruisers, one of which was already disabled. “That poltroon Pelly” joined a pile-on against the three functioning Germans instead of...

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