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"RN Memorandum on Battle of Dogger Bank" Topic


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Blutarski10 Jul 2022 9:33 p.m. PST

Here is a partial reproduction of the text of the Grand Fleet Gunnery and Torpedo memorandum covering the Battle of Dogger Bank:

DOGGER BANK (24th January, 1915)
(G. F. G. and T.O. No. 12)

The following remarks on the action fought on 24th January between the British and German battle cruisers are promulgated for information.

2. Relative Positions of Squadrons The action opened with the German battle cruisers on a S.E. course, bearing on the port bow of our ships, which were formed on a line of bearing to close the range and enable their guns to bear, the rear ship (Blucher) bearing about 15deg from right ahead at a distance of about 21,000 yards from Lion; speed of Lion about 28.5 knots, and of the German battle cruisers apparently full speed as a squadron. Thee was a light breeze from the N.E.; the sea was smooth.

The British ships were on a line of bearing to port, the German apparently in single line ahead, ships being in the following sequence -

Lion – – – – – Seydlitz (not certain; first two ships may have been reversed)
Tiger – – – – – Derfflinger
Princess Royal – – Moltke
New Zealand – – Blucher
Indomitable

Our ships gradually closed the Germans, and all guns were bearing in Lion about half an hour after opening fire; the German ships hauled out on the port quarter of their leading ship as the action developed, in order to increase the range.

Lion opened fire on Blucher and continued on her for 32 minutes, shifting to Moltke (18,000 yards) when Tiger opened on left-hand ship; Princess Royal opened fire on Blucher about 12 minutes after Lion had commenced. Lion shifter target to the leading ship after firing at Moltke for about 11 minutes, all turrets bearing; Princess Royal then engaging Moltke, and New Zealand, Blucher, which had dropped somewhat astern. At this time the range from Lion was 17,500 yards, which was gradually reduced to about 15,500 yards about half an hour later; the range from our other ships was greater.

The Germans opened fire about 20 minutes after Lion.

3. Fire Control Both Lion and Princess Royal opened fire with single guns to test range; Lion commenced firing salvos from "A" and "B" turrets shortly after crossing the target and Princess Royal opened with salvos after about 10 minutes of single shot firing.

Tiger used director firing for the first 1.5 hours of the action, when she changed to "gunlayers" owing to the director firing circuit failing.; the circuit itself was uninjured, but a shell striking the armour threw out the particular branch breaker then in use for the firing circuits.

The branch breaker ws made again at once from the switchboard , and the motor generator restarted, but its fuze blew; the generator was then changed over to the other branch breaker and gave no more trouble, though the delay had been sufficient to cause three director misfires, which led to the order "Individual laying" being given.

It is considered that the contacters which feed the low power generators should be wedged up so that they cannot be thrown off by shock; where branch beakers are fitted they should be treated similarly, provided that their fuze junction boxes are close to them. The low power generators should be fed from either side of the ring main through change-over switches.

Auxiliary director firing circuits have since been approved and are now being fitted in all ships.

4. Gunlaying The gunlaying conditions were difficult; in the forward turrets this was due largely to the spray thrown over the bows at the high speed at which ships were steaming, which inconvenience "A" turrets severely and "B" turrets slightly. The great volumes of black funnel smoke from the German ships increased the difficulty of the gunlayers in adhering to their point of aim; the tops of the funnels the masthead, and the flashes of his guns were occasionally order to be used.

The German gun smoke also appears to be denser than our cordite smoke, and this added to the invisibility of their ships, the wind tending to blow all smoke to their engaged quarter, in the direction of our ships.

On the other hand, the director layer aloft in Tiger found little difficult in laying, as he experienced no inconvenience from spray, was clear above the funnel smoke of our ships, and was much less incommoded by enemy shorts than men in the gun positions; he found no difficult in getting opportunities for firing and fired usually on the upward roll so as to cause the ship to increase her motion.

Taking everything into consideration, the director was probably at a considerable advantage, although the conditions were not sufficiently bad to prevent the gunlayers shooting well.

Evershed's bearing indicator gear was found to be invaluable

All ships experienced difficulty in keeping their periscopes and telescopes clear.

5. Spray Every precaution must be taken to keep gun-sights clear of spray. No hoses should be running where the water from them could possibly be blown over the sights by wind or gun blast.

The above applies also to the windows of rangefinders.

6. Point of Aim The gunlayers and trainers must be prepared to aim at various alternative points, such as the top of a funnel, a control top, the flash of the enemy's guns. and even into the "brown" if ordered. There may be no alternatives to these, and the men must be prepared.

7. Rapidity of Fire It is strongly emphasized that rapidity of fire is essential both to disable the enemy quickly and to reduce the accuracy of his fire.

At extreme ranges, ships may have to open deliberate fire to test the range, but as soon as a straddle or a hit is obtained the rate of fire must be quickened.

The slower we fire, the easier it is for the enemy to develop a rapid fire, and, if he hits, the more difficult it will be for us to quicken again.

Fire can always be checked when need be, and burst of rapid fire, with checks to correct errors, are far preferable to adhering to a slow rate of fire.

8. Spotting was extremely difficult, chiefly owing to the great range and the amount of smoke made by the German ships; columns of water and spray from shorts were additional causes. In a number of cases large quantities of water from shorts came inboard.

Lion and Princess Royal spotted from the revolving Argo rangefinder hood; in other ships the primary control was worked from aloft. A bow observation position appears to be no use in a battle cruiser at high speeds as, even in fine weather, the view is too much interrupted by spray thrown over the forecastle. In fine weather, battleships should not suffer so much from this interference.

"Overs" were usually impossible to distinguish, while hits were very difficult, particularly when the German were firing quickly and the flash and smoke from their guns coincided with the time of arrival of our projectiles; our hell hits seldom make a distinctive flash.

Southampton, which was on the disengaged quarter of the enemy and approximately at right angles to the line of fire, was able to observe the fall of shot from our ships and report the result.

It was often difficult to judge whether shots were falling short of the further enemy ships or over the nearer, or from which ship they were fired, but occasionally there was no doubt on these points and valuable information could be gained.

In order that advantage may be taken of an observation ship on other occasions when a ship is available for such duty, the following signal has been inserted in the Signal Book :- "Take station as requisite to report fall of shot from our ships."

The exact station of the observing ship is purposely not definitely laid down; her object should be to take up quickly a good position for observing our fire.

Great care must be taken not to give inaccurate reports as these would be most misleading. A rake is not essential provided that a good report on the general result of a ship's fire can be made, but it should be used, if possible, when accurate results can be obtained.

Little use could be made of the rangefinders as few cuts could be obtained, whilst the range was too great for accurate readings to be take; time and range plotting was impracticable.

A guessed rate was used as far as practicable, but it was almost impossible to verify by observation of fire owing to the difficulty of spotting, and several ships used "no rate" and worked entirely by spotting corrections. The gun was, in fact, mainly used as its own rangefinder and rate-keeper.

The conditions for spotting were extremely trying, and it appears to be essential that no ship should be dependent upon one spotter for too long a time. The majority of the ships were in action for over two hours, and during the whole of this period the spotters were required to keep their attention concentrated on fire control; this is almost bound to lead to waste of fire when the spotter becomes fatigued, and ship's organization should provide for a spotter in an alternative position taking over from time to time if necessary. This is more likely to be required at extreme ranges owing to long time of flight and the very close attention which must be given to recognize the fall of shot. Emphasis is laid on the great importance of this point, since it is n the efficiency of the spotters that that the result of action will mainly depend; there should be no chance of a ship's fire being wasted owing to undue strain being put upon personnel whose duty requires them to devote the whole of their energies, physical and mental, constantly to their work. A suitable organization should not be difficult to arrange for in the majority of ships, which have a spotter aloft, in the gun control tower and in "A" or "B" turrets.

Large spotting corrections must be used at long ranges when observation of fire is difficult; small corrections have little effect and may be quite insufficient to counteract an error in rate. "Overs" are wasted shots, since they can be seldom even spotted; "shorts", on the other hand, are not wasted.

Spotters should provide themselves with a pair of service six-power binoculars as well as the Zeiss glasses; the latter are apt to become tiring to use after a time.

It is recommended that some practice runs on the spotting table should be made very difficult, to simulate, as far as possible, the conditions described.

Emphasis is laid on the fact that a spotter must give the whole of his attention to observation of shot, and that if this is not done false impressions are obtained; this is a common fault with inexperienced spotters.

The need for having spotters in alternative positions to refer to or take over as required has already been pointed out.

– -

This Dogger Bank memorandum goes on for a further 40 sections, but the above 8 sections represent the important tactical and gunnery aspects of the action.

Enjoy.

B

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Jul 2022 8:00 a.m. PST

Enjoyed!

Thank you so much for sharing this nitty-gritty of the actual issues in fire control (among other things).

Good on you, Sir!

TVAG

Big Red Supporting Member of TMP11 Jul 2022 8:29 a.m. PST

Interesting, thank you.

Is this memorandum, with its multiple references to the importance of rate of fire, the inspiration for the practice of stuff every space possible with ready ammo and remove the flash doors to increase rate of fire?

Blutarski11 Jul 2022 3:45 p.m. PST

Hi TVAG,
I confess that I have more reference material of this sort (obtained back in 1976 through the kindness of a sympathetic old gentleman at the Ministry of Defence Library in London who recognized and rewarded the avid interest displayed by a young American hippie who showed up unannounced shortly before his closing time.

I also have a copy of the formal 11 Feb 1915 1st Battlecruiser Squadron after-action report from which the above GFG&TO No. 12 stemmed. This document has some interesting second level "nitty-gritty" material that for some reason failed to make it in.

For example-

> In the earliest approach portion of the action, LION's attempts to range on German targets (19-21k yds) were lucky to be getting a useful range cut every 10 or 15 minutes. The 9-ft B&S FQ2 range-finder was found to be completely useless at such ranges and it was impossible to do any better than employ a guessed range rate based upon observed fall of shot.

> The a/m B&S range-finder mounted in the "Argo" range-finding hood incorporated a Pollen/Argo system that permitted electrical transmission of range and bearing data for automatic plotting on the FC table in the T.S. at the press of a button. At Dogger Bank it was discovered that the early Dreyer FC tables could not accept plotting data for ranges greater than 16,000 yds!

Devils and details.

B

Blutarski11 Jul 2022 4:32 p.m. PST

Hi Big Red,
You wrote – "Is this memorandum, with its multiple references to the importance of rate of fire, the inspiration for the practice of stuff every space possible with ready ammo and remove the flash doors to increase rate of fire?"

What follows FWIW is my opinion -

It was not IMO the "root cause". Beatty (and his flag captain Chatfield) certainly believed that a rapid and well-directed fire was essential to tactical success, but that can be traced back to a long prevailing belief system already well entrenched within the navy.

Two related conclusions stemmed from the Dogger Bank experience (keep in mind that this battle was the first occasion in the history of mankind where opposing sides sought to engage at a distance of ten miles; it was unprecedented).

Chatfield concluded that, at such great ranges, the conventional ranging method of patient bracketing fire was simply not practical and that a different ranging method featuring a dramatically increased rate of fire was required in order to achieve hits.

Beatty came away with the opinion that, while it was certainly technically possible to achieve hits at ranges of 8-10 miles, the rate of hitting was such that there was little chance of decisive results before the ships simply ran out of ammunition. He actually commented in the BCS report that he considered an engagement range of 12-14,000 yds as necessary to obtain decisive results.

The key to the dramatic relaxation of ammunition handling standards within the RN …IMO… stemmed from a mistaken belief prevalent within the service that the new nitroglycerine-based cordite propellant (introduced about 1890) was a "safe propellant" compared to traditional "black powder" propellants which would explode with the generation of a single spark or flame in the wrong place. Cordite was understood to be capable of burning violently, but incapable of undergoing a really violent deflagration outside the gun breech sufficient to endanger the ship; hence ammunition precautions were slowly but steadily relaxed throughout the navy over time. The scientists were wrong, and the navy was wrong to believe them. But, as they say … "man believes what he wishes to be true." The error of their beliefs was made manifest at Jutland.

B

Big Red Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2022 8:42 a.m. PST

Chicken or egg?

1.A need for increased rate of fire to improve gunnery.

2. Incorrect data demonstrating that cordite was a relatively stable and safe propellent.

3. Leading to the practice of stuffing every space possible with ready use ammo, removing flash tight doors and flash proof containers to increase rate of fire.

4. Intended result would be increased rate of fire, improving gunnery with slight increase of risk to ship and crew.

5. Actual result was increased rate of fire, improving gunnery with catastrophic results.

In past posts you have convincingly demonstrated that the RN thought that cordite was stable and relatively safe propellent (you convinced me that they did anyway) and that captains and gunnery officers were not suicidal they just wanted to improve gunnery results with what they thought was a small increased risk.

After Jutland were not ships ordered to discontinue the practice of filling any and all available space with ready use ammunition and discarding flash tight doors? How did this effect RN gunnery after Jutland?

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP12 Jul 2022 5:29 p.m. PST

Blutarski!

I appreciate all your follow up comments to me and Big Red--thank you!

Do you have access to similar analysis after Jutland? While insanely larger and more complex, I have a vested interest in knowing what other conclusions were reached, as well as to what extent suggestions apparent in the Dogger Bank action were actually applied by May of '16.

If you prefer, you can PM me, but I'm sure others would like to know as well as I!

Cheers!

TVAG

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2022 6:18 p.m. PST

Blutarski,
Is there any hard data on range keeping errors at ranges over 12,000 yards?

Wolfhag

Blutarski12 Jul 2022 7:16 p.m. PST

Hi Big Red,

Chicken or egg?
>>>>> = my thoughts and opinions, FWIW.

[ 1 ] A need for increased rate of fire to improve gunnery.

>>>>> Fast and accurate gunnery had been an article of faith within the RN for at least 150 years. That same belief persisted right into the 20th century

- -

[ 2 ] Incorrect data demonstrating that cordite was a relatively stable and safe propellant.

>>>>> The incorrect data originated from flawed test parameters. The scientists tested volatility by setting alight a couple of hundred pound of cordite in the open and watching it burn without undue drama. No one tested a couple of tons in a confined space (until Hiram Maxim came along and "blew up" the fiction still, no one paid attention). Check out the book "Artillery and Explosives" by Frederick Noble; read the transcript of the his interesting lecture on the unique properties of nitroglycerine-based propellants archive.org

- -

[ 3 ] Leading to the practice of stuffing every space possible with ready use ammo, removing flash tight doors and flash proof containers to increase rate of fire.

>>>>> In the days of sail, black powder cartridges were stowed in a specially built, carefully isolated magazine; when in action, the cartidges were passed out through a flash-proof rotating scuttle to the powder-monkeys who in turn would place each one in a special leather case for carriage to the gun. By WW1, RN ships no longer had such scuttles; the magazine doors were simply kept open when in action and it was by no means uncommon for the men in the handing room to remove large numbers of raw charges from their protective cases ahead of time in order to maintain the fastest possible rate of fire. It had been a LONG time since the RN had been in a really serious war and a lot of those old common sense lessons born from experience had come to be discarded. Another factor was the rapid growth in the amount of ammunition carried aboard ship from peacetime standards to meet perceived wartime demands to the degree that not all of it could necessarily be stowed with maximum security

- -

[ 4 ] Intended result would be increased rate of fire, improving gunnery with slight increase of risk to ship and crew.

>>>>> That was IMO the belief, even at senior levels. One of the really insidious unforeseen factors that emerged after commencement of the war came about when the demands of war forced Great Britain to vastly expand propellant production a step which placed newly built factories in charge of unqualified management, operated by untrained factory labor and supplied by unsophisticated raw material suppliers in the role of mass manufacturing gigantic tonnages of cordite. A considerable share of the cordite volatility problem was the result of product contamination. Devils and details.

- -

[ 5 ] Actual result was increased rate of fire, improving gunnery with catastrophic results.

>>>>> Short story Yes. But IMO it was to a large degree an unconscious team effort.

- -

In past posts you have convincingly demonstrated that the RN thought that cordite was stable and relatively safe propellant (you convinced me that they did anyway) and that captains and gunnery officers were not suicidal they just wanted to improve gunnery results with what they thought was a small increased risk.

After Jutland were not ships ordered to discontinue the practice of filling any and all available space with ready use ammunition and discarding flash tight doors? How did this effect RN gunnery after Jutland?

>>>>> IMO, yes. But, TBH, I have not looked quite as deeply into the remedial post-Jutland corrective measures taken.

B

Blutarski12 Jul 2022 7:59 p.m. PST

Blutarski!
I appreciate all your follow up comments to me and Big Red--thank you!

>>>>> Absolutely my pleasure to share 50-odd years of reading and study with other interested parties

- -

Do you have access to similar analysis after Jutland?

>>>>> Short answer = Yes. My principal interest is in Jutland; Prior engagements like the Falklands and Dogger Bank really serve as background and introduction.

- -

While insanely larger and more complex, I have a vested interest in knowing what other conclusions were reached, as well as to what extent suggestions apparent in the Dogger Bank action were actually applied by May of '16.

>>>>> Jutland is, by any possible measure, a hugely complex topic. But, thanks to so much in the way of recent publications and the attention drawn by the 100th anniversary, we are now, relatively speaking, luxuriating in a Golden Age of scholarship. Our only problem now (IMO) is "unlearning" certain erroneous beliefs and assumptions)

In my personal opinion, gunnery lessons drawn from Dogger Bank by the BCF and applied at Jutland with apparently disastrous results may perhaps have ultimately been the most influential development that emerged from Jutland. I'm speaking of the post-Jutland "1916 Spotting Rules", written by a committee of gunnery experts chaired by Ernle Chatfield (Beatty's long time Flag Captain) and formally instituted by Admiral Jellicoe for compulsory use throughout the Grand Fleet in January 1917 IIRC. They endured for more than thirty years in the RN. I believe that these rules were based to a large degree on new long range gunnery principles worked out by Chatfield (and, to be fair, probably Beatty) after their experience at Dogger Bank

- -

If you prefer, you can PM me, but I'm sure others would like to know as well as I!

>>>>> TMP would be a perfectly fine venue. I'm happy to share with anyone interested.

B

Blutarski12 Jul 2022 8:28 p.m. PST

Wolfhag write -
"Is there any hard data on range keeping errors at ranges over 12,000 yards?"

>>>>> What exactly is meant by the term "range-keeping error"? Is it intended to mean hit percentage? straddling percentage? Average salvo range error? Not by any means trying to be "snarky" here. Just trying to understand what is being sought.

For example – At Dogger Bank, LION fired about 55 salvoes over two hours at ranges of 16-21,000 yards; she scored four hits. If we accept that a hit implies a straddle, LION achieved a minimum of four straddles from 55 salvoes. To be generous, let's allow four more straddles that failed to produce hits. We are now at eight straddles in 55 attempts an approximate success ratio of one in seven. I do not believe that even the gunnery officer of LION knew the range error, as any salvo landing over was almost sure to be lost to sight and impossible to estimate or measure in terms of range error.

Complicated topic. We should have a chat about this.

B

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP14 Jul 2022 8:46 p.m. PST

Blutarski,
All RN ships with a DCT also generated a feed back loop to correct FC range keeping errors and many modern RN DCTs had Remote Power Control driven by the FC computer, just as in the USN.

I think it's a general term for using rangefinders and plotters to estimate the range. So if the target is at 10,000 yards and the range estimation (range keeping) error is 5% it is +/-500 yards. The Gunnery Officer will attempt to drop a salvo within a 1,000 yard space. That's how I see it as a playable way to simulate gunnery in my game.

Now if you get a confirmed straddle with a sheaf of 200 yards your new range keeping error is +/-200 yards as you cannot detect the exact center of the salvo or how many hits you got. I would think that if the salvo was not observed because it was long the Gunnery Officer would give a correction of -200 or 400 yards. There is a British document that describes this technique.

You may not be able to observe a straddle but just shorts. In that case you'd increase the range 200 to 400 yards (depending on the estimated range and the shortest salvo sheath you can fire) for the next straddle. If you can no longer observe shorts then decrease the range 200 to 400 yards in the hopes of achieving another straddle (walking straddles).

With a range keeping error of +/-500 yards (1,000 yards) and you fire a salvo sheath of 200 yards you have a 20% chance of a straddle. The # of hits is determined by the # of rounds fired, target danger/hitting space and round angle of descent. Of course there are many other factors but I'm not writing a gunnery dissertation for my math PHD, it's a game.

Now my guess would be that if your salvo missed and was observed the correction would be the last range keeping error of 1,000 yards minus the salvo length of 200 yards for a new range keeping error of 800 yards. The next salvo with a sheath of 200 yards will have a 25% chance of a straddle and same chance to hit if straddled. Missed salvos have an increasing chance of a hit on the next salvo IF it can be observed.

If you achieve a straddle you can shorten the salvo sheath to increase the # of hits but with a smaller chance of consecutive straddles.

So it can get really crazy if you cannot observe shorts, longs or straddles as you are just firing mostly blind hoping for the best. Maybe that's what the Lion was experiencing. Environmental factors, smoke and near misses can substantially increase a range keeping error.

If your salvo sheath is too long at longer ranges (shorter danger space because of steeper AOD) you can achieve a straddle without getting a hit.

So the shorter the salvo sheaf the lesser chance of a straddle but the greater the chance of a hit if you do straddle. I like the idea of in a small engagement letting the player make the same risk-reward decisions as the real gunnery officers made. Larger engagements would warrant more abstractions.

I'm around this weekend if you want to give me a call.

Wolfhag

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