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"Visibility at Jutland during the "Run to the South"" Topic

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Blutarski21 Jul 2022 6:31 a.m. PST

Just posted this elsewhere and thought it migh be of interest here as well.


Narrative from Officers of HMS Princess Royal

….. at 3:32 we first sighted the enemy, 5 battle cruisers faintly distinguishable a very long distance away, accompanied by some torpedo craft. First of all their smoke, and later the outline of their masts, funnels, and the upper parts of their hulls became visible from the gun control position aloft, but from the turrets only smoke could be observed until some while later.


Between 4 o'clock and 4.38 the Germans and ourselves ran on almost parallel courses, each endeavoring to the utmost of our ability to establish a mastery over the other.


However, smoke and a decreasing visibility to the eastward now became two important difficulties. Our destroyers (at about 4:02) were between us and the enemy, and their smoke together with the smoke from Lion's guns which was drifting across our range, was becoming a serious nuisance to our gun control.

(See photograph facing page 18, which shows column of DDs close by on the engaged side of 1st BCS)


At 4:06 we altered a point to starboard, to South, to try and avoid the smoke, and for 10 minutes the range opened, until we were firing at ranges between 18,000 and 19,000 yards, or about 11 land miles. At 12 minutes past 4 we had to check fire for a while, and we turned back to South-South-East, 20 degrees more towards the enemy to close the range.


When we had closed the enemy again slightly, to about 18,000 yards, it was pleasing to observe the 3rd ship of their line heavily on fire, but at 4:22 as a set-off to this advantage, we lost the Queen Mary and a few minutes later a salvo hit us abreast "Q" turret.


At 4:24 we altered course more to port towards the enemy, on to a South-easterly course, and the range came down from 16,000 to 12,000 yards at about 4:26 (or 4:27). We were straddling the enemy and saw their leading ship hit; then our shots came short as the enemy were altering away from us, …


At 4:36, after a turn of 20deg away from the enemy to S.S.E., we lost sight of them, at a range of perhaps 16,000 to 17,000 yards, …


At 4:38 (or probably 4:46 according to book footnote) we turned 16 points to starboard, following round in the wake of Lion, and re-engaged the enemy to starboard at a range of 15,000 yards, but this range quickly increased, and though at 4:48 we altered course a point towards the enemy, at 4:52 the range had become as much as 18,000 yards. Two minutes before this the 5th Battle Squadron had passed on our port hand, still steering to the southward, and we also re-passed the wreck of the Queen Mary.

Our target was now the right hand, i.e., the rear battle cruiser, but we shifted on to the leading battle cruiser when she was visible (at 4:56), and fired 5 salvoes at her. The enemy line then altered away, and their range increased until it reached our maximum range, and we had to check fire. This was at 5:08, and we did not fire again until 5:50, when the leading battle ships of the Grand Fleet were sighted, and we had altered to starboard to close the enemy again.


From a gunnery point of view the firing was becoming very difficult, the range at 5:00 p.m. being as much as 19,000 yards, and the enemy were difficult to see. We shifted target two or three times, as one or the other of the enemy could be observed, but at 5:08 we had to check fire, being unable to see a target any longer.

- -

Narrative of the Gunnery Control Officer of HMS Lion

Having completed the 16-point turn at 4:45 p.m., a further turn of 4 points is made to starboard, for both battle cruiser lines have turned outwards, thereby considerable increasing the range. Three minutes later, by which time the German battle cruisers have completed their turn, the two lines have again converged to within gun range, and fire is opened on the enemy leading ship, which is noted as being the Von der Tann. The range is 20,000 yards but only eleven salvoes are fired before the bad light and mist make it possible for the enemy to pass out of sight at about 16,000 yards.

Note 4:45 p.m. is the time referenced in the account of this officer when bad light and mist are mentioned as problems inhibiting gunnery. Bad light and mist, along with a generally smoky atmosphere, are thereafter constantly referred to throughout the remainder of the daylight action.

- -

Narrative of the 5th B.S. (From a Turret Officer of HMS Malaya)

About 4:10 p.m. We turned to approx.. S.S.E., and I then sighted the German battle cruisers steaming on a parallel course to us. There were five of them, and I thought their order was as follows:- three Derfflinger Class leading the line, followed by the Moltke and then the Seydlitz. There were light cruisers and T.B.D.'s ahead and astern of them.


4:15 p.m. We opened fire on the Seydlitz (actually Von der Tann), and were the last ship to commence, being the last in the line. The range was 19,000 yards, and the enemy bearing about 2 points before the beam. The visibility was then good for ranging, but I thought it bad for spotting, as the background was misty and of exactly the same shade as a splash, which made the latter difficult to distinguish.


When the Von der Tann was hit, she at once turned away about 5 points (50 or 60 degrees), but shortly afterwards resumed her course. Very soon after this I remember thinking that the enemy must be zigzagging, as on several occasions we found our shot going wrong for deflection.


We fired quickly for the first few salvoes, but as the light gradually became worse the range closed, and our firing became more deliberate


The battle continued in this manner until 4:50 p.m. The visibility was rapidly becoming worse, and at times we could only see the flash of the enemy's guns.


Up to this time (4:50 p.m.) the shooting had for us been very like a "peace battle practice".

- -


Shagnasty Supporting Member of TMP21 Jul 2022 8:06 a.m. PST

The real guys always had more trouble than we do from our helicopters and smokeless powder and coal.

Personal logo The Virtual Armchair General Sponsoring Member of TMP21 Jul 2022 10:03 a.m. PST

"Up to this time (4:50 p.m.) the shooting had for us been very like a "peace battle practice".

Yeah… if practice included the loss of a Battle Cruiser and and a 1000+ men.

Pretty cold-blooded account, even for the Tommies.


And thanks again, Blutarski, for sharing such material!

Munster21 Jul 2022 3:03 p.m. PST

Interesting detail, and it is possible that those on Malaya might not have seen the loss of the BC until after they had written the account. Visibility from a turret of what was happening around you would be pretty poor

Blutarski21 Jul 2022 4:38 p.m. PST

+1 Shagnasty.
I've always found it fascinating how many naval rules will fixate on armor penetration statistics down to the last theoretical micro-millimeter, yet ignore vast swathes of far more important gunnery-related factors.

Hi TVAG & Shagnasty,
I'm curious to learn what three factors you would rank as most important in a proper set of WW1 naval rules.

Also, what would your reaction be to WW1 tabletop rules utilizing 1:6000 Figurehead models at -

one turn = 3 minutes
one knot = 1/4-inch
1,000 yards = 2.5 inches

- which would translate to 6.25-inches per turn movement (= 25 knots); a typical effective heavy gun range of 35 inches (= 14,000 yds; maximum gun range 50-60 inches (= 20,000-24,000 yds); typical torpedo ranges – about two feet or so.

If my math is good, you could put the "Run to the South" on a 6x8ft table (especially if using movable tiles on the table top). I know home table space can be tight in the UK, but this would be pretty feasible for US gamers).

Does this make sense to you?


Blutarski21 Jul 2022 4:46 p.m. PST

Munster wrote -
"Interesting detail, and it is possible that those on Malaya might not have seen the loss of the BC until after they had written the account. Visibility from a turret of what was happening around you would be pretty poor"

That is certainly how it sounded based upon the account of Malaya's turret officer

4:55 p.m. Our battle cruisers passed between us and the enemy, steaming approximately north.

I counted four, there had been six. It was then that I realized that we mus have lost two, and that the wreckage we had passed at about 4:30 must have been one of our battle cruisers.


Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP22 Jul 2022 5:37 a.m. PST

At 2.5" = 1000 yards wouldn't 1:6000 ships be almost bow to stern with hardly any spacing?


Blutarski22 Jul 2022 6:48 a.m. PST

Wolfhag wrote -
"At 2.5" = 1000 yards wouldn't 1:6000 ships be almost bow to stern with hardly any spacing?"

Technically true, but IMO unavoidable if the goal is to put a "Run to the South" sized scenario on a 6x8ft table without dramatically distorting the relationship between ground scale and gun range.

For example, if I deploy five 1:6000 scale ships of 1SG in column with one stand length between ships for aesthetic reasons, the length of the column will be about 15 inches. If you keep the distance scale at 2.5-inches = 1,000 yards, the length of the column doubles in relation to gun range; if you double the distance scale to 5-inches per 1,000 yds, maximum gun range (say, 20,000 yds) balloons to 8 feet on and ship movement (25 kts @ 3 minute turn) will together conspire to make it impossible to play on a 6x8ft table.

Based upon experiments I have done, this "nose-to-tail" approach does not (yet?) impose any insuperable gameplay difficultiesapart from aesthetics). It also makes it easy to define/confirm "formation integrity", which IMO is important in keeping C&C functions within the historical realm.


Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP22 Jul 2022 2:29 p.m. PST

I've grown very fond of the (modified) GQ standard of 6 min turns and 500yd/inch, for the simple reason that 1cm/kn and 4"/nm and 1-2 turn torpedo runs all work out really well in real-life gaming. The ground scale distortion with 1/2400 scale miniatures is awful, but that usually only matters in large actions. Like others here I have 1/6000 scale for big fleet actions, which puts ground scale distortion within acceptable limits. 400yd/inch (2.5"/1000 yd) would be a slight improvement in ground scale distortion, at the expense of bigger tables and having to calculate all movement distances (instead of just listing the speed in knots).

I totally agree with Blutarski about this:

Based upon experiments I have done, this "nose-to-tail" approach does not (yet?) impose any insuperable gameplay difficulties (apart from aesthetics). It also makes it easy to define/confirm "formation integrity", which IMO is important in keeping C&C functions within the historical realm.
Hear, hear!

Unfortunately, published naval miniatures gaming has never reached the same level of sophistication as land rules about issues like morale, cohesion, command/control, etc. Ships in action are always in motion (until forcibly stopped), so the old land-gaming standby of "no orders = no move" is completely unacceptable. Some guidelines about formations and a few rules about order transmission/receipt are the usual extent of it. The best way to punish loss of formation and cohesion is usually multi-player games.

To be fair, fleet coordination issues are hard to replicate in a naval game without drastically increased complexity and unintended consequences. I've never found rules about smoke interference to be very effective or easy to play with. Rules that require unwanted behavior on individual vessels often disrupt suspension of disbelief more than perfect player autonomy. Order transmission/receipt rules only matter if you take extra time to write down orders, and naval gamers don't do that right anyway (none of us are trained professional officers of captain's rank or higher). I'm not a fan of written orders anyway – there's always at least one guy who will rules-lawyer his orders to mean what he wants to do, or take outright glee in deliberately misinterpreting them, which is also unrealistic.

A few years ago I began toying with the idea of adapting my old Byng Touch flag signalling system to WWI naval games, and this year I bought the Admiral of the Fleet Flag Officer's Handbook to see if it could be adapted. I thought something like a flag signaling system might work nicely with the addition of a few simple formation/cohesion rules. I doubt the result would be "more realistic" by any stretch of the imagination, but it might be an extra dimension of fun aside from rolling dice and ticking off roster boxes.

- Ix

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