Fleet Torpedo Committee

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In 1918, the Royal Navy's Fleet Torpedo Committee, consisting of representatives of the Commander-in-Chief, as well as the battle and battlecruiser squadrons, convened to determine new directions for torpedoes and torpedo control.

Captain Arthur Kipling Waistell of Benbow acted as President.[1]

Best Means of Setting Torpedo Directors

One of questions they were asked to settle was how to obtain data for setting the torpedo director, which by that time likely meant the Torpedo Deflection Sight. At the time, this was being done by estimating, or by a deflection plotter, inclinometer or from the gunnery plot. This was regarded as an unsound method, as it these measures were taken from a single ship in the enemy line, and the process ignored the likelihood that the target(s) would manoeuvre during the time of flight of the torpedoes fired. Moreover, if results were obtained by plot, the results were already somewhat stale.[2]

It was realized that the enemy's manoeuvres during a long range torpedo time-of-flight would be, in part, influenced by the manoeuvres of one's own fleet during that time, and that own planning should be incorporated in the calculations of a likely mean line of advance for the enemy fleet. However, it is curiously not mentioned that the enemy fleet might itself manoeuvre under its own initiative for the same reason.

It was deemed helpful that a number of selected ships in the battlecruiser force and battle fleet should transmit the range and bearing of their gunnery target at regular intervals via W/T. Flagships, with their greater accommodation, would become the primary processing points for torpedo data being reported from a number of ships within the fleet.

To this reader, the complexity of the process seems profound, especially considering the variations that would certainly arise through enemy manoeuvre and that the emphasis of the study is placed entirely on the best mode of employment of the torpedoes which can be relied on to always be furthest from their selected target: those mounted on the capital ships. A futile call for greater accuracy in a plot is persistent, and it ignores the historical nature of these graphical data which cannot in any way address future manoeuvres. Another wrinkle entirely absent is having anyone in the friendly force "put himself in the shoes" of the enemy to propose a torpedo barrage aimed at striking him should he undertake a given initiative, such as to turn away. The only take-away this reader finds realistic and helpful is the suggestion that torpedo tactics must become divisional, and that the entire formation should collectively undertake fire against the enemy formation. Belatedly, the Royal Navy has come to regard the torpedo as a barrage weapon.[3]

Positions for Torpedo Control Officers

It was decided that the Conning Tower was to be the primary position, and the Torpedo Control Tower the secondary position. The position above the charthouse used in Queen Elizabeth, or the searchlight control hut atop the charthouse in Benbow were regarded as ideal. Once more, the value of capital ship-borne torpedo armament is seemingly over-emphasised, with calls to prioritize emplacement of torpedo control positions in these ships. A secondary plotting position was even mentioned as being desireable were it not for practical limitations on equipment and personnel.

Station in Flagships in private ships
Control and plotting position
  • Staff officer
  • schoolmaster
  • instructor lieutenant (or other officer) to do the plotting
  • one midshipman,
  • ratings for communications
  • Torpedo officer or assistant torpedo officer
  • instructor lieutenant (or other officer) to do the plotting
  • one midshipman,
  • ratings for communications
Conning tower
  • Torpedo officer
  • one midshipman
  • ratings for communications
  • Torpedo officer or assistant torpedo officer
  • one midshipman
  • ratings for communications
Torpedo Control Tower
  • Assistant torpedo officer
  • one midshipman
  • ratings for rangefinder and communications
  • ratings for rangefinder and communications
Observation position aloft
  • one midshipman
  • one rating for range balls and communications
  • one midshipman
  • one rating for range balls and communications

See Also

Footnotes

  1. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1918. p. 194.
  2. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1918. pp. 193-4.
  3. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1918. pp. 194-6.

Bibliography

  • H.M.S. Vernon. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1917. Originally C.B. 1474. Copy 7 at The National Archives. ADM 189/37.
  • H.M.S. Vernon. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1918. C.B. 1527. Copy 20 at The National Archives. ADM 189/38.