Difference between revisions of "Anti-Submarine Committee (Royal Navy)"

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| We have the honour to report that the question of dealing with the Enemy's Submarines has been enquired into, and we beg to offer the following remarks and suggestions for trials and experiments.<br>
 
| We have the honour to report that the question of dealing with the Enemy's Submarines has been enquired into, and we beg to offer the following remarks and suggestions for trials and experiments.<br>
 
2. It is first necessary to ascertain the capabilities of Submarines, and whilst the Officers in the Submarine Service appear confident that the capabilities of the latest Submarine are only limited by their supply of petrol and the endurance of their personnel, it is considered that certain of these capabilities should be put to a careful test. The danger to a Fleet from a Submarine attack has not yet been accurately determined and may easily be exaggerated, as the natural fear of fighting an unseen enemy enormously multiplies the actual danger. It is submitted that many of the capabilities attributed to Submarines need demonstration, which can only be attained by systematic Submarine Exercises with the Fleet. It is considered to he necessary for the training of the Officers and Men of the Fleet that they should be accustomed to the presence of Submarines and be able to detect them by their periscopes. It is possibly no exaggeration to say that the greater number of Officers and Men in the Service have not experienced the presence of Submarines with a Fleet at sea.<br>
 
2. It is first necessary to ascertain the capabilities of Submarines, and whilst the Officers in the Submarine Service appear confident that the capabilities of the latest Submarine are only limited by their supply of petrol and the endurance of their personnel, it is considered that certain of these capabilities should be put to a careful test. The danger to a Fleet from a Submarine attack has not yet been accurately determined and may easily be exaggerated, as the natural fear of fighting an unseen enemy enormously multiplies the actual danger. It is submitted that many of the capabilities attributed to Submarines need demonstration, which can only be attained by systematic Submarine Exercises with the Fleet. It is considered to he necessary for the training of the Officers and Men of the Fleet that they should be accustomed to the presence of Submarines and be able to detect them by their periscopes. It is possibly no exaggeration to say that the greater number of Officers and Men in the Service have not experienced the presence of Submarines with a Fleet at sea.<br>
3. In the method of attack practised p within one to two thoissands- yards of the vessel to be sit signalmen in the ita(66e.k:Pde t(m) :table' aim to be taken with the torpedo. Enid( great distances, and it is considered that it shosild be Service can take in signals at which would ruffle the surface of the water as possible for a Submarine's periscope, to be detected in situKith water by a watching vessel with trained the boat moved,  mirk-ones at a distance of about 2,000 yards. "4. It should 1.,e ascertained whether efficient navigation without the assistance of above-water craft is pcowible for a Submarine. " lf it is possible, then the danger of a successful attack on a Fleet on the High Sens is increased. On the other hand, if it is found that Submarines cannot navigate with any reliability, say, front 200 miles from their base without the assistance of above-wailer craft, then the chances of an attack on the Fleet en the High fSeas are considerably diminished. It is the Submarine's object to remain the surface and use her petrol engines for as long as possible, so that when she has to dive she may have her full diving capacity at bier disposal. It is, therefore, necessary to watch the Enemy's Ports to such an extent that the Submarines would not attempt to come out on the surface. if the Enemy's Ports are watched by a number of fast vessels patrolling the vicinity. it will be necessary for a Submarine, whose objective is to get to s4;i fur an attack on the Battle Fleet, to get an offing from her port below the surface during daylight or on the surface at night. " i',. The length of time which a Submarine Boat can remain submerged is stated te be limited only by the rapacity of her accumulators, but it, 'Must be remembered that, whatever means are adopted to purify tIn air, a ;eduction in the efficiency of the crew will take place after the boat has been submerged for an hour or so, and their eflivien•y will continue to clecline the longer the Submarine remains under water. s we ass tiles reduced to the probability that the capabilities of the Submarine at. sea are far more limited thr, 1,,,at.  by the human el' a element than they are by the capacity of " It is suggested that trials should bei carr ed out to ascertain how far • I t ie power of endurance of the, personnel of a Submarine, whilst ,-; 1 diving ,ss imerged, affects the d• • ►apacity of the issit. "11. In considering the question of dealing with Submarines, the subject may be divided into three conditions :—" (a) Submarines endeavouring to attack a Battle Fleet on the High Seas. " (k) Submarines near their own base, harassing a blockadingsquadron, or endeavouring to leave their base for the open sea. " (-ei ■u marines -1 b • attacking on an Enemy's Coast away from their own base. " 7. The initial precaution to be taken against (a) and (c) appears to be b (ndeavouring to prevent the Submarines leaving their base, or so to hamper them that by making them remain submerged, they caunot get far. ,, 8. premiming, however, that these precautions have only been partially successful and Submarines are known to be ' at large,' the question Of dealing with (a) is dependent to some extent on the disposition of the Battle Fleet and Cruisers when at sea. Supposing the Battle Squadron occupies the centre of a inovable circle, radius 35 miles, with Criii,,era on the circumference, and Cruiser Squadrons sweeping outside the circle, the probability of submarines locating the Fleet's position without the assistance of above wat does not approach within 150 miles of the Enem's Coast, although there will always er craft, is considered to be remote, especially if the Fleet remain the grapnel to sweep ahead of the possibility of a chance encounter with the 4 free-lance.' " If the Fleet was otherwise disposed than as presumed, it would be possible for Destroyers equipped with an explosive sweet. and di iity of disposing of these .craft at night, and, in addition, they would probably hamper the movements of the Cruisers by day. Fleet, but there would be the e 9.(b) In dealing with Submarines near their own base, it is pro osed that it every endeavour should be made at the earliest moment on the outbreakPof r, 't i station fast craft, such as Destroyers, supported by Cruisers, in the vicinity of,waand acs close as possible to, the ten-fathom line outside the Enemy's Ports, both by night and day. " With regard to the craft required, Destroyers have been suggested on account of their speed, but it is a question whether craft of high speed and a good armament of light guns, capable of dealing with a Destroyer (a Destroyer " destroyer," in fact) whose functions would be to deal with both submarines and Destroyers, are riot now required. " Either the vessels suggested, or the Destroyers, would he equipped with a rapid explosive sweep and an explosive grapnel, (the latter being kept at a depth of ten fathoms by a kite), if they are found to be practicable. The sweep it is proposed to use is designed with the idea that if a periscope is sighted and disappears at about 1,800 to 2,000 yards distance, the Destroyers would sweep in such a manner that, in whatever direction. the Submarine steered below the surface, she would be caught. The grapnel would be a secondary means of dealing with the Submarine when the sweep could not be used or was not available. The craft used for the sweep and grapnel would have to be fitted with the American Towing Capstan. " 10.—(e) With regard to the Enemy's Submarines in the vicinity of our own Ports, it is suggested that the approaches to our Naval Bases and Dockyard Ports should be patrolled by vessels, equipped with the rapid explosive sweep and the explosive grapnel, providing that none of our own Submarines were working in the vicinity.  
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3. In the method of attack practised by Submarines, it is stated that the periscope must be kept up within one to two thousands yards of the vessel to be attacked to enable aim to be taken with the torpedo. Efficient signalmen in the Service can take in signals at great distances, and it is considered that it should be possible for a Submarine's periscope, which would ruffle the surface of the water as the boat moved, to be detected in smooth water by a watching vessel with trained look-outs at a distance of about 2,000 yards.<br>
PROPOSED EXPERIMENTS AND TRIALS. " 11. To test the navigational possibilities of Submarines, it is proposed that a Division (3) be taken 100 miles into the North Sea in company with an above-water craft, and then be ordered to retorts to their base, the escorting vessel following them, but rendering no assistance as to course, &c. If the Submarines are successful in carrying out this trial, it is proposed that the distance be extended to 150 and 200 miles. If these trials are successful, from the Submarines' point of view, it is proposed that a further trial be carried out as follows :—A ship, to represent a Battle Fleet, would be despatched about 200 miles into the North Sea, and her position indicated to a Division of Submarines, who would be ordered to endeavour to find her by a certain time. The Submarines would be accompanied by an escorting vessel, which would, however, render no assistance as to course, &c. " If it is found necessary for Submarines to be attended by an above-water vessel, it is proposed that trials should be carried out to ascertain how two cruisers sweeping together should act, in order to sink the escorting vessel, without placing themselves in the danger zone of the Submarines. " From the result of these proposed trials, it is suggested that information should be available whether a Fleet at sea, 100 to 200 miles from an Enemy's Submarine base, could effectually keep off a Submarine attack, if 'provided with a sufficient number of cruisers. " 12. It is proposed that trials should be carried out with the sweep which has been designed for vessels of high speed, say, Torpedo Boat Destroyers, and in order to develop this sweep, it is suggested that the two Sweeping Trawlers at Sheerness would be fitted with the sweeps and kites required, and also with Scott's Otters, and when ready should proceed to Lyme Bay (or any other place selected) to carry out the trials. " 13. A Destroyer of the Tribal or River Class would be required to carry out trials with kites and Scott's Otters, to ascertain the most suitable apparatus to keep the sweep wires at the required depths. This Destroyer would also be required to experiment with a kite attached to the explosive grapnel. " 14. It is also suggested that experiments should be carried out to ascertain the chances of a Torpedo Boat Destroyer being able to torpedo a Submarine under varying conditions and at ranges not inside "ill() yards, the Submarine being submerged with only ,1,) er 10.peIrip It has beers showing. xg stated that a Submarine could be detected below the surface from a Captive Balloon or Dirigible, on the assumption that the human eye, aided with glasses, would act in a similar capacity to a bird detecting a fish under water. Experiments as to the possibility of detecting a Submarine iu the North Sea from a Captive Balloon might be tried.<ref>''Anti-Submarine Development and Experiments Prior to December 1916''. pp. 9-12.</ref>|}
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4. It should be ascertained whether efficient navigation without the assistance of above-water craft is possible for a Submarine.<br>
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If it is possible, then the danger of a successful attack on a Fleet on the High Seas is increased. On the other hand, if it is found that Submarines cannot navigate with any reliability, say, from 200 miles from their base without the assistance of above-water craft, then the chances of an attack on the Fleet on the High Seas are considerably diminished. It is the Submarine's object to remain on the surface and use her petrol engines for as long as possible, so that when she has to dive she may have her full diving capacity at her disposal. It is, therefore, necessary to watch the Enemy's Ports to such an extent that the Submarines would not attempt to come out on the surface. If the Enemy's Ports are watched by a number of fast vessels patrolling the vicinity, it will be necessary for a Submarine, whose objective is to get to sea for an attack on the Battle Fleet, to get an offing from her port below the surface during daylight or on the surface at night.
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<br>
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5. The length of time which a Submarine Boat can remain submerged is stated to be limited only by the capacity of her accumulators, but it, must be remembered that, whatever means are adopted to purify the air, a reduction in the efficiency of the crew will take place after the boat has been submerged for an hour or so, and their efficiency will continue to decline the longer the Submarine remains under water.
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<br>
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We are thus reduced to the probability that the capabilities of the Submarine at sea are far more limited by the human element than they are by the capacity of the boat.
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<br>It is suggested that trials should be carried out to ascertain how far the power of endurance of the personnel of a Submarine, whilst submerged, affects the diving capacity of the boat.  
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<br>
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6. In considering the question of dealing with Submarines, the subject may be divided into three conditions :&mdash;
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<br>(''a'') Submarines endeavouring to attack a Battle Fleet on the High Seas.<br>(''b'') Submarines near their own base, harassing a blockading squadron, or endeavouring to leave their base for the open sea.
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<br>(''c'') Submarines attacking on an Enemy's Coast away from their own base. <br>
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7. The initial precaution to be taken against (''a'') and (''c'') appears to be by endeavouring to prevent the Submarines leaving their base, or so to hamper them that by making them remain submerged, they cannot get far.  
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8. Presuming, however, that these precautions have only been partially successful and Submarines are known to be "at large," the question of dealing with (''a'') is dependent to some extent on the disposition of the Battle Fleet and Cruisers when at sea. Supposing the Battle Squadron occupies the centre of a movable circle, radius 35 miles, with Cruisers on the circumference, and Cruiser Squadrons sweeping outside the circle, the probability of submarines locating the Fleet's position without the assistance of above water craft, is considered to be remote, especially if the Fleet does not approach within 150 miles of the Enemy's Coast, although there will always remain the possibility of a chance encounter with the "free-lance."
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<br>
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If the Fleet was otherwise disposed than as presumed, it would be possible for Destroyers equipped with an explosive sweep and grapnel to sweep ahead of the Fleet, but there would be the difficulty of disposing of these craft at night, and, in addition, they would probably hamper the movements of the Cruisers by day.
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<br>9.&mdash;(''b'') In dealing with Submarines near their own base, it is proposed that every endeavour should be made at the earliest moment on the outbreak of war, to station fast craft, such as Destroyers, supported by Cruisers, in the vicinity of, and as close as possible to, the ten-fathom line outside the Enemy's Ports, both by night and day.
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<br>
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With regard to the craft required, Destroyers have been suggested on account of their speed, but it is a question whether craft of high speed and a good armament of light guns, capable of dealing with a Destroyer (a Destroyer "destroyer," in fact) whose functions would be to deal with both submarines and Destroyers, are not now required.
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<br>Either the vessels suggested, or the Destroyers, would he equipped with a rapid explosive sweep and an explosive grapnel, (the latter being kept at a depth of ten fathoms by a kite), if they are found to be practicable. The sweep it is proposed to use is designed with the idea that if a periscope is sighted and disappears at about 1,800 to 2,000 yards distance, the Destroyers would sweep in such a manner that, in whatever direction the Submarine steered below the surface, she would be caught. The grapnel would be a secondary means of dealing with the Submarine when the sweep could not be used or was not available. The craft used for the sweep and grapnel would have to be fitted with the American Towing Capstan.
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<br>10.—(''c'') With regard to the Enemy's Submarines in the vicinity of our own Ports, it is suggested that the approaches to our Naval Bases and Dockyard Ports should be patrolled by vessels, equipped with the rapid explosive sweep and the explosive grapnel, providing that none of our own Submarines were working in the vicinity.  
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<br>
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PROPOSED EXPERIMENTS AND TRIALS.
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<br>
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11. To test the navigational possibilities of Submarines, it is proposed that a Division (3) be taken 100 miles into the North Sea in company with an above-water craft, and then be ordered to retorts to their base, the escorting vessel following them, but rendering no assistance as to course, &c. If the Submarines are successful in carrying out this trial, it is proposed that the distance be extended to 150 and 200 miles. If these trials are successful, from the Submarines' point of view, it is proposed that a further trial be carried out as follows:&mdash;
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<br>
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A ship, to represent a Battle Fleet, would be despatched about 200 miles into the North Sea, and her position indicated to a Division of Submarines, who would be ordered to endeavour to find her by a certain time. The Submarines would be accompanied by an escorting vessel, which would, however, render no assistance as to course, &c.
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<br>
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If it is found necessary for Submarines to be attended by an above-water vessel, it is proposed that trials should be carried out to ascertain how two cruisers sweeping together should act, in order to sink the escorting vessel, without placing themselves in the danger zone of the Submarines.
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<br>
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From the result of these proposed trials, it is suggested that information should be available whether a Fleet at sea, 100 to 200 miles from an Enemy's Submarine base, could effectually keep off a Submarine attack, if provided with a sufficient number of cruisers.
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<br>
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12. It is proposed that trials should be carried out with the sweep which has been designed for vessels of high speed, say, Torpedo Boat Destroyers, and in order to develop this sweep, it is suggested that the two Sweeping Trawlers at Sheerness would be fitted with the sweeps and kites required, and also with Scott's Otters, and when ready should proceed to Lyme Bay (or any other place selected) to carry out the trials.
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<br>
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13. A Destroyer of the Tribal or River Class would be required to carry out trials with kites and Scott's Otters, to ascertain the most suitable apparatus to keep the sweep wires at the required depths. This Destroyer would also be required to experiment with a kite attached to the explosive grapnel.
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<br>
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14. It is also suggested that experiments should be carried out to ascertain the chances of a Torpedo Boat Destroyer being able to torpedo a Submarine under varying conditions and at ranges not inside 500 yards, the Submarine being submerged with only her periscope showing.
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<br>
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15. It has been stated that a Submarine could be detected below the surface from a Captive Balloon or Dirigible, on the assumption that the human eye, aided with glasses, would act in a similar capacity to a bird detecting a fish under water. Experiments as to the possibility of detecting a Submarine in the North Sea from a Captive Balloon might be tried.
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<br>
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16. Other experiments which have been suggested are:&mdash;
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<br>(1) The firing of Lyddite Shell at an abandoned submerged Holland Submarine, with 2 feet of periscope showing, to ascertain if the shell exploding would affect the internal fittings of the boat.
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<br>(2) The laying of indicating nets, when a Submarine's periscope has been sighted and has disappeared, with a view to the Submarine indicating her position by them, and eventually, on coming to the surface, be destroyed by the watching craft.
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<br>(3) Firing Maxims at a Periscope to ascertain if the Submarine's attack can be frustrated by this means.
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<br>
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It is, however, proposed that the other trials suggested should be first carried out, as they are considered to be a more substantial means of attack.<ref>''Anti-Submarine Development and Experiments Prior to December 1916''. pp. 9-12.</ref>
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|}
  
 
Up to the outbreak of war in August, 1914, the committee reported at least fifty-five times.<ref>''Anti-Submarine Development and Experiments Prior to December 1916''. p. 43.</ref>
 
Up to the outbreak of war in August, 1914, the committee reported at least fifty-five times.<ref>''Anti-Submarine Development and Experiments Prior to December 1916''. p. 43.</ref>

Revision as of 14:25, 21 March 2019

The Anti-Submarine Committee, also known simply as Submarine Committee, was an ad hoc body of the Royal Navy formed in 1910 for dealing with anti-submarine warfare proposals.

History

The committee was formally appointed on 1 April, 1910, under the presidency of Rear-Admiral Cecil Burney. The other members were Captain Sir Robert K. Arbuthnot, Bart., Commander John A. Moreton, and a Secretary.[1] Richard Dunley claims that the committee "appears to have been largely drawn from officers of the fleet",[2] providing no evidence to support this assertion. Commander Moreton was actually an experienced submarine commander.[3] A valuable insight into the early operation of the committee is provided by Arbuthnot's diary.

The committee initially met at Fort Blockhouse, the home of the submarine service, several times a week, usually in the morning.[4] On 14 April Arbuthnot went to H.M.S. Vernon to discuss gear and experiments with its captain, Robert S. P. Hornby.[5] In the morning of 20 April Burney and Arbuthnot went out and dived in a C-class submarine with Captain Frank Brandt. After lunch at Fort Blockhouse they finalised the committee's first report.[6] The Technical History of the Navy's pre-war ASW efforts states: "This report is given rather fully, as, in the light of the present day experience, it serves very well to illustrate the amount of knowledge on the subject possessed at the time, the trend to which thoughts first turned in dealing with the question, and the comparatively meagre capabilities of the existing Submarines compared with those of the present time."[7]

Up to the outbreak of war in August, 1914, the committee reported at least fifty-five times.[9]

During its existence, the primary tools which would define the pinnacle of anti-submarine warfare through the end of the Great War were devised – particularly the hydrophone and the hydrostatically fired depth charge – but often alongside large numbers of grossly ineffective weapons and tactics which were slow to cede ground.

Presidents

Members

This list is not complete.

Footnotes

  1. See lists below, and for composition see Anti-Submarine Development and Experiments Prior to December 1916. p. 9.
  2. Dunley. "Anti-Submarine Warfare in the Pre-First World War Royal Navy: A Cultural Failure?" p. 15.
  3. Moreton service record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44/239.
  4. Arbuthnot diary entry for 5 April, 1910. National Maritime Museum. Arbuthnot papers. ARB/1/12.
  5. Arbuthnot diary entry for 14 April, 1910. National Maritime Museum. Arbuthnot Papers. ARB/1/12.
  6. Arbuthnot diary entry for 20 April, 1910. National Maritime Museum. Arbuthnot Papers. ARB/1/12.
  7. Anti-Submarine Development and Experiments Prior to December 1916. p. 9.
  8. Anti-Submarine Development and Experiments Prior to December 1916. pp. 9-12.
  9. Anti-Submarine Development and Experiments Prior to December 1916. p. 43.
  10. Burney Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/38/232. Return, for the Year ended 31st March 1911, of the Army and Navy Officers permitted, under Rule 2 of the Regulations drawn up under Section 6 of the "Superannuation Act, 1887," to hold Civil Employment of Profit under Public Departments. pp. 32-33.
  11. Return, for the Year ended 31st March 1911, of the Army and Navy Officers permitted, under Rule 2 of the Regulations drawn up under Section 6 of the "Superannuation Act, 1887," to hold Civil Employment of Profit under Public Departments. pp. 32-33.
  12. Sturdee Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39/476.
  13. Sturdee Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39/476.
  14. Tupper Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39/536.
  15. Tupper Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39/536.
  16. Date inferred from the date of Tupper ceasing duty on the committee. Clearly listed as "President of Submarine Committee" in Return, for the Year ended 31st March 1913, of the Army and Navy Officers permitted, under Rule 2 of the Regulations drawn up under Section 6 of the "Superannuation Act, 1887," to hold Civil Employment of Profit under Public Departments. pp. 22-23, 32-33.
  17. Hornby Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42/378.
  18. Moreton Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44/239.
  19. Arbuthnot Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42/244.
  20. Tupper Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39/536.
  21. Tupper Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/39/536.
  22. Currey Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42/31.
  23. Return, for the Year ended 31st March 1914, of the Army and Navy Officers permitted, under Rule 2 of the Regulations drawn up under Section 6 of the "Superannuation Act, 1887," to hold Civil Employment of Profit under Public Departments. pp. 32-33.

Bibliography

  • Return, for the Year ended 31st March 1911, of the Army and Navy Officers permitted, under Rule 2 of the Regulations drawn up under Section 6 of the "Superannuation Act, 1887," to hold Civil Employment of Profit under Public Departments. H.C. 234 (1911).
  • Return, for the Year ended 31st March 1913, of the Army and Navy Officers permitted, under Rule 2 of the Regulations drawn up under Section 6 of the "Superannuation Act, 1887," to hold Civil Employment of Profit under Public Departments. H.C. 238 (1913).
  • Return, for the Year ended 31st March 1914, of the Army and Navy Officers permitted, under Rule 2 of the Regulations drawn up under Section 6 of the "Superannuation Act, 1887," to hold Civil Employment of Profit under Public Departments. H.C. 440 (1915).
  • Dunley, Richard (2019). "Anti-Submarine Warfare in the Pre-First World War Royal Navy: A Cultural Failure?" War in History. DOI: 10.1177/0968344518797150.
  • Naval Staff (L.D.D.) (1920). Anti-Submarine Development and Experiments Prior to December, 1916. The Technical History and Index. Vol. 5. Part 40. C.B. 1515 (40). Copy at the National Maritime Museum.

See Also