This paper has been transcribed from the 1914 edition of The Naval Review, produced by "The Naval Society" for the education of Royal Navy officers. In keeping with its original mandate, all authors were anonymous. However, the author has been identified as Captain W. R. "Blinker" Hall, RN, thanks to the list published by James Goldrick in Mahan is Not Enough- the Proceedings of a Conference on the Works of Sir Julian Corbett and Admiral Sir Hubert Richmond (edited by James Goldrick and John B. Hattendorf, Naval War College Press, 1993).
It is important to remember that this article does not described official RN tactical doctrine, but is purely the opinion of one of its officers -- albeit one of the more intellectual ones.
The object of the following paper is to suggest some points for consideration with regard to the handling of a fleet in action. Experience teaches that they are not the relative numbers of the ships engaged but the leadership, quality, and training of the personnel, which are the decisive factors in war. In other words, it is the way in which the matérial is utilised, rather than the matérial itself, which is of the first importance. What is required with regard to matérial, is that it should be carefully designed to fulfil the conditions demanded by skilled leadership. It follows, that the first essential is to establish sound principles of leadership based upon sound tactics, when the rest will follow.
The object of tactics is to bring the weapons employed into action under conditions most favourable to their effective use. Hence it is necessary to discover what those conditions are; nor need it be supposed that the subject is necessarily complex; it is really a question of adapting means to ends. The principles governing tactics, like other principles, are educed by experiment and experience; once formulated they may be readily comprehended.
It is perhaps, the difficulty of producing principles acceptable to the many that has so long delayed the production of any definite system. Once principles are accepted, there follows immediately: training in ships designed for specific purposes based on these principles; a gunnery technique is produced which can cope with the conditions; and what is by far the most valuable, a clear understanding as to the methods which can be employed.
It is a curious historical fact that the effect of peace on war personnel, is to produce a general feeling that if a good defensive attitude can be assumed the attack can be left to the enemy.
Thus, in the early wars of the eighteenth century, a convention had developed that the fleet was not to engage an enemy until it was in a compact line, and that under no circumstances was this line to be broken. All idea of doubling on the enemy, or of making a general attack on one part of his line was practically forbidden by the fighting instructions, so that the battle resolved itself into first forming a single line of battle, and then the engagement by each ship of her opposite number in the enemy's line. the result was demonstrated by many indecisive engagements and is clearly described by Clerk of Eldin.
In sifting out the teachings of a peace training, it is probably correct to say that the single line is the best defensive formation. But as an offensive formation it possesses grave disadvantages; and if worked for and adhered to in an action, the result would depend solely on gun or torpedo fire - tactical advantage will have no part in the play.
It may be that the main body - the centre - of a fleet would be kept at a distance outside torpedo range from the enemy, but it has to be observed in connection with this long range gun combat, that battles have always been won at decisive ranges, at which the proportion of hits to rounds is high.
At the battle between the Japanese and the Russians off Port Arthur on 10th August, 1904, the range was great, the consequent percentage of hits was small, and the result was an inconclusive action. It is only right to add that each fleet was in single line and worked as a whole, i.e., each fleet put into play the best lessons of peace training. It is quite evident from the different methods pursued by the Japanese at Tsushima, that they had by then realised that though one single line was good for defence, it gave no prospect of annihilating the enemy, and that a fight to a finish had to be conducted by divisions at a hitting range.
Unless it can be assumed, that at a range outside that of a torpedo, good hitting can be obtained, there can be no expectation of entirely defeating the enemy. It does not by any means appear from peace practice that our fleet is prepared to do very much actual hitting at these long ranges. This with a fleet kept in single line and manúuvred as a whole, the situation practically becomes an impasse. The fleet is obliged to keep at long range owing to fear of torpedoes, and yet it is able to do little more than scratch the enemy.
The method practised in peace time, has generally been to deploy the divisions of the fleet into single line just outside fighting range, on a course at right angles to the "bearing of the enemy's centre." If the deployment is made too late, the movement has to be continued under fire; if too early, the enemy has time to alter his disposition.
In the movements of a large fleet the "time element" has an important bearing.
To deploy a fleet of 24 ships into line at 12 knots takes at least 10 minutes; to complete an alteration of course of 8 points with the same number of ships in single line at 12 knots takes 23 minutes. Once committed to single line, any alteration of course in succession will take a similar time to effect, so that a fleet in single line is seriously hampered in its movements by its very size.
Moreover, if an alteration of course in succession is forced on the fleet, owing to the leading ships being in an unfavourable position, the rear ship of the line must pass through the same position in following round.
It must also be noted that, no matter what is the position of the commander-in-chief in the line, he will be quite unable to see more than a few cables ahead or astern of him, owing to smoke from funnels, guns, and bursting shell.
The disadvantages of a single line are then:-
(1) It is unwieldly.
(2) Unable to prevent concentration by the enemy's ships on any part of the line, except by turning away.
(3) Limited in speed to that of the slowest ship.
(4) Makes no use of high speed ships.
(5) Makes no use of the skill of divisional leaders.
There appears to be an idea that a fleet A with a potential advantage of speed over fleet B is able to say definitely that it will fight at a range most suitable to its gun power. For example, it has been stated that a fleet of battleships of the "Dreadnought" type, can fight at a distance at which their guns are still accurate while the guns of the enemy are practically outranged.
If A has only heavy guns, whilst B has a mixed armament of heavy and medium calibres, evidently A will endeavour to keep at such a range that B's medium guns are comparatively harmless.
A, will thus be forced to do one of two things, viz.:-
(a) Try to annihilate B before he reaches his fighting range.
(b) Turn away and go faster than B.
Supposition (a) makes great demands on gunnery efficiency. the large rate of rapidly decreasing range requires to be accurately known, and peace training does not lend itself to practice under such conditions; so that it cannot be stated with any accuracy what the percentage of hits is likely to be; the conditions must remain to be dealt with for the first time when the action opens.
Supposition (b) does not demand much examination. To begin with, the effect on the morale must be considered, and secondly, it is by no means easy to turn a long line together even in peace battles.1 [1 Observe that the turn must be made together, if it is amde in succession the tail of the line will be unsupported.] The effect, when engaged, of trying to do so through a large number of points will almost inevitably result in confusion and possible accidents. It will in fact for a time, entirely disorganise the fire of the fleet and render it impossible for the commander-in-chief to make any other movement until the ships have sorted themselves out and taken up their allotted stations again.
Thus, if one course is doubtful, the other is worse. Nothing could play into the enemy's hands better than (b).
At the present time, owing largely to judging results by paper tests, it is found that the fleet is usually worked as a single line unit.
Attempts have been made in several exercises to use divisional attack, but the actual difference of speed allowed between the van, rear, and centre, has rarely exceeded three knots. The attacks under such conditions have always failed on paper, and will continue to fail, so long as a difference of speed amounting to about three knots is considered sufficient.
The result of these failures has naturally been accepted as sufficient evidence that the teaching of the tactical board is correct, and theory is said to be confirmed by practice. The result therefore is, that single line attack is the accepted principle; in fact, the single line is at present the master of tactics instead of being a useful servant.
Hence it is found, that a battle fleet in line-of-battle possesses ships capable of a high speed which is not used; moderate speed units which are expected to keep up for them a high rate of speed; and divisional leaders whose experience and ability are not utilised.
No man, certainly no sailor, is inclined to anticipate failure. But as things are now, it is easy to imagine a single ship being compelled to attack under conditions which have never been tried, or a division being directed to carry out a flank attack, the object of which and the method of carrying it out have never been discussed.
Such being the conditions obtaining at present, it has to be considered whether a survey of past experience, together with an examination of the difficulties to be overcome, may not suggest further developments.
Of all the teachings of peace, there is none more erroneous than the doctrine of "centralisation."
In war, the road to success lies in decentralisation after the wishes of the commander-in-chief are made known to the divisional commanders.
From centralisation arose the cult of the line of battle. It empowered the commander-in-chief to work the fleet as a whole, so that no ship, squadron, or division could move without his orders. This system first destroyed all sense of responsibility of the divisional leaders; and second, forced the fleet to maintain a single line which though perhaps best for defence, has never, if maintained, annihilated an enemy.
The influence that Nelson brought to bear on his subordinates was that of trust and confidence; they were "a band of brothers." He was careful that his brother officers had a very clear conception of his ideas, so that a subordinate was not left in ignorance of the manner in which he was expected to deal with any situation that might arise. He formed clear ideas as to what he wanted, impressed them upon his officers; and herein lies the gist of the whole matter.
The two general orders issued by Nelson in the Trafalgar campaign clearly emphasised the fact that he did not intend to work the fleet as a whole. Each divisional leader had to work his division in such a manner as would best give effect to the known intentions of the commander-in-chief.
Nelson fully appreciated that whatever position in the line might be taken by the commander-in-chief, he would be wholly unable to see what was happening at any distance, and he therefore left it to divisional commanders, and even to individual ships, to take up such positions for mutual support as were open to them.
The effect of over centralisation of command shews itself plainly peace exercises, when it not infrequently forces inaction upon divisional commanders. In war it may be fatal.
Any system of decentralisation must be based on certain premises:-
(1) The commander-in-chief must have definite principles of tactics.
(2) These principles must be well understood by his subordinates.
Unless these conditions are fulfilled, there cannot be that mutual co-operation which is essential to success.
Tactics being the art of obtaining the position in action in which the weapons employed may be used to the greatest advantage, it is now to consider what that position is. There are thus two factors: (1) position, (2) hitting.
Position. - To obtain a tactical advantage over an enemy it is necessary so to place the portions of a fleet, that while one portion of the enemy's fleet is being crushed by overwhelming gun fire, there is no equal opportunity given to the enemy of dealing out similar treatment to any portion of our own.
So far as experience in peace exercises goes, it has been conclusively proved that in order to gain a position of tactical advantage, high speed and frequent alterations of course are necessary. The value of gun fire under such conditions may reasonably be gauged by comparing them with those required, with our present experience, to obtain effective gun fire.
It follows, that it is only right to assume that a fleet seeking tactical advantage over an enemy, when within range, cannot count on making the most effective use of its weapons unless a steady course be maintained. Thus the two elements of success appear to be in direct opposition to each other.
It will be noted that this statement is qualified by the words when within range. It is clearly possible, if the enemy allows it, to obtain a position of tactical advantage before an action commences. This, in itself, is a separate problem which may be dealt with later on.
Hitting. - Our peace experience of hitting is obtained under the following conditions:-
(1) Moderate speed.
(2) Steady course for a definite period, during which the speed and course of the enemy can be obtained.
From (2) it is commonly expected that:-
(a) During a turn firing is to be suspended.
(b) After a turn firing is ineffective until a new rate is obtained.
(c) Hence frequent turns militate against hitting.
Presumably therefore (1) and (2) are the conditions under which gun fire may be expected to be effective.
Consider the following possibilities in a fleet action:-
(1) The fleet to be worked in single line, controlled by the commander-in-chief, as already discussed.
(2) The fleet to be worked by divisions, or sub-divisions, on general principles laid down by the commander-in-chief.
With this latter organisation there may be:-
(a) A division of the fleet before action commences.
(b) A division of the fleet under cover of the fire of the centre after action has commenced.
If it be accepted that these are the general systems for working a fleet in action, then the enemy is limited to the same.
In this paper there is no intention of producing plans and figures or of discussing each combination in detail: they can be studied at leisure, so that the mind becomes familiar with the various openings and movements.
Let it be granted at the outset that there are risks attached to tactical movements (2), (a) and (b), greater risks than are involved in the comfortable policy of the single line.
It is probably quite correct to say that taking as a test "weight of metal per minute fired by a fleet," the one worked in single line will on paper prove to be the victor, as against a fleet which has been subdivided into units, some of which have for a time had to reduce their gun fire in order to take up a position of tactical advantage; but in this paper victory there lies the fallacy, that the theoretical value of weight of metal fired, includes no consideration of morale.
In moving a sub-division to reinforce an attack on part of the enemy's line, four things must be taken into account from the enemy's point of view:-
First, being already engaged it becomes necessary for the enemy to divert part of his gun fire to combat the advance of the - if it is admissible to call it so - flanking force.
Second, the necessity for taking immediate steps by alteration of course or speed to counter the move.
Third, the fact that unless something to be done, and done quickly, part of the line will be under fire from at least two different directions.
Fourth, the possible confusion in the enemy's lines due to the bold divisional tactics of his opponent. This is not seen in peace practice, and therefore it is an effect not taken into consideration in the general summary of the result.
From experience gained under peace conditions, the difficulties which have to be overcome before a single target can be hit at long range are now known. But the problem set to the enemy of hitting two different objects at different range, different bearings, and moving at different speeds, presents difficulties which go far to reduce still further his chance of hitting. So that there are potential factors of success in arranging that part of the enemy's line should have gun fire directed on it from two or more directions.
Clausewitz (Vol. III., page 190 et seq) states:-
"We try to fall upon a point in the enemy's position; that is, a part of his army, division or corps with a great preponderance of force while we keep the other parts in uncertainty, that is to say, occupy them. It is only in this way that when our forces are equal or inferior we can fight with superiority on our side."...
"The principle blow is directed against a wing of the enemy's force by an attack in front and flank."...
"Even when in strong force we often choose only one point for the great shock, and give the blow against that point the greater strength."
An attack in front and flank will necessitate a high relative speed of the force moving to the flank compared with that of the force attacking in front. the principal blow would naturally be delivered by the largest division under the direction of the commander-in-chief.
To meet these requirements it follows that:-
(1) There should be a large potential difference of speed between the wing divisions and the centre.
(2) The centre division should be as large as is consistent with ease of handling.
(3) The centre division will either deliver the main attack, or will cover with its fire the flanking movements to be carried out by the wing divisions.
Let us suppose there are two wing divisions, composed entirely of fast ships, one on each side of the centre. They could be used either for attack or defence. In defence, a wing division would confine its attention to preventing a detached division of the enemy from harassing the centre. As a general rule, a wing division should never allow itself to get into such a position that the centre is nearer the enemy's main force than itself. Such a position would deprive the centre of support if a turn towards the enemy had to be made.
In attack a wing division may have a double function. It may be necessary not only to try and clear the flank of the enemy, but, while so doing, to threaten the main body of the enemy in order to frustrate any move on his part. To effect this, a wing division should be of sufficient strength to form two strong sub-divisions, the leading sub-division pursuing its course towards a flank or a detached division, and the rear sub-division, containing, or threatening, the flank ships of the enemy's main force.
The advantage that would accrue from such organisation has been manifest on several occasions in peace exercises. It may happen that a meeting of opposing fleets takes place in narrow waters where there is little sea room, or where, even if there be sea room, it would be an advantage to force the enemy turn in some given direction. A wing division being detached will probably have the desired effect, although there may be no intention of delivering the main attack on the part of the enemy's force threatened.
When the centre division is used as a containing force, moderate speed is necessary in order to get effective gun fire and to ensure a large difference of speed between the centre and the wing divisions.
the effectiveness of gun fire in these circumstances is the one consideration, and everything should be done to give it every possible advantage.
Fleets do not cruise at nearly their highest speed, indeed, the greater part of their work is done at about 12 knots, and the average battleship captain is accustomed to this speed; station keeping, even without flags and cones, or helm signals, is comparatively easy, and there is practically no nerve strain from anxiety as to the safety of the ship in the line. Thus a captain's attention can be given mostly to the actual fighting of his ship, and the conning may be left to the navigator. This is no small matter; the onlooker sees most of the game and also the mistakes. Control officers and officers of the quarters, frequently miss points which are seen and grasped by an onlooker.
A captain with his mind at rest as to the conning of the ship can do valuable work in observing and controlling the actual fighting of his ship. It may seem unnecessary to labour this point at all. In former days the captain fought the ship, the master conned her. With ships of the present date 600-700 feet long, in close order, and at high speed, he is only able to devote his attention to the actual handling of his ship.
The personal leadership of the captain is necessary to success, hence it becomes requisite in these days to produce an arrangement under which, while the safety of the ship and her consorts in the line is assured, he is able to devote his attention to the destruction of the enemy, which, after all, is what he is there for.
So that, if the centre be used as a containing force, its speed must be moderate in order to ensure, so far as possible, the most effective gun fire.
It has been considered by some officers that an extra speed of a few knots will give an initial advantage to a fleet possessing it. If this theory be examined it will be found that under certain conditions the extra speed is of no advantage.
One fleet worked as a unit may have as much as three knots advantage over another, but the net result is that the slower fleet works on interior and the faster on exterior lines. so long as there is sea room, the slower fleet will probably reap the advantage since its gun fire should be more accurate.
If, however, the fleet be worked in divisions, there is a real advantage in having a certain number of ships capable of high speed. To effect a change of position of a wing division (division or sub-division) in order to obtain position, the speed at which the movement is carried out must be high to ensure success, and not only high in itself buy high in comparison with the speed of the centre.
A speed of 20 knots is high in itself, but not in comparison with 17 knots, and to obtain a relatively rapid change of position, there must be a large difference of speed between the centre and the wings. Further, the greater the relative difference in speed, the sooner the fast divisions will be able to develop their maximum gun fire.
To give support to a wing division by efficient gun fire, and further to assist in decreasing the time necessary to effect the movement, the centre must move at a moderate speed. The proper point for the delivery of the concentrated attack will probably be in doubt for some time. The movements of the enemy's fleet and their general disposition will be the determining factors; and it may even be necessary to move the centre directly to the support of one of the wings.
When it becomes necessary for the centre to reinforce a wing division, considerations of time must come first, so that speed should be increased to the maximum, sacrificing gun fire for a time in order more quickly to get into the required position, and when there to develop its maximum again.
There would seem, from the results and criticisms of peace manúuvres, to be a general feeling that unless the "A" arc of a ship is bearing, there is a grave defect in the position; so much so, that in many cases frequent alterations of course have been made to try to keep the "A" arcs on. Such alterations are really not justified by the present state of gunnery technique. The fire from even a few guns from a ship on a steady course is more likely to be effective than that from the whole of a broadside with the ship making frequent changes in course.
A division moving to reinforce or attack should endeavour to shape a course and adhere to it without regard as to whether the maximum number of guns are bearing or not. It cannot be assumed that because all the guns are firing there will necessarily be more hitting. For a time the volume of gunfire must be reduced to obtain position, but though reduced in volume, there is no need still further to reduce it in accuracy by frequent alterations in course.
The simplest case presupposes that both fleets are engaged, each in single line ahead and steering more or less parallel courses.
If the deployment of both fleets has taken place much at the same time, the result will be a ship against ship action. There will be no tactical advantage on either side, and unless some move is made the victory must lie with the best shooting fleet, irrespective of speed advantages and prolonged sea training. It is purely a question of gunnery technique, and does not bring into play the skill of leaders or the speed of ships.
There are two ways of checking an enemy's fire. One is to overwhelm him by superior accuracy of fire; another is to force him to make some move in the performance of which he is compelled to reduce his gun fire both in volume and in accuracy.
Attack on the enemy's van. - To get the van, or a portion of it, in such a position as to force the enemy to turn away in order to prevent his T being crossed, presupposes either that the van has an advantage of speed over that of the enemy, or that the latter has formed his line of battle wrongly. If the van has not this advantage of speed, the battle will become one of isolated units, each fighting its own battle. Neither van is able to get ahead of the other, but both will rapidly draw away from the centre divisions.
there is little doubt but that the van attack is the safest. With the preent forward bearing of torpedo tubes, there is far less risk from torpedoes, and it is easy to reduce speed and drop back on the centre if it is seen that the flank attack cannot be brought off.
On a careful study, it very much points to the necessity of having a "reserve" or "advanced" squadron similar to that organised by Lord Howe when in command of the Channel Fleet in 1794.2 [2 It is worth mentioning that Lord Howe subsequently modified the organisation, placed all the battleships in the line, and formed the reserve of two frigate squadrons.]
Unless there is a marked numerical superiority in numbers over the enemy, it would be inadvisable to reduce the strength of the centre in order to reinforce the van. The alternative is to use the fast armoured cruisers, if present, which could move up under the cover of the fire of the van (proper). Their line of advance should be towards that of the enemy's course, so that, should the enemy not alter the course away, the cruisers would cross their line of advance at about 5,000 yards.
It may not be advisable for the cruiser division actually to cross the line of the enemy's advance; it will probably be better to take up a position on the engaged side of the bow of the leading ship, on whom the fire of the cruisers should be concentrated. The true object is to subject the leading ship to two fires from ships on largely different bearings, and so long as this is effected the actual position of the cruisers is not of very great moment.
Attack on enemy's rear. - The case of a divisional attack on the enemy's rear after action has been joined next comes under consideration.
Here, assuming as before, that both fleets have deployed into line and are engaged practically ship against ship, a certain loss of gunfire for a time is involved if the rear division is detached to flank the enemy's rear; but the compensations are that since the rear division is moving at high speed, the fire of the enemy would, according to our tests, be less effective; and that he will be obliged to make some move to reply to the threatened attack.
The rear division can alter towards the enemy to a course which bears a direct relation to the difference of speed between the centre and the rear, and to the speed of the enemy. They must on no account mask the fire of the centre, and on the other hand, should not drop so far astern as to be out of gun range of the enemy.
A move to flank the rear cannot be well carried out if the centre is much before the beam of the enemy. It is most effectual when the enemy's line is rather ahead, the general principle being, that the rear division move to a flank and do not drop materially astern of the line of advance of the centre.
Whilst moving across, in fine weather and smooth water, the rear division will be able to keep at least the forecastle guns employed, and probably others. Unless the enemy alter course his rate will be known, and gun fire should therefore be accurate. On the other hand, the enemy will not know the new course and speed of the division, and will take some time to find it out.
In order that this move shall be still further covered, it is quite possible to direct that each of the rear ships in the centre division should engage two ships in the enemy's line.
The rear attack will be met with both torpedo and gun fire, and every effort will be made to cripple or stop the crossing division, but unless the advancing ships are disabled in a short time they will inevitably bite off the enemy's tail bit by bit.
It is open to the enemy to detach a fast division to attack in a similar manner, a reply which is met by sending a division of armoured cruisers to reinforce.
As in the case of the van divisional attack, the rear attack may be made by a cruiser division under cover of the fire of the centre.
The question then arises whether the policy of a uniform type of battleship best meets tactical requirements, or ships should be built for the specific purpose they are to fulfill, according to the position they will occupy on the day of battle. It is of course convenient, to have ships which can be put in any position in the line, but it may involve sacrificing valuable unites of offence.
In designing a ship only a certain number of units can be placed in her, viz., gun power, armour, speed, coal capacity, etc. To get high speed the units of gun power and defence must be reduced, and vice versâ.
What is required in a battleship in the centre division is the maximum of offence: high speed has no fighting value to her, except to correct faulty strategy, a question which lies beyond the scope of this paper.
On the other hand, a ship in the van or the rear may at any time require high speed, without which she will be unable to make the rapid changes of position necessary to effect a concentration on a part of the enemy.
Moreover, when a type of ship is to be built, the tactics of a probable opponent should be considered. Where it can reasonably be anticipated that a destroyer attack will be delivered in day time during a fleet action, it becomes necessary to provide a gun armament and a complement of men to man it, in order successfully to repel such an attack. A secondary armament is also desirable if the enemy means to fight at close range.
The probable tactics of an enemy can to some extent be deduced from an examination of what he does in peace time; but there is a factor which must also be borne in mind, the characteristics and known sentiments of the leaders.
It is at present, easier to get an idea of the probable tactics of an army rather than of a navy. It may be assumed that if the traditions and training of an army are all shaped towards offensive tactics, the same spirit must be in the naval force of the same power; so that, if Germany be the power under consideration, it is well to try and deduce the probable tactics of their sea forces, from what we know of the tactics of their land forces. In their army - an enormous force of men, short service, adequate reserve, traditions of bold attack - all point to the employment of offensive tactics, and the question is finally settled by their practice in peace manúuvres.
Offensive tactics at see involve:-
First, a bold advance to some fairly close range at which the hits should be frequent.
Second, a concentration of ships on a part of the enemy's line.
Third, the use of all possible means of offence; such as the employment of destroyers and mine layers with the fleet.
If the training of the personnel, and the matérial employed, are suitable for these three conditions, there can be little doubt that they intend to use offensive tactics. It will be interesting to summarize what is known of the training and matérial in the German Navy.
The Germans are far too close students of the art of war to miss the point, that a fight to a finish must be at a hitting range. In their battleships the heavy guns have high muzzle velocity and fire comparatively light projectiles; the guns of the large secondary armament have the same characteristics; finally, no control position is apparently higher than 50 feet above the water line. These three features all point to short range; in fact it is compulsory with such armaments and fittings.
The further point, the training of the personnel, is far more difficult to answer. So far the information at hand on the subject points to the same conclusion. In one sham fight in the presence of the Emperor, in the middle of what they termed the mélée, the ships were so close that a sudden fog coming on, the whole fleet was ordered to stop engines, ships and torpedo boats were so close to one another. This may be an isolated instance, but on the other hand, the German Navy is so largely framed on their army system, that judging by what is known of the tactics of the latter, it seems probable that the former is trained to the bold attack and close formations which characterise the movements of their army.
With regard to the use of destroyers and mine layers with a large fleet, there is undoubted evidence that destroyers are habitually kept with the high sea fleet, and are used for attack both by day and by night. The extreme value set by the Emperor on a cavalry charge in land warfare, must in the logical mind of the German, have its counterpart in naval warfare. With a system of tactics, one feature of which is the employment of destroyers well practised in peace time, there would seem no very strong reason to urge against a possible success. It must be remembered that a destroyer attack is a part of offensive tactics; it has no real tactical part in a system of defensive tactics, although occasions may arise when its use in defence might be of advantage.
The success of a destroyer attack by day depends on many things; but first of all, on the partial demoralisation of the foe, or on the fact, that the foe is already so busily engaged that he is not in a position to offer a vigorous resistance.
As regards the use of mine layers with the German fleet, nothing is known definitely; so that the question cannot be discussed.
It is particularly desired that it shall not be thought that this paper in any way advocates a set form of attack. Each battle requires to be dealt with on different lines; weather, sea room, etc., all have their effect; but it is maintained that, with proper study and practice, a fleet can be made into a far more flexible weapon than it is at present.
A batsman can defend his wicket by continually playing on the defensive, but he won't make any runs. He has at his command a variety of strokes, drives, buts, snicks, etc., but he doesn't make up his mind which to use till he sees the ball is in the air. So, in the great war game; in a fleet well trained and exercised in all methods of attack, the experience and ability of the leaders will immediately see the best form to adopt, and once decided on, it can be delivered with absolute confidence, the outcome of experience and practice.
Again, it will have been seen that there necessarily exists a very close connection between tactics and gunnery technique. A ship in the centre division, will have in a divisional attack, conditions under which to ire that are different from those under which the van and rear have to hit the enemy. A van or rear division may, and will, have to advance at high speed firing as they approach, then turn, and, as soon as possible, develop the maximum fire. A ship in the centre will, under the conditions suggested in this paper, be steadily firing at either her opposite number or at two ships in the enemy's line.
If a divisional attack is undertaken, then the gunnery technique of the conditions must be duly practised in peace time. The present system under which al battleships and cruisers carry out battle practice under practically the same conditions, results in a competition for points with little relation to war requirements. Of course so long as the single line attack remains the master of tactics, any and all ships may do their practices under exactly similar conditions.
It is hoped that it has been accepted that this paper is written in no carping spirit. To those who have been, and who are trying to prepare for the day of battle, the difficulty has for long been that they could not get any authoritative statement on the principles of tactics; on the uses of the various types of ships in the fleet; or on the kind of work that would be expected from a ship in any particular position in the battle-line.
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