REFERENCE DOCUMENTS & RESOURCES - OFFICIAL ADMIRALTY DOCUMENTS
ADM 239/261: THE FIGHTING INSTRUCTIONS, 1939 (C.B.04027)
Updated 31-Mar-2007

This document is a modern transcription of a portion of Admiralty record ADM 239/261. This lengthy document contains the Admiralty's official fighting instructions. The original file is held at the The National Archives at Kew, London. This Crown Copyrighted material is reproduced here by kind permission of The National Archives.

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- Pages 43-45 -

FLEET ACTION
SECTION V.-TACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Clause Subject

220-221
221

222-229
223
224
225
226
227
228
229
230-259

GENERAL.
General policy.

THE PLAN OF BATTLE.
Contact with enemy forces.
Air Striking force operations.
The approach.
The battlefleet action.
Torpedo attack.
Smoke.
Submarines.
(blank)


SECTION V.-TACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS

GENERAL

220. The following instructions, which deal with fleet action, are based on the employment of all forces which may be expected to form the main fleet in war. The general instructions given in Section I apply throughout to the various situation arising in a fleet action.

GENERAL POLICY
221.
If an enemy fleet is reported at sea, the Admiral will endeavour to arrange for the location and shadowing of the enemy. At the same time all available forces will be concentrated in a position to ensure the enemy being brought to decisive action at the earliest possible moment, whether by day or at night.

THE PLAN OF BATTLE

222. The British fleet will be brought into action and fought as a whole until the enemy's fleet has been disorganised and broken up.

CONTACT WITH ENEMY FORCES
223.
After contact has been gained, aircraft and the advanced forces will endeavour to locate all enemy forces in the vicinity. Acting on the information received, and as far as time and the general situation permit, the Admiral will endeavour to place the battlefleet in a position of tactical advantage over that of the enemy.

AIR STRIKING FORCE OPERATIONS
224.
In order to deny the use of aircraft to the enemy, the primary air objective will normally be to sink or disable the opposing aircraft carriers. On the other hand, air attack may be the only means of reducing the speed of a faster battlefleet and bringing it to action. In this case, or if no enemy aircraft carriers are present, the enemy battleships should be attacked.

THE APPROACH
225.
Whilst the two fleets are closing, cruisers and destroyers supported by the battlecruisers will drive in or destroy the enemy's advanced forces, and gain contact with the opposing battlefleet. This should prevent the approach of the battlefleet being hampered by destroyer attacks or other tactics designed to delay the final action.

THE BATTLEFLEET ACTION
226.
If the battlefleets can be brought to action, the Admiral will rely on the offensive powers of all surface vessels and aircraft to deal the enemy battlefleet a heavy blow in the first stage of the action. The fleet will be manoeuvred with the battleship divisions in close mutual support, and the range will be closed until decisive results may be expected. In order to obtain effective results at long range, the fire of battleships will be concentrated on a few of the enemy's ships. As the range decreases, the degree of concentration will be lessened until ship for ship actions are effective. At the same time, the enemy battlefleet will be attacked with torpedoes from light craft and air striking forces. By resolute fighting the initial pressure will be increased, until the enemy weakens and finally falls into confusion or retreat.

TORPEDO ATTACK
227.
Long range torpedo attack will seldom achieve results against single enemy squadrons, with high speed and freedom of manoeuvre. Opportunities for firing torpedoes at medium and short ranges seldom recur and should not be missed. Though a massed destroyer attack may be ordered when the two battlefleets have become fully engaged, destroyers may expect opportunities for torpedo attack at all stages of a fleet action. The aim of all Senior Officers of destroyer units should be to fire torpedoes to hit from a close range. (The restrictions on torpedo fire, which are necessary to avoid endangering friendly units, are laid down in the Torpedo Firing Manual, C.B.3019).

SMOKE
228.
Smoke should not be used in the main battle area if it can be avoided, but may have to be used by the battlecruisers, aircraft carriers and light forces to gain protection against superior gunfire ; it may be essential, to cover retirement after a torpedo attack. The Admiral may at any time order smoke to be laid by aircraft or destroyers to gain a temporary tactical advantage, e.g., to isolate a part of the enemy's fleet or to cover a turn by the battlefleet.

SUBMARINES
229.
Fast submarines in company with the fleet can take no direct part in the battlefleet action, or actions between light forces. Provided they are detached before action is imminent and suitably placed, they may be able to exert some influence on the enemy's tactics. In a retiring action they may be able to attack the enemy battlefleet if ordered to dive between the two fleets. If no instructions are given, they should endeavour to dive between the two fleets. If no instructions are given, they should endeavour to gain a position between the enemy and his base. Opportunities should be taken for attacking capital ships and cruisers, especially damaged enemy ships which fall astern of the fleets.

220. (Blank)

231. (Blank)

232-259. (Blank)

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