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 46-68 -

FLEET ACTION
SECTION VI.- APPROACH, CONTACT AND ACTION

Clause Subject

260-266
260
261-262
263
264
265
266

267-272

273-285
273
274
275-278
279
280-281
282-285

286-299
286
287
288
289
290-291
292
293
294
295
296-299

300-310
301
302-304
305
306
307-310

311-321
311-312
313-314
315-317
318-321

322-341
322-324
325
326
327-328
329-330
331-333
334
335
336
337
338-341

342-399
342
343
344
345-349
350
351-354
355-363
364-366
367-368
369-375
376
377
378
379
380
381
382
383
384
385-399

GENERAL.
Disposition of forces during the approach.
Forms of action.
Form of action "A"-Action of similar courses.
Form of action "B"-Action on opposite courses.
Form of action "C"-Action with a retiring enemy.
Form of action "D"-Retiring action.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR AIRCRAFT CARRIERS AND ATTACHED VESSELS. Click here

INSTRUCTIONS FOR AIRCRAFT.
Air Striking force operations.
The approach.
The battlefleet action.
Torpedo attack.
Smoke.
Submarines. (Blank)

INSTRUCTIONS FOR CRUISERS.
Initiative.
Duties of advanced cruisers during the approach and action.
Location of the enemy battlefleet.
Action on receipt of a distant enemy report.
Surface contact.
Action when enemy battlefleet has been located by surface forces.
Prevention of location of our battlefleet.
Duties of cruisers during the main action.
Reporting the enemy during the main action.
(Blank).

INSTRUCTIONS FOR BATTLECRUISERS
Probable forces opposing the battlecruisers.
Duties of the battlecruisers.
Maintaining touch with the enemy.
Reports during the approach and action.
(Blank).

INSTRUCTIONS FOR LARGE DESTROYERS OF THE TRIBAL CLASS
General.
Duties during the approach.
Duties during action.
(Blank).

INSTRUCTIONS FOR DESTROYERS
The functions of destroyers in a fleet action.
Information which may be signalled by the Admiral during the approach.
Grouping of flotillas.
Release from screening duties.
Duties of destroyers during the approach.
Duties of flotillas after the battlefleet comes into action.
Movements after attacking or counter-attacking.
Use of smoke.
Destroyers attached to divisions of the battlefleet.
Enemy reports during the action.
(Blank).

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE BATTLEFLEET
Object of the battlefleet in action.
Control of the battlefleet before action.
Deployment.
Conditions affecting deployment.
Deployment in low visibility.
Control of the battlefleet after action is joined.
Distribution of gunfire in the battlefleet.
Instructions for battleship torpedo fire.
Minimising the affects of enemy gunfire.
Countering enemy torpedo fire.
Action against air attack during action.
Action against submarines in the battle area.
Action to be taken if the enemy fleet turns away.
Action to be taken if the enemy fleet divides.
Action when defeat of the enemy is certain.
Disabled enemy ships.
Disabled British ships.
Report of flagship disabled.
Destroyers attached to the divisions of the battlefleets.
(Blank)


SECTION VI.-APPROACH, CONTACT AND ACTION

GENERAL

DISPOSITION OF FORCES DURING THE APPROACH
260.
If, when the fleet is at sea in daylight, enemy forces are in the vicinity, they should be reported by reconnaissance forces, and contact should occur between the advanced forces of the two fleets. The ordered arrangement of the fleet in any cruising disposition will necessarily break up as the approach continues. This will result in the fleet assuming, without orders from the Admiral, the approximate disposition shown in Diagram IV below.

Diagram IV

Note.-The Advanced Forces will consist of battlecruisers, cruisers and destroyers. The screening units composed of destroyers and possibly cruisers may still be screening or concentrating after release from their screening duties.

FORMS OF ACTION.
261.
During the final stages of the approach the Admiral will, if practicable, signal the intended direction of deployment of the battlefleet and the form of action to be adopted. His decision will be influenced by the strategical situation, weather conditions, the relative strengths of the two battlefleets, and the movements of the enemy. Although early information is desirable in order that the light forces can gain an advantageous position in the van, it will not always be possible to take the initiative in deployment, or it may be necessary to change the direction of deployment at the last moment. So long as the advanced forces remain near the line joining the two battlefleets, the disposition shown in Diagram IV is favourable for the subsequent movements of all ships, whatever form the main action takes.

262. There are four principle forms of action though variations and combinations of these forms will be usual in practice ; these are dealt with in detail in Clauses 263-266. The Admiral may signal the one which he intends to adopt ; this is purely informative to enable the fleet to know the Admiral's intentions at the moment. Flag Officers and Captains must realise that this signal may never be made and that in any case the form of action signalled will probably change as the action progresses. Therefore, they cannot afford to wait for any instructions from the Admiral on this matter ; it is essential that they should appreciate for themselves the form of action the battle is taking, being guided by the course the battlefleet is steering or other indications of the Admiral's intentions.

FORM OF ACTION "A"-ACTION ON SIMILAR COURSES
263.
This is the normal form of action when both sides intend to fight. There are no fixed stations for the different classes of ships but the areas which should be occupied are shown approximately ; ships can usually best carry out the duties set out below when occupying these areas, which are relative to the enemy battlefleet and not to our own.

Diagram V

(a) Admiral's intentions. To engage the enemy battlefleet with all forces fighting an action on similar courses.

(b) Battlefleet. The Admiral intends to close the range to about 12,000-16,000 yards while keeping "A" arcs open, subsequently maintaining this range.

(c) Battlecruisers. To engage leading enemy capital ships and to support light forces in the van.

(d) Cruisers in the van. To command the areas ahead of and between the two fleets and so support the attack of the flotillas, and to attack the enemy battlefleet with torpedoes. More cruisers are required in the van than in the rear.

(e) Tribal class destroyers in the van. To give close support to the destroyer flotillas and to counter-attack, subsequently to make use of their torpedo armament.

(f) Destroyers in the van. To attack the enemy with torpedoes as soon as the two fleets become fully engaged and to counter-attack.

(g) Cruisers and Tribal class destroyers in the rear. To command the area astern of and between the two fleets.

(h) Destroyers in the rear. To co-operate with the cruisers and attack the enemy battlefleet with torpedoes if he reverses his course or closes the fleet.

(i) Air striking force. To attack the enemy battlefleet.

FORM OF ACTION "B"-ACTION ON OPPOSITE COURSES
264.
This is the form of action when the two fleets have deployed in different directions. There are no fixed stations for the different classes of ships but the areas which should be occupied are shown approximately ; ships can usually best carry out the duties set out below when occupying these areas, which are relative to the enemy battlefleet and not to our own.

Diagram VI

(a) Admiral's intentions. The Admiral intends to fight an action on opposite courses, turning inwards so as to close to decisive range of the enemy's rear with the object of destroying his rear ships. The fire of the battlefleet will be concentrated on the enemy's rear in the first instance.

(b) Battlefleet. Divisional Commanders should give particular attention to the maintenance of the bearing of the guides of their divisions at right angles to the bearing of the enemy. Such maintenance of the bearings of the guides is both enhanced in importance and increased in difficulty in this form of action.

(c) Battlecruisers. If ahead of the battlefleet, to concentrate their gunfire on the enemy rear battleships and support the light forces in repelling enemy destroyer attacks. If in the rear to support our light forces attacking the enemy, and to engage the enemy's van if within range.

(d) Cruisers and destroyers in the van. To command the areas ahead of and towards the enemy fleet in order to break up the attacks of the enemy flotillas and attack the enemy with torpedoes if an opportunity occurs.

(e) Cruisers in the rear. To attack the enemy with torpedoes and command the area on the bow of the enemy in order to support the attacks of the flotillas.

(f) Tribal class destroyers in the van. To give close support to the attacking flotillas and attack the enemy with torpedoes.

(g) Destroyers in the rear. To attack the enemy battlefleet with torpedoes as soon as the fleets have become fully engaged.

(h) Air striking force. To attack the rear ships of the enemy battlefleet.

FORM OF ACTION "C"-ACTION WITH A RETIRING ENEMY
265.
This is the form of action when the enemy is retiring. There are no fixed stations for the different classes of ships but the areas which should be occupied are shown approximately ; ships can usually best carry out the duties set out below when occupying these areas, which are relative to the enemy battlefleet and no to our own.

Diagram VII

(a) Admiral's intentions. It is assumed that the enemy is retiring before being brought to action or after he has accepted action. The Admiral intends to close the range and force a decision by gunfire, while making every endeavour to reduce the resultant torpedo disadvantage.
Note.-If pursuing a defeated enemy, the instructions in this form of action may have to be modified.

(b) The Battlefleet. A course will be steered to close the range, the loss of "A" arcs being accepted until an effective range is reached.

(c) Battlecruisers. To operate on one or other bow of the battlefleet and to engage the rear enemy capital ships. This should lead either to the latter's ultimate destruction or else to an alteration by the enemy fleet to give their damaged vessels support.

(d) Cruisers and destroyers. To operate on both bows to reduce the speed of enemy light forces and also to prevent enemy ships reaching a position from which they can fire torpedoes at the battlefleet.

(e) Air striking force. To attack the rear enemy capital ships with the objective of reducing their speed.

FORM OF ACTION "D"- RETIRING ACTION
266.
This is the form of action when the British fleet is retiring. There are no fixed stations for the different classes of ships but the areas which should be occupied are shown approximately ; ships can usually best carry out the duties set out below when occupying these areas.

Diagram VIII

(a) Admiral's intentions. The Admiral intends to adopt retiring tactics to reduce the strength of a superior fleet or to gain a tactical advantage before adopting form of action "A", "B" or "C". Before or after action is joined the Admiral intends to lead away from the enemy so as to get into a position of torpedo advantage and thus inflict torpedo damage on the enemy battlefleet before the stage of a decisive gun action is reached.

(b) Battlefleet. If in range to concentrate their gunfire on the leading enemy ships. When the flotillas attack, to support them by every possible means, even to the extent of altering the course of the battlefleet should this be desirable.

(c) Battlecruisers. To operate on either flank but in close support of the battlefleet. To engage enemy advanced forces closing the battlefleet and to support the destroyer attacks.

(d) Cruisers and Tribal class destroyers. Normally to avoid coming under fire from enemy battleships. To drive off the enemy light forces approaching from the quarters or astern of the battlefleet. To support the flotillas and to attack the enemy battlefleet with torpedoes if an opportunity occurs.

(e) Destroyers. To attack the enemy battlefleet with torpedoes when ordered by the Admiral ; these opportunities will normally be delayed until a favourable opportunity occurs, e.g., when the enemy is hampered by smoke or air attacks. Independent destroyer units should, however, seize any opportunity to attack. Destroyers may be ordered at any time by the Admiral or Senior Officer, destroyers, to lay smoke.

(f) Air striking force. To attack the leading enemy capital ships.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR AIRCRAFT CARRIERS AND ATTACHED VESSELS

267. The continued employment of aircraft in a prolonged action is of paramount importance and depends on the security of the aircraft carriers. Though, when cruising, aircraft carriers may be stationed in the line of capital ships, a force of two cruisers and four destroyers should normally be detailed, if available, for their protection when detached from the fleet. All units of the fleet should feel responsibility for their safety, and should take such steps as circumstances permit to deal with hostile forces endangering them.

268. The attached cruisers and destroyers will come temporarily under the orders of the Senior Officer, aircraft carriers, who will control the movements of the carrier during the approach, contact and action. When circumstances permit, the aircraft carriers should be manoeuvred so as to remain under the protection of the battlefleet. The Senior Officer, aircraft carriers, should endeavour to keep the Admiral informed of the movements of his force.

269. Cruisers and destroyers detailed for the carrier force, must provide protection for the aircraft carriers against surface and air attacks. As their role is a defensive one, they should not be led away in pursuit of enemy vessels, leaving the aircraft carriers open to attack from another quarter.

270. (Blank)

271. (Blank)

272. (Blank)

INSTRUCTIONS FOR AIRCRAFT

RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT
273.
The primary duty of reconnaissance aircraft is to locate and report both the enemy battlefleet and aircraft carriers, subsequently keeping them under observation while endeavouring to remain unseen. When visual contact has been made between the advanced forces of the two fleets, air reconnaissance will no longer be needed and these aircraft will take over action observation duties.

ACTION OBSERVATION DUTIES
274.
Action observation aircraft are required to furnish detailed information about the enemy in the final stages of the approach and during the main action (see Signal Manual, Chapter XVI). The Senior Officer, reconnaissance aircraft, should detail individual aircraft for the different duties required. The Senior Officer, aircraft carriers, will arrange for the relief of action observation aircraft or will add to the original reconnaissance aircraft as necessary.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE AIR STRIKING FORCE
275.
The air striking force may consist of-

(a) Aircraft armed with torpedoes, heavy bombs or "B" bombs. These are the only aircraft capable of inflicting severe damage on capital ships, and may be the only means available for reducing the speed of a faster force.
(b) Certain aircraft capable of dive-bombing.

276. The Senior Officer, aircraft carriers, will organise the air striking forces to conform with the Admiral's indicated policy. If he considers it desirable, he may order the striking force to be flown off to follow in rear of the reconnaissance aircraft without waiting or enemy reports to be receive from the latter. In this case the striking force should act on reports received by them from the reconnaissance aircraft.

277. Attacks should normally be delivered at the earliest possible moment and repeated as often as practicable. Should an air striking force, which has been ordered to attack the enemy aircraft carriers, sight the opposing battlefleet first, the latter should only be attacked if the position of the enemy aircraft carriers is in doubt.

278. When two fleets are engaged, the air striking forces should attack the enemy battlefleet in accordance with the instructions in Clauses 263-266.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR FIGHTERS
279.
During the approach, fighter aircraft should be employed in driving off enemy shadowing aircraft and formations approaching the aircraft carriers and the battlefleet. During the main action, the primary duty of fighters is to destroy all enemy aircraft in the battle area thus denying the use of air spotting to the enemy. If no enemy aircraft are present, fighters should be employed attacking enemy destroyers when the latter are already engaged with other forces.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR CATAPULT AIRCRAFT
280.
Catapult aircraft carried in capital ships and cruisers are primarily intended for spotting duties in action. Spare catapult aircraft may be employed on action observation duties (see Signal Manual, Chapter XVI). Those not required for either of these functions should if practicable, be retained on board as an after action reserve. Before contact with enemy forces, the Admiral will allocate catapult aircraft for spotting and action observation. He will inform the Senior Officer, aircraft carriers, of the numbers detailed and of the time at which they will require relief by carrier-borne aircraft.

281. Catapult aircraft should be flown off as late as possible during the approach by orders of Squadron or Divisional Commanders. When short of fuel, they should land on any aircraft carrier that can accept the, or, failing this, alongside a destroyer. Aircraft stowed in hangars and which it is not desired to fly off should be defuelled and the fuelling system "blown down." Aircraft which cannot be flown off and whose tanks cannot be emptied, should be launched overboard to obviate the risk of fire.

282. (Blank)

283. (Blank)

284. (Blank)

285. (Blank)

INSTRUCTIONS FOR CRUISERS

INITIATIVE
286.
Initiative on the part of cruiser Captains is to be encouraged to the utmost ; the speed of these vessels and their ability to gain favourable positions for attack cannot be properly used if Captains are not given plenty of latitude by their Senior Officers. This does not imply that imprudence in taking the offensive is either suggested or required, and Senior Officers of cruiser squadrons and cruiser Captains are cautioned not to close the enemy capital ships until they are fully engaged ; it would be disastrous to allow our light forces to be defeated by the enemy battleships before the latter became engaged with our own.

DUTIES OF ADVANCED CRUISERS DURING THE APPROACH AND ACTION
287.
During the approach, cruisers ahead of the fleet will be required to:-

(a) Locate the enemy battlefleet.
(b) Prevent enemy light forces from locating the British battlefleet.

Normally, it is more important to gain information than deny it to the enemy. It should be remembered that only when air reconnaissance is in operation will the Admiral have prior information regarding the probable composition of enemy forces, or even whether the enemy battlefleet or heavy forces are in support of any light forces encountered.

LOCATION OF THE ENEMY BATTLEFLEET
288.
When engaged in locating the enemy battlefleet, the disposition of cruisers will depend on whether air reconnaissance is available or not. When air reconnaissance is available, cruisers will be concentrated in squadrons ; when not available, cruisers will be spread on an extended screen. If, after concentrating, it becomes apparent from lack of recent reports from aircraft or surface vessels that the position of the enemy battlefleet is in doubt, Senior Officers of cruiser squadrons should re-spread their squadrons or take any other necessary action to locate the enemy battlefleet. During the approach, the Senior Officer, cruiser squadrons, will co-ordinate the movements of cruiser squadrons, redisposing them on receipt of estimated bearings of the enemy battlefleet, which may be signalled by the Admiral.

ACTION ON RECEIPT OF A DISTANT ENEMY REPORT
289.
With air reconnaissance, reports of the enemy may be expected from great distances. No useful purpose would be served by cruiser squadrons proceeding at full speed towards the reported enemy position. The report may be inaccurate and such action would draw them away from their supports and uncover the front of the battlefleet. Cruiser squadrons should therefore work up to high speed but remain in the vicinity of the battlecruisers.

SURFACE CONTACT
290.
After surface contact has been made, it is the duty of cruiser to press on and locate the enemy battlefleet. It is of the utmost importance that the exact bearing and distance of the enemy battlefleet should be reported at the earliest possible moment by a ship which is in sight of the fleet flagship.

291. When cruisers are spread and contact is made near the centre, the temptation to converge on the ship making contact should be resisted. But if the contact is near one wing, cruisers in the centre and on the other wing should alter course in the direction of, but not directly towards, the vessel making contact. This should ensure the location of the enemy main force, without uncovering the front of our own battlefleet.

ACTION WHEN ENEMY BATTLEFLEET HAS BEEN LOCATED BY SURFACE FORCES
292.
Once the enemy battlefleet has been located, all available cruisers should close towards the line joining the two battlefleets, so as to obtain command of the area between the two fleets as they approach. They will then be in a suitable position to reach the van when the direction of deployment is indicated by the Admiral, and from this position to support the flotillas in attack and to counter-attack the enemy flotillas. Cruiser squadrons that cannot reach the van should take up a suitable position in the rear (see Clauses 263-266).

PREVENTION OF LOCATION OF OUR BATTLEFLEET
293.
When cruisers are ordered to prevent the enemy advanced forces from locating our battlefleet, cruisers must fight off every enemy unit which, if allowed to continue its course would sight our battlefleet.

DUTIES OF CRUISERS DURING THE MAIN ACTION
294.
When action between the two battlefleets develops cruisers should carry out the duties laid down in Clauses 263-266. It must be remembered that the essential close support for the flotillas in attack will be be available if cruiser squadrons are led away from the main battle area. Opportunities should be seized for firing torpedoes at enemy units, and in particular the enemy battlefleet, and every endeavour should be made to sink the opposing cruisers and destroyers.

REPORTING THE ENEMY DURING THE MAIN ACTION
295.
After the action has started, smoke and the fog of battle will interfere with reports from surface vessels and possibly from aircraft. Cruiser Captains in the main battle area must appreciate what reports are required.

296. (Blank)

297. (Blank)

298. (Blank)

298. (Blank)

299. (Blank)

INSTRUCTIONS FOR BATTLECRUISERS

300. Either battlecruisers or fast battleships may be detailed to support the cruisers ahead of the fleet. For convenience these vessels are referred to as battlecruisers and the instructions which follow apply to either type of ship, when carrying out this duty.

PROBABLE FORCES OPPOSING THE BATTLECRUISERS
301.
Resulting from modernisation of foreign capital ships, fast capital ships may be stationed in advance of the enemy battlefleet. Though inferior in speed to the British battlecruisers, they may be considerably superior in armament and protection.

DUTIES OF THE BATTLECRUISERS
302.
General. The conduct of the battlecruisers will depend on whether they are required to form part of the battlefleet when action is joined. If required for this duty, they will be employed during the early stages of the approach to support the light forces in the van, but must regain close touch with the battlefleet before the latter becomes engaged. To carry out this double task, good judgement will be required on the part of the Senior Officer, battlecruisers. If not required to form part of the battlefleet, the battlecruisers should continue to support the light forces, whilst taking care not to get so far ahead that they are unable to take part in the main action, if ordered to do so. The Admiral may be expected to make it clear, before action is joined, what function the battlecruisers are required to perform.

303. During the approach. Support to the light forces can best be given by destroying the enemy light forces which attempt to dispute the control of the waters between the two fleets. Soon after surface contact has been made, the enemy fast battleships, if ahead of their main force, should be encountered. If these ships are equal or inferior in fighting strength, they should be engaged and the action fought, as far as possible, towards the line joining the two fleets. If superior, the battlecruisers should fall back on their supports-the battlefleet.

304. At all times during the approach the Senior Officer, battlecruisers, must guard against his squadron becoming engaged with the enemy main force, withdrawing at once outside gun range.

MAINTAINING TOUCH WITH THE ENEMY
305.
Should the enemy break off action or the visibility deteriorate, the duty of the battlecruisers is to co-operate with the cruisers in maintaining or regaining touch, using their high speed and powerful gun armament for this purpose.

REPORTS DURING THE APPROACH AND ACTION
306.
Although many reports from other ships of the advanced forces may be expected, signals from the Senior Officer of the battlecruisers during his approach and action giving the general situation will be of particular value to the Admiral.

307-310. (Blank)

INSTRUCTIONS FOR LARGE DESTROYERS OF THE TRIBAL CLASS

GENERAL
311.
The employment in a fleet action of vessels of the Tribal class, with their powerful gun armament and comparatively weak torpedo armament, will depend both on the number of destroyers of other types at sea with the fleet and on the strength of the enemy's counterattacking forces.

312. When employed as advanced forces they should be guided generally by the instructions for cruisers. If employed in support of destroyer attacks, full advantage should be taken of their gun power. (See Clause 315). In certain conditions, it may be desirable to employ them in the same manner as smaller destroyers, they should then be guided by the instructions for destroyers. (See Clauses 322-336).

DUTIES DURING THE APPROACH
313. Release from screening duties.
Senior Officers of units screened by Tribal class destroyers during the approach should not retain these vessels unduly once contact has been made between surface forces.

314. Action with enemy advanced forces. Before the main action develops, the Tribal class destroyers, working independently but in co-operation with the flotilla should do their utmost to overwhelm the enemy advanced forces. They should be ready to act in support of the cruisers, but should avoid coming under fire of a superior enemy ; the concentrated gun power of two or more of these vessels is at least equal to that of a cruiser at short range.

DUTIES DURING ACTION
315. Support of flotillas in attack.
When the flotillas are seen to be attacking, either individually or in a massed attack, the primary duty of the Tribal class destroyers is to crush any opposition the flotillas may encounter. This should be achieved by advancing ahead or on the bow of the flotillas rather than astern. Opportunities to fire torpedoes from close range at all classes of enemy ships should be taken.

316. Counter-attack. If the enemy flotillas are seen to be moving to a position from which they can attack the battlefleet, the Tribal class destroyers should counter-attack, making the fullest use of their gun armament. They should be manoeuvred so as to engage the enemy at the most effective speed and range with all guns bearing.

317. Flotilla attack with torpedoes. When ordered to attack with torpedoes, either as a flotilla or in a massed attack, Tribal class destroyers should follow the instructions given in Clauses 332-336.

318. (Blank)

319-321. (Blank)

INSTRUCTIONS FOR DESTROYERS

THE FUNCTIONS OF DESTROYERS IN A FLEET ACTION
322.
Attack on the enemy. The primary object of the destroyers is to fire torpedoes from such a position close to the enemy battlefleet that a large number of hits is obtained. This may be achieved by the individual action of any destroyer unit or by a massed attack employing several flotillas.

323. Counterattacking If the battlefleet is threatened by an enemy destroyer attack, the object of the destroyers is to break up and repel such an attack. While counterattacking, destroyers may often find themselves in a favourable position from which to attack the enemy battlefleet ; such opportunities should be taken.

324. To achieve these objects, the movements of destroyers must be such that:-

(a) The flotillas reach a good position from which to attack or counter-attack.
(b) Each destroyer unit obtains a good position form which to fire its torpedoes.

INFORMATION WHICH MAY BE SIGNALLED BY THE ADMIRAL DURING THE APPROACH
325.
Before the battlefleet comes into action, the Admiral may make one or more of the following signals:-

(a) A destroyer disposition (see Signal Manual, Chapter XIII).
(b) The probable direction of deployment.
(c) The form of action he intends to adopt.
(d) The course of the battlefleet.

GROUPING OF FLOTILLAS
326.
To simplify signalling, flotillas in company with the fleet are grouped in two categories:-

(a) Advanced flotillas. Includes flotillas of the advanced screen and those forming the close screens for the battlecruisers and large cruisers, as well as those in company with the Senior Officer, destroyers, in the cruising disposition.
(b) Battlefleet flotillas. The flotilla forming the close screens for the battlefleet.

Destroyers attached to the aircraft carrier force or on the air warning screen are not included in either of the above categories.

RELEASE FROM SCREENING DUTIES
327.
In order that the destroyers on the air warning screen may be able to take part in the main action, they should be released a considerable time before action is imminent. It will probably be necessary to release those stationed abaft the beam of the battlefleet well before contact is expected between surface forces. As a rule the destroyers screening the battlecruisers and cruisers, and those forming the advanced asdic screen for the battlefleet, will be released from their duties by the respective Senior Officers, and the Admiral, in time for them to join the Senior Officer, destroyers, before action is joined. The moment of release must depend on the circumstances of the moment. The Battlefleet flotillas may expect to be released shortly before deployment ; those screening the aircraft carriers will remain under the orders of the Senior Officer, aircraft carriers, unless order to the contrary are received from the Admiral.

328. Normally, the Admiral will allocate the flotillas between the van and the rear by an appropriate destroyer disposition signal. Destroyers released too late to confirm with the Admiral's intentions , should act on their own initiative in deciding whether to proceed to the van or rear. If a destroyer disposition is not signalled before the battlefleet comes into action, flotillas will normally act in accordance with Destroyer Disposition No. 1.

DUTIES OF DESTROYERS DURING THE APPROACH
329.
After surface contact has taken place, the Advanced Flotillas on release should co-operate with the cruisers in accordance with Clauses 263-266, keeping neat the line joining the two battlefleets. They will then be in an equally good positioning for proceeding to either flank, when the Admiral signals the probably direction of deployment. Should enemy action force the flotillas away from this position before a direction of deployment or a Destroyer Disposition has been signalled, the Senior Officer, destroyers, must use his discretion as to which flank to move to, bearing in mind the following considerations:-

(a) The probable direction of deployment of the fleet.
(b) The probable movements of the enemy.
(c) The position of any enemy forces likely to counter-attack the destroyers.
(d) Conditions of weather and light. If bowing hard, it is advisable for destroyers to keep to windward of their attacking position.

If in great doubt, the Senior Officer, destroyers, should divide the advanced flotillas and send half back to each flank. In this case the Battlefleet flotillas will probably be retained with the battlefleet until the direction of deployment becomes known, and then sent to the van.

330. During the approach the advanced flotillas should seize any favourable opportunity to attack enemy capital ships ; this may well occur in low visibility, if the enemy employs smoke or when the battlecruisers are in action.

DUTIES OF FLOTILLAS AFTER THE BATTLEFLEET COMES INTO ACTION
331.
By the time the battlefleet comes into action, the flotillas should have reached a favourable attacking or counterattacking position. During the next phase of the action their object will be either to reach a good position from which to fire torpedoes or to counter-attack enemy flotillas.

332. Instructions when attacking the enemy battlefleet. The enemy battlefleet, free to manoeuvre and unhampered by the fire of our own battlefleet, is not a suitable target for torpedo attack by destroyers, except in low visibility. Furthermore, if the enemy has been able to concentrate a greatly superior force of cruisers and destroyers and so break up attacks before torpedoes have been fired, losses will outweigh the results to be expected.

333. In high visibility, flotilla attacks should not start until the enemy battlefleet is fully engaged, i.e., when the majority of enemy capital ships who can fire at the destroyers are engaged by effective gunfire from the battlefleet. In low visibility, which may result not only from weather conditions but also from the smoke and fog of battle, attacks should be made at the earliest moment. In this case, the lack of support by the gunfire of the battlefleet is more than balanced by the poor visibility. Detailed instructions for carrying out attacks and counterattacking are contained in the Destroyer Fighting Instructions, Part II.

MOVEMENTS AFTER ATTACKING OR COUNTERATTACKING
334.
After attacking or counterattacking, a position in the van should be regained if this is possible without hampering the fire of the battlefleet or coming under destructive fire ; otherwise destroyers should pass to the rear. Detailed instructions are contained in the Destroyer Fighting Instructions, Part II.

USE OF SMOKE
335.
It is of the utmost importance that the fire of the capital ships should not be impeded by funnel smoke from destroyers. As a general rule smoke should not be used in the battle area except in Form of Action "D" (see Clause 266), or when specifically ordered by the Admiral to conceal the movements of the battlefleet.

DESTROYERS ATTACHED TO DIVISIONS OF THE BATTLEFLEET
336.
For instructions, see Clause 384.

ENEMY REPORTS DURING THE ACTION
337.
Destroyers will have frequent opportunities to see at short range the situation in the enemy's line. Information so obtained, particularly as regards the states of the enemy's battlefleet, should immediately be passed to the Admiral.

338. (Blank)

339. (Blank)

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341. (Blank)

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE BATTLEFLEET

OBJECT OF THE BATTLEFLEET IN ACTION
342.
The object of the battlefleet is the destruction of the enemy's battlefleet by gunfire.

CONTROL OF THE BATTLEFLEET BEFORE ACTION
343.
Prior to deployment, the Admiral will control the movements of the battlefleet as a whole. He will dispose the guides of divisions on a line of bearing at right angles to the bearing of the enemy battlefleet. The bearings of the guides will be re-adjusted by him in accordance with information received until the moment of deployment, when the Senior Officers of divisions will automatically assume control of their divisions.

DEPLOYMENT
344.
Deployment is the turn made by the battlefleet to bring all guns to bear on coming into range of the enemy. If all guns are bearing before coming into range and no turn is made, the moment of deployment is the moment of coming into range. Instructions for deploying are contained in the Signal Manual, Chapter XIII.

CONDITIONS AFFECTING DEPLOYMENT
345.
In deciding the direction of deployment, the following factors must be taken into consideration:-

(a) The strategical situation.
(b) The movements of the enemy battlefleet.
(c) Whether the battlefleet strength relative to that of the enemy makes it desirable for action on similar courses.
(d) The relative positions of the respective light forces.
(e) Visibility, wind, sea and swell.

346. It is very desirable that the probable direction of deployment is signalled early, in order that the cruisers can destroyers can gain an advantageous position in the van. Until this is signalled, the advanced forces will endeavour to maintain a position near the line joining the two battlefleets. As the movements of the enemy flotillas may be an indication of direction of deployment, it is of the utmost importance that these should be reported to the Admiral.

347. If the British fleet is the weaker, it is probable that the enemy will follow its direction of deployment. If superior, it may be necessary to wait until the enemy deploys and then follow his direction of deployment. Thus, the Admiral may only be able to take the initiative in deployment when in inferior strength to the enemy. If the stronger fleet waits to see which way the weaker fleet has deployed, or to which flank the enemy light forces are moving, there will always be the danger that the flotillas of the stronger fleet will not gain a position in the van sufficiently early for attacking the enemy battlefleet. Hence, the commander of the stronger fleet should consider whether, owing to strategical, weather or other conditions, he can deploy before the enemy has made any sign of his intended direction of deployment, in order to gain an advantageous position, whichever way the enemy finally deploys.

348. The conditions in which such an early deployment may be practicable are as follows:-

(a) When it is expected that the enemy, having the weaker fleet, will desire to keep open the line of retreat to his base.
(b) When the weather conditions are such that attack by destroyers directly into the wind and sea will be difficult.

349. Alteration of direction of deployment or reversal of the course of the battlefleet. Even when the probable direction of deployment has been signalled, it may finally be necessary to deploy in the opposite direction if, on sighting the enemy battlefleet, it is seen that such a reversal of direction of deployment will give a considerable tactical or gunnery advantage. Similarly, if the fleet has already deployed, it may be necessary to revers the course of the battlefleet to gain or retain a favourable tactical or gunnery position.

DEPLOYMENT IN LOW VISIBILITY
350.
In low visibility the Admiral may not sight the enemy first and in that case the Divisional Commander who first sights the enemy has full authority to act without waiting for orders, the object being to engage the enemy with all ships of his division and to retain touch. He should immediately report the bearing and distance of the enemy to the Admiral. The Admiral and other Divisional Commanders will manoeuvre their divisions to support the division engaged, developing the maximum volume of gunfire as soon as possible.

CONTROL OF THE BATTLEFLEET AFTER ACTION IS JOINED
351. The Admiral's Division.
The Admiral will control the division in which the fleet flagship has taken station. The movements of this division and the signals made by the Admiral must be watched carefully at all times, so that other Divisional Commanders can appreciate and anticipate his wishes and conform generally to the Admiral's movements.

352. Action by Divisional Commanders. After the battlefleet has deployed, Divisional Commanders have full authority to manoeuvre their divisions so as best to achieve the destruction of the enemy.

353. Some cohesion between the divisions of the battlefleet is necessary, to provide mutual support. To enable Divisional Commanders and Captains to direct their full attention to fighting the enemy, close and accurate station keeping is not necessary. The bearing of divisional guides from one another should, however, be maintained at right angles to the bearing of that part of the enemy which is being engaged ; signals relating to this bearing cannot be expected from the Admiral.

354. Control by the Admiral. Notwithstanding the decentralisation of command indicated above, the Admiral will retain the power to order the movements of the fleet as a whole by one of the following general signals:-

(a) Re-deployment (see Signal Manual, Chapter XIII).
(b) Emergency turns (see Signal Manual, Chapter VIII).
(c) Special signals by which sub-divisions or divisions turn commencing from the rear (see Signal Manual, Chapter XIII).

DISTRIBUTION OF GUNFIRE IN THE BATTLEFLEET
355.
Opening fore. Immediately the Captain of any ship considers he can damage the enemy by opening fire, he is to do so whatever may be the class of ship concerned. He is never to wait for an order to open fire or for a fire distribution signal.

356. Object of fire distribution. The object of fire distribution is to enable a part of the enemy battlefleet to be overwhelmed in any stage of the fleet action ; this is effected by gunfire concentration. Instructions on this matter are contained in S.P.02159-Distribution and Control of Gunfire.

357. Action on sighting the enemy battlefleet. In good visibility the Admiral will make a fleet fire distribution signal to indicate the target of the fleet flagship, or of her division, or sub-division, and the part of the enemy to be engaged ; this signal gives the remainder of the battlefleet the necessary information on which to base their gunfire. Normally the fire of the fleet will be so distributed that some ships in all parts of the enemy fleet (van, centre and rear) will be engaged. Under certain conditions it may be more advantageous to concentrate the fire of the battlefleet on a particular part of the enemy fleet (e.g., van or rear, or leading ships of columns, etc.). There may be occasions when the situation is not sufficiently clear for the Admiral to initiate any fire distribution signal. Divisional Commanders and Captains must therefore not delay engaging the part of the enemy line which they consider to be their target.

358. Action by Divisional Commanders. In distributing the gunfire of their divisions, Divisional Commanders are to be guided by the following principles:-

(a) Each division, aided by its spotting aircraft, should aim at delivering an overwhelming fire on one of the enemy ships as quickly as possible after arrival within gun range.
(b) As the range decreases and the fire of the unfired-at enemy ships becomes accurate, lesser degrees of concentration are necessary.
(c) When at a decisive fighting range, it is generally inadvisable to leave any enemy ship unfired at.
(d) As a general rule, fire distribution should not be changed frequently or the effectiveness of gunfire will suffer. However, when the smoke of action or a smoke screen obscures part of the enemy line, instant action should be taken to gain an advantage by increasing the concentration.

359. Support of flotilla attacks. The success of destroyer attacks will depend to a large degree on the gunfire of the enemy capital ships being contained by the fire of the battlefleet. Divisional Commanders, on seeing a flotilla closing the enemy, should endeavour to distribute their divisions' gunfire so that the fire from enemy capital ships engaging these destroyers is hampered.

360. Expenditure of ammunition. Judgement must be exercised in the expenditure of ammunition at very long ranges (see Clause 22).

361. (Blank)

362-363. (Blank)

INSTRUCTIONS FOR BATTLESHIP TORPEDO FIRE
364.
Opening fire with torpedoes. Captains have full authority to open fire with torpedoes whenever an opportunity is seen..

365. Torpedo fire in high or medium visibility. In conditions of high or medium visibility torpedoes should be fired at the enemy battlefleet or a number of cruiser squadrons.

366. Torpedo fire in low visibility. In low visibility, rapid torpedo fire at the enemy battlefleet should be opened as early as possible.

MINIMISING THE EFFECT OF ENEMY GUNFIRE
367. Snaking the line and zig-zagging.
When closely engaged it may be advisable for Divisional Commanders to turn their divisions so as to throw out the accuracy of the enemy's fire. This may be done by altering course a small amount to either side of the mean course, speed being increased at the same time. The turns may be made either in succession (snaking the line) or together (zig-zagging). Providing small rudder is used, such turns are likely to have less effect on our fire control than on that of the enemy. At the same time these turns involve some degree of interference with the rate of hitting, which is the best means of keeping down the enemy's fire, and they should not be made unless the enemy is plainly developing a superior fire.

368. Action by an individual ship when heavily hit. A single ship, when heavily hit, may alter course independently so as to transfer her position laterally a distance of about 500 yards. Such an alteration should be made with small rudder, if possible, and care must be taken not to blanket the fire of adjacent ships. If one ship of a pair which is concentrating on an enemy ship hauls out of line, the other should conform at her discretion, so as not to disturb the concentration.

COUNTERING ENEMY TORPEDO FIRE
369.
The advanced forces will endeavour to prevent enemy flotillas and cruisers from reaching a position favourable for torpedo attack on the British battlefleet. The secondary armaments of the battleships will also be used to counter torpedo attacks, more especially when attacks are developing on the beam of the battlefleet. In the even of a heavy attack developing, it may also be necessary for the capital ships to use their main armaments to disperse enemy flotillas and cruisers.

370. When it is not possible to prevent attacks developing, avoiding action will generally be taken to reduce the chances of torpedoes hitting.

371. Individual avoiding action. On sighting the track of a torpedo endangering a ship, the Captain should take immediate action, using a large amount of rudder is possible. As a rough rule, when the track bears between right ahead and 70° on the bow, the turn should be inwards ; when abaft this bearing the turn should be away. All ships must keep a careful watch on individual ships ahead of them and must turn if necessary to give room.

372. After a heavy torpedo attack, individual avoiding action may result in the order of the ships in the fleet being altered. Ships which have ample reserve of speed should endeavour to regain their position, but if this is impracticable they should take station astern of their divisions. Ships must be prepared to fire over other ships which may have turned into their line of fire when avoiding torpedoes. There is little risk of damaging a ship outside a distance of two or three cables when the range is 12,000 yards of more.

373. Divisional avoiding action. Divisional Commanders have full discretion to manoeuvre their divisions so as to reduce the danger from torpedoes. When possible, however, the movements of the Admiral should be followed generally, so as to avoid the fleet becoming scattered.

374. When the enemy flotillas or cruisers succeed in making a simultaneous attack from different directions, the only chance of avoiding serious damage may be to reverse the course of the fleet, or make a large turn by the whole fleet, accepting and gunnery disadvantage involved. In these cases action by the Admiral may be expected.

375. When early divisional action is taken the following rough rules should be used as a guide:-

(a) If torpedoes are fired on the bow, turn inwards and decrease speed to allow torpedoes to pass ahead ; if on the beam, turn away and increase speed to pass ahead of or outrange the torpedoes.
(b) The initial turn should be at least 40° if gunnery conditions permit, a final turn being made to comb the tracks when torpedoes are expected to arrive.
(c) When the turn is made in ample time, the turn should be made leading ships of divisions together, remainder in succession, so as to offer a small virtual target.
(d) When the turn is made shortly before the torpedoes arrive, ships should be turned together so that all may comb the tracks.
(e) When the turn is away, ships should be turned together so that all ships of a division may reach safety at the same time.

Detailed instructions are contained in the Text Book of Torpedo Control, 1939 (C.B. ), Chapter XI.

ACTION AGAINST AIR ATTACK DURING ACTION
376.
If during action enemy air formations are seen to be attacking, Divisional Commanders should manoeuvre their divisions to counter the attacks, unless, in a critical stage of the action, instructions to the contrary are received from the Admiral. In countering the attacks, the Air Defence Instructions should be followed, but care should be taken that cohesion between divisions is not lost.

ACTION AGAINST SUBMARINES IN THE BATTLE AREA
377.
Submarines sighted or detected in the battle area should be attacked at once by destroyers in the vicinity, and harassed until they are no longer a menace to the fleet. Captains of ships must be prepared to take individual action to avoid torpedoes, and should lose no opportunity of using the ram ; if engaging the enemy, action should not be broken off on account of reported enemy submarines.

ACTION TO BE TAKEN IF THE ENEMY TURNS AWAY
378.
If the enemy turns away, having first accepted action, it is the Admiral's intention to keep him under effective gunfire and accept the position of torpedo disadvantage. If the signal "Chase" is made, each Divisional Commander will make the necessary signals to his division. Faster ships should be allowed to pass ahead of the slower or to quit the line on order to make full use of their speed to stop the enemy. Prompt action must be taken by Divisional Commanders and individual ships to avoid torpedoes.

ACTION TO BE TAKEN IF THE ENEMY FLEET DIVIDES
379.
If the enemy battlefleet divides, the Admiral will endeavour to manoeuvre the fleet so as to close one portion of the enemy fleet and concentrate the fire of the whole British fleet on that portion, while, if possible, keeping out of effective range from the other.

ACTION WHEN DEFEAT OF THE ENEMY IS CERTAIN
380.
When it is certain that the enemy is disorganised, and groups of disabled ships are falling out of line, orders may be expected for dealing with the situation. Failing such orders, the Flag Officer at the rear has discretionary powers to detach the number of ships required to complete the destruction of the enemy ships in question. (See Clause 381).

DISABLED ENEMY SHIPS
381.
Ships should not be detached from the battlefleet to deal with disabled enemy ships until the defeat of the enemy is certain. Disabled ships will be dealt with by the light forces in the rear, or ships following the battlefleet. Should the Admiral decide that conditions render it impossible to destroy the whole enemy fleet, and that the destruction of the disabled ships is all that can be achieved, instructions will be given accordingly.

DISABLED BRITISH SHIPS. (See Clauses 26-27).
382. Any battleship disabled and incapable of maintaining the speed of the fleet should endeavour to haul out on the disengaged side and keep clear of the main battle line while continuing the action as long as possible. Such ships should inform the Captain (D) at the rear who will detach one or two destroyers with no torpedoes remaining, to screen them. If there are many ships whose speed is reduced, the Flag Officer at the rear has discretionary powers to order destroyers, even if they still have torpedoes, to screen them.

REPORT OF FLAGSHIP DISABLED
383.
The disablement of or quitting the line by any flagship is a circumstance of which the Admiral (or in the case of the fleet flagship the next senior Flag Officer) requires immediate information. If the disabled ship herself is unable to report the fact, it is the duty of any ship near her to make the report.

DESTROYERS ATTACHED TO THE DIVISIONS OF THE BATTLEFLEET
384.
When destroyers are released from their screening duties, certain destroyers may be attached to the divisions of the battlefleet ; any spare destroyers will join that fleet flagship's division. On deployment, they should take station one mile on the disengaged bow of the flagship of their division. Their duties will be :-

(a) To screen disabled ships.
(b) To transfer a Flag Officer if a flagship is disabled.
(c) To screen the turning point of a column by smoke.
(d) To attack disabled enemy ships.
(e) To carry important orders, if other means of communication are not available.
(f) To harass submarines reported in the vicinity of the battlefleet.
(g) To report and engage enemy aircraft attacking the battlefleet.
(h) To rescue aircraft personnel.

385. (Blank)

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391-399. (Blank)

END OF TRANSCRIPTION