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 82-85 -

MINOR OPERATIONS
SECTION X.-GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS

CONTENTS

Clause Subject

480
481
482
483
484-485
486
487-488
489
490
491-499

General.
Orders for operations.
Surprise.
Co-ordination in action.
Employment of aircraft.
Speed and manoeuvre
Selection of the proper weapon.
Smoke.
Ruses.


MINOR OPERATIONS
SECTION X.-GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS

GENERAL
480.
Minor actions will be the rule rather than the exception in naval warfare, and will usually be fought between forces of unequal strengths. The terms "Minor Operations" and "Minor Actions" are used in this and the following sections to cover actions in which no battlefleet is present. The term battlefleet here implies a balanced force consisting of capital ships, cruisers, destroyers and perhaps an aircraft carrier, irrespective of the number of each type.

ORDERS FOR OPERATIONS
481.
Although it may only be possible to foresee vaguely the circumstances in which a minor action may be fought, it is important that the object of such an operation should be laid down definitely whether orders are written or signalled ; failure to do so may lead to muddle is not disaster. This will enable the Captains of ships to know what course of action to adopt on sighting the enemy. If a surprise encounter takes place, the Senior Officer should indicate without delay any change in his intentions or ni the immediate object of the force. In a confused situation, junior officers should act as they think fit, informing their Senior Officer of the action taken.

SURPRISE
482.
Except when two opposing forces each have air reconnaissance, it will be the general rule in minor actions that one force will surprise the other and thus gain the initiative. Surprise should be the aim in planning an operation, and Captains of ships should try to achieve it in executing the particular plan, whilst avoiding being surprised.

CO-ORDINATION IN ACTION
483.
In a sudden encounter, especially at night or in thick weather, co-ordination of the movements of units forming a force may be impracticable. Even in a carefully planned operation, co-ordination will be difficult, as units will become separated and the Senior Officer will only be aware of the situation in his immediate vicinity. Much will therefore depend on the initiative of individual Captains. Before contact with the enemy, the Senior Officer should ensuer that all Captains of ships know the object and duration of the operation, and that a reference position is signalled at appropriate intervals. The force should remain concentrated as long as possible, so that the subsequent positions of all units may be approximately known throughout the operation.

EMPLOYMENT OF AIRCRAFT
484.
In the absence of an aircraft carrier, catapult aircraft can only be considered as "one shot" weapons, except when the weather is suitable for their recovery. Thus they will seldom be available for reconnaissance duties unless the presence of an enemy is suspected or known. An aircraft carrier will greatly increase the potentialities of a small force, by providing deep reconnaissance and air striking forces. Preliminary air attack may be the only means of bringing a fast enemy force to action by surface forces.

485. When shore-based aircraft are working with surface forces, co-operation will be provided through the Area Combined Headquarters. Information regarding schemes of reconnaissance and operations of aircraft will be broadcast on W/T by Combined Headquarters to the force at sea.

SPEED AND MANOEUVRE
486.
On sighting an enemy in daylight, immediate action to close or open the range is invariably required ; as a general rule, full speed should be ordered at once. A few moments delay in deciding the best course may require a long period of hard steaming to make good lost ground. At night, medium or low speed is required except if retiring, when high speed is needed.

SELECTION OF THE PROPER WEAPON
487.
The weapon best suited for any particular situation in a minor action depends on the following considerations:-

(a) The gun is the only weapon which can bring down the speed of an enemy in the early stages of a minor action fought in daylight. Captains should make every effort to close the range when attacking as, at long rage, hits will not often be obtained.
(b) The effect on gunfire of speed, the range, end-on silhouette and, in particular, the direction of the wind should be given full attention.
(c) In a minor action, torpedo fire to be effective must take place at a very short range because an enemy, with freedom of manoeuvre, can usually avoid torpedoes seen to be fired from ranges greater than 2,000 yards. In day actions, ships should not endeavour to obtain a position of torpedo advantage at the expense of other considerations, until the speed of the enemy had been reduced.

488. If, however, forces are trying to escape from the enemy, a position of torpedo advantage is usually presented. Torpedoes should then be fired at long range in the hope of hitting or forcing the enemy to lose position while manoeuvring to avoid torpedoes; either of these results will further the escape of the weaker force.

SMOKE
489.
Smoke may be used to isolate one portion of the enemy, to give protection when retiring, or to close the range when light forces are faced with an enemy superior at long range. It should be remembered that the correct use of smoke may often increase the chances of success in a minor action.

RUSES
490.
Successful ruses have often been employed in the past in minor actions. These have had as their object either to induce an inferior enemy to close superior forces, or a stronger enemy to refrain from attacking weaker ships. The following examples are given as a guide ; their application will depend on the particular situation:-

(a) Use of part of the force as a decoy.
(b) Bold tactics designed to give the impression that supports are at hand.
(c) Disguise of appearance by day and the use of lights as disguise at night.
(d) False colours.
(e) Simulation of enemy recognition signals or the use of signals designed to confuse own identity. These may be particularly effective while closing the range end-on.
(f) Pretending firing of torpedoes or laying of mines
(g) Sending of false signals which the enemy is expected to intercept.
(h) Feigning damage.

491. (Blank)

492. (Blank)

493. (Blank)

494. (Blank)

495. (Blank)

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