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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MINOR OPERATIONS
SECTION XI.-PARTICULAR OPERATIONS (1)
ACTION BETWEEN DIFFERENTLY CONSTITUTED BUT APPROXIMATELY EQUAL FORCES

CONTENTS

Clause Subject

500
501-505
506-508
509-519

General.
Tactics which may be adopted by the cruisers.
Tactics which may be adopted by the destroyers.


SECTION XI.-PARTICULAR OPERATIONS (1)
ACTION BETWEEN DIFFERENTLY CONSTITUTED BUT APPROXIMATELY EQUAL FORCES

GENERAL
500.
A situation may arise in which an action is fought between a small number of large ships and a greater number of small ships. The following instructions, which are more especially applicable to actions between cruisers and destroyers, are intended as a general guide. To some extent they will apply to actions between capital ships and cruisers, and between large protected cruisers and smaller unarmoured cruisers. For simplicity, the larger heavily gunned ships have been termed cruisers, and the faster vessels with smaller guns, destroyers. Each force is considered as having freedom of movement.

TACTICS WHICH MAY BE ADOPTED BY THE CRUISERS
501. Object.
The object of the cruisers is to destroy the attacking destroyers before the latter can reach the range at which their many smaller guns can produce a volume of fire superior to that of the cruisers.

502. Action after contact. In order to prolong as far as possible the period before gunfire from the destroyers becomes effective, the cruisers should work up to full speed as quickly as possible, and should steer away from the enemy. Though the time taken for the destroyers to close to effective range will be prolonged if the cruisers steer directly away from them, it will normally be preferable for the cruisers to accept the reduction in this period resulting from keeping "A" arcs just open, as this will largely increase the effectiveness of gunfire and their chances of damaging or sinking attacking destroyers. If practicable, the initial course of the cruisers should be into the wind in order to reduce the destroyers' advantage in speed, and to enable the cruisers to use smoke defensively or to cover a portion of the enemy force.

503. If the destroyers are widely separated, the cruisers should endeavour to destroy them in detail. The gunfire of those unfired at should be hampered if practicable by keeping out of range, presenting a difficult end-on target, and by the use of smoke.

504. If the destroyers are concentrated, the cruisers should engage the leading vessels ship for ship. It may be desirable for the cruisers to open out, so that the fire of one cruiser can be brought to bear on the force end-on to her consort. In this case, cruisers should not separate to the extent that mutual support is lost.

505. Once one or more destroyers have been hit and reduced in speed, the initiative will pass to the cruisers. The remaining destroyers must either reduce speed to support those damaged, or continue the attack against a superior force.

TACTICS WHICH MAY BE ADOPTED BY THE DESTROYERS
506. Object.
The object of the destroyers is to cover the dangerous area between the range at which the cruisers' guns can fire effectively, and the range at which the destroyers' gunfire can overwhelm the cruisers, whilst suffering a minimum of damage.

507. Action after contact. Destroyers should not waste time by forming a close concentration before closing the enemy. Full speed should be ordered immediately and, whilst closing, destroyers should steer to gain a loose formation on a line broad to the bearing of the cruisers, which will allow concentration of gunfire on reaching effective range. This will require no reduction in speed for station-keeping.

508. The destroyers should steer a course to close the cruisers as quickly as possible. Any destroyers coming under effective fire must at once turn bows on to the enemy and make frequent small alterations of course, so as to present the most difficult form of target. This may involved crossing ahead or astern of the next ship, and an opportunity for screening the ship under fire with smoke may arise, so forcing the enemy to shift target, with a resultant loss of hitting efficiency.

509. (Blank)

510. (Blank)

511. (Blank)

512. (Blank)

513. (Blank)

514. (Blank)

515-519. (Blank)

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