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 107 & 108 -

SECTION XIX.-PARTICULAR OPERATIONS (9)
ATTACK ON ENEMY CONVOYS

CONTENTS

Clause Subject

615-616
617
618
619
620-624

The object.
The attacking force.
Method of attack.
Special instructions.


SECTION XIX.-PARTICULAR OPERATIONS (9)

ATTACK ON ENEMY CONVOYS

THE OBJECT
615.
When attacking a convoy, the object must be the destruction or capture of the ships forming the convoy. The tactics adopted by the attacking force will depend on whether the ships in convoy may be sunk at sight or not (troop transports, recognised fleet auxiliaries, etc., can be lawfully sunk at sight). If the ships in convoy may be sunk at sight, the attacking force should concentrate on their destruction, rather than on engaging the escort. But, if there is doubt as to sinking at sight, it will not be possible to deal with the ships in convoy until interference by the escorting force has been neutralised. In this case, if the attacking force is superior to the escort, the latter should be destroyed or driven off without delay ; if inferior, part of the attacking force should attempt to draw off the escort by a feint attack, whilst the remainder closes and deals with the convoy.

616. The question whether the convoy should be attacked by day or at night will depend on the relative strengths of the escort and attacking force, and whether the ships in convoy may be sunk at sight. Success in attack will largely depend on surprise. Unless the convoy is accompanied by an aircraft carrier or is within range of shore-based aircraft, it is unlikely to have the advantage of air reconnaissance.

THE ATTACKING FORCE
617.
Cruisers and destroyers are the most suitable ships for convoy attack, as handiness and speed are important factors. However, important convuys may be escorted by capital ships and in this case an opportunity for a fleet action may arise. Sporadic attacks by shadowing vessels on stragglers that fall astern of a convoy may be possible by day or at night, but this action should not take precedence over the primary duty of shadowing. Apart from reconnaissance, aircraft may be of great value for attacking the escort and in certain circumstances the ships in convoy.

METHOD OF ATTACK
618.
When surprise is the basis of the plan of attack, it is usually preferable to attack from ahead. Directly the enemy is sighted, ships should close at high speed and end-on if practicable. This will make recognition by ships of the escort difficult, and the rate of closing the enemy to a decisive range will be higher. Furthermore, it should result in the ships in convoy being thrown into confusion if they attempt to scatter. Ships of the convoy which scatter should be ordered to stop and fire should be opened on those which fail to obey the order.

SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS
619.
Instructions regarding the safety of crews of merchant ships and the sinking of ships in convoy at sight should be included in the orders for the operation. Guidance on this matter is contained in Notes on Maritime International Law (C.B.3012) ; the Naval Prize Manual (O.U.5316/1923) should also be referred to.

620-624. (Blank)

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