Scarborough Raid, December 1914

In December of 1914, the High Sea Fleet (HSF) sortied in support of a bombardment of the English coast by the 1st Scouting Group. Alerted by Room 40, the Admiralty ordered the 2nd Battle Squadron, the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron and the Battle Cruiser Squadron to trap what they thought was a raid by the 1st Scouting Group alone. Bad weather, along with tactical choices and signaling errors prevented a major clash. See, for example, References 1 and 2.

This scenario uses an assumption of better weather to examine a potential engagement between the British force and the HSF near dawn on December 16th. Potential encounters which might have occurred if the High Sea Fleet had not turned back during the night are ignored. The 1st Scouting Group is near the coast at dawn and too distant to be involved. The battle is between Warrender (with Beatty under his command) and Ingenohl. For this date and latitude, nautical twilight begins at 0659 hrs (GMT) and sunrise is at 0825 hrs.

The orders of battle are listed in the narrative file:

Approach to contact and deployment (0825-0900 hrs)

The initial cruising formations are taken from Reference 3, Charts 5 and 7. The HSF has turned south after reaching its rendezvous position (labeled as “700 Uhr-Punkt” on Reference 3, Chart 8). The British force has reversed course to the north after passing the cleared minefield lane leading east toward the coast.

When the armored cruisers in the screen of the HSF (Roon and Prinz Heinrich) are sighted, the British force deploys to starboard (0825 hrs). The withdrawal of the British light cruiser squadron to its battle position prevents it from sighting more of the enemy, and it is left to Beatty to report the leading ships of the HSF battle line 23 minutes later (0848 hrs). The (historical) British night cruising formation had the armored and light cruisers in compact columns and not spread out in a search screen. It may have been doctrine to do this only after sunrise. In the actual action, the light cruisers were spread out by 0900 hrs and the armored cruisers by about 1200 hrs (Reference 3, Chart 11, times adjusted to GMT).

The HSF deploys to port at 0835 hrs, based on sighting the British battle cruisers, now about 4 NM ahead of the British battleships. The battleships are not sighted until 0852 hrs (and not engaged until 0903 hrs), so the HSF maneuvers in this phase are based mainly on engaging the battle cruisers.

Main action and disengagement (0900 – 0940 hrs)

Only battleships and battle cruisers are plotted in this phase for clarity.

Heavy damage to the Lion forces her to turn away at 0902 hrs, but it is too late, and she sinks at 0903 hrs. Tiger is also heavily damaged, but leads the remaining battle cruisers to the NE until her reduced speed causes Queen Mary to take the lead . Since the loss of the Lion is clearly visible to Warrender in the King George V, and since the entire HSF is now known to be present, control of the British side by the AI code was stopped and a withdrawal southward was ordered at 0905 hrs. The AI code does not yet have algorithms to decide on a general withdrawal. All units were ordered to make funnel smoke.

The HSF battle line attempts to maintain the current range by reversing course, but not realizing that the enemy is in flight, makes the turn to starboard, i.e., away from the action. It is not until 0920 hrs that the HSF turns to the SE. This allows the British to get out of range. The British are slightly faster and most would have escaped in any case, but an earlier turn to the south by the HSF might have destroyed the Tiger, then only capable of 18 knots.

Plot of the entire battle:

Tiger, Queen Mary and New Zealand pass the sinking Lion. (4×4 inch acrylic on wood)

Status at the end of the game:

This (admittedly contrived) scenario shows the difficulty of destroying Warrender’s outnumbered force with a HSF consisting largely of slower heavy ships. The advance of the Battle Cruiser Squadron several miles ahead of the 2nd Battle Squadron, while it resulted in the loss of the Lion, allowed the battleships to escape before being significantly damaged.

References:
1. Goldrick, James, “Before Jutland,” Chapter 12.
2. Marder, Arthur J., “From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow,” Volume II, Chapter VII.
3. Groos, D. “Der Krieg in der Nordsee,” Volume III, Charts 5 – 8 and 11.

Memories and Thoughts of an Old Warship Builder (WW1 Era)

Thanks to a link provided by a post in the NavWeaps Forum “Battleship Vs Battleship”, I was able to obtain a short document written by a WW1 era German warship design engineer, Hans Bürkner. It discusses his career and some of the technical choices made from about 1905 until the end of the war.

Since I can’t read much German, I used OCR software to convert the document to a text format, edited the German text to correct errors in recognizing the Gothic font, used Goggle translate to generate English text and edited the English text, as much as I was able, to use more common naval language. There are still some areas where I am uncertain of the meaning. The NavWeaps post linked above translates of some of the more important technical information, probably more accurately than I did.

Jutland Gunnery Log of HMS Lion

The Dreadnought Project website provides gunnery log data for HMS Lion at the Battle Of Jutland.

Link

The source is the Beatty Papers archive at the Royal Museums Greenwich, Reports on gunnery range and rate of fire, 4 Jun-23 Oct 1916.

A copy of the log as transcribed on the Dreadnought Project web page is included here:

Range vs Salvo Time Plot

Using the gunnery log a plot of range vs salvo time was generated. Where available, the spotting corrections were applied to the ranges for the subsequent salvos. Bearing data was used to distinguish salvos fired to port (red) or starboard (green). Alterations of course (A/C in the Remarks column of the table) are shown using red (port) or green (starboard) symbols. Salvo data points are marked as “Salvo near target” for spotting entries which state ‘hit’, ‘straddle’, or give a portion of the salvo short and no large range correction. All times are p.m., GMT.

Additional lines on the plot indicate the times of the 180 degree turn at the end of the ‘Run to the South’, the 360 degree circle of the British battlecruisers around 7 p.m., and the destruction of the four ships that blew up during the daylight action. The four destruction times are from Campbell (Reference 1) and may not agree with the clock used for the gunnery data.

Comparison with Official Despatches

The following is a comparison of the gunnery log with the “Captain’s Report, H.M.S. Lion” in the Official Despatches (Reference 2). [note the then-current English spelling of dispatch]

Salvos between 3.47.5 (3 hours, 47 ½ minutes) and 4.33 were all fired to port. This is the engagement with the German battlecruisers in the ‘Run to the South’. The Official Despatches are consistent:
Enemy opened fire at 3.47 p.m., Lion replying half a minute later…”
(Reference 2, pages 143-144, paragraphs 2-5).

At 4.36 the log remarks state:
“Alteration of course of 16 Points. Enemy Battle Fleet ahead.”
The Official Despatches give a slightly different time:
“At 4.38 p.m. the enemy Battle Fleet was sighted ahead, and course was altered 16 points to North …”
(Reference 2, page 144, paragraph 6).

The log shows a firing gap of 15 minutes between the last salvo of the ‘Run to the South’ at 4.33 and the first salvo on the northerly course at 4.48. This contradicts the statement in the Official Despatches that the Lion reopened fire at 4.38 (Reference 2, page 144, paragraph 7).

Salvos between 4.48 and 5.04 were all fired to starboard. This is the engagement with the German battlecruisers in the ‘Run to the North’.

The log shows a firing gap of 35.5 minutes between 5.04 and 5.39.5 where the log states:
“Enemy went away in the mist and smoke.” (listed after 5.08)
“Left Hand Battle Cruiser. It is too indistinct to lay on at present.” (5.12)
“Caught a glimpse of the enemy.” (5.33)
This is roughly consistent with the Official Despatches, which state:
“At 5.12 p.m. Lion ceased fire owing to the enemy being obscured, and did not reopen until 5.41 p.m. …”
(Reference 2, page 144, paragraph 9).

Salvos between 5.39.5 and 6.01.5 were fired in misty conditions at the head of the German fleet. The salvo at 6.03 was fired at a cruiser. The Official Despatches continue:
“ … and did not reopen until 5.41 p.m. The visibility at this time was decreasing, and when fire was reopened on a ship that appeared to be of the Konig class… ”
(Reference 2, page 144, paragraph 9).

The log shows a firing gap of 13.5 minutes between 6.03 and 6.16.5. The Official Despatches state:
“Defence and Warrior now crossed Lion’s bow …. This caused Lion to cease fire and to lose touch with the enemy.”
(Reference 2, page 144, paragraph 12).

Salvos between 6.16.5 and 6.31.5 were the shortest ranges to enemy capital ships in the battle, down to about 8300 yards. The Official Despatches state:
“At 6.21 p.m. the Third Battle Cruiser Squadron was sighted … and Lion reopened at distant ships on the starboard beam (Konig class?).”
(Reference 2, page 145, paragraph 13).
No mention is made in the despatches of the target of the eight salvos between 6.16.5 and 6.21, but the gunnery log remarks at 6.14 say:
Battle Cruiser on Star: beam. Green 93 Left Hand ship.”

The log shows a firing gap of 42 minutes between 6.31.5 and 7.13.5. This interval includes the 360 degree circle to starboard which became a contentious issue in the preparation of the Harper track charts (Reference 3, pages 431-439). The Official Despatches indicate the circle, but differ about firing:
“Course was continued to be altered to starboard to close the enemy and at 6.37 p.m. was altered to E.S.E.; at 6.44 to S.E., and 6.48 p.m. to S.S.E.
At 6.53 p.m. speed was reduced to 18 knots to keep station on the Battlefleet, who were leading away to port owing to a Destroyer attack. Lion continued to engage the leading ship of enemy. occasionally ceasing fire when he became invisible. …”
(Reference 2, page 145, paragraph 14).
“The ship continued to circle to starboard.”
(Reference 2, page 145, paragraph 15).

Salvos between 7.13.5 and 7.16 have no obvious target, but the gunnery log remarks for 7.23 state:
“Left of three Battle Cruisers, Green 90.”
The Official Despatches state:
Fire was reopened on the leading ship of the enemy at 15,000 yards at 7.15 p.m….”
(Reference 2, page 145, paragraph 16).

The log shows a firing gap of 63 minutes between 7.16 and 8.19, followed by 15 closely spaced salvos at ranges around 10,000 yards between 8.19 and 8.28. The log remarks for the first salvo at 8.19 state:
“At ship 2 masts 3 funnels.”
Campbell says that the target was the light cruiser Pillau (Reference 1, page 253). The log remarks for 8.21 state:
“Left hand Battle Cruiser.”,
possibly indicating a change of target prior to the salvo at 8.22.
The Official Despatches state:
“… The enemy was still not sufficiently visible to open fire, and this continued until 8.21 p.m., when the flashes of his guns were again seen on our starboard beam.” At 8.23 p.m. Lion opened fire with rapid salvoes on his leading ship, either Lutzow or Konig class. … Lion ceased fire at 8.30 p.m.”
(Reference 2, page 145, paragraphs 16 and 17).

References

  1. Campbell, John, “Jutland, An Analysis of the Fighting,” 1986.
  2. “Battle of Jutland 30th May to 1st June 1916 Official Despatches with Appendixes,” 1920.
  3. “The Beatty Papers,” Volume II, 1993.

1909 Fleet Exercise

This scenario is a fictional British fleet exercise in 1909, designed to examine the idea that dreadnoughts “… were equal to any two and a half battleships at present existing.” [Reference 1]
The Red force, dubbed the ‘Royalist Fleet’, consists of all the currently operational dreadnought battleships and dreadnought armoured cruisers (later renamed battlecruisers) . It sails south from Rosyth to confront the Blue force, dubbed the ‘Parliamentary Fleet’, consisting of twice the number of pre-dreadnought battleships and armoured cruisers. The Red force includes the newest destroyers and the Blue force has a larger number of older destroyers. Both forces have scout cruisers of the latest operational classes.

The guns of the Invincible are penalized for the problems associated with the electrical turret mechanisms. These problems were never resolved, and the equipment was replaced with standard hydraulic gear in 1914. [Reference 2]

The code AI ran the blue side’s forces.

The sea conditions and orders of battle are listed on Page 1 of the Narrative file:


Force reports:


Plots and commentary:
The Red force cruising formation has the Invincible class ahead of the dreadnoughts, the destroyer flotilla stationed on the port bow of the flagship Dreadnought, and the scout cruisers in a line abreast screen ahead. The Blue force cruising formation has two battleship divisions in line ahead, two armoured cruiser divisions stationed ahead to port and starboard, two destroyer flotillas stationed abeam either side of the flagship Lord Nelson, and the scout cruisers in a line abreast screen ahead.
After the initial sightings, both sides deploy to port. The Red force attempts to use its speed advantage to gain a downwind position.

Once the battle lines open fire, the Blue force reverses direction to engage on parallel courses. Blue divisions adopt quarter line formations to allow following ships to be clear of the smoke from those ahead. This can be seen on the plot as parallel blue line segments. The Red heavy ships initially concentrate on the leading Blue battleships, but as the range closes and the Blue armoured cruisers’ fire becomes more effective, the Indomitable’s division shifts fire to the Warrior’s division. The leading Blue ships take significant damage, but the trailing Blue ships are firing undisturbed.

The faster Red force pulls ahead and edges to starboard to cross Blue’s line of advance. The Blue battle line turns away to keep gun arcs open. The scout cruisers fight their own battle between the lines, but the Blue scouts take damage from Red battleship secondary guns.

The Red force, having expended most of its armour piercing shells, and under threat from a visible Blue torpedo launch, turns away and makes smoke to break off the engagement.


End of game status:
The Red force of dreadnought type ships inflicted greater damage than it received, but left almost half of the Blue heavy ships undamaged. For the number of 12 inch shell hits, relatively little critical damage was inflicted. This was due to the defects of the shells, most of which exploded prematurely from the sensitivity of the lyddite filler, or shattered on face-hardened armour when striking at an angle from the perpendicular. It is possible that umpires of an actual fleet exercise would have judged many of the damaged ships to be sunk.
The short range of the torpedoes (3,000 yards maximum) made the destroyers ineffective in this scenario.


Gunnery logs:

References:
1. Fisher, Sir John, “Naval Necessities,” The Fisher Papers, Vol. II, page 149.
2. Roberts, John, “British Battlecruisers 1905-1920,” pages 84-85.