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Saturday, December 17th 2011, 10:55am

Excercise Nelson

The large hall was filled with officers, on the podium were the nine Admirals taking part in the exercise, the rest of the hall was packed with the commanders of the ships to take part and their executive officers. Through the pall of cigarette smoke the Commander in Chief of Exercise Nelson, Admiral Sir Martin Eric Dubar-Nasmith, rose to his feet and moved pulled a cord to reveal a large map of the British Isles and North Sea. He picked up his pointer and began the briefing.
“Exercise Nelson will be the biggest peacetime exercise we have undertaken in several years. The exercise fleet will be split into several component parts. Force A will be commanded by Admiral John Tovey, Force B by Admiral Max Horton, Channel Forces by Vice-Admiral James Somerville, Landing Forces by Admiral Sir George D'Oyly Lyon, Escorts and Submarines by Vice-Admiral Bruce Fraser and Flag Officer Air for the entire exercise will be Vice Admiral Arthur St George Lyster.
I shall go through the exercise by Group first. Force A shall comprise the 1st Battle Squadron (Lion, Saint Vincent, Trafalgar, Agincourt, Nile), the 1st Carrier Squadron (Ark Royal, Majestic), the 1st Composite Squadron (carrier Triumph and the cruisers Norfolk, Kent), the 9th, 19th and 20th Light Cruiser Squadrons along with the 12th, 2nd and 23rd Destroyer Flotillas. They will assemble for the exercise start on September 3rd in the Firth of Clyde. From here they will sail eastwards around the Outer Hebrides into the North Sea.

They will be joined by elements of the Force Escorts and Submarines. The 16th Destroyer Flotilla, 1st Coastal Minesweeper Flotilla, 3rd Coastal Minesweeper Flotilla and 1st Sloop Flotilla will act as escorts. Minesweeping exercises will commence from D+1 (September 4th) around Tiree and Coll and extending as far as North Uist. This element of the exercise will test how we screen a large battle formation in confined and coastal waters as well as open waters. Dummy minefields are marked on your charts and the minesweepers will attempt to clear passages through some fields and you will bypass others. During this phase shore-based Fleet Air Arm (FAA) and Coastal Command aircraft will be simulating attacks on the sweeping force. Force A carriers and destroyers will provide screening cover.
Once you’ve passed the fifty-eighth parallel the exercise will shift into Phase Two.

This entails the Force A escorts plus the 16th Destroyer Flotilla, 3rd Coastal Minesweeper Flotilla and 1st Sloop Flotilla defending against submarine attack. Now, any future war operation will involve contact with enemy submarine units. Some will be attacking merchant routes but other enemy formations will target the main fleet and try to break it up and weaken our forces before contact with the main force. Therefore Phase Two will see the 8th, 14th, 4th and 1st Submarine Flotillas making attacks. These twenty submarines will attempt to attack the battleships and carriers from the 58th parallel until you reach Sumburgh Head in the Shetlands. Attack plans are known only to the commanders of the submarines, some will attack in groups, others making lone attacks. Attacks will be made by day and night. It will be long and hard work. Once the Force has reached Sumburgh Head the Force Escorts and Submarines will stand-down, refuelling practice at sea will be held for smaller vessels and on arriving at the Orkney ranges on D+4 live firing for all units will commence on D+5 (Sept 8th). Then Force A will set off for Phase Three into the North Sea which I shall come back to in a moment.

Force B will assemble off the Bill of Portland on September 3rd. Units assigned to Force B are; the 3rd Battle Squadron (Victorious, King George V, Venerable, Vanguard, Vigilant), the 4th Carrier Squadron (Ocean, Theseus), the 1st Heavy Cruiser Squadron (Princess Royal, Princess Mary, Iron Duke, Edgar), the 1st, 2nd and 12th Light Cruiser Squadrons plus the 10th, 26th and 22nd Destroyer Flotillas. Force B will simulate an attacking force heading through narrow channels, such operations are likely in the Red Sea, Persian Gulf and Strait of Malacca. Force B will be under continual air attack from D-Day until passing the North Foreland. These forces will be shore-based FAA fighter and bomber units and bomber units of Coastal Command. Elements of Fighter Command will also be encountered. The enemy fleet is the Channel Forces. The 9th Destroyer Flotilla will attempt a nocturnal destroyer attack off the Isle of Wight. Between Beachy Head and Dungeness Point the 4th, 5th, 22nd and 9th Torpedo Boat Flotillas will attempt daytime and nocturnal motor torpedo boat attacks. Channel Force’s goal is to allow us to define the threat these formations pose in wartime and the tactics needed for our own forces to operate in such conditions.

On D+4 Force A shall pick up the assembled Landing Forces off Harwich and escort them to a position north of Great Yarmouth off the Norfolk coast. The Landing Forces will have assembled in Harwich at D-3 and will comprise the Landing Ship Flotilla (Gleneagle, Glenearn, Glengyle, Glenroy) and the 1st, 2nd, 10th, 11th, 14th and 15th Landing Craft Flotillas with a variety of Assault, Personnel and Vehicle landing craft. They will be supported by HMS Malaya, the Coastal Defence Squadron (General Crawford, Sir John Moore, General Pakenham, General Picton, Gorgon) and the 1st Minesweeper Flotilla. While Force A provides distant cover the Landing Force will invade an area of the coastline and carry out a simulated invasion with elements of the 1st Battalion Royal Marines. The carriers of Force A will supply fighter cover and bomber support. This phase shall commence on D+5 and last for two days. At that point Landing Forces will return to Harwich and stand down and Force B will head into the southern North Sea with refuelling at sea for smaller vessels.

The final phase of Exercise Nelson is a battlefleet versus battlefleet engagement. The expected battle is to take place around Dogger Bank. Force A will deploy from the North and Force B from the south, they may move within the confines of the exercise area and after an initial series of probes and screens contact will be established. Whichever Force locates its foe first may strike first using all the assets at its disposal. The force commanders and staffs are free to determine which tactics to use at the time of the engagements. Both forces will be roughly equal. The goal of the phase is to defeat the enemy, destroy his capital units and force the enemy force to retreat to break up. Some officers have commented that this is a re-run of the Great War battles. It is not correct to say that we will refight Jutland but rather try and devise new ways of scouting. Force B will remain under radio silence during this phase while they will make full use of their passive detection apparatus. Both forces may use their radio-location gear once in combat and for searching. Force B will also test its jamming equipment. Generally Force A is more dependent on capital ships and so will provide a useful tool in evaluating how such units can be handled against a carrier-superior force. At D+10 the exercise will finish and all units will return to their assembly areas for stand down. This should be completed by no later than D+15. During D+11 all capital units and cruisers of both Forces will commence at sea refuelling exercises. Now the floor is open to the Force Commanders to discuss the finer points in detail.”


Sunday, December 18th 2011, 5:43pm

Commander in Chief of Exercise Nelson Admiral Sir Martin Eric Dubar-Nasmith
Force A Commander-in-Chief Admiral John Tovey
Force B Commander-in-Chief Admiral Sir Max Kennedy Horton
Commander of Channel Forces Vice-Admiral James Fownes Somerville
Commander of Landing Forces Admiral Sir George Hamilton D'Oyly Lyon
Commander of Escorts and Submarines Vice-Admiral Bruce Fraser
Force A Chief of Staff Vice-Admiral Henry Evelyn Charles Blagrove
Force B Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Sir Geoffrey Blake
Flag Officer Air Vice Admiral Arthur Lumley St George Lyster

Force A
1st Battle Squadron (Lion, Saint Vincent, Trafalgar, Agincourt, Nile)
1st Carrier Squadron (Ark Royal, Majestic)
1st Composite Squadron (Triumph, Norfolk. Kent)
9th Light Cruiser Squadron (Kenya, Kelly, Kingfisher, Kelvin, Khedive, Kashmir)
19th Light Cruiser Squadron (Scylla, Dido, Euryalus, Phoebe, Sirius)
20th Light Cruiser Squadron (Lancaster, Leonidas, Latona, Leviathan, Leander, Largs)
12th Destroyer Flotilla (Zulu, Zoe, Zambezi, Xenon, Xena, Xerxes, Xanadu)
2nd Destroyer Flotilla (Vansittart, Venomous, Verity, Veteran, Vimy, Volunteer, Wanderer, Whitehall)
23rd Destroyer Flotilla (Garland, Greyhound, Griffin, Grenade, Grafton, Gipsy, Guernsey, Guinevere)

Force Escorts and Submarines
16th Destroyer Flotilla (Zephyr, Zodiac, Zorro, Zebra, Zeus, Zest, Zulu, Zenith)
8th Submarine Flotilla (P26-30)
14th Submarine Flotilla (O6-10)
4th Submarine Flotilla (S1-S5)
1st Submarine Flotilla (Shark, Sturgeon, Swordfish, Seahorse, Starfish)
1st Coastal Minesweeper Flotilla (8 195 Ton Class)
1st Sloop Flotilla (E1-E4)
3rd Coastal Minesweeper Flotilla (ex-Aisling Class Antrim, Down, Armagh, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Londonderry, Scilly, Isle of Man)

Force B
3rd Battle Squadron (Victorious, King George V, Venerable, Vanguard, Vigilant)
4th Carrier Squadron (Ocean, Theseus)
1st Heavy Cruiser Squadron (Princess Royal, Princess Mary, Iron Duke, Edgar)
2nd Light Cruiser Squadron (Charybdis, Naiad, Arethusa, Aurora, Ajax)
1st Light Cruiser Squadron (Minotaur, Superb)
12th Light Cruiser Squadron (Chichester, Llandaff, Salisbury, Lincoln)
10th Destroyer Flotilla (Meteor, Musketeer, Myrmidon, Milne, Matchless, Marksman, Moon, Matador)
26th Destroyer Flotilla (Jackal, Javelin, Jersey, Jaguar, Janus, Jerivs, Jutland, Jubilee)
22nd Destroyer Flotilla (Fury, Fame, Firedrake, Foresight, Faulknor, Fortune, Forester, Foxhound)

Channel Forces
9th Destroyer Flotilla (Vimiera, Violent, Vivacious, Vivien, Vortigern, Wakeful, Walker, Walpole)
4th Torpedo Boat Flotilla (8 BPB-60-1 Class)
5th Torpedo Boat Flotilla (8 BPB-60-1 Class)
22nd Torpedo Boat Flotilla (8 BPB-60-4 Class)
9th Torpedo Boat Flotilla (8 BPB-60-1 Class)

Landing Forces
Landing Ship Flotilla (Gleneagle, Glenearn)
10th Landing Craft Flotilla (8 LCA)
11th Landing Craft Flotilla (8 LCA)
1st Landing Craft Flotilla (8 LCI 1)
2nd Landing Craft Flotilla (8 LCV 1)
14th Landing Craft Flotilla (8 LCV 2)
15th Landing Craft Flotilla (8 LCV 3)
HMS Malaya
Coastal Defence Squadron (General Crawford, Sir John Moore, General Pakenham, General Picton, Gorgon)
1st Minesweeper Flotilla (8 Poole Class minesweepers)


Saturday, December 24th 2011, 10:41am

[OOC: Those of you expecting a lengthy and word-esque report with graphs, figures and plentiful technical data are in for a surprise. For the bulk of Excercise Nelson will be told by those who took part. There will be a lengthy round-up at the end. You should be able to follow the course of the fleets as we go round the ships and ports.]

Aboard the minesweeper HMS Fermanagh at Clydeside:
Peeep “All hands close up! Special sea duty men to stations for leaving harbour!”

Aboard the sloop HMS Ben More off Galan Head:
“Contact! Port twenty. Search Red oh-three-oh to Green oh”
“Range one thousand, moving left to right”
“Put it on speaker Number One. Helmsman port ten, full power.”
“Starboard five degrees, slight down Doppler, must be a submarine.”
“Keep with her Number One.”
“Aye-Aye, range eight hundred yards.”
“Starboard two degrees, cut out. Range 700. Got a steady signal now Sir.”
“She’s bearing steady now.”
“No she isn’t”
“Sorry, she’s still moving left to right, turning slightly, slight down Doppler”
“That’s better”
“Are you sure of a good contact number one?”
“Yes. Come starboard two degrees. Range four hundred”
“Right, tell Crawford to drop a grenade this time. We’ll get her exact position.”
“Come left, watch it you’ll lose her. That’s better.”
“Range one hundred yards. Range fifty”
“Standby the quarterdeck.”
“Instantaneous echo!”
“Fire grenade”
“Lost contact Sir.”
“Right, carry out lost contact procedure Number One. Half rudder to starboard, reduce to two-oh revolutions.”
“Smoke candle off the port quarter Sir!”
“Good, bring us to course one-four-oh.”
“Good work Commander.”
“Thank you, it feels good to get one at last.”
“Submarine surfacing off the starboard beam Sir!”
“Very well”
“Signal from P27 Sir. Good hunting. You’re getting too good at this. Go try it on someone else!”

Aboard HMS Jersey somewhere west of the Isle of Wight:
“Very pretty sky, Sir. Somebody sent me a calendar rather like that last Christmas.”
“Did it have a squadron of Beauforts in the upper right-hand corner?”
“ No, Sir.”
“That's where art parts company with reality. Sound action stations.”
“Aye-Aye Sir.”
“Wheelhouse bridge, come to port three degrees, two-thirds power.”
“Message from Jackal Sir. Take independent action to protect the convoy”
“Ok. Port ten, give me full revolutions for combat. Tell the engine room I may want instant smoke.”
“All guns manned and ready Sir. Directors manned and ready Sir. All damage control parties standing by.”
“Twelve Beauforts at two thousand feet coming in off the port side. All guns follow director.”
“Stand-by for torpedo plane attack. Open fire Guns as soon as they are in range.”
“Aye-Aye Sir. Barrage set. Open fire at my command.”
“Sir! Yacht bearing green two-four!”
“What! Damn civilians. Come to course one-oh-two. Signaller, tell that damn fool to turn about! Can’t he read the Notice to Mariners!”
“Enemy aircraft in range Sir. Main battery firing commence, commence, commence.”
“Formation splitting.”
“Come left four degrees. Sub, keep an eye on Jaguar astern of us.”
“All AA weapons commence independent rapid action. Commence, commence, commence.”
“Hard a starboard helmsman.”
“He’s coming in low Sir.”
“Wheelhouse bridge, steer port twenty. Keep that yacht to starboard.”
“He nearly took the top off the foremast!”
“Here comes a second wave from port Sir.”
“It’s going to be a long day Flags.”

Aboard HMS Vigilant below decks:
Action Stations is piped over the tannoy
“Oh blimey why does the Navy insist on doing everything at the crack of dawn? The sea's there all day.”
“It impresses the taxpayers.”
“No politics on an empty stomach, please.”
“Ere’ comes the Chief Buffer.”
“All right lads get moving, Starboard Watch topside, come on. Actions stations, wakey, wakey! Get up Davies you lazy bastard! Come on get out or I’ll throw yer’ out of them hammocks.”


Tuesday, December 27th 2011, 11:34am

Aboard HMS P30 somewhere north of Cape Wrath:
“Up periscope. Hmm, there a juicy big battleship just over there. Down scope. Now if he’s heading roughly due east, we’ll keep on this course for five minutes.”
“Right-o Sir.”
“Pass the word to keep it quiet. What’s the battery state?”
“Enough for two more hours at this speed.”
“Good. Up scope. Right, range about eighteen-hundred. It’s a Saint Vincent, there’s another aft, damn it’s hard to see. Pretty rough up top. No escorts in sight. Down scope.”
“Shall we load a dummy Sir?”
“Yes load tube one. She’s doing around twenty-seven knots. We only have a brief window and I want to be ready when she gets in range. Speed four knots. Bring us to attack depth. Take it easy boys. Any slip-ups now and we’ve had it.”
“Open number two and four valves, open main Kingston. Two degrees on the bowplanes.”
“Torpedo room to control. Tube one loaded. Tube one ready.”
“Right. Up scope. Good her course is steady, speed twenty-seven, range fifteen, course seventy, make it seventy-five for safety’s sake. Down scope.”
“Right we’ll simulate a spread of four fish. The attack table set?”
“Yes Sir. Table is set, torpedo tube ready. Everything’s set.”
“If this hits one can buy me a beer when we get into port.”
“Ok Harry”
“Any other contacts Phones?”
“No, some destroyers around but there a ways off.”
“Right scope up. One nice big target steaming into the bag. Lovely. Range twelve hundred. Course steady, come right five degrees. Blast! Destroyer bearing one-oh-three! Down scope. Dive to a hundred feet.”
“Open one, two and four, open main Kingston, four degrees on the bowplanes.”
“Destroyer propellers Sir. Range two thousand.”
“Damn what rotten luck, we had it in the bag too!”
“Contact Sir. She’s got us on Asdic!”
“Give me maximum speed, port ten. Right, when I give the word drop het to two hundred and hard-a starboard.”
“Destroyer propellers Sir. She’s bearing down on us, flank speed. Range eight hundred.”
“Wait for it boys.”
“Range four hundred… two hundred”
“Right, dive to two hundred feet and hard-a-starboard. Look sharp lads. Full speed. We’ll try and double back under her hull.”

Aboard a Coastal Command Short Sunderland N9029 somewhere west of the Shetlands:
“Skipper the port outer oil temperature is a little high.”
“I hope it holds out a little longer, we’ve got another hour on patrol.”
“Filthy weather, I hope it clears a little.”
“Sure is rough today. Say is there any char left?”
“Navigator to pilot, change course to one-two-four.”
“Pilot to navigator, ok. Hey Bob send up some more char will you.”
“Hey don’t forget me up the back-end. It’s freezin’ in this turret.”
“Stop complaining Ted. Keep a watch for fighters.”
“In this muck?”
“The oil temperature seems to be going down now.”
“Bomb aimer to pilot. I just saw two ships down there.”
“Through that hole over to port.”
“Are you sure?”
“Probably a line-shoot!”
“Quiet! If you’re sure then I’ll take her down.”
“I’m sure Skipper.”
“Ok, hang tight boys. We’ll have a look see and then scoot out of there.”
“I see them Skipper. Two, no three cruisers and couple of destroyers. Heading due east.”
“Can’t see any big ships.”
“Must be a detachment, perhaps the screening force.”
“What do you make of it?”
“I make their course to be oh-nine-six degrees, speed twenty knots.”
“Right let’s not hang about or we’ll be spotted. Sparks get that off to base. Bob give him our exact position. Let’s get back into some cloud lads”
“The port outer is getting hot.”
“Ok, throttle back the…”
“Gunner to pilot! Fighter dead astern. Evasive action to port. Now!”
“Oh cock!”
“Damn that was a nasty bump.”
“Yes it’s getting worse. Ted where is he now?”
“I’ve lost him Skip. He went off into the clouds.”
“What was it?”
“Gloster Gannet I think.”
“Keep your eyes peeled. Sparks did you get that message out?”
“Resending now, the atmospherics are bad.”
“Dorsal gunner to pilot, I can see a dark patch just off the port wing… it’s a fighter!”
“Hang tight boys I’ll try and shake him loose.”
“Skipper! He’s close! He’s passed us by, went under us.”
“Keep your eyes open.”
“Navigator to pilot. I’ve plotted a course for home.”
“Bob we’ve got to keep with that contact. We might be the only flying boat out here. I’ll try and get past this weather front. We have enough fuel for one more hour on station.”
“Gunner to pilot. Can’t see that fighter now.”
“He’s probably gone home claiming us as a tally.”
“We probably scared him more than he scared us. Port outer seems more settled. Just checked the tanks we’ve enough juice left.”
“Ok. Pilot to navigator, Bob plot us a course to get back to that surface contact. We’ll have another look see. Hang tight boys.”

Aboard the cruiser HMS Superb in the English channel just off Dungeness:
“Cor its bleedin’ cold tonight.”
“Aye, tis that.”
“Reckon we’ve been sat here fer’ hours. Surely our watch is over soon?”
“Nah, it’s only been two hours.”
“Feels like eternity. I spent all flippin’ day staring at bombers, now I’m staring at black sea.”
“The shore looks close don’t it?”
“Strewth don’t look now but the Jimmie’s coming along the deck.”
“Anything to report?”
“No Sir.”
“Well keep a sharp eye open, we’re nearly out of the MTB exercise area but they might try and have another crack at us again.”
“Yes Sir.”
“’ere do you think my girl will understand me going off at short notice? I was supposed to take ‘er to the flicks tonight.”
“Nah, she won’t mind. We’ll be home soon in a few days. Anyway this beats another George Formby film.”
“She’s more into Robert Donat.
“Ah, she’ll be waiting for you for sure.”
“Oi! You two stop gassing all night. You lazy swabs are supposed to be keeping watch not gabbing about your missus.”
“Blimey we’re being fired on!”
“Where the hell’s it commin’ from.”
“I see it. Small boat bearing red four-two!”
“Blimey, eh we go again!”
“Two fast boats bearing red five-three, moving fast to starboard.”


Tuesday, December 27th 2011, 11:40am


“Up periscope. Hmm, there a juicy big battleship just over there. Down scope. Now if he’s heading roughly due east, we’ll keep on this course for five minutes.”

Somehow, reading this makes it look like that bit takes place within 5 seconds. :)


Wednesday, December 28th 2011, 11:17pm

Aboard the destroyer HMS Musketeer just off the Thames Estuary:
“Tea’s up Coxswain.”
“Ah, that’s bloody lovely. You’d better wake your pal up. He’s had a busy night. Full steam ahead all the way.”
“Reckon we came through that all right.”
“Yeah. What time is it?”
“Six. Sun will be up soon.”
“Wheelhouse bridge, come to port three degrees.”
“Port three degrees Sir.”
“Do you know where we’re going?”
“You know better than that. Confidentially I reckon we’re going to Scapa.”

Aboard HMS Malaya leaving Harwich:
“Look at those funny things.”
“Them is landing craft. You know for getting troops ashore.”
“Wouldn’t get me on one of them things. Looks like a cake of soap.”
“Probably floats like a cake of soap too”
“Do you get danger money for being in them things?”
“No, but my brother on subs gets five shillings a week danger money.”
“What’s that over there Tubby?”
“You is ignorant for a boy sailor. That’s a landing ship.”
“What’s that big door in the stern for?”
“That’s a dock so those cakes of soap and can sail right in there.”
“She looks to be sinking.”
“Nah you daft idiot that’s because the dock has water in it. Then they pump it out and its dry then see. Then when they get to the beach they get a boy sailor to go down and pull the plug out see. Just like a bathtub and then it fills up again.”
“Oh I see.”

Aboard HMS Ark Royal in the aircrews rest room:
“There was this Sunderland and I got right in behind him. I scared the devil out of him and shot him down.”
“That’s the most awful line-shoot. You didn’t even get any gun camera footage.”
“Well it was too damn murky. But I got him alright. Besides the CO said I could have it.”
“I’m bushed. I’ve flown seventeen missions so far. I haven’t even seen a bomber let alone tackled one.”
“The CO says we’re making a big fighter sweep over the Shetlands at eleven.”
“Well I hope he counts me out. Hullo Eric. That was a nice landing,”
“Aye it was. Came in low over the fantail, I was low on fuel and the deck was pitching some but I got it down ok.”
“You see anything?”
“I saw a Stranraer and went after it but it disappeared into a cloud bank.”
“Damn filthy weather.”
“I wonder when we’ll get the stand down?”
“Not like you bomber boys. Had it pretty cushy around here so far.”
“Hey I’ve flown for four five hour patrols and attacked a submarine.”
“Line shooter, it was probably a whale.”
“It was not. I saw it. My observer saw it too.”
BEEEP Emergency crews! Emergency crews! Crashed aircraft overboard! Crashed aircraft overboard!
“Christ someone’s bought it.”
“Let’s get up there!”
“I hope it’s not Charlie. He was low on fuel too.”

Aboard Spitfire PR.Mk.V P4683:
“This is Cooler Four to Bramble. This is Cooler Four to Bramble. Have spotted two cruisers Scylla class and four destroyers fourteen miles off Clacton.”
“This is Bramble to Cooler Four. Roger. Get estimated position and your picture and come on home.”
“This is Cooler Four. Wilco.”
“Hello Cooler Four this is Bramble. Enemy fighters in your area. Angels fifteen. Get your picture and get out. They are up sun of you.”
“This is Cooler Four to Bramble. This is Cooler Four to Bramble. I see them. Breaking away now.”
“This is Cooler Four to Bramble. Two bandits right behind me. This is where it gets a bit tricky.”
“This is Bramble to Cooler Four friendly fighters nearby on their way to your position.”
“Understood Bramble. Out.”
“This is Anchor Six to Cooler Four. Sorry old boy but you’re in the drink.”
“This is Cooler Four to Anchor Six. Sorry but I’m pulling away and climbing to Angels twenty-five. I make it out I’m in the clear.”
“Panther Leader to Anchor Six. Look in your six you clot. We’re on you climbing astern of you and have you in sight. Ok Cooler Four head for home we’ll deal with these boasting flying Navy types.”
“Wilco. Most welcome.”

This post has been edited 1 times, last edit by "Hood" (Dec 28th 2011, 11:19pm)


Friday, December 30th 2011, 10:57pm

Aboard HMS Lion at the Orkney ranges:
“Two over, two under and one hit.”
“Not bad for the first salvo.”
“Range twenty hundred. Open fire.”
“Three over, two under and one hit.”
“Ok lads. Bearing is three-two. Fire.”
“Two over, four under.”
“Beginners luck I reckon.”
“Range eighteen hundred, bearing two-eight. Fire.”
“Two over, one hit, three under”
“Give that man a cigar!”
“Rights let’s keep on the ball. I only wish this set adjusted for elevation too.”
“Yes then we’d really have this in the bag.”
“Range steady, bearing two-two. Fire.”
“Two miss, two over and two under.”
“Range eighteen five, bearing one-nine. Fire”
“Two over, one hit and three under.”
“Bridge to DCT. Well done Lieutenant Ross, fine shooting. Our slot is over. Agincourt is waiting for her turn. Secure guns and stand-down guncrews once the magazines are safe.”
“Aye-aye Sir. Main turrets train fore and aft, secure ammunition and stand-down, good shooting men.”

Aboard HMS Leander in Scapa Flow:
“Well Number One that went well.”
“Yes Sir. A perfect shoot.”
“Not bad considering we haven’t had any real practice for a bit. Any defects that need sorting?”
“C turret needs a bit of work but she’s serviceable. A took a bit of battering in that storm but it checks out ok.”
“Good. We don’t want anything to go wrong in the next phase.”
“What’s in store for us Sir.”
“I don’t know what the old man intends but tomorrow he’s calling a council of Captains.”
“Quite the Neslon touch Sir.”
“Indeed. Right, I’m turning in Number One. Keep an eye on the flagship. And two on the Admiral!”
“Aye-Aye Sir. Goodnight.”


Sunday, January 1st 2012, 4:02pm

D +5 Amphibous Excercise

Aboard HMS General Pakenham just east of Lowestoft:

“Wheelhouse bridge. Steady as she goes. Ah Chief, have you got that list of defects ready yet?”
“Aye Sir, and it be a long ‘un at that. The bloomin’ feed valve on number one boiler is partially blocked, every time she hit a wave she springs a new leak. There’s one ‘int stern gland compartment right aft where the bilge pumps can’t get at it.”
“Take some seamen and bail it into the next compartment. Can we maintain this speed.”
“With the grace of God and a bit o’ spit.”
“Well she’s an old and tired ship Chief but if anyone can keep us afloat you can.”
“I’ll try Sir but no promises!”
“Wheelhouse bridge, steer port two degrees. Ok Chief you’d better get back down there, we will be near the beach in an hour or so.”
“Aye Sir.”
“Number One check all guns are ready for action. Better get the anti-flash gear distributed and tell the Sub to bring us some sandwiches up.”
“Aye-Aye Sir. Bully or Herrings In Sir?”
“Oh… Herrings In.”

Aboard HMS Gleneagle in one of the wardrooms:
“Everyone here?”
“Yes Sir.”
“Good. Right this is the final briefing, feel free to smoke if you wish. Now here is a map of the landing site. The beach along here is codenamed Red and is spilt up into sections. Our section is here Red Three. We will embark into the LCAs and circle while the monitors and Malaya finish pounding the shore with smoke shells. At D-20 minutes we will begin the run in. Here is a photo of the shoreline, memorise it well. Note this hill and those trees, this flat stony beach should be ideal. Get into the dunes here as quick as you can and dig in. Then we’ll move inland to secure our objective. Give me a hand with this Perkins. Right on this map you can see our target; it’s a simulated coastal defence gun. It’ll be manned by Army troops from the East Anglians. Any questions?”
“What are the defences like?”
“One pillbox, the actual casement and a couple of slit trenches. There will be a couple of machine guns too so watch out on this flank over here.”
“How shallow is the water there?”
“The LCA should get to about here, so you’ll have to wade the last bit but with the incoming tide you should be ok. You should have no trouble traversing that beach without delays. Now when the objective is secure the radio code to ship is Ramrod. Got it? Ramrod. Don’t forget it.
“What defences can we expect inland Sir?”
“There is a defence line roughly here, some batteries of twenty-five pounders around this copse here and maybe some tanks. If things get sticky we can call in the FAA for ground support. They will be on Band C and the codename is Flash. Right then Marines it only remains for me to see good luck and I’ll see you on the beach.”

On the beach:
“Hey Corp when do we get to pack it in?”
“Stop grumbling Harry. You got a fag Tommy?”
“Bleedin’ NCOs always on the make.”
“Playing at soldiers ain’t my idea of soldiering. We haven’t seen a bloody Marine all day.”
“Probably got their feet wet and forgot their armbands.”
“Here comes the Sarg. What’s up Sarge. Are we winning or what?”
“The whole company is moving forwards, Mr Lupkin is over there in those trees. You’re to counter attack to the right and clear the enemy from the track over there. Whatever happens stay low and use the cover until your into range then let ‘em have it.”
“Ok Sarge. Allright you bunch of misfits let’s get crackin’.”
“Ok Tubby we’ll go.”
“Stay low, you and Harry go over there and set up the K. Cover us as we go in.”
“How much further?”
“Shhh, you clot the’re just over there.”
“Corp. See that?”
“Yeah. I make it six of ‘em, just out of range though.”
“We could go along that ridge.”
“Allright, tell Shorty and Harry to move the K over there.”
“Bloody ‘ell Marines!”
“Give ‘em ‘ell!”
“Take that you swine!”
“It’s the bleedin’ umpire.”
“Sorry lads you’ve been wiped out. You’re killed. Pack it up and get back to the NAAFI truck.”
“Dead? But Sir we was advancing under cover!”
“You were silhouetted over that ridge between those briar patches and this platoon of Marines made an attack on your flank and you never noticed them. Sorry you’re killed.”
“But Sir!”
“Final Corporal now move out.”
“See yer’ around mud kickers!”
“Bleedin’ Marines. The nerve of that umpire”
“Ah well Corp at least we get to grab some Char and Wad.”

On the Beach #2:
“Ready to advance?”
“Ready? I was at Pasni you know. They had bayonets a foot long.”
“Quiet Phillips. When I give the word take out that MG post, use that hedge as cover for your move. I’ll take C platoon around the flank and emerge just from those trees over there.”
“Ok Sargent. Let’s move Bill. Head for that hedge.”
“So far so good. Right when I shove off you and Bill go left, Nut can go into the slip trench but you and Dave stay close to me. Right let’s go.”
“Corporal those four men are dead. You too. You were caught by the machine gun in the open.”
“But Sir what machine gun?”
“The one over there. Now half of your platoon is killed. The rest of you get back fifty yards. Corporal take your men over to the judges tent over the next hill and grab some tea.”
“Tricky Brownjobs. Come on lads lets get out of this. The Sargeant will sort those guys out.”

Aboard Fairey Barracuda MN226 over Orford Ness:
“This is Baker Four to Orford Control. This is Baker Four to Orford Control. Do you read? Over.”
“Oford Control to Baker Four we hear you strength six. Over.”
“This is Baker Four are you ready for me to start my run?”
“Baker Four we are ready. Your target is white cross. Good luck.”
“Ok guys hang on I’m about to start the dive.”
“Just don’t give us the fright you did last time you tried this!”
“That was months ago. Right I see the target. Baker Four to Orford Control attacking now.”
“Urhhhh, she’s coming up lads. Can you see anything Titch?”
“Not a thing. Wait. Looks like you got it bang on the nail!”
“Baker Four to Orford Control I’m climbing to Angels five heading southeast. How did we do Orford Control?”
“Baker Four you were within twenty yards .Good aiming.”
“Baker Leader to Baker Four. Good show. Rejoin formation and let Baker Five have a crack at it.”

This post has been edited 1 times, last edit by "Hood" (Jan 1st 2012, 4:03pm)


Friday, January 6th 2012, 9:24pm

Final Two Days - Final Phase Fleet Vs Fleet

Aboard HMSVictorious [Force B] heading north-east into the North Sea:
“What do you think Geoffrey?”
“Could be a screen if it’s only light Sir.”
“A couple of L Class cruisers and two destroyers heading roughly south. I don’t know. John Tovey would have a thinner screen, wider. This is more of an escort force.”
“Excuse me Sir but wouldn’t he use the Composite Force as his prime reconnaissance screen?”
“Yes he might Hooky. He might.”
“Well then Sir those cruisers might be distant escort for them. He wouldn’t want to run into our cruiser screen and risk the Triumph.”
“But he’s got two Counties with her.”
“Even so Geoffrey I wouldn’t mind betting that ten maybe fifteen miles astern of that force there would be Triumph and those Counties. Even if he ran into our screen they would have a devil of a time punching through and he’d be prepared. When can we get a flight up there to have another look?”
“It’ll be light in six hours.”
“Right then Geoffrey tell Ocean to ready a flight of two recce aircraft at first light. Tell them to cover the rough area where we expect the composite group to be. I want a strike wave ready on the deck so they can go the moment we have confirmation.”
“Yes Sir.”
“Then get onto Blakey and tell him to move Llandaff and Salisbury further west. I want the 26th Destroyer Flotilla to cover this area. The screen should have the enemy cruisers in sight by eleven hundred hours. We’ll batter the composite group with airpower. Make John blind. He’s got those fleet carriers with the main force but with Triumph gone he’ll have to detach one of them. Then we’ll keep the enemy screen to starboard, we’ll bypass them. Blakey can deal with them, keep them tied up and make them think they’ve found our screen.
“Those Cathedrals won’t withstand the force of those L’s for long Sir.”
“I know but sacrificing them keeps my bigger cruisers free. If we back our light cruiser screen on the left with the Princess Royals by the time we make contact with the main body they will have the superior firepower. The 26th Destroyer Flotilla can make hit and run raids, push the enemy screen further west and they’ll hopefully waste time searching for our main body over this area here.”
“You hope Sir!”
“Yes I know Geoffrey, it’s a gamble but if we don’t get in close enough we’ll have to withstand another series of air attacks for perhaps the entire day.

Aboard HMS Venomous [Force B] in the North Sea:
“It’s rough tonight Sir.”
“Sure is Coxwain.”
“I’ve brought up some cocoa.”
“Thanks. What’s it like below?”
“Oh a right proper mess. Bulkheads are sweating a bit too. It’s nice to get up top for some fresh air.”
“This front should pass us in a few hours. Better make sure the men get some rest if they can. It’ll probably be a busy day tomorrow.”
“Right-O Sir.”
“Signal from Vimy Sir. Detach and investigate contact four miles to port of group.”
“Blimey here we go. Pass the word below decks were going to turn beam on to the waves.”
“Skipper possible contact port of the group, we’ve been detached to investigate.”
“Ok Number One I’ll be right up.”

Aboard HMS Foresight [Force B] in the North Sea:
“Hullo ‘ere comes the Buffer. Hello Tom.”
“Evening Sid. Quiet in here tonight. You boys eat well?”
“Groan, I feel sick!”
“Some of the new lads are still feeling a bit seasick still. Missed a good bit of fried fish too.”
“Cut it out Sid.”
“I dunno what are they sending into the Navy these days?”
“Yeah this ain’t even rough is it?”
“No, remember that storm last February?”
“Yeah the boys was throwing up something rotten that day. The heads was full, the fire buckets was full, blimey we was awash with the stuff. Waves ten foot high. Went on for days it did.”
“This a millpond compared to that.”
“What you need is a good supper to line the ways so to speak.”
“True Sid. You got any Char going?”
“Sure have a cup.”
“Pity there’s no rock cakes left to go with it. Fancy a bit of chocolate meself. Want a bit Tom?”
“I’m gonna’ be sick!”
“It’s got nuts in it.”
“Sure. Ta Sid. Hey lad take it upstairs, don’t want you messing up the decks.”

Aboard HMS Iron Duke [Force B] in the North Sea:
“Hello Jonny. Found anything on that box of tricks?”
“Fleeting contacts only I’m afraid Tony. For a bit I had something.”
“The old man’s going crazy up top. He wants to find something.”
“Well the two-nine-three is working well, even picked up some Nordish folks songs an hour ago. The atmospherics are playing funny tricks tonight.”
“What’s that now?”
“Mostly static, there’s something in the background but it’s not one of ours I think.”
“What about the other set?”
“Oh, the two-nine-four? Nothing yet, we need to be pretty close to get a good bearing.”
“Will that box of tricks the boffins rigged up be of any use?”
“Dunno Tony, I tried it out in the Channel, I was hoping the French might get a headache listening to it. Still if we can’t locate a signal I can’t send a nullifying signal. Besides it might interfere with our own inter-communications in the fleet.”
“What shall I tell the old man?”
“That’s we’re starting a new search pattern. Right Flanagan let’s reset the dials.”

Aboard Fairey Barracuda MN353 from HMS Ark Royal over the North Sea:
“Turn to course one-eight-two, hold this track about ten minutes.”
“Ok Terry. It’s still pretty dark this morning. Can’t see too far.”
“No visibility is poor from the back too.”
“I’m going lower, keep an eye out for fighters you never know who is about.”
“Hey Skip I spotted something down there, a destroyer or small cruiser.”
“Ok, plot our exact position Terry. I’m going down for a closer look see.”

Aboard Fairey Barracuda MH202 from HMS Ocean over the North Sea:
“Right one more pass and we’ll have to pack it in if we’re going to make it back.”
“Ok Skipper turn to course zero-one-four.”
“Can’t see a thing Skipper.”
“Hold tight lads.”
“Wait…wait… I can see a break in the cloud.”
“Hang on we’re going down to have a look see.”
“Christ take it easy!”
“I can see something big over there to port.”
“Looks like a big merchant ship.”
“It’s no merchant it’s an Ocean Class carrier. No mistaking that shape.”
“It must be Triumph.”
“We haven’t been spotted yet, I’m going up top. Get a sighting report out at once in case we run into trouble. Make sure the position is accurate.”

Aboard HMS Leonidas [Force A] in the North Sea:
“Flags send this off to Commander Force A repeated Triumph, am still engaging two destroyers nineteen miles southeast of carrier force. Wave of thirty plus bombers heading north, height ten thousand. Get that off right away. Number One I want to close in on those destroyers when Latona gets here. Every time we try and get close they run off to the southwest. They are trying to lure us away. Maybe into the guns of supporting cruisers. How many rounds have we fired?”
“About 120 Sir based on the salvoes we’ve simulated.”
“Hmm, well lets pull back a little, we might get some hits from this distance.”
“Yes Sir. Wheelhouse bridge. Ten degrees to starboard.”
“Cruiser bearing green eight-two!”
“It’s Latona I think Sir.”
“Yes, yes it is Sir.”
“Good now let’s get into a position to trap these destroyers and destroy them.”

Aboard HMS Princess Royal [Force B] in the North Sea:
“Flags, signal attack formation to all vessels. If Ajax and Aurora can keep the enemy cruisers busy until we are ready then we will play havoc with them.”
“Sir the enemy is within range of the main battery, the DCT reports all guns ready.”
“What about the RDF?”
“Working well, Sir.”
“Good, ok Henry execute battle manoeuvres, when we have a broadside let them have it. We’ll keep on this course and cut the enemy cruisers off. I wish I had some destroyers. Beyond this light screen is probably some heavier ships, maybe the main force itself.”
“The Captain (D) of the 10th flotilla is about twenty miles astern. The battleforce is about ten behind them.”
“So we need to time this well so we don’t outrun our support. I hope the enemy doesn’t send in bombers just yet. Surely by now John Tovey must realise we are the main force?”
“Ready to open fire, Sir.”
“You may open fire. Tell all ships to open fire.”

Aboard HMS Ajax[Force B] in the North Sea:
“All guns take independent anti-aircraft action. Commence, commence, commence.”
“Range 900 bearing 50, range 800 bearing 30”
“Hey Col’ this beats having to lug ammo about.”
“Yeah, we don’t have the clear up the cases after neither.”
“Another wave coming in from port, four aircraft, height 300 feet, speed 210, bearing 30.”
“Knock the copper’s hat off!”
“You’d win a cigar back home for that shot!”
“Blimey he’s coming close.”
“Range 100, bearing 10.”
“He’ll have the bleedin’ mast down!”


Saturday, January 7th 2012, 3:30pm


The large hall was filled with officers, on the podium were the nine Admirals that had commanded the exercise, the rest of the hall was packed with the commanders of the ships who take part and their executive officers. Through the pall of cigarette smoke the Commander in Chief of Exercise Nelson, Admiral Sir Martin Eric Dubar-Nasmith, rose to his feet and moved pulled a cord to reveal a large map of the British Isles and North Sea. He picked up his pointer and began the briefing.
“Gentlemen, you’ve all been at sea for almost three weeks and have taken part in the largest exercise we have carried out in years. Overall the success of the exercise was better than we anticipated and, as ever, there are lessons to learn. I shall begin the debrief going through the general phases.
Phase one saw the 1st and 3rd Coastal Minesweeper Flotillas carrying out minesweeping exercises around Tiree and Coll and extending as far as North Uist. This element of the exercise was to test how we screen a large battle formation in confined and coastal waters as well as open waters. Dummy minefields were marked on your charts and the minesweeper attempted to clear passages through some fields. During this phase shore-based Fleet Air Arm (FAA) and Coastal Command aircraft simulated attacks on the sweeping force. Force A provided screening cover. The 1st Flotilla uses the 195 Ton coastal minesweeper and the 3rd uses ex-Aisling Class light minesweepers acquired from Ireland. Both Flotillas did sterling work and the sweeping went well. Generally the 195 Ton class was better at minesweeping in open waters and they are slightly better equipped. Station keeping was good in both flotillas and the sweep patterns worked well. Under aerial attack both proved vulnerable. The 195 Ton only has a single pom-pom and two Vickers while the Aislings have a single pom-pom and three 20mm cannon. Therefore the latter proved better at self-defence but the slow moving minesweepers undertaking sweeping operations were vulnerable to both bomb and strafing attack. Other units in the flotillas had to act as guard ships thus proving a detriment to the overall sweeping effectiveness of the unit. Destroyers were tried as AA escorts but in confined waters they proved less handy, especially when the swept corridors were narrow. Good air superiority is needed when operating such formations near enemy coasts and choke-points.

Phase two entailed Force A escorts plus the 16th Destroyer Flotilla, 3rd Coastal Minesweeper Flotilla and 1st Sloop Flotilla defending against submarine attack by the 8th, 14th, 4th and 1st Submarine Flotillas. These twenty submarines attempted to attack the battleships and carriers from the 58th parallel until the force reached Sumburgh Head in the Shetlands. Attack plans were known only to the commanders of the submarines, some attacked in groups, others individually. Attacks were made both day and night. The 8th Submarine Flotilla with their P class submarines sank HMS Kenya and the destroyer Zoe but lost P28 and P30. The older O class submarines of the 14th Flotilla fared badly. These vessels are nosier and were less handy. O7, O9 and O10 were sunk during the exercise but O6 did get inside the defensive screen to launch an attack against HMS Nile. The larger ocean-going Shark class submarines of the 1st Flotilla proved to be very effective in open waters, they had good seakeeping but made slightly better Asdic targets, they sank HMS Leviathan and made several other unsuccessful attacks. In terms of loiter endurance they proved superior to the Ps and Os. Sturgeon and Swordfish were sunk. The 4th Submarine Flotilla is equipped with the S class submarines. The crews of these vessels have been largely practising anti-submarine tactics but in this exercise they changed roles to become hunters. Their superior hydrophone and Asdic sets proved very useful in locating targets and classifying which targets were important ones in the background noise. Their high underwater dash speed enabled them to escape several attacks. They proved able to penetrate the screen several times and they claimed the Nile, Euryalus and two sloops as sunk. None of the flotilla was lost.
The escorts proved a mixed result. The Z Class destroyers of the 16th Flotilla have been refitted with a 1937 pattern Type 142 Asdic with range recorder and new amplifier. However, the depth-charge pattern and carriage of reloads was poor and their effect was little more than a Great War era vessel. A comprehensive rebuild into anti-submarine ships will solve these issues in future years. The 1st Sloop Flotilla offered some extra depth-charge capability but they are seriously lacking in modern equipment and refitting must be a priority for the Navy in the next few years. The Aislings can carry depth-charges and some did so but their main use was to beef up destroyer attacks with additional charges. Of the Force A escorts the 12th Flotilla has a mixture of X and Z class destroyers both having the newer Type 142 Asdics. The 2nd Flotilla has modernised V and W class destroyers with improved depth-charge racks and two new-pattern throwers. This still offers a poor pattern but sadly the chance to improve the Asdic was overlooked and so these ships too are little better than Great War era destroyers in terms of anti-submarine capability. The 23rd Flotilla has G class destroyers fitted with 1936 pattern Type 140 Asdic with a gyro stabilised transducer and chemical recorder. They proved among the best of all of the destroyers but still far from the optimum considered necessary.
Tactically the group attacks by submarines had mixed effect. When the attack was delivered from different directions the strain on the screening force was evident but when a group attacked from generally the same direction the defence was made easier with much larger Asdic targets. Individual attacks could slip through the defensive screen, indeed against newer Asdics it might be harder to remain undetected but generally if the screen is disrupted then a lone submarine can slip into the heart of a formation. It is recommended that AS screens are placed further out and layered into at least two rings.

Refuelling practice at sea was held for smaller vessels. Generally progress in this area has improved but more practice will be pencilled in for spring next year. Venomous and Montenol collided but it was a glancing blow and thankfully no damage was reported by either ship.
The gunnery practice for Force A recorded some impressive shooting. Of the battleships Lion, with her RDF directed guns, proved the best in terms of accuracy and a hit was recorded at 23,000 yards. The optical-only directors of the other battleships proved equal over shorter distances and as a whole the gunnery of the fleet is rated as excellent. Of the Queen Bee targets launched sadly only three were destroyed during live ammunition exercises by medium-calibre AA fire. With practice rounds ten were claimed as kills but some scepticism is required of these claims. Despite some improvement in equipment over recent years only Lion, Kent, Norfolk and Scylla have full RDF equipped directors.

Force B simulating an attack force in confined Straits was under continual air attack from D-Day until passing the North Foreland. These forces were shore-based FAA fighter and bomber units and bomber units of Coastal Command. Elements of Fighter Command were also encountered. The enemy fleet was the Channel Forces. The 9th Destroyer Flotilla attempted a nocturnal destroyer attack off the Isle of Wight. Between Beachy Head and Dungeness Point the 4th, 5th, 22nd and 9th Torpedo Boat Flotillas attempted daytime and nocturnal motor torpedo boat attacks. Channel Force’s goal was to define the threat these formations pose in wartime and the tactics needed for our own forces to operate in such conditions.
The vessels of Force B equipped to modern AA standard with RDF-directors were; Princess Royal, Princess Mary, Iron Duke, Edgar, Minotaur, Superb, Meteor, Musketeer, Myrmidon, Milne, Matchless, Marksman, Moon and Matador. In addition Ocean, Theseus and Chichester, Llandaff, Salisbury and Lincoln had further RDF search sets. The aircraft carriers Ocean and Theseus carried the following fighter squadrons of the FAA; Ocean 880 and 881 Squadrons; Theseus 882 and 883 Squadrons. All have Gloster Gannets except for 882 Squadron which now had a full complement of Fairey Firefly FN.Mk.I fighters. These made a total of 48 fighters for the entire force. RDF coverage of the entire Force was very good with all-round protection. Generally the enemy air forces tried to disable the RDF ‘pickets’ first and Chichester was sunk by torpedo attack. Both carriers survived, the two new Minotaur class cruisers proving admirably efficient in their intended role as carrier escort. The Victorious class battleships also added considerable firepower into the overall barrage but the lack of dedicated AA destroyers was keenly felt although the Cathedrals doubled as such and the Ms proved very capable as the only proper AA destroyers.
The ships were exposed to dive-bombing, level-bombing and torpedo-bombing. Level bombing proved ineffective given losses incurred and the poor accuracy from flying high to avoid AA barrage fire. Torpedo-bombing could be very effective but aircraft of the Beaufort class make large targets for both defending fighters and AA directors. Single-engined Barracudas proved harder to hit due to their smaller frontal profile and faster speed. Dive-bombing by Barracuda’s proved effective where high angles of attack were achieved but larger twin-engined types proved easier to defend against. The small carriers proved very handy in defensive manoeuvres and the Victorious class also proved handy in evasive tactics. Generally the AA barrages of the fleet need strengthening and need RDF to properly aim them. Fuse setters need to be improved too. The 48 aircraft proved to be not enough to sustain a defence over several days. Five aircraft suffered damage on landing; three required mechanical servicing and eleven more were claimed as kills by the enemy air forces, thus 19 aircraft were removed from the defence of the Force within three days, 39 percent of the available fighter force.

The 9th Destroyer Flotilla attempted a nocturnal destroyer attack off the Isle of Wight. These V and W class destroyers are optimised for AA work and only have one bank of torpedo tubes (although for the purposes of the exercise it was assumed that they had two banks of 25 inch calibre torpedoes). Against RDF equipped escorts such an attack was spotted easily but in the ensuing combat star-shell was needed for those destroyers not equipped with RDF. Picking targets from shore clutter is still hard and further advances in technology are needed in this regard. HMS Violent, Vivacious and Wakeful were sunk by long-range fire from Princess Royal, Princess Mary and Naiad. HMS Vortigern and Walker were heavily damaged by destroyers of the 26th Flotilla (Jackal was rated as damaged). Only Walpole was able to make a torpedo attack with one possible hit on Iron Duke. None of the 9th Flotilla was able to seriously threaten the Force. Walople, Vimiera and Walker made long-range torpedo attacks but this hampered their accuracy.

The Motor Torpedo Boat attacks were made with vessels from the 4th, 5th, 9th and 22nd MTB Flotillas, all of which were British Power Boat 60 foot vessels.
By day these formations proved easy to spot and vulnerable to strafing attacks from fighters. By night often the only indication of their approach was sound, and then spotting the wakes. RDF made some contribution but only at short-ranges. Speed is their essential defence, most of the 4.5in and 4.7in mounts proved incapable of adequate defencing owing to slow training or rates of fire. Hitherto the pom-pom has been considered the fleet’s main anti-MTB weapon but in single and twin mounts its effective range and power is too low to engage the MTB before it can launch its torpedoes. The octuple mount offers great volume of fire but the problem remains. The new two pounder guns shall solve the issue of effective range but by far the semi-automatic six pounder is the best defence against the MTB. It has good range and fires an effective shell. The recommendation is that destroyers armed with 6 pounders should act as the MTB screen. The MTB is an expendable but useful weapon, HMS Fame, Marksman and Foxhound were claimed as sunk by the MTB force at the cost of eleven MTBs. Tactically en masse attacks proved easier to defend against but the weight of attack often overwhelms the destroyer screen that some slipped through, flanking attacks could break up an disciplined destroyer screen and certainly the cloak of darkness improves their effectiveness as a striking unit. RDF over smaller wavelengths should increase the detection range and enable gunnery to set up blind barrages into the path of incoming MTB formations. Generally it was Passive Radio Intercept Type 293 that proved the best early warning system being able to detect the voice radios aboard the MTBs to give warning of their approach.

On D+4 Force A escorted the Landing Forces from Harwich to a position north of Great Yarmouth off the Norfolk coast. While Force A provided distant cover the Landing Force invaded an area of the coastline and carry out a simulated invasion with elements of the 1st Battalion Royal Marines. The carriers of Force A supplied fighter and bomber support. This phase commenced on D+5 and lasted for two days.
The Landing Force did have some initial problems, several of the monitors have seen little sea time lately and were in need of repairs, the convoy speed was slower than planned but most defects proved not to cause serious inefficiency during the landing itself. HMS Malaya has been refitted and carries the latest RDF gunnery equipment and indeed led the bombardment efforts with success. The monitor still has a valuable place in inshore fire support roles but AA defence needs bolstering generally. Some cruisers would be needed to augment the firepower with a greater number of barrels and six inch fire would prove of valuable assistance against targets that fifteen inch fire would be overkill to counter.
The eight Poole class minesweepers were used as guide vessels for the landing craft and their four inch guns proved useful in immediate offshore support work and their multiple machine guns proved useful against enemy air attack.
Two Glen landing ship docks were used, but the crews are now fully trained in amphibious operations and gave a good account during the landing. The 4.5 inch fire support role seems superfluous in main landing attacks as such ships are vulnerable to shore fire but those weapons are very useful for AA defence. The Glens are proving to be good ships, well designed and suited for the purpose of not only landing troops but also sustaining an invading force over several days.
The full range of LCA, LCI and LCV landing craft were used. The LCA for assault can carry 35 Marines and proved suited to inshore work and is agile and able to be beached in suitable waters so the Marines can wade ashore. The LCV (1) can carry a 16 ton tank or 100 troops and proved to be just as useful as the LCA but the ramps need improvement. The LCV (2) is two foot larger and can carry a 30 ton tank. These proved just as good as the LCV (1) and they also make good bulk cargo carriers from ship to shore. The 100 ton LCI sailed directly from Harwich and can carry 100 Marines. They proved rather cumbersome and most of the Marines required ferrying by LCAs into the more shallow areas. They have gangways on the bows for disembarking but these were impractical on this particular beach. An enlarged LCA type might be a future project to replace the LCI.
The landing went well but the Marines badly need amphibious armoured cars and tanks to support a landing, relying on Army vehicles may be costly in times when rapid reaction is required of a Marine force acting alone.

I will leave the debrief on the final phase of the operation to Admiral Tovey but I would like to just finish by mentioning the electronic phase of the final exercise.
Force B was sailing under radio silence and select RDF use. Force A was to try and locate Force B by using not only its RDF and normal scouting methods but also by its passive radio systems. Force B was to use its passive systems too as its sole means of long-range detection apart from aircraft.
Force A ships so equipped were; Lion with Passive Radio Intercept Equipment Type 293, 293P and 293M and Passive Radar Intercept Type 294 and 294M; Scylla HF/DF Type 292, Type 293, 293P, 293Q, Type 294 and 294M. In Force B the two Princess Royals are equipped with HF/DF Type 291, Passive Radio Intercept Type 293 and 293P; the two Iron Dukes Type 291, Type 293 and 293P and Passive RDF Intercept Type 294; the two Minotaurs have HF/DF Type 292, Type 293, 293P, 293Q, 293M and 293O, Type 294 and 294M and VHF Direction Finder Type 295. The M class destroyers are fitted with HF/DF Type 292, Passive Radio Intercept Type 293, 293P, 293Q, 293M, 293O, Type 294 and 294M. In addition experimental jamming equipment was fitted aboard Iron Duke. The HF/DF Type 291 has a 30nm range; the Type 292 is improved but substantially has the same detection range. Passive Radio Intercept Type 293 was developed to intercept voice radios used on MTBs and radio transmissions from ships with longer range receivers. It proved vital against the MTBs earlier in the exercise and proved itself against the larger ships but did suffer from atmospheric disturbance.
Force A with only two ships with this latest gear proved to be hampered. Lion generally was searching for the long-distance communications but it was Scylla in the screen that made a useful contribution to the defence of that unit with some early warning of RDF emissions but the bearings were generally not accurate enough. Force B had an abundance of such equipment and they were able not only to read the enemy formation and disposition (strategically) but were also able to creep within effective range with good cross bearings from multiple sources to be in a position to skirt round the enemy and get within effective range whereupon they switched on their RDF sets. HF/DF is important in tracking ships at longer ranges but it’s the ability to tap into radio communications of certain wavelengths that makes the difference when trying to determine which units are communicating to vessels close by. Those vessels with high volumes of traffic invariably are flagships and can be detected from long-range. Force B proved impractical to operate in radio silence, messages took a long time to be repeated and at night blinker messages had to be relied upon. The scouting screen was more or less independent and outside control and resort was made to pre-arranged brief codewords quickly transmitted on changing frequencies to enable some limited degree of real-time command. Such radio-silent formations seem unlikely to remain so for very long in wartime, especially those with carriers and the unavoidable signals from air to sea radio traffic and homing beacons. It is a two-edged sword, you can find the enemy by emissions and so force him to shut down but to avoid detection you must do likewise and suffer the same loss of tactical control over distances.
Anyway I now hand over to Admiral Tovey.”


Saturday, January 7th 2012, 6:04pm

Interesting. Thanks for the debriefing scene; it helped clarify things for me.

I noticed the use of the Queen Bee target drone. I presume that's the historical variant of the Tiger Moth?