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NAVY NEWS, JUNE 2008 49
● Fighting steel... The 16in guns of the USS Iowa fi re a
SURFACE gunnery may now be relegated to the role
signifi cantly inferior to that of the British.
broadside during a gunnery demonstration in 1984
Picture: US Navy
of shore bombardment, but from the late 1880s to the
British gunnery offi cers thought the overall American system of
early 1940s, it was the primary means by which naval
fi re control was a decade behind the Royal Navy’s.
Unsurprisingly, American offi cers remained loyal to their
warfare between major warships was conducted. system. Indeed, junior offi cers at Annapolis were reassured that
Its apotheosis was the era of the dreadnought, the all-big- the British had looked upon the American Ford range keeper with
gun capital ship, a type made possible by major advances in attached plotter as ‘superior to anything’ they had. Clearly without
fi re control that increasingly came to use highly sophisticated it the quality of American gunnery might have been seriously
instruments, including the fi rst analogue computers, writes Prof embarrassing!
Eric Grove of the University of Salford. The British did acquire computers of similar performance to the
These monster ships – the most spectacular warships ever Americans’ but the overall technique, the interface of the skilled
– always exert a great attraction to historians and enthusiasts user and his machines, was the key rather than the quality of
alike. the fi re control tables themselves. These differing transatlantic
In recent years the former have become split by an increasingly approaches to technology have their echoes today in the contrast
polarised debate between the supporters of the two fi re control between ‘network enabled’ and ‘network centric’ thinking.
‘tables’(as they were known) trialled by the Royal Navy before Even after improved equipment which could churn out synthetic
World War 1, those of Arthur Pollen and Frederic Dreyer. solutions became available, British gunnery control offi cers still
This has become a minefi eld where one navigates with relied primarily on spotting.
care, but few are better qualifi ed to do so than that doyen of Indeed, as Dr Friedman admits, by the beginning of the Second
modern naval analysts, Dr Norman Friedman. World War “the Royal Navy still had not decided how control
As a physicist by training, he understands the complexity should be shared between the transmitting station (particularly
of the mathematics and technologies involved. if it had a synthetic calculator such as an Admiralty Fire Control
Also, as an experienced and highly prrofessionalofessional table)table) and the contr and the conc trool offi cer aloft.”
historian, no-one knows or has used the are archiveschives TThe author does not just cover the two major navies he author
and other available sources more extensively tensively bubut he examines their German and Japanese t het
or to better effect. When it became known he own he eneenemies as well as the French, Italians and
was working on a fi re control book – Naval Naval RuRussians.
Firepower: Battleship Guns and Gunnernneryy HHe demonstrates that German gunnery
in the Dreadnought Era (Seaforth, £40 £40 wwaswas often quite poor, although given the lack
ISBN 978-1-84415-701-3) – we awaited ited oof of sophistication in its fis re control methods it
its appearance with high expectation. on. iis is perhaps surprising that it was as efpe fective as
We have not been disappointed. iit was. Superior stert was eoscopic range fi nding at
Sensibly, Dr Friedman has s tththe outset of an action was perhaps a key factor he ou
eschewed polemic or controversy hheherere.
and he tells the story without IInterntereestingly, Dr Friedman is dismissive about
unnecessary criticism of tthethe British claim that the ability of ster Briti eoscopic
previous writers. rranrange takers went ofge g tak f as battle or other fatigue set
Indeed, on reading his iinin.in. He quotes American experience and the later He qu
account it becomes clear as to o BBriBritish partial adoption of stertish ph art eoscopic range fi nding
why the argument over the effectiveness veness iinin in his support, but therhis sus pp e is a consistency in German
of particular machines is so sterile: fie: fi re control sshoshooting going ofoting n go f quite seriously in both world wars
instruments are means to an end not ends in end not ends in dtdi tthaththat needs accounting fort needt s a .
themselves. Rather moRather morre discussion would have helped us in the
Different national technological choices rchoices reflectedefl ected assessmentassessment of British shooting at Jutland.of British s
different cultural approaches to problem solving on This was indeed good overall, but it was not even in quality
each side of the Atlantic. between the Battle Cruiser Fleet and the Grand Fleet.
In the Royal Navy, gunnery was the preserve of It was the success of the latter that made up for the gross
a highly-specialised and trained ‘G’ elite who only gunnery failures of the former, which, apparently, had not done
wished to be aided by technology, not governed by badly at Dogger Bank. Why the deterioration? The account of the
it. gunnery lessons of Dogger Bank is refreshingly positive, but it
They required equipment that aided their is misleading to say that Lion was hit “with little lasting effect”.
spotting and which primarily depended on accurate Physically perhaps, but her being forced to fall out of line had
observation. fundamentally negative results on the battle’s outcome.
This is what Dr Friedman tells us the US Navy called The book sheds much fascinating new light on Japanese and
the ‘analytic’ approach, of which the Dreyer table was Russian gunnery. The former’s elaborate superstructures are
‘the high point’. explained, while the advanced techniques of the latter in World
As that great gunner Lord Chatfi eld would have put War 1, are given due credit.
it, the emphasis was on the “skilled user of weapons”. Russian gunnery in the Russo-Japanese War was also not
OOn then the
The Americans, with their generalist ‘jack of all as bad, at least in theory, as previously thought. Dr Friedman
trades’ offi cers, put more reliance on technology and considers it was “much more sophisticated than the Japanese
wanted equipment, similar to Pollen’s, that could system”, but again it was results that mattered, not instruments,
produce a mechanically computed solution on which or even systems.
the guns could effectively be fi red blind. This is a magnifi cent and important book. It is slightly misnamed,
The technology, not the skilled user, provided the as it covers other ships than battleships, but this makes it all the
corrections. Understandably the American Dr Friedman more comprehensive.
aligns himself with this ‘synthetic’ approach, which It has to be very technical in places, but the less scientifi cally
he says ‘was clearly better’ as the technology itself and mathematically-minded can gloss over these sections and
ggunlineunline
ironed out the errors. I can quite understand why the benefi t from the general analysis. Not all will agree with everything
graduates of British long gunnery courses might have the book says, but it is, without doubt, the best single work on this
disagreed. controversial subject. It is beautifully and interestingly illustrated
The proof of the pudding was in the eating. British which makes it even more worth the £40 asked.
readers will smile to see that, when the Americans Naval Firepower is yet another impressive product of the new
brought their superior instruments to Scapa in 1917, Seaforth publishing house, which deserves our gratitude and
the gunnery performance of the US battleships was congratulations for the high standard of its early output.
Crashing and burning The defi nitive Zeebrugge
THERE was an element of Schadenfreude among the the HAVING followed the auted the author’s exhaustive Indeed, a good third of the book is
media and considerable leg-pulling from our Australian ian an research on the internet, it’ it s fair to say that devoted to a serted ies of moving biographies
cousins when HMS Nottingham careered into Wolf Rock occk Paul Kendall’s Zeebrugge Raid 1918: The Zeebrugge and firand firsst-hand accounts from evt ery aspect
six years ago. Finest Feat of ArmsF (SpellmountSpellm , £25 ISBN of the assault and supporof the assa t force.
The jagged peak almost did for the destroyer; her yer; heer 978-186227-4778) w97878-186227-4778) was eagerly as LS EdwLS Edward Gilkerson volunteered for
crew’s damage control expertise saved her. A couple A couplee aawwaited.ait OperaOpperation ZOtion ZO (Zeebr (Zeebruugge andgge and
of dozen million pounds ensured Nottingham would gham wouldd In the flesh,In the fleshth , i it does not disappoint t does not dis ppointoint Ostend), leaving behind the ving behind the
sail again. – in f– in fact it suractct it sur passes expectapasses expec ations,tiot ns, magnificent dreadnoughtmagnificent dreadnough
Nottingham was just one of the high-prgh-profile writes Richard Hargites Richard Hargch reaves. HMS King George HMS King George V V to to
groundings the RN has suffered in recent years t years ZeebrZeebrugge is probably theugge is prprobobablyy the join the obsolete crjo uiser
– Grafton and Grimsby (both in Norway) spring pring ultimaultimamate Boy’s Owns Ownwn story of the y oof tthe VindictivVinndictive. It would be his ould be his
immediately to mind. GreaGre t t WWar – the aar – the atttempt by temptt bby final ship;final l ship; he whe waas killed,s killed
Accidents involving warships are neither thee sailors and marines to cork ineess to ccorrk probably by a shell.probabbly by a shell.l
preserve of those flying the White Ensign, nor are the U-boats in their bottle by ts in their bbottle byy His baHis bbattleship shipmates
they seemingly more frequent these days, far from blocking the Belgian porian poport on t oon mourmournned his loss as much as ed hhis loss as much as
it. St George’St George’ss Da Day 1918.y 1918. his parents did.his parents did.d They wrote an They wrote an
For as Malcolm Maclean – currently the Marine Engineer Ofgineer r Officer The raid failed in its aim,ailed in its aimm, eloquent and heareloquent and hheartfelt letter of tfelt letter o
of HMS Liverpool – shows in Naval Accidents Since 1945 (1945 ((Maritime BooksMaritime Book ,, £30£30 but such was the success as the successs condolence to the Gilkercondolence tto the Gilkero sons:
ISBN 978-1-904459-323) the oceans are littered with the wrthe wrececks and rks and emains of of the British propaganda itish propaganda “Dear parents of a noble son.“Dear parents of a noble sonar p
warships lost since 1945 in peacetime duties. machine – and the bravery WWee find him one with all things find him one with all thingsfind
Indeed pretty much every class of ship from carriers to tug in every navy of the rs to tug in every navy of the ev of the men involvolved – that t aattt night the star night the stars show us where a w us where a
world has either foundered or been severely damaged by a litany of disasters. by a litany of disasters. this this “immor“immortal deed”tal deed” became an became ann bed is made for him in Heab ven.
Some fell victim to the wrath of God: HMS Berkeley Castle was lost (in dry dock) Castle was lost (in dry dock) instant tonic to flagging Allied morale in Al ed momorale in “As long as men’s hears hearts are ts are
to the storms of 1953, RFA Green Ranger wrecked on the rn the rocks at Hartland Point the spring of 1918. yyooung and the blood rung and the blood runs warrmm,
in 1962, the landing ship USS Mahnomen County driven ashorven ashore in Vietnam during It is a story oft told – by oft told – but nevut ever better and etter and Edward Gilkerson’s memory will be great.”
storms. never as comprehensively, or as copiously r as copiously piou Often overlooked in the aftermath of the th of the
Some fell victim to fire: Canada’s submarine Chicoutimi was gravely damaged by timi was gravely damaged by illustrated. raid are the funerals which followed in itsed in its
an electrical blaze in storms four years ago, while two-thirhi dds of the crf th ew of the Soviet f th S i t Regular R l NaN vy NewsN readerers will know wake: there were bere burials for a good week eek
boat Komsomolets died when she was ravaged by fire and rocked by explosions off that we aim to recount battles from les from ‘both or more afterwards, invariably viably very public public
Norway in 1989 which sent her plunging to the bottom of the ocean. sides of the hill’ in our historical featturesures. affairs.
Many have fallen victim to running aground: the tanker RFA Ennerdale ploughed So, refreshingly, the author descrthor describes More than 20,000 people turned out ned ou
into uncharted rocks off the Seychelles which carved her open in June 1970 while a the Zeebrugge raid from the viewpoint of e viewpoint of in Newcastle for the funeral of Pte Dain Newcastle for the funeral of Pte David vid
similarly unmarked sea mountain almost claimed the USS San Francisco more than attacker and defender (the latter is often Latimer, a barber and champion swimmer
500ft below the Pacific three years ago. sorely neglected). turned Royal Marine. No lesser a figure
HP BOOKFINDERS: Established
And, worryingly, many have fallen victim to flawed designs and structural failures: The emphasis, nevertheless, is quite than the city’s mayor addressed mourners,
nuclear submarine USS Thresher imploded, killing all aboard, thanks to the failure rightly on those men who stormed the Mole praising Latimer’s commitment to “truth,
professional service locating out
of a joint, while the former HMS Totem, renamed Dakar in Israeli colours, most likely or led blockships into the gates of hell that love and liberty”. He had died, “the noblest of print titles on all
succumbed to faulty pipe welding which flooded her. fateful April 23. death a man could die”.
subjects. No obligation or SAE
The author has drawn on more than 500 sources from around the world for this Many of these stories will be well-known: There are now no living reminders of the
extensive, fascinating – and sobering – work. the accounts by Royal Marine Sgt Harry raid; the last survivors passed away in 2002,
required. Contact: Mosslaird,
It is a timely reminder that there is peril at sea daily in peace and war. Wright or Capt Alfred Carpenter VC, for but their immortal deed will rightly live on Brig O’ Turk, Callander, FK17 8HT
And, to end on a positive note, accidents and groundings are far fewer today than example. through this outstanding volume.
Telephone/Fax: (01877) 376377
half a century ago – perhaps due to the world’s navies shrinking, but certainly due But many will not, thanks to the author’s The blurb on the dustjacket proclaims
to improved training, survival kit and technology. efforts to track down the families of “there is no more complete account” of the
martin@hp-bookfinders.co.uk
participants. raid. It is spot on. www.hp-bookfinders.co.uk
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