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#1 Lonnie Gill

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Posted 11 July 2008 - 10:54 AM

Recently, Byron Angel wrote me to inquire if FAI had provisions for Concentration Fire, i.e. organized fire by two more ships against the same target, to exercise numerical superiority without suffering the penalty for multiple battery interference. I replied that there was no provision in the basic FAI rules. While I was aware that the Russian Fleet had employed it to some extent in the Black Sea, it was my understanding that this tactic was part of the RN’s post Jutland revisions that were only being implemented in 1918. Concentration fire later received a lot of attention and was developed into a major tactic in the interwar period.Byron quickly straightened me out on that:“Concentration fire was a known and understood gunnery tactic from the beginning of the war and was mentioned as early as Jellicoe’s 1914 GFBO’s. Relevant text quoted as follows – Quote -Distribution of gunfire.11. In a fleet action with fleets deployed on similar courses, the commander of the leading division is to concentrate his four leading ships in pairs on the two ships in the enemy’s van. Commanders of other divisions are to allow for this when giving their ships their targets ; captains are to reckon on it when selecting their target. If the fleets deploy on opposite courses, it is of equal if not greater importance to throw the enemy’s van into confusion, and, if he can safely do so, the commander of the rear division should therefore concentrate the fire of his four rear ships on the two ships of the enemy’s van.(Signal 1000 of 15th August, 1914).- Unquote By 1916, the fire concentration rules of the GFBO’s in effect as of Jutland had evolved to read as follows Quote –When concentration is possible, pairs will give the best results, as mutual interference to observation of fire is then practically negligible; three of four ships can, however, concentrate effectively on one if the conditions are sufficiently good to admit of spotting and so keeping the range. Unquote We know from testimony of one of WARRIOR’s officers in “The Fighting at Jutland” that DEFENCE and WARRIOR had practiced pair firing together and used the technique against WIESBADEN at Jutland.It’s worth noting that the RN naval wargaming rules of 1922 mentioned that the effects of concentration fire were not considered additive beyond pairs. They stipulated that a three ship concentration equaled approximately 2.5x fire effect and that of a four ship concentration equaled 3x fire effect. The RN was intensively experimenting with various concentration fire methods all the way into the 1930’s. Quite an interesting story, really.The IGN was actually better trained in concentration fire techniques from the beginning of the war, having spent a good deal of time pre-war in developing same. SEYDLITZ and DERFFLINGER demonstrated an effective pair fire concentration against LION at Dogger Bank. 2nd Scouting Group actually delivered an organized FOUR ship fire concentration against CHESTER at Jutland, scoring (IIRC) 19 hits in five minutes before CHESTER turned away and escaped. British post-Jutland reports remark on the speed and effectiveness with which the leading German dreadnoughts of the HSF had been able to mass a concentration fire on the turning point of 5BS during their 16-point turn to escape to the North. With their inferiority in numbers, opportunities did not abound for the Germans to display their skills in this particular area.Concentration fire was certainly in play with both sides at Jutland. References to it just tend to get lost in the mass of other historical material deemed more important to the overall battle narrative. Wargame-wise, I would suggest that permitting pair-firing by adjacent ships in the same formation without penalty is sufficient. The complications of modeling concentration fire by numbers greater than two seems at first glance just not worth it to me – unless your gunnery mechanics are serendipitously able to accommodate a simple modifier such as moving down one level for concentrations of three or four ships.”Byron further steered me to William Schleihauf’s article “A Concentrated Effort: Royal Navy Gunnery Exercises at the End of the Great War” in Warship International No. 2, 1998. Like all Bill’s work, it is right on target and meticulously researched. Highly recommended for those of you that want to explore the details and development of this tactic.In view of all this, let’s turn to and develop an optional rule for concentration fire. It should be optional because it applies only in specific circumstances and adds complexity to gunnery combat. Our task is distill concentration fire into useful optional rules for both WW I and the later Interwar and WW II periods that realistically simulate the different requirements and limitations of these eras.Concentration fire required good, daytime visibility to spot salvos. This could not be achieved at night and mutual interference remained a major problem for both visual fire control and the early RFC equipment in 1942 – 43 nocturnal engagements in the Solomons. Proximity and a clear LoS between the firing ships was also required to ensure the uninterrupted communication needed for coordination. Further, concentration fire was limited to main batteries as the forest of shell splashes from rapid firing secondary and/or tertiary batteries generally confused and complicated spotting.Basically, there were two methods developed to concentrate fire on the same target without mutual interference. The first (and less complex) was sequence firing, referred to as “GIC” in the Royal Navy for its three character signal code. In this method, ships coordinated and fired in a fixed time slot sequence, with one ship firing while the other was reloading. With careful attention to time slots, a ship could spot her salvos while ignoring other ship’s salvos in the “off” time slots. Ships exchanged gunnery data, but each ship spotted and controlled her own fire. It required steady communication for coordination and could be used by ships with different size main batteries. However, the fixed time sequence limited the effective rate of fire (RoF) to batteries with slow reload times and extended range for salvo time of flight. The normal, occasional delays in reloading one or more main battery turrets and temporary visibility obstructions for spray, smoke, etc. could cause a ship to miss her sequence. Further, it prevented the normal process in which a ship would correct salvos until the target was straddled and then fire several salvos as quickly as possible before repeating the spotting process to “get on” again. These limitations meant sequence firing was generally effective only for pairs of ships [additional ships further reduced the effective time slots and widened RoF limitation effects] at long range (12,000 yds +). GIC firing procedures were standardized in the Royal Navy after Jutland for capital ship divisions. Following a November 1917 cruiser clash with the HSF, this was extended to light cruisers which had been equipped with centralized director fire control.The other method was massed firing, referred to as GMS in the RN. One ship acted as the master ship and controlled the fire for all participating ships, enabling multi-battery salvos and larger ladders to get on target quicker. Since one ship was providing the fire control, all participating ships had to have the same type of main battery and robust communications to quickly pass range and azimuth corrections for succeeding salvos to each ship. It had the advantage of RoF flexibility and larger salvos and was not limited to long range. But, it required intensive training and frequent practice by the participating ships to be effective and fast, uninterrupted communications to work. This was largely beyond WWI technology. In addition, the increased number of splashes from multi-battery salvos was more difficult to correctly spot. In early 1918, Cdr. H. E. Kimmel, a USN observer with the Grand Fleet, confirmed to the USN General Board that massed firing trials had been practically abandoned, “That was a failure.” He added that sequence firing, “…shows promise of considerable development.”Post war, all navies pursued the promise of concentration fire and developed the required W/T communication technology and firing techniques to maximize its application. Range clocks and turret azimuth marks were developed to enhance intercommunication and became prominent in interwar photographs. The RN’s 1939 FIRING MANUAL noted that GMS was, “…the standard system and is used by all ships armed with similar guns and equipped with similar fire control tables.” GIC was an alternate method for ships with different batteries and ships from different divisions, which had not practiced together.The USN pursued a slightly divergent course developing dye colored shells to differentiate salvos through the use of different colors for each ship. Practice brought proficiency and confidence in this approach was evident in the USN Battleship Doctrine of the late ‘30s. “In concentration fire, when spotting projectiles are being used, ships will proceed without regard to each other, as in the case of single or ship-for-ship fire. When spotting projectiles are not used, ships in concentration will fire in rotation beginning with the concentration leader, but no ship will wait appreciably more than one half salvo interval for a preceding ship to take its turn. When ships are firing in rotation, a ship must not fire a salvo within five seconds of another ship’s salvo.” Given that anything but “short” splashes were extremely difficult to spot at long range, it would seem color dye shells were planned to be used primarily with aerial spotting.Incidentally, the RN also pursued spotting projectiles. The British colored dye mechanism, called a “K device,” was based on a French pre-WW II design that proved defective and had to be redesigned. This delayed the issuance of “K shells” (5.25” and larger) until mid 1942, by which time there was little opportunity for employment.By the eve of WWII, all navies had developed concentration fire procedures and practiced them frequently until they were confident their ships were ready to use them should the tactical situation arise. Sounds great in theory, but like most other things, it proved much harder to achieve in the stress and confusion of battle than it had been in the many pre-war training exercises. The RN also noted that the frequent drills and practice needed to ensure effective coordination were hard to maintain with ships continually steaming in anti-air and anti-submarine escort operations. Combining warships into last minute ad hoc divisions for an operation became the norm, which also hindered ships working together long enough to develop the required teamwork. These trends reached a nadir in June ’44 when Admiral Lee had to decline a potential engagement because his US fast battleships had been too busy escorting carriers to practice their traditional gunnery skills. Further, there were few daylight engagements between forces large enough to create the numerical superiority situations that called for concentration fire. Thus, actual examples of concentration fire were fairly rare.Below are draft optional concentration fire rules for WW I and the later Interwar/WWII period. Please review them and try them out in your games. Then, share your results and give us your comments. Your feedback will help determine if we adopt them as official optional rules or modify them further. It is recommended that optional rule Section 1.15.13 (Not Engaged targets) be used in conjunction with these rules to maintain a realistic distribution of fire.FLEET ACTION IMMINENT7.5.10 Concentration Fire Optional rulePairs of adjacent ships from the same division can employ concentration fire to engage a common target with 6” or larger main batteries during daylight scenarios, without having to apply the multiple battery interference row shift adjustment described in rule Section 7.5.7. Paired ships must be within 1ooo yds of one another in the same formation with a clear LoS, unobstructed by funnel smoke, between them to ensure the required communications. Director fire control (DCT) is not required. Captains must announce “concentration fire” when attacks are executed. If challenged, the referee will confirm the firing ships meet the requirements for this tactic. When other ships and/or secondary or tertiary batteries also engage the same target, the multiple battery interference adjustment will apply for ALL batteries.·Minimum Range The range to the target must exceed 9ooo yds to provide the required salvo flight time sequence.·W/T Concentration fire requires a working W/T on both ships. If one ship receives W/T damage, concentration fire is canceled until her W/T is repaired as described in rule Section 7.9.1.·Restrictions Captains can utilize concentration fire only for main batteries. The shell splashes from secondary and tertiary batteries will interfere with spotting and negate this tactic. Time sequence limitations preclude the use of Rapid fire. Ships from different divisions cannot coordinate to concentrate fire.·Visibility Nocturnal concentration fire is prohibited due to inadequate spotting discrimination. Concentration fire is also precluded when spotting is intermittent due to fog.GENERAL QUARTERS THE THIRD EDITION1.5.14 Concentration Fire Optional ruleAdjacent ships from the same division can employ concentration fire to engage a common target with their main batteries during daylight scenarios, without having to apply the multiple battery interference row shift adjustment described in rule Section 1.5.6. Ships in a division may select either the sequence fire or massed fire concentration method described below, as applicable, to avoid mutual interference. Captains must announce “concentration fire” when attacks are executed. If challenged, the referee will confirm the firing ships meet the requirements for this tactic. When other ships and/or secondary or tertiary batteries also engage the same target, the multiple battery interference adjustment will apply for ALL batteries.·Sequence Fire Pairs of ships can engage the same target with main battery sequence fire at ranges exceeding 9ooo yds. The two ships may employ different size main batteries but cannot engage the same target with their secondary, or tertiary batteries. Rapid fire cannot be used with this technique.·Massed Fire A maximum of four adjacent ships in the same division with the same type of main battery can concentrate fire on a common target, controlled by one ship in the division. Each ship must be within 2ooo yds of the adjacent ship with a clear LoS to permit the required communication of fire control data. There is no minimum range restriction and they can employ rapid fire if applicable. Since this technique requires frequent, intensive training, only divisions designated in the scenario set up as having had the required practice can use this technique. If no designation was made prior to the start of an engagement, ships in a division are limited to sequence fire, described above.·Fire Control Ships which have taken Fire Control damage [loss of a DCT] may not employ either method of concentration fire.·Visibility Concentration fire requires visual spotting and cannot be utilized in night engagements or when spotting is intermittent due to fog

#2 Steven Gilchrist

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Posted 12 July 2008 - 02:21 PM

Hello,I will definitely try this out when I play GQ3 next with my friends. I am sure that that we will adopt these as part of regular play.

#3 Steven Gilchrist

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 06:13 AM

Hello again, I have another question.I enjoy playing some pre dreadnoughts in the WW 1 battles that we play down here. I was wondering of a well-trained crew preDN battleship could use concentrated fire using the 12 inch guns and the heavy secondary battery (8" thru 10" guns) in the same way that two ships could do this by good communication and staggering the firing. The target ship would not have any other ship firing at it. Could this method be used to allow the preDN to fire both batteries without getting the "up-one-row" column-shift? If so, it would make preDN a little easier to play. I sometimes use the USA preDNs USS Oregon, Kearsarge, and New Hampshire in some late WW1 battles that we play.. It would be not too different to a battle with USS Arkansas & USS Witchita using concentration fire on a German BC raider (in a hypothetical 1942 scenario) with their 12" & 8" batteries.:cheer:

#4 Cpt M

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 07:55 AM

Could this method be used to allow the preDN to fire both batteries without getting the "up-one-row" column-shift? If so, it would make preDN a little easier to play. I sometimes use the USA preDNs USS Oregon, Kearsarge, and New Hampshire in some late WW1 battles that we play..

No, concentrated fire would not be available prior to WWI. The necessary communication equipment and fire control procdures required for concentrated fire were a fairly recent development.As to predreads used in WWI using this procedure, I'd say no since these ships were rarely upgraded to the level required (by WWI, these ships were consedered obselete and, in the most part, such additional refitting was not considered cost effective). I'd also apply the '1 row up' modifier even when the batteries are from the same ship (such as when the main and secondary batteries are firing on the same target) since the coordination required wasn't present (the two batteries are controled in an entirely different manner).

It would be not too different to a battle with USS Arkansas & USS Witchita using concentration fire on a German BC raider (in a hypothetical 1942 scenario) with their 12" & 8" batteries.

Not possible since BBs and CAs would never operate in the same division. (I don't know of any instance, Allied or Axis, of divisions being of such radically different types. The only examples I know of are ad hoc formations of CAs and CLs, which I would not allow concentrated fire since they had not trained together in the procedure. )Mike

#5 Lonnie Gill

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 05:43 PM

SJG Gamer,From a historical perspective, I agree with Coastal. Concentration fire basically requires centralized fire control to be effective. [Trying to spot and correct the fire of an individually aimed gun in a forest of splashes is impractical.] Centralized fire control equipment was in short supply in most navies until late in WWI with production running far behind demand. Pre dreadnoughts had low priority - after dreadnought main and secondary batteries and cruisers - and few, if any, got fitted with the new fire control equipment. [The Russian Black Sea pre dreadnoughts are an exception as that’s what the Russians employed in 1914 until their dreadnoughts became available.] Thus, concentration fire was unlikely to have been employed by pre dreadnoughts elsewhere.However, one could also take a “what if” tack. The concept of sequence firing is straight forward and doubtlessly occurred to a number of different sailors. Your suggestion is an innovative application of the tactic. There was nothing to prevent an enterprising gunnery officer from applying it to minimize the problem of pre dreadnought and armored cruiser mixed batteries as you suggest. Of course, individual enterprise and innovation are seldom considered hallmarks of the WW I navies!One plausible scenario would have a centralized main battery alternating with a locally controlled secondary battery. This would require centralized fire control equipment for the main battery and ruthless discipline on the part of secondary battery crews to ensure they didn’t fire out of sequence in the heat of action. Tough, but not impossible. In this case, the pre dreadnought’s main battery would resolve fire using the “DCT” scale of the GUNFIRE CRT while secondary attacks would use the “Local” scale.If you want to explore this alternative, it should be mutually agreed prior to beginning a scenario. Let us know how it turns out.LONNIE

#6 Richard Cornwell

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Posted 20 July 2008 - 12:48 AM

I understand that the Russians practiced centralised control for their pre dreadnaught squadrons (with three per squadron). The accuracy of this rather disconcerted the Goeben.Maybe the Russians should be able to do this with 3 ships as they trained specifically for this.

#7 Cpt M

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Posted 20 July 2008 - 09:02 AM

As Lonnie mentioned, the Russian Black Sea units did train in squadron level concentrated fire and would be eligible for the benefit. As it turns out, they appear to be the only predread units of the period to actually use it. (Given that those were the only units available to them in the Black Sea, it's not surprising.)

#8 simanton

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 01:08 PM

Azimuth markings had pretty much disappeared by the early 1920s (for aesthetic reasons?), I have never seen them in later photographs. Range clocks (concentration dials) remained up to the start of the war for the British, and into early 1942 for US units. They are visible on French units scuttled at Toulon. By WWII (maybe earlier?) the British had a spotting aid in their directors known as a "fall of shot hooter" which sounded when one's salvo was due to impact to assist in distinguishing one's own splashes.




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