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...Pollen vs. Dreyer systems and Brooks' thesis...

 
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bargami



Joined: 11 Dec 2007
Posts: 75
Location: Richmond, Virginia

PostPosted: Sat Dec 22, 2007 1:30 pm    Post subject: ...Pollen vs. Dreyer systems and Brooks' thesis... Reply with quote

Those dreadnought-ophiles reading this have probably read John Brooks'
book on dreadnought gunnery, and are familiar with his thesis that the
Royal Navy, in choosing the Dreyer table, did not necessarily choose an
inferior fire control system for reasons of in-house favoritism, personality
conflicts, etc. I'm accustomed to that view and found Brooks' narrative
of how this decision was arrived at interesting. Any views on the subject,
i.e. is Brooks right?
And am I correct that some elements of the Pollen equipment were installed in one or two dreadnoughts?
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tone
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Joined: 29 Oct 2004
Posts: 479
Location: Boston

PostPosted: Sat Dec 22, 2007 10:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I believe that Pollen's complete solution would have been inferior to Dreyer tables in practice. Dreyer failed for want of sufficient quantities of reasonably accurate range data, and Dreyer's approach was intrinsically amenable to calling upon a plurality of rangefinders to synthesize its solution. On the other hand, Argo's was inherently tied to using but a single rangefinder's readings as input from which a range/time relationship was to be inferred. Where Dreyer would (and did) fail, Argo would have done so, and sooner.

Some of the Dreyer tables (Queen Mary's, Ajax, Centurion, Conqueror, and Orion) employed an Argo range clock in lieu of the Dumaresq/Elphinstone clock combinations found in the various other Dreyer tables. They were the better for them, as this was the soundest component in the Argo solution, and not in itself wedded to the limitations in Pollen's overall conception of what the transmitting station should be doing. The Argo clock's greatest merits (which were nice to have, but not indispensible) were that it could reliably track range over time across 2 (or more?) derivatives, whereas the Elphinstone clocks did so continually only in one derivative, and required discrete settings in rate-of-change-of-rate-of-change-of-range. Brooks illustrates in clear terms why this was not such a terrible defect, but Argo delivered the better solution while presenting it in a more holistically beautiful manner, which one might have reasonably associated with superior reliability.

tone
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bargami



Joined: 11 Dec 2007
Posts: 75
Location: Richmond, Virginia

PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2007 8:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you tone. Your answer clarifies this for me enormously, and as a
liberal arts sort the technicals of this can be daunting, as indeed they are
in Brooks' book. I am struck in reading it that Pollen didn't help himself
very much; always wanting to raise the stakes, get a better deal, attempting to inject himself into party politics, and making an enemy of
Fisher! One of Dreyer's most favorable factors was Pollen.
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Harley



Joined: 23 Oct 2005
Posts: 131
Location: Great Britain

PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2007 8:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is no denying that Pollen was a clever man, and he certainly deserves responsibility for pioneering British fire-control.

I still can't quite get my head round the technical aspects of the Dreyer and A.C. systems, but it does seem to boil down to;

Dreyer's worked, and did what he said it could do. Pollen's didn't, because he was over-ambitious and kept on demanding money to try and come up with the "perfect" system. I may be wrong, as it's been a year since I read IDNS and DGBJ.

Of course, it's very difficult to be subjective about this. Ever since the 1910s people have been leaping to the defence of Pollen, especially in the press (The Times is littered with letters). Parkes in "British Battleships" highlighted the supposed brutal manner in which Pollen had been treated, and thanks to Pollen's nephew and 30 years of Sumida writing on the issue everyone accepts the statement that the Dreyer system was "inferior" (nearly every bad modern account of Jutland uses the word). In my mind, Brooks made a strong case for the superiority of the Dreyer system, and Sumida then not unnaturally dismissed it. There are literally generations of historians, those who actually take an interest in fire-control that is, who have grown used to the idea that Pollen was a martyr and that the Navy committed a great blunder in rejecting his fire-control apparatus, contributing to the other argument that the RN was led by luddites before the Great War.

We're going to have to wait until the next slew of Jutland books comes out in the following decade to see whether anyone actually interested in the subject read "Dreadnought Gunnery at the Battle of Jutland".

Sorry, rant over...

Simon
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tone
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Joined: 29 Oct 2004
Posts: 479
Location: Boston

PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2007 9:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't take my view as gospel, as I owe the AC system the same study as I've given Dreyer's. However, you do have to heed Harley's caution that nearly everything you read is informed not by an impartial examination and analysis of the systems being discussed, but by reference to the views others stated (often Sumida... a man who came to fire control after helping put in order the writings of Pollen).

Pollen was a great thinker and a beautiful writer, but even the latter talent which might have helped him sway his opponents was often wielded blindly, and in an insulting manner (but with really, really nice phraseology!). One wonders if he'd listened to price-point balking and sensitivity and tried to deliver a sufficient and simplified system what might have resulted. However, I still come back to my view that his system had a fundamental flaw which he seemed not to realize: if rangefinding was to be the basis of information for the system, it had to accommodate the input of as many instruments as possible, as few could be trusted to generate readings of any quality or number at all. This defect is, I grant you, one that might have been hard to appreciate, as no technology is as different on the catalog page than on the foretop than a rangefinder.

tone
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