Annual Report of the Torpedo School

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The Torpedo School in Vernon issued an Annual Report of the Torpedo School of its work each year throughout the Dreadnought Era. Despite the dull title, each Report is a rich snapshot of the diverse work in all facets of its broad charter — torpedoes, electricity, torpedo and fire control instruments — and a vital resource for developing an understanding of the naval epoch.

I have complete photographic copies of editions from 1881 to 1920 with only a very few images missing from the massive 1918 edition. I have indices and the Torpedo Control sections (only) of years 1921-1928.

I should have used a lower compression level on all my photos, but only 11 of the years have automatic settings I find resulted in very grainy images. 1918 is a mix of hand-held and camera stand photos.

Year Captain Promulgated Pages+Plates Remarks
# in Hand # Available
1881 Gordon 31 Dec 1881 all 190
1882 31 Dec 1882 229
1883 Markham undated 285
1884 332
1885 30 Apr 1886 126
1886 Long 28 Mar, 1887 123
1887 Apr, 1888 189
1888 Wilson 5 Apr, 1889 181
1889 7 May 1890 157
1890 26 Jun 1891 160 Grainy
1891 Hall 30 Jun 1892 226
1892 10 Jun 1893 277
1893 Walker 19 Jun 1894 263
1894 14 Mar 1895 329
1895 Durnford 7 Jul 1896 243 Grainy
1896 3 Mar 1897 132
1897 15 Mar 1898 154
1898 1 May 1899 181
1899 Robinson 1 May 1900 181
1900 13 Mar 1901 175 Grainy
1901 8 Feb 1902 220 Grainy
1902 Egerton 7 Apr 1903 120 Grainy
1903 26 Apr 1904 120 Grainy
1904 Briggs 27 Feb 1905 220
1905 16 Feb 1906 120
1906 23 Feb 1907 120
1907 Gamble 31 Jan 1908 120
1908 Hornby 9 Feb 1909 120
1909 27 Jan 1910 120
1910 31 Jan 1911 220
1911 Nicholson 21 Feb 1912 140
1912 21 Feb 1913 120
1913 20 Feb 1914 310
1914 Field 31 Dec 1914 125 Grainy
1915 Skipwith 31 Jan 1916 380 Grainy &
some thumbs
1916 31 May 1917 250
1917 Wentworth 30 Aug 1918 350
1918 Waistell 19 Jul 1919 98% 695 A mixed bag
1919 Payne 24 Jul 1920 all 412 Grainy
1920 11 Feb 1921 211 Grainy
1921 8 Feb 1922 Index &
Torpedo Control
Section Only
~250
1922 Allen 19 May 1923 ~320
1923 Napier 18 Jul 1924 ~260
1924 Kitson 30 Jul 1925 ~330
1925 20 Jul 1926 ~150
1926 Archdale 11 Apr 1927 ~120
1927 10 May 1928 ~140
1928 Bridges 17 Sep 1929 ~140

Each Report opens with a letter of promulgation (often from early in the succeeding year, but sometimes quite late in the succeeding year and then extensive introductory remarks, a list of plates, and then the content in sections, and then a series of appendices. The sectional structure changed slowly over time.

The 1901-1906 editions changed little, having sections with names roughly:

  1. Personnel
  2. Stores and equipment
  3. Instruction in sea-going ships
  4. Whitehead torpedoes
  5. Torpedo craft
  6. Electric lighting (sometimes "Electric lighting and motors")
  7. Mining and other practical work
  8. Gun circuits and communications
  9. Wireless telegraphy (removed in 1903, never to return)
  10. Foreign torpedoes ("Foreign services" from 1902, "foreign naval progress" from 1907, etc)

While the section names evolved slowly, the overall organization did not vary substantially until 1915 reduced the report to just six sections:

  1. Personnel,
  2. Stores and equipments
  3. Whitehead torpedoes and torpedo craft
  4. Electric lighting
  5. Mining and other practical work
  6. Gun circuits and communications

While our study is hindered by the lack of a copy of the 1916 edition, by 1917 some fundamental shift has occurred, as the six sections were now:

  1. Personnel and instruction
  2. Stores and equipments
  3. Whitehead torpedoes and torpedo craft
  4. Whitehead war running and torpedo control
  5. Electric lighting
  6. Fire control communications, &c.

The 1917 edition's use of the expression "Torpedo Control" was not entirely new, but the subject matter placed under it was nearly so, and it was extensive — comprising a fifth of the report's pages. In 1918, this section was about a third of the report's length.


Summary of Annual Reports

The following material is in the form of notes at the moment. I hope to tidy this information up, in situ, to serve as a history of development across all areas of Torpedo School work, and also parcel it out to the separate pages covering the devices discussed.

1896

pp 34-37 Issues with loss of torpedos from fixed, above-water tubes near the water arose from the stem tubes of Trafalgar, Nile and Anson (all on one day!) and the stern tubes of Apollo class cruisers. The issue in both cases was the same: the torpedo tubes become submerged while steaming above certain speeds or displacements. 'Cossack had had similar issues in a practice, as well. Stem tubes had first been ordered after trials in Devastation, but the level above water had slowly been reduced 6-9 feet, producing real issues in the Admiral class.

Similar issues arose with stern tubes in Apollo class cruisers.

1903

p47 Marking the sight bar of directors to help computer possible shot, albeit while requiring math. p48

  • new director approved to work ion CT apertures being reduced to 6 inches.
  • A new rear sight "like an inverted H, a fine wire forming the upright" was tried in Starfish and found greatly better than the current one for firing when under helm. "The whole question of director is now under consideration."

1904

plates Discussion of "existing Dumaresqs marks I and II" for consideration with new dial plates, and creation of range clock drums graduated in yards/minute. description of range corrector (pamphlet G 4023/08, pp 45-45) cross-connection of range transmitters being trialled in Dreadnought, King Ed VII, Exmouth, Prince of Wales, Shannon, Indomitable.

p45-48 Competition was undertaken to find which ship could fire 4 torpedoes from a single submerged tube fastest, starting with it loaded and bar out. Bulwark held the record for awhile with 2:02, improving to 1:35 until Formidable managed 1:48 improving to 1:31. But then Cressy did this in just 50.75 seconds! It was believed that 3 degrees depression to the tubes would help, and that maybe more torpedoes could be carried.

1905

The two directors described in service are a semi-circular one for trainable tubes, presumably Pattern 1192, and a 60 degree one for fixed tubes and dropping gear, presumably 1193. A double foresight was available when used with double VII. B tubes. A further variant was available with a tangent bar for use in 4-in CT openings of "later ships".[1]


1909

ART1909 p. 22. The introduction of heater torpedoes with speeds above the 40 knot maximum on the radius bars of the directors in service necessitated that their scales be regraduated by 2/3rds. This gave a max torpedo speed of 60 knots .

The directors as they stand at present was;

  • 1895 w/ modified rear- and fore-sights but no other alteration were supplied to torpedo craft not supplied with heaters, for their tubes only and for ships with dropping gear.
  • 1895 as above, but with re-graduated scales were supplied to torpedo craft with heaters for use at their tubes

p. 23

  • Patterns 1192, 1193 and 1895 directors with tangent bars and regraduated scales supplied to TBDs equipped for fore bridge firing for use at their fore bridge
  • 1895, 2006 and 2391/2392 for "ships" (from the context, this appears to mean ships larger than destroyers) will not be regraduated, as their heaters will be fired at slow-speed settings at long ranges.

If it were necessary to run a fast heater from a director not regraduated, speed of torpedo and enemy were to be halved on the sights (G&T orders Feb 1st 1909)

Harrier is mentioned as having double tubes demanding a double foresight -- she was not to receive night sights based on the obsolete nature of her tubes.

1910

Lt Col Chaytor's Torpedo Danger Area Instrument (Plate 10 and text)see also ARTS1909 p22

Vernon asked Bellerophon to try a modified Mark II Combined Transmitter and a Combined Receiver to see if they were suitable to convey enemy speed and relative course from the TS to the torpedo director position. She reported that the devices worked fine for this purpose, but that the TS was a poor authority on the heading and speed of the target, suggesting a topside position for the transmitter offering better overall visibility than that enjoyed by the Torpedo Control Tower.[2]

In 1910, Indomitable, Inflexible and Invincible tested Mark I instruments and Telaupads as a means of tying the Torpedo Control Tower to the submerged aft torpedo tube. These successful tests formed the basis for the development and deployment of the B&S Mark I Torpedo Control Instrument.

Britannia suggested use of hinged director stands in the conning tower, owing to limited head room. Later classes would not require such, as their tables were not mounted on the armor.

1911

p. 43 ability to smoothly rotate the director to ascertain how far the ship must yaw to bring sights on was considered, or to set up the sight prior to the sights coming on after a yaw.

1914

p. 31 Deflection sights is clearly better than directors Several plotting systems being discussed or even trialled Middleton still under consideration air-driven gyrostatic bearing plate (ARTS 1913 p. 32) has been on trial in Avtice with very fair results. Better gyros with less creeping would help. (G. 16,605/14)

p. 32 constant bearing methods being tried Crace's bearing instrument HMAS Australia


1915

In 1915, trials were carried out to compare the "wire" and "theodolite" methods of aligning directors for submerged tubes, but results were not yet complete. Until they were available, contract-built ships were to have their directors aligned by theodolite means. Extensive description of the method is outlined in The Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1915.[3]

A new design of director for capital ships was being undertaken. It would not have a tangent bar, and would therefore offer a stronger design. Additionally, there was talk of using periscopes to keep personnel clear of gun blast. This blast was studied in Iron Duke when directors were placed in secondary hoods, and found to be so considerable that directors were to be placed in conning and torpedo control towers only, and no further hoods would be built. The tubes were to be dirigible from either position, with communications and firing circuits laid to both towers.

A director called Hallet's Director was tried, apparently unsuccessfully, as it was returned for disposal. Seven examples of Lambert's Attack Director were under trial at sea. Note was made of directors having been reassembled incorrectly after maintenance, resulting in poorly aimed torpedoes.[4] One gotcha that was to be corrected was to ensure that sliders would be modified so they could not be reversed upon reassembly. [5]

Hinged stands for directors were tried in Invincible and Hercules, but found not to be worth the expense or the possibility of errors in alignment. Henceforth, they would only be fitted where absolutely necessary. [6]

Directors would henceforth be illuminated for use at night. An aperture with variable stop and violet glass would use a switch to turn on and off.[7][8]

The director telescope Pattern 2393's 6-power magnification was criticised at sea as being too high, rendering it difficult to see in haze and rain. Six telescopes answering to a 3-power specification had been ordered for trial.[9]

A promising wander mark telescope from the German Goertz company had been ordered before the war, but not taken before the war started. It was seen as having some promise as a director telescope or for use on the Middleton Plotter in lieu of electrical contacts.

An enterprising torpedoman aboard Blonde had added a 4-inch diameter brass disc plate to the enemy speed slider on his Torpedo Director Pattern 2390 to permit the enemy's heading to be expressed or read as an inclination to line of sight. This would especially help the adjustment of a director at a trainable tube, but no explicit recommendation was spelled out despite a supportive description of its utility.

It was concluded from practical experience that the deflection triangle was superior to the director triangle as a means of setting the director.

p 58

  • Five Walker-Bellairs TC discs are being manufactured for trial (see TCH, p. 29, Plate X)
  • Robinson discs are being manufactured for issue, to be fitted by ship's artificers
  • Longmore discs on torpedo bar as Patt 2380 wlll be replaced by Robinson discs
  • Fitting of alternative control posns in all LCs has been approved. Vernon feels director should not be in CT, as a good view is essential (see p61, plate 14), and the CT is always cramped and busy
  • Future LCs will be fitted with a 3rd RF for TC (Weymouth-Cooke sextant RFs are being supplied in lieu, the Bell station keeper is good for rough ranges -- see pamph and TCH p14)
  • Voicepipes w/ electrical call-up will be used in LCs between TCPs and tubes when distance is < 100 ft and "telephones" elsewhere
  • gunnery bearing graduations have been adopted for all T instruments and tubes
  • a TCH has been issued (there was an 1915 edition)

plates 11-12 show submarine torpedo director 3340

p. 59

  • Submarine director patt 3340 is arranged to ship on the top of the periscope tube when sub is surfaced. It can be shipped in one of 4 positions for ahead, astern or broadside. When submerged, it can be used as a calculator by which to set the periscope. One disc maeasures director angle for setting on the periscope (0 to 90, right and left). Another measures crossing angle to the torpedo bar, 0 being bow-on. This crossing angle rather than inclination means of setting enemy bar is preferred by subbies owing to high bearing rates in short range attack. This is because inclination is relative to bearing (which is changing rapidly here, under control of the target and by his turning AND translational movement) whereas the crossing angle is changing more slowly by the turning of the enemy and own ship.

p. 60 Bunbury and Crace Enemy Torpedo Calculators being manufactured for trial (6 each) in 12 flagships.

1917

Plate 55 combined deflection sight and control disc for TBDs

1918

TDS III modification plate 108 109 p150 110 persicope TDS IV 111 TDS IV 112 TDS IV* 113 TDS IV* 114 TDS VI 115 TD for CMBs 116 TCD Mark II* 117 Clear Range Indicator 118 Inclination measurer S.F. 1 Type 119 Inclination measurer S.F. 3 Type 120 Inclination measurer S.F. 3 Type 121 Inclinometer Type S.F. 2

188 Passino Instrument? 259-260 Gun Director Installation

p. 158. Loose Gyro Bearing Ring.

See Also

Footnotes

  1. Torpedo Drill Book, 1905, p. 376
  2. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1910. pp. 32-33. (N.S. 016/4824, 2nd April 1910).
  3. The Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1915, pp. 28-30.
  4. Torpedo Order No. 39 of May 1st, 1914, (G. 14148/14).
  5. (A.L. 1/4/14. G. 13173/14)
  6. (G. 01191/13)
  7. (G. 8725/13)
  8. The Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1915, pp. 30.
  9. (G. 13028/14)

Bibliography

  • Annual Reports of the Torpedo School, at Admiralty Library, Portsmouth