Torpedo Attack Table

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The Torpedo Attack Table was a Torpedo Control teaching aid to practice torpedo attacks.

Torpedo Attack Trainer[1]
Early design sketch

It was described in the Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1915[2] as a Torpedo Attack Trainer, similar to the Warleigh Spotting Table. It was to be the "play at home edition" of torpedo warfare, requiring a fairly large open area, with the model "firing ship" with a Torpedo Director mounted on it and the model "target fleet" being about 25 feet from each other. It was to be a casual affair "very easily made in the ship."

Torpedo Attack Trainer

The trainer was to have comical little "own ship" cut from wood and able to revolve atop a fixed wooden compass disc 16 inches in diameter and marked 0 to 180 degrees. A pointer on the ship would indicate against this scale, and a torpedo director would be mounted on the toy ship. If it is desired to practice for trainable tubes, the director could also be allowed to train over the ship.

The "target fleet" would be small models or cut-outs of ships of approximately 150 feet to the inch, arranged 500 yards apart along a wooden batten 42 inches in length and able to revolve around a fixed, graduated disc marked to show inclination of the batten as seen from "own ship". A painted sky and sea surface concealing the batten would provide a fairly clean view to the man at the torpedo director.

The man being tested would man the torpedo director and four assistants would manage the simulated attack, using

The officer in charge would specify enemy's inclination, bearing, range and speed, as well as own speed. The dumaresq operator would set inclination, bearing, and the two speeds on his instrument, and the Vickers clock man would put the range on his clock as well as the range rate provided him by the dumaresq number. The Elliott clock man sets the bearing on his device, 100 yards being treated as 1 degree. The dumaresq man (or, preferably, the Elliott man) converts the indicated Dumaresq Deflection to a bearing rate by use of a table, and the Elliott man applies this as his rate using the same 100 yards equals 1 degree conversion. Lastly, "Own ship" is swung to the enemy bearing, the target fleet's inclination is set as specified, and the run is ready to begin.

The clocks and the stop watch are started. The range is periodically read off the Vickers clock for the firing officer to hear, and available hands spin "own ship" to the new bearing every so often, according to the Elliott's indications. The range rate and bearing rate is modified on the clocks as the bearing changes, and the inclination of the enemy can also be applied from the dumaresq. The firing officer being tested can set his director's enemy heading and can choose to command a turn which alters the bearing on "own ship" and the dumaresq and Elliott to suit.

When the firing officer wants to fire, he calls it out (perhaps soon after training his tube or ordering a course change to bring sights on). The stopwatch and both clocks are stopped and the result of the shot plotted visually.

Allocation and Support

In early 1916, Benbow had a "Torpedo control instruction table" set up, and Vice-Admiral commanding the Fourth Battle Squadron invited light-cruiser and destroyer officers to come putter with it.

The devices, still called "Torpedo Attack Trainers", were clearly in use in 1916, when allowance was made to supply a Dumaresq Mark IV, a Vickers Range Clock, an Elliott's rate-keeping instrument Mark III and a stop watch to each T.B.D. Depot ship.[5]

Torpedo Attack Table

The final design is described in the Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1918[9]

The initial idea had been refined considerably and it was now referred to as the "Torpedo Attack Table", owing to its becoming a table of 8 foot sections that was 32.5 feet in length when all were in place. If space did not permit the whole length to be assembled, one or two sections could be omitted.

The table operators resided at one end of the table, and the director table with "own ship" sat beyond the other end. The target carriage could run along a table-top track so that the "range" (indicated on a tape near the operators) could be changed with respect to the model firing ship with the director atop it. The operators used reels and wires to change inclination of the target, range of the target and bearing of the target (the "own ship" would rotate when this was worked).

The batten was gone — replaced by a more sturdy arm. The target ships were now proper scale models, up to seven in number, and each occupied its own "bobbin" turntable atop the batten. A single knob could dial the models out of line-ahead formation so they could appear to be on a line of bearing or allow them to zig-zag. An indicator dial showed their angle relative to the arm. A simple screen on the edge of the target carriage nearest the director concealed the bobbins and arm from the man being tested to deny him this easy cue to the inclination.

The wire and reel means of changing the target batten inclination proved clumsy enough with 5 degree quantization that it was overly clear to the man being tested when inclination changed. A last-minute electrical solution employing a modified Vickers Mark III FTP receiver to set inclination proved able to do 0.25 degree steps and worked nicely enough that it was hoped to slip that in to the final articles being manufactured.

Various visibility conditions could be simulated using lighting and assorted gimmicks, but required that the training be done indoors.

Setting Visibility (yards) How to achieve desired effect
Day Clear 3,000 to 22,500 clear lamps in low foreground holders and overhead reflector, no dimming, and a light background
Variable 3,000 to 22,500 Use dimmer switch or turn off foreground and/or overhead lights
Sunrise/set varies Use red lamps, and dim as required.
Misty varies Use clear lamps in overhead reflector and a sheet of lightly smoked glass at the firing ship end of table.
Smokescreen varies Frayed yarn, either white or dipped in black ink to render them brown can be draped over target models
Fog 500 to 2,750 Frosted glass in near end of target carriage, and a finger lamp dimmed appropriately in the low background holder
Night Clear 500 to 5,500 Blue lamps in low foreground holders and overhead reflector with light background. Dim as desired and tweak scale of models.
Cloudy/Dark 500 to 2,750 As above, use dark background and 1/300th scale models
Enemy Searchlight varies Lights with lenses in the front board of the carriage produce this effect, concealing the ships behind them.
Own Searchlight varies A magazine lamp with a suitable projector on the lens is placed near own ship.
Own Starshells varies A pair of lamps on the rod supporting the overhead reflector can be lit for the duration of the star shell.


By mid 1919, twenty units of the approved design were being manufactured for allocation as follows: three to Vernon, two each to Port Edgar and Lyness depot bases, and one each to Immingham depot base, Dover depot base, Defiance, and depôt ships Actaeon, Apollo, Woolwich, Blake, Diligence, Greenwich, Sandhurst, Hecla, Dido and Blenheim.[10]

Each table was to be accompanied by a T.D.S. Mark III and a Pattern 36 signalmen's instructional box.[11]

See Also


  1. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1915. Plate 9.
  2. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1915. p.53.
  3. Handbook of Torpedo Control, 1916. p. 91.
  4. Handbook of Torpedo Control, 1916. p. 91.
  5. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1916. p. 34. (T.O. 11, 1916).
  6. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1918. Plate 144.
  7. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1918. Plate 145.
  8. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1918. Plate 146.
  9. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1918. pp. 227-228, Plates 144-146.
  10. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1918. p. 227.
  11. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1918. p. 228. (A.L.G. 10951/18).


  • H.M.S. Vernon. (Jan 1916) Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1915. C.B. 1166. Copy 1025 at The National Archives. ADM 189/35.
  • Admiralty, Gunnery Branch (1917). Handbook of Torpedo Control, 1916. C.B. 302. Copy No. 141 at The National Archives. ADM 186/381.
  • H.M.S. Vernon. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1917. Originally C.B. 1474. Copy 7 at The National Archives. ADM 189/37.
  • H.M.S. Vernon. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1918. C.B. 1527. Copy 20 at The National Archives. ADM 189/38.