Djoser wrote:I think it was fairly common knowledge that the BCF gunnery was deficient, even before the battle--though no doubt the officers and men of the BCF might have argued with this assertion. I just finished re-reading The Rules of the Game and The Fighting at Jutland, and the first book in particular deals with this perception to a fair degree. Otherwise there wouldn't have been a need to temporarily switch out the 3rd BCS with the 5th BS. Also the number of shells fired comoared to the number of hits obtained at the Falklands was embarrassing.
They had somewhat of an excuse due to the more limited facility of target practice at Rosyth.
..... The case of the BCF's gunnery performance at Jutland may be rather more complex than simply the result of a lack of practice opportunities. After its experience at Dogger Bank ,which, it must be emphasized, was the very first long range dreadnought gunnery engagement in history and therefore a seminal moment, the BCF undertook a painstaking and detailed review of its experience. See the "Beatty Papers", Chatfield's "Navy and Defence", and the Grand Fleet Gunnery & Torpedo Memoranda". Chatfield's report to Beatty (Chatfield oversaw BCF gunnery) can be briefly summed up as follows:
[ 1 ] Ranges cannot be accurately measured/estimated at such long distances.
[ 2 ] Plotting doesn't work, because the Germans evade as soon as salvoes get close.
[ 3 ] The rate of fire demanded by the bracketing method is too slow.
[ 4 ] Overs are impossible to spot
Chatfield's proposal was, somewhat simply put, as follows:
[ 1 ] Open fire short with salvoes at a rapid rate, with director-fitted ship firing double-salvoes.
[ 2 ] Correct up in small increments (200 yards per salvo, for example)
[ 3 ] When the target is crossed, make one or more large corrections down (800-1000 yds?) until the spot is once again short.
[ 4 ] Repeat the process from [ 2 ].
Chatfield conceded that this would involve a large expenditure of ammunition, but argued that the vital importance of hitting early was a valid justification. Beatty fully concurred with Chatfield, adding an observation that investigation also should be undertaken to determine the optimal salvo spread to optimize the chances for straddles and hits. BCF working committees were established by Chatfield to pursue these topics. At this point, the archival trail goes mysteriously cold. I have been unable to discover any documents regarding the deliberations, recommendations, or consequences of these BCF gunnery committiee.
IMO, what happened was this. The BCF, in isolation from the GF at Scapa, went its own route with respect to gunnery (According to Dreyer's "Sea Heritage", there was no standard fleet gunnery method until the 1916 Spotting Rules were issued after Jutland). The BCF employed their new method at Jutland and it was found to be faulty. For reasons of politics, ego, and reputation, "bad visibility" was cited as the reason for the BCF's poor shooting performance, and evidence of the failed gunnery system was quietly expunged from the BCF records.
Strictly my opinion, of course.