Last night at dinner I had the account of the shooting itself from one who had had to do some of it. He said the observation officer was supposed always to be a first class gunner, as everything depended on him, but that an observation officer was not really necessary in this case (direct fire etc.). The generals were kidded accordingly. There were three generals. One of them knew nothing or little about gunnery. He made a great noise, and wanted a great noise made - explosions, and to see shells dropping in the sea. He told the gunners to fire quickly, and to remember that this was not manoeuvres but war (which happily it was not). He constantly deranged General Y.X., but General Y.X. being a thorough expert and not to be ruffled, went ahead and gave quiet orders to the gunners, ignoring Gen. Z's notions. Z. wanted rapid firing. Y.X. said: "What is the use of your firing the next shot until you know exactly what was wrong with the last and why?" Y.X. was evidently the bright spot in the proceedings. A. is a pretty good gunner and he said he learnt a lot. So did the O.C. of the battery. He had nothing but scorn for W. and practically the same for Z.
What strikes me is the inability of all these generals to control themselves. They behave like kids with autocratic power. People like French merely dashed round, stayed two minutes, and said 'Excellent, excellent'. The whole body of subs is against the plan of defence and calls it silly.
Speaking with Mason as to this, I said that it seemed improbable that the staff should be all wrong and the subs and captains right (though I agreed with the latter), and Mason said it was not improbable because the subs had had experience and the others hadn't. I think I have forgotten to mention that the observing officer was not informed that the lifeboat was not the target and that the target was an imaginary point beyond it.
See also, 'Lost in Venice' - September 4th., http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/lost-in-venice.html