crossing the T

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A favourite manoeuvre in naval battle during the days of sail when opposing fleets sailed in the normal battle disposition of line ahead. If a fleet in this disposition, either by a superiority of speed or by approaching at an angle, could cross ahead of its enemy's line approximately at right angles, it had a considerable tactical advantage. This was because it could bring many more of its guns to bear, and fire them as a broadside, while the enemy fleet could only reply with those guns which could be fired ahead. It was also a tactical situation which forced an enemy to turn away, and in the resulting loss of speed during the turn, and the difficulty of keeping guns bearing on an enemy while doing so, the fleet ‘crossing the T’ had a considerable advantage. See also warfare at sea.

Subjects: Warfare and Defence.

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