In 1945, the German submarine, U864, was to take a secret cargo to Japan.

Sixty-five tons of mercury, plus the blueprints to build a jet plane (way ahead of anything the allies had) plus German jet engineers, as well as Japanese torpedo and fuel experts.

It was a very large U-boat armed with 22 torpedoes.

A British submarine, HMS Venturer, commanded by 25 year-old Jamie Launders, was sent to intercept it.

They found it near Norway, where they expected, but they only saw its periscope, it stayed submerged, so they stayed submerged.

As both subs were under water, and so invisible to each other, it would have made sense to use ASDIC (the British version of Sonar) but Launders thought the loud ‘ping’ would give them away, so he just used passive sound location instead.

For 45 minutes they sat silently, eventually the U-boat started to move.

The U-boat followed a zig-zag course, and for three hours Launders followed underwater.

Eventually he knew he must attack, but he knew it would take a torpedo 4 minutes to reach the U-boat.

That meant they’d hear it coming and take evasive action.

At that time, attacks were in two dimensions, distance to target and horizontal movement.

This would be the first ever three-dimensional attack: it included depth.

Which involved getting the current position of the U-boat right, but more importantly its position in 4 minute’s time, after it heard the torpedo coming.

Launders calculated according to speed, turning and diving ability, and what he thought the U-boat commander would do.

He fired 4 torpedoes at 17 second intervals: one at the U-boat, one below it, then one to the lower left and one to the lower right.

After 16 minutes they heard a massive underwater explosion.

As Launders had predicted, the first torpedo made the U-boat dive, straight into the path of the second torpedo, which made the U-boat veer left, straight into the path of the third torpedo which made it veer right.

Straight into the path of the fourth torpedo which hit it.

It was the only time, before or since, that one submarine had engaged and sunk another submarine while both were underwater.

It wasn’t something that could ever be expected or taught.

So it wasn’t written on the brief, the brief just said to go where the U-boat was going to be and that the job was to sink it.

The brief was WHAT to do, not HOW to do it.

Too often nowadays the people who write the brief think it’s their job to write a fully detailed and proscriptive list of HOW the job must be done.

So you have people who aren’t trained to do the job, tying the hands of the people who should be doing the job.

Of course, the people who write the brief should be concerned with the business problem: WHAT is the job to be done?

Those actually doing the job should be concerned only with HOW it should be done.

It’s the job of the people who write the brief to get the RIGHT answer, it’s the job of the people who do the work to get that answer noticed and remembered.

That’s their job, that’s what they should have been trained for.

People writing briefs have been trained in marketing NOT communication.

People who do the work have been trained in communication NOT marketing.

It works better when everyone does their job and lets other specialists do theirs.