General Chase

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General Chase is a signal in the Royal Navy’s lexicon of fleet orders; it has a number of connotations beyond its literal meaning and has acquired something of an iconic status.

General Chase is signalled to release ships from a line of battle, or other formation, in order to pursue a retreating or beaten foe. The signal is appropriate to the end of an action, when victory is certain; it allows all ships to break formation and act independently in order to pursue at best speed to capture or destroy enemy vessels. In this meaning, it has been used numerous times throughout the Royal Navy's history.

It has, however acquired a more symbolic meaning; used by Nelson at the Battle of the Nile at the beginning of the action, when victory was by no means certain, it was an expression of utter confidence, as well as allowing his captains complete discretion. In this, more iconic meaning, it has been used on two occasions in recent times. At the Battle of the Falkland Islands on 8 December 1914, Sturdee hoisted General Chase at the beginning of the action; and On 30 July 1943 Captain Fredric Walker signalled "General Chase" when engaging a group of three U-boats in the Bay of Biscay.

The signal is achieved by flying signal flags "2","W", and "N". The flags used by Capt. Walker at his action are preserved in the Bootle Town Hall, and there is an exhibit of the same in the Merseyside Maritime Museum.

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