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Old School Red Teaming

Old School Red Teaming

Lest we believe that anyone alive today invented red teaming, it's worth remembering the Stoic practice of Praemeditatio Malorum. It's also worth considering the more recent case of Operation Hipper.

Just prior to the start of World War Two, the British were rightfully concerned about the possibility of German warships breaking out into the Atlantic. To test their ability to detect and prevent such a break out, the British assigned the Town-class light cruiser HMS Belfast to act as "red" and test the British defenses.

We find the details in John Wingate's in-depth chronicle of Belfast's service, HMS Belfast: In Trust for the Nation, 19391972. Setting sail on 14 August 1939, the

Belfast represented a German cruiser (Hipper) whose role was to break out as a commerce raider into the Atlantic off Iceland. The ship proceeded to a point off Heligoland where the exercise began (a German aircraft photographed her) under conditions of W/T silence. (Wingate 1972, 33)

Wingate continues,

Belfast proceeded to a position on an imaginary latitude half-way up Scotland when the Admiralty simulated a report to the Home Fleet of an escaping German raider. (33)

Although the Belfast had just entered the fleet, she and her crew proved themselves worthy "adversaries":

With considerable skill, Captain Scott took his ship under cover of darkness through the dangerous waters of the Pentland Firth, thereby escaping the search of the Home Fleet and succeeding in achieving his object. (33)

While Wingate notes that the exercise did much for the morale of Belfast’s crew, we can't help but wonder how the exercise affected the rest of the fleet.

The war began shortly after Operation Hipper, and the real Hipper did escape into the Atlantic to conduct shipping raids in 1940 and again in 1941. In late 1942, Belfast's sister, HMS Sheffield, engaged the Hipper, damaging her during the Battle of the Barents Sea. Today, Belfast continues to serve as a museum ship in London.


Wingate, John. HMS Belfast: In Trust for the Nation, 19391972. 1972. Windsor, Berkshire, England: Profile Publications.

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