Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

 Rear Admiral Hugh Rodman, Commander, Battleship Division Nine, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

[Extract]

BATTLESHIP DIVISION NINE,

UNITED STATES ATALNTIC FLEET,

U.S.S. NEW YORK, Flagship.

27 April 1918.     

From:        Commander BATTLESHIP DIVISION NINE.

To  :           Secretary of the Navy (OPERATIONS).

Via :           Force Commander.

Subject:       General Report – week ending 26 April 1918.

Enclosure:     (1)

     1.   MOVEMENTS OF VESSELS.

          The WYOMING sailed for NEWCASTLE on TYNE Tuesday 23 April, for docking, fitting paravanes, and overhaul; she arrived the same date.

          The division, less the WYOMING, was put on 2 ½ hours notice, 23 April and sailed with the GRAND FLEET, Wednesday, 24 April at 3:00 p.m., for active service against the enemy. It is understood that a large German force was operating in the NORTH SEA. A strategic center was reached at 5:00 a.m., Thursday, soon after daylight, and occupied for some hours; until orders were given to return to base; this division anchored at 7:45 a.m., Friday, 26 April; recoaled, and remained on 2 ½ hours’ notice. During the operation several floating mines were sunk by gun fire; two torpedoes were fired at one of the British flag ship’s; depth charges were dropped by destroyers. The enemy was missed by about four (4) hours’. There is every reason to believe that he was out in force to attack the NORWEGIAN convoy and supporting force.1

     2.   MINING OPERATIONS.

          Mining operations have been active by the enemy in this vicinity of late; a new field, well off shore, was planted, but has been swept up. All channels leading to this base2 are swept daily, and patrolled continually by air and surface craft. These, with the microphone detector stations, and close inter-communication, render it hazardous for the enemy’s mining vessels operating in the approaches to this base.

     3.   MINE SWEEPERS.

          Mine sweepers work in groups, in line of bearing, speed 14 knots; the vessels are specially designed for this work.

     4.   BLISTERS – H.M.S. RAMILLIES AND CLASS.

          In my letter of 23 March 1918 (File 7 – Subject: General Report) it was stated that the speed of the RAMILLIES (ROYAL SOVEREIGN class) had been reduced 1.5 knots by the installation of blisters.3 I have been informed by her commanding officer that the published information is incorrect, and that her speed was only reduced 0.4 knots by the change.

     5.   FLORIDA – STRUCTURAL DEFECTS.

          Gun shutters have been giving much trouble in the different ships, particularly those forward in the bows, for the reason that these must stand the brunt of the seas when steaming into them.

          On our last convoy trip, April 17 to 20, we ran into very heavy weather, strong head wind and sea. The gun shutters on the two forward guns of the FLORIDA, in the wardroom, were carried away, and seas came in to such an extent that she was compelled to run off and leave the formation to repair them in order to keep from flooding her forward compartments; the condition was very serious for a while.

          When it is remembered that the remainder of the division could not ordinarily stop and wait for her to make repairs when on active duty, it would not only mean a material weakening of our force, by her dropping out, but also amatter of leaving her behind to shift for herself, utterly unprotected – a very dangerous procedure.

          Under war conditions at high speeds, we cannot choose our courses in reference to wind and sea; hence, points of weakness such as these, should be corrected, and since the probabilities are that these guns in our ships can rarely be used, except in the calmest weather, it would be better to remove them and blank flange the ports.

          The after gun shutters on the same deck, even in a beam sea, are not subjected to so much strain as those mentioned, but cause annoyance and inconvenience by continually leaking; a new design which would insure tightness and security, would be a decided improvement over the present ones which continually give trouble. A copy of the report of the Commanding Officer of the FLORIDA is attached.4

     6.   TRANSFER OF GUNS.

          Captain Williams of the CHESTER,5 who has been visiting this ship, stated that efforts were being made to obtain four 5", 50 cal. Guns for that ship, to replace older types.

          The matter of transferring two guns from the FLORIDA, and two from the TEXAS to the CHESTER has been taken up with the FORCE COMMANDER in LONDON.6

     7.   POCOHONTAS- CARDIFF, COAL COMPARISON.

          The Senior Engineer Officer of the NEW YORK7 reports that the Pocahontas coal brought over in our bunkers, is at least 15% more efficient than the Cardiff coal used in the GRAND FLEET.8

     8.   BEHAVIOR AND APPEARANCE OF DELAWARE’S CREW.

          During the DELAWARE’s docking period at NEWCASTLE, leave and liberty were freely granted; practically the whole crew availed themselves of the privilege. The Commanding Officer,9 reports that there was but one infraction of the regulations, due to overtime or rum, and that he was in receipt of many complimentary letters and verbal statements from the authorities and others ashore, congratulating the ship on the universally smart appearance of the men and their exceptionally fine behavior.

     9.   QUARTERLY BATTLE EFFICIENCY INSPECTION OF VESSELS.

          Quarterly Battle Efficiency Inspections have been held as follows:

          FLORIDA,-      Monday, April  22nd.

          DELAWARE,-     Tuesday,  "    23rd.

          TEXAS,-        Wednesday,"    24th. . . .

Hugh Rodman        

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 381. Distribution list at end of document: “To: OPNAV (2)/Copies to:/CinC Atl.Fleet [Adm. Henry T. Mayo],/Force Commander./Chief Naval/Intelligence [Capt. Roger Welles, Jr.],/Adm. Badger [Adm. Charles J. Badger, President, General Board of the Navy]./File.” Document identifier at top of first page: “File 7”; “1/Sc.”

Footnote 1: The German High Seas fleet had sallied with the intention of intercepting the Scandinavian convoy but faulty intelligence caused them to miss it. When the German cruiser Moltke engines failed and it had to radio for help, the English learned that the Germans were in the area and pursued. At one point during the chase, the German fleet reversed course. When the Grand Fleet mirrored the maneuver, the American battleships became the van. Had the Grand Fleet overtaken the Germans, the Americans would have been the first to engage. However, the German admiral Reinhard Scheer managed to escape whereupon the Grand Fleet returned to its base. Hugh Rodman, Yarns of a Kentucky Admiral (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1928), 270-71; Jones, “U.S. Battleship Operations,” 101-3. This ended the last opportunity the Grand Fleet had of bringing the German fleet into battle. Halpern, A Naval History of World War I: 419.

Footnote 2: Rosyth, in the Firth of Forth, Scotland.

Footnote 3: In that letter, Rodman wrote that with the addition of blisters (a bulge below the waterline intended to be a passive defense against torpedoes), “displacement is increased 3600 tons, speed lowered 1.5 knots, beam increased 13 feet; draft not stated.” Rodman to Daniels, 23 March 1918, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 381.

Footnote 4: The report of Capt. Thomas Washington is no longer with Rodman’s letter.

Footnote 5: Capt. Philip Williams.

Footnote 6: VAdm. William S. Sims.

Footnote 7: Lt. Cmdr. Robert A. Theobald.

Footnote 8: Pocahontas coal was from the Pocahontas coalfield in Mercer and McDowell counties, West Virginia. Coal from Cardiff, Wales, was considered by many to be the best in the world.

Footnote 9: Capt. Archibald H. Scales.

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