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Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters


Office of Naval Operations


December 29,1917.

To:       Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.

Subject:  Northern Barrage,change of locations.

Reference:(a) Simsadus cable to Operations,No.1934 of 7 December 1917.1

(b) Vice Admiral Sims’ letter N.4-3744 of 7 December 19172

     1.   As cabled today,arrangements for the Northern Barrage have been modified to suit the line in its new location. In general terms the modification consists in lengthening the American Mark VI mine mooring cables to suit a maximum depth of about eighty fathoms,instead of fifty-five fathoms, and in discontinuing the preparation of any American mines for the deep area “C”. As now being prepared,the mines will be capable of use in other locations also,provided the depths and currents do not exceed those of the Orkney-Bergen line.

     2.   This Office is not sufficiently informed on the intended disposition and employment of the Grand Fleet and the scouting and patrol forces in the North Sea to pass upon the relative strategical advantages of the two location for the Northern Barrage,considered as le only one part of the whole scheme of naval operations in the North Sea; but on the general principle of placing the barrage as close to the enemy’s bases as possible,the view here has been that the Aberdeen-Ekersund line would be more effective. If it can not be placed there,for the reasons stated in above references the more retired northerly line must be accepted.

     3.   From the above references it is not clear to what extent the area in which the American mines are to be placed will be under supervision by patrol or cruising vessels, but unless there be enough to prevent attempts to sweep or drag this area,its effectiveness may be greatly diminished.

s/ W.S. BENSON          

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document reference: “In reply to initials/and No./Op-31-G-12-29/28754-26:84. . .28-1-1.”

Footnote 1: Sim’s cable to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, No. 1934, of 7 December 1917, reported:

Admiralty discussing shifting barrage to Orkney-Bergen line enumerating certain strategical advantages principal among which greater freedom Grand Fleet in North Sea, increase distance enemy bases, patrol work facilitated. one disadvantage is greater depth proposed new United States area. Now averages slightly over 70 fathoms requiring considerably longer mooring lines than originally. Admiralty has always intended mining area “C” without United States assistance both present scheme and proposed new scheme. Department should go ahead on basis of mining area “A” only. Admiralty further consulting Commander in Chief Grand Fleet but because urgency and pending his reply they inquire Departments in regard agreeing change barrage line as far as Department may care to express these views now. . . DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 2: VAdm. Sims’ letter N.4-3744 of 7 December 1917, has not been found.