Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Captain Joel R. Poinsett Pringle, Chief of Staff, Destroyer Flotillas

January 17th. 1918.

My dear Pringle,

          Your letter of the 13th.inst.1 duly received and read with great pleasure. The Only Niece had already informed me of the correspondence between Admiral Wemyss and Uncle Lewis.2 This is all very satisfactory indeed. Admiral Wemyss seems very well disposed towards the Queenstown push and speaks in the most cordial terms of the Admiral. I believe there is no possible idea of making any change. Certainly I could not imagine it being done without my being first informed.

          I should like to have been present upon the occasion of the visit of the Admiral and the niece to the Club. I hope that now the ice is broken in this respect that the Admiral will continue his visits and that he will take the niece with him on every occasion. There is no use in falling over backwards in order to be consistent, and I see no reason at all why Miss Voysey should not go to the Club upon all occasions if she wants to.3 Certainly it is an added pleasure to all of the officers and I believe to all of the men to see that she is there and show by her presence her interest in our people. Such little attentions often mean a great deal to the festive sailor.

          I received a telegram from the Admiral asking me to stir up the Admiralty in the matter of having a dock assigned for the repair of old Bill’s ship.4 I did so at once, and they have promised me that they will assign a dock to her as soon as possible.

          Things have greatly changed at the Admiralty. Admiral Wemyss is as far as you can imagine from a detail man. He is a slaughterer of red tape. He will not allow any subject to be brought to him for discussion until after all those concerned have not only thrashed it out and accumulated and collated all of the necessary information, but have always rendered him a tentative decision for his approval or disapproval.

          In addition to this he is a thorough believer in the Conference method. Every morning at the Admiralty there is assembled at 10 o’clock in the D.C.N.S.’s room, the A.C.N.S., the D.C.N.S., the D.I.S.L., and the D.I.D. To these are added, when required, the Director of Plans, the D.O.D. (L) the D.O.D. (F) and D.A.D.5 I also attend these conferences.

          The day before a list of subjects to be discussed is issued by the N.A. to 1st.S.L.6 This does not take more than half an hour or so each morning, and is very good business indeed. Of course this is quite distinct from the meetings and decisions of the full board of the Admiralty, but at these little daily meetings a heap of the spade work is done before the subjects are brought up before the full Board.

          With this system of operation we may be sure that there will be no more purely personal decisions upon important matters. They will all be decided after a thorough study and consultation based upon the study. Problems which are to be solved are put up to the Planning Section of the Admiralty. Working in connection with this section are Schofield, Knox and Yarnell, under the general direction of Twining.7

          This combined body do all the preliminary work upon which certain decisions are based. As an example of the attitude of the new First Sea Lord in this matter I may cite the following example. A question arose as to the manner of planting the mines for the North Sea barrage. This was brought to Admiral Wemyss one morning when I was there. He asked if any decision had been arrived at by the Planning Section, and when told that it had not he directed the whole thing should be referred back to them and not laid before him until all of the necessary information had been accumulated and until the Planning Section had reached a tentative decision. Work of this kind is now going on all the while.

          Next week, on the 22nd. and 23rd. is the first meeting of the Inter-Allied Naval Council. Just what will come out of it I don’t know, but it is the intention to organize a Secretariat which will be in communication with representatives of each one of the nations concerned so that it will operate as a means of collecting and arranging all of the information necessary for the discussions of the next meeting, and also will operate to a certain extent as a tentative planning section.

          Do not imagine, however, that the various members of these conference approach the subjects to be discussed with an entirely open mind. As Admiral Wemyss said to me the other day, we (Great Britain and America) are the milk cows and the others are the calves. We are the only ones that have anything to give and the others have all to ask. Doubtless you will not envy us our job. I will give you some account of the result of the conference.

          By the time this reaches you the festive Babby8 will be arriving in Washington. He will have a good time there or a bad one – I don’t know which. At all events, he will have something interesting to tell us when he returns.

          Will you please be so kind as to send me another wad of your very fine granulated sugar and be careful to address it to me personally, and mark it to be opened only by me. Also please let me know to what extent I am indebted to the MELVILLE for this and other commodities I have gotten.

          Thanking you again for your very interesting letter,

Believe me,

     Always sincerely yours,

Source Note: TCy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 79. Addressed below close: “Captain J.R.Poinsett Pringle, U.S.N./U.S.S. MELVILLE./Queenstown. Ireland.”

Footnote 1: See, Pringle to Sims, 13 January 1918, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 79.

Footnote 2: First Sea Lord Adm. Rosslyn E. Wemyss, R.N. and Adm. Lewis Bayly, R.N, Commander, Naval Forces, Southern Ireland. The “only niece” was Bayly’s niece Violet Voysey.

Footnote 3: Sims is discussing a Men’s Club established at Queenstown for the sailors’ recreation and entertainment. Miss Voysey’s presence there would have annoyed Pringle, who was strongly opposed to allowing any women in the club, even as performers. See: Pringle to Sims, 30 October 1917.

Footnote 4: Sims is referring to Cmdr. David C. Hanrahan and the special service ship, Santee. Santee was a war vessels disguised as a merchant vessel. It was torpedoed on its first cruise. See: Sims to Leigh C. Palmer, 6 January 1918.

Footnote 5: D.C.N.S. was Deputy Chief of Naval Staff, A.C.N.S. was Acting (Assistant) Chief of Naval Staff, D.I.S.L. was Deputy 1st Sea Lord, D.I.D. was Director of Intelligence Division, Director of Plans , D.O.D.(L) was Director of Operations Division, the D.O.D.(F) Director of Operations Division Home, and D.A.D was Director of Air Division.

Footnote 6: N.A. is Naval Attaché, a reference to Sims’ office. 1st.S.L. is a reference to the First Sea Lord Adm. Wemyss.

Footnote 7: Cmdr. Frank H. Schofield, Cmdr. Dudley W. Knox, Cmdr. Henry E. Yarnell, and Capt. Nathan C. Twining. All were members of the Planning Section on Sims’ staff except for Twining, who was Sims’ chief of staff.

Footnote 8: Lt. Cmdr. John V. Babcock.

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