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 Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, R.N., Commander, Naval Forces, Southern Ireland

Admiral Sims

Personal File.

January 14th, 1918.

My dear Admiral,

     Your letters of the 10th and 11th inst. were duly received.1 I had been as much puzzled as you have until a copy of the article which appeared in this morning’s paper was sent to me by the Censor yesterday. Doubtless you have now seen in the papers a list of all of the new officials and how their duties are arranged.2

     It cannot <be> said that this is in working order yet, but doubtless will be soon.

     I have talked over the business with Admiral Wemyss quite considerably, and I much impressed with two or three things. First, that Admiral Weymss is a very clear headed and able man. Second, that his methods are very different from those of Admiral Jellicoe. As you know Admiral Jellicoe followed more or less minutely all of the important correspondence that came into the Admiralty and I think a good deal that was not important. He was at all times working a bit beyond the capacity of even a pretty strong man. He made many decisions himself, and sometimes the wires got crossed between him and his assistants, and sometime the Allies.

     Admiral Wemyss takes the opposite view, that is, that no; question should be brought to his attention until after the people in the Admiralty whose specialty is concerned have done all the spade work, accumulated all of the information, and made a tentative decision for his approval or disapproval.

     To give an example, the question is of course up as to what we are going to do about the cruising submarines that are expected to be in operation early in the Spring.3 The Admiral has directed that this whole question be studied by the combined Planning Divisions of British and Americans. The Planning Division consists of a certain number of officers in the Admiralty and we now have working with them three of our ablest young captains, under the general direction of Capt. Twining.4 This combined body has been ordered to accumulate all of the information that is available concerning the movements of all the cruising submarines of the Deutschland class to date. This with a view of establishing certain facts. For example; have they ever operated within the present submarine zone? To what extent, if any, have they made torpedo attacks? Are these submarines capable of operating successfully in an area in which we have the smaller and handier submarines? Does the requirement of three minutes to submerge make it too dangerous for these large submarines to operate in the same waters with their enemy submarines or destroyers?

     The necessity for answering these questions was brought out by a tentative proposal that squadrons of destroyers should be based upon Atlantic American ports, to escort troop and other convoys two or three hundred miles at sea. Manifestly, this would be a useless expenditure of destroyers if it is true that the big submarine cannot afford to operate where he can easily be reached by submarines and destroyers.

     I give the above only as a sample of the kind of information that has been called for and upon which to base a decision as to our methods of opposing these big subs.

     Another question is to get the opinions of British Commanders of the large steam submarines as to how successfully they can be used in certain areas to protect a convoy against the attack of one of the German cruising submarines. These and other similar questions in reference to other types of vessels, including light cruisers, will be taken up and a decision based upon the accumulated information. Admiral Wemyss says that he does not want the subject presented to him and the Admiralty Board for decision until all this materials has been accumulated and tentative decisions have been reached. This means that no one individual will have the decision as to our anti-submarine operations in this respect. It seems to me that safety, or rather the best results, lie in this direction. That is to say, that all such important decisions are based first upon an accumulation of all of the necessary information, and second, upon a discussion of all this information before all of the officers concerned. The result will be that the man charged with the details of the anti-submarine campaign will derive his policy as above explained. That is, it will not be a personal policy but the Admiralty’s policy.

     I will of course let you know the developments of this study as soon as they are available.

     I am glad to say that I have been practically entirely well since I have returned. When I call my attention to it I can <feel> that there is still a sore spot in the region of the recent trouble, but I believe it is gradually disappearing.

     I thank you for your kindly invitation to take strain for Queenstown in case I am in danger of another attack. I should be very glad indeed to do so.

     Please give my best love to the ONLY NIECE,5 and believe me,

Always very sincerely yours,     

Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, R.N.,

          Admiralty House,

              Queenstown, Ireland.

P.S. I am very much obliged for the letter you sent me from Mr. Ryder I find it very interesting and I may be able to use the knowledge and suggestions it contains to considerable advantage.

Source Note: LT, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 23. Document reference: “1/3/J.”

Footnote 1: For the former, see: Bayly to Sims, 10 January 1918. The latter has not been located.

Footnote 2: From December 1916 until July 1917, Sir Edward Carson had served as First Lord of the Admiralty. Upon his resignation from the post (itself a result of the resignation of H. H. Asquith as Prime Minister), Carson remained a member of the War Cabinet as a Minister without Portfolio; Sir Eric Geddes replaced Carson as First Lord. Until 17 December 1917, Adm. Sir John R. Jellicoe served as First Sea Lord, whereupon he was replaced by Adm. Sir Rosslyn Wemyss on 31 December 1917. For additional details on this reorganization at the Admiralty, see: Sims to William S. Benson, 15 January 1918 and Sims to Anne Hitchcock Sims, 29 December 1917.

Footnote 4: Capt. Nathan C. Twining, Sims’ Chief of Staff.

Footnote 5: Bayly’s niece, Miss Violet Voysey.

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