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 Anne Hitchcock Sims

[Extract]

Admiralty House, Queenstown

January 1st, 1918. 

My precious Sweetheart-

. . . . Today, Tuesday, Jany 1, I lunched on board the old Dixie, and then went to inspect the barracks where we are training the men for the new destroyers. Fourteen Captains are on their way home to bring out [more] boats. They will each be nearly two months at home. As you may imagine, they are all happy. They will see their families, and will will be regarded quite as naval veterans. They will give a good account of the flotilla and will clear up many misapprehensions.

     When Taussig, Johnson and Vernou1 arrived at the navy department, they were given a great reception. Everybody remarked upon their fine appearance, saying that they had [expected] to find them worn out and run down. You could not imagine a huskier and healthier bunch than these captains.

     Every night I have been here (and out of bed) they have had some of our people to dinner.

     Tomorrow Ad. Bayly, Pringle,2 and some others and I are going out on the Admirals flagship, the fast cruiser Active, to witness some experiments with depth charges. I expect to leave the next day for London[.] . . .

     I think I told you that cables can be sent to me addressed: Simsadus, London. but probably I did not explain that that is my address no matter where I am – Paris, Edinburg, Queenstown, or London. Always use the same. . . .

     I would not have liked your being with the House party.3 There was much criticism because there were three women with them, and it caused some embarrassment. They were wholly out of place on such an expedition. You would have been embarrassed, and so would I. They were of course entertained at the expense of the Allies – a whole house for the House family – and you would not have liked that. Moreover, it would have placed me in an embarrassing position, as I was at that time engaged in getting three wives out of Queenstown. So, it was fortunate J.K.4 did not succeed in his scheme, dearly as I would have loved to have you with me.

     January 2, 1918

Today Ad. Bayly, Pringle etc and I went out on the Active to see some experiments with depth charges (these are no longer confidential, having been formally “released” by the censor). It was a beautiful day – there have been a succession of them since I have been here.

     We had a fine time and enjoyed the trip very much. We were out only a couple of hours. Of course it was not a very prudent thing to do, as the Active is a cruiser and not suited for submarine work; but Ad. B. makes anything an excuse for going out, and in this he is encouraged by the captain of the Active – Captain Campbell, the one who commanded mystery ships for a couple of years and got four submarines, and a D.S.O. and a Victoria Cross, and a “bar” on each.5

     We all remarked what a fine “bag” if a sub has torpedoed us and captured Bayly, Sims, Campbell and Pringle. You can imagine the rejoicing in Berlin, and the sending out of photos of the four of us standing in a row – as they did in the case of some U.S. Army prisoners.

. . . . Please discourage any comparisons between the British destroyers and ours. Ours have acquired a very excellent reputation both as to personnel and in action and they do as much and as good work as the British – but it should be remembered that the latter have been on this job nearly three years longer than ours have.

     . . . . Do not put any stock in reports of torpedoes having been fired at ships. For every torpedo that is actually so fired there are dozens of porpoises that are reported. When the latter hear a ship, they make a straight run for her and have a skylark under her bows.

. . . . All my heart-love to you and all the darling babies.

          Your devoted

               Will

Source Note: ALS, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 9.

Footnote 1: Cmdr. Joseph K. Taussig, formerly commander of Wadsworth; Lt. Cmdr. Alfred W. Johnson, formerly commanding officer of the Conyngham; and Lt. Cmdr. Walter N. Vernou, formerly commander of Cassin. For more on their return to the United States, see: Joseph K. Taussig Diary, 12 November 1917.

Footnote 2: Adm. Lewis Bayly, R.N., Commander, Naval Forces, Southern Ireland, and Capt. Joel R. Poinsett Pringle, Chief of Staff, Destroyer Flotilla.

Footnote 3: The House Mission, led by President Woodrow Wilson’s advisor Col. Edward House, traveled to Europe in November and December 1917 to coordinate strategy among the Allies. Anne had apparently wanted to come over for some time to see her husband, but Sims rejected the idea. He did not think it would be right to take up space on a ship that could be used for transporting troops or supplies, and with the submarine threat still very real in the Atlantic he worried about her safety. Further, British officers were not allowed to have their wives in foreign ports, and Sims did not want to create friction between the services. While he could not order the officers under his command not to let their wives come to Ireland, he strongly discouraged the practice. In another letter to Anne, he said that “I have issued a notice expressing my views [on wives coming over], and if any officer goes against them, I can send him home – or elsewhere.” See: Sims to Sims, 30 August, 1917; Sims to Sims, 24 September, 1917; and Sims to Sims, 21 October 1917.

Footnote 4: It is possible these initials refer to Joseph K. Taussig, formerly commander of the Wadsworth. Taussig was one of the officers who wanted to have his wife, Lulie, visit him at Queenstown, and it may be that he hoped both Lulie and Anne would travel with the House Party, thus preventing Sims from objecting. See: Sims to Sims, 21 October 1917.

Footnote 5: Capt. Gordon Campbell, R.N., one of the most successful of the Q-ship captains. For more on his exploits, see: Sims to Sims, 18 May 1917; and Taussig Diary, 8 August 1917.

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