Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Commodore Guy R. Gaunt, British Naval Attaché at Washington. to Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations

          C O P Y :-

From: Commodore Gaunt, R.N.,

          British Embassy, Washington, D.C.

To:- Admiral Benson, U.S.A.

Date: 4th July, 1917.

     On the whole subject of guns for merchant ships, I have received a telegram from Their Lordships, asking me to convey their thanks for the very kind offer of additional armament for merchant ships.1 In view of the larger number of ships that still require effective long range guns, they are afraid that the question of providing any ship with a second gun cannot be considered at present, but that if the offer which I telegraphed,2 of six 4.7 guns is unconditional, it is gladly accepted, and I am directed to replace the 4" gun now mounted in the CRETIC and CANOPIC, with a 4.7. The guns released should then be sent to JAMAICA, for mounting on homeward vessels. The four remaining 4.7 guns to be allocated as follows:-

          To WAR CAPTAIN now completing at New York, - 1 gun.

          To FARN at Bermuda - 1 gun.

     To WAR MAJOR and WAR TUNE, at Montreal – 1 gun each.3

Gun’s crews for the 4.7’s can be drawn by you from Halifax.

Guy R. Gaunt

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 1: “Their Lordships” were the British Lords of the Admiralty. For their instructions to convey thanks and the directions concerning disposition of the guns, see, Richard Webb to Gaunt, 3 July 1917, UK-KeNA, Adm. 137/656.

Footnote 2: See: Gaunt to British Admiralty, 26 June 1917. It was not just a shortage of guns that caused the British to allot only one per merchant ship, but rather that the British believed that a merchant ship sighting a submarine should attempt to flee meaning that only the stern gun would be of any use. They also believed that the stern of a ship provided a more stable gun platform than the bow. Stackhouse, “Anglo-American Atlantic Convoy System in WWI”: 343-44.

Footnote 3: While the British accepted the offer of guns, at the same time First Sea Lord Adm. Sir John R. Jellicoe argued that arming merchantmen with such guns was an ineffective defense against submarine attack; see, Jellicoe to Gaunt, 30 June 1917, UK-KeNA, Adm. 137/656.

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