Skip to main content

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels


Assistant Secretary’s Office

London,   July 27, 1918.

My dear Mr. Daniels:

          I got back last night late after a most interesting trip of three days with Sir Eric Geddes.1 He took Admiral Everett, his Naval Secretary, and I took Captain McCauley.2 We went by train to Pembroke dockyard, an old small affair, somewhat like our Portsmouth Navy Yard. It has been expanded since the war from about 1,000 to nearly 4,000 employe[e]s, and does mostly repair work to PATROL vessels, etc., and is also building four submarines. I was particularly interested to see over 500 women employed in various capacities, some of them even acting as molders’ helpers in the foundry, and all apparently doing excellent work.

          We then went on board USS KIMBERLEY [Kimberly], and ran across to Queenstown – 125 miles at 25 knots. Geddes was much interested in seeing our latest type of destroyer and made some interesting comments which I will embody in a separate memorandum.

          We were met at Queenstown by Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly Captain Pringle of the MELVILLE, and Captain Price of the DIXIE.3 We spent the night with Admiral Bayly, and on Wednesday morning inspecting everything in the neighborhood, including our flying station across the bay. We lunched on the MELVILLE and visited our new base hospital, which is west from the town and on a very attractive point of land.

          Personally, I think things at Queenstown are running well in every particular. Sir Lewis Bayly is at first a different sort of man to deal with, but everybody has come to s<w>ear by him on closer acquaintance. He and his niece4 have been very kind to all of our officers, and have shown them the kind of personal interest which counts. There is no question that he is the right man in the right place. On our second day there, Sir Eric Geddes told me that after looking over the situation, he had decided to keep Admiral Bayly on in command of the Irish station, although he has completed the usual tour of duty.

          One thing at Queenstown is especially noteworthy. The American and British forces are run separately and yet in complete harmony, that is to say, although the British have a Navy Yard there, we make all our own repairs through the MELVILLE and the DIXIE, and the Supply and Personnel arrangements are entirely separate at Queenstown. On shore we have put up an excellent enlisted men’s club, which all the men are keen about. They run a performance in the big hall attached to it every night of the week; can get anything they want to eat there and the soda water fountain is very popular.

          The hospital base is to have 250 beds, and will be more than enough to take care of all ships and flying bases on the Irish station for some time to come. It is unnecessarily large for normal use, but I think this is a good thing in view of the possibility of a bad accident to one of our ships or to one of the troop transports.

          The Irish question has been well handled by Admiral Bayly, and I think we should trust his judgement entirely.5 It is quite right not to allow our men to go to Cork, as this would only be inviting trouble in view of the attitude of the Cork authorities that the responsibility must rest wholly with us and not with them.

          We left Wednesday night on HMS PATROL and were escorted by the USS Kimberly to Newport in the British Channel. Geddes sent a joint message from him and me to the officers of the KIMBERLEY and the PATROL, and this I telegraphed to you today6 as I think you may want to use it in the form of a press notice.

          People over here seem to think it quite unusual for the First Lord of the Admiralty to take a trip in an American destroyer under rather uncomfortable conditions, in view of the fact that he could have gone on one of his much larger vessels. As you know, British officers are not in the habit of running around on vessels flying a foreign flag. It is probably the first case on record, and should be emphasized.

          On Wednesday, we inspected the new national shipyards in the Bristol Channel, three of them with a capacity of 24 ways. They are nearly completed, and will start to turn out the British standard ships with a few weeks. By the way, I did not know until I got here that all of their Government merchant shipbuilding is run by the First Lord of the Admiralty. It is just the same as if the Emergency Fleet Corporation were under you. The operating part of their system, which corresponds to our Shipping Board, is of course a separate organization, but the Admiralty has all shipbuilding of every kind under it, and Lord Pirrie, formerly the head of Harland and Wolff, shipbuilders of Belfast, has the position which corresponds to Mr. Schwab’s.7

          We got back late last night, and this morning I have breakfasted with Geddes and Admiral [Sir Rosslyn] Wemyss, the First Sea Lord. They brought up several questions which I am to go into further, and get all the information possible I order that I may report to you.

(CONFIDENTIAL).     For instance, they want to discuss the possibility of dovetailing the British programme for new construction in with our programme, in order that between us we may not build too many of one type of vessel, and in order that we may have an understanding in regard to the need for new types for next year’s operations. For example – Geddes is inclined to the view that between us we have enough small craft of the submarine chaser or Eagle boat type, or will have, when the present programme is completed.

          Further, it seems a question as to whether the British or ourselves should build many additional destroyers; and they have talked about the need of a new type of escort vessel for the convoys, a ship with less speed and better sea-going qualities than a destroyer. Also we talked about the possibility of American destroyers in the North Sea in a few months, when our new lot have begun to come over in larger numbers.

          I shall be here in London for four days, and expect to meet Mr. Padgett8 and the rest of the Naval Committee on Sunday. Then I go either to the Grand Fleet or to France. This has not yet been determined on.

          This afternoon I spent at the Admiralty going through their Intelligence Section. The thing that struck me most is that their office of Naval Intelligence is in much close touch with operations than ours is. We must come to that, and the new building will undoubtedly help it out. There is no question that Admiral Sims9 has the entire confidence of the Admiralty people, besides their personal friendship; and yet it is very comforting to find that he is just as good and American as he ever was, and he keeps his sense of humor through a whole lot of stuff that would turn some people’s heads.

          I have not been here for long as yet, but I do feel that the visit is doing good, and that eventually we must get a little closer touch between Washington and London in the Naval line than we have in the past.

          I hope all goes well with you. Lots of our friends here have asked after you, and expressed the hope that you will come over in the Autumn.

          I am not writing separately to Benson,10 and hope you will show him my letters if you want to, and such parts of them to the President as you think may interest him.

Faithfully yours,  

<[F.D. Roosevelt]>

Source Note: LT, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 82. Addressed below close: “Hon. Josephus Daniels,/Secretary of the Navy.”

Footnote 1: First Lord of the Admiralty.

Footnote 2: Edward McCauley, Jr., Assistant Chief of Naval Intelligence.

Footnote 3: Adm. Bayly was the British naval commander for southern Ireland and was based out of Queenstown. Capt. Joel R. Poinsett Pringle served as the Commander of the American Destroyer Flotilla based at Queenstown, with Capt. Henry B. Price serving as his Chief of Staff.

Footnote 4: Miss Violet Voysey, who lived with Bayly at Admiralty House in Queenstown.

Footnote 5: For the situation in Ireland, see: Pringle to Sims, 19 April 1918; Sims to Daniels, 23 April 1918; and Sims to All Naval Forces, 11 May 1918. Bayly took a hard line on dealing with discontent in Ireland. For a detailed statement of his views, see: Bayly to Admiralty, 28 April 1918.

Footnote 6: This telegraph has not been found.

Footnote 7: Charles M. Schwab, President, Emergency Fleet Corporation.

Footnote 8: Rep. Lemuel P. Padgett (D-Tennessee), Chairman, House Committee on Naval Affairs. Padgett was leading a delegation from the Naval Committee that was touring American facilities in Europe at this time.

Footnote 9: VAdm. William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.

Footnote 10: Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations.