Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Commander Lyman A. Cotten, Commander, United States Naval Base at Plymouth, England, to Captain Nathan C. Twining, Chief of Staff to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

20 July 1918.

My dear Captain Twining:

     Thank you very much for your ltter conveying the information about the various points regarding the Base here.1 I have not succeeded in getting a definite report out of the civil engineers of the Dock Yard as to the scheme of getting additional Wharfage by a small amount of dredging and piling between the Base and Corporation wharf, but I feel quite sure that the project will be feasible, not expensive, and can be accomplished when started within three or four weeks or possibly less. So I feel that I will be able to accommodate 72 Chasers here very comfortably when I get the additional wharfage, and even if the Chasers come before thatt I am sure I can handle them.

     I feel very much encouraged from the work that has gone on during the last ten days, both in operations and in the Base itself, and I feel that the work here is being established on a sound basis and will go along more and more easily as time goes by.

     The question of repairs and upkeep is the one important subject that I feel is not going on as well as it should. I am using Commander Joyce2 to assist in this but only in a temporary way, that is, job by job. The question of xxxxxxxx organizing and planning a system of upkeep and repairs has not been undertaken at all. I sincerely hope that Commander Joyce will be available soon for definite assignment as head of the upkeep and repair department in order that plans may be matured for not only executing necessary repairs but making changes and installations, authorized or ordered by the Department, but not yet attended to. Among these, of course, is the rack for depth charges, which will be one of the first things to be taken up.

     I have not yet heard officially about Corporation Wharf. When I do hear there are several things that I have to do there to increase its usefulness to us, but all of them are rather minor.

     In regard to the impression that you gained that the Chasers are not being used as actively as they might be. I find from consulting the journal that on the day you were here, 14 Chasers were at the Wharf, and 27 out. This is about the proportion that we have at all times for the present, 14 boats in and 27 out, but I am afraid that this is a harder schedule than the personnel will be able to stand, as I have found that during the last ten days, particularly when the weather has been very bad, that the personnel return from four days active operations very much exhausted. In any case, I am certainly going to keep them operating as actively as possible.

     On the subject of conference with the Officers of the Chasers. The present scheme in force is as follows: The Commanding Officers of a group going out to operate come up together the afternoon before they go out and I talk over things with them. The same thing happens the morning that they return from active operations. Then, on Saturday morning, I get together all the Commanding Officers of the Chasers that are in and have a general conference. I appreciate the enormous importance of general discussion and personal contact, and the effect of having the Officers realize that they are responsible for actually doing the necessary work outside, and that after all, whatever instructions they may have, actual results will depend on their own initiative, intelliegence, and keenness.

     I hope that Captain Leigh3 will come down here for several days as soon as possible after he returns, as I am sure I can learn much from him.

     I feel that the advance made in the month that I have been here has been more marked in the performance of the listeners than in anything else, and anticipate that the greatest future development is going to be along this line. Yesterday, one listener operating outside with the boat on the surface, for ten consecutive readings at five second intervals had an average error of less than one degree. This bearing being determined by pelorus bearing of the actual noise. Most of the listeners errors are within five degrees. We have been able to get a British submarine only three days since we have been here, but according to advices from Headquarters in London, I am anticipating much better luck in this respect for the next six weeks, and I believeit will have a very beneficial effect.

     At present, we have at the Base about two hundred men for Base Six4 which crowds us very badly but we manage to handle them without any great degree of discomfort, and will get them off as occasion offie offers.

Very sincerely yours,   

/s/ L. A. Cotten.         

Source Note: LTS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520. Addressed below close: “Captain N. C. Twining,/30 Grosvenor Gardens,/London, S.W.” Identifier “File No. 3-978-4/AC/S” appears in the upper-left corner and “3/D/J” appears in the upper-right.

Footnote 2: Cmdr. Charles S. Joyce, commanding officer, Hannibal.

Footnote 3: Capt. Richard H. Leigh was a member of the Anti-Submarine Section, on Sims’ staff. Leigh had just returned from several weeks’ duty in Cofu, helping establishing the submarine chaser base there.

Footnote 4: Queenstown, Ireland.

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