Lieutenant Commander Edward E. Spafford, U.S.N.R.F., Commander, Hunt 10, to Commander Charles P. Nelson, Commander, Otranto Detachment, Submarine Chasers, Distant Service
0-1 U.S.NAVAL BASE NO.25
SECRET 24 July 1918.
From: Hunt Commander
To: Commander, U.S. Naval Base No.25.
Subject: Report of Hunt No.10
Enclosures: (a) Report of Commander, Unit A.
(b) Track Chart, Unit A.
(c) Report of Commander, Unit L.
(d) Track chart, Unit L.1
1. In obedience to order of the Base Commander, Units A,G,K and L. Proceeded at 0230 G.M.T., July,17 1918 to Hunting Line in Latitude 39°15’.
2. On the run out to Point P vessels were exercised at semaphore signaling by keeping a large number of P.D.L. messages going down the column. All officers of these Units were ordered to take forenoon and afternoon time sights and near meridian sights each day while out and turn in their work.
3. At Point P I attempted to form the vessels into parallel columns at 1000 yards interval for pointing rill but found that there was no signal by which this could be accomplished. The signals are not adapted to our phraseology. The same is true of the M.A.P.Words and phrases which for years we have been taught to use do not appear in either the Signal Book or the Code.
4. It is recommended that an officer of our forces assist at the next revision of the Code and that provision be made for coding such words and expressions as “assigned”. The British use “appointed” and it would seem advisable to enter our expressions and then as in the case of “assigned” enter “see appointed”.
5. It is recommended that another page of signals be added to the A.V.S.B. which will make it possible to manoeuvre a number of Hunting Units. Among the signals recommended are “Cease present exercise” “Form line of Hunting Units to the Front (Unit Leaders in the centre of Units)” “Commence listening periods” etc.
6. The weather was bad for chasers on the first day. The sea was heavy and listening difficult. After the first day the conditions were ideal except that the sun beat down, and no wind made it very hot so decks were kept wet down.
7. There was no Kite Balloon at the western end of the line but later the Kite Balloon at the eastern end was shifter to the western end. The Witby Abbey joined the line and was communicated with. She left standing to the northward.
8. Nothing of importance occurred on the 17th or on the 18th until about 1530, when returning from the Western Sloop the 248 probably heard a submarine. I personally listened and tried to get our Western Unit to join us, but communication was bad and the sound was lost due to interference by the Sloop which relieved at about 5 p.m.2
9. Whatever noise we heard was lost. The noise was very distinct and had a tick to it about 100 to the minute. We first heard it to the Southward and then to the northward and followed it around on various zigzags.
10. At 1510 on the 19th it was reported to me that the Leader of Unit A S.C.124 had sighted a “submarine on the surface bearing 29°, I am being (garbled).” Unit A was the next Unit to eastward so I immediately got underway and stood to northward.
11. Following this I received a signal from 124, “Chasing submarine course 320 my position square 691.” Took course 45° magnetic, 15, knots.
12. Received message from 124, “Square 566, course 253, passing through area overhauling submarine”. I changed my course to E.N.E. then East and stopped. I thought the submarine was still on the surface and probably wounded, so figured that Units A and G could handle him if he stood that way.
13. The next message from 124 was “Still chasing searching slowly, course 233, area 687, speed 13 knots”. I ran W.S.W. then west, speed still 15 knots.
14. At 1730 I intercepted a message from 124 to Western Kite Baloon Sloop “Please stop, submarine heard on hydrophone, we are – miles east of you.” Headed east and directed Unit G to return to station. When north of our station, turned south but had great difficulty keeping other vessels of Unit in position. Had learned submarine when first sighted was headed to westward, so figured that she would continue to try to escape to westward.
15. Listeners at various times reported explosion of depth charges. It was necessary to show lights at regular intervals in order not to lose touch with the other vessels of Unit L. The radio telephone did not work well.
16. At about 0200 July 20th heard through the air what sounded like a chaser starting up at the same time the listener reported that he felt the explosion of a depth charge. 124 had reported that he was still in touch with submarine and had depth charges left. I had a rendezvous with him at daylight, so decided to keep it although I could not help feeling that possibly I had heard the submarine on the surface and that she was creeping to the southward. Ran South for about one half hour, but neither hearing or seeing anything, joined Unit A at rendezvous Latitude 39°13’ N. Longitude 18°21’E.
17. The leader of Unit A reported that he was still in touch with submarine but had great difficulty centering on the noise. Our listeners could hear nothing. It seems that the submarine when first sighted on the surface was heading 290°; that she was made to appear like a trawler and carried a sail. When Unit A started to inspect, the submarine submerged with all sail set.
18. I stated that I would run away to the southwest at full speed, hoping that the submarine if there might think the Hunt was over, and if I heard the submarine earlier in the morning it appeared probable that she was on the surface charging batteries or repairing damages.
19. Unit L then ran on course 235 until 0923, when in Latitude 38°40’, Longitude 18°E. Set course to return to station where we arrived at 1600. During this trip nothing of interest occurred except that we sighted a large bladder which we sunk by gun fire. This may have been an improvised life preserver but it is mentioned here as there is a possibility that the enemy may be adapting these to some use near the propellers to take up the sound wave and lessen the noise. The bladder had not been exposed to the sun’s rays very long when we saw it.
20. Attached is track chart of search and flanking movements conducted by Unit L.
21. On return to Base I learned that the Commanding Officer of 2173 felt that he saw a submarine on the surface to the eastward just before search was started by Unit L, that his listener reported hearing the sound. He made no report at the time and did not attack himself. He stated that he was afraid he would interfere with my scheme of attack.
22. Unit A again reported that she was in touch with a submarine at 0600 July 21st. I directed Unit G to stand on course 45° in order to flank the submarine in case he tried to escape to the northward. With Unit L, formed Hunting Line and stood East. Tried to get message to Unit K and the Relief Hunt Commander but failed. Directed Unit G to stand to Point A.
23. Met new Hunt Commander, told him of what had happened and was informed that he had detailed a Unit to take over the Hunt from Unit A.
24. I proceeded slowly to the southward and eastward and searched for the submarine with Unit L and took position for the night in Latitude 39°20’ N Longitude 19°18’ E. Unit G searched to the northward and took position in Latitude 39°06’N Longitude 19°57’E Units A and K returned to Base.
25. No submarine being heard, Units G and L returned to Base at daylight the 22nd.
(a) The present policy of the enemy is to cause confusion in the barrage by sending several submarines through it at the same time.
(b) Two of the Units on this line were out for the first time and showed lack of experience, drill and conception of the objects to be obtained.
(c) Generally speaking, it is better not to send other units to the assistance of a unit in touch with a submarine. Communication is still too slow and inaccurate to warrant this action.
/s/ E. E. Spafford.
Source Note: TLS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 387. Document reference: “25-36-3/Hunt #10.”
Footnote 1: See: Joseph L. Day to Nelson, 23 July 1918; and Nelson to William S. Sims, 24 July 1918. For the Track Chart, see: Illustrations for July 1918.
Footnote 2: See: Joseph L. Day to Charles P. Nelson, 23 July 1918.
Footnote 3: Ens. Thomas P. Richardson, U.S.N.R.F.