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Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels


C O P Y_


U.S.S. MELVILLE, Flagship.

30 Grosvenor Gardens,

Telephone Victoria 9110                     London, S.W.I.

Cable Address “Sim[s]adus”1

Reference No. 01.10618                      March 7, 1918.


From: Commander, U.S.Naval Forces in European Waters.

To:   Secretary of the Navy (Operations).

Subject:   U.S.Cruisers escorting Mercantile Convoys.

          1.  I have received many expressions of commendation from Commodores of mercantile convoys on the assistance furnished by U.S. Cruisers escorting mercantile convoys from New York. Our cruisers have done excellent work, have maintained position with the convoy, have been subject to practically no breakdowns, and have maintained very effecient [i.e., efficient] communication.

          2.  Mercantile Convoy Instructions CB 5852 clearly state that the senior officer of the escort will be in charge both of the escort and the convoy. It is further stated that the senior officer present is responsible for the station keeping, navigation, zigzagging, and so forth of the convoy, and will make all signals ordering these movements. Admiralty officials who prepared this publication state that these provisions were inserted so as to make it clear that the senior officer present had full authority to exercise his command at all times. This particular paragraph was written on the assumption, however, that the ocean escort would continue with the convoy into port and would after entering the submarine zone take station as one of the leading ships in the convoy.

          3.  Our ocean escorts in general do not enter the submarine zone. If the commanding officers of the U. S. cruiser is senior, as is generally the case, and elects to exercise the convoy on the way across, he then denies the Commodore the advantage of this exercise of command and turns the responsibility of the convoy over to the Commodore as the zone is entered at a time when the Commodore no longer has an opportunity to exercise his convoy.

          4.  It is recommended that U.S.Cruisers escorting mercantile convoys delegate to the Commodore of the convoy authority as regards manoeuvering the convoy, exercising the convoy, developing signals within the convoy, establishing speed of convoy and so forth, and that the cruiser assist the Commodore in carrying out these functions without relinquishing the authority vested in senior officer present.

          5.  All Commodores on arrival in the United Kingdom proceed to London to report to the Admiralty. These Commodores are held responsible for keeping their convoys together, for regulating speed in heavy weather, and are given various oral instructions that cannot be given to our cruisers that do not enter the submarine zone. In one case, a Commodore reported that he considered his convoy dropped 11 ships because the speed signaled by the U.S. Cruiser was too great for the convoy to maintain in the heavy weather prevailing. In another case a Commodore requesting to exercise his convoy in zigzagging was informed by the Commanding Officer of the U.S.Cruiser that the Cruiser would make all signals. The cruiser did not get another opportunity to exercise the convoy, however, and the convoy had to enter the zone without being drilled. As the Commodores are in general junior to the Captains of our escorting cruisers, and most of them are in the Royal Naval Reserve, they feel reluctant to take charge of the convoy so long as the senior officer chooses to exercise this command.

          6.  I think the situation would be cleared up and better results attained if our cruisers were instructed to delegate the greatest possible amount of authority to the Commodores, as these Commodores in general have had considerable experience and are held to account by the Admiralty on their arrival in the United Kingdom with their convoys. Our cruisers would then occupy the position of furnishing protection against raiders, and assisting the Commodore to round up stragglers, keep ships in formation, and so forth, without actually exercising direct command of the convoy.

(Signed) Sims.

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

Footnote 1: Simsadus was the cable address of Sims’ headquarters.

Footnote 2: These instructions, issued by the British Admiralty, have not been found.

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