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Commander John V. Babcock to Reginald E. Gillmor


Monday <May 21 1917>

Admiralty House,   


Dear Gillmor:

     We will probably not arrive in London before Monday or Tuesday next.1 This may seem like a long time to remain away from head quarters but when I tell you all about it I am sure you will agree as to the importance of our rather lengthy stay.

     Every thing is going fine. You would be proud to hear all about it. The last gang made an uninterrupted journey and with one exception required on [i.e., no] essential repairs on arrival.2 Two had none. and all had 20000 gallons and over oil remaining.

They were on the job in three days and are already— tonight— doing good work. Tom Hutchins after being out four hours got on a hot trail and nearly won out.3 He just came in with survivors of two sailing ships 46 days out from Pensacola. . . . Every thing at this end is in fine shape. The architect- Mr. Johnstone— is fine and will return and present finished plans to his chief Mr. Powell— Anglo American Oil Company. We have all gone over the rough plans. We must push it along as fast as possible as this is a hell hole of a town and the men are fast getting discussed [i.e., disgusted?]. I discovered by accident and just in time to head it off, that they already had started a plan for a club themselves out of their own pockets.

     I go to Cork tomorrow to consult a good lawyer as to contracts, lease, etc concerning grounds etc. The Admiral4 says to approve the plans as quickly as possible and do every thing possible to push the work along as it looks as if we wouldn’t have it going for a month or more and the men are liable to get impatient and establish various individual clubs of their own.5

     Hastily Babcock.

Respectful compliments to Tobias Scout Extraordinary and so bold6

Source Note: ALS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517. The letter was written on stationery and the place is printed on the each sheet. Babcock wrote only “Monday,” but someone later added “May 21 1917” in pencil. In his memoirs, Sims describes Gillmor as a public-spirited American businessman who lived in London and joined Sims’ staff as a volunteer. A former U.S. Navy officer, Gillmor later joined the naval reserve and “performed very valuable service on the staff throughout nearly the entire period of the war—until ordered to America, where his technical knowledge was required.” In the early days of the mission Gillmor provided two excellent stenographers and personally paid their salary while they did work for the American Navy. Sims, Victory at Sea: 242.

Footnote 1: 28 or 29 May 1917.

Footnote 2: That is, Destroyer Division Nine. For more on the arrival of this division, see: Diary of Joseph K. Taussig, 19 May 1917.

Footnote 3:  Lt. Cmdr. Charles T. Hutchins, Jr. was commander of Ericsson. For more on the “hot trail” Babcock is referring to, see: War Diary, U. S. S. Ericsson, 21 May 1917.

Footnote 4: RAdm. William S. Sims.

Footnote 5: Babcock was engaged in having a recreation center designed and built and presumably the Anglo-American Oil Company, which was later acquired by a forerunner of Exxon Oil Co., was paying at least part of the costs. In his memoirs Sims wrote that the strength of the Sinn Fein movement in the area and the fact that the American sailors did not manifest a greater hatred of Great Britain and, more, that the American sailors had more money and could “entertain the [local] girls more lavishly at the movies and ice-cream stands” caused problems and led to violence. As a result, Cork was declared off limits and a “club” was built in Queenstown that “provided moving pictures and other entertainments.” Sims, Victory at Sea: 84-86. Sailor Charles Blackford wrote that when this recreation center was built, he did not find it “enticing.” Blackford, Torpedoboat Sailor: 84.

Footnote 6: Babcock is likely referring to Paymaster Eugene C. Tobey, another member of Sims’ staff, but it is uncertain as to the incident Babcock is referencing.

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