Rear Admiral William S. Sims to Anne Hitchcock Sims
May 19, 1917
. . . . Just as we were about to sit down to dinner at 7-30, a message came that 30 submarine victims were coming in at 8-30. We all at once volunteered to help with the coffee, cigarettes, etc, which the Admiral and Miss Voysey provide.1 So we hurried through dinner and went down town. We gave all the poor chaps the hot coffee, but they were quite eager for the cigarettes. In fact some of them smoked before they Drank the coffee. When they had finished, we washed and wiped the dishes and put them away. Admiral Bayly did the washing and the rest of us wiped.
Then we were informed that 40 more from another ship would be in at 9-30, so we all went for a walk while waiting for them. They did not arrive until 10-30. Many of the poor men had nothing but a dungaree suit on - firemen and coal passers. They were exceedingly grateful for the warm coffee and the tobacco, and I think also for the evidences of interest and sympathy. Their ship was sunk 300 miles from land and they were 17 hours in the boats.
All this brings the war very close home. I pray that we will not lose any of our destroyers. Destroyers are very seldom torpedoed. Three of ours have been fired at and missed by torpedoes.
It is much too late to write more, so good night my darling sweetheart.
Source Note: ALS, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers. The letter is written on Admiralty House stationary so the first two lines are printed.
Footnote 1: British VAdm. Lewis Bayly and his spinster niece Violet Voysey, who acted as hostess at Admiralty House. Still, Crisis at Sea: 61-62. In his memoirs, Sims wrote that Voysey “was the leader in all the war charities at Queenstown” and she and Bayly “made it their personal duty to look out for the victims of torpedoed ships.” Sims added: “It is unnecessary to say that any American officer who could get there in time always lent a hand.” Sims, Victory at Sea: 71-73.