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Rear Admiral Albert P. Niblack, Commander, United States Patrol Squadron Based at Gibraltar, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters




REFERENCE No. PERSONAL.               8 May, 1918.

Dear Sims:

          With regard to merchant ships coaling at Gibraltar, there is one important consideration which the Shipping Board and other people over-look, and that is, whatever coal is given to merchant ships in the United States to get across the Atlantic should be the best coal obtainable, thereby permitting the maximum cargo space to be available. They give these ships bad coal in the United States and they are unable to make their best speed. The bad coal furnished is unduly bulky and thereby wastes cargo space. The coal data is forwarded in official correspondence.1

          I did not find anything in the printed accounts of the new Naval Bill showing that the monthly allowance for officers doing duty on shore abroad has been passed, but every officer that comes down from London states, that officers in London are enjoying some sort of allowance. When I pin them down to actual statements they always say that they <“>heard so.<”> I have just cabled you about my entertainment fund of four hundred dollars. Well, I have now ninety-nine dollars left, and on May 16th I am going to give a sort of reception to INTER-ALLIED Army and Navy officers here to get them better acquainted.

          The BARRY has been in dry-dock for a long while being surveyed. As a result it has been decided she is to get three weeks repairs to place her in condition to last from four to six months longer, and beyond that she will probably not be worth repairing. What I would like to see is ten Ford Destroyers down here.2 The last three Convoys from Genoa to Gibraltar have been attacked and had sinkings, another one left today and the prayers of the congregation are desired. A few fast destroyers of modern type in the Mediterranean here would stop this. The one thing to do now is to drop depth charges and make a bluff <at> keeping the submarine down<,> because whoever is left behind to keep the submarine down has not enough speed to overtake the Convoy again. <&c, &c.>

          I am rubbing in the conference business here by insisting on all INTER-ALLIED Commanding Officers getting together an hour before the General Conference of merchant Captains, and settling before hand all questions of instructions, orders, information, policy, codes, tactics, strategy, standing orders, and all pitfalls that be-fall the sea-faring man in the way of literature from the various printing presses and typewriters now working overtime. Out of considerable chaos there is emerging some simpler instructions and some standard procedure.

          This Base is growing rapidly and will soon be ready for anything that can come this way. For one thing, Rear Admiral H.S. Grant, R.N.,3 is the best thing I have seen yet in any Navy.


Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 76.

Footnote 1: This correspondence has not been found.

Footnote 2: Niblack is referring to submarine chasers known as Eagle Boats that were being mass-produced by the Ford Motor Company. These were larger, faster, and had a greater operational radius than the 110-foot submarine chasers. The Ford Eagle Boats never saw service in World War I, however. Frank A. Cianflone, “The Eagle Boats of Word War I,” United States Naval Institute Proceedings, vol. 99, no. 6 (June, 1973), 76-80.

Footnote 3: RAdm. Heathcoat S. Grant, Senior Officer, Gibraltar.