Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, Commander, Southern Ireland

May 8th. 1918.

My dear Admiral,

          Your letter of the 7th. just received.1 I am very glad indeed that you persuaded Captain Price2 to go off and have a bit of leave. He has done an excellent “stunt” in bringing the DIXIE up to a high state of efficiency. While the old man is a bit slow he is really a very fine character, and I have a warm spot in my heart for him. You may be sure that if he decides to come down here on leave and that is where he should come, that we will take care of him all the time and that he is diverted and entertained. I think it would do him more good to come here than to go any place else. I do not think it is rest he needs so much as change of scene and diversion. Here he will meet a lot of our officers and a lot of the British officers and see how we are trying to run things here at headquarters. Don’t let him change his mind at the last moment as I understand there was a danger of Pringle3 doing.

          By the way, Pringle does not want to wait another year before he comes down to have another look around London.

          I am of course astonished at the action of General Maurice.4 The First Sea Lord5 said this morning: “I <t>hought I understood Englishmen and something about our Constitution, but I give it up.” It does seem a pity that all hands should not get together and push along the war. Things are too dangerous to be wasting energy fighting each other.

          I have been having a hard time recently composing a couple of papers that I could not possibly avoid. One of the propaganda schemes that has recently been gotten up is to ask all the “principal dignitaries” for an expression of opinion concerning things in general which they are required to utter into the mouth of a graphaphone. The idea is to make records which will be put on loud speaking machines and carried all over our country. The Columbia company has already got General Pershing, Marshall Joffre, General Foch, Brand Whitlock, Bishop Brent and is in process of obtaining records from Monsieur Clemenceau, Mr.Lloyd Geroge, Mr.Asquith, Mr.Balfour, and so forth and so forth.6 On account of my position here they have asked me to prepare [a recording].7

          I am rather afraid that, out of fear of what the public will say, that is, out of fear of political consequences they will begin to use destroyers to escort the troop ships across the Atlantic, or even at the best that they will hold destroyers on that side until convoys are ready to sail<,> and let them come over with them. If they will do the latter I will be satisfied, but I am afraid they will do worse.

          As you doubtless know, every effort is now being made, by all of the Allies concerned, to get American troops over here as fast as possible. This has increased not only the number of troop convoys, but has increased the number of vessels sailing singly with troops. This of course brings a greater strain on the limited number of destroyers available.

          This is particularly the case off the coast of France where the number of troop ships and supply ships now arriving has increased, and will increase, more in the future.

          In view of the above, I have been wondering whether it would not be a more efficient and more economical use of destroyers, to base all those who escort our troop transports into France, to base on Brest <the> a number of destroyers necessary to escort all of the troop convoys arriving in France.

          If this proves to be practicable, it seems to me that it would help out considerably because destroyers so based could be utilized to escort vessels off the coast each time they went out for a troop transport.

          This would entirely relieve Queenstown of all this work in connection with the troop transports arriving in France, but I have naturally been wondering how much it would affect the rest of the work that you would have to do with the destroyers remaining.

          I have talked it over with Commander Long8 and he invites my attention to the fact that it would not place any burden on the remaining Queenstown force provided all troop transports were of the same size. He says that large convoys require as high as ten destroyers or more while the next convoy may not require more than five or six, and that in the latter case the unemployed destroyer could be used for hunting or individual escorting.

          This is a question of course which only you have sufficient experience in the matter to judge correctly. Will you therefore be kind enough to let me know what you think of the proposition of transferring to Brest the number of destroyers necessary to bring in our troop transports. Of course this could not be done until the oil situation at Brest is satisfactory, but this will be so within a comparatively short time.

          I am very glad indeed that you exercised your perfectly legitimate authority and made my friend Price come down here and have a look at the capital. He arrived in due time and seems to have been smilingly satisfied ever since. He has talked to me about the conditions at Queenstown, and I am sure that nearly all of you would be embarrassed if I should report what he has said. Really he could not possibly be more enthusiastic about all the conditions there. He told me that he thought that Pringle was the very best man in the United States Navy for the job he now has. Considering the disagreeable experience that Price has been through, this attitude of mind shows what a fine gentleman he really is. He may not be as efficient in some respects as others, but he has the invaluable quality of being a perfectly honest man. We are seeing that he is getting the amusement and the recreation that he wants. He seems to be interested in the whole show down here. A large part of his interest seems to be professional. He got somebody to take him through the ramifications of the four buildings we occupy from garret to cellar in order that he might see what the installation is like. This evening he is coming to dinner with me and five or six others and then we are going to take him out to what we believe to be the most amusing show in town.

          I really hope to be able to get up to Queenstown before very long, but just now it would not be practicable. Things are turning up all the time that have to be attended to.

          We had a hurried call for a meeting of the Inter-Allied Naval Council yesterday. While the call was hurried enough the subject to be discussed was not of any capital importance, but had to be attended to quickly because the august Supreme War Council demanded our opinion.

          Please give my best love to the ONLY NIECE,9 and believe me,

Always sincerely yours,

Source Note: TL, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 47. Following the close, the letter is addressed, “Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly,/Admiralty House,/Queenstown. Ireland.”

Footnote 1: This letter has not been located.

Footnote 2: Capt. Henry B. Price, Commander, Dixie.

Footnote 3: Capt. Joel. R. Poinsett Pringle, Chief of Staff, Destroyer Flotillas.

Footnote 4: Maj. Gen. Sir Frederick Barton Maurice, Director of Military Operations. On 7 May 1918, the Times published a letter that Maurice had written criticizing Prime Minister David Lloyd George for misleading the public about the state of the British Expeditionary Forces during the ongoing German Spring Offensive. The publication of this letter caused a political storm, and members of the Liberal opposition, including former Prime Minister H. H. Asquith, called for a debate in Parliament. This subsequently occurred on 9 May, and Lloyd George was able to imply that the source of confusion was, in fact, Maurice's office, rather than the Prime Minister's. As a result of this firestorm, Maurice was forced to retire from the Army. Following his fall, Maurice became a military correspondent for the Daily Chronicle. John Grigg, Lloyd George: War Leader, 1916-1918 (London: Penguin, 2002), pp. 489-512, passim.

Footnote 5: Adm. Sir Rosslyn Wemyss.

Footnote 6: Maj. Gen. John J. Pershing, Commander, American Expeditionary Forces, Joseph Joffre, Marshal of France and head of the Supreme War Council, Gen. Ferdinand Foch, Commander-in-Chief, Allied Forces, Brand Whitlock, United States Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Belgium, 1913-1917, and Ambassador to Belgium, 1919-1921, Bishop Charles H. Brent, Chaplain General, American Expeditionary Forces, Prime Minister of France and Minister of War Georges Clemenceau, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Lloyd George, H. H. Asquith, Lloyd George’s predecessor as Prime Minister (1908-1916), currently the Wartime Opposition Leader, and Arthur J. Balfour, British Foreign Secretary.

Footnote 7: For more on this request, see: Sims to Anne Hitchcock Sims, 3 May 1918. Sims did agree to provide a recording, doing so sometime during the month of May. See, Sims to William V. Pratt, 29 May 1918, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 49.

Footnote 8: Capt. Byron A. Long, Convoy Operations Section, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.

Footnote 9: Bayly’s niece, Miss Violet Voysey.