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 Captain Joel R. Poinsett Pringle, Senior Officer Present, Destroyer Flotilla

 

October 12th. 1917.

My dear Pringle,

     I am sending you herewith the copies of the articles I promised you by Archibald Hurr.1 Please return them when you have finished with them.

     I receive a very considerable number of clippings from America by each mail, and I pass them around to the gang in the office. If I can induce them to keep track of them I will forward them on to you for such interest as they may contain. They need not be returned.

     I will enclose herewith Paymaster McGowan's second Intra-Bureau Order that I promised you,2 if I succeed in finding a copy.

     I have received a very gratifying letter from Admiral Mayo, which is as follows:—

     "    Before leaving for the United States I wish to express

to you my thanks for your courtesy and cooperation during the period of my visit on this side.

     You have been, as you well know, a very great assistance to me, and I hope I am carrying back with me a more complete realization of your difficulties and the problems constantly being brought up to you.

     Thanking you on behalf of myself and Staff, I am, etc."3

I have already sent you the letter he wrote in reference to his impression of the Flotilla at Queenstown.4

     I am writing today to see if I can get another Chaplin for our forces.

     I am informed by the Admiralty that a mystery ship that is now under repair will be available about 1st. November. She is a steamer of about twentyfive hundred tons and will require a crew of about sixty or seventy. She has a speed of between eight and nine knots. She is completely fitted out and has her stores and so forth on board. I have taken this up with the Admiralty but as yet it is not decided as to whether we can use her and fly our flag before she has been officially presented by the British Government to our Government. So far, I know that certain British vessels in the Mediterranean are manned by Japanese but I have not yet found out whether they were officially turned over from one Government to the other. You see, the trouble is, that in the absence of such a procedure, it might be that international law would consider the vessel a pirate.5

     As for McBride's draftsman, he is now there at Church's suggestion to look into certain steering engines and so forth.6 I have just seen McBride and he asked me to tell you that you can keep the draftsman there as long as may be necessary to do the work in connection with the barracks. Of course, you will send him back as soon as you can, because he is doing work with McBride and this work is of very particular importance as it concerns certain features of the design of our new destroyers.

     Please tell Admiral Bayly7 that I have written to Washington to try and get details of the diving operations in deep water that were employed in the recovery of the whole of the F4 at Honolulu, and that I will send them to him as soon as received.8

     Incidentally I assume that any items of interest in letters I write you will be communicated to the Admiral. There will be a certain amount of gossip in addition to more or less official subjects.

     I have not been able to get complete information yet as to the status of the D.S.O.'s that were recommended for certain of our destroyers, but Admiral Jellicoe gave orders in my presence to his secretary, to dig out the whole matter.9 I think it very likely that an inquiry of some kind has gone through from the British Government to our Government through diplomatic channels. In this connection I enclose a clipping from the "Newport Herald" which would indicate that the matter is known to a certain extent on our side.

     Please let us know when you consider the Azores force ready to be sent to Brest as they need the assistance of some destroyers there, pretty badly.10

     You will of course have seen Cone as he passed through Queenstown, but if he did not have time to discuss matters fully with you I may say for your information that he brings over the clearest possible assurances from Palmer that our recommendations as to the training of personnel for the new destroyers will be very welcome indeed to him. In this connection Cone says that the pressure for personnel on the other side is so great that we will have to utilize a good many reserve officers.11

     I don't agree with this point of view atall, as it seems to me to be based upon a false estimate of the situation. The war is on this side and not on the other and we should have the best the Navy affords in the way of experience. In the last page of my letter to Palmer (copy of which is enclosed) you will see that I have made the explicit statement that no matter what he decides we will do our level best to carry it out.12

     Before this letter reaches you, you will doubtless have been informed of the strenuous trip made by THE ONLY NIECE. However, the trip was a successful one and I believe accomplished all that was desired.13 You may be sure that we did all we all we could here in London not only to facilitate these matters but also to make the stay of this remarkable little lady as agreeable as possible.

Very sincerely yours,   

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Container 79. Addressed at foot of last page: "Captain J.R.P. Pringle. U.S.N./U.S.S. MELVILLE./Queenstown. Ireland."

Footnote 1: This is a typographical error; Sims is referring to the English military writer Archibald Hurd. On the article he probably sent Pringle, see: Sims to Anne Hitchcock Sims, 27 September 1917.

Footnote 2: The referred to Order from RAdm. Samuel McGowan has not been located, but for a copies of McGowan’s correspondence, see, DLC-MSS, Samuel McGowan Papers.

Footnote 3: Sims discussed this letter of Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet Henry T. Mayo in a letter to the Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels. See: Sims to Daniels, 9 October 1917.

Footnote 4: For Mayo’s impressions of Queenstown and the American destroyer flotilla based there, see: Mayo to Caroline Mayo, 1 October 1917.

Footnote 5: One of the recommendations of the naval conference that Mayo attended in London in September was the use of more special service ships (also called mystery or Q ships). See: Mayo to Daniels, 17 September 1917; and Sims to Benson, 18 October 1917. This, despite the fact that the German submarine commanders had become much more proficient at identifying them and their effectiveness as a weapon had diminished. In late October the Admiralty did turn over one of is ships, H.M.S. Pargust, to the Americans. It was turned into the U.S.S. Santee. Still, Crisis at Sea, 475.

Footnote 6: Capt. Lewis B. McBride was Sims’ maintenance officer; Lt. John G. Church was sent to observe British ship-building techniques.

Footnote 7: VAdm. Lewis Bayly, R.N., who commanded at Queenstown.

Footnote 8: The American submarine F-4 sank off Honolulu on 25 March 1915. The Navy raised of the submarine on 29 August 1915, establishing a diving and engineering precedent. Divers attached cables and the submarine was towed to shallow water then specially devised and constructed pontoons, which allowed it to be brought to the surface allowing the Navy to investigate the cause of the tragedy. DANFS

Footnote 9: For more on the possible bestowing of the British medal, the Distinguished Service Order, on American destroyer officers, see: Sims to William S. Benson, 9 October 1917; and Sims to Benson, 15 October 1917.

Footnote 10: The “Azores force” was a division of four American destroyers that had been stationed in the Azores before coming to Queenstown. They left for Brest on 21 October 1917. George M. Battey, Jr., 70,000 Miles on a Submarine Destroyer or, The Reid Boat in the World War (Atlanta: The Webb & Vary Company, 1919), 5.

Footnote 11: Capt. Hutchinson I. “Hutch” Cone had arrived to oversee U. S. naval operations in Europe.

Footnote 13: Sims is referring to Bayly’s niece Violet Voysey, who was a favorite of Sims’.

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