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Documentary Histories

War Diary, Benham

                  SEPTEMBER 13, 1917.       

     In dry dock as yesterday. The Commanding Officer,1 Wardroom Officers, and 45 members of the crew attended a luncheon tendered by the Mayor,2 Councillors and Corporation of Newport.3 At the request of the Mayor, the men marched to the Town Hall as a company of Infantry, under arms, with a color guard carrying the National Colors, and infantry flag. The formation proceeded through the principal streets of the town, followed by automobiles containing the guests of honor, and the officers of the ship. Upon arrival at the Town Hall, the sections deployed and saluted as the automobiles passed between the ranks. The Town was decorated with the flags of the Allied nations, and the bearing and smart drill of our men evoked applause all along the route of march. The ceremony of the presentation of the Colors especially appealed to the spectators.

     At the luncheon, which was attended by the principal officials, military, naval and civil, the Mayor presided. The speakers included the Lord Lieutenant of the County, Lord Treowen;4 the Mayor of Newport; Sir Garrod Thomas,5 and the Commanding Officer of the Benham. The speeches were all in the vein of tributes to America, her accomplishments, power, and wealth. There is even a noticeable disposition to concede to America her attainments in science and education. Lord Treowen rose to respond to the toast “The President of the United States”. He said that “England and America are now fighting side by side. They have never had a serious difficulty save one, when they separated. That incident has been burried, because there is no one do-cay who does not admit that the colonists did only what any Englishman would do under the same circumstances. . . “ This statement provoked cries of “Hear, hear,” and smiles, but relief was evident on all faces when the noble lord left the subject of the American revolution . He did not touch upon the War of 1812; or the friction arising out of the construction of Confederate Privateers, when two-thirds of the House of Commons, and some of the Ministers desired the dissolution of the American Union. Possibly those incidents are not considered to be “serious difficulties”. The Commanding Officer’s speech dealt with the close relation always to be found between American and British commanders under trying circumstances, and closed with the assurance that all the wealth and power of America is enlisted to prosecute the great war in which she is now engaged.


Source Note: D, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B, Folder 14.

Footnote 1: Lt. Cmdr. Jesse B. Gay.

Footnote 2: Alfred Swash.

Footnote 3: In the war diary entry for 4 September, Lt. Guysbert B. Vroom noted that Benham was the “first American war vessel to visit” Newport and that all the “military, naval and civil officials have endeavored to welcome the personnel, as representatives of the United States of America; a distinct contrast to the treatment received at the hands of the Irish in many instances.” Ibid.

Footnote 4: Ivor Herbert, First Baron Treowen.

Footnote 5: 4. Sir Abraham Garrod Thomas, a Member of Parliament representing South Monmouthshire.