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 William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations

DISPATCH TO BE SENT.

Date           Sept. 10, 1918.

To             Opnav.

Prepared by      CS      Approved N.C.T.  Code 35 ARD  No. 4523

HIGHLY SECRET.

Your 857.1 Instructions to U.S. Merchant Vessels and to U.S. Naval Forces have been issued as directed. Admiralty propose to use their battle cruisers to bar the return of enemy raiders, and do not propose to use them for pursuit of raiders in the Atlantic.

     I recommend the adoption of the following joint plan which has been prepared jointly by my staff and Admiralty Plans Division, and has the approval of the Admiralty:-

QUOTE. The Following Plan shall govern all vessels and convoys at sea after they have received warning of a raid.

PLAN.

1. Raider warning shall not be sent out without mutual consent of Navy Department and Admiralty, unless evidence is conclusive that raider is out.

2. As a rule convoys and supporting forces will be hand[l]ed by radio from the Navy Department or the Admiralty.

3. The aim will be to continue all voyages and to provide all convoys that are in danger with battleship escort by sending battleships from Halifax and Berehaven to overtake or to meet convoys not already escorted by battleships; and by combining convoys of approximately equal speed.

4. Battleship escorts will leave eastbound convoys and join westbound convoys as indicated by the situation, getting all their fuel in American ports.

5. During a raid all operations West of longitude forty shall be controlled by the Navy Department, in consultation with British C-in-C North Atlantic and West Indies,2 and all operations East of longitude forty shall be controlled by the Admiralty in consultation with the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe, with complete interchange of information received and orders issued.

6. The ordinary machinery for routing shall continue in operation except that orders to convoys and escorts at sea to avoid raiders shall be sent direct from the Navy Department and the Admiralty to save time. Base Commanders concerned shall be informed of orders issued.

7. Special rendezvous routes to be used in the case of a raid in the absence of radio instructions will be given each convoy unescorted by battleships before sailing, and battleships will be sent out from Berehaven to join the convoys.

8. Commanders of battleships at Halifax and at Berehaven, and all Commodores of Convoys and Commanders of Escorts, shall be given the routes of convoys sailed or about to sail, together with the latest information on the submarine and raider situation.

9. Destroyer escorts will accompany Berehaven battleships when practicable.

CONVOY INSTRUCTIONS.

1. Raider warnings and all subsequent communications will be made in convoy cipher. Reports of enemy position will be broadcasted by shore stations.

2. Convoys shall listen in for radio instructions, but in their absence on receipt of warning the following shall govern:-

(a)    Notwithstanding these general instructions, special vessels and convoys are given full discretion as to action taken to evade the enemy, when danger is imminent.

(b)    When practicable convoys should seek to escape in the general direction of their destination.

(c)    As a final resort convoy commanders when insufficiently protected may disperse their convoys.

(d)    Maintain radio silence except that Senior Officer’s ship shall:-

(1)    Report position and movements of raiding force if sighted.

(2)    Relay to shore stations such reports if deemed necessary.

(3)    Communicate rendezvous signals unless safety of convoy is thereby endangered.

EASTBOUND CONVOYS.

        (e)         Convoys escorted by battleships will continue their route.

        (f)         Convoys unescorted by battleships in the absence of radio instructions will get on rendezvous routes and follow them.

        (g)         Battleships will be despatched from Berehaven to join convoys unescorted by battleships.

        (h)         Convoys for which no battleship escorts are available may be ordered by radio to join escorted convoys.

        (i)         A separate rendezvous route will be assigned for convoys bound to:-

(1)    French ports.

(2)    English and St. Georges Channels.

(3)    North Channel.

WESTBOUND CONVOYS.

        (j)         Convoys will, if practicable, continue their voyage.

        (k)         Westbound battleships will give such protection as practicable.

SOUTHERN CONVOYS.

        (l)         Should proceed on their voyage unless ordered to port.

UNQUOTE.       4523

/s/ SIMS.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. see: Benson to Sims, 14 September 1918 for a follow-up from Benson requesting clarification on some of the points outlined in the above plan. Sims replied to Benson’s queries in a cablegram dated 16 September 1918.

Footnote 1: See: Opnav to Sims, 3 September 1918.

Footnote 2: VAdm. Sir William Lowther Grant, Commander-in-Chief, North American and West Indies Station.

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