Admiral Sir Dudley R.S. De Chair to First Sea Lord Admiral Sir John R. Jellicoe
From Naval Attache Date 28.4.17
To Admiralty Recd. 11.20pm
URGENT. Following from Admiral De Chair. Secret for First Sea Lord.
Your telegram April 26th.3 I have pressed continuously very serious condition shipping position. United States authorities realise it now. Admiral Benson4 informs me twelve additional destroyers will leave shortly for South-west coast Ireland. I am encouraging establishment American flag command at Berehaven, thirty or forty destroyers and other craft, Sims in command. This is only way to keep destroyers from being dispersed.5 Sims should not be told this as matter is now before President6 and not settled. I have rubbed it in how fatal it would be to disperse United States destroyers amongst different nations but there is a strong party who are anxious to conciliate French. Navy Department are pressing forward all measures for supply of small craft.7
It is probable four United States cruisers now in Pacific will be directed to proceed through Panama Canal for service off Coast of Brazil where KAISER WILHELM and PRINZ EITEL FRIEDERICH will join them when ready.8 This is also before President now.
Source Note: Cy, UK-KeNA, Adm. 137/655. Below the text is “1 S.L.” indicating the cable was intended for the First Sea Lord.
Footnote 1: Commo. Guy R. Gaunt. Gaunt, the British Naval Attaché in Washington, DC, sent the cable on De Chair’s behalf.
Footnote 2: This notation indicated that Cypher U 1916 was used for this message.
Footnote 3: See: Jellicoe to DeChair, 26 April 1917.
Footnote 4: Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations.
Footnote 5: While the Americans used Berehaven in Bantry Bay, Ireland, as an advance base and RAdm. William S. Sims was named commander of American destroyers in European waters, the main American destroyer base was Queenstown, some 75 miles north of Berehaven and British VAdm. Lewis Bayly was operational commander of the base and the American destroyers stationed there. Still, Crisis at Sea: 95. On 27 April, the French made a presentation to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels saying that France “imperatively” needed American “destroyers & small craft.” Daniels Diary, entry of 27 April, DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Diary, Roll 1. On 30 April, after consulting, Wilson and Daniels decided to send thirty-six destroyers to “England & France” and to “try to secure other small craft.” Daniels Diary, entry of 30 April, DLC-MSS, Josephus Daniels Papers, Diary, Roll 1.
Footnote 6: President Woodrow Wilson.
Footnote 7: De Chair is referring to the submarine chasers then being built. When he finally saw them, De Chair was not impressed. See: De Chair to W. Graham Greene, 15 May 1917.
Footnote 8: There is no evidence that the cruisers were sent to Brazilian waters. A few weeks later Brazil declared war on Germany and obviated the need for these vessels. When the German passenger lines Kaiser Wilhelm II (renamed U.S.S. Agamemnon) and Prinz Eitel Friedrich (renamed U.S.S. DeKalb) went into service, they were used to transport American troops to Europe.