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Captain William D. MacDougall, United States Naval Attaché in London, to Office of Naval Intelligence


SENT: 27 April, 1917.         TO: Navintel.       NO: 13027.

     The accurate location of submarine sounds by the California sea lion has been established by Admiralty experiments[.] the procuring of additional animals recommended as urgently required here[.] report by mail subject highly confidential.1


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517.

Footnote 1: ‘Captain’ Joseph Woodward was commissioned to work with his music-hall animals under the supervision of Board of Invention and Research (BIR). The Admiralty and the BIR also received suggestions to train gulls to detect periscopes in 1915, but the matter was not taken further until referred to Rear Admiral A.L. Duff, Director of the Anti-Submarine Division, in late 1916. It was proposed that merchant ships should tow a dummy periscope ‘from which at intervals food would be discharged like sausage-meat from a machine’ to teach the birds to associate periscopes near ships with food, leading them to swoop on the periscopes of real submarines. Dr Chalmers Mitchell (Secretary of the Zoological Society of London) and Sir Charles Parsons of the Central Committee of the BIR were keen to try the scheme, but Duff was concerned that it could result in many scares. For more information, see, David A. H. Wilson, “Avian Anti-Submarine Warfare Proposals in Britain, 1915-18: The Admiralty and Thomas Mills,” International Journal of Naval History, Vol. 5, No. 1 (April 2006), 8-9, 22-23n.

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