Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Vice Admiral Montague E. Browning, Commander-in-Chief, North America and West Indies Station, to British Admiralty

TELEGRAM.                No.

From: C. in C. NA & WI             Date 13.4.171

     via Ambassador Washington2   [Sent] 12.34 am.

To [Admiralty]                     [Received] 12.30 p.m.

L.3

     Your 246. Following points of agreement have been arrived at with United States Navy Dept. French Admiral sending similar telegram to Paris4 (begins) Questions raised by British Admiralty

First. One squadron immediately ready to proceed from North Atlantic port on receipt of information of escape of raider. Operations of ships of this squadron will be co-ordinated with those of Allied squadrons. Area of operations from the parallel of Cape Sable to the longitude 50 W. thence South to the parallel of 20 N.5

Second. Second Squadron on the East Coast of South America will be provided as soon as possible in the near future. Area of operations from Brazilian Coast along parallel 5 South to meridian 30 W. thence South to 15 South then parallel with coast to the latitude of 35 South then along that parallel to the coast.

Third. Six destroyers will be sent over in the immediate future these will be based on British or French port as may be considered most necessary.6

Fourth. United States will look after West Coast of North America from Canadian to Colombian boundaries.

Fifth. Relations with Chile excellent. United States armed Govt. nitrate vessels will maintain continuous service for the present which will be utilized.7

Sixth. United States China Squadron will be maintained for the present.

Seventh. United States will supervise Gulf of Mexico and Central America as far as Colombian boundary thence to West Point of Jamaica along North coast of Jamaica to the East point of Virgin Islands thence North to the South Eastern limit of area referred to in first.

Eighth. If and when enemy’s submarines appear they will attempt to send several submarines to the Canadian coast but this only possible if a parent ship or accommodation of men on shore provided.8

     Following point raised by French Minister of Marine:-

First. Provision of small patrol vessels for French Coast not yet possible owing to requirements of home (?defence) when available however they will be supplied France escorting them over and manning if necessary. Every possible effort will be made immediately to supply these too much reliance should not be placed however in early success.

Second. Provision of armed naval transports for carrying (?railway material) to France one will be furnished immediately, a second and third as soon as possible (ends)

     Further message transmitted in another cypher.9

     I will remain at Washington until I know whether you have any further instructions and to complete conference upon details on which I have been requested to advise Navy Department HMS LEVIATIAN proceeds to Halifax I shall return there by train. 2010.

Source Note: Cy, UK-KeNA, Adm. 137/1426. The cable is only signed with the code name “2010” but from the heading it is clear it is from Adm. Montague E. Browning. The copy is done on a form so portions of the heading are printed. There is another copy in DNA, RG45, Entry 517. At the bottom of the first page of that copy in the left margin is typed: “1st.L./1st S.L./Sir H.Wilson./D.O.D./D.I.D.” This presumably means that copies of the cable were distributed to: First Lord of the Admiralty Sir Edward H. Carson; First Sea Lord Adm. Sir John R. Jellicoe; Sir Henry Wilson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff; Director of the Operations Division of the Admiralty RAdm. Thomas Jackson; and Director of the Intelligence Division Capt. William E. Hall. After the report is a handwritten note by Chief of the War Staff VAdm. Henry F. Oliver, dated 28 April 1917, which reads: “The squadron for the North Atlantic is small but possibly if we get intelligence of a raider they may rise to the occasion & supplement it. The Conference has been very Satisfactory.”

Footnote 1: That is, 13 April 1917.

Footnote 2: The British Ambassador was Sir Cecil Spring Rice.

Footnote 3: This was the cypher version used to code this document for transmission.

Footnote 4: Contre-Amiral Maurice-Ferdinand-Albert Grasset, commanding French naval forces in North American waters. In 1916 he had served in the French Ministry of Marine.

Footnote 5: The ordinals in this and the next paragraph are degrees of latitude and longitude.

Footnote 6: In a message to Browning of 3 April, the British Admiralty gave as its top priority “having as many U.S. Destroyers as possible in our waters to assist in protection of trade.” They agreed to give the Americans “all facilities.” UK-KeNA, Adm. 137/654. The first American destroyers were based in Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland.

Footnote 7: Nitrates, of which Chile had a rich supply, were important in the production of armaments and fertilizer for agriculture.

Footnote 8: On the same day, the U.S. naval attaché in London, William D. MacDougall, reported that Adm. William S. Sims believed it probable that the Germans would send a “few” mine-laying submarines to operate on the coast of the United States. See: MacDougal to ONI, 13 April 1917. On 7 April, the British Admiralty cabled its naval attaché in Washington, Capt. Guy R.A. Gaunt, that the British Navy had obtained “some” success “using some of our submarines against similar hostile craft” and that the Admiralty would welcome U.S. submarines operating in “the vicinity of West Indies or Canadian coast” should German U-Boats “appear there.” Anglo-American Naval Relations: 29-30.

Footnote 9: With the copy of Browning’s report is a document in French with the heading: “Enclosure to Letter from Commander-in-Chief, N.A. & W.I. dated 13 April 1917.” This document is the instructions sent to Contre Amiral Maurice F.A. Grasset by the French Ministry of Marine. Those instructions, dated 24 March, are above.

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