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Notes on Convoy Policy, Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations



<April 23, 1918.>

          A conference was held at Washington on the 23rd April 1918 between Admiral W. S. Benson, Vice Admiral Sir W. L. Grant, and Rear Admiral M. F. A. Grasset1 representing the United States, British and French Naval Forces, to determine the modification necessary in the existing allocation and duties of the cruisers working in the West Indies to meet the present situation.


(1)      That the number of ships in the French Division in the West Indies is more than is now necessary, the United States and Brazil having entered the war.

(2)    That this French Division has no longer any escort duties to carry out since ships from the West Indies go to North America for convoy across the Atlantic.

(3)    That more escort cruisers are required for the new convoy service between New York and France recently instituted and that difficulty will be experienced in entirely providing these from the United States or British Fleets.

          The conferring Admirals are of the opinion that the following proposals will best meet requirements with forces available.

          (a) The French West Indies Division to consist of one French armoured cruisers only with two small United States cruisers attached the latter being directly under the orders of the French Admiral and based generally one at St. Thomas and the other at Trinidad.    The <d>uties of the West Indies Division will remain as was decided upon at the conference of London of 5th May 1916 and at the conference of Washington of 13th April 1917,2 it being understood that in the event of enemy raider showing itself in West Indian waters the United States Admiralty will send to the French Admiral so far as may be possible the reinforcements which the circumstances render necessary.

          (b) The remaining French cruisers of the existing West Indies Division will be employed in convoys from North America. These cruisers will be placed directly under the orders of the U.S. Admiral in command of convoy escorts at New York.3 They will be employed in the new convoys just decided upon which for the present will sail every sixteen days commencing 23rd of April from New York to France but which it is h<o>ped will eventually sail every eight days.

          Convoy instructions as used in all other convoys sailing from this coast will be used. The British Admiralty will furnish routes in the same manner and with the same machinery as routes are suppled to other mercantile convoys. The convoy officer at the port of departure will make the usual report to the Admiralty for distribution to the Minister of Shipping French authorities and various parties interested.

          The U.S. Admiral in charge of escorts will undertake the supply and repair of these cruisers during their stay in New York.

          In order to economize coal in France these cruisers will complete with coal at New York, only taking on board sufficient for their return voyage.

          For the present two French cruisers will be appropriated to this service but a third will be added as soon as possible.


/s/ W. S. Benson            

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

Footnote 1: VAdm. Sir William Lowther Grant, Commander, North American and West Indies Station, and RAdm. Maurice F. A. de Grasset, Commander, Division des Antilles.

Footnote 2: For more on this conference, see: Montague E. Browning to British Admiralty, 13 April 1917.

Footnote 3: RAdm. Marbury Johnston, Commander, Squadron Two, Cruiser Force, Atlantic Fleet.

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