Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Joel R. Poinsett Pringle, Chief of Staff, Destroyer Flotillas, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

REFER TO                 (C-4)

NO. <4254>                   

UNITED STATES NAVAL FORCES

OPERATING IN EUROPEAN WATERS.

U. S. S. MELVILLE, FLAGSHIP.

BASE SIX.1             

27 April 1918.     

My dear Admiral:

          There are many subjects upon which I am due to write you and I hesitate about putting them all in one letter, but I think it is best to do so and then you will have them in a more compact form.

          The PARKER will not be disturbed until such time as her experiments in the Irish Sea have been completed. In this connection, you may be sure that everyone at this Base is full of enthusiasm regarding Beehler’s device.2 We think that it is the greatest step forward that has been made by anyone interested in the development of these devices since their development was seriously undertaken, and<,> while we have been stung so many times by inventors, I am inclined to believe that in this particular instance Beehler has gotten an instrument which will really do what he says it will do. Both Leigh and McCandless3 assure me that he can eliminate the ships’ noises, and that is something which even our very efficient friends (the Huns) have not yet been able to accomplish, I believe. At any rate, statements in their confidential books are made to the effect that a ship, in order to listen, must stop. We are also very considerably proud of the fact that it is the nimble minds at Base Six which has<ve> produced this instrument, and you may be sure that everything will be done here to forward its development. If possible, Lieutenant Commander Carter,4 now here, will give a short talk some day to the Commanding Officers of destroyers in port on the general subject of listening devices and of the K tube, and Beehler’s device in particular. In think this will be of some benefit to us in stirring up the interest of the Commanding Officers in the new installation. The Fessenden oscillators that were fitted to about half a dozen ships when they came over here have never given any good or satisfactory results, and I think that, as a consequence, some of our people are rather inclined to be skeptical with regard to the utility of a listening device. In this connection, I shall most certainly get hold of the PARKER’S reports and broadcast them among the ships.

          Regarding an officer for duty on General Pershing’s staff, I took the matter up immediately with Hanrahan5 and he turned it down flat. He does not wish to leave the destroyers, and even if he did wish to go, I would request you not to send him at present, at any rate. He is far too valuable a man in this organization to warrant his being sent to other duty unless the duty should be of such a nature that any<no>one else could not perform it and that it was more important than the duty he is now doing. I will look further into the situation and will recommend to you someone who will be able to fill the bill, and, if possible, to find someone who would like to go. We may have to take a man who does not wish the duty,as it is very difficult to find officers here who desire to leave.

          I am just in receipt of a letter from Mr. MacFarlane|6| in which he informs me of his safe arrival and of his intention to call upon me this afternoon. I will do the best I can for these gentlemen as usual, and trust that we may be written up in due and proper style, but I am very much afraid that in this particular instance the presence on the scene of Mrs. MacFarlane may not tend to “grease the wheels of literature” so to speak. The orders at this base prohibit absolutely the presence of women on board ship, and I do not propose to ask for a special dispensation for the benefit of Mrs. MacFarlane, as I do not think it is necessary that she should have one, and I do not think it desirable to ask for it. The Chief Censor was informed by telegram when the question of this visit arose that such orders existed, and was requested to inform Mrs. and Mrs. MacFarlane in the premises. Mr. MacFarlane’s note does not speak of his wife, and I do not know whether she is here or not.

          Messrs Higgins and Breede7 have not yet appeared over the horizon. I note your wishes in their regard, and shall endeavor to arrange matters so as to meet them.

     Conditions in this part of Ireland are, at present, to be described as abnormally calm. I am in a position, as you know, to get the benefit of all information which is received by the authorities here, and they are most courteous in the matter of furnishing it to me. It is the unanimous opinion of well informed men with whom I have talked that trouble of some sort or of some degree must be expected when the application of conscription to this country takes place. As an example of the conditions prevailing, I may mention that on Tuesday, 23 April, this country went completely and absolutely on strike. Shops were closed, railroad trains did not run, newspapers were not published, etc. etc., all of which was intended as a demonstration of the fact that the people are solidly arrayed against conscription. It is needless to go into the many different elements which go to make up the possibilities of trouble and doubtless you are as well aware of them as am I, therefore I confine myself to telling you as accurately as I can foresee how and where any disorders that may arise may affect us. The points most to be safe-guarded are those occupied by the different Air-Force detachments, and I am of the opinion that<,> if it is at all possible<,> there should be sent to each and every Air Station an officer of experience, tact, and discretion. At Aghada we have such an officer – (Peyton); at Wexford we have also an officer of experience – (Herbster); at Whiddy Island the detachment is commanded by a young Reserve Ensign by name of Peterson.8 I do not know who will take over the command of the Kite Balloon Station at Berehaven but<,> unless some officer should be sent here from elsewhere<,> it certainly cannot be a regular officer of any considerable amount of age and experience as, so far as I know, there are none such in Ireland beyond those whom I have mentioned. I discussed this matter with Admiral Bayly and he fully agrees with my idea – that it is very important to have officers of experience and discretion in command of the Air Force detachments.   Admiral Bayly says that it would be <“>no disadvantage<”> if the officer sent for this purpose could fly but that that was not the prime necessity. I think in any case that no trouble need be apprehended at Aghada, and it may prove that we shall never have any trouble at any of these points, but it would be well to provide a little insurance against it by the detail of some experienced officers, if they are available. As far as the prosecution of work is concerned, there is no doubt but what the conditions in the country have already affected that adversely. A certain percentage of the workmen have already stopped work at the various stations, and<,> on the day of my visit to Berehaven, there was not a single workman on the job. They have since returned but I do not know what percentage of the original force came back. No leave for any person is now given to visit Cork, and I presume that this is a condition which will continue for sometime to come, as it may be reasonably expected that conditions will be worse later on than what they are now. In connection with the possibilities of Cork, I enclose you a poster which was furnished to me, and I beg that you will be good enough to return it when you are through with it as it is the only one that I was able to get, and I am very anxious to keep it. (Sinn Fein Circular)9

          The day before yesterday, 25 April, Field Marshall Lord French10 visited Queenstown on a tour of inspection. I was invited to meet him at lunch at Admiralty House, and after lunch, Lord French, accompanied by Admiral Bayly, General Bryan Mahon (Commanding forces in Ireland), General Doran Commanding the Southern Division),11 and three A.D.Cs. inspected this ship. He had expressed a desire to see a destroyer, and upon the completion of his inspection of this ship, I took him to the SHAW, and he made a further inspection of that ship.

          Daniels12 arrived on Wednesday, 24 April, and will, I think, leave today. He has visited all parts of the Base and I believe he finds himself equipped with sufficient information to represent us.

          I trust this letter will not wear you out, but I have been very busy lately and unable to do much correspondence. Among other things I may mention that I spent yesterday submarine hunting with the Commander-in-Chief,13 on board the SHAW. We struck one false scent and that was all the luck we had.

Very sincerely yours,   

<JRPoinsett Pringle>    

Source Note: TCy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 79. Addressed below close: “Vice-Admiral William S. Sims, U.S.N.,/30 Grosvenor Gardens,/London, S.W. 1.”

Footnote 1: Located in Queenstown.

Footnote 2: Lt. WeymanP. Beehler’s listening device was being tested by destroyers for submarine detection. For more, see: Pringle to Sims 19 April 1918.

Footnote 3: Capt. Richard H. Leigh and Lt. Cmdr. Byron McCandless.

Footnote 4: Lt. Cmdr. Fidelio S. Carter.

Footnote 5: Cmdr. David C. Hanrahan and Maj. Gen. John J. Pershing, U.S.A., Commander, American Expeditionary Forces.

Footnote 6: Journalist Peter Clark MacFarlane of the Saturday Evening Post and his wife Florence E. MacFarlane.

Footnote 7: Otto P. Higgins of Kansas City Star and Adam Breede of Hastings Daily Tribune.

Footnote 8: Lt. Paul J. Peyton; Lt. Victor D. Herbster; and En. William Peterson, U.S.N.R.F.

Footnote 9: Sinn Féin was an Irish political organization advocating for independence from the United Kingdom. For more, see: Lewis Bayly to the Admiralty, 28 April 1918.

Footnote 10: Field Marshal John Denton Pinkston French, British Army.

Footnote 11: Adm. Sir Lewis Bayly, R.N., Commander-in-Chief, Coast of Ireland, Gen. Sir Bryan T. Mahon, British Army, Commander, Forces in Ireland, and Maj. Gen. Beauchamp J.C. Doran, Commander, Southern Division.

Footnote 12: Lt. Cmdr. Joseph F. Daniels.

Footnote 13: Reference to Adm. Bayly.

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