Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

AC. 13200     25-13-12                5th April, 1918.

FROM:  Force Commander.

TO  :  Secretary of the Navy (Operations).

SUBJECT:  General Report.

     1.   ENEMY SUBMARINE OPERATIONS.

Week 17th - 23rd March.

     During the week 17th - 23rd March, it is estimated that thirteen large submarines have been out, five being vessels of the converted “Deutschland” type. Of the latter, one wasin latitude 32° 13’N. long. 10° 57’W. on the 18th March and is probably homeward bound, while the other four are to the westward of the Straits of Gibraltar at about longitude 21°W and between latitudes 29°N. and 39°N.

     The remaining large boats have been mostly operating on the north, east and south coasts of Ireland and at the western entrance to the English Channel. The Irish Sea and the English Channel, especially the latter, have been the chief areas of activity while there has been considerable activity in the Mediterranean.

     The following table gives more detailed particulars of the enemy’s activities:–

AREA

 Average No. of s-ms in area per day.

North Sea, South of 53° 30’ N.

-

North Sea, North of 53° 30’ N.

3 – 4

N.W. of Ireland and Scotland

3 – 4

S.W. of Ireland

1 – 2

Irish Sea and Bristol Channel

2 – 3

English Channel and approaches

4 – 5

Atlantic

5

Bay of Biscay

1

 

ENGAGEMENTS.

     Reports of twenty-two encounters with enemy submarines have been received as follows:-

5 by T.B.D’s. [Torpedo Boast Destroyers]

9 by Auxiliary Patrol.

1 by Special Service Ship.

3 by Aircraft.

4 by Merchant Vessels.

GENERAL INFORMATION.

     On 18th March H.M.S. MYSTIC sighted a submarine and dropped three depth charges, probably damaging the enemy.

     As a result of the offensive action of the Dover Trawler and Drifter Patrol a submarine was probably destroyed in the minefield on March 19th.

     On 20th March four ships in a “local” Mediterranean Convoy were sunk at the same time and place, all apparently by the same submarine (50 miles N. by E of Port Said).

     A German submarine (U.B. 48) put into Ferrol [Galicia, Spain] on March 23rd with engine defects, and has been interned. This possibly may be the vessel which was reported to have been shelled by U.S. T.B.D. REID on 18th March or H.M.S. LOYAL.

     Towards the end of the week activity on the cross Channel Southampton – Havre route was on the increase, at least three submarines apparently being concentrated on this route, possibly in connection with the German offensive on land.

Week 24-30 March.

     During the week 24 – 30 March, it is estimated that 13-17 large submarines were out, five being vessels of the converted Deutschland type. Of the latter, one is homeward bound (probably in the North Sea) three are somewhere to the westward of Portugal and the other is in the vicinity of the Canary Islands.

     The remaining large boats have been mainly operating in the Irish Sea, to the south of Ireland, and in the English Channel, and these areas and the North Sea have been those of greatest activity.

     The following table gives more detailed particulars of the enemy’s activities:–

AREA

Average No. of s-ms in

area per day.

North Sea, S of 53° 30’

-

North Sea, N of 53° 30’

6 – 7

N.W. of Ireland and Scotland

2 – 3

S.W. of Ireland

1 – 2

Irish Sea and Bristol Channel

3 – 4

English Channel and approaches

4 – 5

Bay of Biscay

1

Atlantic

5

 

ENGAGEMENTS.

     Reports of twenty-five encounters with enemy submarines have been received as follows:-

4 by T.B.D’s.

2 by “P” class vessel.

1 by Sloop.

8 by Auxiliary Patrol.

8 by Aircraft

2 by Merchant Vessels.

GENERAL INFORMATION.

     An enemy submarine [was] attacked by Drifter “SPECULATION” and trawler “Lark 11” with depth charges on March 10th off St.Ives and has now been located on the bottom by divers.

     It is reported that an enemy submarine entered Santoria (Greece) fl<y>ing Allied colours, and sank four ships. She was engaged by the garrison for an hour, then dived and made off.

     2.   ENEMY MINE LAYING.

Week 17th to 23rd March.

     The only marked activity to record was in the Nore and Portsmouth areas, though some mines were also laid off Lowestoft and Dover.

     Special arrangements are now in force to obviate holding up shipping longer than is absolutely necessary between the Thames and Lowestoft in the case of the War Channel being mined. Other precautions, such as traffic keeping astern of sweepers in this critical area, have been taken.

     Sixty-sevem mines were destroyed.

Week 24 - 30 March.

     The Clyde area has again been visited after a very short interval. This may perhaps be accounted for by the fact that the mines laid in February were inside the Cumbrae, and those recently laid outside, making it a simple matter to avoid the first locality whilst carrying out the second operation.

     The S.S. DRYDEN was damaged by striking a sunken mine in the Crosby Channel,Liverpool. Under these circumstances it is under consideration whether it should be enforced that vessels proceeding over localities where there may be unexploded mines on the bottom must have at least three feet of water beneath them.

     Thirty-three mines were destroyed.

     3.   CONVOYS.

          Tables giving statistics and particulars of vessels under organized convoy for weeks ending 23rd and 30th March are attached to this report.1

     4.   ANTI SUBMARINE OPERATIONS.

Week 21 March, 1918.

K-TUBES.

     Tests with towing K-tubes with the type of fish having three K-tube units, have been conducted during the past week without satisfactory results. Reports of the three K-tube outfits which were brought to England by Captain Leigh,2 and which have been placed in trawlers operating in Northern waters, indicate that during the past week no satisfactory results have been obtained, owing to the very bad conditions of the cable. New cable will be available about April 2nd, and these outfits will then be placed in commission. During the past week, twelve K-tube outfits complete have arrived in England. While these K0tube outfits were ordered in connection with a proposed Dover Strait barrage, they will very likely not be used for that purpose, on account of the fact that tripods and cable are not yet available. Three of these outfits will be immediately placed in trawlers in the Channel, and three sets will be used for instructional purposes – the remainder being held in store for the present. An examination of the 25 K-tube compensators received from the United States indicates that the inspection at home was very poor. A cablegram has been sent to the Bureau of Steam Engineering about this matter.3

U.S.S. AYLWIN.

     The U.S.S. AYLWIN is now in dry dock at Portsmouth, and there are being installed on board of her, one M-B (Mason device) and one 4-spot device, brought over from the United States by Lieutenant Dominick.4 As previously reported, three K-tube units are also being installed in a forward trimming tank of theAYLWIN. This work should be completed on the 23rd instant, when, after a preliminary tests, the AYLWIN will be sent in the Channel on a hunt.

U.S.S. LAMSON.

     A four-spot (Mason device) brought from the United States by Lieutenant Dominick, has been installed on the LAMSON, now at the Naval Dockyard, Chatham. The LAMSON will probably leave the Yard on the 27th instant<, when a> preliminary test will be held of the outfit.

S.C. TUBES.

     To date, 23 trawlers have been equipped with S.C. tubes. The present plan is to equip from three to four trawlers a week with these devices.

MAGNETIC DEVICES.

     These tests which were conducted with the magnetic devices referred to in last weekly letter5 as being developed by Mr. Hunter, an electrical engineer now in the employ of the Admiralty, showed the necessity for having much larger electrodes than had been placed on the P-Boat which is being used for experimental purposes. The electrodes which are now being installed will consist of two units on each side of the vessel, located very near the keel and covering an area of about 1 foot by 8 feet. In the previous tests, about 70 amperes current was used: it is the intention with the new electrodes, to use 250 amperes current, with which it is believed considerable increase in range will be obtained.

     The experiments with the smaller electrodes showed the necessity of placing the electrodes further below the water line than had originally been done.6

DEEP WATER TRIPODS.

     Satisfactory progress has been made in the construction of tripods to be used in deep water of about 500 fathoms. Fourteen of these tripods are now under construction for use in Otranto Strait. Satisfactory progress is also being made in the construction of deep water K-tube units for use on these tripods.

Week ending 28 March.

K-TUBES.

     One complete K-tube outfit has been installed on each of the three trawlers which are to engage in the next hunt in the Channel with the AYLWIN. These K-tubes are new ones recently arrived from the United States, and preliminary tests show that they operate very satisfactorily.

     Tests have continued with the towing K-tubes during the past week, and the results have been somewhat better than heretofore, with a speed of about 9 knots, after an interval of 90 seconds, it has been possible to obtain the direction of a submarine at a distance of about 1,000 yards, when making a speed of about 4 knots. Two different types of towed K-tube fish were used, a description of which has already been sent to the Bureau of Steam Engineering.

S.C. “C” TUBES.

     While on patrol duty with the trawler unit – of which the JAMES BENTOLE is the Flag Ship – off Portland during the past week, an enemy submarine was picked up by one of the S.C. “C” tubes. The Nash Fish had been out, and periodic readings taken on the it, but in this case the submarine was first picked up by the S.C. “C” tube. The submarine was distinct<ly> heard and correct bearing given, and an estimate was made of the distance – about 700 yards. Immediately after picking up the submarine on the S.C. “C” tube, the trawler got underway, and thereafter used the Nash Fish. The submarine was chased in close to the shore, where water noises were so great that it could no longer be followed.

NASH FISH.

     The Admiralty has placed orders for 192 Nash Fish altogether. About 60 have already been installed in trawlers, and six in sloops and destroyers. It is understood that no more Nash Fish will be ordered pending the development of a simpler fish of the towing K-tube type.

U.S.S. AYLWIN.

     Test of the various devices installed on the AYLWIN were conducted during the past week, and full report has been sent to the Bureau of Steam Engineering, and a copy to the Special Board Anti-Submarine Devices.7 The general conclusions drawn from these tests were that the devices could be graded, according to their efficiency as follows:-

(1)         M-B (Mason Device)

(2)         Fessenden Oscillator.

(3)         K-tubes in tanks.

(4)         4-Spot (Mason Device).

Unfortunately, the M-B tube installed on the AYLWIN, owing to carelessness in its operation, was wrecked, necssitatting the return of the AYLWIN to the Naval Dockyard, Portsmouth, where a new M-B tube is being installed. This installation should be completed today, when the AYLWIN will proceed to Portland, where she will have a course of training for two days with the hunting group which is to accompany her on her next hunt in the Channel.

U.S.S. LAMSON.

     The installation of the 4 Spot Mason Device on the U.S.S. LAMSON has been completed, and that vessel has returned to Brest. Lieutenant Dominick was sent on board of her to instruct in the use of this device. Upon completion of his duty in this connection, he will return to Naval Headquarters, London.

MAGNETIC DEVICES.

     Further experiments are today being conducted with the Hunter magnetic device, which is installed one one of the P-boats. The Callendar magnetic device has been installed on two P-boats, which are now ready for service. Six other P-boats will be equipped with similar outfits.

TRIPODS.

     A K-tube tripod is being placed at a distance of five miles from shore at Portland. This device will be used for training men at the listeners’ school at Portland in the use of the K-tube compensator.

LISTENER PERSONNEL.

     A report from the trawlers indicates that in most cases the listeners who were sent from the United States, and who have been detailed to trawlers, are giving very satisfactory service.

     5.   FORCES BASED ON QUEENSTOWN.

REFITS.

     The ALLEN has been sent to Cammel Lairds for refitting.

     The CUS[H]ING has completed her refit.

U.S.S. CAMDEN.

     The CAMDEN arrived at Base 6 on March 20 and is being discharged as rapidly as possible. It is expected that her discharge will be completed about 7 April. It will be necessary to give this vessel about 2000 tons of ballast and this may be taken in the form of coal.

BALLYBRICKEN HOUSE at RINGASKIDDY.

     The development of the Ballybricken House at Ringaskiddy into a barracks is being proceeded with; when finished the building will be used for overflow from the MELVILLE and DIXIE in order that the repair shops will not be used as berthing space on the above vessels. This will enable repair facilities to be worked to full capacity.

BASE HOSPITAL, WHITE POINT.

     Preliminary surveying work in connection with the establishment of the Base Hospital No.4 at White Point is under way.

NUCLEUS CREWS.

     Nucleus crews Nos.17 and 18 were sent to the United States by an American Line Steamer sailing from Liverpool 21 March. Nucleus Crews Nos. 19, 20, 21, and 22 will be ready for transfer by the end of the present month.

U.S.S. MANLEY.

     A report on the accident to the U.S.S. MANLEY, which occurred about 8:10 a.m. 19 March, submitted by Commander R.L.Berry, the Commanding Officer, is attached to this report.8 Further report will be submitted.

     A Court of Inquiry on the U.S.S. MANLEY met at Queenstown on March 28.

     Latest information with reference to the list of dead and injured shows that a total of 34 men ar e dead or missing and a total of twenty-two are injured.

U.S.S. STOCKTON.

     The U.S.S. STOCKTON has been in collision with the troop transport SLIEVEBLOOM in the Irish Sea. The troops were taken off the STOCKTON and ERICSSON: the troopship sank.

     The STOCKTON’s bow was carried away aft to the anchor engine. She is now in Liverpool for repairs.

     No one on board the STOCKTON was injured by the collision.

VISIT OF THE FIRST SEA LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY TO QUEENSTOWN.

     Vice Admiral Sir R.Wemyss has paid a visit to Base 6.

Upon his return he despatched a letter to the Force Commander expressing his admiration for the efficiency of our forces there and for the co-operation between the two Services. Copy of this letter is attached to this report.9

CONDITIONS AT QUEENSTOWN.

     Conditions at Queenstown remain normal.

     There are attached several copies of programmes of entertainment held at the Men’s Club.

NAVAL TRAINING BARRACKS.

     During week ending March 18th, 270 men were received and eighteen transferred.

     The naval academy class is progressing satisfactorily[;] four new candidates reporting during the week and one transferred back to his ship, making a total of fourteen candidates in the class.

     The Radio School has 36 men who will be available for transfer after further study of code books recently received.

     During the week ending March 25,, 135 men were received for General Detail, 79 for Nucleus Crews, and one for Naval Academy Class, making in all 214 men. There were transferred – 48 men nucleus crews to United States, 110 to ships from General Detail, making a total of 158.

     There are now at the barracks 623 men which number includes 67 men in Nucleus Crews and 14 in the Naval Academy Class

     Nine men have volunte<e>red for submarine duty.

     Incoming drafts of men who have been exposed to contagious disease have been isolated as much as possible but complete isolation is not practicable.

     When such drafts are received, every precaution is taken to prevent infection from spreading in the barracks.

     Two 50-foot motor sailing launches have been received, and are used for the transportation of liberty men and working parties.

     6.   FORCES BASED ON BREST.

     A copy of weekly report for week ending 23 March from the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces in France is attached hereto.10

     7.   FORCES BASED ON GIBRALTAR.

     The report of Commander, Patrol Squadrons based on Gibraltar for week ending 16 March is attached hereto.11

     8.   FORCES BASED ON AZORES.

     No reports.

          9.   BATTLESHIP DIVISION NINE

     Copies of reports from Commander, Battleship Division Nine for weeks ending 23rd March and 30 March are forwarded with this report.12

     10.  U.S. NAVAL AVIATION FORCES FOREIGN SERVICE.

     There is attached hereto a report for week ending March 16th by Commander U.S. Naval Aviation Forces Foreign Service.13

     11.  GENERAL.

     There is forwarded with this report copy of report by Charles P.Martin, Chief Quartermaster U.S.N.R.F. in charge of the Armed Guard of the ATLANTIC SUN.14

     The trip across the Atlantic of the first consignment of 110, 70-ton submarine chasers indicated that they are excellent sea boats, and in fact, seaworthy to a remarkable degree.

     They take seas from any direction easily and gracefully and it is believed that, if properly handled, they will survive any weather.

     The<y> lie naturally broadside to the wind when without headway. Their best position is with the wind and see about three point<s> on the bow. If given too much speed they may broach and may be beaten down by heavy seas as occurred in one case. In this case the boat was thrown on her beam ends with the pilot house in water up to the windows but recovered easily.

     The question of supplying gasoline to the 110 ft. chasers when they arrive on this side and when finally distributed has been taken up.

     An abandoned steamer was found in the middle of the Irish Sea with a few dead bodies on board. She is being towed in.

     As an example of the ability of submarines to keep the sea, informationhas been received of a case where a submarine followed a north sea convoy when it reported the weather too bad for destroyers

     Rear Admiral Niblack reports from Gibraltar that owing to high market prices and frequent shortage of fresh provisions, the daily cost of rations for ships without pay officers is about 70 cents.

     Vice Admiral de Bon, Chief of Staff of the French Navy has written a letter to the Force Commander commending the Captain and crew of the tug PENOBSCOT for their courage and devotion in assisting submarine chaser 29 on January 15 in extremely heavy weather.15 The tug kept in touch with the chaser by means of a light boat. The Force Commander is asked to present to the Captain and crew of the PENOBSCOT the thanks of Vice Admiral de Bon and the felicitations of the French Navy.

     Evidence continues to accumulate to the effect that U.S. Naval signalmen assigned to Merchant Ships are not efficient. This evidence has been obtained from our destroyers, from British Convoy Commanders, and it is also understood that the Commanding Officers of U.S.Cruisers who escort mercantile convoys report to the same effect. It is frequently heard that British Signalmen are very efficient in comparison with ours.

     In illustration of this [it] might be cited that our destroyers report that the principal troubles in signaling which they have with merchant ships are with the American Line which carry U.S. Naval Signalmen and also that they have experienced difficulty with Naval Transports, particularly the LEVIATHAN.

     This subject is mentioned merely as a matter of information in order that steps may be taken by the Department to improve the training of our signalmen. It has been suggested by a number of officers that one of the reasons for British Signalmen being more efficient than ours is that a regular system of promotion in the signal branch exists in the British Navy together with extra compensation. It is stated that in our service, on the contrary[,] promotion in the signal branch is not good. Men cannot reach Warrant Rank and that hence the best signalmen either go into radio work, quartermasters or other branches.

CONCERNING SOLUTION OF SUBMARINE PROBLEMS.

     The Force Commander feels very strongly that the only promising effective solution of the submarine problem lies in the field of listening devices. Escort vessels with convoys are effective in direct proportion to their numbers. It is apparent, however, that we cannot hope to have sufficient escort vessels for adequate protection for some time if ever. Escort, regardless of its temporary effectiveness in protecting shipping, is not a solution of the problem presented to naval warfare by the submarine methods of our enemy.

     The submarine has two simple but all important advantages over surface craft which must be overcome before an effective offensive can ever be undertaken against them. They are –

(a)    That the submarine can see the surface craft at so much greater distance than the surface craft can see the submarine.

(b)    That the submarine once submerged has disappeared as efficiently as if by an act of magic.

     Once the listening device can be developed to an efficient point, the submarine will be brought back into the field of surface warfare, and can be met by the same tactics as have been the subject of all study and drill in the past.

     Regardless of the efficiency of any listening device, its progress of development is largely dependent upon the interest of those who must use it being properly aroused.

     It is the history for all equipment designed for naval uses that, until the personnel who must use it are convinced of its value, its progress is slow and unsatisfactory. Once the personnel afloat become interested and convinced of its value, its mechanical development as well as the essential tactics which must be developed in connection with it will be forthcoming.

     All other measures taken to oppose the submarine such as patrolling, mine and net barriers, and so forth are, in the last analysis ineffective. It is for the above reasons that the Force Commander has so urgently recommended the expedition of the submarine chasers which are destined for service in the war zone.

     The Force Commander is free to acknowledge that he did not lay particular stress upon the completion of the submarine chasers in the past. This was because he had not been informed of the progress of American listening devices. As soon as Captain Leigh came aboard with full information of the work which had been done in connection with these devices, the value of the submarine chasers at once became apparent. Without listening devices these vessels are of little use.

     It is <h>oped that every effort will be made to expedite the arrival of submarine chasers equipped with listening devices in the war zone, pressing into service all mercantile craft which can be used for their convoy, even resorting to use of battleships<,> if by such means the transfer of submarine chasers to the war zone may be expedited.

     It is the Force Commanders intention to concentrate all submarine chasers in areas were submarines are most likely to be found, using them solely for offensive action in hunting groups, supported by destroyers as fast as the latter became available.

     It in of course goes without saying that the effectiveness of listening devices in the campaign against submarines will be greatly increased as soon as they can be used on destroyers. Destroyers have the ideal characteristics for anti-submarine craft, that is, seaworthiness, armament, speed, and cruising radius, and hence constitute the only craftwhich can be depended upon to follow the submarine into all possible fields of its activity.

     The development of the listening device should therefore be primarily aimed towards its use on destroyers. Every effort will be put forward by destroyers under this command to develop the devices which are supplied to them and the tactics which are so essential to their efficient use.

Wm. S. Sims.                

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

Footnote 1: This enclosure is no longer with the document.

Footnote 2: Capt. Richard H. Leigh, an American expert in listening devices.

Footnote 3: This document has not been located.

Footnote 4: Gayer G. Dominick, U.S.N.R.F.

Footnote 6: Magnetic Anomaly Detection devices were not successful and did not achieve wide scale use during the war. Shaul Katzir, “Who knew piezoelectricity? Rutherford and Langevin on submarine detection and the invention of sonar,” The Royal Society, 20 June 2012, Vol. 66, Issue, 2, Accessed on 9 march 2018, http://rsnr.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/66/2/141.

Footnote 7: While a copy of this report has not been located, the War Diary of AYLWIN, 4 April 1918 provides some detail of the tests conducted and their initial results.

Footnote 8: Robert L. Berry. Berry’s report is no longer with this document and has not been subsequently located.

Footnote 9: Sir Rosslyn Wemyss. For Wemyss’ letter, see: Wemyss to Sims, 26 March 1918.

Footnote 10: RAdm. Henry B Wilson. Wilson’s report has not been located.

Footnote 11: RAdm. Albert P. Niblack. Niblack’s report has not been located.

Footnote 12: RAdm. Hugh M. Rodman. For Rodman’s reports, see, Rodman to Sims, 24 March 1918 and Rodman to Sims 1 April 1918, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520.

Footnote 13: Capt. Hutchinson I. Cone. Cone’s report has not been subsequently located.

Footnote 14: This report is no longer with this document.

Footnote 15: Adm. Ferdinand Jean Jacques de Bon. De Bon’s letter has not been located.

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