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 the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations

Chronological Copy.                             File No.

Cablegram Sent April 30, 1918 MJK

To   Opnav Washington                  Serial No. 7281.

Prep. by  CS                 NCT1 D.R.

40 ADR            

VERY SECRET.

7281.     Allied Naval Council held meetings in Paris April twenty-six and twenty-seventh. Council confirmed action of emergency meeting March twenty-third for consideration of Archangel situation as printed in paper number ninety-three. In further consideration of Archangel and Mourmansk situation information was placed before the council indicating a possibility of local Russian or Finnish forces joining the Allies in protecting the Kola Inlet against German aggression. The Council reaffirmed the opinion previously expressed desirable Allies to maintain relations with Russia and to continue occupation of Mourmansk for that purpose, but that they would not be able to provide for the transport, escort and maintenance of any military expedition to Mourmansk.2

     It was decided that any joint action taken by the Allied Powers in consequence of the infringement of neutral territorial waters by the enemy would be confined to the waters concerned, and that no joint action involving the territorial waters of other neutrals would be either justifiable or practicable.

     It was decided to continue the study of the Adriatic project through the medium of a Committee to meet in Rome on May fifteenth to examine there certain plans of operation already in existence. Captain H.E. Yarnell and Lieutenant Colonel R.H. Dunlap3 have been ordered to represent me on this Committee.

     Council agreed that to meet possible situation arising from acquisition by Germany of the Russian Black sea Fleet certain counter measures must be decided upon, and that such of them should be at once placed into force as would not be capable of being quickly adopted if and when the emergency arose.

     The conclusions were briefly these:

     First: Allied Naval Forces in Mediterranean sufficient, but redistribution required.

     Second: Aegean Squadron to be at once reinforced by six French battleships, which with British LORD NELSON and AGEMEMNON4 shall be stationed at an Aegean base.

     Third: Four Italian dreadnought battleships to be moved from Taranto to Corfu for permanent incorporation in the Fleet under the Allied Commander-in-Chief at that place.5

     Fourth: Plans to be drawn and necessary arrangements made for allocation to the Aegean Squadron and to the combined Fleet at Corfu of a sufficient number of destroyers.

     Fifth: A sufficient force of submarines to be similarly allocated to the Aegean Squadron.

     Sixth: Plans to be drawn up immediately for additional minefields at the mouth of the Dardanelles, and for the use of nets and other anti-submarine devices in the approaches thereto, and in the various channels leading from the Aegean.

     Italian Admiral6 while agreeing in principle to the transfer of Italian battleships to Corfu, did not concur in the general conclusions reached by the other members, and submitted a dissenting report. It was apparent that Italian Admiral was instructed to agree in principle to transfer of battleships, but to obstruct the plan by raising allpossible objections to its practical execution. He spoke at great length and with considerable heat on this subject at two sessions of the council, and in private session with the French representative.7 As Vice Admiral di Revel is both Chief of Staff and Commander-in-Chief of the Fleet he loses the most important part of his command by this transfer of battleships and his opposition may be due in part to personal motives, but it is thought that the policy now controlling the Italian Navy is one of saving their ships so as to be superior to Austria after the war. It is the impression in the British admiralty that Admiral di Revel must be removed from both of his present positions before any real work can be expected from the Italian Navy.8

     The next ordinary meeting of the Council will probably be at Paris on June eleventh. 23501 7281

SIMS.        

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

Footnote 1: Sims’ Chief of Staff, Capt. Nathan C. Twining.

Footnote 2: At the end of April, intelligence reports indicated there existed a strong possibility that the Finnish White Guard might try to seize Murmansk and Archangel, thereby take control of the Kola Inlet and closing the White Sea as a result. Sims certainly recognized the political value of protecting the Russian city and its port, telling his colleagues on the Allied Naval Council, “it is necessary to do everything we can to keep the sympathy of Russia so that if the time comes when conditions change in that country, the Russians will again join with the Allies, and the fact that we have done everything possible to maintain ourselves in the White Sea ports against the Germans may perhaps have a considerable influence in that respect.” Nevertheless, Sims and the other members of the Allied Naval Council did not support sending naval reinforcements unless they were backed up by military reinforcements as well. As this was not possible given demands elsewhere, the best the Allies could do was dispatch limited reinforcements. Overall, the Council preferred to concentrate naval forces in the Atlantic and Mediterranean so as to fight the German submarine threat, placing a clear value over questions of strategy rather than political consideration. Trask, Captains and Cabinets, 214-215; for the quotation from Sims, see, British memorandum on Murmansk, Archangel, Finland, Minutes of the Third Meeting, ANC, April 19, 1918, Appendix 5, DNA, RG, 45, Entry 520.

Footnote 3: Capt. Harry E. Yarnell, and Lt. Col. Robert H. Dunlap, USMC.

Footnote 4: H.M.S. Agamemnon.

Footnote 5: Adm. Sir Somerset Arthur Gough-Calthorpe, Commander, Mediterranean Fleet.

Footnote 6: VAdm. Paolo Thaon di Revel.

Footnote 7: The French Representative to Inter-Allied Naval Council was Minister of the Marine George Leygues.

Footnote 8: Although Sims shared the British distaste for di Revel and his tactics, he did recognize that his position-and that of the Italian government-derived from important raisons d’etat. Consequently, Sims remained willing to work with the di Revel and the Italian government to quell their concerns, while still pressing for the policies in the Mediterranean the rest of the Allied Naval Council supported. Trask, Captains and Cabinets, 255-256; see also: Sims to Benson, 30 April 1918.

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