Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Documentary Histories

War Diary of U.S.S. Wenonah



Base Nine,

April 4, 1918. 

Memorandum for Commander, Base Nine1

Notes on Convoy Duty

from March 22nd to April 1, 1918, inclusive. . . .

March 26th_

     Zigzagging as before on port bow of convoy. At 12:21 A.M. a loud report was heard from the direction of the convoy, followed by reports of gun fire, and smoke. At 12:22 Wenonah went to General Quarters. At 12:30 sound of escaping steam was heard and a column of steam was seen ascending from the Italian S.S.VOLTURNO, which commenced dropping astern.2 About a half-hour later, intercepted radiogram from H.M.S. JEANETTE II (S.O.P.),3 to Bizerta – “VOLTURNO torpedoed”. . . . At 1:00 A.M. course was changed. Ships in convoy, 14; escorts, 4; one trawler having remained behind with torpedoed VOLTURNO.

     At 5:21 A.M. again went to General Quarters upon sighting a suspicious object on the port hand, which later developed to be nothing to cause suspicion. At 5:24 A.M., with guns still trained on the last object mentioned to port, a submarine was sighted nearly awash to starboard, about 1000 yards distant, having come to the surface about 800 yards directly in front of the convoy. Increased speed somewhat and commenced firing on submarine with other ships of the convoy. At 5:27 A.M., having fired 12 - 3" shots, many of which took effect on the submarine, cease firing was ordered, so as not to endanger ships of convoy with fall of shot. At 5:45 secured from General Quarters. From an intercepted radiogram from H.M.S.JEANETTE II (S.O.P.) to Bizerta, sent about 7:00 A.M., it was learned that the submarine fired upon was French submarine WATT4. . . .

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 76. U.S.S. Wenonah was an armed yacht, Lt. Cmdr. Paul E. Speicher commanding. At the time of this entry, it was escorting convoys between Gibraltar and Bizerte, Tunisia. DANFS.

Footnote 1: RAdm. Albert P. Niblack. “Base Nine” was Gibraltar.

Footnote 2: S.S. Volturno was a 11,495-ton steamer sunk by U.B. 50 off Bone, Algeria.

Footnote 3: H.M.S. Jeanette II was an armed yacht. “S.O.P.” was the senior officer present, which meant the captain of Jeanette II commanded the escort group.

Footnote 4: Wenonah’s fire killed the commanding officer of Watt and wounded five of the crew, including one fatally. DANFS.