Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain William B. Fletcher, Commander, United States Patrol Squadrons Operating in French Waters, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

[Extract]

SECRET                                           Enclosure D

UNITED STATES PATROL SQUADRONS

Operating in European Waters

Flag Office.

           Brest, France

              25 August, 1917.

From:  Squadron Commander,

To:    Force Commander, U. S. Naval Forces, Operating in

              European Waters.

SUBJECT:  Escort of our transport into French ports.

References:  (a) My telegram 13528-July

             (b) Your telegram 17010-August

             (c) Your telegram 15516-August1

     1.  Difficulty is occurring in having vessels ready to meet transports bound for French ports escorted by our destroyers.

     The number of vessels capable of doing the work is limited and there are many other demands on them.

     In order to have sufficient time to arrange for meeting convoys it is desirable that as accurate and early information be given of their time of arrival as is possible.

     2.  For instance the sixth group was reported as having sailed (reference b) but the date and speed were not given and no estimate could be made of the probable time of arrival.

     3/  Group 5 which was reported as sailing the 30th of July, at 14 knots, was expected about the 10th of August and to meet it vessels were sent out the 9th. It did not arrive until the 13th, and those initially sent had to be relieved.

     4.  The sixth group arrived off St. Nazaire the morning of 21st August having made the trip there in about 10 days, if it sailed August 10th.    

     5.  In connection with this subject a memorandum has been received from the Capitaine de Vaisseau, Chief of Division of Patrol of Bretagne2 upon the subject of piloting transports through channels which are known to be safe when making French ports.

     6.  The following is suggested as a form of procedure to promote close cooperation between the destroyers from Queenstown acting as escorts for transports bound to the French Coast and Patrol Vessels in French Waters, and also to assure secrecy concerning rendezvous and land fall for the convoy.

     7.  Positions will be designated for an off shore point of arrival, off the French Coast and given to the destroyers before they leave for escort duty. Those positions will be assigned certain words or groups, to be used in subsequent radio communication between the escorting destroyers and the authorities in Brest.

     8.  For example; Information supplied to the Destroyers leaving Queenstown would be in this form:

                   Off Shore  Positions A-

Lat. N      Long W              Designators

48-20        7<°>- 003            Red

48- 00       7° -00              Blue

47 40        7° -00              Green. . .

                   Land Fall   Positions B-

Lat. N      Long W        Designators    Point of Approach

48°-14'      5°-20'          Rubber        Iroise, Brest

47°-35'      4°-30'          Sailor        Pte Penamarc’h

47°-25'      3°-30'          Pirate        Quiberon Bay- N

                                         of Belle Isle. . .

     9.  The escort with convoy being enroute for one of the off shore positions A. will report the point for which it is making and the time it will arrive there. It will then be directed to proceed to the Land Fall position-B.

     Patrol vessels will be in readiness on the line A-B to meet and pilot the convoy and its escort to destination.

     10.  For making Radio reports, the call signs given below would be used to establish communication and the messages coded in A. F. R. (B. K. W.) using one of the designating words assigned for that position.

     11.  For example: The WILKES convoying 5 transports to St. Nazaire is heading for 47° -- 00 N. 7°-00 W. and will arrive at that point at 5 a.m. Sept. 5th. She would radio to the Commander of the Brittany Patrols (C. D. P. B.)4 using one of the call signs, assigned to him, to call and establish communication then send the following message after it is coded in A. F. R.

     WILKES with 5 transports for St. Nazaire will arrive Indigo 5.00 a.m. Sept. fifth.” C. D. P. C. would answer,

              “Proceed following line Indigo-Thief.” This would assure the WILKES that his message was understood and that he would enter the L<o>ire by the south channel. C. D. P. B. would have vessels along that line to meet and pilot the convoy into that destination.

     12.  The Rendezvous could be used as a point of reference in making reports.

     For example: The WILKES could report:

     WILKES with 5 transports will arrive seventy five miles N 70° W. from Indigo at 10:00 p.m. fourth September bound to St. Nazaire.”

     13.  The destination being known or indicated C. D. F. B. knowing the local conditions, would in reply indicate a Land Fall position which would take the convoy to the most favorable channel.

     14.  This procedure insures secrecy and will give the convoy the benefit of the latest information about safe channels, by insuring their being met by the vessels sent to pilot them.

     15.  Call signs noted in paragraph 10 (above) are:

     Brest:  (Kerlaer)5 F. F. K.

     Lorient (Peumane)        F F L

     C. D. P. B.             I K

     C. D. P. B.             J Z

     C. D. P. B.              N U (--.--  ..--)6

      W. B. FLETCHER.7

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 125, Entry 30, Box 246.

Footnote 1: These communications have not been found but are discussed later in this cable.

Footnote 2: The Chief of the Division of Patrols of Bretagne was Contré-amiral Zépherin Alexander Antoine Schwerer, but he was gone from Brest and his assistant, Capitaine de Vaisseau Alfred François Marie Fatou, was in command. Ibid., p. 180, 194.

Footnote 3: This was originally typed as “70- 00” but someone wrote a degree symbol above the “0” and as is evident from the remainder of the series the correct rendition is 7°.

Footnote 4: That is, Chief of the Division of Patrols of Bretagne.

Footnote 5: Hervé Kerler, the officer in charge of handling communications at Brest.

Footnote 6: The second series of dots and dashes is Morse code for “u”; the first one, however, is not Morse code for “n”, which is -..

Footnote 7: Fletcher testified at his Court of Inquiry that this plan was accepted by Sims, who directed him to put into effect on 10 September 1917. Ibid., 59.

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