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Captain Richard H. Leigh, Staff of Force Commander, Operations Section, Anti-Submarine Division, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

<Cotten1 has worked hard, intelligently and with good results in establishing the base.>

U.S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

U.S.S. MELVILLE, Flagship.

Telephone, Victoria 9110               30. Grosvenor Gardens

Cable Address, “SIMSADUS”                        London, S.W.1

REFERENCE No. O.4.                     14th August, 1918.

Memorandum for Admiral Sims.

          SUBJECT: Matters to be taken up with Captain Cotten.


          Every one going to the Base, whether Officers or civilians, remark upon this, and it is very evident that the Chaser Officers are much dissatisfied. They are nearly all reserve Officers and I believe the Base Commander is entirely too formal and severe in his dealings with them.

          From conversation with Chaser Officers, I have formed the impression that they believe it out of the question to please either Captain Cotten or Mr. Ellyson,2 and whenever they are sent for, or anything goes the least bit wrong, their attitude is that of one who must stand from under – “a good jumping on” is going to be administered.

          His conferences are entirely too formal and it seems that all Officers are afraid to make a suggestion for fear Captain Cotten will criticise them in an ugly way and accuse them of a general lack of ordinary intelligence. As an illustration one Chaser Captain stated in my presence that he had been trying to get some base balls for his men. Cotten said – “there are plenty of base balls; where did you go” and when the Officer replied “to the Base Athletic Officer”, Cotten said “why didn’t you go to the ship’s cook?[”]

          In his associations with them generally ashore as well as at the Base, I believe he is quite too formal; whether or not he intends it, the impression is that he feels himself generally superior to those Officers; a sort of “high and mighty individual” who should be approached with due reverence.

CO-OPERATION with Le Breton (AYLWIN) and Brown (PARKER)3

          He has not gotten the service out of these two Officers and their vessels that he should have. They are two splendid Officers who went into this work with enthusiasm, ready to do anything and cut all red tape to do it; but who had been permitted to do practically nothing with the Chasers before the hunt on which I went on August 5th. The AYLWIN was idle for sixteen days when every day of the time there should have been co-operation with the Chasers, either outside or in port.

          The attitude of Captain Cotten seems to have been that he knew enough and resented outside help or suggestion.

RESTRICTIONS ON OFFICERS AND MEN which I think are not necessary.

          About 90 per cent of the time the Chasers secure in Units – that is three vessels of a unit alongside each other. One Officer and half the crew are always required to be on every Chaser. Officers and men are not allowed to leave Plymouth-Devonport and I was told that they could not go on a bicycle or automobile ride outside of Plymouth-Devonport.

          I suggest Officers and men be granted permission to visit London occasionally; they all want to very much.


          This is a trying time and Cotten promised me he would do away with it. The Chaser time is divided as follows -

1. Four days at sea.

2. Four days rest period. (Repair and clean, etc. ship)

3. Four days stand by and instruction.

          During one half of the stand by period, all h<ands> are kept on board except at certain times a part may leave for two hours.


          Generally speaking, Captain Cotten seems to resent suggestions even from headquarters.


          I believe this, with the exception of the machine shop where there is much delay, has come along about as well as could be expected under the circumstances. I do not think the delay is Cotten's fault.


          The training in listening is good. Gunnery training is badly needed.


          More interest should be taken in Athletics and the entertainment of the men while at the base. There should be detailed an Officer for this purpose.


          Special effort should be made to get good cooks on the Chasers and to keep them supplied with good food. I heard some complaint about the food.


          He should be cautioned to encourage in every way possible Professor Mason4 and those engaged in the experimental work on listening devices. Professor Mason feels hurt by the treatment accorded him by Cotten. While he did not tell me this, he stated that he would keep away from Cotten as much as possible on account of Cotten's attitude towards him.

R H Leigh          

<Have asked for a Flag Officer to command the base.>

Source Note: LTS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 52.

Footnote 1: Capt. Lyman A. Cotten, Commander, United States Naval Base at Plymouth, England.

Footnote 2: Cmdr. Theodore G. Ellyson, Cotten's Chief of Staff.

Footnote 3: Cmdrs. David McD. LeBreton and Wilson Brown, Jr.

Footnote 4: Charles Max Mason. A member of the Submarine Committee of the National Research Council, Mason had developed a submarine detection device that became the basis for the sonar detectors used in World War II.