Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations, to Commandants of the Navy Yards, and Chiefs of Naval Bureaus

[Extract]

CIRCULAR LETTER.

NAVY DEPARTMENT,

OFFICE OF NAVAL OPERATIONS,

CONFIDENTIAL

Washington, D.C., December 27, 1917.

From: Chief of Naval Operations.

To:- Commandants, U.S. Navy Yards, Portsmouth

     Boston,        New York,      Philadelphia,

     Washington,    Norfolk,       Charleston,

     New Orleans,   San Fransisco, Puget Sound.

Bureaus of Navigation,   Construction & Repair,

          Ordnance,      Steam Engineering.

SUBJECT: Fitting of Vessels for Armed Guards.

     1.   The following instructions relative to fitting vessels for Armed Guards which have been drawn up in greater detail or the purpose of securing uniformity of practice at the Several Navy Yards, will supersede the instructions previously issued. It is not desired, however, that changes be required in any vessel already fitted unless the experience with that particular vessel has demonstrated the inadequacy of the present arrangements or unless changes are necessary for the proper service of the guns, for the maintenance of an efficient lookout or for providing adequate life saving accommodations. In ordering changes of lesser importance, inspectors will give careful considerations to the arrangements practicable for carrying them out; the correction of a temporary inconvenience should not be allowed to delay the sailing of the vessel. . . .

          (b) Arc of fire: The guns should be mounted as high as necessary to obtain fire directly ahead or astern at a point on the water not over 150 yards from the vessel, and should have an unobstructed arc of fire of at least ninety (90) degrees on each side of the center line and as much additional as can be conveniently obtained. It will generally be necessary to mount the guns on raised platforms to as to clear windlass, bow chock, steering gear and other obstructions that cannot be removed. In cases where a forestay interference with the arc of fire and the stay cannot be shifted abaft the gun platform and still give sufficient support to the mast, this obstruction may be waived. . . .

     5.   PERSONNEL:

          The present policy of the Department in assigning gun crews to merchant vessels, is as follows: One Chief Petty Officer, two Petty Officers, eight men per gun, one signal man and three radio men. The above gives for a privately owned vessel carrying two guns, a total of 23 men. For vessels operating under army charter, there is assigned an additional signal man, making a total of 24 men for a vessel carrying two guns.

     6.   QUARTERS:

          (a) Commissioned Officer and Chief Petty Officer: The Commissioned Officer in command, when one is assigned and the Chief Petty Officer of the guard, whether or not a Commissioned Officer is assigned, will each be provided with a well ventilated room of the same general character as those of the Chief or First officer of the vessel. The room assigned the Commissioned Officer in command will be provided with a well built locker of about 5 cubic feet capacity fitted with a substantial lock, or other equivalent stowage for books and papers. A desk and chair should also be provided for writing purposes. In case a Commissioned Officer is not assigned, the room of the Chief Petty Officer of the guard, will be provided with stowage and writing facilities as specified for the commissioned officer in command.

          (b) Berthing and messing spaces: The remaining members of the guard will be provided with berthing and messing accommodations separate from the ship’s complement, of suitable size, with ample natural ventilation, with adequate artificial light, with natural light wherever practicable, and with adequate heating arrangements. For ventilation airports alone will not in general suffice, but there should be also deck ventilators if possible. A skylight will answer provided it need not be closed in rough weather. Quarters open into the same compartment as cold storage or provision rooms. The guard may be messed in their sleeping quarters if the latter are of sufficient size. There is no objection to providing berths for radio men in a compartment adjacent to but separate from the radio room, but providing berths in the radio room is not satisfactory. . . .

          (d) Equipment: A berth, and a locker of not less than 6 cubic foot capacity, should be installed for each member of the guard. A suitable mattress and one pillow should be provided by the owners, for each member of the guard. Mattresses stuffed with excelsior or corn husks will not be acceptable.

          (e) Toilet and washing facilities: Toilet and washing facilities should be assigned for the exclusive use of the guard and if the facilities on board ship, are not sufficient to permit this assignment, additional facilities should be provided. One wash basin for each ten men or less, one water closet for each fifteen men or less and one shower for each twenty-five men or less, will be considered sufficient. A fresh water tank of a capacity of approximately two gallons per man, should be located in or near the washroom so that fresh water for washing purposes will be readily accessible and the issue under control. It is expected that this task will be filled at least once a day. Some means of heating water should be provided. A small live steam line passing steam into the water, will be acceptable.

          (f) Shelters near guns: Where the quarters of the armed guard are not in the immediate vicinity of the gun there will be provided at each gun, shelter capable of accommodating six men. These shelters will be adequately heated and will be fitted with benches, shelves or other equivalent arrangement where the men can lie down fully clothed. The temporary shelters should be so located that the men are able to reach the gun for which it is installed, in 15 seconds. If the quarters are so located that either gun may be reached from the quarters in 15 seconds, a temporary shelter for that gun will not be required. . . .

     10. LOOKOUT STATIONS:

          (b) Elevated Lookout Stations: The vessels should have two elevated lookout stations, each large enough to accommodate two men. Those lookout stations should be either crows nests on the masts or on the top of a deck house, should the latter location give a better command. One position should be forward and one abaft the smoke pipes. The lookout stations should be sheathed with metal or wood to a height of 4’6” and should be fitted with a solid bottom. Suitable means for reaching the lookout stations by grab rods, Jacob ladders or equivalent should be provided.

     11.  ALARM GONG SYSTEM:

          This system should consist of a watertight locking type push button or contact maker centrally located on the bridge with a gong in each sleeping or mess room, assigned to the armed guard, including shelters at guns. Gongs should be of the vibrating type and at least 6 inches in diameter. . . .

W. S. BENSON.

Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document reference: “28754-1:25/86/Op-24-D.” Addressed below close: “Copies to:-U. S. Shipping Board,/Emergency Fleet Corporation,/All Superintending Constructors, and Inspectors of Machinery/Where vessels are building.

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