Captain Nathan C. Twining, Chief of Staff, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels
11th February, 1918.
From: Chief of Staff to Vice Admiral W.S. Sims, U.S.N.
To : Secretary of the Navy (Operations)
Subject: General Report.
1. ENEMY SUBMARINE OPERATIONS.
During the week 27th January to 2nd February, fourteen to sixteen large enemy submarines were out, four being vessels of the converted “Deutschland” type. Two of the latter were probably to the southward of the Canary Islands, one was last heard of on January 28th 100 miles west of Cape St. Vincent apparently bound south, and the other is on her voyage out.
Of the remaining large boats, probably nine to twelve have been operating in the waters around the British Isles (except the North Sea) the greatest activity having been experienced in the Irish Sea, off the North Coast of Cornwall, and in the western end of the English Channel.
Toward the close of this period and during the following week, for which complete reports are not yet to hand, there was a revival of submarine activity north of Ireland which resulted in the loss of three large steamers – the ANDANIA, AURANIA and TUSCANIA. The two former were outward bound, the latter inward bound and carrying U.S. troops.1 On the same night that the TUSCANIA was sunk, the ALAMANCE of the same convoy was sunk further south in the Irish Sea.
Further details regarding the sinkings of these vessels will be given in a subsequent portion of this report.
The following table gives more detailed particulars of
the enemy’s activities in British Home Waters during week 27th January to 2nd February -
Average No. of
submarines in area per day
North Sea, S. of 53° 30'
North Sea, N. of 53° 30'
N.W. of Ireland and Scotland
2 - 3
S.W. of Ireland
Irish Sea and Bristol Channel
English Channel and approaches
2 - 4
Bay of Biscay
3 - 4
Reports of twelve encounters with enemy submarines have been received, as follows -
1 by T.B.D.
3 by Auxiliary Patrol
2 by Aircraft.
6 by Merchant Vessels.
2. MINE LAYING BY SUBMARINES.
The week under review was very quiet and there was no marked activity to record in any area except the Shetlands. Twenty-six mines were destroyer most of which belonged to groups referred to in report for previous week.
Subsequent to the week referred to, mines were found off Harwich and off the mouth of the Humber concerning which a more detailed report will be submitted later. . . .
4. ANTI-SUBMARINE OPERATIONS
Tests with towing “K” tube units continue,2 but nothing satisfactory has been reached with three microphone units in the towing body. A “K” tube unit, consisting of two microphones in a towing body in tandem has been developed which has proven fairly satisfactory. This device is to be given a test under war conditions within the next week or ten days.
On February 2nd a series of tests were conducted in the British Channel with the compensators which have been made at Manchester under the direction of the Lancashire Anti-submarine Committee. The object of the test was to determine whether the apparatus as built in England would give the same satisfactory results as the apparatus brought from America. The conclusions drawn from the test were that practically the same results could be obtained. . . .
Further tests of the submarine “C” tube installed on board the E-43 are now taking place in the North Sea under war conditions – the E. 43 having gone out for regular weekly patrol.3 Further report will be made upon her return as to the usefulness of this device.
Tests with the Fessenden Oscillator on the AYLWIN were conducted on February 2nd, with a British submarine in the Solent. The conditions for the test were bad; the weather was thick and the submarine Captain did not care to submerge for a long interval, and the test could not be conducted throughout with a submerged submarine. There was also a great deal of shipping in the harbor and it was almost impossible at any time to be free of ships’ noises. However with the AYLWIN running at a speed of 5 knots, the British submarine running at a speed of 2 knots was detected at a distance of 500 yards and the contact was maintained up to a distance of 1,000 yards. At no time did the Observers make a mistake in designating the quadrant in which the submarine was located, nor did they at any time state that they heard the submarine when it was beyond their range of audibility.
The AYLWIN left for sea on February 4th to make a thorough test on the Fessenden Oscillator under war conditions, the AYLWIN being detailed as the supporting vessel to a regular hunting flotilla consisting of three trawlers equipped with the Nash Fish hydrophone and the American devices. This hunting unit is the same one on which Captain Leigh conducted the test in the channel in the latter part of December and early in January.4
It has been decided owing to the urgency of the need of suitable sound detection devices in the Fair Island passage between the Shetlands and Orkneys, to take the three “K” tube sets which are now installed on the ANDREW KING – BENTOLE and KUNISHI and send them north to be installed on three trawlers which will be placed as a sound barrage to the eastward of Fair Island passage. Mr. Scott5 will be sent north with these devices and ten trained listeners to see that they are properly installed and that their operation is thoroughly understood – the trained listeners to remain on the trawlers during their patrol. . . .
The AMMEN and BURROWS have completed a course of exercise with their oscillators and British submarines at Berehaven, and left on February 1st to commence hunting in the Irish Sea. The PARKER commenced a similar course at Berehaven on February 1st and the DOWNES on February 2nd; thus, by February 6th, these four destroyers will be ready to be formed into a hunting squadron, of which one will usually be resting. It is not believed that satisfactory results will be obtained with the oscillators installed on these vessels.
5. FORCES BASED ON QUEENSTOWN.
The MANLEY, WADSWORTH and FANNING have gone to Liverpool for regular overhaul. The WADSWORTH was sent this time in order to put her in good condition for early transfer to the coast of France. It was also considered desirable to send the MANLEY up at this time as some of the work on her was very urgent.
THE MCDOUGAL owing to a collision with the steamer GLENMORAL was very badly damaged and has been sent to Liverpool for repairs. The damage received by her was in general very similar to that received by the CASSIN when she was torpedoed and the repairs will probably require several months.6
Repairs to PATTERSON were completed February 4 and she is again in service.7
The SANTEE arrived at Devonport February 7th for repairs which, as already reported, will require a considerable period of time.8
U.S.S. BUSHNELL, GENESEE and SUBMARINES.9
The BUSHNELL and submarines are at Berehaven for instruction and exercises and will soon return to Queenstown. An endeavour is being made to provide for putting the BUSHNELL alongside of the dock upon which there shall be a small storehouse for the deposit of various stores now carried on board and taking up space needed for berthing the crew. It is desirable as in the case of the other parent ships at Queenstown that some of the crew be quartered on shore in order that the repair work may be carried on without interruption. This will be arranged if possible.
The GENESEE has been permanently assigned to Base 6 and will be used for the purpose of towing in damaged vessels and for such other general purposes as she may be suited for including harbor work. She is, however, rather too large for harbor work but will be most useful outside.
It has been the intention to transfer the AMMEN to the French coast but owing to the fact that she was fitted with an oscillator, it was decided to retain her at Base 610 to work with the DOWNES, PARKER and BURROWS in a hunting squadron.
The DRAYTON and JARVIS will be sent to the coast of France soon, the BEALE and TERRY have arrived at Base 6.
The weather was very bad from the middle of December until the end of January there having been a great deal of southerly wind which raised heavy seas in which the destroyers, particularly the 750 tonners, were rather roughly handled.
As an example of what occasionally happens, it may be mentioned that the JENKINS broke down the brickwork on one of her boilers on account of the heavy pounding she received in one of the gales. It has been found so nearly impossible for the 750 tonners to do effective work in the heavy weather that prevailed during the period mentioned that it was decided that only one thousand tonners should be used for escorting the American Line ships whenever it was possible to so arrange the escort duties.
6. FORCES BASED ON FRANCE.
Reports of Rear Admiral H.B. Wilson for weeks 20 - 26 January and 27 January to 2 February are herewith enclosed; no later report has yet been received.11
The French motor sailing vessel QUEVILLY sailed from La Pallice for Ponta Delgada, Azores on February 1st under escort of the submarine DIANE. The departure of this vessel was somewhat delayed owing to the fact that the Force Commander received his first information concerning her from the Assistant French Naval Attache in London and the information given by him was incorrect, in that he stated what he supposed to be the fact, that the QUEVILLY was a decoy ship which was being sent to operate in the Azores accompanied by a submarine. The Force Commander objected to this employment of a decoy vessel and a submarine in the Azores and instructed his representative in Paris to take the matter up with the French Ministry of Marine.12 When he did so it was learned that the QUEVILLY was not a decoy vessel at all but that she was going to the Azores to store gasoline for United States vessels.
The Force Commander was considerably embarrassed by not have received this information from Washington until after her received it from the French Ministry of Marine.
DISPOSITION OF FRENCH SUBMARINE CHASERS.
In response to the Department’s cable No. 2127 of 11 January, requesting that information be obtained as to the use being made of the 50 submarine chasers assigned to France, a report has recently been received from Captain Jackson in Paris which is forwarded herewith.13
It is gratifying to note that the French think highly of these boats and find that, with the exception of the high consumption of gasoline, they are very satisfactory.
REPAIRS TO U.S.S. CORSAIR AT LISBON.
In separate correspondence there is forwarded to the Department by this mail a report by the Commanding Officer of the CORSAIR on repairs made to that vessel at the Naval Arsenal at Lisbon for which the Portuguese Government would not permit a bill to be submitted. As this action on the part of the Portuguese Government renders it impracticable for our forces to make use of the Arsenal facilities at Lisbon without invitation, it is recommended that the Department endeavor to pursuade [i.e., persuade] the Portuguese Government to accept pay for the work done on the CORSAIR.14
Aside from the routine reports from Rear Admiral Niblack and the Commanding Officers’ of vessels, which are herewith enclosed, there is nothing of importance to report regarding these forces.15
Referring to the enclosed report from Commander Osterhaus on fortifications at Ponta Delgada,16 the question arose recently in on<e> of the Daily Conferences of the [British] Admiralty Staff as to the extent to which the United States would contribute to the defenses which are obviously inefficient.
The Force Commander had been informed by the Department of the dispatch of two 7" guns and a company of Marines to Ponta Delgada but was not advised as to the arrangements that had been made with the Portuguese Government regarding the manning of these guns. A cable inquiry addressed to Rear Admiral Dunn brought the reply that one gun was being mounted near the radio station and one at Ponta Delgada, that the work was being pushed as rapidly as possible and that the Portuguese had insisted on manning the guns.17 This, Admiral Dunn stated, had been promised them when they had been sufficiently instructed and had become proficient.18
It is very earnestly recommended that our Government come to an understanding with the Portuguese Government if it is at all possible to do so, by which the manning of these guns shall be entirely in our own hands. If this is not done it is feared that the value of the guns as a defense to the city and the radio station will not begreat.
9. BATTLESHIP DIVISION NINE.
The report of Rear Admiral Rodman for week ending February 2nd is forwarded herewith.19
It is noted that Admiral Rodman states in his report that target ammunition for his vessels can be stored at Rosyth. The matter of storage of the reserve service ammunition has been under discussion during the past week at the Admiralty where the statement has been made that storage facilities cannot be furnished either on shore or [i.e., or] afloat and it would seem to be necessary for us to furnish an ammunition ship of some sort for storing this ammunition. While this is a regrettable fact, owing to the immobilization of the vessel for the purpose, it seems at present to be unavoidable if a reserve ammunition is to be sent.
VISIT OF FORCE COMMANDER TO ITALY.
Vice Admiral Sims accompanied by Captain H.E. Yarnell and Commander J.F. Daniels left London on the 4th inst: for Rome via Paris expecting to arrive at Rome about 10 a.m. on the 7th.
The purpose of this visit to Rome was to participate in a conference of British, French, Italian and American officers, regarding the general situation in the Mediterranean and the Adriatic situation in particular.
No communications have been received from Admiral Sims since his departure and it is therefore not known what progress the conference has made.20
BRAZILIAN NAVAL FORCES.
There seems to have been considerable working at cross purposes in the matter of the proposed employment of the Brazilian Naval Forces in European Waters. It appears that after the Allied Naval Council had agreed that these forces should operate with the American naval forces, the Admiralty neglected to inform the Foreign Office of the agreement reached so that the British Ambassador at Ponta Delgada21 had no instructions in the matter. This situation has since been cleared up and it appears now to be well understood by all concerned that the Brazilian forces are to operate with ours.
As has already been cabled to the Department however, the whole situation will again be confused if a Brazilian Flag Officer senior to Rear Admiral Niblack comes out in command of the Brazilian squadron and it is understood that this situation is likely to arise.22
SINKING OF TUSCANIA AND OTHER VESSELS.
Beginning January 27th, there was a revival of submarine activity north of Ireland. This resulted in the sinking of the following vessels –
DATE Ship Place
27 January ANDANIA 55-20 N. 6-08 W.
4 February AURANIA 55-21 N. 8-00 W.
5 February ALAMANCE 55-00 N. 5-39 W.
5 February TUSCANIA 55-25 N. 5-13W.
Inasumuch as the TUSCANIA was not a naval vessel, the Force Commander has not had as complete information regarding her as he would have had had she been a naval vessel. It appears however, that she was proceeding eastward in a convoy of about nine vessels escorted by eight destroyers and that she was torpedoed probably by submarine U-63 at about 8:40 p.m. There were a total of about 24,000 persons on board of whom, according to the latest reports, about 160 were lost. What proportion of these were men of the U.S. Army and what proportion were members of the crew of the vessel is unknown to the Force Commander at present.23
Many expressions of sympathy have been received either directly or indirectly by the Force Commander on account of the loss of the TUSCANIA. His Majesty the King conveyed through the First Sea Lord of the Admiralty his sympathy over the loss of this vessel and the lives of the American soldiers.24 Others who have conveyed similar expressions are the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Ireland, the Rt. Rev. C.S. D’Arcy, Bishop of Down on behalf of himself and the members of the Church of Ireland, the Belfast Harbor Commissioners through Robert Thompson, Chairman, and the Lord Mayor of London.25
CENSORED CABLE DISPATCH.
On 1st February the Chief Censor of the Admiralty26 transmitted to the Force Commander the following extract from a cable dispatch received from the L ondon “Times” from its Washington correspondent -
“Every effort being made rush as many soldiers possible France. Announcement made that sixteen great German liners loaded troops (just) reached France (coming back take further reinforcements). Despite railroad congestion (more than two hundred) vessels furnished bunker coal for round trip (left New York past week ).
The censorship passed the cable for publication with the words in parenthesis omitted but sent the extract to the Force Commander thinking he might desire to make some recommendation to Washington regarding the sending of such despatches. It is noted that the statements made in this cablegram are considerable exaggerations of the truth and it is thought possible that the cable censorship may have purposely passed the cable on that account.
The Department is, of course, better able to judge of the desirability of sending such despatches than is the Force Commander but it is believed that in general it is inadvisable to allow such definite statements to be made as are made in this cable regarding numbers of liners dispatched with troops, vessels furnished coal and so forth.27
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document reference: “25-15-12;” and in columnar fashion: “1/2/3/4/5/6.”
Footnote 1: S.S. Tuscania, a 14,348 ton luxury liner, owned by a subsidiary of the Cunard Line, was sunk by UB-77 at 5:40 P.M. on 5 February. It was carrying 2,179 American soldiers, mostly National Guardsmen from Michigan and Wisconsin, and a crew of 384. While most of the soldiers and crew were rescued, 210 were lost, including 166 soldiers and 44 crewmen. Massie, Castles of Steel: 762. The latter source gives the number of soldiers on board as 2,013, and the number killed as 230, including 201 American soldiers.
Footnote 2: For more on these tests, see: William S. Sims to Daniels, 1 February 1918.
Footnote 3: E-43 was a British E-class submarine.
Footnote 4: Capt. Richard H. Leigh, an American expert in listening devices. On the February tests, see: War Diary of U.S.S. Aylwin, 4 and 5 February 1918; on the earlier tests, see: Leigh to Sims, 8 January 1918.
Footnote 5: Lloyd N. Scott of the Naval Consulting Board.
Footnote 6: On 4 February 1918, MCDOUGAL and the British cargo ship Glenmorag collided in the Irish Sea. MCDOUGAL was escorting a convoy going eastward when they encountered a convoy from Gibraltar going westward at night, in a squall, with low visibility. Glenmorag was one of the ships in the Gibraltar convoy. A board of investigation found that the MCDOUGAL was struck by the bow of Glenmorag on MCDOUGAL’s port side at an angle of impact of about forty-five degrees. MCDOUGAL’s entire stern was cut off on a line just to the rear of the fantail gun. The board estimated that repairs would take 120 days and cost $30,000. Damage to the Glenmorag, which was much less extensive, was estimated to cost $5,000 to repair. The board concluded that no fault should be assigned and that the collision was “due to the hazards of war and the impossibility of Convoy H.G.49 [the Gibraltar convoy] to obtain accurate position, due to weather conditions and low visibility.” Report of Board of Investigation Convened on Board U.S.S. MCDOUGAL By Order of Senior Officer Present 13 February, 1918 to Inquire into Collision between U.S.S. MCDOUGAL and S.S. Glenmorag, 13 February 1918, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B, Destroyer Ships Files: MCDOUGAL. Cassin, too, had lost its stern. See: Report on Torpedoing of U.S.S. Cassin, 15 October 1917.
Footnote 7: The destroyer U.S.S. PATTERSON collided with H.M. tug Dreadful at Berehaven Harbor on 1 January. The bow of PATTERSON was damaged and repairs took until 31 January 1918. The vessel resumed escorting duties on 5 February. DANFS.
Footnote 8: U.S.S. SANTEE was a special service or Q ship. For more on SANTEE being torpedoed, see: Sims to Benson, after 30 December 1917.
Footnote 9: U.S.S. BUSHNELL was a submarine tender; U.S.S. Genesee was an ocean-going tug. DANFS.
Footnote 10: Base 6 was the base at Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland.
Footnote 11: Wilson’s reports have not been found.
Footnote 12: The “Force Commander” was VAdm. William S. Sims; his representative at the French Ministry of Marine was Capt. Richard H. Jackson.
Footnote 13: See: Jackson to Wilson, 27 January 1918.
Footnote 14: The armed yacht U.S.S. CORSAIR was damaged in a hurricane. It arrived in Lisbon on 19 December and repairs were completed on 25 January. For the report of the yacht’s commander, Cmdr. Theodore A. Kittinger, see Ralph D. Paine, The CORSAIR in the War Zone (Privately Printed, 1920), 195-96.
Footnote 15: These reports have not been found.
Footnote 16: The report of Cmdr. Hugo Osterhaus Jr., who commanded at Ponta Delgada before Dunn arrived, has not been found.
Footnote 17: See: Herbert O. Dunn to Sims, 3 February 1918.
Footnote 18: In his letter to Sims, Dunn wrote that he doubted that the local troops would ever become “proficient.” Ibid.
Footnote 19: Rodman’s report is no longer with this general report. Battleship Division Nine was serving with the British High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow, Scotland.
Footnote 20: On Sims’ visit to Italy, see: Sims to Anne Hitchcock Sims, 10 February 1918.
Footnote 21: As the Azores were part of Portugal, the British ambassador would have been at Lisbon. The British Ambassador there was Sir Lancelot Carnegie. The senior British representative at Ponta Delgada would have been a consul, whose identity is not known.
Footnote 22: See: Benson to Sims, 17 January 1917. The Brazilian naval detachment did not serve with the Americans until the war had almost ended so there was no problem about Niblack’s rank.
Footnote 23: As seen in note one, much of the information given here is incorrect.
Footnote 24: King George V and Adm. Sir Rosslyn Wemyss, R.N.
Footnote 25: The Lord Mayor of Belfast was James Johnston; the Lord Mayor of London was Sir Charles Hanson.
Footnote 26: Commo. Sir Douglas Brownrigg, R.N.
Footnote 27: Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, a newspaper man himself, prided himself on the fact that “censorship of the press was based on voluntary arrangement” so if anything was done, presumably it was in the form of a request. Daniels, Years of War and After: 224-25.