Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels
AC 7886 1st FEBRUARY 1918.
From: Force Commander
To: Secretary of the Navy (Operations)
SUBJECT: General Report.
1. ENEMY SUBMARINE OPERATIONS.
During the week 20 – 26th January, fourteen large submarines were out. Four of these vessels were of the converted “Deutschland” type – two being in the vicinity of the Canary Islands and the African coast to the southward, one off the coast of Portugal, and the other on passage out. Of the remaining large boats eight have been operating in the waters of the British Islands (other than the North Sea), and the Bay of Biscay, the chief area of activity having been the entrance to the English Channel.
There has been a recrudescence of activity by UB and UC boats in the North Sea, chiefly on the North Yorkshire and Durham coasts and off the entrance to the Firth of Forth.1
Towards the end of the week submarine activity recommenced in the North Channel.
An interesting report came from the Mediterranean (Aegian [i.e., Aegean]) where two Hospital Ships were stopped at night by a submarine, and after examination were allowed to proceed.
The following table gives more detailed particulars of the enemy’s activities:-
Average No. of
submarines in area per day.
North Sea, S. of 53° 30'
North Sea, N. of 53° 30'
3 - 4
N.W. of Ireland and Scotland
1 - 2
S.W. of Ireland
Irish Sea and Bristol Channel
English Channel and approaches
Bay of Biscay
Reports of seven encounters with enemy submarines have been received, as follows:-
8 by T.D.D.2
1 by “B” class vessel.
1 by Merchant Vessel.
1 by Auxiliary Patrol
1 by Aircraft.
2. Enemy Mine Laying
During the week 20th to 26th January the number of mines destroyed slightly increased. In comparison with the situation as it existed a year ago, the wide area now covered by single minelaying submarines has become very marked; these tactics are, however, more evident in the English Channel than in the North Sea. Activity was experienced in the Firth of Forth, generally off the South-East Coast of England, off Portsmouth and the south and south-west coasts of Ireland.
Sixty-two mines were destroyed.
4. ANTI_SUBMARINE OPERATIONS.
Further tests of towing “K” tubes were conducted on January 21, 1918.3 Two “K” tube units were rigidly connected in tandem as in tests of January 16, except that standard paravane cable was connected directly to the tandem units instead of using American four conductor cable as before. The tandem unit was towed 50 ft. astern of the paravane frame. Water noises were very disturbing even at 3 or 4 knots, and it was necessary to practically stop the vessel before water noises died away. A large dredger working near made it impossible to pick up the sound of other vessels in range.
The next text was to take off the paravanes and tow the tandem unit alone by a paravane cable. The water noise was very much less in this case.
The only conclusion reached was that the paravane (standard type) was not suited for use with a towed sound detection device, and the P.V. Department4 believes that considerable experimentation will be necessary. to find the proper shape of towing body. That Department is now building a special frame for towing three “K” tube units, but instead of attaching the units in stream line bodies to the frame itself they will be towed from their points of the frame by short lengths of four conductor cable.5
TEST OF SUBMARINE “C” TUBE
On 28 and 29 January, Technical Expert Scott was at Parkestone Quay, Harwich making tests with the “C” tube installed on the submarine B-48.6 Fog interfered with long range tests but at 1,000 yards a listening submarine making 2 knots observed another making four knots with such accuracy of bearing that submarine officers were very enthusiastic. Mr. Scott was within 1 or 2 degrees of the bearing obtained by the periscope at all times during his observations. One man who had never used the instrument before kept within 5 degrees of the periscope bearing.
During these tests the propellers of the observing submarine were continuously revolving.
CO-OPERATION OF AIR CRAFT WITH HUNTING FLOTILLA.
The matter of co-operation between air craft and submarine hunting flotilla is being studied and worked up with a view to incorporating this feature in the anti-submarine tactics. The aviation section has been supplied with a rough draft of the anti-submarine tactics to be employed by chasers, trawlers, destroyers, etc. and will supply suggestions as to aerial tactics and signals for use in co-operative work. In this connection Captain Leigh made a trip to Felixstowe where he consulted with the commanding officer of the R.N. Flying Station situated there, and made personal observations from a naval type flying boat.
MANUFACTURE OF LISTENING AND TRAILING WIRE DEVICES.
Mr. Scott has been acting in an advisory capacity in regard to the manufacture of “K” tube sets in England. He reports that the Automatic Telephone Company of Liverpool have made considerable progress, and have made a complete set of drawings of the compensator box and all its details. The question of the type of cable wire has not been decided yet. The matter of duplication of the Baldwin telephones seems to be working out very well, but can be proved only by test.
The manufacture of the trailing device has been going slowly for two reasons: the Paravane Department at Portsmouth Dockyard has been busy on other matters and has let this wait; also there has been some difficulty in getting the rapid telegraph relays for the circuits; this latter has now been practically assured.
The Admiralty representative reports that the manufacture of S.C. tubes is going forward.7
TESTS ON SOUND DETECTING DEVICES AT SHEERNESS, ENGLAND.
Technical Expert Scott, on January 25, witnessed tests at Sheerness on board the submarine C-23 fitted with three different kinds of apparatus.
The object of the test was to ascertain the relative merits of the three devices, both as to the elimination of water noises and the quality of sound as received, taking into consideration ability to differentiate between starboard and port positions of the observed boat.
The three types of listening gear used were:-
(a) Listening plates – port and starboard side.
(c) “C” tubes.
The complete report of this test will be forwarded by mail.
MOTOR LAUNCHES WITH HUNTING UNITS. (January 22, 1918)
An inspection of an M.L. (50 ft. motor launch) at the request of the Admiralty, was made with a view to finding a proper location for the installation of S.C. tubes. It was concluded that the chart house, 36 ft. from the bow, was unquestionably the best place if large numbers of these craft were to be fitted with them.
It is now proposed to form hunting units of M.Ls (80 ft. motor launches built for British Admiralty in United States). These will be equipped with hydrophones in many cases S.C. tubes as fast as possible, 120 lb. depth charges and machine guns – some with 6-pounders.
Tactics for these units are now being worked up. During good weather they should prove very valuable along shore and off harbor entrances.
5. FORCES BASED ON QUEENSTOWN.
RECREATION GROUNDS – RINGASKIDDY AND TRAINING BARRACKS.
The development of the recreation grounds at Ringaskiddy8 is proceeding and by the time the outdoor weather arrives, will furnish facilities for outdoor games to the entire force.
The routine of the barracks will contemplate having probably less than 200 men engaged in drills and athletics at the recreation field every day in the week.
DEPTH CHARGE THROWERS.
Thornycroft Depth Charge Throwers are now being placed on the WINSLOW and DOWNES.9 These two ships are also being fitted with racks for the carriage of depth charges and it is believed that when the installation has been finally perfected, we will have our ships fitted to carry the maximum number of depth charges that is possible when safety of storage and convenience of handling are considered. Thirty-two charges are provided for the installation as fitted on the WINSLOW and about twenty for the installation as fitted on the DOWNES. The number of charges which can be carried on the installation is primarily affected by the distance of the after gun from the stern of the ship.
CUMMINGS, MCDOUGAL and DOWNES have completed their overhaul at Cammell Lairds Shipbuildings Yard and have returned to Queenstown.
The TRIPPE, BALCH and DAVIS arrived at Liverpool on 27th January for re-fitting.
CONDITIONS IN QUEENSTOWN.
Conditions in Queenstown remain normal and the conduct of our men is all that could be desired.
It is expected the PATTERSON will be ready for service about 1st February.10
INSPECTION OF SHIP BY VICEROY – LORD WIMBORNE
At 11:40 a.m. 28 January the Vicerow [i.e., Viceroy] Lord Wimborne with his staff accompanied by the Commander-in-Chief Coast of Ireland and members of his staff, visited the U.S.S. MELVILLE.11
The departure of the SANTEE has been delayed due to bad weather and to the fact that the destroyers detailed to escort her had to be diverted from that duty in order to form part of the escort which was sent to bring in the BUSHNELL, GENESEE and submarines. The SANTEE will proceed to Devenport as soon as the weather and other circumstances permit.
BUSHNELL, GENESEE AND SUBMARINES.
The BUSHNELL, GENESEE and four submarines arrived 27th January.13 It is the intention to keep them at Base 6 until they are ready for service. They will then proceed to Berehaven where they will be worked and exercised in conjunction with British submarines now operating there under the command of Captain Nasmith, R.N.14 When they have become thoroughly indoctrinated they will return to Base 6 and will operate from there.
The BRIDGE sailed 26 January. A number of officers and four nucleus for new destroyers took passage for the United States.15
The following bodies are being transported home on the U.S.S. BRIDGE:-
Late Asst. Surgeon D.W. Queen (CASSIN)
Late W.M. Goodrew, C.M.M. (ROWAN)
Late C.S. Bourne, W.T. (BURROWS)
Late M. O’Callaghan, W.T. (BURROWS)16
TORPEDO READY STATION.
Permission has been obtained from the Commander-in-Chief, Coast of Ireland, to erect in the Dockyard, Haulbowline17 close alongside the Ready Repair Station, a bunk house which will accommodate the personnel of the Repair Station. As matters now stand, the personnel are quartered at the Barracks at Passage which necessitates two long trips per day by water and which, consequently, reduces the available working time. This matter is
now being proceeded with and will be arranged as soon as possible.
The hospital-building at Ballybricken18 was taken over on January 25th. The water test, as previously reported, proved satisfactory and there are now no difficulties remaining in the way of putting the hospital in commission as soon as possible.
6. FORCES BASED ON FRANCE.
Alfred Mangin, N.O. French Navy, a pilot on the Coast of France, has been placed on board the U.S.S. PRESIDENT GRANT. This officer is being sent to the United States to be placed at the discretion of the Navy Department.
Chaplain G.E.T. Stevenson U.S. Navy, at the request of the Commander U.S. Naval Forces, France19 has been detached and ordered home. This officer has been found to be unsuited for the work required at this base.
When the seven 420 ton, and two 750 ton destroyers to be sent from the United States arrive, they will be detailed for duty on the French Coast.
The Force Commander wishes to express his appreciation in connection with the sending of these ships. They will be of great assistance and will probably enable an extra cargo convoy to sail from the United States direct to France.
U.S.S.GUINEVERE was lost near the entrance to Lorient on 25th January through striking a rock in a fog.20 The ship is probably a total loss. There was no casualties among the ships’ company. It is expected that most of her equipment can be salved.
In a weekly submarine report issued by the French Ministry of Marine the average number of enemy submarines operating is given as twenty-five. This does not agree with published statements to the effect that the submarines have been recalled during the last ten days for new instructions. It is possible that the total number given here is somewhat high but
possible that the total number it is believed that a large number are still operating.
The number of ships unsuccessfully attacked is greater than those successfully attacked, the ratio being as 16 to 10. The number sunk for the week is the smallest since the beginning of the campaign, the fact that there were only four sinkings in the Channel and Irish Sea being particularly striking.
With the exception of the large submarine operating near the Azores Island there are no results in the Atlantic Ocean except one ship sunk off the vicinity of Penmarch.
The Ministry believes that the two submarines operating in that vicinity have returned to their bases. The large one, NO.-84, has operated there with considerable success being thoroughly familiar with the dangers and also with the harbors. According to the Ministry records this submarine will return between 10th and 15th February.
There were only two successful attacks in the Western Mediterranean, the south-east coast of Spain and north coast of Africa being free from loss, although submarines have appeared in the vicinity.
The greatest success of the submarines was in the Western Mediterranean, where a total of five ships were sunk.
Day convoys have now been established along the west coast of France and one vessel equipped with hydrophones is detailed for each convoy.
There are nowabout thirty vessels equipped with listening devices on the French Atlantic coast.
The following interesting data is given for the month of December, 1917.
(a) THE NUMBER OF MERCHANT VESSELS ARRIVING AT GIBRALTAR – 751
(b) Number of merchant vessels cargoed. . . . . . . . . – 252
(c) Number of merchant vessels discharging cargo or coal - 47
(d) Number of vessels that took on complete cargoes . . .- 9
(e) Number of vessels on which repairs or other work
was effected by dockyard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . – 107
Rear Admiral H.O. Dunn, U.S. Navy, arrived at Horta-Fayal on the 19th January and assumed command of the Azores detachment.
ALLIED NAVAL COUNCIL.
The first meetings of the Allied Naval Council were held at the Admiralty on Tuesday and Wednesday the 22nd and 23rd January, under the presidency of the First Lord of the Admiralty,21 and were attended by the following representatives of the Allied Powers –
FRANCE - Vice Admiral F.J.J. de Bon
GREAT BRITAIN - The Right Hon. Sir Eric Geddes.
Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss.
ITALY - Vice Admiral Count Thaon di Revel
JAPAN - Rear Admiral K. Funskoshi22
OF AMERICA - Vice Admiral W. S. Sims.
Since last report in which the grounding of the GOEBEN was reported, aerial attacks were carried on occasionally both by R.N.A.S. and R.F.C.,24 several tons of bombs being dropped on and around the ship. Several direct hits were observed. In addition to bombs, torpedo heads fitted with tail extensions were dropped from bombing planes in effort to destroy the cruiser. These efforts were unsuccessful.
The vessel has been floated and has arrived at Constantinople.
MINE BARRIER BREAKER.
The Germans have been using a special type of vessel called a barrier breaker. This is a vessel of about 4,000 or 5,000 tons made as nearly unsinkable as possible. It is believed that the lower part is sub-divided and filled with sand. A certain amount of concrete is used, and many spaces are filled with wood. She is designed to resist the explosion of mines at least to the extent of not sinking. These barrier breakers steam through suspicious areas to determine whether or not they have been mined.
Referrin A recent telegram was received from the Navy Department requesting that the BRITISH Admiralty be asked to send Lieutenant Commander Wilkinson,25 the artist who is in charge of the development of Dazzle system of painting, to America to assist us in the adoption of the same method. The Admiralty proposed to send an assistant, as Lieut. Commander Wilkinson could not be spared at the present time. Within the last few days however, the Admiralty have decided to turn over the work of Lieut. Commander WILkinson to his assistants and this officer will now be sent to the United States as requested.
BRAZILIAN CRUISERS AND DESTROYERS.
Referring to the disposition of the two cruisers and four destroyers that the Brazilian Government proposes to send to Europe to co-operate with the Allies, the question of their operating with the American forces was taken up with the First Sea Lord and discussed in the presence of Admiral Browning and Admiral Grant,26 the former being the Flag Officer recently in command of British Naval Forces on the American Coast and the latter his relief who has left for his new station. The desirability of establishing and maintaining cordial relations between the United States and South American countries is recognized. The result of the discussion was that the First Sea Lord expressed the entire willingness of the Admiralty that the Brazilian forces should operate under the American Forces, and advised that they be based on Gibraltar.
The latter is desireable because it is
believed understood that these vessels need to have some of their boilers re-tubed and this can best be done in a British port as the vessels were built in British shipyards.27
SKILLED SHIPBUILDERS in BRITIAN [i.e., BRITAIN].
It is proposed to withdraw from the British Army about 20,000 men who are skilled in shipbuilding trades.
FREE TRAVEL WARRANTS.
On September 27th, 1918 [i.e., 1917], the British Admiralty made arrangements by which free travel warrants would be issued to officers and men of the U.S. Navy for travelling when on leave, the conditions to be the same as those governing officers and men of the Royal Navy. This concession was at the time limited to the crews of U.S. destroyers operating from Bases. By a recent extension of this privilege it now allies [i.e., applies] to all U.S. officers and men of the United States ships in British Waters, irrespective of port on which such ships are based.28
In this connection it would seem desirable if some similar privilege could be granted to officers and men of the British vessels visiting American ports.
WM. S. SIMS
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. At the top of each new page of this report is “AC” followed by the page number.
Footnote 1: Deutschland-class were large cruising submarines; UB were smaller coastal submarines; UC were smaller minelaying U-boats.
Footnote 2: Presumably, top-of-the line destroyers.
Footnote 3: For more on the testing of hydrophones, see: Richard H. Leigh to Sims, 8 January 1918.
Footnote 4: That is, Paravane Department, which worked on towed bodies as well as paravanes. Willem Hackmann, Seek & Strike. Sonar, anti-submarine warfare and the Royal Navy 1914-54 London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1984), 22.
Footnote 5: According to Hackman, the root of the problem was the “lack of a really adequate electronic amplifier to magnify the very weak signals produced by these instruments.” Ibid., 55.
Footnote 6: Civilian expert C. F. Scott. For more on the C tubes, see: Descriptive Specifications of “C” Tube Sets, 22 November 1917. For an overview of the research by the Allies on hydrophones, see Hackman, Seek & Strike: 45-71.
Footnote 7: “S.C.” tubes were similar to C tubes.
Footnote 8: Ringaskiddy is a village on the western side of Cork Harbor, opposite Cobh (Queenstown).
Footnote 9: Thornycroft howitzers could fire 10 inch charges; they were soon replaced on American destroyers by Y guns, which could fire two charges, one to either side. Friedman, Naval Weapons of WWI: 394, 397.
Footnote 10: 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 11: Ivor Churchill Guest, Lord Wimborne, was Viceroy (Lord Lieutenant) of Ireland; Adm. Lewis Bayly was the commander-in-chief, Coast of Ireland.
Footnote 12: U.S.S. SANTEE was a special service or Q ship. For more on its being torpedoed while on its shake-down cruise, see: Sims to Benson, after 30 December 1917.
Footnote 14: Capt. Martin E. Nasmith, R.N.
Footnote 15: On sending officers from Queenstown to form the nucleus of the officers commanding the new destroyers being built in the United States, see: Sims to Daniels, 8 January 1918.
Footnote 16: “C.M.M.” is Chief Machinist’s Mate; “W.T.” is Watertender. The two watertenders had died in a fire aboard U.S.S. Burrows on 17 January 1918. RG 45, Entry 517B, Destroyer Ships Files: Burrows.
Footnote 17: Haulbowline is an island facing Queenstown (Cobh).
Footnote 18: The hospital was located in Ballybricken House, Ringaskiddy, Ireland.
Footnote 19: RAdm. Henry B. Wilson.
Footnote 20: U.S.S. Guinevere was a 500 ton patrol vessel.
Footnote 21: Sir Eric Geddes.
Footnote 22: RAdm. Kajishiro Funakoshi.
Footnote 23: S.M.S. Goeben (also known as Yavuz Sultan Selim) had been injured by mines in a raid on the port of Mudros. It ran aground just outside of the Dardanelles. The bombs dropped by the British on the grounded ship were not heavy enough to do any serious damage. Halpern, Naval War in the Mediterranean: 424.
Footnote 24: “R.N.A.S.” was the Royal Naval Air Service; “R.F.C.” Royal Flying Corps, the air arm of the British Army during World War 25. British marine artist Norman Wilkinson. Dazzle or Razzle Dazzle ship camouflage, which was used extensively in World War I and to a lesser extent in World War II, consisted of complex patterns of geometric shapes in contrasting colors, interrupting and intersecting each other with the idea that it would make it difficult for submarine captains to determine the range, speed, and heading of their targets. David Williams, Naval Camouflage, 1914-1945: A Complete Visual Reference (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2001), 9-12.
Footnote 26: Adm. Sir Montague E. Browning; Adm. Sir William L. Grant.
Footnote 27: For more on the Brazilian naval contingent, see: William S. Benson to Sims, 17 January 1918.
Footnote 28: Travel warrants, also known as rail warrants or travel vouchers, allowed an individual or group of service personnel to travel on the railways. In this case that travel would be without cost.