Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels
28th February, 1918.
From: Force Commander.
To : Secretary of the Navy (Operations)
Subject: General Report.
1. ENEMY SUBMARINE OPERATIONS.
During the week 10 to 16 February, nineteen to twenty-three large submarines have been out, six being vessels of the converted “Deutschland” type. Of the latter, two are probably operating about one hundred miles southwest to west of Cape St. Vincent and two are probably in the vicinity of the Canary Islands.
The remaining large boats, most of which only arrived in areas to the westward of the British Islands during the latter end of the week, have so far shown comparatively little activity. The English Channel and the East Coast are the areas where the enemy has made his presence felt most.
The following table gives more detailed particulars of the enemy’s activities –
Average No. of submarines in area per day.
North Sea, South of 53° 30’
North Sea, North of 53° 30’
7 – 3 <8>
N.E. of Ireland and Scotland
3 - 4
S.W. of Ireland
Irish Sea and Bristol Channel
1 - 2
English Channel and approaches
2 - 3
Bay of Biscay
1 - 2
4 - 5
On the 11th February H.M.S. CULLIST (Special service ship) was torpedoed and sunk twenty miles southeast of Lough Carlingford with, unfortunately, a considerable loss of life.
Among the engagements reported promising ones are those by H.M.S. ROXBURGH who rammed and sunk what in all probability was a submarine eighteen miles northwest of Inishtrahull on 12th February, H.M.S. ZUBIAN who sighted a periscope six cables away and dropped depth charges on February 13th, and trawler JAMES ROBERTSON, who claims to have sunk a submarine on 16th February off Hartlepool (no details yet available however.)
An usually large number of submarines were reported from the North Sea, apparently on passage from the Kattegat to the Fair Island Channel.
The increasing success of the measures taken to deny the Dover Straits to enemy submarines is evidently causing them considerably uneasiness. As on previous occasions, both in this area and at Otranto a raid by night, carried out by destroyers, on the small patrol craft, resulted, to be followed on the present occasion by a wanton and erractic bombardment of the residential quarters of Dover.
2. ENEMY MINE LAYING.
The week has again been remarkably quiet. It appears possible that except in the Lowestoft, Harwich, and Nore area, the enemy’s mine laying policy has undergone a change. This perhaps may be due to a shortage of minelaying submarines, but his present scheme of operations appears to rely more on the torpedo than the mine. Sufficient mines are, however, laid – widely scattered and, in cases where the minelayers routes are not interfered with farther off the shore than heretofore which keeps the sweepers fully employed.
Activity was experienced in the Cromarty, Harwich, Nore and Dover areas, and nineteen mines were destroyed.
Reports of seventeen encounters with enemy submarines have been received as follows:-
1 by Cruiser
3 by T.B.D’s.
1 by Special Service Ship
4 by Auxiliary Patrol
2 by Aircraft
5 by Merchant vessels
1 in connection with Indicator Nets.
4. ANTI-SUBMARINE OPERATIONS.
During the past week a number of tests have been undertaken with towing K tubes. These tests were conducted on Friday 15th and Wednesday, February 20th. Three different types of fish were used and they were towed in different ways – some by the use of a special kite for keeping them at a definite depth, some in tandem and some in parallel. Detailed reports on these tests have been made.
No official report has been received from the trawlers operating in Fair Island passage on which the K tubes were installed, but a personal letter from one of the officers stated that the service of the K tube on his vessel had proved highly satisfactory; that in Fair Island passage it was entirely free from water noises, and that he believed with the K tube the water noise problem had been solved.
As many of the trained listeners as it has been possible to get together have been given special instruction on the S.C.C. tube at Portsmouth during the past week. These men had never seen the S.C.C. tube and a short course of instruction has proved very beneficial to them.
The work of installing S.C.C. tubes on trawlers at Portsmouth continues but it is being carried out slowly. One S.C.C. tube is also being installed on a motor launch at Portsmouth.
Tests with the Fessenden Oscillator on the AYLWIN continue. She has today returned from a week’s cruise in the Channel and has reported that during this period the oscillator worked satisfactorily, that they were able to hear vessels whenever in their vicinity, but that at no time did they hear a submarine. From the reported movements of enemy submarines it is believed that there were none in the vicinity of the AYLWIN during this time. A full report of this cruise will be forwarded within a few days. The AYLWIN will be continued on this service indefinitely.
The Mason device on board the AYLWIN was not placed in satisfactory condition during the last visit of this vessel to the Portsmouth Naval Dockyard, on account of the inability to get the proper kind of rubber for use with this device. It is understood that during the present visit good rubber will replace the rubber now used and that more satisfactory results may be expected.
Tests of the Callendar method of magnetic detection of submarines continue and are proving fairly satisfactory. The eight complete outfits manufactured are still under installation on board P boats as reported in last weekly letter – at the present time the work being incompleted.
During the week ending February 12, the PARKER and BURROWS were formed into a hunting division and searched for submarines. They however, were engaged on this work for only about one day and a half when they were recalled for escort duty from Kingstown to Holyhead. A full report of this work has been made in separate correspondence.
During the past week special steps have been taken by the Admiralty in order to train men in the use of American sound detection devices. Special instructions are given on board trawlers and at the various auxiliary patrol bases.
It is urgently requested that the K tubes mentioned in my cable of December 26th be forwarded as soon as possible. Considerable work has been done by the experimental section of the Anti-Submarine Division of the Admiralty in connection with the use of anchored K tubes in deep water up to 500 fathoms, an attempt being made to obtain a K tube microphone unit which would operate efficiently under high pressure. A full report of test so far conducted has been forwarded to the Bureau of Steam Engineering.
The Walzer apparatus to be installed on the CASSIN has not yet arrived although shipped from Brest some days ago. It is being traced.
TEST OF OSCILLATORS (U.S.S. BURROWS).
On morning of February 5, 1918 while escorting U.S.S. MCDOUGAL with U.S.S. PAULDING, AMMEN and H.M.S. BERYL, this vessel being on the port flank the following procedure was carried out –
(a) The BURROWS would stop all machinery except generator and one circulator every ten minutes and listen in on oscillator. At 10:45 a.m. operator reported submarine close aboard on starboard hand. From previous experience the Commanding Officer estimated the submarine to be within four hundred yards. Previously a submarine had been reported operating in this vicinity LYNDS POINT.
(b) The spot was marked approximately and BURROWS went ahead twenty knots with hard right rudder. When approaching the approximate location of submarine an oil slick was noticed, and a depth charge was dropped about one hundred yards ahead of end of slick. No positive results were observed. As several trawlers immediately proceeded to the spot, the BURROWS resumed place in formation, and continued listening in at intervals as before.
(c) While no results were noticeable it is thought the depth charge kept the submarine submerged and possibly saved an attack on the MCDOUGAL which at this time was disabled and in tow of H.M.S. BERYL and a tug.
It was noted that the operator could not tell the relative bearing of submarine beyond her being on starboard side.
5. FORCES BASED ON QUEENSTOWN.
The BALCH, DAVIS and TRIPPE have completed their overhaul.
The MANLEY, WADSWORTH and FANNING arrived at Cammell Lairds Shipbuilding plant for overhaul on 9th February. Commander Church (Flotilla Repair Officer) in discussing MANLEY’S longitudinal stiffening states that the Shipbuilding Company deems it necessary to install some additional stiffening. The maximum work necessary will require about fifteen days for completion.
The DUNCAN, ERICSSON and STEREETT [i.e., STERETT] will be overhauled when the MANLEY, WADWORTH and FANNING are completed.
INJURIES TO SHIPS.
The ships available for escort service at this time are fewer in number than they have eve<r> been before, this being due to a variety of accidents. In addition to the MANLEY, WADSWORTH and FANNING (refitting), the following ships are unavailable for service.
CASSIN under repairs at Newport.
MCDOUGAL under repairs at Liverpool.
CUMMINGS under repairs at Rushbrook (Ireland)The CUMMINGS has cracked a number of her forward frames due to pounding in heavy weather. Further information relative to this injury will be forwarded. The matter is not serious but will necessitate the strengthening of the frames before she can be sent to sea.
ROWAN Turbine trouble. Examination has revealed that the trouble is not serious but was caused by two loose blades. The ROWAN should be ready for service in a few days.
DOWNES Has experienced trouble with her generator, this being the generator obtained from MCDOUGAL and is at present at Kingstown repairing it. She has also some trouble with her thrust bearings, but information is not at hand as to how serious this is. She should be ready in about three days.
ALYWIN is conducting experiments and hunting for submarines. Not available for escort duty.
From the above it will be seen that, for the moment, there are nine ships unavailable for escort service and, as a consequence, the working force is reduced to twenty-six ships. It is to be observed however, that the injury to the CUMMINGS constitutes the only instance in which one of our ships has been laid up for any length of time on account of injuries received in heavy weather. Barring some turbine trouble experienced by the ROWAN is the only case of turbine trouble which we have had.
Medical Director Bogert proceeded to Queenstown on 12 February for a conference in connection with the establishment of a base hospital. He conducted an investigation to determine upon the best location and the possibility of obtaining suitable accommodations. Recommendation has been made by cable that the Base Hospital be established and consist of about two hundred and fifty beds. It is not practicable to establish a larger hospital unit than that above mentioned. If it is established it may be advisable to stop work on the small convalescent hospital which it was proposed to establish at Ballybricken. It may be possible however, to utilize the building at Ballybricken to great advantage but no definite decision will be made at this time. . . .
The transport HERCULES arrived at Queenstown on 13 February in a damaged condition. She will be escorted to Brest by the JARVIS and DRAYTON.
The STOCKTON arrived on 12 February. As she had transferred one case of cerebro spinal meningitis while at the Azores, she was placed in quarantine to complete a period of ten days which is the quarantine period generally demanded by the British authorities in cases of this kind. No further trouble has developed, and there is no reason to expect any. The STOCKTON proceeded on February 15 for a tour of escort duty, lasting probably four days. Upon the completion of this she will have undergone practically quarantine of about thirteen or fourteen days so that upon her return to base the danger point will have passed.
Members of the Flotilla Board who inspected the MANLEY will be sent on board the STOCKTON to inspect that vessel with a view to observing any difference that may exist in the hull structure of the two ships. The Commanding Officer of the STOCKTON reports that there is no evidence of any weaknesses as developed i n the MANLEY, it may be, however, that the STOCKTON has not experienced such severe weather on her trip as that experienced by the MANLEY.
TOPEDO READY REPAIR STATION.
The quarters which were being erected at Haulbowline for housing the personnel of the Torpedo Ready Station are completed, and the personnel, with the exception of Lieut. Moses, who is quartered in the MELVILLE have moved in. This will facilitate their work and undoubtedly increase efficiency of the station.
Weekly progress reports are submitted.|19|
While at Liverpool, England, on 11 February, 1918, the Commanding Officer of H.M.S. SHANNON requested that the MCDOUGAL supply him with rifle ammunition for an armed force that had been ordered by the S.N.O. [i.e., Senior Naval Officer] at the place to disarm and intern the mutinous crew of the Russian ships RASVEET and PROBEET. The SHANNON was lying in dry dock and all her ammunition had been landed. The rifle ammunition of the MCDOUGAL would not fit the rifles of the British Marines, and the Commanding Officer of the SHANNON therefore requested that a machine gun, together with machine gun party accompany the landing force from H.M.S. SHANNON.
In accordance with the above request, and in view of the fact that the MCDOUGAL was temporarily acting under orders of the S.N.O. Liverpool, Ensign (T) W.P. Shiel, U.S. Navy and eight men formed a machine gun party and reported to the Commanding Officer of the SHANNON. The crews of the Russian vessels were removed from their ships by the Commanding Officer of H.M.S. SHANNON and interned. The party from the MCDOUGAL returned to their vessel in accordance with orders from the above mentioned officer. No ammunition was expended.
NAVAL TRAINING BARRACKS. BASE SIX.
Advantage has been taken of the improved weather conditions to have outdoor exercise and instruction.
Working parties have been sent daily to Haulbowline, Ringaskiddy and the DIXIE.
The construction of small store issuing room, canteen, barber shop, dental office and sick bay has been begun and is still under way.
During the week one man has been received and forty-six transferred.
The last draft received was put in quarantine and cases of mumps and measles are still appearing among them.
The course of training of quartermasters and radio electricians has been developed and when more men arrive larger classes will be formed.
SUBMARINES, BASE FOR
It has been decided to base our submarines at Berehaven and to dock and refit them either at Queenstown or Belfast as may prove most advantageous.
6. NAVAL FORCES BASED ON FRANCE.
The General Court-Martial in the case of Lieutenant H.H.J. Benson for the grounding of the GUINEVERE sentenced that officer to lose ten numbers with unanimous recommendation for clemency. This sentence was reduced to the loss of five numbers by the convening authority and Lieut. Benson will be restored to duty. All hope of salvaging the GUINEVERE has been given up and salvage operations are now confined to removing equipment.
Difficulty has been experienced in arranging a docking schedule for vessels based on Brest due to inability to anticipate the availability of a dock. This is largely due to the number of emergency cases which must be handled at Brest. As a result, practically all of the vessels engaged in coastal convoy escort require docking and it has become necessary to secure the use of docks at other ports for these vessels.
This matter has been taken up with the Ministry of Marine and the U.S.S. WORDEN which arrived at this side with damaged propellers, has been docked at Lorient.
The WAKIVA now based at the mouth of the Gironde, for duty in Verdon convoy escort, is being given an overhaul under the direction of the District Commander Rochefort with the facilities of that district.
The inspections preliminary to the installation of guns and radio equipment in the cases of the KERWOOD, A.A. RAVEN, and FRED LUCKENBACH have been completed and the guns and mounts have been placed on board these vessels preparatory to installation at Cardiff. The other three vessels of the Army coal trade which are to be similarly fitted will be handled upon their next arrival at Brest.
Repairs to the POWHATAN’S tiller were completed by the dockyard on the 17th inst. and that vessel will return to the United States about 19th February. She has in the meantime been docked and should now be ready for continuous service.
There has been little activity on the part of enemy submarines during the past week.
The steamer VIRGINIA reported being chased by a submarine in latitude 48-33 N.W. 1:00 p.m. February 11. This vessel had become separated from the convoy when her “allo” was received and the FLUSSER was sent to her rescue and brought her into Brest. From investigation it is very doubtful if the HILTON sighted a submarine.
The English steamer MERTON HALL, which formed part of convoy and which was being escorted into Brest, was torpedoed and sunk in Latitude 48-38 N. Longitude 05-04 W., at 3:00 p.m. 11 February. This vessel sank in less than two minutes and only twelve of the crew were saved.
A submarine was attacked by a destroyer in latitude 48-37 N. Longitude 08-15 W. at 1 p.m. 14 February. The details of this engagement have not been received.
MINING ACTIVITY – FRENCH COAST.
Sweeping the area in which the steamer FANTOFT was sunk on 9 February, has resulted in the discovery of two mines, and, as a result, a dangerous area of two miles around this vicinity has been established.
The North pass to the Gironde River was closed on 10 February but re-opened later the same day.
On 12 February the south channel to St. Nazaire was open to navigation. A mine having been found in the Le Four channel entrance to Brest it was closed to navigation on 15 February.
OIL BARGE NO. I6. LOSS OF.
A board of investigation into the loss of oil barge No. 16 from the BUFORD upon her way across from the United States has recommended that further proceedings be had in the case of the Captain of the ship – Lieutenant Commander Gifford, who ceased searching for the barge while he still had sufficient fuel and food to continue
to the search.
MILITARY REVIEW AT BREST.
On February 17 there was a military review in which soldiers and sailors of France, Great Britain, Portugal and the United States took part. The Prefet <Maritime> at Brest presented war medals of various kinds to officers and men stationed at Brest. Admiral Wilson with two aides, was present officially. One company of blue jackets commanded by Lieut. J.L. Rogers U.S.N.R.F. of the VEDETTE represented the United States. Upon the completion of the ceremony, the Prefet Maritime wrote a letter to Admiral Wilson thanking him for the part which the men had taken in the service and complimented the men for their military appearance.
7. FORCES BASED ON GIBRALTAR.
The weekly report of operations January 27 to February 2nd and enclosure from the Force Commander giving the employment of vessels is forwarded herewith.
8. BATTLESHIP DIVISION NINE.
The U.S.S. TEXAS reported in last week’s letter as having arrived on February 11th, reports a rough passage in which one of her 50 ft. motor sailors was all but demolished, and a 50 ft. steamer badly damaged. The former was condemned as being beyond repair, the latter will be repaired.
GUNNERY DIVISION OFFICER.
Commander Rowcliff arrived on the TEXAS and reported on the NEW YORK as Division Gunnery Officer.
PARAVANES AND DOCKING.
The TEXAS brought the under-water paravane fittings for the other ships of this division, and some of the other gear for the NEW YORK.
The NEW YORK is in dock at Newcastle to fit paravanes. Other vessels will follow. The next one not until the end of March. It was originally planned to dock these ships at Rosyth beginning in June for overhaul and bottom painting. This had to be modified and the date to install paravanes set forward.
Later, all schedules were upset owing to the necessity for docking certain British vessels that had sustained unlooked for damage. The present plan, starting with the NEW YORK, will supersede the others, and all repairs, overhauls and bottom work will take place when the dock is available for paravan
ve installation. It is not contemplated re-docking after this for nine or ten months. It is needless to add that there is an unusual demand for docking facilities and the vessels of this force have to take it when they can get it. The present plan, however, is satisfactory.
Admiral Rodman shifted his flag to the WYOMING when the NEW YORK left for docking. It will be re-hoisted on the NEW YORK on her return early in March.
MAIL AND TELEGRAPHIC ADDRESS.
The address of home mail coming to these vessels should not be changed during periods of re-fitting.
ASSISTANCE AND WORK ON AIR STATIONS ASHORE.
Divisional anchorage was shifted to the North shore on 11 February and working parties of one hundred men from each ship sent on shore to lend a hand in the construction and improvement in connection with the new air station. The men have already made an enviable reputation for quick and efficient work, and have been highly complimented both on this and their exemplary conduct.
NIGHT TORPEDO DEFENSE SPOTTING PRACTICE.
On Wednesday, February 13th, the NEW YORK fired night torpedo defense spotting practice; spotters of all ships present. The results were satisfactory, and full reports will follow. . . .
The Commander-in-Chief in the QUEEN ELIZABETH led this division to sea at 2 a.m. Saturday, February 16th in company with the remainder of the Grand Fleet for active operations. The Division returned to base at 2 a.m. the following day February 17th without having met the enemy. It is customary of the Commander-in-Chief to lead one of the divisions to sea and in action.
HEAVY WEATHER: LOSS OF ENLISTED MAN.
It was blowing a gale and a very heavy sea running from the [time the] vessels left until within a few hours of their return. More or less damage was sustained by most of the ships principally in injuries to boats. Unfortunately, Charles O. Morgenstern coxswain, of the U.S.S. NEW YORK was swept overboard in a heavy sea and lost.
BRITISH OFFICER TEMPORARILY ATTACHED TO TEXAS.
Lieut. Commander Money R.N. a member of Admiral Rodman’s staff has been temporarily attached to the TEXAS to assist in organizing her communication system, signals radio etc. to conform to that of the Grand Fleet, and to act in an advisory capacity to the Commanding Officer, upon completion of which duty he will return to the Flagship.
The following general information has been obtained from Italian sources –
The Germans have requisitioned everything of value in Italian invaded districts including all metals and church bells, whereas Austrians took only two thirds of property. Transfer of Austrian troops from western front continues. Approaching offensive on Albanian front by Austro-German-Bulgars reported. . . .
U.S. STANDARD AIRPLANE ENGINES.
A recent Press notice stated that the U.S. standard engines for aeroplanes were five months ahead of the schedule previously issued. This Press notice does not coincide with information in this office which is to the effect that the production of these motors is behind rather than ahead of schedule.
FRENCH SAILING VESSEL QUEVILLY
Motro <Motor> Sailing Vessel QUEVILLY has arrived at Ponta Delgada and will remain there as a gasoline storage vessel for American naval forces. The QUEVILLY was under escort of the French submarine DIANE and the Master of the QUEVILLY reports that on February 11, at about 11 p.m. he heard an explosion and saw smoke and flames ascending. As the DIANE was not seen again it is feared that she was accidently destroyed.
U.S.S. WHEELING AND U.S.S. MARIETTA.
U.S.S. MARIETTA will, at an early date, proceed to the Azores to relieve the WHEELING as station ship at Ponta Delgada. The WHEELING will join the Gibraltar Forces.
SUBMARINE CHASER NO. 28
The French Submarine chaser No. 28 missing since about 15th January arrived at
Horte <Horta> Fayal on the 19th instant.
She had been missing for thirty-five days. Full report concerning this chaser will be forwarded upon its receipt.
The repair ship PROMETHEUS arrived at Base 7 on the 18th inst: and will remain on that base as repair ship for vessels on the French coast.
The death of Ensign Albert D. Sturdevant U.S.N.R.F. of the Aviation Service is reported. He was making a reconnaissance in a British seaplane from Felixstowe on the 17th inst/ when the machine was reported shot down. The plane has not returned, and it is lost with all on board. A German report which probably refers to this seaplane states that they shot down a plane in flames. It appears that this plane was attacked by ten enemy planes and destroyed.
It is the opinion of the Admiralty that even if the Russians do not destroy or disable the vessels of the Russian Fleet, none of them will be available for efficient service for many motnhs [i.e., months] except a number of destroyers. It is said that the vessels have only 10% of their crews and that the Germans will have some difficulty in providing crewsfor them.
CIRCULAR LETTER REGARDING FOOD ECONOMY.
A circular letter has been issued by the Force Commander to all forces on this side regarding food economy: copy attached.
The Force Commander desires to express his high appreciation for the support now being given by the Department and the several Bureaus. He fully realizes the difficulties under which the Department and several Bureaus are working.
WM. S. SIMS.