Captain Joel R. Poinsett Pringle, Chief of Staff, Destroyer Flotillas, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters
29 Jan. 1918
UNITED STATES SHIP MELVILLE
My dear Admiral:-
Many thanks for your letter which I enjoyed no limit. The letter of invitation to Adm’l. W.|2| has, I believe, been sent. I am not certain of this fact, if it has not, it will be. Also the Adm’l has invited Captain Henderson of the Admiralty|3| to come down for a couple of days, in order that he may discuss the general subject of convoys, and he wants him to meet some our fellows who have been doing the work in order that he might get some views of the practical methods of accomplishing the desired end. I thought it would be good business to keep along on these lines and told the Adm’l. I would give a lunch for Capt. H. when he came, and have some of the senior skippers to meet him. He is coming in about two weeks. I think we stand on firm ground in the matter of the Club performances now. We did not go last Saturday but it won’t be long before we are there again and particularly if there is anyone stopping at Admiralty house on a Saturday night. You understand that it is sometimes better (though not often) to have people invite themselves to your parties than it is to do the inviting yourself. I think everything is on a firm footing on that score now. Some days ago I had to take some action which I now lay before you for your personal information and with a request that you let me know if you approve. Berry|4| in charge of his first escort went out for a convoy. He was due to meet it at a certain rendezvous at about 9:00 a.m. one morning. He missed it and did not meet it until about 8:00 am the next morning. Sometime in the evening of the day that he missed the convoy he sent a radio to the Commodore of the Convoy (I don’t know who he was) saying in substance that if the Commodore’s information as to speed &c as given him (Berry) by radio had been correct, the escort would have met the convoy at about 4:00 pm of that day. The Commodore, of course, resented this, and replied by radio to the effect that his positions, courses, speeds &c would prove his information as sent to have been correct, and that he suggested the matter be referred to the Admiralty. When Berry came back he saw the Adm’l before he saw me and the Adm’l, of course, found fault with him both for having missed the convoy and for the signal he had made. All this was before B’s official report went in. I waited until I studied B’s reports in which, however, he does not mention the signal, and then I went and saw the Adm’l. The Adm’l. was not at all pleased over the business and told me he wanted to see B. in my cabin the following forenoon. I then told him that if he would permit me to handle the matter I would endeavor to see that B. did not make any more signals of such a nature, and to this the Adm’l. agreed. Of course I did not say that B. would not miss any more convoys as that may, and does, happen occasionally to officers of much greater experience than B. I then sent for B. and told him that there were two points where he had failed (a) he missed the Convoy and they proceeded without escort for an entire daylight through the zone (b) he sent a signal that was utterly and entirely useless and that gave just ground for offense. As to (a) I told him that it was unfortunate and that it might have entailed serious consequences, but that we always took it for granted that a man was doing his best, that we knew the difficulties of making contact in such weather as existed at the time in question and that, while his job could not have been called a success, since he missed his convoy the first day, both the Adm’l and myself would have made due allowance for the circumstances, and expected better success in the future. With regard to (b) I told him that I could find no possible excuse for his having made such a signal and that I spoke with your authority when I said that under no circumstances should such a thing happen again. If he had any complaints to make he was to make them in the proper manner through the proper channels and that Adm’l B. would back him up to the limit if his case were well founded, as Adm’l. B. has done in every single case where such questions have arisen. B. admitted that he had been wrong in sending the signal and asked what action would be taken to which I replied that the matter had been put in my hands by Adm’l. B. and that so far as I was concerned the incident was closed. He then said that with all due respect he would like Adml. B. to look into the matter regarding the discrepancy of the signaled positions of the convoy and the actual positions of the escort (which he claims would have corresponded at about 4:00 pm If the convoys signaled speeds had been accurate). I said I would do this and accordingly saw Adm’l B. and told him that I expressed my views as above to Berry and that Berry appreciated his error in the matter of the signal and made the above mentioned request in a perfectly proper spirit. Adm’l B. said he would look into the matter and there it rests for the present at least. It is simply a case of a man piqued over his failure to accomplish a set task, flying off at a tangent and making a signal which could in no way correct the original failure either in whole or in part, and which was to say the least of it, irritating. We need not expect any more occurrences of that kind, I think, and I think that the action I have taken and the view I have expressed to B. are such as you would have desired. Things are progressing here as you would have them, I think. Nothing of any import has happened since my last letter but if anything turns up I will let you hear of it. We have had a southerly gale blowing for the past two weeks but we manage to stagger along.
I hope you are as fit as a fiddle once again.
Very sincerely yours,
J R Poinsett Pringle
Source Note: ALS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 79.