Sir Joseph P. Maclay, Minister of Shipping, to Bainbridge Colby, United States Shipping Board
17 Jan 1918
3013 Please communicate following to Mr. Colby “Greatly appreciate your personal message2 and note with interest your cable arrangements. We already have supplemental wire terminating in admiralty which also serves ministry of shipping and arrangements in force secure priority for messages. Difficulty appears likely to arise with regards to messages of confidential or secret character in view of absence of any Government cipher of secret code. Would be glad to have your suggestions in this regard. British Govt. have hitherto considered it necessary to adhere strictly to rule that all messages with regards to movements of ships should go in cipher. Paragraph Observe that you are examining closely in concert with Black and Riebum3 the possibilities of releasing further American tanker tonn
oage and we note with appreciation number to provide forty thousand tons within the next six weeks. Fully appreciate the difficulty you are meeting with in so rearranging your international oil trade as to release the largest number of tank steamers. We have had to contend with exactly the same difficulty. Trade and industry once commenced essentially have now come to be regarded as luxurious. Since you left General tonnage position had become more grave and even with the more rigid economy of tonnage the difficulty of the next few months cannot be met. In these circumstances I have no doubt you will give the very fullest and more careful consideration to the point raised by Sir Frederick Black in his message to you dated January 10. of which I have just received a copy.4 Paragraph. I note that your number of 40,000 tons of tank tonnage is conditional on our agreeing to make certain rearrangements of British tanker tonnage. These rearrangements are under close discussion with your special delegates, Foley and Thomas,5 who are representing you here in advance of appointment of permanent representative as agreed at the Paris conference, and you may be sure that any economies of tank tonnage routing which can be made consistent with the best interest of the allies will at once be carried out without regard to any trade interest. paragraph
I cannot however impress too strongly upon you that the question of these rearrangements is most complicated one, and that the British Government has not only to safe guard the vital supplies for the British Isles but also the British Fleet in Mediterranean sea, the essential industries and railways of Egypt, all of which are of immense importance, both from military and a food producing point of view and the Indian Empire, to which kerosene is vital. Any change therefore in the supply of these requirements can only be made after the most searching investigations which is now in progress. As therefore the proposed rearrangements of British tonnage will not apparently affect in any way your ability or inability to place further tonnage at our disposal, I appeal to you to place at once at our disposal the 40,000 tons alluded to, as well as any further tonnage which after further disposition with Sir F. Black you may be able to spare. Paragraph. In urging you to make this contribution to the allied cause from the class of tonnage in which you are strong may I remind you of the valuable contribution made by us in transporting large and steadily increasing numbers of American troops and their equipment in British ships; which has resulted in the loss of a considerable quantity of cargo space. Paragraph. Though I do not propose to answer your detailed suggestions in this cablegram, please note that the explanations of your second point was given to Foley and Thomas on fifth instant which advise having cabled on fifth and seventh instant.6 Paragraph. With regard to suggestions five a as to allocation of tonnage, Black had already informed us that this proposal was being made and we had informed Foley and Thomas that the proposal which appears quite the contrary to the principles laid down at the Paris conference will not be satisfactory in practice. Preferable course would be for allied agreement as to urgency of needs to be reached here in concurrence with them on your permanent representatives when appointed and cabled you by them. paragraph signed Maclay. 12217.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.
Footnote 1: VAdm. William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.
Footnote 2: See: Colby to Paul Foley 9 January 1918.
Footnote 3: Sir Frederick Black and Sir Paul Riebaum.
Footnote 4: This document has not been located.
Footnote 5: Cmdr. Paul Foley and L. I. Thomas were experts on maritime shipping that had been part of the November diplomatic mission to England led by Col. Edward M. House.
Footnote 6: Neither of these cables have been located.