Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, R.N., Commander, Naval Forces, Southern Ireland
January 18th. 1918.
My dear Admiral,
Your letter of the 16th. just received.1 I of course agree with your remarks concerning the relation between the head of an organization and his advisers. If the organization is a large one it is absolutely essential that the advisers be sound. At all events, it is perfectly certain that if for any reason the man at the head attempts to decide all details, he will not last very long, and even if he is strong enough to hold out he would be a very wonderful man if he could study and decide all these details without the assistance of the study and initiative of a band of able youngsters.
As far as I can see at present, the business of the Admiralty is now being carried on in an efficient manner. It is of course too soon to make any prediction as to the development of radical new policies.2
Concerning the question of taking the thousand tonners away from Queenstown, this is not to reduce the force at Queenstown until such time as conditions on the French coast in reference to oiling, repairs and so forth, would permit the basing there of enough destroyers to handle the troop convoys directly from that coast. When this becomes possible, it would be a more economical use of destroyers than to continue convoying them with the destroyers based on Queenstown. However, all that is in the future.
A few days ago we received information that a number of destroyers were to be sent to this side very soon. Without having any definite information about them, we naturally assumed that they would be the 750 tonners. We now learn that within a few days there will be despatched seven 420 tonners. These would of course not be as useful for the work now being carried on at Queenstown, as their radius of action is too small. They burn coal. They are however, very excellent sea boats. Five of the same type made a rather remarkable trip from Manilla to Gibraltar. These same boats went from the United States to Manilla, thence to California, thence through the Canal to New York and were sent across the Atlantic. This shows that they are capital sea boats.
A few days ago a large convoy was made up at Gibraltar partly of American and partly of British vessels. As the cargoes were mostly intended for Italy and they needed them very badly, the Italians agreed to send six destroyers to help escort them. The convoy left Gibraltar with these six destroyers and some of our 420 tonners.3 They had only proceeded a little way when the Commander of the Italian destroyers decided to sea was too rough for his boats and he returned to port. The convoy continued with the 420 tonners and some yachts and other small anti-submarine craft.
It is the intention to send the seven 420 tonners directly to the coast of France, without stopping at Queenstown for depth charge installations and so forth. We believe all this can be handled by the forces now in France, particularly as these boats will bring with them the big fleet repair ship – PROMETHEUS. – That is, five of them will come with her and two will come a bit later.
Very sincerely yours,
Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Container 47. Address below close: “Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, R.N./Admiralty House,/Queenstown. Ireland.”
Footnote 1: See: Bayly to Sims, 16 January 1918. Bayly’s letter addressed the removal of Adm. Sir John R. Jellicoe as First Sea Lord. Bayly believed that “Jellicoe showed too much friendship & too little judgement in the appointments that followed his arrival at the Admiralty & that caused him to do most of the work himself. Hence his fall.” British Prime Minister David Lloyd George cited Jellicoe’s slowness in adopting convoying as his primary reason for relieving the admiral. Jellicoe also suffered from severe criticism in the press and from some younger naval officers late in his tenure. Massie, Castles of Steel: 739-745.
Footnote 2: After Jellicoe’s departure, Adm. Sir Rosslyn Wemyss replaced him as First Sea Lord. Sims regarded Wemyss as “a very clear headed and able man” who would do a much better job relying on competent subordinates than Jellicoe had. See: Sims to Bayly, 14 January 1918.
Footnote 3: Sims is likely referring to the old Bainbridge-class destroyers previously stationed at the Philippines. They were sent to the Mediterranean about this time. See: Sims to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 18 September 1917; and Sims to William S. Benson, 18 October 1917.