Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels
AC 14th January, 1918.
From : Force Commander.
To : Secretary of the Navy (Operations)
Subject: General Report.
1. ENEMY SUBMARINE OPERATIONS.
During week ending 30th December, 1917 to 5th January, 1918, sixteen to eighteen large enemy submarines were out, three being of the converted “Deutschland” type (2 supposed to be in the vicinity of the Azores and the Canaries and one on passage out).1
Ten to twelve large boats were operating to the westward of the line Orkneys-Shetlands and Straits of Dover.
The greatest activity was experienced in the English Channel and Irish Sea, especially the latter. The north-east coast of England was visited by one submarine but activity in that area has decreased of late.
The following table gives detailed particulars of the enemy’s activities.
Average No. of
submarines in area per day
North Sea, E. of 53° 30'
North Sea, N. of 53° 30'
N.W. of Ireland and Scotland.
3 - 4
Irish Sea and Bristol Channel
2 - 3
English Channel and approaches
S.W. of Ireland
Bay of Biscay
2 - 3
Reports of twenty-two encounters with enemy submarines have been received as follows:-
4 by destroyers
7 by auxiliary patrol
2 by “P” class vessels2
4 by aircraft
5 by merchant vessels.
2. ENEMY MINE LAYING.
The mining of the Scandinavian convoy routes off the east coast of Scotland referred to in last week’s report3 appears to have been an operation carried out with considerable skill. From the evidence at present available, it seems that the submarines after laying the group of mines well to seaward of Aberdeen, waited in the vicinity for a period, operating meanwhile with torpedoes. After a length of time, when it was presumably considered that the mine fields were discovered, and convoys diverted in-shore pending its clearance, the remainder of the mines were laid inshore.
Generally speaking, the enemy is becoming more subtle in his mine-laying policy. Until recently evidence pointed to submarines, in nearly all cases, getting rid of their cargoes of mines as soon as possible after reaching the area of operations, and in the earlier stages mines were generally laid close together. Later on, group laying became general, small groups being laid off various headlands, but the enemy apparently did not delay in proceeding from point to point for this purpose. Now, however, closer study seems to be given to British mine sweeping organization and the present policy apparently is to lay mines after waters have been swept and also off headlands, but with an interval during which torpedoes are used between successive layings.
Activity was experienced in the Aberdeen area. Thirty-five mines were destroyed during the week.
Table showing particulars of vessels in organized convoy is enclosed herewith.4
The following information relative to work being done by British destroyers is furnished as a matter of interest.
BRITISH DESTROYERS PROVIDE ESCORT FOR:-
(a) All Halifax convoys. These convoys carry all our troops for England.
(b) OLYMPIC and other big British liners with United States troops.
(c) All our troops across the English Channel.
(d) Any of our troopships bound up or down the English Channel.
(e) In case the area south of Ireland is dangerous, British destroyers are to bring in the LEVIATHAN north of Ireland, carrying United States troops.
British Destroyers bring into the English Channel all New York convoys. These convoys contain the bulk of our storeships for France.
SHIPPING IN GENERAL.
In addition to the above, British destroyers provide escort –
(a) For all convoys from New York, Hampton Roads, or Sydney, that bring United States ships into Liverpool, Glasgow and West Coast ports. Our oilers and supply ships for West Coast, Grand Fleet, and so forth are escorted by British destroyers. All the ships in the convoys referred to are escorted out of the United Kingdom by British destroyers.
(b) For all United States ships along the south coast of England and along the east coast of England.
(c) For all United States trade with Scandinavia.
(d) For all United States trade with Holland.
(e) For all United States ships bound out of the English Channel from either French or British ports.
There are seven organized convoys in the Mediterranean. Of these two are escorted by French ships, the remaining five by British and Japanese. United States Forces and British Forces furnish protection to the westward of Gibraltar, but all protection inside the Mediterranean is provided as stated.
ATLANTIC CONVOYS IN GENERAL.
The British furnish –
(a) All the Commodores for mercantile convoys, including the convoys containing our storeships.
(b) The bulk of the signal men for all these convoys.
(c) The ocean escorts for all those convoys, with the exception of the east coast – New York convoys.
ASSISTANCE BY FRENCH.
The French furnish no signalmen, no cruisers, and no Commodores. They furnish no protection to any Atlantic convoy except, assisted by the United States, they meet once every eight days one convoy near Brest.
4. ANTI-SUBMARINE OPERATIONS.
The weather conditions for the past week around the British Isles have been very bad. High winds, snow storms and mists have made the duties of destroyers exceedingly difficult. One British destroyer went ashore in a gale and snowstorm on the North West Coast of Ireland, and was wrecked. There were no survivors. Two other British destroyers proceeding to westward towards Scapa Flow went ashore in heavy weather and thick snow and were wrecked. Only one survivor from both ships was rescued.
Continued effort is being put forward to meet the enemy tactics of operating inshore (in confined waters) as mentioned in last report. The plan of picking up convoys a shorter distance at sea in order that vessels may be used for patrol inshore, is being carried out as far as possible.
Hunting groups are being prepared and the work is well under way.
Captain Leigh U.S. Navy has been assigned to temporary duty as liaison officer between the Force Commander and the Director of the Anti-Submarine Division of the British Admiralty. Lieutenant W.R. Carter, U.S. Navy, has been assigned to temporary duty at Portsmouth, England, and together with six enlisted men and two civilian experts, will be actively engaged in connection with the use of sound detection devices for locating submarines.5
The Admiralty officials are very much interested in the American sound detection device and are offering all possible facilities for Captain Leigh and his assistants to carry on the work.
There are at present thirty trawlers at Weymouth being equipped with “Fish” hydrophones and these are being trained under the direct supervision of Captain Walwyn, R.N.,6 Captain Leigh, U.S. Navy and Lieut. Carter, U.S. Navy.
The submarine “C” tube brought over by Captain Leigh is being installed on submarine E-43 at Harwich. Technical expert Scott7 is superintending this work and full report will be made when tests are carried out.
The AYLWIN will be ordered to Portsmouth for inspection of her sound detection devices upon her arrival in European waters.
The question of the manufacture of sub-chaser “K” tubes, Compensators, Baldwin Receivers and Trailing Wire devices in England is being taken up with various manufacturers here. The party under Captain Leigh’s charge has been of material assistance in initiating this work.
Work is well under way in developing a suitable towing “K” tube. Any information in regard to progress of this work in the United States is particularly desired.
Certain changes are being made in the installations of the Radio Telephones which were installed in the three English trawlers used as a hunting group with American devices. A course of instruction in the care, operation, etc., of these telephones is being given the Wireless telegraph operators of these vessels and Technical Expert Nelson is directly in charge of this work.8
The following relative to sound detection devices, has been determined upon in conference with the Director, Anti-Submarine Division, Captain Ryan, R.N., in charge Hydrophone Station Hawkcraig, Captain Yates-Brown, R.N., and Captain Leigh, U.S. Navy.9
“Fish” Hydrophone programme already in process for sloops, “P” boats, destroyers and trawlers, is to continue, with this qualification that, if the towing “K” tube is developed and gives results that are comparable to the “Fish” owing to its simplicity and greater hardiness, it will take the place of the “Fish.”
It has been agreed that it is desirable to equip all trawlers and hunting flotillas as soon as possible with S.C. tube viz:- the one hundred and fifty required by May 1st.
It has been decided that two of the S.C. tubes allocated to trawlers should not be fitted at this time but kept to serve as patterns for manufacture in England.
It has been decided that on the arrival of 100 “K” tubes (triangle type) from America, these should be immediately installed in vessels most suitable, a proportion being reserved for the Mediterranean and a small portion for experiments.
If the researches now taking place produce a towing device for the “K” tube, the sets coming over from America may be converted so as to be used under way. Two or three sets are to be turned over to Captain Ryan at Hawk Craig with a view to their possible application to shore stations.
It has been recommended that all hunting trawlers should be fitted with the U.S. Electric Trailing Wire device. Further experiments are necessary to increase the area searched out.
Captain Leigh is of the opinion that a submarine can be located in 35 fathoms with the towing vessel proceeding at nine knots. This fully meets all trawler requirements, and steps to manufacture this apparatus will be taken immediately.
Ten officers of suitable rank for executive duties on new destroyers, were withdrawn from destroyers at Queenstown and sailed for the United States on the 11th January.
Preparations are now under way to send ten additional officers with destroyer engineering experience.
Commander J.V. Babcock, U.S. Navy, of the Force Commander’s staff10 left London on the 11th inst: to proceed to the United States on liaison duty between the Force Commander and the Navy Department.
6. FORCES ON THE FRENCH COAST.
Rear Admiral H.B. Wilson, Captain R.H. Jackson, Captain H.I. Cone and Commander J. Halligan (Jr.) U.S. Navy arrived in London on the 9th inst. for a conference with the Force Commander regarding the re-organization of the forces in France.11 With the exception of Captain Cone, the above officers returned to France on the 11th instant. Captain Cone will remain in London until the 15th January.
A complete agreement was reached relative to the re-organization of the above forces.
Owing to the weather conditions considerable damage has been done to Patrol Vessels operating off the West Coast of France. The U.S.S. CORSAIR was so damaged that it became necessary for her to put into Lisbon for repairs. A copy of the Commanding Officer’s report is appended.12
From the Commanding Officer’s report, it appears that repair facilities in Lisbon are much better than those in Brest. This was confirmed by a report from the Commanding Officer of the PRESTON13 and for this reason the CORSAIR has been directed to remain at Lisbon until the necessary repairs are completed.
7. FORCES BASED ON QUEENSTOWN.
The SANTEE, torpedoed on night of 27th December is in dry dock at Haulbowline.14 Temporary repairs will be made, and upon their completion the SANTEE will be towed to an English port where permanent repairs will be made and she will continue in the service for which she is intended.
NAVAL MEN’S CLUB, EXTENSION OF.
Negotiations have been entered into with the Bath’s Hall Co., looking towards taking over the remaining portion of the hall with a view to enlarging the Club Theatre. It appears that the proprietors are willing to rent the remaining portion of the hall and there would seem to be no difficulty about the enlargement. Estimates will be made and detailed plans of the proposed change will be drawn up and the whole matter examined into before any definite arrangement is decided upon. In this connection it will probably be necessary to enlarge both the restaurant and dormitory facilities. It is the Force Commander’s opinion that it would be impossible to maintain contentment and discipline of the force at this base in a satisfactory manner were it not for the facilities afforded by the Club and it is deemed of first importance to develop the club to meet the increasing demands made upon it.
In this connection there are forwarded herewith copies of a booklet descriptive of this Club.15
RECREATION GROUNDS AT RINGASKIDDY
The Recreation grounds at Ringaskiddy are being developed for the benefit of our men during the coming summer. These grounds are the property of the Admiralty, are about ten acres in extent, and were originally intended for the use of the English Training Squadron which, at one time was based there. The work necessary consists principally in levelling the athletic fields, which are already constructed and in building two buildings, one to be used as a shelter in case of bad weather, and the other as a canteen. So far as preliminary investigations have gone, it seems probable that the necessary lumber may be obtained from the dockyard and it is proposed to utilise our own forces to the maximum in prosecuting the necessary work. The Commander-in-Chief, Queenstown,16 has directed Captain Campbell of H.M.S. ACTIVE17 to co-operate in every way in the development of these grounds which, of course, will be used jointly by both Services.
Lieutenant Moses18 has arrived with the necessary personnel and some of the material for the establishment of the Torpedo Ready Repair Station on shore. The Commander-in-Chief Queenstown has turned over to our forces what is known as the “Paravane Building” at Haulbowline. This building is not yet entirely completed but lacks only the roof which is about due to arrive and, when completed, the building will serve our purposes in excellent fashion.
HOSPITAL ON SHORE.
The Admiralty have approved of the taking over, under the #Defense of the Realm Act”, of the building which is to be used by our force as a hospital. The procedure in such cases is conducted entirely by the Admiralty through its agents, and that the rental to be paid and all other necessary questions are settled by Admiralty Agents. The compensation allowed is fixed by the Admiralty and it therefore appears under the circumstances that the payment of the rental will be arranged for between the Admiralty and the Force Commander’s London Office.
As previously reported, the rental of this building would not exceed $450 per year if rented directly from the owner. It is the Force Commander’s opinion that the compensation allowed the owner by the Admiralty will be less than the above amount. The water supply is being tested and sanitary arrangements are to be made satisfactory.
The regular refit programme has been resumed and the CONYNGHAM, PORTER and DRAYTON arrived at Liverpool on 3 January for the regular refit period.
The U.S.S. PATTERSON was in collision with H.M. Tug DREADFUL, and a report in the matter will be forwarded. This vessel will be repaired at the base. In view of the fact that the collision involves ships of the two Services, a mixed Board of investigation has been convened to investigate and report on the incident connected with the collision.
The most pressing need of the base at present, and one that is increasing and becoming more pressing as the development of the base proceeds, is an adequate number of boats and tugs for the necessary water transportation. The Admiralty have placed at our disposal one of the tugs assigned to this base, which tug is at present used largely in the transportation of men and supplies to and from the training barracks at Passage. The Aviation Section at Aghada19 will still further increase the need for transportation and unless more boats are available, it will soon be impossible to meet the demands for transportation. If it is at all possible one of the tugs due to arrive very shortly to remain on this side will be sent to Queenstown. Several requests have been submitted for boats for this station including 50 ft. motor sailers and a boat suitable for the use of the Commanding Officer of the Training Barracks. It is recommended that the supply of these boats be expedited in every way possible.
BAND FOR BARRACKS.
A band is very necessary and very desirable for duty at the barracks where over 600 men are now assembled and in training. The band furnished the Flag Ship some time ago is used on the Tenders, Destroyers, and at the Men’s Club. It is not practicable to send the Flagship band to the Barracks frequently.
8. BATTLESHIP DIVISION NINE.
General Report for week ending 5th January from the Commander, Battleship Division Nine,20 is forwarded under separate cover.
WM. S. SIMS.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Identification numbers at top of page: “25-13-12”; and in columnar fashion: 1/2/3/4/5/6.”
Footnote 1: Large long-range German submarines originally designed to carry cargo but converted to war-use.
Footnote 2: P class, or patrol boats, were a class of coastal sloops.
Footnote 3: See: Sims to Daniels, 8 January 1918.
Footnote 4: This enclosure is no longer with this report.
Footnote 5: Richard H. Leigh, Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering, Capt. William W. Fisher, and Lt. Worrall R. Carter. For more details on the assignments that Sims refers to here, see: Sims to Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 14 January 1918 and Daniels to Sims, 15 January 1918.
Footnote 6: Humphrey T. Walwyn.
Footnote 7: C. F. Scott was one of the civilian experts that traveled with Leigh to conduct tests on American underwater listening devices; see: Leigh to Sims, 8 January 1918.
Footnote 8: E. L. Nelson.
Footnote 9: James M. Ryan and Alan M. Yeats-Brown, Admiralty Anti-Submarine Division.
Footnote 10: James V. Babcock was one of Sims’ aides, in charge of convoying operations.
Footnote 11: Henry B Wilson, Commander, Patrol Squadrons Based in France, Richard H. Jackson, Special Representative to the French Ministry of Marine, Hutchinson I. Cone, Commander United States Naval Aviation Forces, Foreign Service, and John Halligan, Jr., Wilson’s Chief of Staff. For a summary of this meeting-and the resulting reorganization that took place-see: Sims to Wilson, 12 January 1918.
Footnote 12: CORSAIR’s Commanding Officer was Lt. Cmdr. Thomas A. Kittinger. His report is no longer with this document, but, for a thorough description of the hurricane that so badly damaged CORSAIR and several of the other American vessels stationed off the coast of France-as well as a summary of Kittinger’s report-see, Paine, The CORSAIR in the War Zone, 146-174, passim.
Footnote 13: Lt. Cary W. Magruder.
Footnote 14: SANTEE was a mystery, or “Q”, ship. SANTEE was torpedoed on its first cruise and never returned to active service during the war. See: Sims to Leigh C. Palmer, 6 January 1918.
Footnote 15: This booklet is no longer with this document.
Footnote 16: Adm. Sir Lewis Bayly.
Footnote 17: Gordon Campbell.
Footnote 18: Edward S. Moses.
Footnote 19: Aghada was the naval air station that the United States constructed at Queenstown. Rosano, Stalking the U-Boat, 50.
Footnote 20: RAdm. Hugh M. Rodman.