Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Anne Hitchcock Sims
The Carlton, London,
January 24, 1918
My precious Nani:
These are busy and interesting times. On Monday, 21st, I had to close any letters to you for the mail leaving Tuesday because the latter was the first day of the Allied Naval Council.1 It met at 11 am, but at 10 am I attended the council that takes place each morning at the Admiralty. This is presided over by the 1st.S.L. (Wemyss) and is attended by the Chief of Staff and the P.Ds. of the Admiralty.2 Generally, the events of the day before are discussed, as well as any questions concerning current operations. This keeps me in close touch with what is going on and what is proposed.
The Allied council was presided over by Sir Eric Geddes, 1st Lord. He is a young man (41), more than medium height, and of powerful build. He is a man of great force of character, and makes a fine presiding officer. The council was composed of representatives of Gt Britain (Wemyss), France (Ad de Bon), Italy (Ad di Revel), Japan (Ad Funakashi), and the U.S. Each had from one to three staff officers (I had Twining, Schofield, and Yarnell.).3 There was an English and a French stenographer and an interpreter. The proceedings were in English, but all remarks were translated from E to F and from F to E.
The meetings were held in the old Admiralty Board room, that has been in use for centuries. It has wonderful wood carving about the huge fireplace and many interesting portraits, including one of Nelson.4 On the huge broad table is the silver inkstand used by Nelson.
We were in session two days. On the first day, the French, Italian and Jap Admirals, the 1st.S.L. and a couple of others (including Twining) went to lunch with the 1st Lord at his house. After lunch we were all photographed in a group on the [word indecipherable] and also individually. While this was going on a movie man (the official Admiralty photographer) was grinding away at us, and then took a “close up” of each of us.
. . . . As this was the first meeting of the council, much of the time was taken up in organizing the working machinery, arranging for the pursuant-secretariat, etc. The latter will be in London, under a British Captain, and each nation is represented on it. Yarnell is our man.
All sorts of important things were discussed, and committees were appointed to make detailed studies of certain things. Some of these committees will have to go to
Lou Italy and make a report on the situation there. I think I will have to go on that committee, as I have nobody else “of suitable rank” to send, and besides the Italians have been urging for a long time to have one of us pay them a visit. They tried to get both Mayo and Benson. They have had nobody from America (No P.D.) except officials from the Red Cross and ymca.
So, I suppose I will have to go –about two weeks from now. I will probably be there when you are reading this. I will be absent from London about 10 days or two weeks, and it will doubtless be a rather strenuous visit, as it will certainly include all sorts of functions, presentations, etc. In this war, the U.S. and Great Britain are the two sources of supply-coal, food, ships, destroyers, etc, etc., so you can imagine the rest of them try to make the best of us.
. . . . Yesterday the Arctic explorer Amundsen turned up.5 We were notified some time ago that he was coming as a guest of the United States and that the navy was to look out for him. He leaves here on Saturday for France, and I have detailed an officer to go with him, and Jackson and Sayles will look out for him there.6
He is going to visit our troops at the front, and also the British. I dont know just what the idea is, but I think our P.Ds. believe his visit will do some good. I had quite a chat with him today. He is a very fine looking man.
The situation of my being an Honorary member of the Board of Admiralty is still brewing. I think I told you that the 1st Lord (Geddes)7 told me the king had enquired about it again, and he asked me to cable Benson and ask what was being done about it.8
The reply was that they (the P.Ds.) recognized that it would be desirable, but that they feared it would be displeasing to the other Allies. So, at the conclusion of the Committee Meetings, the 1st Lord asked them all, and they all said they thought it would be an excellent idea. It will therefore be put up again to our P.Ds. with their objection removed. This time it will go to the President through the Ambassador9 by request of Sir Eric Geddes and the British Government. I am naturally interested to see what they will do about it. . . .
Source Note: ALS, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 9.
Footnote 1: For more on the Allied Naval Council, see: Constitution of the Allied Naval Council, 22 January 1918; Sims to Bayly, 24 January 1918.
Footnote 2: First Sea Lord Adm. Sir Rosslyn E. Wemyss and VAdm. Sir Henry Oliver, R.N. “P.Ds” was a shorthand that Sims used frequently, and probably means “Persons of Distinction.”
Footnote 3: Adm. Ferdinand Jean Jacques de Bon, Chief of the French Naval Staff; VAdm. Paolo Thaon di Revel; RAdm. Fajishiro Funakoshi, Imperial Japanese Navy; Capt. Nathan C. Twining, Sims’ chief of staff; Capt. Frank H. Schofield and Cmdr. Harry E. Yarnell, both members of Sims’ staff.
Footnote 4: Adm. Lord Horatio Nelson, British naval hero from the wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon; he is one of the most celebrated figures in British history.
Footnote 5: Roald E.G. Amundsen, a celebrated Norwegian explorer. In 1911, he had become the first man to reach the South Pole.
Footnote 6: Capt. Richard H. Jackson, American Naval Representative in Paris and Cmdr. William R. Sayles, formerly the United States Naval Attaché in Paris.
Footnote 7: Sir Eric Geddes, First Lord of the Admiralty.
Footnote 8: Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations. Although Benson seemed open to Sims’ honorary membership on the Admiralty Board, President Woodrow Wilson firmly rejected the idea. This was a source of lasting frustration and resentment for Sims. Still, Crisis at Sea: 71.
Footnote 9: Sir Cecil Spring-Rice.