Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations
January 11, 1918.
Your 1958.2 Plan to use fourteen inch guns on shore is considered feasible but not thought practicable or desirable to man and use them as a purely United States naval operation.3 Matter was taken up with Admiralty who gave it careful consideration and decided it best be handled by War Office. Have had two interviews with two army officials who express great gratification at possibility of securing the guns and mountings to supplement their own equipment, which is not at present sufficient for their needs. English have in preparation twenty-five fourteen inch fifty caliber guns with six railway mountings. They regard the proportion of four guns to one mount a proper one to allow for guns wearing out in service. For this reason it would <be> unnecessary to furnish as many mountings as guns and it is recommended that ten fourteen inch guns with three railway mountings for standard gauge track be prepared and sent over.
Recommend all necessary personnel be furnished by United States, including guns’ crews, mechanics, engineers, and all personnel required to erect, transport, and operate the batteries.4 Precise point at which batteries will be used cannot be stated at present, but the question has been referred to Sir Douglas Haig.5
Proposal most gratefully received by War Office, who think the supplying of these guns will enable them to accomplish in June what they had not expected to accomplish with their own material until considerably later.6
War Office asks that the following information be furnished as soon as possible.
First, are the guns similar to the Bethlehem guns now in use on monitors in British service? Second, if not, request drawings be forwarded at once to determine what changes would be necessary in British mountings to take these guns or in our mountings to take British guns. If such changes can be made great flexibility will be secured and possibility of using United States and British guns indiscriminately; Third, weight of shell and muzzle velocity and particulars of charge; Fourth, drawings of chamber of gun; Fifth, table of weights, including bare gun, slide, mount, total weight borne on rails, maximum weight of one lift for disembarkation; Sixth, number of axles, minimum curve on which truck can travel, possible travers right and left of center line of truck.
Regarding seven inch guns. Am unable to say at present whether or not these could be used. Smallest gun British have on railway mounting is nine point two, of which they have <mountings for> twenty-four. Largest gun they have on field mount is six inch. Question has been referred to Haig whether he could use seven inch guns and if so whether best railway or field mounts.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.
Footnote 1: Sims’ Chief of Staff, Capt. Nathan C. Twining.
Footnote 2: This cable has not been found.
Footnote 3: This cable concerns what became the Naval Railway Battery. However, as it was associated with the American Expeditionary Force and not with the British Army, the coordination discussed in this cable was never instituted. For more on these guns, including many of the technical specifications requested later in this cable, see https://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/u/us-naval-railway-batteries-france.html. See also, Ralph Earle to William Benson, 12 November 1917, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.
Footnote 4: As recommended, all personnel associated with the guns were American.
Footnote 5: Field Marshal Douglas Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force in France.
Footnote 6: The first railway battery arrived in France on 8 July 1918. Ibid.