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Captain William B. Fletcher, Commander, Special Patrol Squadrons, Patrol Instructions


SECRET                  Flag Office              Brest, France 

                        31 July, 1917.


        1.     Patrol areas given in Operation Orders may be changed, by Force Commander, from time to time.

        2.     Vessels doing convoy duty along the coast will conform to the regulations which are in force for the French Forces.

        3.     Vessels on Area Patrol will steer courses to cover the areas allotted them and be irregular in their movements so that the vessel’s position cannot be plotted by submarines.

        4.     When on patrol, vessels shall speak all vessels sighted to obtain the following information:

(a)        Name and nationality,

(b)        Destination and port of departure,

(c)        Character of cargo.

        5.     Patrol vessels will give to vessels bound for French ports, as may be necessary, such information as they may have regarding the routes to be followed or instruction needed to meet escorts to take them into port.

        6.     They will escort ships with valuable cargoes, bound to Brest, or St, Nazaire; and escort to Quiberon ships with destination La Pallice, the ports of the Gironde or French ports to the South,

         7.    Precedence will be given to vessels in the following order:   

(a)         Transports with troops or supplies,

(b)         Vessels with munitions or munition


(c)         Petroleum and oil, coal,

(d)         Grain and provisions,

(e)         Lumber, machinery and railroad material,

(f)         General cargo merchandise.

        8.     When information is at hand concerning vessels which are expected, giving their ports of destination, cargo, probable dates of arrival, and the positions in which they may be expected to be found, patrol vessels will endeavor to meet them and furnish escort when circumstances make it possible.

       (9)     When acting as escort vessel, keep on the exposed bow of the convoy and about 1200 yards in the direction of the base course. Insist that all vessels escorted zig zag day and night. Escorting vessels are to break joints with convoy when courses are changed, i.e., when convoy turns to port, escort must come over to her starboard bow, when convoy turns to starboard escort must go over to her port bow.

      10.      Leave patrol and return to base in time to arrive at or about schedule time, unless engaged in the execution of specific orders and not relieved by another vessel, and unless circumstances require you to continue on the duty which you may be doing.

      11.      Calls for assistance from vessels will be answered and in event of vessels sunk crews are to be rescued if possible.  Survivors will be retained on board or brought in before end of period of patrol, according to the necessities of the case, of which the Commanding Officer must be the judge, but important duty must not be interrupted for that purpose.

       12.     Ordinary cruising speed for fast vessels should be at least 12 knots, with fires under all boilers.

       13.     Use 600 metres wave length. Do not copy press. Soundings on French charts in metres, use G. M. Time and Greenwich Longitude.

       14.     Coaling may commence the day of, or day after arrival.

       15.     Commanding officers report to Force Commander day after arrival in port.

              W. B. Fletcher.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 125, Entry 30, Box 246. There is a notation at top of this copy: “EXHIBIT “I” because these instructions were introduced as an exhibit in the Court of Inquiry for Fletcher held in March and April 1920. Below the signature is a certification by the Capt. Kenneth M Bennett, Judge Advocate of those proceedings, that this is “A true copy/KMBennett.” There is a page number: “9g” “10g” “11g” in the upper right-hand corner of each of the three pages of the instructions.

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