Commander Joel R.Poinsett Pringle, Chief of Staff, Destoryer Flotillas, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters
UNITED STATES NAVAL FORCES
OPERATING IN EUROPEAN WATERS
15 July 1917.
From: Commander J.R.P. Pringle, U.S.N.
To: Commander, U.S.Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.
Subject: Destroyers – Material.
1. General Condition.1
All destroyers are generally in splendid condition, and there is every indication that they will continue to give efficient service. Since operating with our Allies, our destroyers have never failed to meet the schedule laid down for them, and when they have been called on in advance of it, they have always responded.
. . . .All destroyers are equipped with two Type “D” British depth charges. Two spares are being supplied as rapidly as possible. The explosive is three hundred (300) pounds of amatol, 60 parts TNT and 40 parts of amm. Nitrate.2
. . . .The waist guns have given considerable concern due to the spray and seas and with a heavy load are considered well nigh useless. In the British destroyers, the guns on the main deck are amidships and mounted on platforms about four feet from the deck. With the flush deck destroyers3 it is not believed this trouble will be encountered, but in the present destroyers it is recommended that the plan of moving waist guns amidships and raising them above the deck be seriously considered. The installation of anti-aircraft guns on the main deck is considered better than the forecastle.
. . . .Darkening ship has been accomplished either by painting the ports or by installing light galvanized iron or canvas covers. During the winter months the galley will have to be darkened and it is the intention to completely inclose it and provide ventilation by means of windsails.4
Topmasts of all vessels so fitted have been received to lessen the visibility. Crows nests5 are being fitted to vessels not already provided, and it is recommended in future that all crows nests be completely housed overhead. Fixed ladders are almost a necessity on both foremast and mainmast.
All vessels are being adequately supplied with Corley Floate <Floats>.6
On some destroyers two bunks have been placed in the chart house for the captain and navigator who must be in constant touch with the bridge, and it appears to be a desirable feature for all destroyers.
In some instances rough canvas houses have been made for the gun watch abreast of the chart house. This affords protection from the weather for gun crews on watch and keeps them instantly available. Men berthed in the forward living compartment are in constant danger from possible contact with a mine and are provided with secondary billets elsewhere.
Owing to the unusual strain upon the stearing engines due to zig-zagging constantly at speed of 15 knots and above; they require constant care, overhaul, but up to the present time have stood the hard service wonderfully well.
Source Note: D, DNA, RG45, Entry 517B.
Footnote 1: There are a total of 6 numbered bullet points in the full letter. None of the other numbered headings appear in the remaining excerpted sections.
Footnote 2: Britain’s larger depth charges tended to work significantly better when deployed than America’s 50-pounders, but were also more likely to explode prematurely. This was a source of concern to destroyer crews. Britain began developing the powerful Type D charges in early 1915 and distributed them widely in January of 1916. Over the course of the war, depth charges saw significant improvement, so that by the Armistice the U.S. had developed a 600-pound version. The meager supply of two charges per ship mentioned here was typical, although it became apparent very quickly that submarines could dodge one or two charges and ships would have to drop higher numbers to have any real chance of hitting the target. Ships received greater supplies as production increased. Still, Crisis at Sea, 324-326; Norman Friedman, Fighting the Great War at Sea (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2014), 300.
Footnote 3: Authorized in 1916, the “flush-deck” destroyers had an unbroken deck from bow to stern. There were three classes of ships of this type: Caldwell, Wickes, and Clemson, with a total of 273 ships built. Destroyerhistory.org, accessed on 6 July 2017, http://destroyerhistory.org/flushdeck/#.
Footnote 4: Canvas tubes designed to force air into lower decks.
Footnote 5: Stands placed high on masts to provide lookouts with an optimal view.
Footnote 6: Carley Floats, also known as Carley rafts, were much easier to launch – their light weight made it possible for the crew to put them over the side by hand, without needing machinery. They drew their name from inventor Horace Carley. Clare Sugrue, “Horace Carley: Unknown Inventor,” CFB (Canadian Forces Base) Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum, accessed on 6 July 2017, https://web.archive.org/web/20080723211030/http://www.navalandmilitarymuseum.org/resource_pages/chars/carley.html.