Commodore Guy R. Gaunt, British Naval Attaché at Washington, to First Sea Lord Admiral Sir John R. Jellicoe
TELEGRAM. No. 166
From Naval Attache, Washington. Date 1.7.17.
To Admiralty. Sent 9.10pm 30/6
Recd 9.20 am
166 Following from Commodore Gaunt. Personal for First Sea Lord. Have just discussed yours and Sims2 cables of last three days with Admiral Benson.3 He is still opposed to convoys and strongly in favour of armed merchant vessels despite Admiralty’s 154 of June 28th.4 He, however, is prepared to do anything he possibly can. He has ?given orders to send 5 destroyers from China to Admiral Sims’ flag. They are small vessels and will probably take a long time. He sent out orders to try and send 5 submarines to operate in Mediterranean but says, and the United States submarine Admiral5 agrees with him, that these vessels are so bad that he doubts even their being able to leave coast of United States. Admiral Benson is undoubted influenced by Naval Attaches who play their country individually and not for Allies. I think that they consider their own personal credit first. For instance, when talking of small craft this morning he said Prince Udine6 had just been in and complained there was noprotection on south of Spain and Admiral Benson had a fixed idea that he should send there small craft which I considered suitable for Atlantic. The French promised to safeguard the NEPTUNE, yet she had been delayed in French port and only just XXXX has sailed with American escort. The French Naval Attache7 apparently hinted that, as everything was going to us, and nothing to France it was difficult for them carry out their promises above all things under Admiral Sims who was equally in London and Paris and would delegate their station. Captain Pratt8 has temporarily taken Chief of Staff post. He is a strong man and I should think most capable. After leaving Admiral Benson I talked practically the whole of (group omitted)ing privately with him and he entirely agreed. When I left him he decided to put forward
(a) Some of destroyer in canal zone could be spared
(b) Some of larger tugs in canal zone could be spared for sea duty releasing big tugs. The DES MOINES SACRAMENTO class of cruiser might be sent over (I urged this but I should like your opinion, he thought they were too slow) The abandoning to be taken up immediately.
The 12 first destroyers will not be ready before ?August 1st. Under requisitioning bill just passed we made out there were 30 yachts, (corrupt group) available and Captain Pratt was putting this forward at once. When quarrel between Shipping Board and Navy ?Dept: ?is adjusted Admiral Benson hopes to employ heavily armed merchant vessels as transport escort thereby relieving cruisers. (ends)
Source Note: Cy, UK-KeNA, Adm. 137/656. A note at the bottom identifies the recipient as “1st S.L.” (First Sea Lord). On the top of the second page is the typed heading “TELEGRAM. No./Date/From N.A. Washington (166)/To”.
Footnote 1: This letter identifies which cypher was used to encrypt the message.
Footnote 2: VAdm. William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.
Footnote 3: Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations.
Footnote 4: This document has not been located.
Footnote 5: RAdm. Albert W. Grant, Commander, Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet.
Footnote 6: Ferdinando di Savoia, Prince of Udine, was an Italian nobleman decorated for his service as an Admiral in the Italian Navy during the war. He served on the Italian War Commission that visited the United States in May 1917.
Footnote 7: Cmdr. Bernard A. de Blanpré.
Footnote 8: Capt. William V. Pratt, Assistant Chief of Naval Operations. Pratt assumed this title on 25 June 1917, following the sudden death of his predecessor, Capt. Volney O. Chase.