Alfred C. W. Harmsworth, First Viscount Northcliffe, to Imperial War Cabinet
Paraphrase of telegram dated 5/7/17 from Lord Northcliffe for Prime Minister, each Member of War Cabinet, First Lord of Admiralty and all concerned.
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IMPORTANT. Though beyond my instructions, I cannot refrain from reporting current American opinion on naval matters.
Our alleged inactivity in dealing with submarines hampers our work as much as question of Ireland. Both in New York and here members of Government, general public and relations of officers of new army I am constantly interrogated about progress of submarine destruction. Optimist statements as given to Associated Press Correspondents in London on July 4th merely confuse and do harm.
All observers of war foresee that if American army, supplies, aeroplanes, food, railway material, are to be available on Western Front, they will create fresh demands for shipping, and note that losses exceed replacements so greatly that it is possible that necessary tonnage may not exist when all is ready here to intervene militarily with effect.
Secondly, naval observers point out three possible policies to end or lessen losses, all or one of which must be pursued with utmost vigour. First policy, build special unsinkable monitors and other necessary craft to enter zone outside enemy harbours and attack fleet and forts, with assistance of aircraft, while effort is made to blockade exits of enemy battle fleet. Then, under cover of capital ships, establishment of mine barriers which cannot be swept. Suggested this policy would, if feasible and carried out at Zeebrugge and all German ports combined with barrier to exclude submarines from Baltic, be completely effective. It is asked, has Admiralty considered any such scheme? If so, can they submit it to Navy Department?
Second policy: by continuous nets, each mesh of which at all depths carry a mine, to block northern exit North Sea, or alternatively by continuous wall of mines at either end North Sea.
Third policy: to devote shipbuilding capacity of both countries in much greater proportion to producing convoying or patrolling craft suitably armed with howitzer type of guns, depth charges, etc., with which to control lane down which all trade is directed. Most important these or any other plans should be discussed promptly and fully by Admiralty with American Navy.
Thirdly, Chief of Navy Dept. is reluctant to devote labour and material to inshore monitor of patrolling or convoying craft which will delay any part of capital ship programme, on ground that if war ends in compromise that leaves German Fleet intact or in defeat of Allies, danger to U.S. so great that utmost battleship and battlecruiser strength would be necessary in view of possible S. Atlantic and Pacific developments. Suggested this labour and material could be released by British offering latest type of battleships of battle-cruisers in exchange tone [i.e., ton] for tone against anti-submarine product of labour, etc., so displaced from capital ship programme here.
Very big depth charge and mine policy adopted last week, first open sign of naval initiative and very important to acknowledge this suitably. While verbally favouring enterprise, Navy Dept. is really waiting for Admiralty to lead the way to formulate any forward strategy. “Scientific American” is dealing with subject; will cable date of article.
On June 30 order was given for mines and depth charges 50,000 each, as no doubt you are aware. These supposed to be made and given free to British Government.
Submarine question mentioned at every interview I have had with President and members of his Cabinet.