Vice Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, Commander, Southern Ireland, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters
July 11th. 1917.
My dear Admiral,
I am so very busy, and I am such a slow writer, that I hope you will excuse the machine at least for this once.
There is something in the air. The Germans made an attack at Newport.1 It is suspected that they may attempt a landing south of the left flank on the Western Front. Means are being taken to oppose this. Batteries are planted on the shore line. In addition to this, a minefield is being laid off the coast in this neighbourhood. It is the same kind of minefield that accounted for six submarines earlier in the war. This minefield is to be patrolled to keep the mines from being dragged out. If it can be successfully maintained it will add a great deal to the defences from the sea.
In order that it may be patrolled efficiently they want the services of four more destroyers. Admiral Jellicoe2 asked me if I would be willing for four of our destroyers to assist in this duty. I told him that I would provided that the Admiralty decided that his reinforcement was necessary and that it was more important there at the present time than elsewhere. It would require the services of these destroyers for about a month.
I am therefore giving you this advance information in case the Admiralty finally decides that the destroyers could be best employed there.
In case they do so I should think they should be selected according to your estimate of the ability of the Commanding Officers, quite irrespective of the divisions to which they belong.
They should of course be one thousand tonners as their gun fire, and possibly their torpedoes would be just what is required.
I understand that most of these destroyers have landed a part of their torpedoes. Admiral Jellicoe thinks that if they are assigned to this service they should bring their torpedoes with them, though they might land a number of them at Dover.
I am glad to be able to inform you that things seem to be moving much more rapidly now in Washington. The principal dignitaries have expressed their entire willingness to help in every possible way, consistent with preparations considered necessary to defend ourselves against possible aggression after the war. You know what this means. I am in great hopes that the British Government will give assurance that there need be no apprehension on this point no matter what the result of the war. If this assurance can be given I hope it will have the effect of changing our present building program – that is aband[on] the construction of battleships and battle cruisers in favour of destroyers and other anti-submarine craft.
You will doubtless know officially within a few days about the destruction of the VANGUARD by an explosion of her magazine. There were only a few survivors not counting those who were absent from the ship at this time.
Very sincerely yours,
Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 22.
Footnote 1: The city of Newport is located in south Wales, on the Bristol Channel. This “attack”, as Bayly describes it, consisted of three U-Boats appearing in the harbor of Newport on 10 July, launching several salvos in the direction of the port facilities, causing minimal damage. Still, Crisis at Sea: 227.
Footnote 2: First Sea Lord Adm. Sir John R. Jellicoe.