Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Admiral Albert P. Niblack, Commander, Patrol Forces Based on Gibraltar, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

U.S. NAVAL FORCES OPERATING IN EUROPEAN WATERS.

PATROL SQUADRONS BASED ON GIBRALTAR.

U.S.S. DECATUR,     FLAGSHIP

              PERSONAL AND

REFERENCE No.  CONFIDENTIAL.                2 July, 1918.

Dear Sims:

          I see published in the Associated Press in New York from London, dated June 7, 1918, that Archibald H. Hurd,1 says: “Unity of command is maintained in the North Sea where the Grand Fleet is supported by some of the finest of the American warships, and offers it’s daily challenge to the enemy. Unfortunately unity of command is not yet fully attained in the Mediterranean where five navies are working, without counting the Greek and Brazilian which also are coming, but while the British is responsible for the anti-submarine operations, unity of command has only been achieved to a certain extent. The question of naval control of the Mediterranean must become one of great interest to the American people”. In some of my recent official letters I have tried to indicate how many compromises have to be made in the Mediterranean on account of the different interests.2 Now that we are going to send ships to Marseilles to unload stores for the Army, it will be a little bit more complicated still. There is not the slightest friction here in any way with the British, but the Italian and British relations are rather difficult. There is one thing in connection with our personnel here which has bothered me a good deal, and that is, a number of the Commanding Officers have been passed over or have a grievance, and with the grinding work of escorting, and the constant chances of “Courts of Enquiries”, a good many of them have been anxious as to their future. Of course, Connor got what was really coming to him, as he was easy going.3 The trouble is, all the convoy instructions, and ALNAVS, and other instructions, encourage officers to express their ideas and recommendations. I killed many of Ropers before he could get them on paper.4 It was very difficult to take him seriously, but he certainly handled the CYTHERA beautifully, and was always ready for anything, any hour of the day or night. Roper is simply pestiferous and cannot help it. The real trouble with him is, besides being passed over, he wanted to resign just before war came on, and would have done so, and he is going to get out as soon as the war is over, and I certainly will not be sorry.

          Hardly a day passes that Admiral Grant5 does not telegraph, or make some suggestion to Malta, with regard to orders that are issued in the Mediterranean. I keep my fingers out of the pie almost entirely. As far as I am concerned, the situation is personally not at all difficult, it is very pleasant, and I know of no trouble among the other officers except the constant desire of all of them to get destroyer duty. Very few seem satisfied to serve on yachts or gunboats. That certainly is no fault of mine. As we have constant changes in officers here, it is not easy to keep them all indoctrinated.

          I have been advised indirectly that there are some Brazilian ships coming here. I hear that the Brazilians are anxious [to] nestle under our wing rather than under the British, but unless I get instructions I certainly will do nothing except to be cordial and polite. Having been Naval Attache to Brazil, I think I know the situation.

          Personally I am extremely well satisfied with my job here, and am not conscious of kicking about anything, except to make things work smoothly and efficiently. In other words, <if> unity of command has only been achieved to a certain extent in the Mediterranean it is not because I havent done everything I can to boost it and play the game. The real trouble is, Malta does not understand the situation here at Gibraltar well enough. There is needed a Liaison Officer (British) because the two places are always talking at cross purposes. Personally I regard Grant here<,> as one of the levelest headed, and steady men I know, and one of the very ablest.

          They are going to change the Governor down here, early next month and that means dinners galore. Inside of the walls here at Gibraltar, the war is not very realistic. While on the water-front, and at the DOCKYARD, it is sizzling night and day.

Very sincerely yours,        

Nibs              

Source Note: LTS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Container 76. Identifier in upper-right corner: “WHW-18.”

Footnote 1: A prominent British journalist who wrote extensively on naval matters.

Footnote 2: For earlier correspondence on Niblack’s frustrations in the Mediterranean, see: Niblack to Sims, 8 May 1918, 21 May 1918, and 21 June 1918.

Footnote 3: Lt. Cmdr. John F. Connor. It is unknown what happened to Connor, although he is listed in the 1919 Navy Register as still serving at the same rank.

Footnote 4: Lt. Cmdr. Walter G. Roper, formerly commanding officer of the armed yacht CYTHERA. For more on Niblack and Sims’ assessment of Roper, see: Niblack to Sims, 21 June 1918 and Sims to Niblack 2 July 1918.

Footnote 5: VAdm. Sir William L. Grant, R.N., Commander-in-Chief, North America and West Indies Station.

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