Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Commodore William A. H. Kelly, R.N., Commander, British Adriatic Forces

July 27th.1918.         

My dear Captain, <Commodore>

          Your letter of July 15th.1 reached me in due time and it is very gratifying indeed to know that everything is going as well as could be expected down your way. I have passed your letter around in headquarters to those whom it concerns, and all are much pleased with it.

          It is very gratifying to hear what you have to day [i.e. say] about Leigh.2 He is really a very fine little gentlemen and a very efficient officer and I have great confidence in both his ability and his tact. He will doubtless pay you another visit before very long after he looks into the operations of the latest chasers that have arrived on this side with their new devices.

          The headquarters gang are recommending that I send thirty-six more chasers to the Mediterranean. I would be glad indeed to do so, and may so decide before very long. It is all a question of where these chasers can do the most good. We have three squadrons of thirty-six destined for English waters. We are proposed to put seventy-two of these at the base which we have established in the Cattwater at Plymouth and thirty-six in the lower part of the Irish Sea. This is only a tentative decision. It is a question to be decided as to whether, if we are limited to one hundred and forty-four chasers, half of them should go to the Adriatic and only one half of them for both the Irish Sea and the Western end of the English Channel. I will take the matter up and have it carefully considered in connection with the Admiralty and the submarine people who have all the records at their fingers’ ends.

     As for the Ford destroyers,3 I should think they would be just the boats for this work, and I hope we will get some of them out soon. Unfortunately, the requirements that these boats be produced in great numbers and at a rapid rate, necessarily causes a good deal of initial delay in arranging the plant for that kind of production. They assure us that they can turn these boats out one a day when all machinery is in full operation. Unfortunately this output will not be in full blast until the latter part of the summer. We expect to get out twentyfive or thirty before the ice makes in the canals. As they are built in Detroit they must come through the canal system to reach the sea. All during the winter they will be leaving the slips, but cannot reach the sea. I understand, however, that an assembling plant is being arranged on the eastern seaboard so that the parts of a certain number can be shipped east and launched this winter. If the war continues until next spring we will not only have many of these boat arriving on this side, but also a very considerable number of destroyers.Of the latter we expect to have pretty nearly a hundred more before the end of the year. They are large boats of 1200 tons and 35 knots. I am sending the  next eight of these to Gibraltar to help our store ships through to Marseilles and Toulon.

          As for mines in the Mediterranean, we have recently put up to the Allied Council a proposition to put a very considerable number of mines in the Mediterranean. This is with the object of closing first of all the exit from the Dardanelles either by a minefield around the entrance or by a minefield further back across the Aegean Sea. We also propose to close the Straits of Otranto with a solid minefield. Also probably a field between Sicily and Cape Bon.4

          A tentative decision has been arrived at by a Committee of the Council that met here on the 24th. This tentative decision is to be examined by a special committee at Malta and Admiral Strauss5 leaves here in a couple of days to attend this meeting. The idea is that when the ten American mine layers have finished their work on the Northern barrage, that a number of them be sent to the Mediterranean for the work outlined above. Some must remain behind to block up holes that may be made in the Northern barrier.

          The mines that it is proposed to use are the type we are now putting down in the North Sea. You are doubtless familiar with their general nature. These were designed for a certain depth of water. Our people are now experimenting with a mine that can be planted in the depth of water required in the Mediterranean.  I have no doubt such a mine can be rapidly developed. It is only a question of increased size of mine to give buoyancy and heavier mooring lines, anchors, and so forth.

Very sincerely yours,        

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 24. Addressed below close: “Commodore W.A.H.Kelly. R.N.,/H.M.S. LOWESTOFT. Brindisi./Italy.”

Footnote 1: See: Kelly to Sims, 15 July 1918.

Footnote 2: Capt. Richard H. Leigh, serving as the commander of the sub chasers at Corfu. See: Leigh to Sims, 30 June 1918.

Footnote 3: For more on the placement of submarine chasers, see: A Brief Summary of the United States Naval Activities in European Waters, 5 August 1918. Eagle class boats were built by the Ford Motor Co. For more information, see: William S. Benson to Sims, 31 January 1918. As seen in a note there, very few were completed before the war ended.

Footnote 4: The details for the final plan for minelaying in the Mediterranean were decided at the Malta Mine Laying Conference, see: Malta Mining Conference Report, 15 August 1918.

Footnote 5: For more on the Malta Conference, see: Ibid. RAdm. Joseph Strauss, Commander, Mine Force.

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