Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Admiral Henry B. Wilson, Commander, United States Naval Forces Based in France, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

16 June, 1918.

C O N F I D E N T I A L.

From:     Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France.

To:       Force Commander.

Subject:  Report of operations, week of 9 to 15 June, 1918.

Enclosure:     (1).

     1.   (a)  Vessels available.

Destroyer –

NICHOLSON, WADSWORTH, DRAYTON, JARVIS, ROE, PRESTON, SMITH, LAMSON, WARRINGTON, FLUSSER, WAINWRIGHT, FANNING, SIGOURNEY, BENHAM, CONNER, CUMMINGS, CUSHING, ERICSSON, LITTLE,O’BRIEN, TUCKER, WINSLOW, BURROWS, PORTER (boiler overhaul to 18 June).

Sea-going Yachts:-

NOMA, ISABEL, APHRODITE, NOKOMIS, CORSAIR, MAY.

Coastal Convoy –

WANDERER, SULTANA, EMELINE, TRUXTUN, CORONA, WHIPPLE, RAMBLER, HARVARD, STEWART, VEDETTE, UTOWANA, WORDEN, REMLIK.

Squadron Four (Mine Sweeping) –

PIQUA, McNEAL, ANDERTON, CAHILL, COURTNEY, DOUGLAS, JAMES, LEWES, HUBBARD, HINTON.

Tugs –

CONCORD, CRICCIETH, SMEATON, BARNEGAT.

Station Ship –

PROMETHEUS.

Repair Ship -

PANTHER.

Floating Barracks –

CAROLA IV.

          (b) Under Repair:

MONAGHAN, REID, McDOUGAL, MacDONOUGH, CHRISTABEL.

          Estimated dates of completion of repairs are as follows REID, 25 June, McDOUGAL, 22 June; MONAGHAN, 18 June; MacDONOUGH, 17 June; CHRISTABEL, 20 June.

          The RAMBLER will be docked for cleaning and painting on 20 June at St.Nazaire. The WAINWRIGHT will be sent to Liverpool for over-haul on the return of the McDOUGAL, and the ROE will be sent to Liverpool upon the return of the MONAGHAN.

          The GYPSUM QUEEN is expected to arrive at Brest on 19 June.

          Destroyers reported for duty during the week as follows: WINSLOW, TUCKER, PORTER, LITTLE, on 9 June; BENHAM, CUMMINGS, O’BRIEN, On 10 June; CONNER, on 11 June; ERICSSON and BURROWS on 12 June.

     2.   OPERATIONS.

          Vessels assigned to the coastal convoys have followed their schedules with the exceptions noted above. Movements of troop and store ships are as shown on enclosure. Vessels passing up and down the coast of France were placed in coastal convoys.

          The PATUXET, PATAPSCO, and twelve submarine chasers sailed for Devonport on 12 June.

          The vessels which escort O.V. Special 6 and O.R. 42 to westward, had orders to join at 6:00 p.m., Greenwich Meridian time, 15 June, to intercept Group Forty on the morning of 16 June and escort the group to French ports.

     3.   MISCELLANEOUS.

          A party of 260 men in charge of Lieutenant-Commander Schuyler1 arrived at St. Nazaire on 9 June, and have made satisfactory arrangements for the reception of the material for the Naval 14 inch battery to be landed there. A dock fitted with a 150-ton crane has been assigned for assembling the gun mounts. This dock is close to a locomotive shop. A siding is being built in the car yard for erecting the cars for the expedition. On 20 June a camp will have been completed for 250 men and 18 officers within a few hundred yards of this vicinity. The remainder of the battery will be accommodated at Montoir Camp in the vicinity of a storehouse which has been assigned. There have been three cases of diphtheria in the party.

          Lieutenant-Commanders Kenyon of the WARRINGTON, Walling of the FLUSSER, Cox of the MONAGHAN, Magruder of the PRESTON, Purnell of the LAMSON, Klein of the SMITH, Barker of the DRAYTON, and Parker of the JARVIS,2 have been relieved of their commands for the purpose of being sent home for new destroyers. These officers have, without exception, given services of the highest order under conditions which have been frequently difficult. They deserve great credit for the spirit of cheerfulness for duty which they have always shown, and for the maintenance of a condition of material readiness on the part of their vessels, which is surprising in view of the age of these destroyers. I believe that there is no better group of destroyer commanders in any Navy than these.

          Naval Constructor S.F. SMITH3 was in conference with this office and sailed for the United States on board the VON STEUBEN on 11 June. The establishment of repair facilities on the French coast has a very satisfactory status, the details of which have been recommended to the Force Commander, and which are substantially as follows: the BRIDGEPORT, upon her arrival which is expected by 15 July, will be retained at Brest in addition to the PROMETHEUS. The latter vessel, while an excellent repair ship, is limited in her capacity as mother ship for destroyers. The BUFFALO, upon her arrival in these waters (it being assumed that she will replace the PANTHER, required for service elsewhere), will be stationed at Verdon to provide for the vessels based on the Gironde. These will, for the present, consist only of the yachts now assigned to the Verdon convoy escort, but it is hoped eventually to base a division of coal burning destroyers there.

          Repair shops on shore will be established at Brest and at Lorient.

          A radio school will soon be established at Brest with a capacity of 50 students for training in theoretical and practical radio telegraphy.

          There has been organized a shore patrol for Brest consisting of a company of 121 men, including two Chief Petty Officers, quartered in the CAROLA Barracks, and who are given intensive military and naval training, and who in addition police the town. Ten per cent of them each month are transferred to seagoing ships. They have received much commendation from the French on their military appearance and the efficiency of their work.

     4.   SUBMARINE ACTIVITIES.

          There has been LITTLE enemy submarine activity on the French coast and in the Bay of Biscay during the week.

     On 9 June a submarine was sighted 30 miles northwest of the entrance to the Gironde River, but no attacks were made.

     At 6:00 a.m., 12 June, a submarine was sighted in latitude 43-31 north longitude 2-39 west, six miles from the Spanish coast, probably the same submarine.

     At 6:00 a.m., 15 June, a submarine was reported in latitude 47-08 north, longitude 11-50 west. No details of this report have been received as yet.

     5.   MINING ACTIVITIES.

          On 11 June an area of five miles around latitude 45-40 north, longitude 1-58 west, was closed to navigation on account of mines. A submarine had been reported in this zone two days before. No mines having been found, this area was declared open to navigation on 14 June.

     On 12 June an area of two miles around latitude 49-38 north, longitude 2-03 west, was closed to navigation on account of mines.

     At 8:30 a.m., 12 June, a mine was found near the northern limit of La Helle Channel, entrance to Brest, in latitude 48-30 north, longitude 4-34 west. Both Le Four and La Helle Channels were closed, two additional mines having been found in the same vicinity. On 15 June, both channels having been thoroughly swept, they were again opened to navigation.

     The dangerous areas remaining on 15 June on the west and northwest coasts of France are as follows:

(1) 7 miles around Triagoz and Sept Iles;

(2) Between Le Four and La Banche Lights;

(3) 3 miles around latitude 46-57 north, longitude 2-28 west;

(4) Five miles around latitude 48-55 north, longitude 1-31 west;

(5) Three miles around latitude 45-36 north, longitude 1-32 west.

     6.   EXTRACTS FROM WAR DIARY.

10 June – Rear Admiral Wilson and the officers under his command gave a reception at the Naval Officers Mess to Admiral Schwerer, Commandant Superieur des patrouilles de Bretagne,4 to felicitate him upon his promotion to the rank of Vice Admiral. The reception was largely attended by French and American Naval officers and by representatives of the Allied Armies.

11 June – The French Ministry of Marine has requested that four French telegraphers be retained at the station of Treguier after it has been taken over by the U.S. Navy, as it is an important communication centre for numerous stations along the coast. Arrangements have been made to carry this out.

12 June – The U.S.S.WINSLOW has received orders to proceed to Queenstown for the purpose of collecting personal effects, gear and material not [i.e. now] at Queenstown and belonging to vessels based on Brest. Upon the completion of this duty she will return to Brest.

     On 10 June, 1918, the U.S.S. NANSEMONDE, store ship, arrived at Brest from Le Havre en route to St.Nazaire under escort of the LAMSON and FLUSSER. This vessel had previously made trips direct from the United States to St.Nazaire, but was for some reason – probably the supposed excessive draft – assigned before sailing from the United States to a destination at Le Havre. Because of the large size and value of the NANSEMONDE and the danger of proceeding to a channel port, the Commander U.S.Naval Forces Operating in European Waters changed the destination of this vessel to St. Nazaire and so notified the Commander U.S. Naval Forces in France; he in turn notified the Army authorities at Tours, who accepted the change. On making contact with the convoy containing the NANSEMONDE, however, the U.S. Naval escort sent from Brest was informed both by the Commodore of the convoy (British) and by the British Escort Commander that the NANSEMONDE was ordered to continue to Le Havre because of excessive draft for St.Nazaire. The NANSEMONDE therefore proceeded to LeHavre under British escort. A second group of U.S. destroyers was required from Brest for the purpose of escorting the ship down the channel from Le Havre and a further escort will be needed to take her to St.Nazaire. A small portion of her cargo will be unloaded at Brest to reduce her draft.

14 June – Commander U.S. Naval Forces in France has issued the following order: “The use or introduction for drinking purposes of alchoholic liquors within the Naval officers Mess at Brest will be discontinued from this date.”

     Commander U.S. Naval Force in France has assigned the personnel division of the Flag Office, under the Chief of Staff, to Lieutenant M.S. Tisdale, U.S.Navy, hitherto Flag Secretary. In regard to enlisted personnel in the District of Brest Lieut. Tinsdale will act in conjunction with Lieutenant Pennington, representing the District Commander.5

     Assistant Paymaster Joseph A. Carey, U.S.N.R.F., Aid on the Staff of Commander U.S. Naval Forces in France, has been appointed Flag Secretary.

     In view of the arrival of the British steamer WEIMAR on 11 June at Brest alone out of her convoy from Penzance, the Commander U.S. Naval Forces in France has written the Force Commander requesting that vessels of the Army coal trade or vessels chartered to convoy coal from the United States to France be kept in convoy from Penzance to Brest. The Masters of these vessels do not know whether the Brest channels are closed or open on arrival. Their safe voyage across the channel out of convoy becomes a matter of pure luck and it is considered that trust in the element of chance should be eliminated from the handling of shipping. If vessels in this convoy are lost it should have more and better escort.

     The U.S.S. SIGOURNEY picked up in mid-ocean on 1 June, 1918, a suspicious radio message probably from an enemy submarine known to have been in the neighborhood. In this message the call for any U.S. man-of-war was employed, and a call assigned to the U.S.S. DOWNES was employed as origin. The message was coded by means of Mercantile Tables No. 14. In view of the fact that the DOWNES was than in Liverpool and that the sender did not seem to understand a U.S. service message requesting change of wave length as indicated it is considered that the code used, though not necessarily the call list, is certainly compromised.

H.B. WILSON.       

Source Note: TCy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 440. Document reference: “25/13/5/509.”

Footnote 1: Lt. Cmdr. Garret I. Schuyler, whose unit was tasked with construction and manning of the Naval Battery.

Footnote 2: Lt. Cmdr. George W. Kenyon of the WARRINGTON, Lt. Cmdr. Ralph G. Walling of the FLUSSER, Lt. John F. Cox of the Monaghan, Lt. Cmdr. Cary W. Magruder of the PRESTON, Lt. Cmdr. William R. Purnell of the LAMSON, Cmdr. Jacob H. Klein of the SMITH, Lt. Cmdr. George N. Barker of the DRAYTON, and Lt. Cmdr. Ralph G. Parker of the JARVIS.

Footnote 3: Naval Constructor Stuart F. SMITH.

Footnote 4: Adm. Zéphirin-Alexandre-Antoine Schwerer, Commandant Superieur des patrouilles de Bretagne.

Footnote 5: Lt. Mahlon S. Tisdale and Lt. John D. Pennington.

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