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Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations

Chronological Copy.                               File No.

Cablegram Sent 3 June <1918,> EWC

To Opnav Washington                           Serial No. 8908

Prep. by S-3        SX D.R.

32 ADR             


8908. British Admiralty have learned that the disposition of the Russian Black Sea Fleet on May 29 was as follows: at Novorossisk under the command of Admiral Sablin,1 two Dreadnoughts, seven cruisers, sixteen destroyers and several transports; at Sevastopol, now flying the German flag, seven pre-Dreadnought Battleships, seventeen destroyers, fourteen submarines.2 Cruiser PRUT (late MEDJIDIEH) has returned to Constantinople from Sevastopol.3 01403, 8908


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 1: VAdm. N. P. Sablin, the commander-in-chief of the Russian Black Sea fleet. Halpern, Naval War in the Mediterranean, 543. The ships at Novorossisk were under Moscow’s theoretical control; the ships at Sevastopol were under the control of the Germans. Ibid., 545.

Footnote 2: The concern among the Allies, and especially the British, was that the Germans would seize control of the Russian fleet and using it, would upset the balance of naval power in the Eastern Mediterranean. On 27 May, First Sea Lord Sir Eric Geddes informed the British ambassador to Italy, Sir Rennell Rodd, that he believed the Germans had taken “7 battleships and some 10 or 11 Destroyers – fettled up at Constantinople and Sevastopol.” He hoped, therefore, that the Italians would see the need to “make the best use of our Forces” and “get one Command” in the Mediterranean. Royal Navy in the Mediterranean: 489. The danger had actually diminished because the Russian destroyer crews at Novorossisk sank one of the dreadnoughts and scuttled eight destroyers rather than allow them to return to Sevastopol and German control. Halpern, Naval War in the Mediterranean: 546. Later the Germans decided to “put into service” one dreadnought, five destroyers, and some submarines and “special” ships but these ships were not in good shape and getting crews to man them was an issue, so the Germans were unable to put them to use during the war. Ibid., 547-55.

Footnote 3: The Germans allowed the Turks to claim this cruiser, which had belonged to the Turks before it had been mined and sunk off Odessa in 1915 and subsequently salved and put into service by the Russians. It was, however, the only Russian ship that German naval leaders were willing to give the Turks. Ibid., 544.