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 Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, Commander-in-Chief, Southern Ireland

June 1st. 1918.

My dear Admiral,

          Referring to your letter of May 19th. concerning the relative advantages and disadvantages of escorting troop convoys by destroyers based on Queenstown and on Brest,1 I have had this matter analyzed by Commander Long,2 in consultation with the Convoy Section of the Admiralty, and I enclose herewith two memorandums covering these points.3 I also enclose your letter of the 19th. as you may not have retained a copy of it.

          From an examination of these memorandums, it now seems that it would be really advantageous to base the escorting destroyers for our troop transports on Brest.

          First let me say that I have just received information from the Department that the three new destroyers at the Azores have been turned over to me and that two new destroyers are coming out directly accompanying troop ships, and are to be retained on this side. These destroyers are as follows:- The LITTLE (Taussig) KIMBERELEY, (Johnson), CONNOR, (Howe), SIGOURNEY (Vernou), and the STEVENS (Zogbaum).4

          You will note that four of these are commanded by some of our most experienced escort commanders. As they will need the services of some of these men at Brest, I am sending Taussig and Vernou’s destroyers there. Johnson and Zogbaum’s boats will be sent to Queenstown, thus giving you two experienced commanders. The CONNOR will probably go to Brest. Some time later nine other boats from Queenstown can join the LITTLE, the SIGOURNEY and the CONNOR, thus completing the escorting group for troop transports.

          The five new destroyers will ease up the situation considerable at Queenstown, not counting the several destroyers now under repairs that will be out soon.

          Without having any definite information as to dates, I understand that additional new destroyers will come out before long. I think the Department’s intention is to make use of them as escorting vessels on the way out.

          With reference to your suggestion that the destroyers be sent from Queenstown to Brest in two batches, I understand from Commander Long that this has been arranged so that they will virtually go in three batches; that the arrangement for this was made between you and the Admiralty.

          As for the question of the Catholic priest that Monseigneur Connolly proposes to send to Queenstown you may be sure that this gives me some anxiety. I have had a long talk with Monseigneur Connolly and have explained to him that at the present time the heads of the Catholic Church in Ireland are to all intents and purposes the enemies of the Allied Cause and that we cannot possibly stand for any interference with the prosecution of the war in any way whatever.

          I have given him clearly to understand just how I view this matter. It is thoroughly understood that that the priest who goes there will be a chaplin, will be in the military service and will be amenable to the authority of the military people. I would not therefore hesitate for a moment to remove any chaplin who was sent there instantly that we found he was opposing our wishes or meddling in our purely military affairs. I think the gentleman understood this thing very clearly and apparently he agreed with my view of the matter. I hope this can be gotten over without any difficulty. It is a great pity that political questions could not be in some way entirely separated from all religious ones.

          I will make every endeavour to get the PATTERSON sent back as soon as possible as I can realise what an excellent stunt she has done. I think I told you in a previous letter that we are now assured with considerable reliability that we will get during the coming months of this year about 90 new destroyers. These with the chasers that are coming ought not only to ease up the situation very considerably, but permit us to carry on a pretty effective war against the U boats.

          While in the North I visited the two mine laying stations at Invergordon and Inverness and I am very much gratified with the state of affairs that I found there.5 I did not more than half realise how extensive these installations are. There are 2000 men employed at each base assembling, adjusting and handling all of the mines that are now coming over. I visited one of our mine layers that carries no less than 800 mines stowed on three decks. All these mines are on tracks fitted to the box anchors,and all run on their own trucks. There are six elevators that will bring the mines up from below and deliver them on the tracks which lead to the stern launching ports. They are also fitted and adjusted so that the 800 mines can be gotten overboard at the required times with the vessel going at 12-knots. As the mines pass over the final tracks they pass by men stationed at intervals and each man has a particular adjustment to make, plug to remove, and so forth and so forth, so that this ensures readiness of the mine for operation when it goes overboard.

          The night I arrived there the vessels all went to sea to lay their first batch of mines.6 They are protected by a battle squadron with certain cruisers and destroyers, and so forth. We can now lay about 45 miles of mines in three rows on one expedition. There are three more mine layers on the way, and they will ultimately be able to lay 60 miles in a day. The mines appear to be very efficient, and it only remains to be seen whether they will keep so after they have been down a considerable length of time.

          They will plant a “fence” 47 miles long consisting of three rows of mines. Eventually, there will be three such “fences”. They will plant one patch per week.7

          I am sure I hardly need say that I want very much to get up to Queenstown but one thing after another has turned up to prevent me getting away. However, I hope to be able to get away at least before this month is out.

          Please give my best love to the ONLY NIECE,8 and believe me,

Always very sincerely yours,           

Source Note: LT, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 47. Below the close the letter is addressed, “Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly,/Admiralty House,/Queenstown.”

Footnote 1: This letter has not been located.

Footnote 2: Capt. Byron A. Long, a member of the Operations Section on Sims’ staff, in charge of convoys.

Footnote 3: These memoranda are no longer with this document.

Footnote 4: The commanders of these destroyers were: Cmdr. Joseph K. Taussig, Cmdr. Thomas L. Johnson, Cmdr. Alfred G. Howe, Cmdr. Walter N. Vernou, and Cmrd. Rufus T. Zogbaum.

Footnote 5: As seen in Sims to Bayly, 1 June 1918, and Sims to Joel R. Poinsett Pringle, 31 May 1918, the visit Sims’ describes does not take place until Monday 3 June. It is likely that this chronological disconnect is a result of Sims having started to write this letter on 1 June and resumed it upon his return from Invergorden and Inverness (likely 7 or 8 June); this would also explain why the first several paragraphs of Sims’ other letter to Bayly on 1 June are exactly the same.

Footnote 6: The third minesweeping expedition began on 5 June 1918.

Footnote 7: This paragraph appears in the left margin next to the preceding paragraph.

Footnote 8: Bayly’s niece, Miss Violet Voysey.

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