Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Commander Halsey Powell, Commander, Parker, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

U. S. S. P A R K E R

Base Six [Queenstown]. 3 March, 1918.

 From:    Commanding Officer ( Commander Halsey Powell).

To   :    Commander U.S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.

Subject:  Suggestions for hunting submarines in the Irish Sea.

     1.   It is understood that ten British Destroyers are going to operate in the Irish Sea. This should go far toward counteracting the submarine menace in the Irish Sea.

     2.   There should be at least one destroyer in each of the areas 1 to 7 inclusive; two if at all available. This would allow for a concentration of three or more in the areas 2, 3 and 6, where the lines of communication converge.

     3.   The tendency is, when you have been in the position of S.O.S. or an Allo for two or three hours or even proceeding to such a position that is three or four hours old, and when you get a fresh one an hours distance, to proceed to the fresh one. I believe this is more or less sound, if you are alone. More vessels would not make this either necessary or a temptation. You would then have a free hand to spend the day or the day and night with the first one.

     4.   One case happened where the Parker had been allowed to spend five hours in the vicinity of two Allo’s when 40 miles away a trawler was chasing a submarine which was supposed to have been hit and unable to submerge. The Parker naturally left her position and proceeded to chase. Dark came on before either trawler or submarine could be located. A destroyer operating in that area would have been in striking distance.

     5.   Another case. A tanker had been torpedoed and set on fire and abandoned. Two trawlers had her in tow as the Parker was proceeding to a ship engaging a submarine with guns. Hardly had she been lost sight of when she was torpedoed again and sank. The Parker was two hours away from the position of the gunfire attack. Two opportunities were lost.

     6.   The submarine on the surface has little fear of a Trawler. If hit, he can still get away.

     7.   A submarine on the surface has little fear of a M.L. or a “chaser” if he has guns.1

     8.   A submarine in a large area is more or less free to act if one or two destroyers are all that are protecting that area and runs from one S.O.S. to another without the opportunity to thoroughly and efficiently search an area -, again, to spend the day.

     9.   It is naturally realized by all that numbers are efficient and are used when available. When they become available, the following is suggested.

     10.  Trawlers to be used as at present patrolling likely restricted areas with listening devices and Radio installations, and to be impressed with the necessity of an immediate report. Also to be used in escorting slow ships through their area.

     11.  The unit of the hunting organization to be a destroyer and three to five M.L’s or Chasers. It is understood from rumors that a large number of chasers are being built. All these to be equipped with the best listening device available. The chaser has a speed of over 20 knots. This could keep a submarine in sight on the surface until the destroyer of the unit could come in. The destroyer has the speed to close and the weapons to use in guns and torpedoes and number of depth charges. Just what are the sea keeping qualities of these chasers is not known. But in the Irish Sea it is believed that one could be made use of in weather in which a submarine would efficiently work. Also there is always a lee.

     12.  On the approximate or shortly previous location of a submarine, the whole unit could by systematic and persevering search accomplish much.

     13.  These chasers could base at Kingstown, Holyhead and Liverpool for the present areas 1 to 7.

     14.  The strategical employment or disposition of the Irish Sea hunting Flotilla to be handled from Queenstown; the tactical employment, on the spot, by the senior Naval Officer there. The necessity for repairs could be determined by an inspector at the several bases. The repairs could be accomplished at Liverpool.

     15.  The necessity for having the whole under one head is urgently recommended. For efficient results in one area it is necessary to know the disposition and order or doctrine of other forces in an adjoining area in order to co-operate.

Halsey Powell.              

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

Footnote 1: These were submarines chasers of the 110-foot variety. British submarine chasers bore the designation of “ML-“ and a corresponding number.

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