Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Admiral Albert P. Niblack, Commander, United States Patrol Squadron Based on Gibraltar, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

DECATUR,1

7 March, 1918.

FROM:       Commander Patrol Squadrons Based on Gibraltar.

  TO:       Force Commander.

SUBJECT:    Orders to U.S.S. BAINBRIDGE in violation of

            International Law.

ENCLOSURE: (1).

     1.  Yesterday, March 6, 1918, the BAINBRIDGE2 was under stand-by orders at six hours notice, but late in the afternoon was, at the request of the Senior Naval Officer (British),3 the BAINBRIDGE was placed on two hours notice during the night. This is quite a usual procedure, and it is presumed that in case of any urgent call during the night that ships under stand-by orders will be dispatched at once. The BAINBRIDGE was, however, dispatched at 4:30 a.m., this date, under secret orders, a copy of which is appended. A few hours later when a copy of those orders was handed to me, I immediately protested that they were not with my permission, and were in violation of International Law. I requested that the orders be revoked, which was done, and the BAINBRIDGE returned to Gibraltar.

     2.  Admiral Grant had received during the night, a telegram from the Admiralty as follows:

“FROM D.I.D.4: The SPANISH s/s “REINA VICTORIA EUGINIA5 Leaves Barcelona on 4th inst. If there is a passenger on board named OTTO DAVID or DAVID GRUNDLAND, he should be removed.”

This authority from the Admiralty was sufficient for Admiral Grant, as it is a direct order. I have no such instructions and consider such orders as were given to the BAINBRIDGE should not have been so given. The matter was amicably adjusted between myself and the Senior Naval Officer, and I merely report the facts in the case because representation may be made to the Admiralty that I declined to carry out orders and you will understand the circumstances.6

A.P. NIBLACK       

Source Note: D, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document identifiers: in upper right-hand corner: “405/327.” In upper left-hand corner: “WHW-18.” The signature is a stamp. The enclosure is no longer with the document.

Footnote 1: Decatur served as Niblack’s flagship.

Footnote 2: Bainbridge was a 420-ton destroyer.

Footnote 3: RAdm. Heathcoat S. Grant.

Footnote 4: That is, Director, Intelligence Division, RAdm. Sir W. Reginald Hall.

Footnote 5: That is, Reina Victoria Eugenia.

Footnote 6: Sims discussed this incident and the response of the British Admiralty. See: Sims to William S. Benson, 7 March 1918.

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