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Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels


18th March, 1918.

From:  Force Commander.

 To :  Secretary of the Navy (Operations).

SUBJECT:  General Report.


     During the week 24 February to 2nd March, it is estimated that twenty-two to twenty-four la<r>ge enemy submarines were out, six being vessels of the converted “Deutschland” type. Of the latter, two were homeward bound – probably to the north westward of Ireland, two were operating in the Bay of Biscay, one was last reported off Dakar on 1st March, and the other was probably to the westward of Gibraltar.

     Of the large remaining boats, thirteen to sixteen were working in the watersof the British Islands (except the North Sea). To the North of Ireland and the Irish Sea again were the areas of greatest activity, and probably at least seven boats were operating there.

     The following table gives more detailed particulars of the enemy’s activities.


Average No. of S-ms in area per day.

North Sea, South of 53<°> 30<'>


North Sea, North of 53 30

5 – 6

N.W. of Ireland and Scotland

2 – 3

S.W. of Ireland

1 – 2

Irish Sea and Bristol Channel

3 – 4

English Channel and approaches


Bay of Biscay



5 - 6



     On 25th February H.M.S. ONSLOW had a torpedo fired at her by an enemy submarine which she attacked with depth charges: the submarine appeared to dive stern first and there are good reasons to hope that the attack was successful.1

     On night of the 26th February the Hospital Ship GLENART CASTLE was torpedoed and sunk six miles N.E. of Hartland Point. The enemy apparently employed the same tactics as were used when the Hospital Ship REWA was torpedoed (showing lights when at close range to make the vessel alter course and present a more favourable target). Survivors from GLENART CASTLE were picked up by U.S.S. PARKER.2

     On 1st March H.M. Armed Merchant Cruiser CALGARIAN under destroyer escort, was torpedoed and sunk 11 miles N.W. of Rathlin Head.3 The Enemy fired one torpedo which hit abreast the foremost stockhold, putting the engines out of action, and subsequently fired three more, all of which were hits.


     Reports of sixteen encounters with enemy submarines have been received as follows:-

5 by T.B.D. or T.B.4

1 by Gunboats.

1 by Sloop.

1 by Submarine.

4 by Auxiliary Patrol

1 by Aircraft.

3 by Merchant Vessels.


     Forty-six mines were destroyer during the week but the majority of them belonged to areas already reported. Activity was experienced to the Peterhead and Harwich areas, particularly the latter, where regular and sustained mining is now directed against the Dutch Convoys. The field laid off Peterhead is fa<r>ther off shore than usual but hardly comes under the same category as the one forty miles to the Seaward of Aberdeen, laid in December last. At present, presuming that enemy minelaying submarines are still carrying their full complement of mines, there is an unusually large number of mines unaccounted for. Extended searches, however, have failed to locate them and ther<e> have been no cases of vessels having been mined in unexpected localities. A possible inference is that the enemy, finding that the torpedo pays more than the mine, has adapted the whole or a portion of the mine tubes in certain boats for carrying torpedoes. . . .


     Testes with towing K-tubes have continued during the past week. Two K tubes were placed in the Nash-Fish towing body and tests conducted. The results of these tests went to show that there was practically no water noise, but the range of the K tube units, for some unaccountable reason, was very much decreased, where a range of about ten miles should have been gotten, only about one mile was gotten. With the K-tube units placed as they were in the Nash-Fish, the question of direction was uncertain, and I do not consider that in any case the experiment indicate<s> success. It is urgently requested that the Navy Department push with utmost energy the development of a suitable towing K tube. The greatest need at the present time is a device of this kind.

     A second report of the operation of the trawlers on which K tubes were ins<t>alled for use in Fair Island Passage, has been forwarded to the Bureau of Steam Engineering. This report indicated the efficiency of a K-tube in very rough weather. Contact was made with an enemy submarine, and it was followed for an hour and ten minutes, but owing to breakers in the K-tube cable, the submarine was lost and when repairs were made could not be again picked up. The question of stronger cable is receiving attention, and some is being manufactured in England. A telegraphic cable has been received that a quantity will be sent from the United States leaving there about March 18th.

     The plan for a K-tube sound barrage in the English Channel has been recommended for approval, and steps are being taken to provide the necessary material.

     On March 6th the AYLWIN returned from her third hunt with a hunting flotilla, equipped with Nash Hydrophone, in the English Channel. During this time sound contact was gained with an enemy submarine, but although depth charges were dropped, there were no outward results of damage to the submarine. A full report of this hunt of the AYLWIN will be submitted in separate correspondence There is being installed in one of the forward trimming tanks of the AYLWIN a complete K-tube set which will be tested during the coming week.

     From February 15th to 23rd, the U.S.S. DOWNES was engaged in hunting submarines in the Irish Sea. The area covered by the DOWNES included the waters between Holyhead – Kingstown, and Isle of Man – St.Johns Point – an area of about 50 miles north and south and 55 miles east and west. During part of this time the DOWNES was assisted in the hunt by the PARKER and the BURROWS. Report indicates that there are probably three submarines operating in this area and that as least two vessels were torpedoed during the time of the hunt. The oscillators on the DOWNES were of no assistance; though constant watch was kept, no submarines were heard. No other sound detection devices were in use. The report of the hunt clearly indicates the urgent necessity of an efficient radio finder on all vessels operating in European waters. There was considerable activity of enemy submarines with their radio telegraph during this period, and if the DOWNES had been fitted with an efficient radio direction finder, she could have located the submarines with a fair degree of accuracy. As early as the 6th. June 1917, the question of supplying destroyers operating at Queenstown with direction finders was taken up with the Bureau of Steam Engineering, but it is understood that there has been considerable delay in the manufacture of these direction finders at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. In any case, to date no direction finders have been received at this station.

     In regard to the Walser apparatus which was tobe installed on the CASSIN, the French Ministry of Marine was informed of its failure to reach Cardiff. An offer of a second Walzer apparatus has been made to have this one shipped to Brest for installation on one of the patrol vessels operating from that port whenever one is laid up for extensive repairs.

     Upon request of the Wireless Telegraph Division of the Admiralty, extensive tests are being conducted with the radio telephones that were brought over from the United States by Captain Leigh5 for use in aeroplanes. Owing to bad weather, these tests have been delayed, but so far as carried out, have been satisfactory. The radio telephones which are being tested from aeroplanes are two sets which have been temporarily removed from the trawlers upon which they had been installed last December. These radio telephones proved very efficient on board the trawlers, and a number of English naval officers who have operated them express great satisfaction of their efficiency.

     Telephone information has just been received that Ensign Dominick U.S.N.R.F.6 has arrived in Liverpool with the latest type of Mason device for trial here.



     The Manley after completion of her refit period returned to Queenstown on 2 March after conducting operations in the Irish Sea. . . .

     DUNCAN, ERICSSON and STERETT have completed their overhauling.

     CUSHING, WINSLOW and BEALE are now at Cammell Lairds.7

     The CUSHING developed cracks in a number of frames similar to those in the CUMMINGS but not quite so serious and it was considered that her condition would not prevent carrying out her usual duties. This condition will be remedied during present overhaul period.


     CASSIN under repairs at Newport [Wales].

     McDOUGAL under repairs at Liverpool. . . .

SUBMARINES – Refit at Queenstown.

     The submarines AL2 and AL4 are to be overhauled at Queenstown.8 Arrangements have been made to provide quarters for personnel of these boats during their stay. Every assistance will be given those vessels by the repair forces of the MELVILLE and DIXIE. . . .


     On 25 February a press report was received from Cork, Ireland, in which was given an account of an attack on the enlisted men of our Service. On that day a cable was sent to the Department which mentioned this Press dispatch and stated that full information would be forwarded later.9

     It appears that the above press report was in error and no occurrence of this nature took place. . . .

Wm. S. Sims.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document reference: “AC 11593-25-13-12.”

Footnote 1: According to historian Paul Kemp, no German submarine was sunk on that date. Kemp, U-Boats Destroyed: 44-45.

Footnote 2: Glenart Castle was sunk as it sailed from Newport, Wales, on the night of 26 February 1918. It was sunk by the German submarine UC-56. Only 32 of the 194 people on board survived and there is evidence that the Germans shot at those in the water to cover up their action. New York Times, 28 February 1918 and 11 March 1918. After the war the British attempted to prosecute the captain of UC-56 on the grounds that he had committed a war crime. Ibid., 2 December 1919.

Footnote 3: Rathlin Head is on Rathlin Island, the northernmost island in Ireland.

Footnote 4: That is, Torpedo Boat Destroyer and Torpedo Boat.

Footnote 5: Capt. Richard H. Leigh, Commander, Submarine Chasers, was also an expert on listening devices.

Footnote 6: Ens. Gayer G. Dominick, United States Navy Reserve Force.

Footnote 7: Cammell Lairds was a shipbuilding firm in Liverpool, England.

Footnote 8: These submarines were based at Queenstown (Cobh), Ireland.

Footnote 9: This cable has not been found.

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