Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels
23rd March, 1918.
FROM: Force Commander.
TO : Secretary of the Navy (Operations).
SUBJECT: General Report.
1. ENEMY SUBMARINE OPERATIONS.
Week 3 to 9 March, 1918.
During the week 3rd to 9th March, it is estimated that twenty-two large submarines were out, five being vessels of the converted “Deutschland” type. Of the latter one was probably homeward bound, one was working west of Gibraltar and one off the African Coast, south of Canary Islands. The other two were probably south of Latitude 60 N, but no reports have been received. Of the remaining boats eight were on passage home at the beginning of the week.
The Irish Sea, Bristol Channel and English Channel, between Portland and Tor Bay, were the areas of greatest activity, and it is probable that nine boats were operating in these waters. In the Irish Sea, activity has been greatest between Holyhead and the Smalls, but reports have also been received from the northern half of the Irish Sea.
The following table gives more detailed particulars of the enemy’s activities –
Average No. of submarines in area per day.
North Sea, S. of 53°30 N.
North Sea N. of 53°30’ N.
5 – 6
S.W. of Ireland and Scotland
2 – 3
S.W. of Ireland
Irish Sea and Bristol Channel
3 – 4
English Channel and approaches
2 – 3
Bay of Biscay
5 - 6
The Spanish s.s. VILLAREAL was stopped forty miles off Casablanca compelled to jettison all her cargo for that port.
At 8:30 p.m. on 2nd March in Lat. 53° 4’ N; Long. 4° 40’ W., s.s. RUTHERGLEN was in collision with a submarine on the surface. She claims to have sunk it as cries were heardfrom the water. It is unfortunately only too probable that this was the British submarine H-5 which was in patrol in that area, and is now six days overdue. Lieutenant E.W.F. CHILDS U.S.N1 was lost with this vessel.
H.M.S. P-61 when six miles N.E. of the Skerries dropped a depth charge on a large area of oil, which was sighted from the ship. An object – apparently the conning tower of a submarine – appeared on the surface, and two more depth charges were dropped.
With reference to report of 21st February, that an Italian Destroyer had dropped dpeth charges on a submarine, which had unsuccessfully attacked a merchant ship carrying troops, it is now considered that the submarine was most probably destroyed.
Reports of eight encounters with enemy submarines have been received as follows:-
2 by T.B.D. [i.e. Torpedo Boast Destroyers]
1 by Aircraft
1 by Merchant vessel.
2 3 by Auxiliary Patrol
1 by “P” [i.e. Patrol] class vessel.
Week 10th to 16th March.
During the week 10th – 16th March, it is estimated that fourteen to sixteen large submarines have been out, five being vessels of the converted “Deutschland” type. Of the latter, one was homeward bound – probably somewhere to the westward of Ireland, two were operating 150 to 300 miles west to the Straits of Gibraltar, and the other two were probably in the vicinity of the Canary Islands.
Of the remaining large boats, it would appear that four only were working in the waters of the British Islands (except the North Sea), the English coast of the Channel, to the north of Ireland and the Irish Sea were the main areas of activity, operations in the Channel probably being accounted for by boats from Zeebrugge.
The following table gives more detailed particulars of the enemy’s activities –
Average No. of submarines in area per day.
North Sea, South of 53° 30’
North Sea, North of 53° 30’
5 – 6
N.W. of Ireland and Scotland
1 – 2
S.W. of Ireland
Irish Sea and Bristol Channel
3 – 5
English Channel and approaches
3 – 4
Bay of Biscay
5 - 6
On 10th March “P-24” felt a heavy explosion when off the Verne Light, and a large oil patch and wreckage – apparently the internal fittings of a submarine – were sighted, and there is conclusive evidence that a submarine was destroyed by mine.2
On the same date a trawler engaged a submarine with gun fire and dropped depth charges, causing oil and bubbles to rise in quantities.
On 12th March H.M.S. GARLAND, when 22 miles S.E. of the Start,3 sighted a submarine on the surface; four depth charges were dropped and it is believed that the enemy was damaged.
On 13th March H.M.S. FAIRY sighted a periscope in Lat. 54°63’ N. long. 1° 16’ W. and dropped depth charges. The submarine ceased operations, having apparently been damaged.
On 15th March a submarine attacked and sank S.S. AMAZON. H.M.S. MICHAEL and MORESBY arrived on the scene and depth charge was dropped at random, and shortly afterwards the submarine came to the surface 3 or 4 miles away, apparently being unable to dive. He then surrendered and destroyed himself. 1 officer 10 men were taken prisoners. A preliminary examinations of the prisoners shows that the depth charge caused sufficient damage to compel the submarine to rise to the surface.4
On 16th March U.S.S. DOWNES, in Lat 52° 49 N. Long. 5° 30’ W. sighted a periscope, and depth charges were dropped by four destroyers.
Reports of seventeen encounters with enemy submarines have been received as follows:-
6 by T.B.D’S
2 by Sloops.
1 by “P” class vessel.
1 by mine.
4 by auxiliary patrol
2 by aircraft
1 by merchant vessel.
2. ENEMY MINELAYING
Week 3 to 9 March.
During the week 3 to 9 March, fifty-three mines were destroyed. Activity was experienced in the Firth of Forth, approaches to the River Mersey, Harwich and Dover Areas. The sustained minelaying in the Harwich Area is still most marked. During winter months especially, when it is sometimes not possible to sweep the north Channel for over 24 hours the position is serious and raises the question as to whether in such circumstances it is better to accept the risk of mines and release traffic or to hold it up until sweeping becomes again possible. The policy of accepting the risk of mines and releasing the traffic is held to be preferable owing to the comparitive immunity from loss in this area and the fact that shipping has in similar circumstances been held up for some time and subsequently been released without incident. The adverse effect on the regular supplies of the country, especially London, caused by the holding up of a large amount of tonnage, for any length of time must also be regarded as a factor in favor of releasing this traffic.
The approaches to Liverpool have again been mined the enemy’s efforts being concentrated on Liverpool. Small groups of mines were first laid off Barrow and Fleetwood which showed on the surface at low water. This was probably intentional in the hope that Liverpool sweepers would be diverted there and the Mersey be uncovered. This was forseen with the result that 12 mines have already been accounted for in the vicinity of the Bar Light Vessel skipped line reinforced ahead of important vessels and convoys.
Week 10th to 16th March.
Activity was experienced off May Island and in the south Channel. Thirty-four were destroyed.
Liverpool was opened by special channel on 11th March and Barrow is also open now – the total charge of eighteen mines having been accounted for, twelve off Liverpool and six off Barrow. Within twenty-four hours of the Mersey being re-opened 114 vessels, representing a tonnage of upwards of a quarter of a million and including two of the largest ships in the world (one with a draught of 41’ 6”) passed in and out. The clearing of the Mersey approaches must be carried out with great care and accuracy; risks which may be justifiable elsewhere are not so at Liverpool and consequently shipping here is liable to be held up for longer periods than at any other commercial port. The effect of the sinking of a 50,000 ton steamer in the Queen’s Channel would be to close the port to heavy draught vessels for a considerable period, entailing a very large amount of idle tonnage. . . .
Week ending 14 March.
Tests with towing K-tubes have been continued during the past week, on entirely different type of fish being used from that which had been used in previous tests. Instead of having a fish in which two K-tube units were towed in tandem or in parallel, two types of fish have been constructed in which three K-tube units were placed, the idea being to have the K-tube units in a manner similar to that in which they are regularly installed on the K-tube triangle. Inasmuch as the Nash towing cable as developed is supposed to be free from all sorts of external noise, the type of cable was used in towing the K-tubes. The results obtained were quite satisfactory: there was a great deal of water noise, and it was necessary to practically have no way at all on the vessel before observations could be made. No news has been received from the three trawlers equipped with K-tubes which are operating in Northern waters. It is doubtful if these K-tubes are now fit for service, on account of cable breakage. As previously reported, an order has been placed for the manufacture in England of a stronger cable, and this cable should now be ready for delivery within a few days, when steps will be taken to immediately replace the old cable now used by these trawlers to northern waters, thus putting this outfit in full service again.
During the past week, 25 K-tube compensators have arrived from the United States, but to date no K-tube sets complete have been received. It is to be recalled, that these K-tube outfits were ordered by cable on December 26th, 1917. Besides these 25 compensators, there have been received from the United States to date, 50 S.C. tubes5 which are now being installed on trawlers and motor launches.
The first motor launch to be equipped with S.C. tubes is now in dry dock having the work done. The first English-made S.C. tubes have been delivered, and with a few minor exceptions as to details, the work seems to be satisfactory. A comparative tests conducted at Portsmouth between the S.C. tube units made in America and those made her showed practically no difference in the quality of the sound and range of the device.
Lieutenant Dominick U.S.N.R.F.6 has arrived in England from the United States with Mason detection devices, consisting of two multiple broadside type and three four-spot type. These devices have been delivered at the Naval Dockyard, Portsmouth, and it has been decide4d to immediately install on board the AYLWIN one M.B. device, and one 4-S device, and then to conduct tests, and if found to operate satisfactorily, the remainer of the Mason devices will probably be installed on our own destroyers. One 4-spot has been installed on the LAMSON, operating from Brest.
The AYLWIN while in dry dock, in addition to the Mason devices which are being installed on board, is having a K-tube set installed in a forward trimming tank. It is believed that The AYLWIN will be in dock for about five days, after which preliminary tests will be made on the devices installed, and she will then be sent out on another hunt in the Channel.
Instructions have been given to have sound screens places between the oscillators now installed on the destroyers operating from Queenstown which are equipped with Fessenden oscillators. These destroyers are the AMMEN, BALCH, DOWNES, PARKER and WILKES.
The Admiralty has under consideration a proposal made by Mr. Thornycroft7 relative to jet population by which vessels of the type of a trawler may attain a speed of 7 knots entirely without noise. So far, this is only a preliminary stage of development, and further details will be given if anything really appears practicable in its use.
Radio telephone tests have been conducted from aeroplane with the Radio telephones brought over by Captain Leigh.8 A full report of these tests has been sent to the Bureau of Steam Engineering. While not entirely satisfactory, the results were very encouraging.
During the past week, Captain Leigh witnessed tests with the Nash-Fish which were conducted in the presence of the First Sea Lord and the Director of the Intelligence Department, Admiralty.9 These tests which were made under excellent weather conditions, gave satisfactory results: a full report of them has already been sent to the Chief of Naval Operations.10
Week ending 21 March,1918.
Tests with towing K-tubes with the type of fish having three K-tube units, have been conducted during the past week without satisfactory results. Reports of the three K-tube outfits which were brought to England by Captain Leigh, and which have been placed in trawlers operating in Northern waters, indicate that during the past week no satisfactory results have been obtained owing to the very bad conditions of the cable. New cable will be available about April 2nd, and these outfits will then be placed in commission. During the past week, twelve K-tube outfits complete have arried in England. While these K-tube outfits were ordered in connection with a proposed Dover Straits barrage, they will very likely not be used for that purpose, on account of the fact that tripods and cable are not yet available. Three of these outfits will be immediately placed in trawlers in the Channel, and three sets will be used for instructional purposes – the remainder being held in store for the present. A careful examination of the 25 K-tube compensators received from the United States indicates that the inspection at home was very poor. A cablegram has been sent to the Bureau of Steam Engineering about this matter.11
To date, 28 trawlers have been equipped with S.C. tubes, the present plan is to equip from three to four trawlers a week with these devices.
Tests have been continued at Portsmouth with magnetic detection devices, and a new type of this kind of apparatus has been developed by Mr.Hunter,12 an electrical engineer now employed by the Admiralty. This device of Mr. Hunter’s, a full description of which will be forwarded as soon as it is a little better developed, gives great promise of detecting a submarine when within 150 yards of the vessel on which the device is installed.
The tests showed the necessity for having much larger electrodes than had been placed on the P-boat which is being used for experimental purposes. The electrodes which are now being installed will consist of two units on each side of the vessel, located very near the keel and covering an area of about 1 foot by 8 feet. In the previous tests, about 70 amperes current was used: it is the intention with the new electrodes, to use 250 amperes current, with which it is believed considerable increase in range will be obtained.
The experiments with the smaller electrodes showed the necessity of placing the electrodes further below the water line than had originally been done.
Satisfactory progress has been made in the construction of tripods to be used in deep water of about 500 fathoms. Fourteen of these tripods are now under construction for use in Otranto Strait. Satisfactory progress is also being made in the construction of deep water K-tube units for use on these tripods.
6. FORCES BASED ON QUEENSTOWN
The BEALE has completed her overhaul and O’BRIEN has been sent to Cammel Lairds for her regular refit.
U.S. AL2 and AL4 have been refitting. This work
has <was> completed on March 18th. It is expected that vessels will proceed to Patrol stations immediately after tests are conducted outside of harbor. They will be accompanied by destroyers during preliminary tests.
All docking and refitting for the submarine Flotilla will be accomplished at Haulbowline if it is found possible to do so.
The following schedule has been tentatively arranged:-
AL-10 from 15 April to 30 April.
AL-3 ″ 1 May to 16 May.
AL-11 ″ 9 May to 24 May.
AL-1 ″ 17 May to 1 June
AL-9 ″ 25 May to 9 June.
A definite arrangement as to the refits of submarines of the AL class will be made at an early date. In the meantime the above schedule will be carried out. . . .
The BRIDGE arrived on 10 March with a large cargo. The vessel was discharged and ship ready for sea on 16th inst. the vessel sailing at 6 p.m. on that date.
U.S.S. LONG BEACH AND U.S.S. CAMDEN
The LONG BEACH and CAMDEN are at Dublin discharging,cargo. . . .
During week 3 March, fifty-four men were received and fifty-four transferred as indicated below –
From the United States.............40.
From destroyersfor instruction
Naval Academy Class................. 4
From destroyer for Aviation detail.. 1.
To Agahda........................... 52
To destroyers....................... 2.
Construction work has continued in fitting up the Post Office, a barber shop and canteen, and in construction of sick bay and store room.
Daily working parties have been sent to Ringaskiddy, also to the DIXIE in connection with work on depth charges chutes for destroyers.
Week ending 13 March,1918.
The number of men received for Naval Academy Class......1
Transfers to MELVILLE........8
″ ″ STOCKTON........3
″ ″ McCALL..........6
″ ″ S.S.WINIFRED....1
″ ″ WILKES..........
″ ″ s.s. RAVEN......3
″ ″ DIXIE...........1
″ ″ BASE 1813.....1
″ ″ AGHADA AIR STATION.189
The class of instruction for candidates for the Naval Academy has been carried on with nine students. Books have been purchased and blackboards, tables and benches constructed.
Three E1.3c. (r) have qualified for the Radio School and have been transferred to sea.
Four men have received instructions and have qualified at the Barracks Galley for ships’ cook, 4 cl. and are now available for transfer.
On Friday March 18, 1918 the station was visited by Admiral Sir John Jellicoe R.N. who inspected the men and barracks.
7. FORCES BASED ON BREST.
Week 28 February to 2 March,1918.
The vessels assigned to the coastal convoys have followed their schedules with the exception of the EMELINE.
The arrivals of convoys on the coast of France within the last week was such that it was possible to combine the movements of ships westward with the meetings of eastbound convoys so that the destroyers which escorted O.P. 7 to westward on 24 February met H.N.47 on the morning of 26 February and escorted that convoy to Quiberon; and the destroyers which escorted O.R.9 and O.R.10 to westward were under orders to intercept Group 21 before 3:00 p.m. 3 March and escort the vessels of this group to St.Nazai
are and Brest.
Reliable reports indicate the continued presence of a submarine in the vicinity of Penmarch but up to the present time no vessel has been torpedoed by this submarine.
The French continue to maintain a patrol in the vicinity of Penmarch. This submarine was seen by the DRAYTON, which formed part of the escort of H.N.47, at 10:30 a.m. 27 February in latitude 47°23’ north, Long. 3° 57’ west. Weather was misty, and the submarine was apparently charging batteries when sighted. Before the DRAYTON arrived the submarine submerged and disappeared. This submarine was again sighted at 9 a.m. 23 February in latitude 47° 37’ N. long. 4° 30’ W. by a fishing vessel. The submarine fired at the fishing vessel which returned the fire whereupon the submarine submerged.
The steamer EUMA[N]EUS was torpedoed in latitude 49° 3’ N. longitude 4° 32’ W. at 3 a.m. 26 February.
This vessel is believed to have formed a part of an H.E.14 convoy, and sank before it could be taken to port.
The Norwegian steamship
SYNG <SNYG> was torpedoed and sunk at 4:30 a.m. 26 February in latitude 48° 51’ N. longitude 5° 13 west while proceeding in convoy from Penzance to Brest. At 12:45 p.m. 26 February, a French seaplane attacked a submarine in latitude 48° 47’ N. longitude 4° 33’ West and dropped bombs on it.
At 3 a.m. 27 February an unknown ship was gunned in latitude 46° 43’ N. longitude 19° 13’ West. At 6:45 p.m. 1 March message was received from the s.s. PAULSBORO, stating that she had been attacked by a submarine in latitude 48° 40 N. long
titude 12° West. From a garbled message received the following morning, it would appear that the PAULSBORO escaped, having been attacked by gunfire to which she replied. At 9 a.m. 2 March an ALLO was received latitude 47° 23’ N. long titude 12° 45’ W and at 1:20 p.m. 2 March a message was received from the PETROLINE stating that she was being gunned in latitude 45° 96’ N. long titude 12° 7 west. At the same time a message was received that a ship was attacked in latitude 46° 29 N. longtitude 12° 12 W. This last message was not clearly received and may not be correct. These reports indicate the probable presence of two submarines operating west of 12 off the approaches to the French coast. If there was a submarine in 46° 29’ N. 11° 12’ West, it would seem to indicate the presence of three submarines.
At 5:40 a.m. 26 February, the English steamship GREAVESASH was torpedoed and sunk in latitude 49° 41’ N. long
titude 1° 06’ W. and at 6:45 a.m. the same day the English steamship ROMNEY was torpedoed and sunk in latitude 49° 46’ N. long titude 1° 06’ W.
On 26 February, the Materlier Pass entrance to the Gironde River was closed by mines and on 28 February, the north entrance to the Gironde was closed for the same reasons, resulting in the entrance to Bordeaux being completely closed.
The mine sweeping squadron under the District Commander Lorient has been operating successfully and has recently swept up 5 mines in an old field in latitude 47°30’ N. long
titude 5° 35’ W. These mines were moored at unusual depths and could have been dangerous only to a deeply laden vessel at low water.
The Commander of the U.S. Naval Forces based on France15 reports that the condition of loading of U.S.S. RAPPAHANNOCK was unsatisfactory. This vessel arrived at Brest with a cargo intended for Brest and for Pauillac and was so mixed that only a portion of the Brest shipments could be discharged there. The vessel was then sent to Pauillac and was delayed there for the reason that in order to get all the Pauillac shipments out, those for Brest had to be landed and then loaded again into the vessel. The Supply Officer at Pauillac16 reported that the cargo was in bad condition due to carelessness in loading. This ship, as a result, has been forced to travel twice the length of the West coast of France, has been delayed, and damage hasbeen done to her cargo.
It is recommended that in so far as possible, ships should be loaded for but one port of discharge; and, that in cases where it is necessary that they carry shipments for more than one port, these shipments be loaded in different holds.
He also reports that the transport TIGER which arrived from Bordeaux for fuel oil, would have normally been sent home within 48 hours. Her Master reported that the reason for his requiring fuel oil on this side is because of the fact that his bunkers were not filled prior to sailing from New York.
GENERAL – BREST
A Court of Inquiry consisting of Captain H.H.Hough U.S.Navy as President, and of Lieutenant Commander I.C.Johnson U.S. Navy, and Capitaine de Fregate O.B.Herr, French Navy, as members, and Lieutenant W.H.Osgood U.S.Navy, as Judge Advocate,17 was in session from 26 February to 1 March inclusive, to inquire into the loss of French submarine chasers 28 and 319. The Commanding Officer of the CONCORD against whom further proceedings had been recommended by the Board of Investigation convened at Ponta Delgada, is still at that port and was not available to the Court of Inquiry.
An investigation was conducted in Paris by Commander F.T.Evans18 to determine the Navy’s responsibility for delay in transmission of war messages to the Army, in consequence of which it had been reported to the Navy Department by Captains of transports that there had been delays in debarkation of troops due to non-arrival of railroad transportation. Commander Evans was informed by the Army that there was no such delay chargeable to the Navy. . . .
Week ending 10 March,1918.
Vessels assigned to the coastal convoys have followed their schedules, with the exception of the RAMBLER.
Movements of troops and storeships and of vessels engaged in the Army coal trade have continued normally.
No information has been received as to the presence of enemy cruiser submarines westerly of the Bay of Biscay since 4 March.
No reliable information has been received of the continued presence of the enemy submarine off Penmarch.
No attacks on vessels on the West Coast of France occurred during the week.
The north pass to the Gironde river was declared open to navigation on 3 March.
On 7 March, and area dangerous to navigation was declared between parallels 47° 03’ and 47° 10’ north and meridians 2° 30’ and 2° 40’ west, mines having been found within this zone.
on 9 march, the danger of two miles around latitude 47° 30’ north and longitude 2° 15’ west was declared open to navigation.
GENERAL – BREST.
The acting Superintendent of the Army Transportation Service, reported that the officers of the U.S.S. PRESIDENT GRANT and GEORGE WASHINGTON and the Executive Officer of the COVINGTON19 showed commendable spirit in assisting in the discharging of their vessels, as a result of which these ships will be discharged two days sooner than would ordinarily have been the case. Letters were addressed to the PRESIDENT GRANT and GEORGE WASHINGTON by the Commander, U.S.Naval Forces in France commending them for their efforts in this respect.
The French dirigible station at Paimboeuf was commissioned on 1 March as a U.S.Naval Air Station, it has been placed under the military control of the District Commander Lorient.20
The U.S.S. ASTORIA which was damaged in collision with the French Steamer La Drome on 15 February at Roscanvel, requires permanent repairs which will take six weeks, or temporary repairs estimated at 3 weeks.
The District Commander Rochefort21 has completed the investigation of this case in a very satisfactory manner and has recommended that the vessel be given permanent repairs at La Pallice.
A daily courier service between Brest and Paris has been instituted, replacing the tri-weekly service previously in effect. . . .
A report of the Master of the QUEVILLY bearing on the loss of the French submarine DIANE is quoted:-
“I the undersigned captain of four-masted bark QUEVILLY armed with three guns of 90 mm. one aft and two forward declare –
Having sailed from La Pallice – Rochelle January 31st 1918, at 2:30 escorted by the sloop Regulus, at 8:00 a.m. February 1st. the captain of that ship signalled that he was to be replaced by another escort which I knew to be the submarine DIANE. The REGULUS was out of sight when at 8:40 a.m. he saw the DIANE on the horizon dead astern. Half an hour later she was close aboard. I had kept the greatest secrecy regarding this substitution and my crew was not aware of it up to the moment of sailing. In view of the great importance of a good lookout, I had a notice posted for the crew telling all hands how important it was under the circumstances in which we were to navigate that everyone should be very particular in keeping a bright lookout on the horizon for our own safety as well as that of the escort. I explained the object of a lookout aloft and of one on deck. The lookout aloft was kept by one man in crow’s nest forward and one in crow’s nest aft at the height of the top-gallant mast. Two barrels had been secured aloft for this purpose, The Officer of the deck and the men on the watch including the chief gunner and two or three gunners also kept a lookout on deck.
A favourable S.E. wind was blowing when we left La Pallice which shifted to S.W. during the night of 1-2 February. This was the beginning of a continuous series of contrary winds from S. S.W. to W.S.W. mostly fresh and making it necessary to run under fore sail and top sail. Contrary winds lasted until February 20th. During the morning of February 11th, the Captain of the DIANE signalled to me that he could not continue much longer under present conditions. He asked me if I could give him some refined oil in case of need. I answered that I could give him fuel oil only. About 5:45 p.m. he signalled again to show a stern light if necessary. It was blowing fresh at this time. Since noon the barometer had fallen at the rate of 1 m.m. per hour and the weather was overcast. At 8 p.m. the wind had freshened and they were sailing close on the port tack under top sails on course west true, speed 5 knots. There was a heavy sea and visibility was very low, especially during squalls. We were running with ship darkened except for stern lightof much diminished visibility which showed only two or three degrees on each side. About 10:30 p.m. the wind had shifted from S. to S.W. I told the First Mate who was on watch, that we should come about at midnight and to be ready to signal to the DIANE as previously agreed. Then I went into the Charthouse. Four or five minutes later I heard a sort of explosion followed by considerable vibration aft. I came up quickly and asked the Mate Monsieur Krarup what had caused the noise. He answered that we were being fired upon and that the attack was being made from starboard. I sent him to call all hands but immediately the helmsman, Hurst told me that he had seen very clearly the flash of a gun about 45° on the port quarter. I immediately gave him orders to change the course to starboard in order to make a stern chase with sails full. The course was changed from N. 20° W to N.10° E. by steering compass, when a full shot followed by an unusually violent commotion shook the ship from stem to stern. The gunner Barault on watch at the stern gun was thrown against his gun, the helmsman was thrown away from the wheel and men below were lifted from their bunks. I thought that the after p
oart of the ship was badly damaged and at this moment the general feeling was that the ship had been torpedoed. I was standing near the helmsman to change the course if necessary, when two gun shots at very short intervals were heard from forward. I told the man at the wheel to keep this course and I went forward to see what had happened. At the forward end of the poop deck I met the first mate who had come from the forecastle and he told me that the two shots has been fired by gunner Chevigny on watch at the port forward gun. Chevigny had fired in the direction where he had first seen the flash not knowing that the ship had changed course 30° to starboard. He was preparing for a third shot but the First Mate directed him not to fire until he received orders. The wireless motor was running and the operator ready to send a message, but the ship not having listed and the Chief Gunner (the ship is fitted with two auxiliary Diesel engines.) who had gone to make a hurried inspection below, reported to me that he had not found any leaks. In order not to disclose our position to the enemy ship, in case he had lost sight of us, I thought best not to send a distress call at this moment but told the operator to be all ready. I changed my course a second time to N.E. true, with the idea of getting as far as possible from the course at the beginning of the attack, N. 45 W. true or N.20°W. steering compass. At this time it was about 11:15 p.m. A little later the Chief Gunner, Le Manseo advised me that Gunner Barault on watch at the after gun (this gun is mounted above the steering gear on a platform 2 mm. 25 cm in height) told him he had seen an explosion dead astern at a distance that he estimated to be 300 or 400 meters. I questioned Barault who firmly declared that he was sure of this fact and that he saw plainly dead astern a large flame mixed with very thick smoke, this being one or two seconds before the violent commotion which threw him against his gun. On considering Barault’s story I came to the conclusion that it was without doubt the explosion which had caused the violent commotion mentioned before. I supposed that a fight with torpedoes had taken place between the DIANE and another submarine. I supposed that the DIANE had possibly been sunk and that in spite of my change of course, the enemy submarine had perhaps kept us in sight by seeing our sails and that she followed waiting either for the weather to clear or for daylight to attack again. On this supposition I sent an S.O.S. “position” 49° 38’ N. 18° 30’ W. course N.72 E, speed 7 knots. QUEVILLY under fire.” It was then 11:30 p.m. about midnight wind was west and I took advantage of this to take starboard tack steering south, always with the idea of deceiving the enemy (at the time I sent S.O.S. my true position was 49° 33’ N 18° 18’ W). It blew very hard during squalls and the night was very black – the ship under top sails had more than she could carry.
I thought next that the DIANE had perhaps sunk the other submarine and in that case she might have been deceived by my change of course and by the position which my SOS indicated and had lost sight of us. About 2 a.m. the 12th, having made ten miles to southward, I tried to send her a radiogram in code, having her call letter I sent simply in code “Do you hear QUEVILLY”.
Receiving no answer and uncertain as I was concerning what had happened I was led to all sorts of suppositions. At daylight we redoubled our vigilance and everyone kept very sharp lookout to try either to pick up the DIANE or to be ready for a new attack. About 9 a.m. seeing nothing else, I sent a radiogram “All Allied Ships QUEVILLY safe”. As I have mentioned already I was in my chart house when the gun shot which gave the alarm was heard. The next day I obtained from the men who were on watch on deck more precise information than I had received hurriedly the night before. The First Mate, Krarup, who was looking starboard repeated that, first he had a feeling that a gun shot came from starboard about 60° on the bow and that it seemed to him that a shell had burst over his head, second that ten seconds later at the moment when I questioned him he had heard a second report. I did not hear this second report. The boatswain, Le Merrer, who was also looking to the starboard heard the shot without being able to say from what direction it came to a little later when he came on deck after calling the men below and after the violent commotion he says that he saw another flash and that he crouched down on the deck. I suppose that this gun shot was the first of the two fired by us. The gunner Chevigny and the Bow lookout Lance in both of whom were looking astern saw a reddish flame and heard an explosion. The sailor Lecorre heard an explosion and saw flame and smoke. The sailor Lissillour heard an explosion and asking Lacorre where it came from, he looked in the direction told him and saw a thick and blackish smoke. The wheel man Huet saw a flame and heard an explosion. All these different witnesses gave the direction about 45° on the port quarter. Gunner Barault saw and heard nothing of the first shot. A few minutes before the first explosion Krarup, Lemerrer, and Lissilour had seen the silhouette of the DIANE at about 30° on the port quarter. As for the men below, when questioned, they said that they felt at first the violent commotion and then heard the two shots fired by us. As for me I declare that the first explosion did not produce the effect generally caused by the discharge of a gun. It seemed to me more dull,in other words, it seemed strange that a gun shot could make the hull vibrate. It is true that I did not know if we had been hit or not, but because of this vibration I thought so at first. However, admitting that men outside would have a clearer perception of what happened than a man inside as I was, I took the ideas of the First Mate and the wheel man, the only two who could inform me quickly and with assurance the nature of the explosion.
I declare also that it seems to me impossible to express an exact and clear opinion as to the events which could follow what was seen and heard by us, that is to say, first, one explosion with flame and smoke, this to the knowledge of all the men on deck; second, on explosion seen dead astern by gunner Barault, and a violent commotion felt by all the men on watch or below; third, two gun shots fired by us after the commotion. All these events took place in less than two minutes. The darkness sometimes very profound, the deafening noise during squalls and of the the seas prevented us seeing and hearing, and contributed very much to the uncertainty as to what really happened.
What I have written in this report I affirm sincere and true and of such value as it may properly serve.”
The British seaplane 1773 of which Ensign E.A.Stone U.S.N.R.F. was pilot and Lieutenant E.J. Moore R.N.A.S. observer, was reported missing from the R.N.A.S. Bembridge, England, from March 15, last heard of by carrier pigeon at 5 p.m. on that date in approximate position latitude 50° 23’N. long. 01°.W. on the water with engine failure. Destroyers were sent to search in the vicinity but up to 19th no trace of them could be found.
On the 20th March the above officers were picked up by a trawler and both are now in hospital at Portland. Details will be sent later.
Wm. S. Sims.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45 Entry 517B. Document identification: “AC, 12235-25-13-12.”
Footnote 1: H-5 was mistaken for a German submarine and rammed by the British Merchantmen Rutherglen. The entire crew, including Lt. Earle Wayne Freed Childs, an obserever on board for the United States Navy, were lost. “Ceremony for Armed Forces Day marks submarine tragedy," BBCNews, 19 June 2010, Accessed 9 March 2018, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10354060.
Footnote 2: This submarine was German UB-58. It struck a mine and sunk on 10 March 1918. Erich Gröner, Trans. Kieth Thomas & Rachel Magowan, U-boats and Mine Warfare Vessels. German Warships 1815–1945, Vol. 2, (London: Conway Maritime Press, 1991), 25-30.
Footnote 3: Start Point Lighthouse, Devon, England.
Footnote 4: Moresby successfully sank the German submarine U-110, rescuing 9 of the 48 members of the crew. “RMS Amazon,” Wriecksite.eu, Accessed 9 March 2018, https://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?11387.
Footnote 5: S.C. Tubes, were a type of Hydrophone submarine detection device.
Footnote 6: Lt. Gayer G. Dominick, U. S. N. R. F.
Footnote 7: John I. Thornycroft was a pioneer in the use of jet propulsion for naval vessels.
Footnote 8: Capt. Richard H. Leigh.
Footnote 9: First Sea Lord Sir Eric Geddes, and Commo. Reginald Hall, Director, Intelligence Division.
Footnote 10: Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations.
Footnote 11: Document has not been found.
Footnote 12: Magnetic Anomaly Detection devices were not successful and did not achieve wide scale use during the war. Shaul Katzir, “Who knew piezoelectricity? Rutherfor and Langevin on submarine detection and the invention of sonar,” The Royal Society, 20 June 2012, Vol. 66, Issue, 2, Accessed 9 March 2018, http://rsnr.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/66/2/141.
Footnote 13: Base 18 was located at Inverness, Scotland.
Footnote 14: An HE convoy was one Homebound to England.
Footnote 15: RAdm. Henry B. Wilson, Commander, United States Patrol Squadrons Operating in European Waters.
Footnote 16: Paymaster Frederick B. Colby.
Footnote 17: Capt. Henry H. Hough, Lt. Cmdr. Isaac C. Johnson, Jr., Lt. Wentworth H. Osgood.
Footnote 18: Cmdr. Franck T. Evans.
Footnote 19: Gen. George W. Goethals, Superintendent, Army Transportation Service, Capt. James P. Morton, Commander, President Grant, and Capt. Edwin T. Pollock, Commander, George Washington.
Footnote 20: Capt. Thomas P. Magruder, District Commander, Lorient.
Footnote 21: Capt. Henry H. Hough, District Commander, Rochefort.