Skip to main content

Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations


Opnav  Washington                          Serial No. 5635

     O-1                          SX

                                  25 D.


  5635    Your 3775.1 The Ministry of Shipping have been anxious to utilize Brest for OLYMPIC, AQUITANIA, and MAURETANIA.2 Admiralty officials opposed use of harbor owing exposed anchorage and lack of port facilities. Ministry sent two representatives in February to inspect harbor. These men interviewed pilots and shipping men and reported against use of the port for large ships for following reasons Quote:-

(a)    Bad holding ground

(b)    Back <Lack> of port facilities

(c)    Liability of much delay in disembarking and coaling owing to bad weather and exposed condition.

(d)    No repair facilities.

(e)    Fresh water supply insufficient.

     Additional equipment required 30 coal barges, s ix winch barges, two tugs and necessary coaling gear, derricks, chutes, etc. Also necessary skilled coolies and collier service from England and tank steamer UNQUOTE Admiral Wilson3 reports as follows QUOTE It will be necessary to supply nine mooring anchors 18,000 lbs., and 495 fathoms 3-1/2 to 4 inch chain in fathom fifteen fathom shots. 

There is no shore storage equipment or labor available at Brest for coaling this vessel. Coal must be carried afloat and there will be required a minimum of twenty lighters each 200 tons with ground tackle, a collier service and 600 laborers. Troops can be landed in 7 days. Present railroad facilities from Brest will handle only transports already assigned this port. Date at which U.S.S. LEVIATHAN4 could be received depends on delivery foregoing equipment[.] She could be turned around in 10-14 days. I believe this scheme to be doubtful practicability and with difficulties which may or may not be balanced by accruing advantages UNQUOTE.

     It is very desirable to have LEVIATHAN make monthly trip. Under present conditions there is no way of accomplishing this in Liverpool until Landing stage is dredged, the date of which is indefinite. Furthermore the additional British liners soon to be placed in trade to carry U.S. troops will further congest the port of Liverpool and delay dredging operations as well as coaling. I have sent Captain Bryan|5| to Brest to familiarize himself with harbor and select suitable position for planting mooring buoy. With present facilities however Brest will be unable to furnish the LEVIATHAN more than a small amount of coal.

     I suggest Department investigate possibility of utilizing present ballast and fresh water tankk tanks for carrying 3000 tons oil and converting a few boilers to burn oil. By this means it may be possible to make round trip and take only limited amount of coal at Brest. Increased draft of ship would be no disadvantage. Brest Harbor could then be used and ship make round trip a month. Further report will be forwarded by mail and additional report submitted on retturn of Captain Bryan.


     5635.     Sims.

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. The date is taken from the time/date stamp at the end of the document.

Footnote 2: These were converted yachts acquired by the Navy.

Footnote 3: RAdm. Henry B. Wilson, Commander, United States Patrol Squadrons Operating in European Waters.

Footnote 4: Formerly the German passenger ship SS Vaterland, the United States interned this vessel in the port at Hoboken, New Jersey, and seized it upon American entry into the war. By the Armistice, it had made ten trips across the Atlantic and transported over 119,000 troops to Europe.

Footnote 5: Capt. Benjamin C. Bryan, Commandant, Navy Yard, Charleston, South Carolina.

Related Content