British Admiralty to Admiral Sir Dudley R.S. De Chair and Commodore Guy R. Gaunt, British Naval Attaché in Washington
From ADMY. Date 3.5.17
To Commodore Washington Sent 0025
It is proposed, if Navy Dept. concur and if speed of convoy is not too slow for fuel consumption of U.S. Destroyers to assemble a Convoy of not more than 16 to 20 xxxxxx British or Allied Vessels. Convoy to assemble at Sandy Hook and to consist of vessels of under 12 knots seagoing speed from Ports of New York, Boston Portland.1
Convoy to be escorted to United Kingdom by U.S. Destroyers leaving for this country and definite date for assembling convoy will be wired when date of destroyers leaving is known.
V.A.N.America2 will order a cruiser to Sandy Hook to assist in assembly. This ship will not form part of the escort but will detail an officer to take passage in one of the Merchant Vessels and act as Commodore Convoy under the directions of S.N.O of Escort. The Senior Officer of Escort and Commanderof Convoy are to be provid/ed/ with G.S.Code and Memo. C. Call sign will be allocated lat/er/
Ask Navy Dept. if they will detail one signalman to each vessel in the convoy and arrange for a few simple manoeuvering signals so that convoy may be under control.
When East of Meridian of 30 West Convoy should be in 4 columns.
Cask fog buoys for night and fog station keeping should be provided. Stern lights to be shaded and to show /over/ arc of 8 points. Bow lights dimmed. No steaming lights.
When East of meridian of 20 West ships to be darkened at night and no lights shown except when absolute/ly/ necessary. Slowest ships should lead columns.
Masters should be interviewed and carefully instructed before sailing. Convoy to be so arranged that trade for West Coast are in Northern Columns London and East Coast Trade Southern columns.
Rendezvous off British coast will be wired later and additional destroyer escort will be provided through danger zone. It is essential to allow 2 days margin over time on passage of slowest vessels so that there will be no doubt that convoy will be at the rendezvous on the date arranged by Navy State Dept.
Consult Navy Dept. as to these arrangements and wire if they are considered feasible by Dept. Captain Lionel Wells is being appointed to organise Convoys sailing from Hampton Roads. This message is to be communicated to him.
Addressed to Commodore Washington Repeated to V.A.N.America 335 who should detail vessel to proceed to Sandy Hook and report name.
Source Note: Cy, UK-KeNA, Adm. 137/655. Document is typed on a prepared form, on which “Telegram”, No”, “From”, and “To” are printed. The right margin is slightly cut-off, resulting in the handwritten emendations indicated by angle brackets Addressed and noted below close: “PREFIX to V.A.N.A & W.I No.335/Following in F.O. cypher P of which copy held by N.I.O.Halifax./1st.S.L./D.O.D.”
Footnote 1: The Navy was unwilling to allow its destroyers to act as convoy escorts. See: William S. Benson to Gaunt, 4 May 1917. Despite this refusal, this cable set out the template for future convoys from the United States.
Footnote 2: That is, Vice Admiral commanding the North American station VAdm. Montague E. Browning.
Footnote 3: VAdm. Henry F. Oliver, Chief of Staff and Director, Operations Division (D.O.D.), and Adm. Sir John R. Jellicoe, First Sea Lord (1st.S.L.).