Diary of Lieutenant Commander Joseph K. Taussig, Commander, Destroyer Division Eight
May 8 -
and at sea]
Everson1 has completed his watch bill for the duty to be performed under these unusual conditions. During daylight three guns crews will stand watch in rotation at the fore castle gun- One man will be lookout at the gun- being relieved every half hour- The rest of the gun crew on watch will be permitted to sit down. At night gun crews will relieve every two hours-2
The fourth gun crew will stand the lookout watches, day and night. Lookouts relieve every hour during daylight and every half hour after dark. At night the relieved lookout must remain with his relief for five minutes to insure his being used to the darkness-
The day lookouts are: one at the forecastle gun, one in the fore top (petty officer) one on the bridge, One in the after deck house (Chief Petty Officer)- The fire control talker on watch also acts as additional look out on the bridge. At night: one at the forecastle gun, one on the search light platform, two on the bridge, two on the after deck house-
The officers stand a watch in three excepting that Everson stands the second dog watch.3 During the dark hours- at present from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., either Everson or I are on the bridge in addition to the officer of the deck- each taking three hours-
Quartermasters and radio operators stand a watch in three- There is a radio coding & decoding watch composed of the Chief Pharmacist Mate, Chief Yeoman, and Chief Electrician- Gunner’s mates stand a wheel watch in four-
This is a strenuous routine and means that there are no such things as all nights in for anybody while we are on patrol- There may be interruptions at anytime owing to general quarters alarm gongs ringing.
At ten o’clock this morning the Captains4 went to the Admiralty House to receive our orders. The Admiral5 said he was going to try having us spend 6 days out and 2 days in, but for the first trip the Wadsworth and McDougal would go for four days, the Conyngham and Davis for six days and the Porter and Wainwright for eight days. Our first two days in port would be at Berehaven.6
The operation order is as follows:
Orders for Destroyers — Area XXI.
No. W. 30. Admiral’s Office Queenstown,
7th May 1917
Destroyers will be worked ss far as possible in the following pairs:-
Magic, Narwhal; Wadsworth, McDougal; Sarpedon, Mary Rose; Conyngham, Davis; Porter, Wainwright; Marne, Rigorous; Parthian, Peyton.7
2. The principal areas on which it is intended they shall work at present are:- L. 3,4,5, I. 4,5,6. G. 2,3. G. 6,7. U. P. R. 6. C. 3, A. 4. M 4.8
3. It will not be possible to man all these areas at once, but such areas will be occupied as the submarine pressure at the time requires.
4. An attempt will be made to work the destroyers six days at sea, and two days in harbour, ships leaving and arriving at 8:30 a.m. B.S.T.9
5. When ships have done much full speed, chasing submarines, etc., they may not be able to remain out their full time, as they should start for home when ⅔rds fuel short if that event should occur before their six days is up, thus leaving sufficient fuel to chase a submarine when on the way home if such a chance occurs.
6. Shelter may always be taken on account of bad weather, serious derangement of machinery, or to save the life of a member of the crew, etc., without asking permission, but I should be informed as soon as possible so that the gap left open in the patrol may be filled up if necessary.
7. A program is attached as a beginning, it will doubtless have to be modified later. When shipwrecked crews are picked up they should only be brought direct into harbour if the Captain has a special reason for doing so; otherwise they can be kept on board the ship remaining on her patrol.
8. Submarines lately have nearly always returned to a torpedoed but floating steamer to get metal out of her.10 Approach her with the sun at your back; be careful not to fire at the boats while at long range.
9. When you meet what appears to be a valuable ship escort her if the waters near are considered dangerous. If a “S.O.S.” call is received and you think that you can be in time to help, go and assist her; but do not as a rule go over 50 miles from your area. Be careful not to ram boats to sink them as cases have occurred lately when they have been left with bombs in them ready to explode when struck.
10. Senior Officers of Destroyers are to give the necessary orders as regards what speeds to cruise at, orders for zig-zagging, etc., as they know the capabilities of their ships best.
11. When escorting, it has been found best as a rule to cross from bow to bow, the best distance being about 1000 yards off; but this depends on the sea, visibility, etc.11
12. Reports of proceedings are not required on arrival in harbour unless for some special reason such as sighting or attacking submarines; rescuing survivors, etc..
Beginning at 2:00 p.m. we unmoored from our buoys and started on our first hunt for the wily submarine.
Shall We had on board as passengers, Captain Evans, who volunteered to go in order to give us the benefit of his experience;12 and Lieut. Alston13 who is to get our radio people started right.
The lookouts have been all eyes and there is nothing on the face of the sea that has not been reported- birds, fish, drift wood- and a periscope! We went to general quarters and our periscope proved to be a boat hook- We passed several merchant ships under escort by sloops.
Just after 11 p.m. the general alarms rang and just as I got on the bridge I heard an explosion aft. The ship was going ahead full speed- I thought we had been struck in the stern by a torpedo but soon learned that a depth charge had been dropped. Everson and Falge14 were on deck and they had seen what they took to be the phosphorescent wake of a submerged submarine and in passing over it saw many bubbles coming up- so the depth charge was let go- We circled around several times and saw by the great amount of phosphorescence that the water was much disturbed, but could see no evidence of our having spotted a submarine - so we proceeded on our way towards our assigned patrol area-
Source Note: D, RNW, Joseph K. Taussig Papers, Mss. Coll. 97, Naval Historical Collection. The diary is written on ruled paper with a vertical line one inch in along the left margin. The date is written in that space.
Footnote 1: Lt. John H. Everson, executive officer of Wadsworth.
Footnote 2: In his memoir, Charles Blackford, a sailor who served aboard McDougal, wrote: “The ship kept two guns manned, which meant watch-and-watch (four [hours] on and four off), until someone thought that two on and two off would be better. On that schedule, a man would hardly get to sleep before he was being called to go back on watch. We lived in a heavy-lidded daze and spent more time trying to keep awake than looking for submarines.” Blackford,Torpedoboat Sailor: 77.
Footnote 3: The dog watch is the period of duty on a ship between 1600 and 2000 (4 PM and 8 PM). It is half the length of a standard watch. The dog watch is often split into two equal parts, so the “second” dog watch, or last dog watch, is from 1800 to 2000 (6 PM to 8 PM).
Footnote 4: The “Captains” were the commanders of the British and American destroyers listed in the memorandum included in this diary entry.
Footnote 5: Lewis Bayly.
Footnote 6: Berehaven was a small port on the southern tip of Ireland on Bantry Bay and some seventy-five miles from Queenstown.
Footnote 7: Magic, Narwhal, Sarpedon, Mary Rose, Marne, Rigorous, Parthian, and Peyton were British destroyers; Wadsworth, McDougal, Conyngham, Davis, Porter, and Wainwright were American destroyers in Taussig’s division.
Footnote 8: According to a note in the printed version of this diary: “These areas were to the south and southwest of Ireland and comprised a belt of water measuring 100 miles west of Fastnet (southern tip of Ireland) to a position west of the Isles of Scilly (the extreme southwest tip of England). Taussig, Queenstown Patrol: 190n. In his memoirs, sailor Charles Blackford was very critical of this system, writing: “Each destroyer was given a certain area to patrol, running back and forth along an invisible fence, useful only in picking up survivors and indicating to German subs where not to cruise. They would sink ships at one end of the patrol while we were at the other. The stupidity of the system was evident to every gob, but we supposed it was in the grand old tradition of the British Navy and that was that.” Blackford,Torpedoboat Sailor: 77.
Footnote 9: “BST” is British Summer Time; it is an advance of one hour from Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and is the equivalent to daylight savings time in the United States.
Footnote 10: That is, put another torpedo into the target.
Footnote 11: Normally the vessel to starboard is the stand-on vessel when two ships cross.
Footnote 12: Cmdr. E.R.G.R. Evans, captain of the British destroyer Broke, had been assigned to advise the American destroyer captains during their first days at Queenstown.
Footnote 13: Sub-lt Aubrey R. Alston, R.N.
Footnote 14: Lt. John H. Falge.