Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Joel R. Poinsett Pringle, Chief of Staff, Destroyer Flotilla, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

[Extract]

UNITED STATES NAVAL FORCES

OPERATING IN EUROPEAN WATERS.

U. S. S. MELVILLE, FLAGSHIP.

BASE SIX.          

12 May 1918.       

My dear Admiral:

          On several occasions, Church1 has discussed with me the advisability of proceeding to the United States to consult with the Bureau of Steam Engineering relative to the material question. He has informed me that the Bureau of Steam Engineering considers it advisable that they have some such consultation, and Church thinks that his services over there would be very valuable in connection with the repair ships to be fitted out, and also in connection with the machinery troubles that have been experienced by some of the new destroyers. He also thinks that it would be advisable for one of our repair officers to become familiar with some of the new phases <features> installed on these new destroyers as early in the game as possible, in order that we may be able to handle the troubles that may occur after the arrival of the destroyers on this side.

          While I recognize fully the fact that this visit is advisable and will probably be beneficial for the Force, I have not been very keen about it because I thought Church’s services were too valuable over here. Just now, however, with the destroyers at the Base all in excellent condition, with all but four of them through with their second refit, and with the good weather of the summer coming on, I think there could be no better time for him to go, if he were going at all.2

          In the mail received day before yesterday, Church received information of a rather disastrous financial tangle in which he has become involved, through no fault of his own, but which is likely to be very disagreeable for him, as well as very expensive, is he is not able to straighten it up to some extent. To do this he would have to arrive home by 10 June.

          Taking this personal matter into consideration, as well as the desirability of a short visit from an official point of view, I recommend to you that Church be ordered home for a consultation with the Bureau of Steam Engineering regarding material.

          I suggest that he be ordered, and that he be given to understand that he is to remain in the United States not longer than three weeks. I suggest ordering him because I think we will thereby be more sure of getting him back. He himself has no desire for a change of duty, but you never can tell what may happen when a man gets on the other side. . . .

          Your last letter was duly received and very much appreciated. I note your estimate of the situation with regard to Berry, and I agree with it.3 I do not think he will return to this Force.4

          Your wire regarding the sending of ships to the Mediterranean was duly received, and the action you desire will be accomplished in the shortest possible time.5

          In connection with the changes in the senior officers of the Force which are occurring now as the result of various activities, I beg to submit for your consideration that we are losing the services of some of the very efficient senior officers. Hanrahan, Miller, Williams are leaving us, as are Buchanan and Brown.6 Of course, as you know, with the troop transports coming over with greater rapidity and convoys generally compromising more ships than formerly, it is very necessary that we should have some experienced senior officers in command of the escorts. I do not know what your information from home may be as to the probability of an early return to this Base of Taussig, Johnson, Fairfield, Vernou and Zogbaum,7 but it will certainly be a very good thing for us if we can get some of these men back here in the shortest possible time in order that we may have them to use in connection with our escort work.8

          I have to request your permission to arrange if possible, for Bryant and Carpender9 to be relieved of their duties if and when I can find two officers whom I consider proper to relieve them, in order that they may go home for new ships. Their cases are the same as Newton’s.10 They have informed me that they came over here from a sense of loyalty to you and because they thought it was a great compliment to serve on your staff, but they feel that they would like, when it can be done without prejudice to the organization, they would like to go to sea again. These three officers have done work of the greatest value in connection with the administration of the Force, and I consider their actions in the matter as entirely officer-like and proper. There is no friction in the matter and no intention on the part of anyone of them to embarrass us in the administration by preferring requests for personal reasons. I think that in time I can replace all these three men with officers who will do the work well – I could not possibly expect to get three officers who would do the work any better. I think it would be a good thing to do to meet their wishes, and if you will permit me to do so, I will, when possible, recommend to you officers to relieve them.11

          Mr. Macfarlane12 is in every was satisfactory, though personally I do not see very much of him. He spends most of his time on Old Bill’s ship, where his son,13 as you know, is serving, and of course if he cannot absorb the spirit of the sea from Bill he cannot be expected to get it from anyone else.14

          Everything appears to be working as usual just now, and as a matter of fact, we have never had so few destroyers in port for such a length of time as has been the case during the past ten days. This was principally due to the fact that we held up one escort over in Brest as there was an interval of but three days between the arrival of one troop convoy and the time when they had to leave to meet the other. They will all be back at the Base in a few days.

          I think that Davy’s15 visit to this Base will be a very good thing for us. I turned him over to Carpender and told Carpender to take him with <to it> hook, line, and sinker. He has visited and explored the Base from top to bottom, has seen all of its various activities work, and I understand that he has said that neither he nor anyone else in the Bureau had any idea of the way in which this place had expanded. After he got through with all this, I took him in hand and discussed with him his confidential letter with regard to the Bureau’s plan for training officers. My recommendations after this discussion were forwarded you two days ago.16 I gave him a copy of the recommendations, which meet with his cordial approval. I told him that the Bureau had been extremely good to us and that whenever there was anything that this Force could do to help along the general game, it was your policy to have it done, and done promptly. He wants to go to Brest on board a destroyer, but I am very much afraid that he may not make that trip as he would have to wait five or six days for an opportunity to do so, and I think he is rather pressed for time. I also sent him down to Berehaven one day and let him have a look around down there.

          You may by this time have had a request from the Admiralty to know whether you approve of McCrary being placed upon Admiral Bayly’s staff.17 When McCrary first reported for duty, I had him to lunch and discussed with him the general trend of his activities, and at the same time, told him what I thought his relations with the Admiral would be. McCrary, as I recollect, at the time asked whether he would be on Admiral Bayly’s staff, and I told him that I did not know whether he would or would not, but, that, of course, that was a question which Admiral Bayly would naturally decide for himself and not one about which I would attempt to offer any suggestions. Two days ago, Admiral Bayly received copies of some correspondence which had been conducted between some member or members of the British Air Service and McCrary.    The correspondence showed McCrary up in a very excellent light and reflected credit upon his loyalty and sound judgement. Admiral Bayly was very much pleased over this, and asked me if I thought that McCrary would like to serve on his staff. I replied, of course, that I thought McCrary would be very much pleased to serve on his staff, whereupon he at once telegraphed the Admiralty asking them to approach you in the matter, and told me to let McCrary know what he had done. I hope you will approve of this as it has come about quite naturally and easily, and I think it will really conduce to good relations and efficient business.

          Price18 will arrive at Euston on Wednesday morning, having been informed by Admiral Bayly that he was not to come back before the end of five days nor after the end of ten. If any man in the place deserves a holiday it certainly is Price. He has been sitting on the job ever since he got here and no more loyal officer serves here or anywhere else.

          We will be very much interested in reading the weekly reports, and I am very much obliged to you for your kindness in saying that they will be sent.

Very <sincerely, yours,>     

<JRPoinsett Pringle>

Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 79. Addressed below close: “Vice-Admiral Wm. S. Sims, U.S.N./30 Grosvernor Gardens,/London, S.W. 1.” Document reference: “REFER TO/No. 4254/(C-4).”

Footnote 1: Cmdr. John G. Church.

Footnote 2: Handwritten interlineation by Capt. Nathan C. Twining: “OK NCT.”

Footnote 3: Pringle is referring to Cmdr. Robert L. Berry who was recently subject to a Court Martial. For more, see: Sims to Pringle, 7 May 1918.

Footnote 4: Interlineation: “I think he will NCT.”

Footnote 5: Interlineation: “Cancelled.”

Footnote 6: Lt. Cmdr. David C. Hanrahan, Capt. William S. Miller, Cmdr. Roger Williams, Lt. Cmdr. Allen Buchanan, and Cmdr. Wilson Brown.

Footnote 7: Cmdr. Joseph K. Taussig, Capt. Alfred W. Johnson, Cmdr. AurthurP. Fairfield, Cmdr. Walter N. Vernou, and Lt. Cmdr. Rufus F. Zogbaum, Jr.

Footnote 8: Interlineation: “Miller Buchanan Brown stay & report to this station will return Unites States summer.”

Footnote 9: Cmdr. Samuel W. Bryant and Lt. Cmdr. Arthur S. Carpenter.

Footnote 10: Lt. Cmdr. William F. Newton

Footnote 11: Interlineation: “OK questionable policy personnel which best achieve service.”

Footnote 12: Journalist Peter Clark MacFarlane of the Saturday Evening Post.

Footnote 13: Probably, Capt. William S. Miller and En. William R. McFarlane.

Footnote 14: Interlineation: “Great.”

Footnote 15: Cmdr. Charles G. Davy.

Footnote 17: Cmdr. Frank R. McCrary and Adm. Lewis Bayly, R.N., Commander, Naval Forces, Southern Ireland.

Footnote 18: Capt. Henry B. Price.