Captain Joel R. Poinsett Pringle, Chief of Staff, Destroyer Flotillas, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters
UNITED STATES NAVAL FROCES
OPERATING IN EUROPEAN WATERS.
U. S. S. MELVILLE, FLAGSHIP.
27 May 1918.
My dear Admiral:
Permit me to thank you for the expressions of confidence contained in your two letters just received, and to assure you that I did not consider your former letter as a letter of criticism but thoroughly and completely understood the reasons why you wrote it, and further, I would much prefer to hear all those things from you than from anyone else.1 One reason why I worry about these things is because they affect your interest and it would be a matter of deep sorrow and regret to me if there were ever any circumstances that should arise which would give ground for criticism of a system which is essentially yours and which we have all made bold to say was the best system that could be adopted. I beg that you will not for one instant think that I took your letter in any other sense except the one in which it was written.
With regard to your remarks about Mr. Chapple,2 I may say that I agree with your characterization of that gentleman, except that I do not consider it quite complete. He would, in my judgment, be accurately described as a “human dynamo” – direct current, as he runs in the same direction all the time. If you had heard his address to the men at the Men’s Club you would have been more than ever convinced of his dynamic force. He told me, with great pride, the next day that one of the English sailors had met him on the dock and had said to him “Well, you even made the Britishers feel good last night”, which remark, of course, set him up another peg. I look upon Mr. Chapple as very essentially the kind of man who will be listened to when he goes home by those to whom you said he intended to convey his impressions, and I was therefore particularly careful to see to it that Mr. Chapple should receive every courtesy and every assistance in his pursuit of knowledge. We simply did what we could for him, and the man is so thoroughly earnest that I think he appreciated it very much. I think there is no question but what any time spent in this connection is extremely well spent.
Major Percival Gibbon, of whom I have already written you,3 was sent here by the Admiralty for the purpose, as I understand it, of writing up the co-operation between the British and American Navies. Sir Douglas Brownrigg4 wrote me a letter on the subject and asked me to look out for Major Gibbon. Major Gibbon was staying at the Admiralty House and after he had been there for about three days, it began to be apparent to me that both his host and himself would have their style a little less cramped if he had stayed elsewhere. I accordingly invited him to make me a visit on board MELVILLE which delighted him very much, and resulted in his moving on board bag and baggage. Admiral Bayly5 wished him to go to sea in one of our destroyers, and I have accordingly sent him out today on board of the O’BRIEN. The O’BRIEN is the senior ship of the LEVIATHAN’s escort, and the Major was very much delighted at the prospect of seeing her met and escorted to port. I find that he has been a Major but a very short time. He is a most interesting man of very wide experience, and I have picked up from him a good many pieces of information that I probably would not have otherwise
of gotten. I have written Sir Douglas to tell him that I was very glad of having the opportunity of returning in a small way some of his many kindnesses to this Force by doing what I could for Major Gibbon, and if you should run across Sir Douglas in the Admiralty, I hope you will take occasion to say to him that I was very glad indeed to have the opportunity.
Craven6 stopped in to see me the day before yesterday, and we talked generally over the condition of affairs regarding the Air Stations. Craven tells me that they were very much pleased at the detail of Cooke and Newton7 to Lough Foyle and Whiddy Island, and I think they may well be pleased, as Cooke and Newton have already gone ahead and done a very considerable amount of straightening up, organizing, etc. at the two places. I have had letters from both Cooke and Newton, and they report everything quiet. These two men have furnished exactly what those two Air Stations needed, which was in each case a responsible head of some experience and initiative. From what Cooke said to me, I am afraid that McCrary8 is not measuring up entirely to the standard which they have set for him, and,of course, I am not as good a judge as that as Cone9 and Craven may be, since it is with them that McCrary does his business. So far as I can see, while I do not think McCrary is a man of a great deal of force, I think he is a thoroughly conscientious and high minded man, and I think he has a very difficult situation to deal with. I told Craven that McCrary had been placed upon Admiral Bayly’s staff, and that, in my judgment, that was a most excellent thing for both McCrary and the interests of the Flying Corps.
Conditions here and in Cork remain very quiet and orderly, and I am inclined to believe, from what I hear from well informed sources, that the recent arrests coupled with the fact that the government has convincing proof of the treasonable actions of those arrested may be expected to exercise a very quieting effect upon the population at large. I do not apprehend, and have never apprehended, that trouble would come until the conscription act was put into force, and while the recent events may have a very salutary effect, I am still of the opinion that there will be disorders.
Our ships are being worked very hard just now, but they are standing up under the strain, and I think we shall pull through. For the past week there has not been a day when we had more than four destroyers in port, and those generally for only twenty four hours or so. My latest information is that BALCH and DOWNES will be ready for duty on 4 June, and I shall be very glad to see them back.10
I am today in receipt of a copy of the proceedings of a British court of inquiry held on the collision between the BURROWS and the P-62, which occurred recently in the Irish Sea. I am having copies of the proceedings made and will forward them to you tomorrow, together with certain remarks thereon.11
We have, I am glad to say, at least reached a point where the weather seems to be settled and good, and I am very glad that it is so, as it contributes very much to the facility of our present strenuous occupations.
We are all anxiously awaiting news of the expected outbreak on the Western Front, and I presume that these must be anxious days for you in that connection.
Very sincerely yours,
J. R. Poinsett Pringle
Source Note: LTS, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 79. Below the close, the letter is addressed, “Vice-Admiral Wm. S. Sims, U.S.N.,/30 Grosvenor Gardens,/London.”
Footnote 1: See: Sims to Pringle, 18 and 22 May 1918.
Footnote 2: Joe Mitchell Chapple, an American author and publisher.
Footnote 3: Perceval Gibbon, a member of the British Royal Marines, was a prominent Welsh author and journalist. Prior to joining the Royal Marines in 1918, Gibbon served as a war correspondent with the Italian Army from 1917 to 1918. Pringle’s earlier letter to Sims about Gibbon has not been located.
Footnote 4: Sir Douglas E. R. Brownrigg, Chief Censor.
Footnote 5: Adm. Sir Lewis Bayly, Commander, Southern Ireland.
Footnote 6: Capt. Thomas T. Craven, Director of Operations, Naval Aviation Forces, Foreign Service.
Footnote 7: Cmdr. Henry Cooke and Lt. Cmdr. William F. Newton. Both had just recently been named Commandants of their respective shore stations.
Footnote 8: Cmdr. Francis B. McCrary, Commander, Naval Air Stations in Ireland.
Footnote 9: Capt. Hutchinson I. Cone, Commander, Naval Aviation Forces, Foreign Service.
Footnote 10: These ships were undergoing maintenance and refitting in Plymouth at this time.
Footnote 11: For a copy of this report, see, Destroyer Ship Files, Burrows, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520. According to the board’s report, no fault was found on the part of either crew.