Captain Nathan C. Twining, Chief of Staff, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels
21st May 1918.
From: Force Commander.
To : Secretary of the Navy (Operations.)
SUBJECT: General Report.
1. ENEMY SUBMARINE OPERATIONS.
During week ending 11 May it was estimated that a total of sixteen large submarines were away from their base, three being of the cruiser or so-called converted Deutschland type. Of the latter one was bound outward while the other two and also one U boat were probably operating in the Azores, Cape Verde and general region.
The remaining large boats have been working chiefly in the Irish Sea, to the south of Ireland, and in the western entrance of the English Channel, and these localities and off the Yorkshire coast – which has again been visited by one or more submarines – have been the main area of activity.
There was a marked absence of activity in the English Channel.
The following table gives more detailed particulars of the enemy’s activity.
Average No. of s/ms in area per day.
North Sea, South of 53° 30’ N.
North Sea, North of 53° 30’ N.
3 - 4
S.W. of Ireland.
1 - 2
Atlantic, North of Finisterre
1 – 2 (?)
Atlantic, South of Finisterre
3 - 4
N.W. of Ireland and Scotland
3 - 4
Irish Sea, North of 54° N.
1 - 2
Irish Sea, South of 54° N.
1 - 2
Irish Sea, Bristol Channel
1 – 2
English Channel, Approaches
English Channel, west of Lyme Regis
1 – 2 (?)
English Channel, east of Lyme Regis
Bay of Biscay
On the night of 5th. May Drifter SMILAX heard a submarine and sighted the periscope. Depth charges were dropped and oil and air bubbles came up in considerable quantities. The oil was still rising at daylight.1
On 7th. May U.S.S. O’BRIEN sighted a periscope in latitude 53° N. long 5° 33' W. and dropped 21 charges. Heavy oil came to the surface.2
On 9th. May British s.s. QUEEN ALEXANDRA collided with an enemy submarine and claims to have sunk her (off Cherbourg.)3
On 10th. May submarine E.34 torpedoed and sank a UB class submarine 18 miles east of Orfordness. The Commanding Officer was the only survivor.4
On 12 May s.s. OLYMPIC in use as a transport, rammed and sank a U class submarine 40 miles south of the Lizard. The majority of the crew were picked up by the U.S.S. DAVIS.5
Reports of thrity-five encounters with enemy submarines were received –
5 by destroyers.
5 by P class vessels.
2 by sloops
2 by submarines.
4 by merchant vessels.
7 by auxiliary patrol
9 by aircraft
1 by armed merchant cruiser and escort.
2. ENEMY MINE LAYING.
Activity was experienced in the Nore, Dover and Portsmouth areas.
It is now definitely established that mines – similar to our submarine type and capable of being fired from torpedo tubes – have been laid off Sierra Leone as one has been cut by a steamer’s otter and one has been swept up. This is the first definite case of the employment of this type of mine by the enemy.6
Thirty-seven mines were destroyed.
Table showing statistics and particulars of vessels under organised convoy is attached to this report.7 It may be of interest to note that the number of ships arriving in inward bound convoys is the highest number brought in in one week.
4. SUBMARINE CHASERS.
Submarine chasers No. 143, 148, 177, 224, 226, and 351 arrived at Portsmouth on Monday May 13. Their engines were found to be in excellent condition with the exception of certain minor adjustments and their radio telephones in good working order.8
It is proposed to operate these chasers as a hunting unit with the U.S.S. AYLWIN as Flagship and supporting vessel.9
They will be temporarily based at Portland but probably eventually be shifted to Plymouth when the arrangements for taking over the small private dockyard at that place are completed.
As it was found that the Commanding Officers of these chasers had had little or no experience in operating together as a hunting unit, they were all ordered to London for consultation and instruction. Instruction in details of listening devices and similar questions were carried out by Captain Leigh10 and in addition a series of chart manoeuvres using the game board were executed by the Planning Section. Based on these game board maneouvres and conference discussion, a tentative doctrine was drawn up which will be revised from time to time based upon experience gained.
A K-tube compensator was taken apart and explained in detail to them as they had had no previous instruction of this nature.
K TUBE INSTALLATIONS
Two K-tubes sets have been installed on the U.S.S. AL-1 one a tank-type triangle mounted at the bottom of the bow ballast tank- the other triangle mounted on the frame work, standing eighteen feet above the superstructure deck just forward of the trunk hatch, leading to a torpedo compartment. One compensator is used, there beinga separate plug for each of these triangles. No comparative tests to date have been made with this vessel, but these will be carried out at the first opportunity by all submarines fitted with whichever type of triangle proves the better.
A K tube triangle was fitted in the forward trimming tank of the U.S.S. CALDWELL. This set was used for the purpose of listening to trawlers, coasting steamers and U.S. Destroyers in deep water along the west coast of Ireland. The ranges obtained were not very great – three or four miles being the maximum obtained listening to the destroyer. The short range was partly due to water noises within and outside the trimming tank, but mainly due to some deadening influence existing in this enclosed form of installation. With the assistance of the ship’s force, Lieut. Commander Carter|11| rigged a triangle to be lowered over the bow of the CALDWELL and slung suspended from three points at a depth of 50 feet below the keel. With engines and all auxiliary machinery stopped, a U.S. destroyer making 15 knots was heard about six miles away and bearings within 20° were obtained. The best time made from the instant of stopping the engines to the instant of the “go ahead” bell was three minutes, and the Commanding Officer of the CALDWELL believe that with a little drill the ship can be stopped, the triangle put over, observation made and engines started in less than five minutes at all times.
The S.C. tube as installed on U.S. submarines is being used constantly while on patrol and the officers of the submarines place considerable reliance on this instrument. The operators have become so expert in its use that surface vessels are heard at a greater distance than they can be seen with low powered periscope in these vessels. On several occasions enemy submarines have been followed and kept within sound contact for a considerable length of time by means of the S.C. tube. However, as in every case the enemy submarine has eventually been lost sight of, it is believed that at a very low speed of one or two knots, the S.C. tube is not sufficiently sensitive to maintain sound contact.
4. BATTLESHIP DIVISION.
The weekly reports of the Commander of the Battleship Division have been forwarded.12
It is gratifying to note the very satisfactory condition of these ships as indicated by the instructions of the Division Commander and his general reports.
Many complimentary remarks are heard in the British Service concerning the Battleship Division.
Admiralty officials have <frequently> commented upon the very small number of repairs required by these ships when they come up for their regular overhaul periods at dockyards. The degree of self-maintenance which our ships seem to be able to maintain is apparently superior to that maintained in other Services.
The question of fitting watertight covers on open companionways; fitting manholes in large watertight hatch covers, through which access is required during battle, and making certain doors watertight, has been considered.13
The Admiralty has gotten out drawings for this work, and has ordered the manufacture of the watertight covers, manholes, and doors. The manufacture, however, was not completed in time for installation on NEW YORK, DELAWARE and WYOMING, when they were in dock undergoing re-fit. They will probably be in hand and will be installed on the FLORIDA, during present re-fit, and the hatch covers and doors, as manufactured, will be shipped to the Base and installed on the NEW YORK, WYOMING and DELAWARE, as opportunity affords.
All drawings in connection with this matter, have been forwarded to the Bureau of Construction and Repair (See our letter M.3 – 40/13/A of February 20, 1918.)14
The strengthening of gun shutters to withstand the heavy seas, will be carried out on the FLORIDA during present re-fit, and on the other vessels by the Ships Force as opportunity affords.
The kite balloon installations on two of the ships of the Sixth Battle Squadron have been completed. They will, in future, be part of the regular equipment of these vessels while at sea.
During the U.S.S. DELAWARE’s docking period at Newcastle leave and liberty were granted to practically the whole crew. The Commanding Officer15 reports that there was but one infraction of regulations due to overtime or intoxicants. He received many complimentary letters and oral statements from the authorities and other<s> ashore, congratulating the ship on the smart appearance of her men and on their fine behaviour.
5. FORCES BASED ON QUEENSTOWN.
Before the PATTERSON sails for the United States a standard depth charge rack as installed on destroyers in these waters will be brought up to date on that vessel. Experience with this rack in the war zone has demonstrated its efficiency and hence it is recommended that it be inspected immediately upon the arrival of the PATTERSON in connection with similar installations on new destroyers.
The epidemic of tonsillitis and influenza still continues at the Queenstown Base being more or less general throughout all ships. No serious cases have occurred however and a prolonged continuance of the epidemic is not anticipated.16
CONDITIONS AT QUEENSTOWN.
Conditions at Queenstown and Cork remain normal. On 11 May instructions were issued to all of our stations in Ireland informing them that as far as local disturbances in Ireland go the U.S. forces will be considered available for protection of property covered by the U.S. Flag only.17
As previously reported the U.S. forces will under no circumstances be used except in a defensive role as regards themselves or U.S. property. The substance of the Department’s cablegram of May 13 has been communicated to all stations.
BARRACKS FOR ENLISTED MEN OF REPAIR FORCE.
A board of which the Commanding Officer of the DIXIE is senior member is investigating this question.18 The board is working in conjunction with the Medical Inspector Carpenter19 who is to be in charge of the Base Hospital in order that the two enterprises may be developed together.
A contract for the store house to be erected on shore will soon be entered into with Messrs. Humphreys of Dublin.
The storage question is a critical one and is further accentuated as the Air Stations in Ireland progress in their development.
It had been hoped that our depth charges would be immune from sympathetic detonation and also that complete tests would be carried out to determine their safety from crushing such as might be experienced in collision. All information received from the Bureau of Ordnance regarding the charges are immediately transmitted to all Forces. It is hoped that extensive tests will be carriedout to determine the sensitiveness of our depth charges to explosion<,> particularly in case they should be crushed through accidental collision of vessels.
It is now stated that the average use of depth charges by the destroyers operating from Base 620 is 250 a week.
Recent evidence tends to show that depth charges exploded at a greater depth than that of the enemy submarine attacked have more effect than charges exploded at a less depth. It is also believed that in some cases where charges haveexploded fairly close to a submarine they have put its propeller shafts out of line without doing any other material damage.
An American depth charge, Mark 11. Mod. 1 recently dropped from a destroyer when set for 150 feet, brought mud to the surface from a depth of 300 feet.
REPORTS FROM DESTROYERS.
Attention is invited to the summary of operations of the destroyer forces which gives a very good general survey of the duty being performed by these vessels. Similar reports will be prepared by other forces in the future.
Attention is also invited to the summaries of war diaries from the destroyers and the various reports of action which are now being submitted.21
SUBMARINE DIVISION FIVE
Summary of operations of Submarine Division Five for week ending 4 May is enclosed.22
It is particularly interesting in view of the contacts made with enemy submarines.
PORTER’S ATTACK ON ENEMY SUBMARINE.
A recent depth charge attack by the U.S.S. PORTER caused the submarine to cease her operations and return to her base.
On the evening of April 28, the PORTER, in attacking an enemy submarine headed toward a convoy which had just passed the one which the PORTER was accompanying, dropped four depth charges within 20 yards of the position in which the periscope was last seen. In all, a barrage of 22 depth charges was laid in pattern, at about ten second intervals, while the destroyer was making 22 knots. The PORTER remained in the vicinity until after daylight, and saw much small wood drifting, quantities of dead fish, and oil.23
During the week ending 7 May, 70 men were received at the Training Station and 27 men transferred.
Seventy-three sick men from the Flotilla principally those suffering from influenza were accommodated at the barracks under quarantine restrictions.
The men at the barracks are constantly engaged in miscellaneous work of improving the barracks and the living facilities.
U.S.S. O’BRIAN [i.e., O’BRIEN].
The O’BRIAN dropped twenty-one depth charges in action with an enemy submarine in the Irish Sea, May 7th.
The ALLEN has submitted an interesting report on economies practiced in her general mess, in response to a circular letter upon this subject from the Force Commander.24
Butter is served on the ALLEN but twice a day. Jam is provided at the butterless meals, after dilution by adding one third water. All unused bread from the mess tables is returned to the galley to be made into toast; puddings or stuffing. The men help themselves from the serving dishes, according to their appetites, instead of receiving equal rations on their plates. Menus are made out with a view of using food left over from the meal previous. Meat is cut into small portions to prevent waste. Sugar and canned milk are not placed on the tables, but put into the food in the galley. Each mess man finds out how many men of his mess when in port will be absent from dinner, so that the ship’s cook can regulate the amount of food prepared. Left over meat is made into sandwiches for night rations.
These measure have resulted in a saving to the ALLEN’s mess of $290 up to March 31.25
The MANLEY arrived at Liverpool May 6 to undergo extensive repairs.
A collier recently under escort by U.S.S. FANNING WAS torpedoed without warning and with no definite evidence of the location of the submarine. The FANNING immediately made a determined attack in the general area probably occupied by the submarine, dropping twenty-four depth charges. Such action is held to be fully justified. As soon as the enemy by experience has to consider determined opposition of this nature, there can be no question that his morals [i.e., morale] will be affected and his efficiency reduced.
The Force Commander has written a letter to the Commanding Officer U.S.S. McCALL commending him and his officers and crew for the excellent duty performed by their ship in connection with the sinking of S.S. WESTERLY, April 26-27 which had been rammed by S.S. LUCILINE while in convoy.26
A similar letter has been addressed to the Secretary of the Admiralty commending H.M.S. CAMELLIA for the fine seamanship which she displayed in towing the sinking WESTERLY for some fourteen hours at slow speed.27
The STEWART was in collision in a fog with a French man-o’-war while with a convoy on the evening of April 26. The STEWART was cut in almost to the midships line, from frames No. 17 to No. 22. Her repairs should be completely finished by the middle of this month.
The PARKER has been damaged in a collision with H.M.S. EGLANTINE and was towed to a British channel port.
One of the U.S. Submarines recently made three contacts with German submarines between April 24 and 30. In the first, while on the surface at dawn with good visibility, when the conning tower of the enemy was visible as he dived, a torpedo was launched at a range of 200 feet. It is believed that it passed under the bow of the submarine at too great a depth to hit. Ramming was immediately attempted, but the enemy had dived too deep before his location was reached. Bubbles from his vents and whirling water were plainly seen when over the spot.
It has been pointed out that under this circumstance depth charges would have been valuable had it been possible to carry them. Subsequently the same day the en<e>mmy was again sighted on the surface, headed toward a convoy, and after diving was traced with indifferent success by listening devices.
The latter on the same U.S. submarine enabled her to hear and track the sound of enemy propellers for four hours on April 27. The U.S. submarine was making 6.1 knots, the enemy about seven, supposedly, so that when he had succeeded in escaping his batteries must have been very low.
The third contact was less significant; but in all of them the excell
a<e>nce above surface craft of the submarine as a listening station was clearly indicated.
Had this submarine been working in conjunction with a destroyer, it is believed that the enemy might have been pursued and attacked with depth charges to definite effect.
6. FORCES BASED ON GIBRALTAR. . . .
On 17 May just before the thirty submarine chasers were due to sail, a submarine was located in the near vicinity of Gibraltar by a seaplane. All thirty chasers were therefore sent in pursuit and the latest reports are that they have located the submarine.28 Under the circumstances it is considered that the action of the Base Commander at Gibraltar was justified.
Survivors from H.M.S. COWSLIP torpedoed off Gibraltar, April 23, were rescued by U.S.S. SENECA, which formed part of the escort to the convoy to which the British ship was also attached.
7. FORCES BASED ON FRANCE.
Attention is invited to the reports of operations of the commander of the forces in French Waters forwarded hereunder.29 It is noted that the LEVIATHAN is reported to have past ten miles to north’ard of the land fall position assigned her and was hence not intercepted by the pilot vessels sent out to meet her. Attention is also invited to the reports concerning the LEVIATHAN which have been the subject of cable. It is noted that although coal was place alongside immediately upon her arrival coaling was not begun until the following day.30
It is also noted that less than two hundred men of the ship’s company participated in the coaling and that a force of five hundred stevedores were supplied by the Army.
Admiral Wilson also reports that Commander A.H. Woodbine N.N.V., was sent by the Navy Department for duty as Naval Port Officer at Brest. As Commander Woodbine had no previous experience with shipping and as there was already a very efficient port officer in office at Brest,31 it was considered inadvisable to make a change/.
As ageneral rule it is believed to be in the interest of efficiency not to order officers for specific duty in the war zone unless particularly requested by the various Force
Attention is also invited to Admiral Wilson’s report concerning the erection of oil tanks on the French Coast and the confusion which was caused as regards the construction mechanics and tolls sent to the French Coast for that work.
U.S.S. CHRISTABEL on April 28 passed the point off Penmarch France, where the STEWART five days before attacked a submarine at close quarters. An oil slick then covered a large area, and was still visible on May 4/ Admiral Wilson has reported that it appears probable that the submarine is on the bottom there, and that the French may attempt to locate her. The depth is 40 fathoms.32
According to a survivor a U-boat of the latest type recently sunk by depth charges had been tested to withstand water pressure at 196.8 feet below the surface, and was able to submerge in from 30 to 60 seconds from full speed ahead. When depth charges put her after hydroplane motor out of gear, she lost her trim and dived bow first, at an angle of 45°, to a depth of 334 feet. A stream of water about 1/2" in diameter was forced into the control room, through the studs which connected the waterpump discharge pipe to the hull. The crew restored the trim, however, tanks were blown, and the submarine rose rapidly to the surface. But attempting to dive again, she was unable to keep her trim, so that captain proceeded on the surface, where she was successfully attacked by gunfire/
The survivor stated that this submarine’s custom, when hunted by ships withhydrophones or when an enemy ship was in the vicinity, was to dive to a depth of 65 to 100 feet. The order to “Silent running” was then given. The speed of the port motor was 100 revolutions, of the starboard motor 80. The forward hydroplane was kept in gear, but used as little as possible. Periscopes were housed. Gyro-compass remianed [i.e., remained] running but use of pumps and w-cs/ were forbidden. After proceeding thus for an hour, the boat rose to 36 feet, and a periscope raised to see if any hostile ships were still in the neighbourhood. Should that be the case, the boat again dived to 65-100 feet, and the above methods were repeated.
It was declared that the submarine could dive to 36 feet in 30 to 60 seconds, from half speed ahead on the surface, and that the venting and flooding systems in recent German submarines have been greatly improved. The boat always dived with an inclination forward of 15°.
Excellent co-operation between aircraft and the escort to 17 ships was a feature of U.S.S. STEWART’S attack on a submarine off Penmarch, April 23½ Two seaplanes piloted by Americans were seen dropping bombs two miles to seaward of the convoy. One of these came directly toward the destroyer, then at full speed, dropped a buoy, and an observer gave the direction of the submarine by pointing. Another plane dropped a smoke bomb close to this spot.
The STEWART immediately picked up a distinct wake, at the end of which a dark object broke the surface. She passed within 50 feet of it, dropping two depth charges set for 80 feet in quick succession. The submarine was then believed to be not more than 50 feet below the surface. Three more charges were dropped. These brought up clear water, whereas the first two raised much oil and discolored water.
7. FORCE BASED ON AZORES.
As soon as the U.S.S. BRIDGEPORT completes her present duty, she will be sent to the French Coast, to relieve the PANTHER which will be sent to the Azores.33
The skilled ratings requested by the Commander at the Azpres [i.e., Azores]34 for the repair base ashore, should be supplied if practicable.
8. ENEMY OPERATION ORDERS.
There are forwarded hereunder two copies of enemy operation orders which are interesting as compared with the form of Operation Order in use in our Service.35
9. HISTORY RECORDS.
It is not known whether the Department has considered the question of compiling an official history of the Naval War particularly as regards the U.S.NAvy.36
If such a history is considered as being justified it is desired to point out that the longer the inauguration of its compilation is postponed the more difficult the task will be. The records are becoming more voluminous daily.
It is considered that if anofficial history is to be compiled the greatest care should be taken in selecting the personnel for the duty.
It is suggested that if the proper type of men are known to the Department, at least one division of them should be established here at Naval Headquarters in London where all records of operations in European Waters are easy of access and from which point they could make frequent trips at discretion to all our bases.
10. FIRING ON FRENCH SUBMARINE “WATT”.
The following message has been received from Admiral de Bon Chief of Naval Staff, concerning the recent firing on the French Submarine “WATT” BY U.S. patrol vessel off Gibraltar force.37
“Please inform Admiral Sims how much I appreciate the efforts which have been made to determine exactly the causes of the accident to the WATT, and how much I am sensible to the sentiments of profound sympathy which he has so kindly wished to express to us for the brave sailors so unhappily lost.”
11. PRESS REPORTS CONCERNING THE SINKINGS OF SUBMARINES.
Refquent [i.e., Frequent] reports are noted in the American Press which are apparently received from passengers on vessels arriving in the United States and which make definite statements regarding the sinkings of submarines, and particularly in cases where there is no definite confirmation for the reports made. It is considered very undesirable to thus mislead the public and it is recommended that the press be appealed to not to publish such reports unless they are confirmed by the Navy Department.
12. U.S. NAVY BASE HOSPITAL No.2.
U.S. Navy Base Hospital No.2 has been placed in commission, and is ready to receive patients.38 On Thursday, May 16, twenty-six U.S. naval patients that had collected at the Royal Naval Hospital, Chatham, were sent to Navy Base Hospital No. 2 on a return trip of an ambulance train.
The Red Cross Convalescent hospital at Lingfield, Surrey, England, mentioned in a previous letter, has been placed in commission and is ready to receive patients. This hospital isa vailable [i.e., is available] for officers of the Army andNavy, and it is also offered as a place where a certain limited number of officers may spend week-end leave.
On the evening of 5 May, 1918, Cecil Lester Smith, Yeoman 2nd. Class, attached to these headquarters was knocked down and run over by a motor bus in the street in front of these Headquarters. He was severly injured and died early the next morning from Cerebral Hemorrhage. It appears that the accident was due to the diminished street lighting, a drizzling rain and the left-hand turning of street vehicles, which is very confusing to new-comers.
13. DISPOSITION AND NECESSITY FOR INCREASE OF FORCES.39
The situation as regards the need of increased forces and their allocation remains as previously reported and particularly covered in my General Report of 12 May under the headings “Disposition of Forces” and “Forces in France.”
Recommendations are constantly received from all areas for increase of forces. This particularly applies to France, Gibraltar and Azores.
The situation in the Mediterranean is far from satisfactory. Convoys were started in this area considerably later than the convoy system around the United Kingdom and France. Distances are great in the Mediterranean, and the whole area is a submarine zone with enemy bases in the centre as well as in the eastern end. American interests are particularly affected in this area owing to the considerable American trade into the Mediterranean/. If French Mediterranean ports will have to be used by the U.S. Army to handle the flow of supplies to Europe, our interests will be still further affected/. The greater portion of the escort craft in the Mediterranean is slow, with the result that submarines attack convoys with small risk to themselves/ Several cases have occurred of submarines attacking convoys three or more times at different positions along the route/ Instances of this sort are extremely rare in the waters around the United Kingdom where convoys are escorted by destroyers or orther fast craft. Unless the offensive operations in the Straits of Otranto are made more effective additional destroyers are needed to insure better protection to convoys.
It is of extreme importance, if the offensive against the submarine is to be prosecuted, that our submarine chaser units should be supported by destroyers. This is necessary not only as supporting vessels with adequate guns and depth charge armament, but also in the capacity of leaders. The submarine chasers are largely manned by Reserve Officers and itis considered very essential to their efficient use that the work of each unit operating independently should be controlled and co-ordinated by a regular officer of experience who can go to sea with them.
It is seldom that a vessel attacked is unable to make known the fact, and in addition, other information is available from radio direction finding, from sightings, and from secret sources.
It is therefore possible in the Admiralties to keep general track of the movements of submarines and, as previously reported, the location of all submarines at large is thus always known within reasonable limits..
We are still confronted as in the past w[i]th an actual condition of serious inadequacy of high sea anti-submarine craft. New British destroyers since January 1st have only been sufficient to make up losses, replace the older, and to add nine to escort forces and six to Mediterranean. This inadequacy of available force means that we must take some risks, and that the allocation of forces must be based upon the outcome of thesea campaign as a whole. It is fully recognised that the political effect of the loss of one or two troop ships would be much more serious than the loss of supply ships, but the fact cannot be escaped that up to the present time the main enemy effort has been directed against supply ships, and also that the success or failure of the submarine campaign is largely if not wholly dependent upon the security of our lines of supplies.
The loss of a troop ship, even granting that there were no survivors, would hardly equal the British casualties alone on one day on the Western front. However, our present policy is to reduce the escort of supply convoys to the minimum and place every other available destroyer on troop convoys and troop transports. With the limited number of destroyers available considering the large flow of troopships, reasonable security onlycan be assured and convoys are always open to the chance of a Browning shot.
It is therefore urgently recommended that as new forces become available they be allocated in the following order of importance
First, escort duty in critical areas of the War zone.
Second, offensive duty, with submarine chaser units or as destroyer units, for the sole purpose of hunting down submarines with listening devices.
The fact that up to the present time, May 21st. but three new destroyers (all of pre-war programme) have been made available for the above duty, renders it of extreme importance to put forth renewed efforts towards accelerating the new destroyer program and getting the vessels into European Waters.
The point that it is desired to stress above, is that, owing to inadequacy of forces available, we must assume some risk, and the question is therefore as to what areas and what duties will involve the minimum of risk and the maximum chances of putting down the submarine campaign.
As reported on numerous previous occasions, I consider it of great importance to instruct the press that the public must be prepared for the loss of some troops on the high seas. The fact should be presented and stressed that regardless of the size and vigilance of the Navy, there is much risk involved and this means that some losses are always liable to occur particularly from mines and torpedoes, and possibly from powerful surface raiders.
The enemy has a limited number of submarines and if his campaign as a whole is to be successful, he is of necessity forced to use them in areas where the maximum amount of shipping is to be found and where the chances of successful attacks are the greatest. This means areas in which shipping must of necessity focus.
We must expect the enemy from time to time to sned [i.e., send] submarines far afield even though their accomplishments may not be at all commensurate with the large amount of time which they will of necessity consume in attempting to accomplish their mission. In fact, it is considered that the enemy has been short-sighted in this direction in the past on the single score that such operations have a strong tendency to disperse our forces. It is for the above reasons that I have consistently recommended sending all available anti-submarine craft into the war zone and particularly to the bases strategically located as regards the focal points of shipping.
It therefore seems manifest that, in spite of possible public feeling, we should not disperse our forces by increasing at all our home defence on such areas as that surrounding the Azores until we have considerably increased the forces in the critical areas, where the risk is the greatest, and also not until we have been able to assign a reasonable number of vessels to strictly offensive (hunting) duty.
A convoy recently making passage inside of Rathlin Island got into difficulties owing to thick weather. One destroyer was in collision and two or three merchant ships went ashore.
One of our submarines recently fired two torpedoes at an enemy submarine and reports that she believes one of them explodded prematurely.
There was reason to believe that during the past week a number of submarines operating off the mouth of the Channel were attempting to work in more or less control by one of their number. It is hoped that radio direction finders for installation on destroyers will be expedited as they are liable frequently to be of great use in locating submarines.
A number of British and French officers took passage to Mourmansk on the OLYMPIA.
Information was recently received from Secret Service sources that a [German] submarine returned to her base after an entirely unsuccessful cruise.
An aeroplane was recently out seven hours in the North Sea. She experienced engine troubles, was forced to land on the water and make repairs. , after which she resumed her flight and attacked a Zeppelin.
The U.S.S. DAVIS picked up survivors from the submarine sunk by the OLYMPIC.
It is believed that the Zeebrugge Channel is still blocked, even to submarines.40
A submarine recently attacked a British sloop accompanied by trawlers fitted with listening devices in the Fair Island. Channel. Two torpedoes were fired one of which struck but failed to explode. The sloop dropped six depth charges and the submarine came to the surface with her bow in the air and then disappeared and no sounds were heard thereafter. It is considered probable that the submarine was destroyed.
Off Portland Bill on May 12 a British submarine torpedoed a German submarine and sank her capturing three survivors.41
It is believed that all submarines which have recently passed through Fair Island Channel have been sighted by the patrols.
A scouting expedition of seaplanes was recently sent to the Bight but their operations were interfered with by fog.
Although not considered particularly authentic, information has been received to the effect that the recent attacks on Zeebrugge and Ostend, the announcement of the barred zone across the North Sea and, the recent submarine activities have caused a certain amount of panic at German submarine bases.
A mine was recently salved off Sierra Leone being of the type laid by submarines. Four of these mines have been located in that area.
A submarine was recently discovered in Luce Bay. Every effort was made to prevent her escape.42
A submarine recently shelled St. Kilda Wireless Station and damaged a Church and the station. It is believed that submarines passing the north of Scotland usually make this station as a navigational mark.
During the month of May 126 attacks of various kinds have been reported.
Four submarines are positively known to have been sunk and to date three probables.
The situation of Russian Naval vessels in the Black Sea is rather confused. It is believed however that six or eight destroyers have gone to Constantinople.43
The U.S.Naval Aviation Forces, Foreign Service, have taken over the short patrols from the British at the Royal Naval Air Station Killingholme. It is expected that the flying boat war flights will be taken over within the next few weeks. Eventually Killingholme will be manned and operated entirely by our forces.44
CONCERNING THIS REPORT.
In the future certain of the enclosures which have ordinarily been forwarded with this report, particularly the Admiralty Daily Reports, reports of convoy operations, will be forwarded as a matter of routine under separate cover.
Only the weekly reports of operations of the different units and certain other miscellaneous papers of interest will be forwarded.
For some time an information bulletin has been issued to the forces in European Waters containing Service items of interest which are available at Headquarters. Experience has shown that it is received on all ships with keen interest, containing as it does, items of news of our own service which would otherwise not be disseminated. This bulletin in other words has been found to have a marked effect on morale.
In the future, copies will be sent to Operations and Naval Intelligence.
Chief of Staff,
Signed for Vice-Admiral Sims
in his absence.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document identifier at the top of every page, save one: “AC 18149 25/13/12” and in columnar fashion: “J/1/2/3/4/5/6.”
Footnote 1: There is no evidence that Smilax sank a U-boat.
Footnote 2: There is no evidence that O’Brien sank a U-boat.
Footnote 3: The transport Queen Elizabeth rammed and sank UB-78 in the English Channel north of Cherbourg. Kemp, U-Boats Destroyed: 48.
Footnote 4: The British submarine E-35 spotted the German U-154 while the latter was slowly zig-zagging on the surface awaiting a rendezvous with another U-boat. According to historian Paul Kemp, there were no German survivors because just as the British submarine was preparing to rescue three men from U-154 who were in the water near the wreckage, it was fired on by another German U-boat forcing E-35 to dive and abandon the survivors, who subsequently drowned. Ibid., 48-49.
Footnote 5: The large liner Olympic, which was carrying U.S. troops to France, rammed and sank U-103 in the English Channel; Davis rescued the German captain and thirty-four members of the crew. Ibid., 49. Although not mentioned in this report, two additional German U-boats, U-154 and UB-72, were sunk on 11 and 12 May by British submarines E-35 and D-4. Ibid., 48-49.
Footnote 6: The Germans produced two types of mines that could be deployed via torpedo tube, which the British designated these mines T I and T II. An otter is a hydrodynamic device which is used to pull a minesweeping sweep-wire laterally away from the track of the minesweeper. Friedman, Naval Weapons of WWI: 373.
Footnote 7: The table is no longer with the report.
Footnote 8: For more on the qualities of the 110-foot submarine chasers, see: Richard Jackson to Henry Wilson, 27 January 1918.
Footnote 9: Aylwin was a destroyer.
Footnote 10: Capt. Richard H. Leigh, Commander, Submarine Chasers, Distant Service, was an expert on anti-submarine listening devices, also serving on Sims' staff as the head of the Anti-Submarine Warfare Section.
Footnote 11: Worrell R. Carter was another member of Sims’ staff who worked with Leigh on listening devices.
Footnote 12: For an example of these reports, see: Hugh Rodman to Daniels, 19 May 1918.
Footnote 13: On this alteration, and all the alterations discussed in this section, See, Ibid.
Footnote 14: This letter has not been found.
Footnote 15: Capt. Archibald H. Scales.
Footnote 16: The influenza epidemic, more commonly, though incorrectly known as the “Spanish flu,” came in two waves. What is being described here is the first wave of this flu, which more closely resembled typical flu epidemics in which younger, healthier people recovered easily. Alfred W. Crosby, America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918 (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 17, 20-21.
Footnote 17: See: William S. Sims to All Naval Forces, 11 May 1918. The British were considering instituting conscription in Ireland and it was also anticipated that there would be resistance to this policy. In the end, the British government did not impose conscription.
Footnote 18: Capt. Henry B. Price. As the repair ships had doubled their complements to meet an enormous increase in work required and more than a third of the men assigned to the tenders were forced to take quarters ashore, it was decided to build the barracks. Still, Crisis at Sea: 157; Sims to Daniels, 11 July 1918, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.
Footnote 19: Medical Inspector Dudley N. Carpenter.
Footnote 20: “Base Six” was Queenstown, Ireland.
Footnote 21: For an example of a war diary, see: War Diary, Cummings, 28 April 1918.
Footnote 22: This summary of operations is no longer with the report.
Footnote 23: Porter's attack on the unidentified submarine was considered a model in how to drop depth charges in accordance with the new depth charge tactics. Joel R. Poinsett Pringle to Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, 8 May 1918, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Destroyer Ship Files, Porter.
Footnote 24: On the effort to ration foodstuffs, see: Sims to Daniels, 12 May 1918.
Footnote 25: Today, the savings would amount to roughly $5,218.00.
Footnote 26: Lt. Edward K. Lang, Commander McCall. In his letter of commendation, Sims noted that the crew of the S.S. Westerly, a 5,600 ton cargo ship owned by the U.S. Shipping Board, did little to save the ship from sinking after it collided with the British tanker Luciline off Brest, France, on 27 April. DNA RG 45, Entry 520, Destroyer Ship Files, M, folder 3.
Footnote 27: Secretary of the Admiralty Sir Oswyn A. R. Murray. H.M.S. Camellia was an Acacia-class sloop.
Footnote 28: For Sims’ orders concerning the submarine chasers, see: Sims to Albert P. Niblack, 19 May 1918, for Niblack’s full report on the incident, see: Niblack to Sims, 21 May 1918.
Footnote 29: The report from RAdm. Henry B. Wilson is no longer with this document.
Footnote 30: Leviathan, the former German passenger liner Vaterland, was the largest troop transport in the American service. As seen in his letter to William S. Benson, Sims was very critical of the captain of Leviathan. See: Sims to Benson, 17 May 1918, and Sims to Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 19 May, 1918.
Footnote 31: Capt. Henry H. Hough.
Footnote 32: There is no corroborating evidence that Stewart sank a U-boat.
Footnote 33: Bridgeport and Panther were both tenders designed to repair and refit American naval vessels. DANFS
Footnote 34: RAdm. Herbert O. Dunn.
Footnote 35: These German operation orders have not been found.
Footnote 36: No official history of the Navy in World War I was completed, although, a member of Sims’ staff, Cmdr. Dudley M. Knox, began work on one before setting it aside for other projects.
Footnote 37: For more on the firing on the French submarine Watt, see: War Diary, Wenonah, 4 April 1918. The letter to Sims from Adm. Ferdinand-Jean-Jacques de Bon has not been found.
Footnote 38: Base Hospital #2 was located in Strathpeffer, Scotland.
Footnote 39: While Twining compiled this report, the opinions expressed in this section are those of VAdm. William S. Sims. See: Sims to Benson, 17 May 1918, and Sims to Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 19 May 1918.
Footnote 40: For more on the attack on the Zeebrugge canal, which had been the target of a British raid on 22 and 23 April 1918, see: Sims to Benson, 17 May 1918, and Sims to Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 19 May 1918.
Footnote 41: The German submarine was UB-72. It was sunk by the British submarine D-4, which rescued three survivors. Kemp, U-Boats Destroyed: 49.
Footnote 42: Luce Bay is in southern Scotland.
Footnote 43: In May the Russian Black Sea Fleet was in three parts. One small portion under German control at the Ukranian ports of Odessa and Nikolaiev; a larger portion in German hands at Sevastopol, and a greater number under Moscow’s theoretical control, also at Sevastopol. In the end, the Germans were unable to make effective use of this fleet. Halpern, Naval War in the Mediterranean: 545, 554-55.
Footnote 44: The Americans took control of this air station at the end of June, 1918. Rossano, Stalking the U-Boat: 173.