Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Commander Charles R. Train, United States Naval Attaché in Rome, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

Naval Attaché

Telegraphic Address

  “Alusna Rome”

AMERICAN EMBASSY

R O M E

PERSONAL & CONFIDENTIAL.                9 May, 1918.

Dear Admiral:

          In view of the several telegrams I have sent you regarding the affairs in the Ministry of Marine,1 I think perhaps more detains [i.e., details] are necessary.

          All the information which I have been sending you has come from a very confidential source, but from a very reliable one, and can be relied upon.

          Vice Admiral REVEL2 has one chief fault, and that is, he is suspicious of everything that is French, and has always been afraid of having something “put over” on him, and that, I am told, is the cause of his unfortunate action at the last Conference.3 I know officers have even gone so far as to say that he acted like a baby, and I am sure that his days of usefulness are over. His refusal to permit the auxiliary cruisers CITTA DI SIRACUSA and CITTA DI CATANIA to be given to England as mine layers was his first move showing a desire not to cooperate. My friends say there was no reason why these vessels should not be given to England; and when his decision came not to allow the dreadnaughts to go to Corfu, the officers in general were aghast at his antagonistic attitude and all regretted the disagreeable position in which the Italian Navy was placed.4

          Revel is a worker; - there is no question about that. He is on the go continuously between Venice, Rome and Taranto, but he cannot see further than his own back yard fence. The Minister,5 who holds a very irresponsible position, but who has the one advantage of being a member of the Cabinet, certainly deplores the action of Revel, and it was undoubtedly his doing that sent the Prime Minister Orlando to France,6 which had the result of bringing Revel to terms. Up to the present moment no official statement or orders have been given regarding sending the ships to Corfu, and I know that the new Commanding Officer of the dreadnaught “CAVOUR”, whose orders read to report on the 15th, have not as yet been changed.7 I believe the Minister realized that Revel should be relieved, but I have an idea that they would like this hint to come from Lloyd George or Clemenceau, or some one else of like importance.8 I think this is their idea of how best to do the job with as little interior row here as possible.

          The Minister’s desire to send the Duca degli Abruzzi as Commander in Chief of the combined French-Italian squadron at Corfu is, as far as I know, only a desire, as I have not heard of any move along this line.9 I believe Abruzzi was taken away from the fleet for no special reason except for inactivity at Taranto, but how he could be active in that landlocked harbor, it is hard to explain. He is an idol among the blue jackets, and although his health was reported poor, I believe he is still a good man and a good sailor. I would certainly suggest that the English place a red hot liaison officer on the Commander In Chief’s Staff to see that drills and instructions are carried out to promote efficiency in the combined squadron as a working unit.

          No decision as yet has been made regarding the sending the 4 battleships back to Brindisi which Revel moved without any apparent cause, except the excuse of lack of coal.- and the barrage of small craft remains unprotected. It certainly would be an easy matter for some fast cruisers to dash out of Cattaro and play havock with the small craft on the barrage; or, if the dreadnaughts were at Cattaro, they could clean out the bunch.

          We are in our new offices over the Embassy offices and Cone’s representatives have arrived and are “going strong”.10 They all arrived at the time of your last Conference in Paris, and of course I had to straignten them out, andit was impossible for me to get away, although I would certainly have enjoyed attending the last Conference.

          The Italian Navy will never get a proper show with Revel at its head.

               Yours very sincerely and respectfully,

S/   C. H. TRAIN.

Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 23. Addressed below close: “Vice Admiral Wm. S. Sims, U.S.N.,/Force Commander.” Note at top of each page: “Admiral Sims’/Personal File.” Identifying number on both pages in the top right-hand corner in columnar fashion: “1/5/6/J/Q” and “11.”

Footnote 1: See, for example: Train to Sims, 4 May 1918; and Train to Sims, 4 May 1918.

Footnote 2: Chief of Naval Staff and fleet commander VAdm. Paolo Thaon di Revel, Italian Navy.

Footnote 3: For a detailed discussion of Revel’s actions at the Allied Naval Conference held in Paris 26 and 27 April, see: Sims to William S. Benson, 30 April 1918.

Footnote 4: On Revel’s unwillingness to send Italian battleships to join the Allied fleet at Corfu, see, ibid.

Footnote 5: VAdm. Albert del Bono, Italian Navy.

Footnote 6: Italian Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando.

Footnote 7: The Conte di Cavour did not join the Allied fleet and spent little time at sea during the remainder of the war. John Roberts, Warship IV (London: Conway Maritime Press, 1980), 267–79.

Footnote 8: Thaon di Revel was not replaced as Chief of Staff of the Italian Navy.

Footnote 9: Despite being appointed a full admiral in February 1918, Prince Luigi Amedeo di Savoia-Aosta, Duke of the Abruzzi, played no role of importance during the remainder of the war. Halpern, Naval War in the Mediterranean: 336.

Footnote 10: “Cone’s representatives” was a group consisting of Lt. Cmdr. John L. Callan; Paymaster Omar Conger; Lt. Willis Haviland; Ens. Lawrence White; and Lt. Col. Spenser Grey of the British Royal Air Force. They arrived in Italy on 23 April and while there, visited Rome, Pescara, Venice, Bolsena, and Porto Corsini. Rossano, Stalking the U-Boat: 288.