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Lieutenant Commander Louis C. Farley, Commander, Allen, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

U.S.S. Allen.        

19 May, 1918. 

From:     Commanding Officer.

To:       Force Commander.

Subject:  Report of action, May 19, 1918.

1.   At 4:08 p.m., 19 May, 1918, while the U.S.S. Allen was in Lat.52-46 N. Long. 5-30 W. on patrol duty in the Irish Sea, the following radio was received from the U.S.S. Patterson.

“Dirigible Z-51 reported periscope sighted beneath surface. She dropped one depth charge. U.S.S. Patterson dropped pattern of ten depth charges Lat. 52-47 N. Long. 5-04 W. No apparent results. Am remaining.”

     A dirigible being in sight it was assumed this was the one and in accordance with doctrine, immediately headed for position at full speed.

At 4:21 p.m. received following radio from U.S.S.Patterson: “Believe submarine in damaged condition. Only have two depth charges. Request your co-operation. Ten miles West of Bardsey.”

     Immediately sent radio: “make smoke. Am coming.” Within a very few minutes made out U.S.S. Patterson’s smoke and altered course slightly and closed rapidly.

2.   Upon arriving on scene found U.S.S. Patterson, H.M.S. P-62 and two dirigibles. Just as we arrived H.M.S. P-62 dropped a number of depth charges on a large oil slick.

     Signal was received from the Patterson that the oil slick seemed to be moving 210°magnetic. Found large oil slick over a mile in length gradually carrying towards 210° magnetic. Proceeded through slick and upon reaching the end of it dropped five depth charges at intervals of ten seconds. Put rudder twenty degrees right after the second depth charge. No more depth charges were dropped after swinging right as there seemed to be no indication or probability of the submarine turning, and it appeared almost certain that the charges dropped must have exploded in close vicinity of any submarine that might be beneath the surface. All depth charges were set at one hundred and fifty feet, depth of water 40 fathoms. The ship was immediately swung through 360 degrees and again came down the oil slick, dropping five more depth charges set at one hundred and fifty feet at intervals of ten seconds. Put rudder twenty degrees left after dropping the third charge. Again circles and came back slowly over the area covered by depth charges. Saw considerable oil and large oil bubbles and smaller air bubbles continually rising to the surface. One of the dirigibles at this moment swooped to the surface of the water near point where the depth charges had just been exploded and signalled that bubbles were rising. Backed clear; first dropping marker buoy on spot where bubbles seemed to be thickest. Went full speed and approaching marker buoy; allowing for strength of tide, dropped four depth charges at intervals of about seven seconds across the patch where bubbles appeared to be thickest.

     On looking back as depth charges exploded, after second charge a white object about twelve inches round appeared on the surface protruding several inches. Ship was circled and brought to vicinity of this object and stopped. The object appeared to be a canvas muzzle bag painted white and was fresh and clean, about twelve inches in diameter, twenty inches long with two wrappings of marline and appeared to be exuding thick oil. Immediately alongside this was a small piece of wood painted white. In attempting to pick up this white object with a boat hook it capsized and a circular piece of wood and considerable oil came out of it, but the canvas sunk. The two pieces of wood were picked up. From all indications the white canvas appeared to be a muzzle bag.1

     Large numbers of oil bubbles were arising. The wherry was lowered and samples of the oil obtained. The wherry pulled around through considerable of the oil and the oil slick and reported bubbles rising more thickly in the spot some hundred yards further on. The wherry was accordingly hoisted in, and three depth charges were dropped in the center of this other spot.

     In the meantime the Beale, Burrows, H.M.S.Griffin, Zephyr, Kestrel, and an unknown yacht and trawler had arrived.

     U.S.S.Allen had but two depth charges remaining and the Burrows was signaled to follow in the wake of the Allen and drop ten charges after we had dropped three before mentioned. This was done.

     In the meantime the Beale had also located a spot where considerable oil bubbles appeared to be rising and so bombed this spot. P-62 and one of His Majesty’s destroyers had in the meantime bombed other spots which were located by oil bubbles arising. Area covered by the oil slicks was by this time quite large.

     The Allen steamed about slowly through the other oil patch trying to locate any spot which would give greater indications of the presence of a submarine. It was now getting towards dusk.

     Received orders from H.M.S. Patrol to take charge, and accordingly issued orders to the various ships present to cover different sectors during the night, Allen in the meantime marking the spot by an anchored lighted calcium buoy.

     About 10:40 heavy fog set in which lasted all night and was still present when Allen left scene at 9:00 a.m. morning of the twentieth.

     3.   A sketch and description of the canvas muzzle bag appended.2

     4.   Allen steaming during night cruising in vicinity of oil slick. A heavy odor of oil was apparent and even in the darkness and fog oil slick was visible.

     5.   About midnight received radio from H.M.S. Patrol that she had dropped three depth charges on heavy oil patch.

     6.   Before leaving the scene the next morning at 9:00 a.m. crossed the general vicinity and oil was still visible on the water.

     7.   It is considered that the submarine located by the dirigible Z-51 and attacked by the Patterson, was as a result of the Patterson’s and the combined attack of the various British and U.S. vessels most probably entirely destroyed or seriously damaged.

          It is impracticable to make a sketch of the operations due to the area covered and the number of vessels taking part.

          It was a good example of co-operation not only between surface craft, but between surface craft and air craft.3


Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Destroyer Ship Files, Allen. Capt. Joel R. Poinsett Pringle, Chief of Staff, destroyer Flotillas, wrote on 23 May 1918, “This is the best example of co-operation in attack upon submarines that we have yet had.” Ibid.

Footnote 1: A muzzle bag was a canvas cover for naval artillery.

Footnote 2:  For the sketch see: Illustrations for May 1918.

Footnote 3: There is no indication that a successful sinking occurred. See, Kemps, U-Boats Destroyed.