Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Admiral Albert P. Niblack, Commander, Patrol Squadron Based on Gibraltar, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

 

U.S. NAVAL FORCES OPERATING IN EUROPEAN WATERS.

PATROL SQUADRON BASED ON GIBRALTAR.

U.S.S. DECATUR, FLAGSHIP

REFERENCE No. SECRET-PERSONAL.            28 May, 1918.

Dear Billy:

          Kenworthy is leaving tonight for Lisbon where he is to be a representative of the British Admiralty in Portugal.1 I think, however, his duty is only temporary, and subject to the approval of the British Admiralty. He has been very unhappy here, and has made himself extremely unpopular in all directions. Personally my relations with him have been very cordial and very pleasant, but he certainly has a faculty of rubbing people wrong. In the absence of any better method I was sending by him a cipher to our Naval Attache in Lisbon,2 but I was doing it with much reluctance, as he has shown a great deal of undue interest in our cipher business. What I would like to know is, has the British Admiralty knowledge of our NCB?3 Also who is our Naval Attache in Portugal? An awfully nice young Frenchman named Lieutenant Bonet Maury has just came here from a year in Portugal, and has given me many interesting details. He has been a great deal in America, where the girls called him “Bone-head Maury”, but he is certainly anything but a “bone-head”.

     Cheerup about any friction between British and American forces here in Gibraltar. The discussion over the repairs to the DECATUR was entirely an amicable one, insisted upon by Admiral Grant himself.4 He was trying to build a fire under the Constructor (Furze-Morish,5 a class-mate of Davis Taylor6 at Greenwich). It was all settled within a few days after Stewart left here, and brought about some much needed reforms in the loafing of workmen. Stewart is the kind of an officer who doesn’t take coffee in the morning because it keeps him awake all day. He got my “goat” sufficiently, and frequently enough, to make his departure quite welcome.7 Furze-Morish nearly lost his job. I regard him as a gentleman of leisure, but he has certainly waked up recently.

     I have never met any one who thinks along the same lines I do as agreeably as Admiral Grant, and you can rest assured that there will be no friction here between us. There is, however, a very lamentable lack of similarity in views between here and Malta, much, in my opinion, to the disadvantage of Malta, where this Station is regarded as an adjunct to be stripped to furnish the means to carry on operations in that region. Certainly Gibraltar is simply a “poor relation” in this war.

     The depth charge business has saved the day down here, and I am slapping bomb throwers on everything as fast as the DOCKYARD can do the work.8 This place is, however, very congested as to work.

     It would have helped a good deal if the Department would have told me definitely as to whether or not we were to get a repair station here, what ship is coming on, and whether the workmen were coming with it, and a few other trifles which would have contributed to necessary arrangements for barracks, foundations for buildings, and a few other essentials. Ground and buildings are at a high premium here, and I have to have data on which to get them.9

     Admiral Grant is putting up by cable today to the Admiralty, the question of taking the CHESTER, BIRMINGHAM, and ALGONQUIN off the Ocean Escort to England, and putting them on the route to the United States. The following is his proposition, to use the British ship ACTIVE, CHESTER, BIRMINGHAM, SALEM, and ALGONQUIN on the route to the United States, and to replace the CHESTER, BIRMINGHAM, and ALGONQUIN on the United Kingdom-Gibraltar route with the “ADVENTURE”, KILFULLERT” and “KILKEEL”, which have not steaming radius enough for the other route, because the five Ocean Escorts he has picked out are able to steam 3,000 miles at 12-knots. They would be required to:-

(1) Escort Convoys bound to United States every eighth day  to Longitude 22°W.

(2) Escort Convoys bound to United States every eighth dayand return to Gibraltar with the Gibraltar portion of HJD Convoys from about Long. 22°W. Round trip 12 days.

Five ships get 12 days out and 8 days in.

Personally, I have no say in the matter, because it is for the Admiralty to settle after consulting you. We have not enough escort ships here for the work so it is only a question of certain Convoys being neglected. <(5. For it is the U.S. and South America)>

     Taking away Kautz from the MACHIAS means that they will probably take Asserson from the CASTINE, as both of them will be Captains shortly.10 I am going to apply for Asserson to be here at the Base. I do not want a Chief-of-Staff but I do need some one to take over the work in connection of the barracks, Base, <and> growing establishment on shore.11 I am going to put in a written application for him. Osterhaus12 does not recommend Todd for a command just yet, as he says he is too timid and lacks initiative. I am going to order him to command the DRUID.13 I am going to give command of the MACHIAS to McCullough14 who now has the LYDONIA, and will probably give command of the LYDONIA to one of the Coast Guard officers,15 as going to sea seems to be their business. I regard McCullough as one of the finenesst officers in the navy. In case Asserson goes Porterfield of the VENETIA would like to have her.16 Porterfield is an extremely able officer, and has done splendid service down here. Roper17 of the CYTHERA is anxious to get home on private business, and seems to talk as if he was pretty certain to do so. I shall certainly offer no objections to his going. These yachts will ultimately go to the command of the Coast Guard officers. Although Howard, Executive Officer of the CYTHERA, is an ex-navy man and I will probably give him command of her, as he is doing very well.18

Very sincerely yours,

Nibs

Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 76. The letter is typed on stationary. Therefore, the heading down to the salutation appears on every page. On pages two and three in place of the salutation there is: “TO: ADMIRAL SIMS.” Below this is a broken line that extends across the page.

Footnote 1: Lt. Cmdr. Joseph M. Kenworthy, who was Assistant Chief of Staff at Gibraltar. For the reason he may have been so unpopular see his letter to Capt. Herbert W. Richmond of 14 March 1918 printed in Royal Navy in the Mediterranean: 424-26. Kenworthy returned to the Grand Fleet by November 1918 so, as Niblack surmised, the appointment was temporary.

Footnote 2: Lt. Cmdr. Edward Breck.

Footnote 3: Presumably, Navy code book.

Footnote 4: RAdm. Heathcoat S. Grant, Commander, British Forces Stationed at Gibraltar.

Footnote 5: S.W.F. Furze-Morrish.

Footnote 6: That is, David W. Taylor, Chief Constructor of the United States Navy, who attended the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, England from 1885 to 1888. “David W. Taylor Memoir,” National Academy of Sciences, Accessed on 15 May 1918, http://www.nasonline.org/publications/biographical-memoirs/memoir-pdfs/taylor-david-w.pdf.

Footnote 7: Possibly, Capt. Arthur C. Stewart, R.N.

Footnote 8: Presumably, Niblack is referring to the new policy concerning the use of depth charges, see: Sims Circular Letter to All Forces, 19 April 1918.

Footnote 9: The American detachment at Gibraltar did not get a tender until the arrival of U.S.S. Buffalo in late August 1918. DANFS.

Footnote 10: Both Austin Kautz and William C. Asserson were awarded the temporary rank of captain on 1 July 1918. Naval Register, 1919: 18.

Footnote 11: Asserson did join Niblack’s staff. Supplement to the Navy List: 90.

Footnote 12: RAdm. Hugo Osterhaus was brought out of retirement to command a division of the Atlantic fleet.

Footnote 13: Presumably Lt. Cmdr. Forde A. Todd. However, in the Supplement to the Navy List he is not listed as commander of the yacht Druid.

Footnote 14: Lt. Cmdr. Richard P. McCullough.

Footnote 15: Lt. Cmdr. Philip F. Roach of the Coast Guard took command of the armed yacht Lydonia. Supplement to the Navy List: 93.

Footnote 16: Lt. Cmdr. Lewis B. Porterfield. In October 1918, however, Randolph Ridgeley, Jr., a Coast Guard officer, commanded Castine. Ibid., 91.

Footnote 17: Lt. Cmdr. Walter G. Roper. In October 1918 he was no longer in command of the armed yacht Cythera. Ibid., 92.

Footnote 18: In October 1918, a Coast Guard officer, Lt. Cmdr. Raymond L. Jack, commanded Cythera. Ibid.