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Third Sea Lord Rear Admiral Lionel Halsey, Chief of Naval Materiel, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

 17th May,1918       

My Dear Admiral,

               Your Memorandum with reference to the situation as regards the repair of American Naval Vessels in European Waters dated March 28th 1918,1 has now received careful consideration, and I have pleasure in conveying to you the conclusions which have been arrived at in regard to the provision in the United Kingdom of docking and repair facilities for United States Vessels.

               In your Memorandum you stated the numbers of such vessels which may be anticipated will be in European Waters at the dates indicated, as follows:-



1,200 tons


500 tons




March 1st 1918.





Other types of

December 30th 1918.





craft can

be disre-

June 30th 1919.





graded as being small in size or

December 30th 1919





few in number.



                                             Of these numbers you have assumed that 25% will be based at Gibraltar or in the Mediterranean, and in considering the question, these, together with Submarine Chasers and other craft, have been ignored, and we have concerned ourselves only with making provision for the repair of the following vessels:-


 Large Destroyers.

500 ton Destroyers.

April, 1918.



By December, 1918.



By June, 1919.



          It is understood that you are of opinion that repair facilities in the United Kingdom may only be required for even smaller numbers of Destroyers, as the numbers forecast may not be reached2 and you anticipate that by about June, 1919 there will probably be sufficient Destroyers available in the United States to allow of a certain number in this country returning to America for refit. Further, should it be found necessary to provide a Destroyer escort for Merchantmen the whole way across the Atlantic, it is agreed that full opportunity will be taken to refit and repair such Destroyers as are used for that purpose while they are in the United States.

          The matter was brought before the Maintenance and Operations Committees of the Board, who have had regard to the labour conditions in this country which, as you know, are such that we can ill afford to carry out this refitting and repair work which must necessarily be done at the expense of our own requirements, but, after reviewing the whole situation, the Board of Admiralty are prepared to arrange for the periodical refits of United States Destroyers being carried out in Repair Bases in the United Kingdom. At the same time, in view of the impossibility of foreseeing what future War requirements may be, the Board feel that they can only undertake to provide these facilities for the ensuing twelve months and that the whole arrangement should be determinable at any time after the expiration of that period, on giving six months’ notice. You will, I feel sure, readily appreciate the difficulty of entering into such an arrangement for an indefinite period.

          In the first instance, it will be necessary to extend the period between refits of U.S. Destroyers to 6 months, which is the practice now adopted as regards certain British Destroyer Flitllas [i.e., Flotillas], and, on this basis, it is considered that up to March 1919, Messrs. Cammell Laird, of Birkenhead,3 could deal with all the refitting requirements for American Destroyers without extension of their present facilities, but at the sacrifice of the greater part of the other repair work now executed by them.

          In order to carry out this programme the apportionment of the firm’s present dry docks at Birkenhead would be as follows:-

One large dock mainly occupied with a large British 

Cruiser, and, between times, with the repairs of one or two U.S. Destroyers.

One small dock continually occupied with one or two British


One small dock exclusively reserved for United States

     Destroyers’ lengthy repairs.

One large dock exclusively reserved for refit of four U.S.


Three small docks exclusively reserved for refits of three

     U.S. Destroyers.

     With these facilities, seven U.S. Destroyers could be

continually dry-docked for refits, and occasionally eight or nine, allowing also for the continuous use of one, and the occasional use of one or more, of the other dry docks for a limited number of U.S. Destroyers which require abnormal repair due to collision, mines, etc.

          It is anticipated that after March 1919 arrangements can be made to deal at the Southern Royal Dockyards with the refits of any additional U.S. Destroyers that Messrs. Cammell Laird cannot take.

          In order to cope with these refits, it will be necessary to continue the present practice in regard to U.S. Destroyers refitting at Cammell Lairds’, whereby the lists of defects, etc., for the vessels are kept strictly to such items as are essential for the vessels’ fighting and sea-going efficiency, the maximum average number of men available for the 11 or 12 days’ refit of each large Destroyer being limited to 150 men.

          In conclusion, we think it not unfair to ask that, in return for the repair facilities we are willing to undertake for American Naval Vessels, the United States should afford us some measure of assistance by providing us with a suitable quantity of tonnage of the description we stand most in need of, or by assisting us in such other direction as may be agreed upon. You will appreciate that the shipbuilding and repair facilities of the United Kingdom are already strained to the utmost limit and the repair of American Naval Vessels can only be undertaken at the expense of British shipbuilding and repair work. To make good the loss of production involved, we look with confidence to the United States for assistance in the direction I have indicated, and I shall be glad to receive your confirmation.

Believe me,

                     Yours very truly,

                           Lionel Halsey

Source Note: TLS, DNA, RG 520, Box 678. Addressed below close: “Vice Admiral W.Sims, U.S.N./30, Grosvenor Gardens,/S.W.1.” Identifier in top right-hand corner of each page: “1/3/J.”

Footnote 1: Sims’ memorandum has not been found.

Footnote 2: Sims’ anticipated correctly. As of July, 1919 the United States had only eighty-two destroyers fit for service. Office of Naval Intelligence, Information Concerning the U.S. Navy and Other Navies (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1919), 81-83.

Footnote 3: Cammell Laird is a British shipbuilding company.

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