Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Captain Joel R. Poinsett Pringle, Chief of Staff, Naval Flotillas

[Extract]

May 31st. 1918.

My dear Pringle,

          Your letters of May 27th. and 30th. duly received.1 The first had to do with the trouble I wrote you about atQueenstown. I think we understand each other completely in this matter now and that you will always be glad for me to let you know anything that I hear of the kind.

          I am up against the same thing here. I do not imagine for a moment that there are not some of the numerous young officers here in London who touch the harp2 a LITTLE bit too much on occasions. I recognize I am about the last one to hear of this. We have only had one case that came to my ears so far, and that was because two of these young chaps were arrested by the police and are now before a general court martial.

          I have written the Secretary of the Navy,3 acknowledging his letter introducing Mr.Chapple,4 and I have told him about Chapple’s activities and how much good I think it is likely to do when he begins to shoot off his bazoo at home.

          I hope Major Gibbons will be equally successful in his line. I can imagine that the respective styles of this gentlemen and Uncle Lewis were being interfered with when you came to the rescue with your invitation to go on board the MELVILLE.5

          I can appreciate the advantage of having men like Cooke and Newton6 at the Air Stations during present conditions. I think I told you that I had informed the Department of this transfer, mentioning the undesirability of experienced torpedo officers being on such duty, and requested that a release be sent out. The Department replied that a release would be sent out. It is my understanding that when they come they will relieve Newton and Cooke.

          I assume that you are reading the remarkable testimony that is now being given in the Press in the Maud Allen case.7 You have doubtless been attracted by a statement of one witness – Captain Spencer,8 who fearing that something would happen to him, stated that he told his story to the Intelligence Department of the American Naval Headquarters in London. You may mention it to all parties concerned or interested, that this statement is wholly in error. There is nobody connected with headquarters who has held any conversation at all with this gentleman, and I have so informed the Navy Department by cable. You will also have noticed that the witness stated that Admiral Mayo and his secretary9 came to him for the whole statement. I do not know anything about this at all, nor have I known anything about the matter at all until I saw it in the newspapers, the last two days. I have also informed the Department of the latter fact. I should think it might be well for you to communicate this information casually upon the hill.10

          As for the question of getting Taussig and Johnson11 to Queenstown from the Azores, I of course would like to have them, and have been rather expecting from day to day that the Navy Department, who ordered these boats to the Azores for temporary duty, would let up at any time. However, I had about decided to do what you recommended, and your letter gave the necessary kick to my resolution. Accordingly, a cable has gone to the Navy Department pointing out the extreme desirability of having these experienced captains at Queenstown and stating that if the Department sees no objection I will send and have them relieved by two Queenstown boats. These Queenstown boats must of course be boats whose machinery is in good condition, as there are very LITTLE repair facilities at the Azores and a good deal of work for their limitedmeans. I thought best to refer this matter to the Department, as the Azores group has always been considered a sort of a pet of Admiral Benson’s.12 I believe however, that the request will be approved.

          You will be glad to know that the SIGOURNEY is now on the way to Queenstown under the command of Vernou.13

          We have sent you a cable to retain Berrie, Buchanan,14 and so forth until we get some of the old gang out. Buchanan has gone to France on a rather curious mission. Some of the British army people at the Front expressed the view to the Admiralty that they thought it would be a good scheme if a British and American Naval Officer made a LITTLE tour to the Headquarters and told the festive British and American soldiers how we people in the Navy are playing the game. Of course I at once agreed and pointed out what we considered the most suitable man for the job.

          I expect to leave here within two or three days for a long deferred business trip to Invergordon, Killingholme, the base hospitals for those stations, and our vessels in the Grand Fleet, and possibly one days with the latter. I must be back here by June 11th. for a meeting of the Allied Council and not long after that is finished, I hope to be able to get up to Queenstown. . . .

Very sincerely yours,        

Captain J.R.Poinsett Pringle. U.S.N,

U.S.S.MELVILLE.

Queenstown. Ireland.

JUNE 1st.

     P.S. This letter was written yesterday, and since then I have received information from the Department which changes what I have said above about the boats at the Azores. The three boats there, the LITTLE (Taussig) KIMBERLEY (Johnson) and CONNOR (Howe)15 have been turned over to me. Their places will be taken by the MAYANT and some other boats that are going out to the Azores. I am also informed that the SIGOURNEY (Vernou) and the STEVENS (Zogbaum)16 will come over with convoys and will remain here. I do not know just when the latter will be but I assume they will be right along.

          After studying the whole question of handling the troop convoys we have come to the conclusion that it will be best all round and much more economical to base twelve destroyers on Brest. Two of these destroyers will be the LITTLE and the SIGNOURNEY with Taussig and Vernou in command. The KIMBERLEY and the STEVENS with Johnson and Zogbaum in command will go to Queenstown. The CONNOR will probably go to Brest. That will give you two more experienced commanders at Queenstown and provide two experienced commanders for the escort out of Brest. We will therefore call upon you later for nine more boasts to make up the twelve for the troop convoys out of Brest.

          In looking into this matter we find that to escort in a troop convoy from Queenstown requires, on the three legs of the triangle, 480 miles out, not escorting. 600 miles escorting in and 380 miles steaming back to base. That is, 860 miles not escorting and 600 miles escorting.

          If the destroyers are based on Brest, the three legs of the triangle will be as follows:- 510 miles escorting empties off the coast. 600 miles escorting into St.Nazaire, 150 miles returning to Brest. That is, 1110 miles escorting and 150 miles not escorting. You can readily see that this is the most economical use of destroyers and oil.

          In a letter from Admiral Bayly he points out certain disadvantages which are due to convoys not coming in regularly and to convoys being of different sizes. According to our information, these disadvantages will largely disappear hereafter as the convoys will come with great regularity and will be pretty much of the same size, with the exception of the LEVIATHAN that comes by herself. Of course the five new destroyers that are coming out will ease up your situation atQueenstown, not counting the vessels whose repairs are now nearly completed.

          I am writing to Admiral Bayly now giving him an analysis of this based on memorandums made out by Long.17

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 79.

Footnote 1: See: Pringle to Sims, 27 May 1918; and Pringle to Sims, 30 May 1918.

Footnote 2: A reference to officers drinking.

Footnote 3: Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels.

Footnote 4: Joe Mitchell Chapple, an American author and publisher.

Footnote 5: Maj. Percival Gibbons of the Royal Marines, and Adm. Lewis Bayly, R.N. See: Pringle to Sims, 27 May 1918.

Footnote 6: Cmdr. Henry Cooke, and Lt. Cmdr. William F. Newton.

Footnote 7: See: Sims to Anne Hitchcock Sims, 3 June 1918.

Footnote 8: Capt. Ery M. Spencer, U.S.M.C, Asst. Quartermaster.

Footnote 9: VAdm. Henry T. Mayo, Commander, Atlantic Fleet, and his secretary, Cmdr. William S. Pye.

Footnote 10: A reference to the Admiralty House Headquarters at Queenstown.

Footnote 11: Cmdr. Joseph K. Taussig and Capt. Alfred W. Johnson.

Footnote 12: Adm. William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations.

Footnote 13: Cmdr. Walter N. Vernou.

Footnote 14: Capt. Frank D. Berrien and Lt. Cmdr. Allen Buchannan.

Footnote 15: Capt. Alfred G. Howe.

Footnote 16: Lt. Cmdr. Rufus Z. Zogbaum.

Footnote 17: Capt. Byron A. Long. See: Sims to Bayly, 1 June 1918.