Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Henry W. Grant, R. N., Deputy Director of the Operations Division, British Admiralty, to British Admiralty

Submitted.

     It was noticed that the S.S. Ascania1 sailed with the Sydney C.B.I. to U.K. slow convoy on 13th. Comdr. Long on Admiral Sims’ staff was asked whether she had U.S. troops on board2 and he replied that she had 753, embarked in Montreal. As it was an unnecessary risk to bring these men to England in a ship which was evidently unsuited for the Halifax fast convoy instructions were sent by W/T (approved by A.C.N.S.) ordering the ship back to Halifax.3 The question, however, arises as to the embarkation of troops in the U.S. and Canada in these liners. At present it appears that the Military Authorities in the U.S. deal direct with the companies who are only too glad to embark men without considering the question of the fitness of the ships. The Admiralty was not consulted nor even informed that men were being embarked.

     This state of affairs is bound to lead to an accident if allowed to continue and it is submitted that the matter should be represented strongly to the U.S.Government. First that before troops are embarked in British liners the representative of the Ministry of Shipping in the U.S.4 should be consulted, and Naval Ottawa should be informed that the instructions contained in telegram of 2nd November (copy attached) apply to U.S. troops embarked in Canadian Ports.5

H.W. Grant         

D.D.O.D.      

15 NOV 1917   

Source Note: Cy, UK-KeNA, Adm. 137/655. There are several comments below Grant’s signature. One from “DMST” and dated 16 November 1917 reads: “Concur. These incidents are very disturbing. Action as at A has been taken by telegram sent 16 Novr. The other comment reads: “I fully concur with D.D.O.D. HHDT 17/11/17.” The comment came presumably from someone in the Trade Division (“DT”) though his identity has not been established. The two lines below the signature are stamps.

Footnote 1: S.S. Ascania was a passenger liner owned by the Cunard line. It ran aground and was wrecked near Newfoundland in June 1918. “Ascania,” Wrecksite.eu, Accessed on 3 November 2017, https://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?134880.

Footnote 2: Cmdr. Byron A. Long was the officer on Sims’ staff who dealt with matters concerning convoys.

Footnote 3: “W/T” is wireless telegraph; “A.C.N.S.” is the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff RAdm. Alexander L. Duff.

Footnote 4: Capt. Connop Guthrie.

Footnote 5: See: William Sims to Josephus Daniels, 22 November 1917. It appears that Sims, under his own signature, sent the message drafted by the British Admiralty and mentioned in the source note.

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