Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Vice Admiral Lewis Bayly, R.N., Commander, Naval Forces, Southern Ireland
November 6th. 1917.
My dear Admiral,
Your letter of the 4th. has just reached me, concerning the question of convoy No.9.
There seems to be some misapprehension as to what is the meaning of the speed signal. As I understand the case it is as follows:-
1st. The Navy Department sends us word of the time a convoy will cross the standard meridian.
2nd. They send us the speed of the convoy, but this does not refer to the sea speed at all. It simply means thatspeed that the convoy may be expected to make after passing the standard meridian.
We have had difficulty in ascertaining the speed of ships always before they sail, but after they have been out a day or so we may find that one of the ships of the convoy has a less speed than she was reported to have.
That appears to have been so in the case of this convoy. However, they always give the time of arrival at the standard meridian such that in case accidents like the above happen they can always arrive there about at the scheduled time.
I think you will see from the above, that there will be no necessity for deviating from our regular practice of the Navy Department in sending us a cable giving the time that a convoy leaves our coast. We especially arranged this matter so that that would not be necessary, as you will see by reference to the copy of the letter in which we recommended the scheme, which copy I believe you have on your files.
I understand that the Admiralty is writing to you on this subject, but so far as I have looked into it, it seems that the only difficulty was the misapprehension as to that part of the passage of the vessels to which the speed referred, viz. to that part only after passing the standard meridian.
As for having but four transports in a convoy, I will look into this matter very carefully; but you may remember that in our letter on convoy we stated that the maximum allowance that could be made in most cases was one destroyer for each transport, and according to our ideas at that time, we stated that eight transports escorted by eight destroyers were safer than two groups of four transports each escorted by four. To escort the latter by five would require ten destroyers in all.
I am in hopes that the dearth of destroyers will be relieved before very long. The three new ones that are to come out soon will help out to a certain extent. A recent telegram from the Department states that they will be coming out at the rate of eight a month in January. The Department itself has decided that it will escort troop transports across the Atlantic with one cruiser and a number of destroyers, the latter based on our coast and on the Azores. This seems to me an expensive use of destroyers, but unless I can induce them to abandon it we will probably lose the use of those destroyers on this side.
I will talk this whole matter over with Admiral Benson and see what can be done. I am leaving tomorrow morning to meet the principal dignitaries that are expected tomorrow afternoon.
Very sincerely yours,