Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Forces Operating in European Waters to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations
Cablegram Sent Novr 2, 1917.
To Opnav, Washington Serial No. 1219
Via: N C B 10 ADR Prep. by GLS Appvd. by NCT2
Copy to GLS
1219. Your 925.3 Admiralty Committee has investigated bases for Northern mine barrage and Admiralty’s full report on suggested organization of bases for assembling American mines is being forwarded.4 Plan calls for U.S. base at Invergordon handling two thousand mines per week and at Inverness handling fifteen hundred. Combined personnel required from U.S. is approximately one hundred and eighty two mechanics, six hundred and twenty skilled laborers, six hundred and ninety laborers, forty clerks and for dock working parties, twenty five boatswains mates, twenty five cox[s]wains, four hundred seamen and ordinary seamen. Most important that all these be enlisted men to insure military discipline and control and to avoid labor complications here.5 Commanding officers at depots should be rank of commander and each should have fire [i.e., five] or six other officers as assistants.6 Large distillery buildings will be taken over7 but there will be small amount new construction required shops must be fitted up. Scarcity machinery, cranes, etc. in this country would make a very welcome arrangement if U.S. could furnish some of these. At least one of officers sent for conference mentioned Opnav 925 should have had experience in manufacture mines in U.S. Navy Yards as Naval Constructor Knox has had.8 Some of the Depot staffs should come at same time as officers who return after conference so they will be in touch with work from beginning. Intended ship some mines by LOCH ALSH and rail via Dingwall but ships for Kyle must not exceed two hundred eighty feet length nor twenty feet draught. Other mines will come via Fort William and by barge through Caledonian Canal.9 British Rear Admiral will be senior officer in general charge joint operations these and British bases in Firth of Forth.10 Admiralty desires verify immedi<a>tely understanding that sinkers as well as mines will be furnished from U.S.11 Furnish information concerning general character eight mine layers sailing 1 February and whether anyother craft will be used for mine laying. Would also like to learn approximate number and kind of mine carriers.12 Will reply concerning OLD COLONY later. For localities mentioned see B.A. charts 115, 2182 B. 2167, 2635, 2676, 3547.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document is an: “Action Copy.”
Footnote 1: Presumably the initials of the person who coded the cable; he has not been further identified.
Footnote 2: “GLS” was Lt. Cmdr. Garret L. Schuyler, the aide on Sims’ staff handling ordnance matters; “NCT” was Sims’ chief of staff Capt. Nathan C. Twining.
Footnote 3: See: William Benson to Sims, 1 November 1917. Also, see: Ralph Earle to Sims, 31 October 1917.
Footnote 4: The Admiralty report, compiled by a board of naval officers known as the Lockhart Leith Committee, is dated 31 October 1917, UK-KeNA, Adm. 137/1962.
Footnote 5: There were significant delays but at the time of the Armistice in November, 1918, there were over 2,000 United States Navy servicemen assigned to the two bases. Still, Crisis at Sea, 100.
Footnote 6: Cmdr. Orin G. Murfin, an expert in mine ordnance, was assigned to oversee the two bases.
Footnote 7: These two towns were home to renowned distilleries that produced whiskey but were idle in 1917 because the British government had severely curtailed the production of alcoholic spirits for the duration of the war. Because the distilleries were clean, dry, and well ventilated, they were considered excellent potential living quarters.
Footnote 8: Naval Constructor Harry G. Knox.
Footnote 9: Because of the submarine menace, mines and mine stores were unloaded at Fort William (Corpach Village), the western terminus of the Caledonian Canal, and at the Kyle of Lochalsh, a railhead on Scotland’s western coast and then transshipped by rail to Inverness, the eastern terminus of the railroad. Memorandum for the Chief of Bureau of Ordnance, 1 March 1919, DSI-MHT, Simon P. Fullinwider Papers.
Footnote 10: In the end, Adm. David Beatty, R.N., commander of the British Grand Fleet, was the officer in charge of the operation.
Footnote 11: See: Benson to Sims, 3 November 1917.
Footnote 12: Sims sent additional query concerning the mine laying operation in a cable of 6 November. On the boats to be used, see: Pratt to Commandants of Naval Districts, 31 October 1917. No final decisions were to be made concerning the mine barrage until Benson met with First Sea Lord Adm. Sir John Jellicoe during his naval mission to Britain. See: Benson to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 8 November 1917.