Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Captain Ashley H. Robertson, Commander, U.S.S. Mount Vernon
[London] November 23,1917.
My dear Robertson,
I am in receipt of your letter of 12th November, together with the confidential memorandum which you kindly forwarded to me through Courtney. I congratulate you on getting safely through with the large ships. It is a big problem, and one attended with grave responsibility. I am especially interested in your comment that you were impressed with the great lack of information on the part of all in authority of the movements orders of the different elements of the convoy and escort.
We have just received from the Commander, Cruiser Force, the confidential copy of convoy instructions dated October 10,1917, and a copy of this has been furnished to each destroyer for use with future convoys.
I am most anxious for your frank suggestions on any matter in which conditions can be improved after you reach the zone, particularly as relates to co-ordination between destroyer escort and the convoy. The whole problem of handling convoys is a new one, and we are anxious to get all the suggestions for improvement from those who have had the actual experience.
I wish very much that we had more destroyers available on this side, so that greater protection could be given our troop convoys; but we have a large problem not only getting in troop convoys, but getting out empty troopships, getting in all supply ships, getting them out of the zone, getting in and out our oil tankers and assisting in protecting U.S.merchant vessels, and also assisting in protecting allied trade. Our destroyers have been worked to the utmost, and not a day has been lost with them. They have done a wonderful lot of service to the Allied cause.
I am sending you herewith for your personal information a copy of comments that I have made on the Commander, Cruiser Force’s pamphlet of October 10. I would lay particular stress on the undesirability of using zigzags that give large angles of turn, especially with our largest transports. I think that the angle should not exceed 30 - 45°. It is especially important, too, that all clocks be checked.
I am forwarding a copy of Commander Courtney’s report for any comment that you desire to make.
Can you tell me why the convoy was 30 hours late; and can you also tell me why the VON STEUBEN was separated from the convoy after entering the zone? Was this on account of the collision to which you refer? Great stress is laid on keeping the ships in line abreast in order to make it more difficult for the submarine to deliver a successful attack. I note that the transports were in two columns. I suggest that you have a conference before sailing with the Commander of the Destroyer escort so as to have an understanding as to what zigzag you are to use, hours when you are to change course, and so forth, so as to
use, avoid misunderstandings due to mistakes in signals and so forth. I suggest also that you have a distinct understanding as whether your signals will refer to GMT or not. All allied vessels in the zone use GMT and you will note that I have recommended that this practice be followed by the transports.
WM. S. SIMS