Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Admiral Henry B. Wilson, Commander, United States Naval Forces in France, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

[Extract]

3 November 1918.

From:     Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France.

To:       Force Commander.

Subject:  Report of Operations – Week 27 October to 2 November.

          . . . The U.S.S.CONCORD, escorted by the PIQUA, towed the naval coal barges HUGHES and FRIEDA from Penzance to Brest, arriving on afternoon of 30 October. The destroyers which escorted O.R. 108 to the westward intercepted H.N.88 and escorted it to Brest and La Pallice.1 H.N.88 was dispersed during gales and was about twelve hours late in arrival. The destroyers which escorted O.R. 109 to the westward intercepted Group 76, which was about sixteen hours late and escorted it to Brest and Quiberon, and is expected to arrive forenoon of 3 November. The TUCKER sailed from Brest the evening of 2 November to intercept H.B. 18 at destroyer rendezvous and reinforce escort to coast of France. The MACDONOUGH will sail from Brest on morning of 3 November for Southampton, via Cherborg, and escort the Army Tug CADMUS, which is to tow three motor launches to Brest for the Army.

          Due to the lull in the enemy submarine activity in the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic which exists at the present time, advantage is taken of this opportunity to sail ships to the westward as soon as ready.2 Daily sailings, or sailings as soon as ships are ready, have taken place from Brest, Quiberon Bay and the Gironde. In the beginning these ships were escorted about twenty-four hours to the westward but are now being sailed, except in the case of troop transports, without escort. Troop ships are escorted about twenty-four hours to the westward. Destroyers being used at Quiberon simply to pilot ships through the channels until they clear Belle Isle. All ships are being routed to clear north, south and east bound convoys as far as possible, and ships sailing in groups are being kept together to longitude fifteen degrees west. Unarmed ships are still being kept in company with armed ships until arrival off the coast of the United States.

          The French authorities are to hold a conference on the morning of 3 November to discuss the policy to be followed in regard to coastal convoys for the coast of France. It is believed the escorts of these groups will be reduced to two ships, and the question will also be taken up of sailing ships, when discharged on the coast of France and which are to load again at Barry Roads, direct to that port. Advantage will be taken of this to overhaul coastal convoy escorts and also this will make vessels available to meet single vessels arriving off Belle Isle and pilot them to St. Nazaire.

     3.   SUBMARINE ACTIVITY.

          Absolute calm has prevailed during the past week in the Bay of Biscay but one report having been received, and that a doubtful one, off the mouth of the Gironde River when on the 27th at 3:00 p.m. a submarine was believed to have been sighted in Lat. 45-33 N., Long. 1-30 W. . . .

WAR  DIARY

27 October 1918 –

          The test of the Walzer listening device installed on USS ISABEL have resulted in the following conclusions, submitted by Lt. Comdr. W.R.Carter, USN:-3

          “ (1) That under such sea and weather conditions as existed the device is very accurate and reliable and may be made of great use.

            (2) Being selective, it is of great value for use in convoy and when used for escort duty the vessel should be given a quarter position which will permit her to listen on the one side away from the convoy and to turn toward the source of sound without having to turn completely around and encounter the interference of the convoy.

                (3) That the device is very less likely to derangement than the MV-device and when deranged by reason of leaks or broken operating mechanism it can be easily repaired by the ships force without docking or laying up.

                (4) That a comparative test with the MV-device be held to determine just which device is the better, and whether or not more of them should be installed in U.S.vessels which have suitable hull lines. “

27 October 1918 –

                   In regard to the question of permitting the U.S.Naval Forces to take over the French radio station at Mengam, as requested by the Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France, The Prefet Maritime Brest4 writes under date of 7 October that he has submitted the question to the Minister of Marine and has received in substance the following reply:-- The reorganization proposed cannot be adopted by the French, whatever its advantages, because of the special role played by this station in the various governmental services in the Western coast stations, making it an integral part of the general naval administration. The French, however, give assurance that the station will,so far as possible, be entirely at the disposition of the needs of the U.S.Navy without any distinction between French and American communications. The French will consider any modification of apparatus suggested by the Americans; and call attention to the fact that they have already, in respect to radio installations in connection with aviation, adopted solutions markedly different from those to which their own preferences would have led them. . . .

28 October 1918 –

                   With regard to the collision between U.S.S. CELEBES and the British S.S.TONBRIDGE, the Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France forwards to the Navy Department the records of proceedings of the Board of Investigation. The Board was of opinion that the U.S.S.CELEBES was responsible for the collision. The damages, which were chiefly to the S.S.TONBRIDGE, were not of primary importance; involving, in the case of the latter steamer, the repair or rebuilding of various parts and structures in the neighborhood of her port bow.

29 October 1918 –

                   The U.S.Naval Port Officer St.Nazaire5 in response to an inquiry from the Commander U.S.Naval Forces in France, replies that at St.Nazaire coal under British contract is in charge of the Etat R.R.6 and can be issued for contract. A great part of this coal goes directly to the front. The army will maintain a supply of about 700 tons at Dock No. 1, where the former Navy coal pile was situated. This supply will be sufficient for a part of the vessels. The Army will supply and coal all ships there under army or navy account. He recommends that there shall be no supply of navy coal at St.Nazaire or divided responsibility for coal. . . .

Source Note: TDS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520, Box 440.

Footnote 1: O.R. convoys sailed from Brest, France. H.N. convoys were storeships that sailed between New York and France. Wilson, American Navy in France: 47.

Footnote 2: For more on the decrease in German submarine activity, see: Sims to Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 26 and 31 October 1918.

Footnote 3: Lt. Cmdr. Worrell R. Carter, Commander, Fulton.

Footnote 4: VAdm. Frédéric Paul Moreau.

Footnote 5: Cmdr. Archibald G. Stirling.

Footnote 6: That is, the French state-owned railroad.

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