Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Admiral Samuel S. Robison, Commander, Submarine Force, to Captain Nathan C. Twining, Chief of Staff to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

U.S. NAVAL FORCES OPERATING IN EUROPEAN WATERS

U.S.S. MELVILLE, FLAGSHIP

TELEPHONE, VICTORIA 9110               30, GROSVENOR GARDENS.

CABLE ADDRESS “SIMSADUS”                         LONDON, S.W.1.

REFERENCE No.                     <18> 19 November, 1918.

MEMORANDUM FOR CHIEF OF STAFF.

     A meeting of the Commission for supervising the execution of Naval conditions of the Armistice with Germany was held November 18th in the Admiralty, Vice-Admiral Browning1 presiding and the other members of the Commission being present.

     Admiral Browning stated that he understood that all arrangements for the surrender of German submarines and German surface ships were to be made by the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet2 and that the Commission had no work to do in that connection. (NOTE: This is in accordance with the conclusion reached at the emergency meeting of the Allied Naval Council of November 13th).

     Admiral Browning also stated that his understanding was that the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet was the sole means through which the Commission could communicate with Germany. He then read to the Commission, with explanatory statements of his own, the substance of the agreement made between the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet and the German representatives. Later, on my suggestion, arrangements were made to furnish a copy to each member of the Commission. Briefly it was stated that arrangements had been made to assemble the German ships to the Eastward of Inchkeith and the remove them to Scapaflow. German transports would be sent to remove the crews except the caretaking parties.

     The destroyers to be turned over had been selected from the First, Second, Sixth, and Seventh Flotillas, and it was arranged that if there were not fifty destroyers ready from these Flotillas that the deficiency should be made up from the Third, Fourth, Eighth, and Ninth Flotillas.

     As regards submarines, there were fifty-three submarines ready to proceed; twenty-four which were expected to be ready by November 25th; twenty-seven whose readiness was doubtful during the duration of the armistice; eight which were severely damaged would probably not be ready. Arrangements had been made to destroy all submarines not ready to leave German ports before the expiration of the armistice. It was expected that some submarines – number not stated – would arrive at Harwich by Wednesday, November 20th, and that transports would come from Germany to take back the crews of the submarines in the same manner as for surface vessels.

     Regarding other surface warships, Kiel and Wilhelmshaven have been designated as the two bases at which all were to be assembled and disarmed in accordance with the terms of the armistice. A suggestion was made that the Kiel Canal be utilized for this purpose – that all German surface ships be placed in the canal and the locks placed under Allied control. A telegram to the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet embodying this suggestion was sent.

     No definite date of which the German ships would be ready for the inspection of the Commission had been decided upon. Admiral Browning proposed that his flagship HERCULES, with other British vessels, take the Commission to Kiel and Wilhelmshaven for this inspection. I stated that I though the American flag should be shown on this occasion, and the French and Italian members state that if American vessels should accompany the Commission, that they would desire to have French and Italian vessels also accompany them.

     As regards aircraft, no definite information was obtained as to the bases at which they were to be assembled or the date on which they were to be ready. I brought up the subject of technical inspection of these aircraft. This was objected to by the British members as going beyond the terms of the armistice. I did not agree to this and it was left in abeyance.

     Admiral Browning state that he would have on the HERCULES a corps of experts who could inspect the surface ships for the Commission and ascertain for it the carrying out of the disarmament to the extent agreed upon. I brought up the subject of our technical representatives being present at this inspection. I saw that this would be distasteful to the British. The point was left in abeyance.

     The question of maintaining representative Allied vessels at German bases was touched upon but no definite arrangements made.

     The meeting was held about 5:30 P.M., and adjourned about 7:00 P.M., Admiral Browning having an engagement. He expects to return to the Grand Fleet this evening, and the calling of another meeting will depend on the date of his return.

     I suggested the submission to the Allied Naval Council of the question of the inspection of the German aircraft in case the Commission did not agree to a technical inspection.

     The question of the Commission’s connection with the interned German merchant ships was brought up and the Commission agreed that it had nothing to do with it.

     Vice-Admiral Freemantle and Rear-Admiral Hall3 attended the meeting. Captain Dryer4 attended as Secretary. A British airman with the rank of Commodore was present. The aides of the British, French, and Italian members were present. The British air representative seemed keen on getting information about the German Zeppelins, and I gather was disappointed at the attitude of his seniors in objecting to a technical inspection.

S. S. Robison

Rear-Admiral, U.S.Navy.

Source Note: DTS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 520.

Footnote 1: VAdm. Sir Montague E. Browning, Commander, 4th Battle Squadron, Grand Fleet.

Footnote 2: Adm. Sir David Beatty.

Footnote 3: VAdm. Sir Sydney R. Fremantle, Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff, and RAdm. Sir Reginald W. Hall, Director, Intelligence Division.

Footnote 4: Capt. Frederic C. Dreyer, Director of Naval Ordnance.

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