Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

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. AG                      

November 30th, 1918.    

FROM:          Force Commander

TO:            Secretary of the Navy, (Operations)

SUBJECT:       Weekly Report.

     1.   DEMOBILIZATION

          Steps are being taken to the end of demobilizing the force under this command as rapidly as possible.

          There is attached hereto Circulars which have been issued to the Forces and Daily Reports prepared for Admiral Benson in Paris which cover the plans so far developed.1

     2.   ENEMY SUBMARINE OPERATIONS

November 3 – 9

          During the week November 3 – 9 there was a certain amount of activity in the North Sea from the remaining enemy submarines which were still operating there.

An unknown number of submarines is returning home from the Mediterranean, and three are definitely known to have passed Gibraltar; one of them torpedoed and sank H.M.S. BRITANNIA on November 9 to the westward of the Straits of Gibraltar.2

          Activity was experienced from one submarine in the eastern Mediterranean.

          One ‘Cruiser’ type was to the northward of the Northern Barrage.

ATTACKS UPON ENEMY SUBMARINES

          Reports of three encounters with enemy submarines during the week ending November 9 were received as regards Eastern Atlantic and North Sea Waters as follows:-

              1 by T.B. [i.e., Torpedo Boat]

              1 by Aircraft and Auxiliary Patrol.

              1 by Auxiliary Patrol.

ENEMY MINE LAYING, NOVEMBER 3 – 9

          No further mines have been laid by the enemy, and the sweeping up of mines previously laid in various areas has continued. Of the mines destroyed during this week three were accounted for off the East coast of Scotland, 13 off the Belgian coast, nine in the White Sea and one off Port Said.

          During the week one vessel was lost by mine, the Dutch S.S. BERNISSE, 951 gross tons, in the Baltic.

ATTACKS ON MERCHANT VESSELS, NOVEMBER 3 – 9

          The only submarine attack made upon a merchant vessel during the week took place off Port Said and was unsuccessful.

          The loss of two merchant vessels was reported during the week, having taken place at a previous date unknown, as follows:-

          British S.S.MOSCOW, 1622 gross tons, and Belgian S.S. REINE ELISABETH, 2430 gross tons, blown up at Petrograd by the Bolsheviks.

          During the week ending November 7, 1373 ships sailing in organized convoy completed their voyages. Two vessels were lost in collision, S.S. DIPTON in H.S.-60 and S.S. LARCHGROVE, H.G. 117.3 All outward convoys, with the exception of Milford Haven, Falmouth and through Mediterranean convoys, were suspended from November 1st.

     3.   TONNAGE SITUATION.

          The following table gives a comparison of tonnage losses for the past six weeks ending November 9 :-

Week Ending

                  British Vessels

           Allied & Neutral Vessels.               Total

1918

1600 tons and over

Under 1600 tons

1600 tons and over

Under 1600 tons

     All sizes

 

No.

Tonnage

No.

Tonnage

No.

Tonnage

No.

Tonnage

No.

Tonnage

Oct. 5

  9

35,633

5

3,509

8

23,838

13 x

5,340 x

35 x

73,370x

Oct.12

  1

 2,646

2

 1,432

5

16,922

  4

 2,766 x

 12

23,461 x

Oct. 19

  5

13,357

2

    379

2

  7,849

  2

    212

 11

27,888

Oct. 26

  --

      --

2

   473

5 x

 14,277x

  --

     --

   2

      473

Nov.  2

  2x

10,195 x

--

     --

--

      --

 --

   --

  2 x

10,195x

Nov. 9

  --

       --

--

     --

 

 

 1

     951

  1

     951

 

 

 

 

x Adjusted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     4.   EXECUTION OF ARMISTICE TERMS

          On November 22, the British Grand Fleet proceeded to sea and, at about forty miles off the Firth of Forth, met the German Surface Craft which were required by the Armistice Terms to be turned over for internment.

          These ships consisted of five battle cruisers, nine battleships 6 light cruisers, and forty-nine destroyers which were escorted to an anchorage in the entrance of the Firth of Forth where, on the next day, they were examined by British Officers to ascertain that the Armistice Terms had been carried out. They are now being conducted in small units to Scapa Flow for internment.

          As soon as they have all arrived, German transports are to report to take back all but nucleus crews sufficient for maintenance at anchor.

          One-hundred-and-fourteen German submarines had been surrendered by November 27, 1918. They are interned at Harwich and all German crews have been returned to Germany.

          There is enclosed an Allied Naval Council paper setting forth in detail the ships which have been surrendered.4

          A board of officers selected for experience with submarines is in Harwich examining the enemy submarines for the purpose of obtaining technical information.

          This Board, and particularly the engineers and Naval Constructors, report that it will be practically impossible to obtain the complete information desired and which would appear to be warranted without actually taking over a submarine of each type. This is in order to be able to dock vessels, to make accurate measurements, to disassemble engines and also analyze the material.

          As the German surface vessels are interned, and not surrendered, and are still in German hands, there is some doubt as to the legality and propriety of inspecting them until their disposition has been determined by the Peace Conference.

          Admiral Bristol has returned from the Continent where with Admiral Keyes R.N. he investigated the execution of Armistice Terms in Belgian harbors and rivers.5

          His written report has not yet been received but generally speaking he reports that the Germans practically abandoned everything and that the Belgians are taking charge as rapidly as possible. In Antwerp he reports that the German soldiers, at the point of a revolver, removed insignia of rank from their officers and that, when the Army marched out, the officers went separately and on foot.

          Admiral Robison6 with a staff of six officers has proceeded to the British Grand Fleet, where, in company with the other Allied commissioners he will take passage on the British battleship HERCULES to German Naval Ports for the purpose of seeing that the Armistice Terms are carried out in those ports.

          It was not considered desirable to insist on sending a ship of our own as long as the French and Italians did not do so.7

     5.   DISPOSITION OF FORCES

          The OLYMPIA has arrived with Ambassador Francis at Invergordon.8 She will be sent to Portsmouth for docking. The NEVADA has joined the Battleship Division Nine with the Grand Fleet. Battleship Division Six has arrived at Portland where it will be joined during the coming week by the Division now with the Grand Fleet. Both Divisions will await further instructions in connection with the arrival of the President.

          Four ships have been sent from Gibraltar to Bizerta to bring back naval personnel from that station.

          It is proposed in the near future to send a ship from Gibraltar to Constantinople to take out a relief crew for the SCORPION.10

          Cross-Channel Services between Brest and Plymouth, and between Dover and Boulogne have been inaugurated. These are necessary on account of the number of our personnel now crossing the Channel and the congested condition of all cross channel traffic, and also to insure quick mail communication with Paris.

          All mercantile convoys and escort duty have been abandoned. There are still about eleven ships to be commissioned in the coal trade between Cardiff and the French Coast.

     6.   TRANSPORT OF U.S.TROOPS – OVERSEAS

          During November there arrived in Europe 97,303 American troops. These were carried as follows:-

              American ships . . . . . . . . 49,932

              British ships or ships controlled

                by British . . . . . . . . . 42,304

              French Line as passengers and

                French ships . . . . . . . .__5,067

                                            97,303

          Arrived in France . . . . . . .. .  60,507

          Arrived in England . . . . . . .  __36,796

                                    TOTAL    97,303

          During November there arrived only three HX convoys, of which only two carried U.S.troops. No HC convoys arrived, and the U.S.troop convoys were smaller in number than usual.11

          The MAURETANIA and AQUITANIA arrived with full list of troops, but the OLYMPIC had only 339 troops on board.

          HX-56 which arrived Liverpool November 24 was the last troop convoy to sail from United States for England, and Group No.83 which arrived in France November 24 wasthe last convoy to arrive in France, although single ships carrying a few casuals have arrived since, both in England and France.

          The total American troops arrived in Europe up to the end of November are . . . . . 2,066,442.  These have been carried as follows:-

              American ships . . . . . . . 909, 516

              British or British

                controlled ships . . . . 1,109, 987

              French Line as passengers and

                French ships . . . . . .    45, 286

              Italian ships . . . . . . .____1, 653­_

                                          2,066, 442

          Of the total of 2,066,442 the proportions have been transported as follows:-

              In British or British

                controlled ships . . . . . .  54%

              In American ships . . . . . . . 44%

              In French Line as passengers

                and French ships . . . . . .   2%

     7.   OPERATIONS – SUB CHASERS

          The submarine chasers based on Irish ports are proceeding to Plymouth whence those which are to proceed home will leave while others will be held for other disposition.

          The same applies to the sub-chasers based on Plymouth. The chasers based on Corfu are being used by Admiral Bullard for service at various Adriatic ports; according to last reports they were assigned as follows:-

              At Corfu – Leonidas and 3 Units

                 Lissa – One unit

                 Spalato  "   "

                 Fiume    "   "

                 Pola     "   "

                 Melledo  "   "

                 Sabinico "   "

                 Oursonia "   "

                 Lagosta  "   "

                 Cattaro  "   " 12

          Eighteen submarine chasers sent to Gibraltar arrived in spite of bad weather in condition ready for instant service and during week ending November 18, made four possible contacts with enemy submarines and three depth charge attacks. In one instance there is excellent probability of success.

          The fourteen sub-chasers at the Azores are still awaiting instructions.

          All work at submarine chaser bases has been discontinued.

SUBMARINES

          All submarines based on Bantry Bay except one under repairs at Portsmouth have arrived with the BUSHNELL at Portland.

          All of their stores have been removed from their base. As the officers and men of this Submarine Division have been on constant patrol duty for about the past ten months it was thought advisable to shift them to a port where liberty could be given.

          Unless delayed by taking over a certain number of German submarines, it is planned that the submarine division will sail for the United States about December 10. It is understood that the French are to take over fifteen enemy submarines. As recommended to the Department our submarine force is in a position to man and conduct to the United States five.13

          The submarines at the Azores have been directed to return to the United States with the SAVANNAH, ALERT, CHICAGO, AMNISTON and the tug ARCTIC. . . .

     8.   MINE SWEEPING

          The Mine Force Commander14 is still engaged in solving the problem of sweeping our part of the Northern Barrage.

          The report of the recent Allied Conference on clearing the seas of mines after the war has been forwarded.15

     9.   PERSONNEL

          The general policy being pursued in demobilizing the personnel abroad is to transport it home as rapidly as possible giving preference to those who have been in Europe the longest.

     10.  MEDICAL DEPARTMENT

          During the week ending November 18 Medical Aide16 made a trip to France. A stop was made at Le Havre to investigate the medical situation of the coal boat terminus. The Medical Officers on duty there have ample dispensary and hospital facilities. Two hospital corpsmen have been ordered for duty at that place. A stop was made at Rouen, France, where a Naval Port Office has been recently established. Ample dispensary and hospital facilities can be easily provided at that Port. . . . The Medical Aide then proceeded to Brest, where it was found that a large number of Army sick and wounded were arriving for transportation home. There were prospects of a great increase in this activity. During the first ten days of November over 3,000 sick and wounded were placed on board Navy transports which had sailed for the United States. There was some confusion, mainly on the part of the Army embarkation authorities with regard to clothing, blankets, de-lousing, proper apportionment of various classes of disabilities and so forth. Considerable progress was made in straightening out this lack of smoothness, and no trouble is anticipated in the future. A recommendation was made that the two hospital ships spend all their time transferring as speedily as possible to the United States, all seriously wounded and helpless cases. This will very greatly expedite the transfer home of the sick and wounded. . .

          As Eastleigh will be the Depot for assembling Aviation demobilization units, preparations are being made to augment the medical and hospital personnel at Eastleigh in order to properly carry out regulations for physical examination and so forth prior to the return of men to the United States. There are 150 hospital beds at Eastleigh, and the Medical Department is prepared in every way to do its part in this scheme of demobiliazation.

          Base Hospitals Nos. 2 and 3 can be demobilized coincident with the demobilization of Bases 17 and 1817 and the departure of the Sixth Battle Squadron. The original outfits of these hospitals were donated by the Red Cross. The Red Cross has expressed a desire for the return of these outfits when we are entirely finished with them, in order that the material may be used in France, where it will be badly needed in the Red Cross schemes of re-constrution. The approval of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery has been requested for the transfer of these stores and equipment to the Red Cross.

          A dental officer has been provided for duty at Plymouth.

          A number of dead bodies have been sent to the United States via U.S.S. CELTIC.

          Arrangements are being made to send as many as possible of Army sick and wounded from England home by way of U.S.S. LEVIATHAN.

          An enquiry has been received from BUMED18 if a hospital at St.Nazaire was desirable. A reply was sent that a hospital at this place was not desireable.

     11.  COMMUNICATIONS

          Installation of a fourth radio receiving set on U.S.Naval Headquarters, London, has been commenced. Tests with Annapolis Sayville and New Brunswick were completed on November 1st.

          Messages are now being received in plain English from the United States owing to the heavy congestion of the cables.

          During week ending November 16, 27931 press words and 4353 code groups were received by radio. . . .

          Radio telephones have been installed on the NEW YORK, WYOMING, TEXAS, FLORIDA and ARKANSAS. Also on the Flagship of the British Grand Fleet and on the leader of the destroyer detachment assigned to our Battleship Division.

          In general these sets have given satisfaction but greater efficiency is to be expected upon the receipt and installation of proper wire and storage batteries.

          The volume of communication traffic at these Headquarters continues to increase. During the month of October a total of 1,070,000 words were cabled.

          On the 20th instant the load was 49,000 words and on the 21st, it reached 51,000. The previous high mark was 48,000. During the week ending November 23, an average of 43,306 words were handled per day.

          An average of 60 messages are daily received by radio from New-Brunswick, Sayville, and Annapolis.    

     12.  LEGAL SECTION

          The work of the Legal Section continues to increase and to demonstrate the necessity of the creation of the section. There are attached hereto weekly memorandums which give an idea of the activities of the Section.19 It is anticipated that this Section will be busily engaged for sometime to come in connection with legal questions involved in demobilization.

          As the officers engaged in this legal work have all volunteered their services during the war, the Force Commander considers that it would be only just and proper now that the war is over that they should be reimbursed to the extent of their average income while in civil life. Otherwise it is only just that they should be released from duty with the Government and allowed to return to their civil occupations. . . .

     14.  COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF ATLANTIC FLEET

          The Commander-in-Chief, U.S.Atlantic Fleet has left for the United States. On departure he addressed a letter to the Force Commander copy of which is enclosed.20

     15.  PLANNING SECTION

          The Planning Section of this staff has been demobilized, Captains Schofield and McNamee being ordered to report to Admiral Benson in Paris, and Captain D.W.Knox to take charge of Historical Section which will be organized.21

     16.  CAPTAIN CONE’S EXPERIENCES IN TORPEDOING OF IRISH MAIL           STEAMER LEINSTER OFF IRISH COAST, OCTOBER 10, 1918.

          There is forwarded herewith as a matter of interest, a memorandum dictated by Captain H.I.Cone setting forth his experiences at the time of the torpedoing of the Irish Mail Steamer LEINSTER22. . . .

WM. S. SIMS.  

|fn5:RAdm. Mark Bristol commanded the American naval detachment at Portsmouth, England; VAdm. Sir Roger J. B. Keyes commanded the

Dover Patrol.|

Source Note: DTS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. The report is done on printed stationary so that the material through the date appears on the top of each of the four pages of the report.

Footnote 1: The circulars and reports are not attached. For an example of the latter, see: Samuel S. Robison to William S. Benson, 19 November 1918.

Footnote 2: H.M.S. Britannia was a pre-dreadnought battleship. It was sunk in the Atlantic, off Cape Trafalgar, with the loss of 50 men killed and 80 injured. R. A. Burt, British Battleships 1889 1904 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1988), 253.

Footnote 3: HS convoys originated in Halifax, Canada; HG convoys originated at Gibraltar.

Footnote 4: The enclosure is no longer with the report.

Footnote 6: RAdm. Samuel S. Robison who was charged with insuring German compliance with the terms of the naval armistice.

Footnote 7: For more on this see: Robison to Benson, 27 November 1918.

Footnote 8: OLYMPIA was returning from deployment in Russian waters and bringing with it the former Chargé d’Affiares ad interim at Moscow David R. Francis.

Footnote 9: The two battleship divisions joined the naval escort for President Woodrow Wilson off Brest, presumably on 13 December. They sailed from Brest on 14 December, arriving in the United States on 26 December. “Diary of Dr. [Cary T.] Grayson, entry of 13 December 1918, Wilson Papers, 53: 378-79; Henry T. Mayo, “Operations of the United States Atlantic Fleet November 11, 1918 – June 30, 1919, DLC, Mayo Papers, Box 11.

Footnote 10: For more on the situation of the steam yacht SCORPION, see: William V. Pratt to Daniels, 15 November 1918.

Footnote 11: HC convoys ran from Quebec or Halifax, Canada, and England; HX convoys ran between NEW YORK and the west coast of England.  Crowell and Wilson, The Road to France, 463.

Footnote 12: With the exception of Corfu, these are Italian names for various Croatian islands and cities, which are, in order: Vis, Split, Rijeka, Pula, Mljet, Sibenik, Korčula, Lastovo, Kotor.

Footnote 14: RAdm. Joseph Strauss.

Footnote 15: For more on this report, see: Sims to Benson, 10 November 1918.

Footnote 16: Presumably Medical Inspector Edgar Thompson, who served on Sims’ staff.

Footnote 17: These bases and hospitals were at Invergordon and Inverness, Scotland.

Footnote 18: That is, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.

Footnote 19: The weekly memorandums are no longer with the report.

Footnote 20: Adm. Henry T. Mayo. The letter was presumably Mayo to Daniels, 5 November 1918.

Footnote 21: Capt. Frank H. Schofield, Capt. Luke McNamee, and Capt. Dudley W. Knox.

Footnote 22: The memoir of Capt. Hutchinson I. Cone has not been found.

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