Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Nathan C. Twining, Chief of Staff to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

1st October 1917.

From:  Force Commander.

To  :  Secretary of the Navy.

Subject: General Report.

     1.   ENEMY SUBMARINE OPERATIONS.  

          During the week ending 24th September evidence in<d>icated that twenty-two or twenty-three large enemy submarines were operating in the Atlantic of which probably eighteen were operating to the <w>estward of the British Islands and France. Towards the end of the week in question,a few reports were received from the northwest-ward of Spain,indicating that two,and perhaps three boats were operating in that vicinity.

          It has been difficult to locate the submarines as accurately as heretofore owing to the fact that the convoy system has supplanted the former patrol system,and also to the fact that the ships being in convoys results in a smaller number of contacts with submarines on the high seas.

          The principal area of enemy activity during the week have [been] in the approaches of the English Channel,to the northward of the Shetlands and off the northeast coast of England.

          Reports of seventeen encounters with enemy submarines were received during the week as follows:-

               3 by Destroyers.

               1 by Special Service Ship

               3 by Submarines

               4 by Auxiliary Patrol

               5 by Aircraft

               1 by Merchant vessel.

2.   ENEMY SUBMARINE LOSSES.

          Evidence now indicates that from July 1st to September 30,eleven certain and ten probable cases of destruction of enemy submarines have occurred of which four certain and one probable cases occurred in the last two weeks.1

          As previously reported experience during the war has shown that preliminary reports of submarine destruction by all types of craft cannot be dafinitely accepted until all evidence is carefully weighed and as far as possible confirmed by secret service investigations.

     3.   MINE LAYING BY SUBMARINES.

          After about two weeks of rather incessant mine laying activity in the British Waters,a lull was experienced beginning about 20 September. During the week ending 24 September,seventy-four mines were located and destroyed.

          In British Waters mine laying activities were experienced in the following vicinities off Yarmouth,Shipwash (S.E. Coast off England.) off the mouth of the Thames,in the Downs(off the east coast of England.) in the vicinity of the Isle of Wight in the Bristol Channel and off the northwest coast of Scotland.

          It has been difficult to obtain definite information concerning mine laying activity off the French Coast but steps have been taken which should be productive of more definite information in the future.

     44.CONVOYS.

          There is forwarded herewith a statistical return for week ending 22 September concerning organized mercantile convoys and the number of casualties experienced therewith to date.2

     5.   U.S. SIGNALMEN IN MERCHANT CONVOY.

          In the Force Commander’s General Report dated 15th September,paragraph six,3 discussed the question of the establishment of Receiving Ship facilities at Liverpool,and in the matter of Signalmen placed by the Department on board vessels in mercantile convoys, stated the arrangements that are now made by the British Admiralty for taking care of these men while they are in England.

          The Force Commander has no further definite information regarding the system or plans pursued by the Department in detailing these signalmen and arranging for their return to the United States,and in the absence of such information he is unable to make definite recommendations for rectifying the unsatisfactory conditions to which the Department referred in its cable No. 533 (Opnav) received September 29th.4

          As reported in my cablegram No. 706 of September 30th in reply to the Department’s cablegram above referred to,5each case of application for money from these men that have been brought to the notice of the Naval Attache has been promptly attended to through the nearest American Consul.

          Information was recently received by the Naval Attache that the British authorities had been returning these men to the United States third class,following in this respect their practice regarding their own men: information was also received concerning certain other conditions of accommodation that were regarded as unsatisfactory. The Naval Attache is investigating these conditions with a veiw to rectifying them.

          As it is supposed that these signalmen will be arriving at French ports from time to time as well as at British ports, some plan should be adopted for France similar to the one proposed by the Force Commander for Liverpool. It seems probable that Brest would be the best port for this purpose but in the absence of definite knowledge as to the number of signalmen that may have to be accommodated and their most probable ports of arrival,a final recommendation on this point cannot be made at present.

     6.   INTELLIGENCE SERVICE

     Lieut. Commander Roys arrived on September 29th for Intelligence duty.6 Also Asst. Naval Attaches bound for Denmark, France and Spain.

     Lieut. Commander Roys was at once introduced to the Intelligence Division of the Admiralty which extended to him the same privileges as have been extended to the officers of the Force Commander’s Staff.

     Lieut. Commander Roys has indicated certain lines in which the Department desires more complete information and will at once take steps to collect it for transmission. He will make reports to the office of Naval Intelligence concerning the conditions existing here.

     As previously requested by letter and cable it is hoped the Department will indicate at any time the character of any information that is desired and that is not being forwarded.

     Lieut. Commander Roys reports that the Department would appreciate daily cable reports of submarine activity and steps are now being taken to comply with the Department’s wishes in this respect.

     Such reports have not hereto fore been made since the daily reports received can never be entirely depended upon as they are based on radio or telegraphic information,which is always brief and which is frequently not fully confirmed when complete evidence is received by letter.

     It has,furthermore, se<e>med that such reports would not be of great value practical value to the Department.

     7.   COAL FOR THE ARMY

          The question for coal supply for the Army in France has been satisfactorily dealt with,for the present,at least.

          As being of possible interest to the Department there are attached hereto copies of correspondence which has passed between this office and the Military Attache,and between the Army Authorities in France, London and Washington.7

          It appe<a>rs from telegram from the War Department to General Pershing, dated September 8th,that the Secretary of War had directed that the question of obtaining stove coal be taken up with the Army representatives in England after consultation with me, but the matter was not brought to my attention by the Army representatives in London and it was not until my recent visit to Paris that I learned that the question of coal supply for the Army in France was at all critical.

          Upon my return to London I received the Department’s Cable, OPNAV 475,8and after learning from the Military Attache here,what the Army’ss actual requirements were,I arranged with the Admiralty to place 15,000 tons of coal at Bordeaux before the 15th October to meet the immediate needs of the situation,directed the BATH to proceed to Cardiff immediately after discharge at Brest,and cabled the Department that the services of the NERO would be required,requesting that that vessel be ordered to Cardiff as soon as (possible) available.9

          The understanding is that the BATH will carry coal from Cardiff <t>o French Ports until the Army is in position to release the vessel and the Admiralty has had the use thereof to carry coal of an equivalent amount to French ports for British account to replace the 15,000 tons which they have agreed to deliver at Bordeaux before the 15th October.

          In veiw of the Department’s cable, it is assumed that favorable action will be taken upon my request that the NERO be ordered to Cardiff for the same service as soon as she has discharged at Ponta Delgada.10

          I have expressed to the Military Attache my desire to co-operate to the fullest extent with him in this and all similar matters,and should the situation again become critical I will of course lend all the assistance within my power.11

          8. OPERATIONS OF THE DESTROYER FLOTILLAS.

          The WADSWORTH, TUCKER and FANNING returned to <station> on 25 September from their overhaul period at Cammell Lairds.12 The NICHOLSONS JACOB JONES andSTERETT at the same time commenced their overhaul at the same place.

          Information has been received from Cammell Lairds that they will be able to repair the STERETT’S boilers by electrical welding. A board has been ordered to investigate and report on the condition of these boilers. Reports will be forwarded as soon as submitted.

          The WALKE has returned from overhaul at Devenport and reports herself in good condition. She is again on service at sea.

          The ALLEN and CUMMINGS have had their damaged propellers replaced and are again ready for service. A board of investigation in these cases was not considered necessary.

          The NAHMA stopped at queenstown en route to Gibraltar on 23 September. She was inspected and found generally in good condition. Her radio set was overhauled and she sailed at 8 a.m. of 25th for Gibraltar where she has since reported her arrival.

          Lieut. Church will shortly visit London for a conference with Admiralty offic<i>als concerning the general subject of machinery<,>spare parts etc. particularly as to the Admiralty’s policy in that connection.13 He will then be directed to proceed to Newport<,>Wales, to inspect the BENHAM’S repairs and ascertain the condition of her turbines.

          Lieut. Campbell- repair officer of the DIXIE,14has been sent to Liverpool for temporary duty in connection with repairs of the ships under overhaul there.

          Conditions in Queenstown in regards to liberty seem to be entirely normal. Restrictions concerning liberty for enlisted men in Cork have not yet been removed.15 Efforts are still being made by various interested parties in Cork to have restrictions as regards to liberty to that City removed,but so far it has not been considered advisable to comply.

          The need for increased staff on the MELVILLE is becoming very urgent. It is hoped that the Department can supply extra yeoman <requested> at an early date.

        9. OPERATIONS OF FORCES ON FRENCH COAST.

          Of the sixteen yachts assigned to the force under Rear Admiral Fletcher,four of the largest and fastest are available for deep sea work and are used for escorting in and out troop ships and supply ships and for such other escort duty as they may be able to perform,giving precedence always to the escorting of troop and supply vessels.

          The four vessels in question are the CORSAIR, ALCEDO, APH[R]ODITE and WAKIVA II. recently arrived. These vessels are supplemented by such French vessels as are available when necessary.

          The remaining twelve yachts are regarded by Rear Admiral Fletcher as not being suitable for deep sea escort work which would require them to proceed off shore for forty-eight hours of more and they have/ in consequence, been assigned to coastal convoy duty.

          The convoy arrives in Brest from Penzence16 daily and sails the same day for [Q]uiberon. There is also a daily convoy from Quiberon to Brest and sailing the same day for Penzance.

          Our twelve yachts are employed in escorting these convoys as follows:- On the first day two yachts leave Brest with the night convoy for Penzance and escort it part way across the channel, leaving it in such time as to reach the approaches to Brest by daylight,the second day,where they pick up the convoy from Penzance and take it into Brest.

          At dark the second day they sail with this convoy for Quiberon,arriving at daylight third day. At night of the third day they sail with the convoy from Quiberon, arriving in Brest daylight of the fourth day:- thence for coal.

          It will be seen from this programme that there are a maxi<mum> of eight yachts contin<ously> occupied in this convoy work. Twelve are set aside for this duty,to allow for coaling periods,overhaul,rest,and so forth.

        10. OPERATIONS OF GIBRALTAR FORCE.

          Aside from the arrival of the NAHMA at Gibraltar about the 27th ult there is nothing of interest to report with respect, to the forces at Gibraltar owing to time required for transmission of mails.no written report has been received from Rear Admiral Wilson17 later than the one covering the period 9-15 September.

N. C. Twining      

Chief of Staff     

Signed for Vice Admiral Sims

in his absence.

Source Note: CS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Someone went through and edited this cable. The additions that were made are indicated by angle brackets. Sometimes this person crossed through the original letters; those original letters are often unreadable and therefore have been omitted.

Footnote 1: According to the list compiled in U-Boats Destroyed, Twining’s count is accurate. Kemp, U-Boats Destroyed, 30-6.

Footnote 2: The return has not been found.

Footnote 4: This cable has not been found.

Footnote 5: This cable has not been found.

Footnote 6: Lt. Cmdr. John H. Roys. Roys later joined Sims’ staff as a member of the Intelligence Section. Supplement to the Monthly Navy List, Showing the United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters [London: Harrison and Sons, 1918], 18.

Footnote 7: The papers are no longer with this report.

Footnote 8: See: William S. Benson to Sims, 20 September 1917. As seen there, the message from Baker to Pershing has not been found.

Footnote 9: See: Benson to Sims, 28 September 1917; and Twining to Earl O. Coffey, 4 October 1917.

Footnote 10: Ponta Delgada is in the Azores.

Footnote 11: Presumably, the American Naval Attaché in London, Capt. William D. MacDougall.

Footnote 12: The WADSWORTH, TUCKER, and FANNING were destroyers assigned to the flotilla operating out of Queenstown, Ireland. Cammell Laird was a shipyard in Liverpool, England.

Footnote 13: Cmdr. John G. Church; for Church’s mission, see: Sims to Daniels, 11 September 1917.

Footnote 14: Lt. Harry Campbell.

Footnote 15: On the situation concerning leave and Queenstown and Cork, see: Sims to Daniels, 15 September 1917.

Footnote 16: Penzance is a town in Cornwall, England; Brest is a seaport in Brittany, France.

Footnote 17: RAdm. Henry B. Wilson, Commander, Patrol Squadron Based on Gibraltar.

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