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Rear Admiral Albert Gleaves, Commander, Cruiser and Transport Force, Order for Ships in Convoy


U.S.S. SEATTLE, Flagship.




10 October,1917.

Albert Gleaves,         

Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy,     

Commander Cruiser Force & Transport Force,

Atlantic Fleet.         


C O N F I D E N T I A L.


     The Senior Naval Officer Present Commands the entire Force and may exercise fully such Command, but the Tactical Handling of the Convoy will be left to the Commander of the Convoy and the Tactical Handling of the Escort to the Commander of the Escort.


1.   Each Force will, when practicable, be composed of not more than four transports, called the CONVOY, escorted by such Naval vessels as may be ordered, called the ESCORT.

2.   The transport will be governed by the regulations and doctrine contained herein. In addition, United States Army Transports are governed by the Executive Order dated 27 May, 1917, “Naval Convoy of Military Expeditions”. The U.S. Naval Transports are governed by the Navy Regulations, Article 3843-3847, and by the Regulations for Internal Administration of United States Naval Transports of 15 September 1917.1

3.   The Commander of the Convoy is the Senior Naval Officer in the Convoy. He shall, in the absence of orders to the contrary, control the course, speed and tactics of the Convoy. He shall, before sailing, instructs his Commanding Officers in all his plans.

4.   Instructions contained herein are intended as a guide, but in all cases the Commander of the convoy is free to make any alterations or additions which he may consider desirable.


5.   In submarine waters the convoy should be formed in line distance 1000 yards; in ordinary cruising double column is recommended; in mined waters, column formation.

6.   Nothing in the above shall be construed to prevent the Convoy Commander from assuming any formation which may appear necessary under the circumstances.


7.   The distance in convoy is 1000 yards. At night all vessels will close to such distance, depending upon visibility, that ships of convoy are plainly visible to each other. Particular care must be exercised not to drop astern at night.


8.   When fog or thick weather is encountered ships must endeavor to keep their positions in the convoy, closing as much as is considered safe.

9.   When not in submarine waters, and the Convoy Commander considers that danger from collision is greater than that from submarines, fog whistles will be sounded in accordance with instructions contained in the Battle Signal Book, Article 437-443.

10.  When in submarine waters, the guide only will sound whistle once every five minutes.

11.  In case another ship is heard approaching, the whistle may be sounded at the discretion of the Commanding Officer or Senior Naval Officer on board.

12.  In the event of fog being encountered before the convoy is formed upon leaving port ships must proceed independently so as to arrive at a prearranged rendezvous at a designated time.

13.  Care will be exercised that the leads of the siren and whistle cord are such that these cannot be accidentally pulled or become jammed.


14.  Speed will be assigned by the Convoy Commander by signal. Speed signaled is through the water. During daylight every effort will be made to determine the revolutions necessary to make the speed of the convoy in order that each ship may maintain a more nearly constant speed during darkness.


15.  Convoy will be maneuvered as necessary by the Battle Signal Book. Ships will maneuver independently in accordance with the Rules of the Road in all cases when necessary to avoid collision.

16.  When convoy alters course, each ship will regulate speed to maintain position. When zig-zagging all ships turn together, and maintain bearing and distance from the guide.


17.  There will be well protected and well arranged lookout station aloft and on each side of the ship.

18.  In addition to the lookouts aloft and on each side, at least eight lookouts will be stationed in the immediate vicinity of the bridge, within sound of the voices of the Officer-of-the-Deck, Sectors will be assigned to these lookouts so that the entire horizon is covered.

19.  During daylight there will be an officer aloft in addition to the lookouts.

20.  At all times there will be an officer in charge of lookouts on deck who will make periodic inspection of lookouts.

21.  Lookouts will stand a continuous watch of not more than ONE HOUR WHEN PRACTICABLE; IN NO CASE MORE THAN TWO HOURS.

22.  The communication system from lookout station to bridge will be tested frequently.

23.  Lookouts will be carefully selected for their fitness fo lookout duty – keen eyesight, intelligence and freedom from seasickness are essential qualities.

24.  Lookouts will be instructed to report everything which they see.

25.  A school for lookouts will be held daily.

26.  In so far as practicable, lookouts will be furnished with binoculars, and each lookout will always use the same glass. Each lookout will be assigned a definite sector and will be required to maintain the closest possible watch within that sector, no matter what may be happening in any other sector. Experience has shown that the especially dangerous time is at break of day and just after sunset.

27.  Naval Officers attached to Army Transports will stand regular watches so that one Naval Officer on each transport is up and about and on deck continuously.


28.  Gun crews will be at all times in the immediate vicinity of their guns. Meals will be served to gun crews at their guns.

29.  one man of each crew will be at all times on watch at the gun.

30.  Comfortable, well sheltered accommodations for the gun crews in the immediate vicinity of their guns will be provided.

31.  Daily pointing, loading and fire control drills will be held.


32.  As soon as possible after leaving the United States and upon orders from the Convoy Command, target practice will be held in accordance with Orders for Gunnery Exercises, 1917-18, Chapter XXIX (a).


33.  A bridge watch for signals will be maintained at all times.

34.  All visual signals will be made in accordance with the General Signal Book.

35.  The blinker tube only will be used during darkness, and then only in case of emergency which affects the safety of the ship or convoy.

36.  A call letter will be assigned to each ship not previously assigned one by the Department. A list of these calls will be furnished each vessel in the expedition by the Convoy Commander.


37.  No radio message will be sent except in great emergency involving the safety of the ship.

38.  A continuous radio watch will be maintained.

39.  If it becomes necessary to communicate by radio, all messages must be enciphered.

40.  The ship’s position will be posted in the radio room hourly, ten minutes before the hour.


41.  All vessels will be darkened so that no ray of light shall show outboard between sunset and sunrise. A single gleam of light may cause the loss of the ship. All vessels report to the Convoy Commander at daylight all lights sighted on other vessels of the Convoy, giving exact location of light.

42.  An officer and patrol will make constant rounds to insure the strict enforcement of this order throughout the ship. For this  purpose they will have free access to every compartment in the ship that can possibly show a light outboard.

43.  Smoking will not be permitted on deck after dark. The glos of a cigarette is frequently visible for half a mile.

44.  The use of hand flash-lights on open decks will not be permitted. All hand flash-lights except those specifically authorized by the Commanding Officer must be collected and locked up before the sailing of the ship from port.

45.  Navigational lights will not be shown except:-

(a) When specifically ordered by the Convoy Commander.

(b) When immediately necessary to avoid collision and then only long enough to meet the emergency. Range lights will not be shown and all lights will be dimmed to one mile visibility.

(c) A wake light shall be provided, but not used except as ordered by the Convoy Commander. Visibility 1000 yards.


46.  Smoke must be reduced to a minimum both day and night.

47.  All vessels will keep fuel so trimmed that maximum speed can be maintained toward the end of a voyage.


48.  A station bill will be prepared showing the stations at fire quarters and abandon ship.

49.  Daily drills at fire stations and abandon ship will be held until all persons on board become familiar with their duties and then such drills as may be necessary.


50.  Local apparent time will be kept on all ships for internal administration.

51. Set ship’s clocks to local apparent time without signal.

52.  G.M.T. will be kept on zig-zag clock and all changes of course, signals, radios, rendezvous, etc. will refer to G.M.T.


53.  Necessary instructions in regard to rendezvous and course will be found in the sealed instructions. These sealed instructions will be opened only as directed on the outside of the envelope.

54.  Well before dark a rendezvous for the following afternoon will be signaled by the Convoy Commander.


55.  Press may be copied and distributed after having been vised by the Senior Naval Officer in transport. Care will be exercised that no news of submarine activities is allowed to reach the troops.


56.  Nothing that floats will be thrown overboard. All waste material that can be burned will be burned. Tin cans will be well punctured before being thrown overboard. Garbage that cannot be burned shall be accumulated in suitable receptable and thrown overboard from all ships simultaneously, one hour after sunset each night.


57.  All courses will be true.

58.  Before dark each day the Convoy Commander in slow convoys may signal a change of course not less than 30° to take effect without further orders at a definite hour, after darkness has completely set in. This course will be held for one hour, and then without further signal, base course will be renewed.


59.  Every vessel which approaches vicinity of convoy must be spoken. The following must be obtained: Name of vessel; nationality; cargo; where from and where bound. Small vessels on the high seas shall be considered suspicious and boarded if practicable.


60.  On approaching danger zone all hands must be kept on deck as much as possible, night and day, with life preservers at hand. Every man must regard himself an individual lookout and if he sees anything get the information to the bridge immediately.


61.  Transports shall provide themselves with speed cones.


62. White uniforms, including hats and cap covers, will not be worn at sea.


63.  If fuel on hand is sufficient, all ships will zig-zag during daylight and at night when specifically ordered by the Convoy Commander.

64.  If there is a necessity for economizing fuel, ships will zig-zag during daylight until outside of the danger area bordering on the United States coasts, and will resume zig-zagging upon entering any other area where submarines are supposed to be active, or whenever considered necessary by the Convoy Commander.

65.  Ships that drop astern of formation while zigzagging shall close by shortening the zig-zag course.

66.  Zig-Zag courses will be steered in accordance with one of the following plans.2

67.  When the signal for zig-zag is hauled down alter course the number of degrees shown by diagram according to G.M.T. TIME. If signal J I is hauled down at 12:07 change course to right 10° for 3 minutes, then change 20° more to right for 10 minutes, etc. Zig-zag dial on clock set to correct time must be used.

68.  All vessels will change course simultaneously at time prescribed in diagram and will maintain standard speed.

69.  If course signal is hoisted, discontinue zig-zag when signal is hauled down and do not resume zig-zag until ordered.

70.  If while zig-zagging fog is encountered, all ships will immediately resume base course without signal. The guide will indicate this by starting fog whistle when it is considered safe to sound whistle.


71.  A number of rifles or machine guns will be kept at hand aft as a defense against submarines coming from astern when stern guns will not bear.

A T T A C K.


72.  The following is generally accepted:-

(a) Submarines on surface are visible on horizon.

(b) Submarine awash are visible about five miles.

(c) Submarines awash, sighted from low position so as to appear against sky-line are visible at a greater distance than five miles.

(d) Submarine submerged periscope showing is not visible more than two miles unless periscope appears against skyline.

(e) Porpoising of submarine as it comes to the surface to obtain sight through periscope creates a distinct wake which is more clearly visible than the wake of a periscope when the submarine has steadied and is running with periscope up.

(f) Under poor conditions of atmosphere and sea probability of detecting a submarine decreases.

73.  It follows that constant vigilance alone will insure the early detection of a submarine.

74.  The wake of a torpedo is distinctive and can easily be picked up in a smooth water at a distance of 2000 yards. In rough water it is difficult to see the torpedo wake.


75.  Daylight attack from surface craft will be handled by signal from the Convoy Commander.

76.  Daylight attack by submarine shall be handled as follows by each vessel, (when under escort by cruiser and naval district forces) Articles 77 – 81.


     (a) Open fire immediately on any submarine sighted. Don’t delay the first shot even if it is apt to go wild – it will show the direction of the submarine and it will have pronounced moral effect on the submarine.

     (b)  Continue to fire as rapidly as possible. Short shots interfere with the ability of the submarine to see and aim.

     (c)  If submarine appears less than six points on bow and not more than 2000 yards distant, head for submarine at best speed.

     (d)  If submarine appears more than six points on the bow abeam, or on the quarter head directly away from the submarine at best speed.

     (e)  If submarine is more than 2000 yards away head directly away from submarine at best speed.

     (f)  If torpedo wake only is seen, fire gun immediately to indicate direction to other ships and maneuver to avoid torpedo as in case of submarine, i.e. turning towards torpedo if less than six points. If torpedo is too close to parallel its track maneuver to avoid by going full speed or backing.


     Other ships of convoy turn 90° from the direction of submarine and disperse at best speed, maintaining keenest lookout for torpedo wake and for a possible mate to the attacking submarine.


     Resume course and reform immediately when it is deemed that your vessel is outside the danger zone from attacking submarines.


77.  In case of night attack all vessels instantly change course ninety degrees either to port or starboard away from attack; provided, however, that vessel sighting submarine forward of beam will fire gun in direction of submarine and head for it at best speed. Course will be resumed before any vessel had preceeded ten miles after ninety degrees change. Reform convoy at daylight or before it practicable.


78.  Ships not attacked continue course and speed. vessel attacked maneuver independently.


79.  If any vessel is damaged by torpedo, that vessel will act independently and all other vessels of convoy proceed as previously directed. The damaged vessel may send out radio distress signals provided for merchant vessels.

80.  Owing to the presence of escorting ships it is not probable that submarine will be caught on the surface and therefore will not attempt to use her guns. It is very probable that the first intimation of the presence of a submarine will be the wake of her torpedo.


81.  Troop ships in convoy when under destroyer escort in European waters shall be governed by the following doctrine:-


     It is undesirable for the Convoy Commander to attempt to rigidly direct the operations of his escorting destroyers or prescribe any definite formations or positions relative to the convoy. In case of an attack, the destroyers, according to their plan, will operate directly against the attacking submarine independent of the convoy. Generally speaking, the best procedure for the convoy is to maintain its formation but turn away. Care should be taken to prevent interfering with the destroyers operations by gun fire from the transports. Convoy should not use guns except as a warning.

M I N E S.

82.  Mines, floating or submerged, may be encountered. All floating objects, the character of which is in any degree uncertain, must be avoided. Floating mines have recently been encountered under the following conditions.

(a) Two mines connected by lines.

(b) Secured to bottom of dummy periscope, the periscope mounted in a box or other object.

(c) In water logged boats.

(d) Attached to wreckage of various kinds.

     Whenever possible, the convoy will avoid entering area where the water is less than 80 fathoms.


83.  The following special signals will be used:-

SUBMARINE SIGHTED – Six toots on siren, or if not provided with siren, six toots on whistle if to starboard. If to port, two series of six toots.


Zig-zag plan I – JI flag hoist

Zig-zag plan 2   J2 flag hoist

Zig-zag plan 3 – J3 flag hoist

Zig-zag plan 4 – J4 flag hoist

Zig-zag plan 5 – J5 flag hoist



84.  The Commander of the Escort is the Senior Naval Officer in the Escort. He shall be responsible for the Escort and defense of the Convoy. He shall adjust his movements and tactics accordingly.

85.  All that applies in the order for ships in convoy will be observed by the ships of the escort. Articles 86 to 93 inclusive apply only when escort consists of cruisers and naval district vessels. Orders for escort in European waters is contained in Article 81.


86.  The cruiser escort will take station ahead of the formation. Destroyers or other escorting vessels will be stationed ahead and on both flanks, depending upon the number available. If group speed is lower than 12 knots at least one vessel will be stationed astern of group if available. Escorting vessels will zig-zag continuously from their positions, using a speed greater than the group speed when fuel allows.

87.  The maximum number of lookouts consistent with the character of the ship and her complement will be stationed.


88.  In case of attack by submarine, it is probable that the submarine will endeavor to avoid the escort and attack the convoy.

89.  If submarine is sighted, or if gun-fire from any ship indicates attack by submarine, the escorting vessels nearest attack will head at best speed in direction of submarine, force submarine to submerge and attack as conditions permit. Other escorting vessels will remain with the Convoy.

90.  The escort cruiser will maneuver at discretion.

91.  Attacking vessels will rejoin convoy at earliest practicable moment.

92.  If any ship is damaged by torpedo, escorting vessels nearest will effect such rescue as may be necessary and possible; all other vessels will rejoin convoy as soon as practicable.

93.  While effecting rescue, one destroyer will circle damaged ship continuously at maximum speed.

F I N A L.


94.  The safety and success of convoy operations depends largely upon the heartiest possible spirit of cooperation and reciprocal confidence between the senior officers concerned. This spirit shall be fostered by the completest possible exchange of information, plan and suggestion, both before sailing and while enroute.

95.  The provisions of Article 1406, 1409 and 1630 Navy Regulations shall be strictly complied with.


96.  The following will be strictly complied with:-

(a) Upon completion of the voyage the Escort Commander and the Convoy Commander will burn their secret instructions.

(b) Upon completion of the voyage the Commanding Officers will burn their sealed instructions.

(c) No report will be made except on matters which will help to facilitate further movements.

(d) No report that is made will disclose the routes taken or give data which, if it fell into the hands of the enemy, would do harm. This includes reports contained in war diaries, ship’s logs, signal record books and navigational data.

(e) All reports which are made must be sent secret through the messenger service or by code which is secret.

<Albert Gleaves.>





21 December 1917

Addendum No. 5

“ORDERS FOR SHIPS IN CONVOY,”—Dated 10 October 1917.

     Paragraph 6 – Formation – Add – In general in passing through submarine waters the depth of formation should be as small as practicable. This should not be carried to the extent, however, of making the formation unwieldly. Four ships or fewer should be in line abreast, six ships in four columns, the two middle columns having two each. Column formation is to be avoided in submarine waters. In all cases the most valuable vessels should be placed in the center.

     Paragraph 7 – Change – 1000 yards to 800 yards.

     Paragraph 14 – Add – Straggling must be prevented even if it becomes necessary to reduce the speed somewhat. If one vessel suffers a large reduction in speed, two destroyers may be detached for her escort while the main convoy continues at maximum speed.

     Paragraph 52 (a) Addendum No. 2 – Add – Time signal must be made twice daily.

     Paragraph 53 – Add – In the event destroyers do not join up, the convoy should continue on to destination. They should not split up but remain in convoy.

     Paragraph 54 – Add – Rendezvous will also be signaled for the second day following.

     Paragraph 58 – Add – Escorting destroyers must be informed before changing course without signal.

     Paragraph 59 – Add – This does not apply while in submarine zone unless it can be accomplished without altering formation as it is undesirable to weaken the escort.

     Paragraph 66 – Add – Zig-Zag plans Nos. 2 and 3 are cancelled. Zig-Zag should not be used which requires an angle of turn of more than 45°. Standard helm angles must be determined and used when Zig-Zagging so that all ships turn together.

     Paragraph 84 – Add – If destroyers do not join up until convoy is well within dangerous waters, the ocean escort, if without destroyers, must exercise judgement, in the absence of definite instructions, whether to risk returning or continue into port. In doubtful cases the ocean escort should continue into port.

     Paragraph 86 – Add – After the destroyer escort joins up, the ocean escort, if it continues into port, will take station in line on flanks at standard interval if the size of the formation permits, otherwise the ocean escort will take a definite position in the formation and not zig-zag ahead.

Paragraph 97 – New - Before departure Convoy and Escort Commanders will read, on board the Flagship of Commander Cruiser Force, C. B. 620. All Commanding Officers should read this publication when on board the Flagship for conference.

Albert Gleaves                    

Rear Admiral, U. S. Navy,              

Commander Cruiser Force and Transport Force, Atlantic Fleet.

Source Note: CyS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 1: See: Convoying Regulations, 27 May 1917. The 15 September document has not been found.

Footnote 2: For the Plans, see: October 1917 Illustrations.