Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Rear Admiral William B. Fletcher, Commander, United States Patrol Squadrons Operating in European Waters, to Commander Frank P. Baldwin, United States Naval Port Officer, St. Nazaire, France

SECRET                                                 SECRET

UNITED STATES PATROL SQUADRON

BASED ON FRANCE

Flag Office.

843-29                                       Brest France

A; D                                         9 Oct/ 1917

From:          Commander U. S. Patrol Squadrons Based on France

To  :          Commander Frank P. Baldwin, U. S. Navy

              (Retired) U. S. Naval Port Officer, St. Nazaire.

SUBJECT:       Duties.

References:         (a) Your orders.1

                   (b) FORCE COMMANDER’S letter B 967,

                       28 Sept. 1917.2

Enclosures:    A  Copy of reference (b)

              B    "   " letter 723 A/D of 2 Oct.,

                Squadron Commander; Inspection of Naval

                Armed Guards.

              C  Copy of letter 826-14 A/D of 6 Oct.,

                Squadron Commander; Reports on Escort

                of Troop and Supply Convoys.3

1/   Your duties are laid down in reference (b) and may be summarized and further defined as follows:-

     (1)  You will be the Port Representative at St. Nazaire of the Patrol Squadron Commander.

     (2)  You will, as far as possible, be informed in advance of the arrival of all U. S. Shipping –- Army, Navy, Government Chartered or Private, --- bound for your port.

     (3)  You will similarly inform the Squadron Commander,4 and as early as possible, of the dates when such shipping in your port will be ready to depart.

     (4)  Vessels will, as a general rule, depart in convoys, such convoys to consist of vessels similar in class, similar as far as possible in speeds and sea keeping qualities –- That is, in groups of vessels which have already entered port as a group.

     You will arrange for the assembling and date of sailing of these groups, and confer with the senior officer of convoys, furnishing him with any information possible. You will arrange for the formation or combination of private other than chartered vessels in such convoys as they are suited to join. Paragraphs 5 and 7 of reference (b) treat upon these matters.

     (5)  The latest information concerning submarines and mines will be found in the offices of the French Port Authorities at St. Nazaire, and will be obtained from that source at the latest possible moment before sailing.

     The Port Authorities must be kept fully and accurately informed by you of the sailings, so that such preparations as are necessary and desirable may be assured by mine draggers and local escort, aerial as well as on the waters.

     (6)  Similarly, upon the prospective arrival of convoys, this office should be informed as far in advance as possible, through the Naval Port Officer and the C. D. P. B.5 of the channels which are safe, and can be used.

     (7)  The lines of communication to and from you are entirely French. It will be necessary to work with them and through them in order that work may not be duplicated, and that both the French and ourselves be informed of the existing situations. Every endeavor is being made by the Commandant Superioeur of the French Patrol Forces to perfect the communication system. All delays in the receipt or transmission of messages will be reported so that the cause may be followed up.

     (8)  You will report weekly by telegraph the amount of coal belonging to the Navy    expended and received, and the amount remaining on hand. You will report as soon as possible after arrival how much more coal can be stowed at the location of the present navy coal pile, or conveniently for handling in the vicinity. At the end of the month report the amount of coal on hand, expended and received during the month.

     Your attention is called to paragraph 11 of enclosure A Reference (B), and to enclosure B. These matters will be made the subject of a report to the Squadron Commander as soon as possible after the receipt of the information.

     (9)  Attention is called to paragraph 18, of Reference (b) and to enclosure B upon the same subject.

     (10)  You will request such personnel as may be required to assist you (paragraph 13, reference (b)

     (11)  Your attention is particularly called to the necessity of absolute security of your codes and coding apparatus, and to the secrecy of all dispatches concerning movements of all vessels. All messages received or sent will be entered when decoded, or upon coding, in ink in a record book. Access to this book will be had only by yourself and such persons as are thoroughly reliable. Copies will be limited to those absolutely necessary, marked secret, made only by a reliable person and delivered by such a person, marked “To be opened by the Addressee.[”]

     (12)  If it becomes necessary to telephone information about the movements of vessels their names will not be used. Reference may be made of the dates of arrival or departure and numbers, but the latter in connection with some conventional term, such as so many “barrels of cement,” tons of coal, etc., will be ready for delivery on such a date, will mean that that number of vessels will be ready to sail. Quiberon Bay will be known as the “Chateau” “The Hospital” “The Barracks” “The Storehouse,” so that three, four, etc. of anything sent to one of these places or ordered to be sent there, will mean that the number of vessels have proceeded to or will proceed to that place for escort.

     (13)  Every endeavor will be made to work to the common good cause of producing efficient service, and cheerful and loyal cooperation within our own force, and with the representatives of our sister service and those of our Ally, the French.6

W. B. Fletcher.         

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 125, Entry 30, Box 246.

Footnote 1: For Baldwin’s orders, see, ibid.

Footnote 3: None of the enclosures are with these orders.

Footnote 4: That is, Fletcher.

Footnote 5: That is, Chief of the Division of Patrol of Bretagne, Contré-amiral Zépherin Alexander Antoine Schwerer.

Footnote 6: At Fletcher’s 1920 court of inquiry, Baldwin was asked if his duties as naval port officer, which he said he began serving as on 13 October, were defined. Baldwin replied: “Generally, but it was recognized that the port officer being a new thing, it was impossible to write full instructions.” Ibid., pp. 450-1.

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