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 Anne Hitchcock Sims

 

[Extract]

October 1, 1917    

Monday

My darling Nani:

          Here I am again at Admiralty House with my good friends. It is the only place that seems anything like home to me – when I am not here I spend my time in hotels and railroad trains.

     I left London with the C-in-C1 and his staff on Thursday, Sept 27, and arrived here at noon the next day. He left at 3 p.m. the next day for Liverpool. He and Ad. B.2 seemed to get along very well. He visited the Melville, where all the destroyer captains in port (luckily about 20 of them) came to see him.

     He expressed himself very much pleased with everything he saw – and even went out of his way to do so. I think the relations he found existing between the two services, and particularly the relations between Ad.B. and our people, something new in that line.

     The only evening he was here, we took him to an entertainment in the men’s club. I enclose the program. The men cheered the C-in-C when he came in. Also me. After the performance was over, the C-in-C was called upon for a few remarks”, and he complimented the men and the flotilla very highly and said all the navy knew about the good work and envied their being over here. Of course I was also called upon and made a few “appropriate remarks.”

     I think the C-in-C’s visit will do a good deal of good – probably head off some unwise recommendations some members of his staff seemed inclined to make.

     Before I left London, I arranged for Winston Churchill3 to come up here on a visit – got him the permits, etc. He arrived the same day that the C-in-C left, and was of course invited at once to Admiralty House where he remained until today. He left for London this afternoon.

     I am sure he enjoyed his visit very much, and he and Ad.B. got along famously. They invited him to remain as long as he wanted to, but he had to return to London to keep some appointments to meet some of the P.Ds.4 I will follow on Wednesday, the 3rd.

     They had a lot of officers to dinner every night, and the Admiral was in great feather.

     On Sunday two motor loads of us went on a trip to a place 80 miles from here to see a most interesting object-a German submarine that was wrecked two months ago, and has now been brought into a small port on the coast.5

October 4th

I was interrupted when I got to the bottom of the last page, and have been too busy to write since then. . . .

     We were all very much interested in the German submarine that was gotten up from a depth of nearly 100 feet and brought high and dry on the beach in a small port. She was a mine layer and was blown up by one of her own mines. The captain and two men who were in the conning tower got out. The Captain was picked up, but the two men were drowned. The rest of the men remained in the boat. Their bodies have been recovered [and] buried. Some of them were in their bunks. They were evidently stunned by the explosion and never knew anything about it. There must be about 100 submarines at the bottom of the sea with their crews still in there. There are also over 600 merchant ships at the bottom of the sea and about 4000 of their passengers and crews. What a horrible war! They gave us a round piece of brass from the submarine for a souvenir paper weight.

     Admiral Bayly has just given me a little wooden box made of wood from Captain Campbell’s first “Mystery Ship.” They are called “Q ships”. . . .

Source Note: ALS, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 9. The letter is incomplete, with the last page (including Sims’ signature) missing. The letter is written on stationary, with “Admiralty House/Queenstown” printed at the top of the first page.

Footnote 1: Adm. Henry T. Mayo, Commander, Atlantic Fleet.

Footnote 2: VAdm. Lewis Bayly, R.N., Commander, Naval Forces, Southern Ireland.

Footnote 3: American journalist Winston Churchill. On his visit to Queenstown, see: Churchill to Woodrow Wilson, 22 October 1917.

Footnote 4: Probably short for “Persons of Distinction.”

Footnote 5: UC44 sank on 4 August 1917 thanks to a clever trick by the British. The Germans had cracked Britain’s code for reporting enemy minefields. Thus, whenever the British Navy reported a minefield cleared, a German U-boat would rush in and immediately lay new mines in the same area. RAdm. Sir W. Reginald “Blinker” Hall, Director of Naval Intelligence, ordered that the next minefield discovered should be left untouched. When the Germans intercepted the report that Britain had found a minefield off southern Ireland, the captain of UC44 assumed they had swept it, and he immediately moved in to replace the German mines. The submarine promptly collided with a German mine and went to the bottom. Kemp, U-Boats Destroyed: 31.

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