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 Vice Admiral Lewis Bayly, R.N., Commander, Naval Forces, Southern Ireland


October 29th, 1917.

My dear Admiral,

     Your letter of October 25th. reached me upon my return from Paris yesterday.1 I quite agree with you as to the employment of Captain Campbell.2 It was not my idea so much that he should help in fitting out the vessel, as I understand she is already fitted out, but that he should give our people the benefit of his experience in all the tricks of the trade. I believe this could best be done, as you suggest, after the vessel is sent to Queenstown. However, this is a detail which I think can easily be arranged satisfactorily. Unfortunately, a hitch has occurred about the PARGUST. We were informed yesterday, unofficially, by the Admiralty, that the PARGUST will not be ready until February. They therefore proposed, still unofficially, to give us another vessel that would be ready sooner, but I understand that there is some hitch about the formalities of turning this vessel over. It appears that the vessel referred to is a chartered vessel and that there is something to be arranged with their owners in case she is lost. We expect to take the matter up with the Admiralty today, and I will let you know as soon as possible what the decision is.

     I am much pleased that you and Captain Pringle think that Hanrahan would be the best man for the job.3 This is exactly my opinion, and I think that he would be perhaps more likely to succeed than any other of our people. He is essentially a fighting man, and he has a very level and cool head.

     I have just been reading over your reports in regard to the CASSIN particularly the account of the behavior of the crew when she was torpedoed. It seems to me that it points to a very efficient organization and a very good spirit.4

     I have just received this morning a cable from the Navy Department giving the details of the account that has been published in the Press in America. I am turning this over to the Admiralty so that they can publish it here if they think best.

     I have just been to the Admiralty about this. The vessel proposed is the AVONIAN, of about 2400 tons. She is faster than the PARGUST. Part of the latter’s engines have to be renewed. The AVONIAN will be ready in about a month. She is being fitted as a Q ship. She has three 4” guns and torpedoes. She is a chartered vessel, but the Admiralty will buy her if necessary. The question therefore is: Would you rather wait until February for the PARGUST or have the AVONIAN in about a month? If you will let me know I will make the necessary arrangements.

     I will be much interested to see the photographs the condition of the CASSIN.

     I am still in hopes that I will be able to run up to Queenstown for a few days during November, but I cannot be certain as yet. There are at least two conferences in the air. According to the Press, there is to be a large conference over in Paris or London about December 16th. The Admiralty has been asked to route two of our large cruisers. I assume that they are bringing over the personnel of the Commission that will attend the Conference. I am not sure that I will be one of the members, but I think it likely.

     There is also a conference in the air between the Chief of Staff of the French Admiralty and Admiral Jellicoe and myself over certain matters connected with the urgent appeal of Russia for assistance.5 I do not know just when this will come off but probably it will be pretty soon.

     Here is a rather interesting item. The day before yesterday one of our monitors was “torpedoed” by an electrically controlled motor boat sent out by the Germans. This was attempted about a month ago, but the motor boat was destroyed by gun fire. This time we were not so fortunate and the motor boat got in its blow. The monitor was about 17 miles off the coast at the time. The Motor Boat was controlled through a wire which she trailed after her, and the orders for her control were given by wireless from an aeroplane to the station on shore.

     The monitor was not sunk and it is hoped that they could keep her out there long enough to convince the Huns that their stroke was not successful. She will have to come in for repairs that will last two or three weeks.

     I assume you know that some time ago one of the other monitors was struck by three torpedoes, but was able to come in for repairs. These repairs will take about a month.

Very sincerely yours,

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 47. Identification numbers at top of page: “Admiral Sims/Personal File/15J”. Address below close: “Vice Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly,/Admiralty House.”

Footnote 2: Capt. Gordon Campbell, R.N. Sims hoped to have Campbell assigned to a “mystery ship” that the Navy Department had assigned to Sims’ command. Campbell had experience commanding such ships, and Sims hoped he could prepare the crew to use the vessel effectively in a short time. See: Sims to Joel R. Poinsett Pringle, 17 October 1917.

Footnote 3: Capt. Joel R. Poinsett Pringle, Senior Officer, Destroyer Flotilla and Cmdr. David C. Hanrahan. Sims’ command did eventually acquire the Pargust, and renamed her Santee.

Footnote 4: For more on the attack on the CASSIN, see: Report of the Torpedoing of the CASSIN, 15 October 1917.

Footnote 5: Adm. Ferdinand Jean Jacques de Bon and Adm. Sir John R. Jellicoe, R.N., First Sea Lord. Russia, at this time, was on the brink of collapse, with revolutionaries from the Marxist Bolshevik Party rapidly overpowering the government. In November, the Bolsheviks took control of the country and negotiated a separate peace with Germany. Strachan, The First World War: 238-242, 260-265.