Skip to main content

Captain Charles R. Train, United States Naval Attaché at Rome, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

Admiral Sim’s Personal File

Naval Attache

Telegraphic Address      AMERICAN EMBASSY


I-652                        ROME      October 25th, 1918.

Dear Admiral,

     The abrupt withdrawal of the British ships from the Lower Adriatic caused the fur to fly down at the Ministry of Marine for several days. There is no question but that the Italians were terribly upset over the fact that they had not been consulted in any way.1 The relations were so bad that Larking2 and his Ambassador3 got together and smoothed things over, and finally, as I telegraphed to you, recommended the British Admiralty to accept the offer of the battleships ROMA and VITTORIO EMANUELE to take part in the operations. The Italians have a great deal on their side, for, as you know, the ten French destroyers were taken away a month or so ago. These destroyers were the original reinforcement offered the Italians and have been working for a long time down in the Lower Adriatic, then when the English took away their big force, there was nothing left except the light cruiser force in Brindisi and a few 700 ton destroyers and submarines. Just before this occurrence, when the English and French sent men-of-war to Smyrna or some other place along that coast, the Italians heard of it in advance and sent the old cruiser PIEMONTE over to have a look-see, whereupon the wires got hot again from France and England demanding to know why the PIEMONTE was sent without consulting them, and stating that they were entirely capable to carry out the investigation, but without saying what the investigation was. Now, Italy has objected to the departure of the British ships on the same grounds. Probably the desire for an armistice by Turkey has cleared the situation.

     The Italian offensive started yesterday morning, the anniversary of the disaster at Caporetto. Weather conditions were very bad, with heavy rains in the valleys, and snow and sleet in the mountains where the offensive is planned. The Italians have a considerable inferiority in troops, but with the Piave in flood, it has been hoped that an offensive between Piave and the Brenta could be undertaken, while the River would look out for their right flank.

     There have been so many criticisms of what the Italians have done that I want to quote a few figures which will show that they have done as much as anyone, although the Caporetto disaster was a catastrophe. The following figures are as of July 1st, 1918:

Number of male Italians alive at time of

  Mobilization born between 1874 and

     1900 inclusive . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6,410,000

     Of this number called to arms . . . . . . . . . . 5,615,000

     Number of dead, captured, or incapacitated

        for service. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,350,000

     Temporarily demobilized for employment. . . . . .   110,000

                              family reasons  . . .   105,000

                              munition work   . . .   390,000

                              Agriculture     . . .   375,000


                                      Total  - - - -   980,000

     From this, I think you will see that the Italian losses show that she has done a great deal more than she has been given credit. Her dead along amount to 380,000 I believe, although I am not quite certain whether it is 380,000 or 320,000. I am forwarding a full report on this as I consider it very interesting, and the figures are correct as they are submitted by the Ministry of War.

     Admiral Revel4 is very much elated over your letter saying you would back up his plan for the mine barrage, telling me personally how pleased he was.5

     Giving me command of Aviation completes my efforts and unity in command of naval matters in Italy has been reached. I thank you for your trust, and hope all will go well.

     Admiral Mayo6 and staff are expected about the 12th. The Ministry of War and Navy have offered everything under both Ministries to make his visit a success.

     With kindest regards from Mrs. Train and the boys,7 I am

                               Yours very sincerely,

                                   C. R. Train

Source Note: LTS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 24. Below the close, the letter is addressed, “To Vice-Admiral William S. Sims, U.S.N./ London.”

Footnote 1: For more on this issue, see: Charles P. Nelson to Sims, 20 October 1918.

Footnote 2: Capt. David A. H. Larking, British Naval Attaché at Rome.

Footnote 3: Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Italy Sir Rennell Rodd.

Footnote 4: VAdm. Paolo Thaon di Revel, Commander-in-Chief, Italian Fleet, and Italian Naval Chief of Staff.

Footnote 5: This letter has not been subsequently located.

Footnote 6: Adm. Henry T. Mayo, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet.

Footnote 7: Errol Cuthbert Train, neé Brown, Cuthbert Russell Train, and Middleton George Charles Train.