Rear Admiral Albert P. Niblack, Commander, Patrol Squadron Based on Gibraltar, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters
U.S. NAVAL FORCES OPERATING IN EUROPEAN WATERS.
PATROL SQUADRON BASED ON GIBRALTAR.
U.S.S. BUFFALO, FLAGSHIP
REFERENCE No....... 29 October, 1918.
We all have our little jokes and mine is always with Admiral Grant.1 He takes me aside about every ten days and gives me a heart-to-heart talk about what he is going to do with the Brazilian Squadron, the submarine chasers, the listening devices, the radio telephones, the Ford Boats, and the new destroyers.2 I always laugh and say that I never cook a rabbit until I catch it. As you know, the Brazilian got at S[i]erra Leon[e], a dose of a serious disease,which they brought with them to Dakar. It was a combination of influenza, malaria, cholera and typhoid fever. They lost a hundred and eighty of their crews. Several days ago Rear Admiral Frotin3 cabled Admiral Grant that he was about to leave for Gibraltar, <and> the latter advised him not to do so on account of influenza here. As a matter of fact the Brazilians were supposed to be waiting, at Dakar, for men to take the places of those they lost. The British Admiralty have sent a commander down here named Allen,4 to be Liaison Officer, and they intend to put British Officers and signalmen aboard the Brazilian ships. I expect to get in my work when theY assign two of the four destroyers to be running mates for the DALE and DECATUR. I intend to stand out for doing our own liaison work, which I am sure there will be no trouble about, as the British are pretty short of both officers and men. I have copies of the Admiralty correspondence, that Admiral Grant had, but of course I have never shown him mine. When the Brazilian ships get here (if they ever do) I will do what I can to meet the wishes of the Department5 and to stand in with the Brazilians. There was a ReaR Admiral, <(> and wife and daughter,<)> who have been momentarily expected here from Brazil, with the intention of living ashore as some sort of Liaison Officer, I have heard of it constantly for months. Admiral Grant heard yesterday that the Admiral had not yet left Rio<!>
Everything is all excitement here because of the prospect of Austria-Hungary making a spearate [i.e., separate] peace, because it means that all the German submarines in the Mediterranean will try and get out through the Straits. We really have next to nothing here, properly equipped for listening and hunting. We have a couple of small torpedo boats, motor launches, trawlers and drifters. This morning I recalled the GREGORY and LUCE, and also the DECATUR, from escort duty, and put them in the Straits of Gibraltar to operate under Admiral Grant. They will not be here for several days but the Straits Patrol has noW been reinforced with everything we have, including kite balloons. A dozen submarine chasers would be worth all we have. In other words, the crisis has come and we are going to do the best we can. I saw a telegram the other day from Ponta del-gada that the U.S.S. ISAREL6 had arrived and would proceed to Brest. She commissioned a few days before the STRIBLING and I was confident that she was bound for here. We are doing a brisk business with Army store ships,and can use a couple of more destroyers to considerable advantage. I am not complaining at all about anything but only letting you know the exact situation. We are getting along well<. I>f we don’t get anything more we will do the best we can. Meanwhile I hear rumors that I am going to Brest, which only shows that I am not. My own idea is that Wilson7 will hang on there.
Admiral Mayo was to be in Madrid about November 2nd enroute here.8 It appears that he has been blocked by the difficulties of getting through the Spanish Frontier, on account of the quarantine, and is going to Italy and from there expects to work back to Gibraltar. He will probably come by destroyer from Marseilles. The Governor is going to invite Admiral Mayo, and Captain Jackson,9 to be his guests. Mrs. Grant, <&> her sick daughter,10 are leaving here on Thursday, October 31st, in the British cruiser EDGAR, which is now doing Ocean Escort. She is, as you know, a blister ship11 and has all ready been hit once by a torpedo, which however, did little damage. I cancelled Admiral Grant’s request <to you> for them to go north on the BIRMINGHAM.
I enclose a copy of the secret orders,which have just be issued after a conference, for the Straits Patrol.|12|
Very sincerely yours,
I hear rumors of a mine base at Bizerta. Neither Adml Grant or I know much about it but we assume it is an adjunct of Malta, Otranto, & Mudros.-13
Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 76. The letter is typed on stationary so much of the heading, which appears at the top of both pages of this two-page letter, is printed. There is a notation at the top of the first page: “WHW-18.”
Footnote 1: RAdm. Heathcoat S. Grant, the British commander at Gibraltar.
Footnote 2: All of these things had been promised for the base at Gibraltar but had not yet arrived there.
Footnote 3: RAdm. Pedro Fernando de Frontin, commander of the Brazilian squadron.
Footnote 4: Allen has not been further identified.
Footnote 5: See: Office of the Chief of Naval Operations to Sims, 16 March 1918.
Footnote 6: That is, U. S. S. Isabel, which did serve with the Brest squadron.
Footnote 7: VAdm. Henry B. Wilson.
Footnote 8: Adm. Henry T. Mayo, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, who was on a fact-finding mission to Europe.
Footnote 9: Capt. Orton P. Jackson, Mayo’s personal aide. Neither Mayo nor Jackson ever visited Gibraltar.
Footnote 10: This was Ethel Knowles Grant; the Grants had three daughters so it is unknown which had taken ill at this time. https://www.scribd.com/author/255423861/Heathcoat-Grant, consulted 22 October 2018.
Footnote 11: A “blister ship” had an anti-torpedo bulge or blister which were partially water-filled projections on either side of the ship’s hull. These projections were intended to cause the torpedoes to detonate, absorb the explosions, and contain the damage to those bulges and not the ship itself.
Footnote 12: See: Gibraltar Force Orders, 29 October 1918.
Footnote 13: On the mining base at Bizerta, see: Nathan C. Twining to Allied Naval Council, 16 October 1918. As seen there, it was to support laying mine barrages in the Adriatic and Aegean seas.