Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Vice Admiral Henry B. Wilson, Commander, United States Naval Forces in France
O1 42926 B
24 October 1918.
From: Force Commander.
To: Commander, U.S.Naval Forces in France.
SUBJECT: Routing of U.S.Storeships in France.
Reference: (a) Your letter 112 of 27 September,1918.1
1. In routing ships that have separated from convoys and are proceeding independently, the first aim should be to insure the maximum degree of safety to these ships.
2. The area in the vicinity of Brest, particu[l]arly during winter weather, is not considered as safe as the area farther south. For this reason the French and British authorities in drawing up the original approach routes to French Atlantic ports purposely avoided assigning an approach route direct to Brest.
3. If a vessel sailing in a northern convoy and destined for Bordeaux is ordered to make Brest if detached from the convoy she would make the French coast to the southward of Brest then coast north to Brest. If her destination remain unchanged this vessel would then have to proceed by coastal route to Bordeaux, involving unnecessary travel and loss of time. If the vessel proceeded along the approach route for Bordeaux direct she would pass through a safer area in the Bay of Biscay, particuarly during winter weather, and arrive at destination earlier.
4. So far as concerns HB convoys2 the foregoing remarks do not apply with equal force, though sending all ships detached from HB convoys to Quiberon would undoubtedly delay their arrival at destination, and in most cases involve additional travel. A vessel loaded with freight cars, for instance, that must discharge at La Pallice would arrive at destination sooner if given independent routing direct to La Pallice and under conditions that have obtained in the past, it is believed that vessels so routed would have a greater measure of safety than if routed to Quiberon.
5. There is an embarrassing situation when vessels become detached from HN, HH, or HS convoys east of the destroyer rendezvous and are given a southern approach route. The route instructions to the master are clear, however, and indicate that he is dependent on the submarine situation either to join the approach route by the shortest course or proceed by coastal route stopping in at the first port if necessary for further instructions. No practical suggestion has been received as to how more definite instructions can be given in this matter while making allowance for submarine warnings.
6. The present method of routing detached ships is open to the objection that it may not be practicable to meet the Army’s wishes as to ships desired for French Channel ports that drop out of HN, HS or HH convoys.3 In all other cases the wishes of the Army seem to be fully met. It is undesirable to make any change in present methods, however, unless there is an assurance of equal safety without loss of time to the vessels concerned.
7. In view of the probability that only a small proportion of the ships detached from convoys this winter will require changes of destination your further comment and recommendation is requested, particuarly with a view of providing maximum safety and with minimum delay of ships.
WM. S. SIMS.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. Document identifier at top of both pages of message in columnar fashion: “3/C/J.”
Footnote 1: Wilson’s letter has not been found.
Footnote 2: Convoys of storeships from New York to the Bay of Biscay ports.
Footnote 3: “HN” were loaded storeship convoys from New York to France; “HS” convoys originated in Halifax, Canada; “HH” convoys to France originated in Hampton Roads.