Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Samuel S. Robison, Commander, Squadron Three, Patrol Force, to Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations

H.M.S. HERCULES,

Kiel, Germany,

14 December, 1918.

From:     Commander Squadron Three, Patrol Force.

To  :     Chief of Naval Operations.

Via :     Commander U.S. Naval Forces in European Waters.

SUBJECT:  Progress Report on execution of naval terms of armistice with Germany.

Enclosures: Two (2).

     1.   The Commission arrived at Kiel in the HERCULES, on the evening of December 11th, and met the German Commission at 10:00 a.m. on the 12th, to arrange for the inspection of surface and air craft, submarines and forts in the Baltic. The German Commission was joined by other German officers, familiar with the naval situation here, replacing a similar number of officers who had been with Admiral Goette at Wilhelmshaven.1

U.S.S. CYCLOPS .

     2.   Admiral Goette stated, with reference to the CYCLOPS, that, as far as he had been able to ascertain, no information concerning her fate was to be had in Germany, but that he was still making inquiry, and would report the result.2

SUBMARINES STILL IN GERMANY.

     3.   The list of vessels building was not furnished, as had been requested, and no satisfactory statement as to whether such a list would be furnished or not , was obtained. However, an inspecting party at Hamburg found 71 submarines under construction, and a special report was made by the Commission by telegraph on this subject, to their naval authorities. In view of other information, it will be necessary to visit Bremen, and again visit Bremerhaven, to determine the number and state of completion of submarines building at those places. Recommendations to stop work on all submarines building have already been made, and was included in the enclosure to my last report.

     4.   The German Commission, when asked when they expected to send additional submarines to Harwich, took the attitude that, under the terms of the armistice, submarines which were not ready to leave Germany within fourteen days after the signing of the armistice, need not be surrendered. Our Commission did not accede to this view, and is making arrangements, through the Commander-in-Chief Grand Fleet,3for the surrender of all submarines that can proceed under their own power, or are in condition to be towed to Harwich.

MERCHANT SHIPPING.

     6. [i.e., 5.]  The inspecting party saw a large number of German merchant ships, in apparently good condition, tied up to the docks in Hamburg. According to present arrangements, the Germans are using their own ships to carry Russian prisoners back to Russia, and on their return trips bring German soldiers from Finland back to Germany. Arrangements have also been made to repatriate French and British prisoners, using German ships sailing from Baltic and North Sea ports.

     6.   There is still a large amount of German shipping unemployed, and which can be used in the Atlantic or the Australian trade. It appears desirable that all ocean-going shipping, not required by Germany for use in executing armistice terms (repatriation of prisoners), be placed at the disposal of the Allies and the United States.

MINE-SWEEPING.

     7.   The armistice terms do not specifically require Germany to take any action as regards mines in the North Sea. I considerit very desirable that she should be required to work continuously and vigorously at the sweeping up of all mines and obstructions which she has put down everywhere. Inspection parties report that she has good mine-sweepers, in considerable numbers.

     8.   In this connection, it should be noted that the British light cruiser CASSANDRA was recently blown up by a mine, off Riga.

AIR CRAFT.

     9.   With regard to the telegram from the Department, requesting complete information as to German methods of using balloon gas, a preliminary reply was sent by radio, copy enclosed. Additional information is enclosed herewith. In this connection, it may be stated that all technical information obtained by the inspecting parties for air craft is being compiled for the Commission, and will be submitted later.

     10.  Should the Commission’s recommendation, namely, “That one of the terms on which the armistice should be renewed should be the surrender to the Allies of a certain number of naval aircraft, the number to be fixed according to accommodation available”, be approved, it is recommended that, for technical purposes, the following should be sent to the United States for thorough and detailed inspection:-

4 Brandenburg monoplane seaplanes,

4 Brandenburg biplane seaplanes (small)

4 Brandenburg biplane seaplanes (large)

2 rigid airships (Zeppelins), preferably Nos. 64 & 72

FORTS.

     11.  The disarmament of the Baltic forts is continued, The first proposal of the German Commission, to take out the breech blocks and take the fuses out of the ammunition, was not considered satisfactory, and the complete disarmament of these forts was demanded. The German Commission acceded to this demand, and an inspection will be made when it is reported completed.

NAVIGATION IN THE NORTH SEA AND BALTIC SEA.

     12.  At present, there is a buoyed channel from South Dogger Bank Lightship to Heligoland. This channel is supposed to be 5-1/2 miles wide, and the buoys are lighted for night navigation. Our information is that there are no dangerous obstructions inside of Heligoland.

     13.  The Admiralty has recently issued instructions for safe navigation in the Baltic, based on their latest information.

     14.  Three (3) copies of all “1918 German Notices to Mariners” are to be furnished for the use of the United States by Germany, and will be forwarded as soon as received. It is strongly recommended that the U.S. Naval Headquarters in London keep in close touch with the British Admiralty, and obtain and issue promptly to all U.S. naval vessels in these waters British charts and notices to Mariners, showing the requirements for safe navigation around the British Isles, in the North Sea and in the Baltic Sea.

RENEWAL OF ARMISTICE.

     15.  A telegram, stating that the armistice had been renewed for one month, was received yesterday; but no information relative to any changes in the terms of the armistice has been received up to the time of mailing this report.

<S.S.Robison>

Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 1: The editor was unable to find additional information on Adm. Goette.

Footnote 2: The Cyclops was a U.S. coal collier that vanished in March of 1918 after leaving a port in Barbados. It was never found, and thus the cause of its disappearance remains unknown. No German submarines reported sinking a ship in the vicinity.

Footnote 3: Adm. Sir David Beatty.

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