Captain Joel R. Poinsett Pringle, Chief of Staff, Destroyer Flotillas, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters
UNITED STATES NAVAL FORCES
OPERATING IN EUROPEAN WATERS
6 September 1917.
My dear Admiral:
1. Since writing you my second letter yesterday, I have seen Admiral Bayly1 and discussed with him more at length the question of a change in the administration here. He authorizes me to say to you that he does not wish any change of any kind to be made.
2. He approves fully, as do I, of Admiral Fletcher’s suggestions as contained in the appended letter returned herewith,2 and he thinks that the sooner they are put into operation the better. Daniels3 handed me this letter upon his return and told me that you did not wish to take any action on the subject without being sure Admiral Bayly and myself concurred in the suggestion,- which we do. I have had three copies made of this letter, and will retain them for my personal information at present. Later, when you decide to put the scheme into operation, it will not be necessary to send me a copy from your office, unless, of course, you make any changes in the scheme as outline in the original letter. The letter is not a matter of official record in this office at present but will be made so upon the receipt from you of a communication on the subject.
3. I think that there will four rooms available for your use at the Admiralty House upon the Commander-in-Chief’s visit here,4 and unless you hear from me further to the contrary I think you may consider that as final information on that point.
4. Wainwright,5 by my direction, attempted to see the proprietor ofthe Queen’s Hotel in order to reserve accomodations there, but has been unable to do so up to the present time. The matter, however, will be arranged in due course, and I will let you know.
5. I have just desptached to you the following wire”
“18030 Can accom[mo]date following ratings atvobce for distribution to and on destroyers stop thirty five quartermasters or seamen for quartermaster thirty five radio Electricians seventy machinist mates one hundred and eighty seamen one hundred and eighty firemen stop As soon as arrangements are completed will wire additional number of men that can be cared for in rented barracks All men must bring full bag hammock and mattress blankets and all transfer papers stop Upon establishment barracks can train men of every rating in destroyer complement”.
6. The men mentioned in the wire will be placed upon the destroyers for training immediately upon their arrival, and I think we can accom[mo]date them by withdrawing from each destroyer about five men and placing fifteen recruits, approximately, on board. I have made up my mind to attempt to hire a building at Passage which has been used in the past as a barracks for troops, where we now have some of our surplus supplies in storage. When we succeed in doing this, I think we shall be able to accom[m]odate at least 500 more recruits, and in addition thereto, the necessary administrative force that will be required, and for whom the request will be made when I inform you of the number of men that can be accomdated there.
7. In this connection, I beg to submit for your consideration the propriety of requesting the Department to so arrange that all officers, and particularly commanding officers, who are ordered for duty with the Destroyer Force, be ordered to report to you for assignment in that force. If these officers are ordered to duty on new ships on the other side and bring them over here, their orders should in all cases read”for temporary duty in command of, or on board of, the U.S.S. - - - -, and for further assignment by the Commander U.S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters upon joining those forces”.
8. I regard this matter of the assignment within this force as of the utmost importance in maintaining the spirit of contentment now existing within the Force, and I propose further to recommend to you that if it is possible to arrange it, we send home from here, from time to time, officers and men, or at least some commanding officers to commission the new ships and bring them over. If that could be done, then officers selected at home for duty on the new destroyers could be sent over here and be put into training on the spot. They could be promoted within the command later on in the same way in which we promote the experienced officers here, by moving them up into the new boats. I have informed officers here that I proposed to recommend some such scheme to you, and they are depending upon me to look our [i.e., out] for their interests in the matter. I do not think that there can be found anywhere a finer spirit of co-operation than now exists among the officers of this command, and I think we should do everything in our power to foster that spirit, as by so doing, we will surely increase the efficiency of this Force. I beg, therefore, that you will give this matter your very earnest attention, and it would be very valuable to me if your would indicate to me in general terms your approval or disapproval of the general policy contemplated in order that I may inform the officers here as to your attitude.6
9. I hope that when you come down with the Commander-in-Chief you will be able to arrange matters so that we may discuss this question in detail and settle absolutely upon our procedure. I shall by that time and probably before that, be able to furnish you with complete and concrete information as to what we can do and recommendations as to how we should proceed.
10. In view of the fact that we are now prepared to take on men for training, as indicated in my wire above quoted, and a further number of men to be indicated later, I desire to cancel so much of my letter of 14 August 1917 as relates to a reserve to replace sick and men broken down from physical and mental strain.7 These men total 297 and are listed under column B of form No.25 forwarded with above mentioned letter. You will observe from reading that letter that the 297 men were intended to constitute three complete reserve crews for destroyers. I recommend that that part of the recommendation contained in my letter of 14 August be cancelled by cable.
Very sincerely yours,
Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 79. Identifying numbers at the top of the letter: “35/3/18.”/Refer to/No. P.26(30)-1. (B).” Addressed below close: “Vice-Admiral Wm. S.Sims, U.S.Navy/London.”
Footnote 1: Vice Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, Commander, Southern Ireland, and the commander at Queenstown. As senior officer present, Pringle commanded the American destroyer flotillas there when Sims was not present, which was most of the time.
Footnote 2: While the letter of RAdm. William B. Fletcher, Commander, United States Patrol Squadrons Operating in European Waters, has not been found, the proposal was approved; see: Fletcher to Sims, 13 September 1917.
Footnote 3: Lt. Cmdr. Joseph F. Daniels, Sims’ liaison with the destroyer flotillas.
Footnote 4: That is, the visit of Adm. Henry T. Mayo, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, who was then in England on a naval mission. Mayo was not scheduled to visit Queenstown until 26 September 1917. Admiralty House was Bayly's residence and headquarters.
Footnote 5: Paymaster Dallas B. Wainwright, Jr.
Footnote 6: Pringle’s plan was approved, see: Pringle to Sims, 19 October 1917. As seen in the memoirs of destroyer captain Rufus F. Zogbaum, Pringle’s plan brought about the “happy results” that he predicted. Rufus F. Zogbaum, From Sail to Saratoga: A Naval Autobiography. (Grottaferrata, Italy: Tipografia Italo-Orientale, 1961), 267.
Footnote 7: Pringle’s letter of 14 August 1917 has not been found.