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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




5 September 1917.  

My dear Admiral:

          After writing you this morning, I found in my mail your letter of 3 September, which I was very glad to receive, and I have read with much pleasure the Navy Department’s first endorsement of 4 August 1917,1 relative to the Destroyer Force, and copy of which you were kind enough to send here by Daniels.2

          After reading your letter, I went to see Admiral Bayly3 on the subject of hoisting your flag, and was by him informed that he saw absolutely no objection to doing so. I am accordingly preparing a notice to the Force covering the subject and will break your flag on the MELVILLE at 8 a.m. on Monday, 10 September, and keep it there until I receive orders to haul it down.

          I mention to Admiral Bayly in the course of the conversation, that there had been some talk of sending a Rear Admiral over for duty in connection with the Destroyers. Admiral Bayly would much prefer that things should remain as they are and that a Rear Admiral be not sent here. I did not go very deeply into the subject with him, but I deemed it well to mention it as we have already discussed it one or two occasions. You will, fo [i.e., of] course, gibe [i.e., give] him the benefit of your views on the subject when you see him, but in the meantime, you may feel assured that Admiral Bayly is in entire accord with your views., as far as mu [i.e., my] judgement goes.

          With reference to this question of organization, I take the liberty of inviting your attention to my communication of 24 July 1917, which contained some remarks on that subject. paragraphs two and five of that communication were written with a view to meeting a condition of expansion & with a view to showing that it is not only unnecessary but impracticable to apply to this Force any such organization as seems to have been contemplated in the communication to which the Department’s above mentioned endorsement w[a]s a reply.4

          With regard to the question of your being specially designated as Commander of the Destroyer Force, I note in paragraph eight of the above mentioned endorsement, the following:

     “Assignment of Vice Admiral Sims as commander of the Destroyer Force, first, and second, as Senior Officer Present in European Waters, is a step in this direction xxx”.

from which I infer that there can be no question as to your being in command of the Destroyer Flotillas.

          With reference to the matter of training men for duty in connection with the new destroyers that are building, I called this morning a conference of all Destroyer officers now in port for the purpose of instructing them in certain matter of discipline and general administration, and in the course of the conference, I took occasion to communicate to them the subject matter of the Department’s cable.5

          I informed these officers that it would redound greatly the efficiency of this force and to our credit, if we undertook to meet the Department’s wishes in this regard and to the fullest possible extent; that I had already written you to say that I would undertake to put the matter through, and that I requested the co-operation of every officer in the Flotilla in order that the work might be successfully accomplished.

          I will, without doubt, have the loyal co-operation of all these officers in this matter, as I have had it in all other matters pertaining to the administration of this force, and I think that we can so arrange the business as to have it operate very decidedly towards increased efficiency and increased contentment in this Force.

          It appears to me that we should be able to inaugurate a system whereby we will transfer to the new units, officers and men best qualified by length of service and experience to do destroyer duty; that we can perhaps accomplish this be sending a certain number of officers and men from here to get the new ships and bring them over in divisions of four, six, and eight, as may be most desirable at the time. We shall, in the course of the coming year, undoubtedly have to withdraw from the service some of the older destroyers on account of the wear and tear on their machinery. These destroyers might be used at this base for training purposes, while at the same time, doing in-shore patrol work, which is of a less strenuous nature than the open sea convoy and patrol duty. We will thus be able to transfer to the new boats officers who are entitled to promotion on account of their service, and at the same time utilize the older boats for the purposes for which they may be best suited.

          This question opens up such a wide field that I am not competent to discuss it until I have considered it more carefully, but I regard it as giving us the chance to expand our organization and increase the efficiency of our Force along the lines which are dictated by our experience.6

          I should particularly regret to see the new destroyers arriving on this station in command of officers who were doing their first tour duty on the Flotilla while officers of proven ability and long experience, now serving here, would be compelled to continue their services in the old ships.

          In a very few days I will be able to send you some recommendations of more or less concrete form.

          We may be able to take over a barracks on shore but of that I cannot be positive until I have looked further into the matter. In any event, I will most certainly put through the scheme anf [i.e., and] you can count on our doing the utmost in our power to make it a great success.7

          I have instructed Paymaster Wainwright8 to reserve accommodations for six officers at the Queen’s Hotel for about two days on or about the 26th of September. I shall probably have from Admiral Bayly, before that time, a statement of what he proposes to do with regard to the number of officers whom he will invite to the Admiralty House. Should you for any reason think it best for you to come on board the MELVILLE, my cabin is entirely at your disposition, and I think we can make you comfortable.9 If Twining10 desires to come and to be accommodated on board also, I think he could be put up in Daniels’ quarters for the time that he is here.

          It has been decided to send the WADSWORTH up to refit on the 12th of September, thus advancing her date about two weeks. Temporary repairs are now being affected, and as a matter of fact, I think the WADSWORTH could perfectly well go to sea on the completion of those repairs.11 However, I unfortunately stated the WADSWORTH to go up for refit at the same time as the Cushing, which upon further consideration, I have decided to be a mistake, as I do not think it well to have both Hanrahan and Taussig12 withdrawn from service at the same time, in case it is possible to avoid doing so.

          Church13 returned at noon today and inform me that the repairs on all ships are progressing in a very satisfactory manner. The work being done on our ships at Cammell Laird is giving great satisfaction.14 I have enthusiastic reports from the Commanding Officers of all ships that have been at their yard as to the quality of the work and the disposition of the officials of the company.

          Church informs me that he has directed the Commanding Officer WALKE to submit a full report of the cause of the present trouble in the port turbine, as Church is not certain in his own mind that some, if not all of the trouble, may not be due to carelessness on the part of the ship’s personnel. Should there be any doubt in the matter, I propose to order a board of investigation as soon as I can get hold of the WALKE.15

          The CASSIN had no serious trouble with her condenser and left this morning. I will, however, have the question of re-tubing the CASSIN looked into.

          I found it necessary yesterday to make a request to Admiral Bayly that leave to visit Cork be stopped, and accordingly he directed all leave to Cork and its suburbs to be stopped except for the Commanding Officers of ships. Admiral Bayly had previously told me that he would do this whenever I deemed it necessary, also that when he stopped the leave that he would stop it for his own officers and men as well as for ours as he wished to treat both services exactly alike.

          There have been reports of disturbances in Cork from time to time, but upon investigation, I have never found them to be serious but generally to partake of the nature of a small case of fisticuffs among individuals or parties of two of three men. It appears, however, that during the pea st[i.e., past] two or three days, there has been on the part of the boys and younger men of Cork, an organized effort to separate our men from any women with whom they might be seen walking in Cork. It appears to me that our men, as usual, have been very liberal in the matter of spending money and tha[t] as a consequence therof, many of the girls and women of Cork are inclined to go about with them, to the theatres and elsewhere. It now seems that the younger generation of Cork object to this state of affairs to such an extent that when our men appear on the streets in company with a woman, there is an immediate attempt made on the part of these young men to take the woman away from the man. Their efforts do not seem to be particularly directed at our men, but their displeasure seem to be generally vented upon the woman in the case, and of course, if the man, who accompanies her, objects in any way, he is also set upon. No serious trouble has yet resulted but there can be no question but what a continuance of this thing will result in our mens’ undertaking to protect the women and themselves, in which case, we might have some serious occurrences to deal with.

          It has been generally found to be the case, I think, that a stoppage of leave to Cork has resulted in a betterment of conditions as the amount of money which is spent in Cork by officers and men is a matter of some interest to those who do business there. As far as I can learn the behavior of our men has been excellent, and I not find any case in which our men have been aggressive. Some weeks ago, I conferred with the Commanding Officers of our ships on the subject of the behavior of our men on shore and gave them the benefit of my ideas on the subject. I have kept an efficient patrol on duty in Cork in charge of an officer, and I think that the behavior of our men has been all that could be desired, and probably in some cases, better than was to have been expected under existing circumstances.

          I hope in a short time to be able to ask Admiral Bayly to raise the restrictions and shall do so as soon as possible, but as you know, conditions here are not altogether satisfactory at any time, and I deem it necessary to proceed very cautiously in order to avoid possible trouble.16

          I believe there is nothing further of interest at present.

Very sincerely yours,   

(Sgd) J.R.P. PRINGLE.   

Source Note: TLS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 79. Document reference: “Refer to/No P.26(30)-1.”

Footnote 2: Sims’ liaison with the destroyer flotillas, Cmdr. Joseph F. Daniels.

Footnote 3: See: Sims to Pringle, 3 September 1917; VAdm. Sir Lewis Bayly.

Footnote 4: See, Pringle to Sims, 24 July 1917, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517, Box 7.

Footnote 6: Pringle again addressed this plan in a letter to Sims of the next day. See: Pringle to Sims, 6 September 1917.

Footnote 7: For more on these barracks, see: Pringle to Sims, 6 September 1917; and Sims to Daniels, 11 September 1917.

Footnote 8: Paymaster Dallas B. Wainwright, Jr.

Footnote 9: Sims did accompany Mayo to Queenstown but stayed in Admiralty House, Bayly's residence and headquarters. See: Sims to Anne Hitchcock Sims, 1 October 1917.

Footnote 10: Sims’ chief of staff, Capt. Nathan C. Twining. It appears he remained in London. Ibid.

Footnote 11: On the accident involving Wadsworth, see: Sims to Daniels, 11 September.

Footnote 12: Cmdr. David C. Hanrahan, Commander, Cushing; and Capt. Joseph K. Taussig, Commander, Wadsworth.

Footnote 13: Cmdr. John G. Church.

Footnote 14: For more on the shipbuilding and ship repair firm of Cammell Laird, see: Sims to Daniels, 11 September 1917.

Footnote 15: Lt. Cmdr. Charles F. Russell commanded Walke; it does not appear that a board of investigation was held and Walke continued in service until November 1917, when it returned to the United States; it served in American waters thereafter. DANFS.

Footnote 16: For more on the problems in Cork, see: Sims to Daniels, 11 September 1917.