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Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Rear Admiral Henry B. Wilson, Commander, United States Patrol Squadron Based at Gibraltar

September 5th. 1917.


My dear Wilson,

     Your letter of August 20th.1 just received. It is the real stuff. It expresses just exactly how I believe we should co-operate in doing our best to end this beastly war.

     The forces that are operating at Queenstown, are of course under the command of the Vice Admiral who is in command of the Irish Station.2 That is to say he is in military command, and the command is carried out by orders from him to the individual vessels while they are on patrol and so forth.

     You can readily understand that in the kind of warfare we are carrying out up here (and which will be quite similar to what you will have down your way), it is very frequently necessary that orders should be given immediately in response to signals received from vessels on patrol or from escorting convoys.

     This is accomplished at Queenstown through the Admiral’s Department of Operations[.] Of course all questions of administration, supply, discipline and so forth are run by our own people.

     I could not possibly imagine anything more harmonious and personally agreeable than the relations between the British and our forces at Queenstown.

     Wherever it is a question which involves both British and American vessels, as for example, in the case of a collision between two such vessels, the Admiral appoints a joint Court of Enquiry with two British officers and one American or two Americans and one British officers and one American or Americans and one British. A number of cases have been sent in to the Admiralty, but they have not expressed any opinion. One case has been sent in to the Navy Department, Washington, and they have quite approved the procedure. Personally I think it is an excellent scheme because it makes a square deal and good feeling. Up to the present we have not had any cause which would call for further proceedings. In case the Court should recommend further proceedings. In the case of the British officer, the papers would be sent to the Admiralty. In case it involved one of our officers it would be sent to the Navy Department.

     Concerning your question about reports, it will be quite sufficient if you will send us a weekly report of the operations of your force. All we need to know is what they are doing, and also an account of any incidents which you think would be useful for us or for circulation in other parts of the patrol forces.

     I am sorry indeed that the NAHMA3 has been delayed, but you know that is usually the case. It has been due largely to labor troubles. We expect her out in a few days and after she receives certain equipment at Queenstown, she will be sent down to you.

     She is of course to be used in any way which you think best, either as your flagship or as patrol vessel if you find you can install yourself comfortably on shore.

     Do not fail to let us know at once if there is anything we can do to add to the efficiency of your force or to their comfort. We have asked the Department to send your supplies either in a separate vessel or else by commercial transport direct to Gibraltar so that we will not have to send our supply ships through so much of the submarine zone.

     This office will keep you supplied with all information concerning the handling of our forces up this way which we think will be useful for you.

     I hope you are remaining as cheerful as possible under the circumstances. Life is a bit strenuous up this way.

     Please present my best respects to Admiral Grant4, and say that should like a frank opinion from him, through you, indicating in what way we can help you out.

     I hope all of the Wilson family are flourishing and happy.

Always very sincerely yours,

Sd. W. S. SIMS     

Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 23. Addressed below close: “Rear Admiral H.B.Wilson, U.S.N./U.S.S.BIRMINGHAM,/Gibraltar.”

Footnote 1: Wilson’s letter has not been found.

Footnote 2: VAdm. Sir Lewis Bayly.

Footnote 3: Nahma was a recently commissioned steam driven patrol yacht.

Footnote 4: RAdm. Heathcot S. Grant, Senior Officer, Gibraltar.