Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels

Mercantile Shipping

September 11, 1917.     

From:    Force Commander.

To:      Secretary of the Navy (Operations).

Subject:       Progress with Convoys.

               At the present time there are nine regularly organised mercantile convoys arriving in British Waters every eight days. These convoys are from the following stations:-

               1 from Sydney, Cape Breton

               1 from Hampton Roads

               2 from New York

               1 from Halifax

               1 from Dakar

               1 from Sierra Leone

               2 from Gibraltar.

               The convoys from New York, Hampton Roads, and Cape Breton are alternately for east coast ports and west coast ports, - that is, every other convoy from these three harbors passes up the English Channel. The convoy from Halifax is for west coast ports only, and termintates at Liverpool.

               The speed of these convoys is as follows:-

          From Hampton Roads, minimum speed 200 miles

                              maximum 240,

          From New York,      minimum speed 240 miles

                              maximum 300,

          From Cape Breton,   minimum speed 200 miles

                              maximum 200.

          From Halifax,       minimum speed 300 miles.

               It will be seen from the foregoing that any vessel sailing from the United States, whether passenger vessel or cargo vessel, and be accom<m>odated and can be suitably placed according to her speed, provided she can make at least 200 miles a day.

               It is very important that vessels that cannot make 200 miles a day be not permitted to trade in the submarine zone, as experience shows that these slow vessels are invariably sunk after a few trips.

               The dates on which convoys leave Hampton Roads, New York, Halifax and Sydney are fixed well in advance, and vessels can be loaded so as to cause as little delay as possible in waiting for the next convoy.

               Our store ships bound for French ports should be routed in the convoys from New York or Hampton Roads that are bound for east coast ports, as these convoys pass up the Channel and our supply ships are taken off at a predetermined rendezvous and escorted to their destination.

               Outward bound convoys are established from the following ports, - Queenstown, Lamlash, Milford, Haven, Plymouth and Falmouth.

               Two convoys leave every eight days from each of these ports, except Falmouth, which has one convoy only.

               The convoys from Milford[,] Haven and Falmouth are bound for Gibraltar or ports to the southward, while the convoys from the other three harbors are for north and south Atlantic trade.

               It will be noted that these outward-bound convoys are so arranged as to meet the inward-bound convoys, - that is, there are nine outward-bound convoys and nine inward-bound convoys every eight days. The speeds of the outward-bound convoys are not yet regulated, but any vessel making 200 miles a day is eligible. Owing to lack of escorting vessels it is impossible at the present time To organise an outward-bound fast convoy similar to the one sailing from Halifax. Outward-bound convoys are carried to the point where inward-bound convoys are not, and the outward bound convoy is then dispersed and the vessels of the convoy sail individually for their destinations.

          8.   When more cruisers become available the experiment may be made of escorting vessels in convoy all the way across the Atlantic. Cruisers that bring convoys over from American would then coal on this side and make a return trip with the outward bound convoy. This problem is still under discussion, and is being considered as a means of avoiding raiders and as an offensive measure against the large type of submarine with long cruising radius.

               It may be necessary in the winter in any case for our cruisers on account of short radius to continue into England for coal before undertaking return trip.

               In this connection considerable doubt has been expressed as to whether our small cruisers can stand winter weather well enough to escort convoys across without having to reduce speed materially, particularly as they are now scheduled for the 240-300 mile trade out of New York.

          9.   It is understood that escorts are being furnished as follows:-

  Hampton Roads convoys east coast escorted by British.Cruisers.

     "      "      "    west   "       "    "     "        "

  New York         "    east   "       "    "   U. S.      "

   "   "           "    west   "       "    "   British    "

  Halifax          "    west   "       "    "     "        "

  Sydney           "    west   "       "    "     "        "

    "              "    east   "       "    "     "        "

               So far as practicable the British armed merchant cruisers are to be utilized for the slow convoys from Hampton Roads.

Wm S. Sims.   

Source Note: CyS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. There are identification in both the top left-hand corner: “595 9/9/1/S.” and top right-hand corner in columnar fashion: “1/3/G/J.

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