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, First cable of the day

11th September, 1917.

From:    Force Commander.

To  :    Secretary of the Navy.

SUBJECT: General Report.

Enclosures:

     1. ENEMY ACTIVITY

        During the week ending 4th September evidence new collected indicates between thirteen and seventeen large enemy submarines operating in the Atlantic of which a number varying from six to fourteen were apparently operating to the westward of the British Islands and in the Bay of Biscay. One was operating in the Arctic Ocean in the vicinity of the North Cape. The principal area of activity was in the western portion of the approach to the English Channel and to the west of Ushant.

         Twenty-eight reliable reports of encounters with enemy submarines were received by the British Admiralty as follows:-

               5 by destroyers.

               1 by Special Service Ship

               8 by Auxiliary patrol (2 French)

               7 by Aircraft (3 French)

               7 by merchant vessels.

2. MINING.

            Only forty-six mines were located and destroyed. Some mines were located in the vicinity of light vessels on the East Coast of Ireland. During the early part of the week under review there was a marked lull in mine laying activity, but during the latter part, mines were discovered between the Thames and Lowestoft in the south entrance to the Downs and in the vicinity of Dungeness and Beachy Head.

              The above, in addition to mining <activity> on the coast of France definite reports of which have not been received to date.

          3. MERCANTILE CONVOY.

             There is forwarded herewith a table prepared by the British Admiralty giving statistics up to 1st September covering vessels under organized convoy.1

4.  GEAR-CUTTING MACHINERY IN CONNECTION WITH BUILDING   

    OF NEW DESTROYERS.________________________________

    Muir and Co. have supplied detailed working

drawings complete in all respects for the manufacture of the Muir Gear-Slotting Machines in the United States. The drawing referred to will be forwarded in this dispatch under separate cover for the Bureau of Steam Engineering.2

          By arrangements with the Admiralty the wheel cutting machines and pinion cutting machines under manufacture in England for the Spanish Government will be taken over for completion about September 30th by the Admiralty and turned over to us for shipment to the United States; this machine to apply against the order for four machines with Muir and Co. Liverpool.

          5.  AVIATION OFFICERS – REPORTED.

              Lieuts Corry and Bartlett3 reported on Monday for duty in connection with the Aviation Bases in France. As these officers have no experience with the British Flying boats, arrangements were made for them to visit two representative factories in England and later to visit – in company with a representative of the Flying Corps of the British Navy – the Air Coast Patrol at Felix<s>towe and Calshot. These activities will delay them in London until the latter end of this week when they will be directed to proceed to Paris in accordance with their orders.

          6.  OFFICERS FOR INSTRUCTIONS IN

             OPERATING AND BUILDING DIRIGEBLES.

             Two officers reported on Monday in obedience to the Department’s orders for instruction in the operation and manufacture of dirigibles.4 These two officers have been turned over to the proper authorities of the Admiralty who will give them the benefit of their complete course of instruction. When this has been completed, the Department will be notified in o<r>der that arrangements may be made to make the best use of their experience.

          The chartered collier HOUSTON which discharged coal at Brest is now at Queenstown having proceeded there for the purpose of disembarking the enlisted personnel brought over as passengers and lubricating oil. The oiler CUYAMA was diverted from Queenstwon [i.e., Queenstown] to Portsmouth and the fuel oil and her cargo was discharged at that place as the tanks at Queenstown were full. This action was taken in order to save delay to the vessel.

          No notice has been received that about 800 tons of petrol was included in the cargo of the CUYANA. This fact was only learnt after her arrival at Portsmouth. As there is no petrol tankage at Portsmouth it was necessary to send the CUYAMA to Devenport.

          In the event that other oil vessels with mixed cargo are sent here, it is recommended that quantities of the different kinds of petroleum products carried be telegraphed.

     7.  CO-ORDINATION OF OPERATIONS – U.S. FORCES.

          Some difficulties have been experienced in co-ordinating the operations of the destroyer forces based on Queenstown and the Patrol Forces on the Coast of France in connection principally with Government Supply Ships crossing in mercantile convoys. The difficulty has primarily been one of communications; the trouble has not been serious but has been primarily due to the difficulties which always exist and misinterpretations which are always liable to occur.

          The Communications Officer – Lieut. Blakeslee – has just returned from a tour to our bases in France and Lieut. Commander Daniels is leaving for Brest today in order to clear up any possible misunderstandings which may exist.5

          Lieut. Commander Daniels is being used for this duty as he is thoroughly in touch with the destroyer situation at Queenstown and will thereby be enabled to establish closer contact than could possibly be done by written or telegraphic communications.

          The practice of periodically having officers from the different forces visit the other bases will be continued as the situation may seem to warrant.

          The Force Commander6 will also visit the bases of the forces in French Waters in company with the Commander – in – Chief7 in the near future.

     8. MATERIAL CASUALTIES.

          The damage sustained by the WADSWORTH from the mine sweeper which drifted down on her has been temporarily repaired by the MELVILLE.8 Permanent repairs will be carried out when the ship goes for her overhaul period at Liverpool,in the first part of October.9

          The CASSIN had to leave convoy at sea and returned to port with a leaking condenser on 3rd September. Investigation however, discloses but one leaking tube which was quickly repaired. An investigation of the CASSIN’S condensers will be made on the first opportunity as she has experienced considerable condenser trouble.10

          Lieut. Church has visited the various dockyards where our destroyers have been repairing and has reported the work in each place to be progressing in a very satisfactory manner.11 The repair work being carried out by Cammell Lairds at Liverpool12 is giving entire satisfaction to the destroyer force. Enthusiastic reports have been received from the Commanding Officers of practically all ships that have been sent to Cammell Lairds concerning the excellent quality of the work done and the excellent disposition of the officials of the Company.

9. RELATIONS OF ENLISTED MEN WITH CIVIL POPULATION IN 

   IRELAND.__________________________________________

          Some trouble has occurred of late between the enlisted men of the destroyer force and the civilian population in Cork and Queenstown. The relations between our men and those of the British Service are excellent andin fact are all that possibly could be desired. Evidence indicates that what little trouble has occurred on shore is undoubtedly primarily due to the fact that our men have much more money to spend than the civil population in the south of Ireland with whom they come in contact and this seems to have been the cause of some hard feeling.

          The situation is being closely followed but to date there has been no eveidence to indicate any serious trouble. The trouble seems to be solely on the part of a rough element of boys and younger men principally in Cork intent upon separating our men from any girls or women with whom they may be seen walking in the city. Our men have apparently been very liberal as usual in spending money and as a consequence the girls and women of Cork are inclined to go about with them to the Theatres and elsewhere. Apparently the younger and rougher generation of Cork seriously object to this state of affairs which has gone to the extent that whenever our men appear on the streets in company with a woman, there is an immediate attempt on the part of this class of men to take the women away from our men. Their efforts do not seem to be generally vented upon the women and of course, if the man who accompanies her objects in any way he is also is sat upon.13

          There has been more or less of a tendency on the part of our men to take the attitude that they are protecting the women themselves.

          In a number of cases on account of these minor troubles leave has been stopped to Cork and this has invariably resulted in a betterment of the conditions as the amount of money our men spend in Cork is a matter of considerable moment to the civil population.

          No evidence whatever has been found in which our men assumed an aggressive attitude.14

          An efficient patrol is maintained both in Cork and Queenstown whenever liberty men are ashore and on the whole the evidence indicates that the conduct of our men ashore has been commendable and in fact, in many cases has been much better than was to have been expected under the existing circumstances.

     10. MEN FOR TRAINING FOR NEW DESTROYERS.

          Conferences have been held with Commanding Officers of destroyers as far as possible in connection with the Departemnts proposal to send men over for training for new construction. In all cases the Commanding Officers of destroyers have shown an excellent spirit and an appreciation of the importance of this plan. The Commanding Officer of the MELVILLE is negotiating for the rental of army barracks in the vicinity of Queenstown which are not now in use and preparations are being made to accom<m>odate all men which the Department may see fit to send.15 As all destroyers are now in excess of their peace complement, it will be necessary in order to place men on board for training to withdraw certain men temporarily. This however, will not be objectionable as it will afford an opportunity to give men who have been continuously engaged at sea an opportunity for rest and leave. It is at present the plan to withdraw about five men at a time from eachdestroyer replacing them with ten or more men for training.16

          Present plans indicate that we will be able to accom<m>odate at least 500 men for training in case the Department desires to send that many. An increased administration force will be necessary on the MELVILLE but detailed requests will not be submitted until more definite information is received as to the Department’s plans.

          It has been suggested in the Destroyer Force that it would be a good plan as new construction becomes available to send new officers which will be thereby necessitated to Queenstown to place on board the destroyers which are thoroughly shaken down and in actual operation, sending back the older officers to place the new destroyers in commission in the light of their experience in the war zone.17

          The Force Commander is not inclined at present to make a definite recommendation in this connection particularly as he is not sufficiently familiar with the Department’s plans. The subject is therefore merely submitted for the Department’s consideration.

     11. DEPTH CHARGES.

          The British Admiralty is co-operating as far as possible in supplying our yachts, destroyers and other forces including those at Gibraltar with depth charges,,including releasing gear. As previously reported, however, the supply of depth charges is limited and co-operation in this respect from the United States is very much needed.

          After a thorough investigation of our latest proposed type of depth charge, a conference was held at the Admiralty at which a representative from the Commander-in-Chief’s staff was present, including Lt. Schuyler who represented the Force Commander.18 The result of this conference was cabled at once by the Commander-in-Chief and was to the effect that it is considered more desirable to adopt the British type of depth charge than to introduce a new design at this stage of the war and in view of the fact that all of our forces are now, and have been, using for sometime the British type. This type has apparently given entire satisfaction and accomplishes the purpose for which a depth charge is demanded.

          I trust that the Department will see fit to manufacture British depth charges and supply them to our forces in European Waters as early as possible.

     12. MORALE.

          It is a source of pleasure and satisfaction to beable to report to the Department that the morale of our personnel abroad seems to be excellent in every respect. The spirit of co-operation that now exists, particularly in the destroyer force, is everything that could be desired.

Wm S. Sims.

Source Note: CyS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B. There is an identifying number in the top left-hand corner of the first page: “D34/DC-578.” This number was later crossed out and is difficult to read so the editor cannot be sure the rendering is correct.

Footnote 1: This enclosure has not been found.

Footnote 2: For a picture of a gear slotting machine, see: Illustrations for September 1917.

Footnote 3: William M. Corry and Harold T. Bartlett. For more on the sending to Europe of these officers, see: William S. Benson to Sims, 18 August 1917.

Footnote 4: These officers were Lt. Zachary Lansdowne and Lt. Ralph Kiley. They attended school at a British air station, finishing the course in November. Rossano, Stalking the U-Boat: 262.

Footnote 5: Lt. Edward G. Blakeslee, who was Sims’ staff member specializing in communication matters; Lt. Cmdr. Joseph F. Daniels. Daniels had been serving as a liaison officer with the American destroyer flotilla at Queenstown.

Footnote 6: That is, Sims.

Footnote 7: VAdm. Henry T. Mayo, Commander, Atlantic Fleet.

Footnote 8: In a diary entry of 2 September Joseph K. Taussig, the commander of the WADSWORTH, reported:

It seems that the mine sweeper [H.M.S.] Eridge in coming down stream, did not allow enough for the strong current and his port paddle wheel went over the incoming buoy and hit the WADSWORTH a tremendous crash in the stem. . . . The bow of the WADSWORTH was badly bent, some rivets sheared off, and one or two plates slightly cracked. We were making water in our forward trimming tank, but not enough to be serious. I signaled the C-in-C that we would be unable to go to sea tomorrow, and it would probably be necessary to go in dry dock. RNW, Joseph K. Taussig Papers, Mss. Coll. 97.

Footnote 9: Actually, WADSWORTH went into dry dock at Liverpool on 13 September. Taussig Diary, 13 September, Ibid.

Footnote 10: According to the War Diary of CASSIN, it continued in service so the condenser problem must have been judged minor. DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.

Footnote 11: Cmdr. John G. Church. For a more detailed report of findings, see: Joel R. Poinsett Pringle to Sims, 5 September 1917.

Footnote 12: Cammell Laird was created in 1903 by the merger of Laird, Son & Co., and Johnson Cammell & Co., to create a company at the forefront of shipbuilding.

Footnote 13: From the context and from the report made by Pringle to Sim on 5 September, it is clear that the typist erred in adding “not” to this sentence. See: Pringle to Sims, 5 September 1917.

Footnote 14: In his memoirs, Sailor Charles M. Blackford has a different take on the troubles between the residents of Cork and the American sailors. He wrote:

Gradually, trouble began between the men of Cork and our sailors. . . No one was sure of the basic cause of the trouble. Some said it was jealousy, but our lack of sympathy with the Sinn Fein [Irish independence] movement entered into it. One girl told me that there was a plan to have Irish girls make the Americans fall in love with them, then convert them to Sinn Feiners so they would sail the American destroyers to England and force England to set Ireland free.

At first only a few drunks were beaten and robbed. Then American sailors with Irish girls were set upon by small mobs. A group of gobs, on their way to Blarney Castle, were stoned while going through town. Others, minding their own business and alone, were jumped and beaten. Finally, Cork was placed off limits, which did not help our liking of the Irish in the least. Blackford, Torpedoboat Sailor: 84.

Footnote 16: For more on this plan, see Ibid.

Footnote 17: See Ibid.

Footnote 18: The “Commander-in-Chief” was VAdm. Henry T. Mayo, Commander, Atlantic Fleet, who was visiting England as part of a naval mission; it is not known who his representative was; Lt. Albert R. Schofield represented Sims. For a discussion of the features of the British Type D depth charge, which was then used, see Friedman, Naval Weapons of WWI: 391-92. The Americans decided that the Type D had a design flaw that caused too many premature firings and, as a result, produced a depth charge slightly different from the British model. Ibid., 397.

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