Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Admiral Sir William Lowther Grant, Commander, North America and West Indies Station, to Secretary of the Admiralty Oswyn A. R. Murray

From. . . . .  The Commander-in-Chief, North America and West

              Indies.

To. . . . . .  The Secretary of the Admiralty.

Date. . . . .  16th September       1918           No. 144/42.

Subject:-      Distribution of United States Naval Forces

Western Atlantic Waters, applying in anti-submarine warfare.

Reference:-   Admiralty Telegram No. 411 of 25th August 1918.1

              With reference to the attached report, I wish to offer the following remarks :

              In addition to the ocean escort of convoys, United States are now giving battleship escort to troop convoys except H.C.,2 for which battleships are not at present available and as they carry few U.S. troops, but it is thought that these and the slower cargo convoys require reinforcement of escort quite as much as the faster troop convoys.

Escorts are also provided at request when considered necessary for portions of convoys meeting at sea and for groups of ships proceeding from one port to another to join convoys, as for instance, ships proceeding from New York and Hampton Roads to join H.S.Convoys at Sydney,3 also in special cases for individual ships.

  2.  Arrangements have been made for the institution of convoys in the Gulf of Mexico at short notice should it become necessary.

  3.  Up to date only one torpedo boat destroyer has been sent with each troop convoy.

  4.  Efforts are being made to escort “MAURETANIA” “AQUITANIA” and “OLYMPIC”4 in and out of New York with a destroyer or destroyers, and it is hoped in the future to be more successful in meeting these ships now that their Approach Route and time of arrival at initial position is known in advance. My report B6,278/48 of 19th June 1918 gives the principles upon which our local officers are acting on destroyers, etc., escorts for convoys.5

  5.  NAVAL DISTRICT CRAFT. The local patrol and escort services are under the supervision of the local Section Commanders6 and vary with their idiosyncracies; they appear to act on no very clearly defined system and are subject to impulse.

  6.  A proper organisation for minesweeping or of minesweepers appears to be lacking, and a determined attempt to mine any portion of the coast would probably meet with considerable success – from the enemy’s point of view.

  7.  The Navy Department favour the coastal route for all interport U.S. and Canadian traffic, however far apart the ports may be; this is the best course on the assumption of efficient patrol and minesweeping services, but failing this, I regard the open route, at any rate so far as fairly fast and well armed ships are concerned, as preferable, and to this opinion I fancy the Navy Department are slowly coming round.

  8.  The submarines available for anti-submarine patrol are a source of danger to themselves and of annoyance to shipping in general, while they cause great anxiety to the Navy Department; there is always a doubt when a submarine is reported off the coast whether she may not be American. They have been fired on by merchant ships in several cases and one came in with a 5.3” unexploded howitzer shell on board.

  9.  The efforts with decoy ships have been so far ingenuous; a schooner with wireless, generally stationary, with a submarine on the surface in attendance. The only result up to date has been to scare considerably various merchant vessels.

  10.  Aircraft, destroyers, and chasers are very inexperienced and cause much trouble by their continuous reports of attacks on and destruction of non-existent submarines.

  11.  In general it must be confessed that little reliance can as yet be placed on the anti-submarine defences, and the greater importance attaches therefore to the full development and employment by merchant ships of their own resources, to the protection afforded by the variation of Approach Routes used in conjunction with the Diversion Code and to the utilization to the fullest extent possible of the experience gained by the British.

  12.  CO-OPERATION WITH CANADIAN NAVY. This has already been reported on in my General Letter No. 7 of 3rd September 1918.7 Conferences have been held and the forces in Canadian waters and in Area I co-ordinated so far as may be for the protection of shipping locally and of the fisheries.

(Sgd) W. L. Grant.           

A D M I R A L.     

Source Note: DTS, UK-KeNA, Adm. 137/1619. Note at the top of the first page: “DUPLICATE OF ORIGINAL SUBMISSION LOST AT SEA.” There is a cover page with the subject heading: “Anti-submarine work by U.S. Naval Forces in Western Atlantic Waters” with a list of the difference divisions to which this report was circulated, and in some cases the initials of the person who received the report and the date on which they received it.

Footnote 1: The Admiralty telegram has not been found.

Footnote 2: HC convoys ran from Quebec or Halifax, Canada, and England. Crowell and Wilson, The Road to France, 463.

Footnote 3: H. S. convoys ran between Halifax or Sydney, Nova Scotia, and England, Ibid., 460.

Footnote 4: These ships were English passenger liners then being used to transport troops from the United States.

Footnote 5: Grant’s report is in Adm. 137/1619.

Footnote 6: That is, District Commandants.

Footnote 7: For a discussion of this report, see Brian Tennyson and Roger Sarty, Guardian of the Gulf: Sydney, Cape Breton, and the Atlantic Wars (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000), 165.

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