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Rear Admiral Albert P. Niblack, Commander, Patrol Squadron Based on Gibraltar, to Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters

U.S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters.


U.S.S. BUFFALO, Flagship

Reference No. PERSONAL.                10 September, 1918.

Dear Billy:

          The BUFFALO and Tozer1 have made this a station, and Tozer is now Industrial Manager and attends all the meetings in Admiral Grant’s2 office in connection with repairs. Operations does not however, seem to be coming across with any more destroyers. The GREGORY and DYER are being worked too hard. The SALEM is supposed to belong to this Force but Operations is still hanging on to her.

          I have thoroughly reorganized my office now, with a view to being able to devote more attention to inspection and outside work.

          There is a new Governor here now who was sworn in last Saturday, General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, who is very much interested in Y.M.C.A. work and we are pushing this branch of work rather hard here. The Y.M.C.A. is giving free exhibitions of movies four nights a week and our band plays in the Alameda Gardens one night, which means Gibraltar is amused five nights in the week by our Y.M.C.A., with the facilities we have here. It is a curious fact that the British people do not take much interest in what we call “up-lift” but the peculiar situation in Gibraltar is that there is absolutely no sign of the war inside of the fortress, while outside things are sizzling night and day. The Army officers here amuse themselves with golf, polo, swimming parties, races, picnics, hunting, tea, and peace times frivolities, such as dances, theaters and concerts, etc. The Navy, however, take the war very much more seriously, as they certainly have not the leisure to indulge in the amusements of the “leisure classes”. There is a feeling here that the new Governor is going to tighten up things here. It will not effect us because we tightened up to start with.

          Admiral Mayo’s3 arrival on this side, and the presence of some of our important battleships on this side, together with Wilson’s4 being made a Vice-Admiral for duty in the Fleet, would seem to imply that there may be a shake-up of some kind on this side.5 I was very glad to get the book with Planning Section’s work.

          I am enclosing a correction to the Memorandum you gave to the Naval Committee of Congress.6 The paragraph which appears in the original is rather sketchy and does not do justice to the work which is being done down here. In other words, the Memorandum is very complete as to activities on shore, and I know you will be glad to have me call attention to the inadequacy of the small paragraph devoted to Gibraltar in the report that went in. As most of the people who come to Europe to inspect and get information are generally pushed for time and succeed in reaching only London, Paris and Rome. I feel that the facts concerning Gibraltar should be on file in such a form to cover the real activities here. Otherwise, we are apt to get over-looked when the pie is cut. However, not <to> have the Naval Committee and the Assistant Secretary7 visit Gibraltar has its compensation, and I am not kicking.

          I hope you enjoyed meeting Mr. Blake.8 The Morocco question is an intensily interesting one, and very important. I am hoping that affairs will shape themselves so that I can get up to England in the latter half of October, to freshen up on the general situation.

          I am very glad that Captain Henderson and Captain Carmine9 are going home, as going to sea so constantly has rather gotten on their nerves, with the natural refle<x> on the officers and crews of their ships. This relieves about the last sand in the <g>ear box down here. I note that your office does not seem to think very much of my proposition to have Lieutenant-Commander Falconer (retired)10 get a bigger or more important command in new construction, or otherwise. He has a “booze” record but he is all right at sea on a sea-going job. I have sent several cablegrams about him and gotten no reply. He is at present making the Azores trip.

          The big strike which has been on here for the past two or three weeks (under German influences) on the part of the Spanish laborers who coal ships here, broke down yesterday and they all returned to work. There are strikes in many ports of Spain which have been started by the Germans, and this has been the least successful one they have tried to pull off. The soldiers here, and the British and American bluejackets, have been coaling merchant ships, and with Moors brought over from Tangier we have been able to beat the strikers out and take them back with no concessions.

          I am sending officially a copy of the proceedings of the Court of Inquiry on the grounding of the U.S.S. SANTA BARBARA, Naval Over Seas Transport Service ship. Having here only the DYER and GREGORY I am obliged to accept the official routing along the Spanish Coastal Route, because we are helped out by the French and British on occasions.

Very sincerely yours,                 



          I assume there will be various factors, too numerous to mention, in the selection of who is to replace Wilson. Being modest and not expecting much, I would not refuse it if it were offered me, but frankly I do not expect any such thing. Very sincerely Nib.

Source Note: LTS, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 76. Niblack added the postscript that appears at the end of the document in pen.

Footnote 1: Capt. Charles Maxson Tozer, Commander, BUFFALO.

Footnote 2: VAdm. Sir William Lowther Grant, Commander-in-Chief, North American and West Indies Station.

Footnote 3: Henry T. Mayo, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet. Mayo had arrived in Europe at the end of August for a second visit to review the American naval forces at the various base in the European theatre, returning to the United States on 18 September.

Footnote 4: Henry B. Wilson, Commander, United States Naval Forces Based in France.

Footnote 5: Although Niblack was perhaps correction in surmising that Wilson’s promotion might have resulted in a reorganization of the commands in Europe (particularly given the struggles Wilson had in overseeing the Naval Forces in France), Wilson retained his position throughout the remainder of the war.

Footnote 6: This enclosure has not been further located.

Footnote 7: Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Footnote 8: Maxwell Blake, United States Consul General for Tangiers.

Footnote 10: Walter M. Falconer.

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