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 Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, Commander, Southern Ireland

September 24th.1918.

My dear Admiral,

          In the first place let me say that we have been informed that the remainder of the one-hundred-and-fortyfour submarine chasers promised us are about to leave the other side.1 Thirtysix of these were to be sent to Plymouth and six to complete the thirtysix at Queenstown. I am now informed that there will be difficulty in handling thirtysix more at Plymouth and that probably we will send at least eighteen more to Queenstown.

          It also seems probable that before very long our repair facilities at Plymouth will be such that we can take care of all the boats there without the assistance of the HANNIBAL2 and that she will therefore be available for Queenstown. I will let you know about this later.

          The only Pringle3 arrived here this morning. He seems to be in very excellent feather and quite happy at the prospect of going home. It is quite likely that he will be given passage on the big steamer that takes the First Lord4 to America. This steamer is fast and will leave three or four days sooner than the OLYMPIC.

          Pringle just left in the car to go out to Edmonton hospital and see the unfortunate Charlie Voysey.5 You know of course that we will keep an eye on him at this end and see that he wants for nothing.

          Some little time ago fifteen editors ofsome of the most important American papers arrived here in London and are the guests of the Government and being looked out for by the Minister of Information. At a luncheon given them by Lord Beaverbrook6 I made a little bit of a speech.7 Lord Beaverbrook wants very much to publish this, but for certain reasons I cannotconsent just now. The editors asked me to give them copies of the speech and I have accordingly had it mimeographed. Directly afterwards they began to ask me questions but I told them that if they would make a collection of the questions they wanted answered I would try to answer them. I did this at a small dinner that was given them at the American Officers Club and they subsequently asked me to have the questions and answers written down which I have done.8

          I enclose both papers herewith on the chance that you might find something in them to interest you.

Very sincerely yours,        

Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly. R.N.

     Admiralty House,

          Queenstown.

P.S.      Since dictating the above I have received your letter of the 22nd.9 You may be sure that I realise that there should be a greater force at Queenstown, but I am sure also that you can readily see that the first new destroyers that come out must be utilised to increase the protection of not only the troop transports but also the vessels that are supplying them.

          I think I mentioned that some of our quite valuable supply ships are going through the Mediterranean two at a time escorted by one destroyer and sometimes not escorted at all. We must also face the fact that the number of supply ships coming in to the western ports of France are continually on the increase, and this makes it quite impossible to give adequate protection to the empty transports going westward. It is also a fact that our troop transports are not as strongly escorted as they probably should be. This is particularly true of the ones that pass in through the Channel and up the Thames. There is no doubt at all that the principal dignitaries at home are very nervous lest some of our troop transports be torpedoed. Of course you will understand that this nervousness is largely of a political kind. It is therefore apparent that the first reinforcements will have to be devoted to the services above indicated. These necessities, as I have said, are largely political. Personally, I cannot persuade myself that the Germans have any intention of concentrating their submarine efforts against our troop transports. There was an explanation published in the German papers explaining to the German people why it was that they were not successful in stopping the arrival of troop transports. It seems to me that this explanation is perfectly sound from a military point of view. It pointed out that transports may arrive anywhere from the north of Scotland to the south of France; that it was exceedingly difficult to intercept them; that they were heavily escorted; and that a greater effect could be produced upon the enemy by attacking merchant vessels bringing in supplies of all kinds. This is exactly my opinion. It seems to me that if I were a Hun and in complete command of the Hun submarine campaign I would give the submarines orders not to attack loaded transports. This for the reason that the submarine runs a very considerably greater danger in attacking through the escort of a troop transport than through the escort of a much larger merchant convoy.

          Moreover, the torpedoing of an occasional troop transport would not sensibly decrease the number of men flowing into Europe while the torpedoing of a number of merchant vessels will eventually limit the number of troops that we can maintain in Europe. There is a commission10 over here now earnestly looking for more ships than our shipyards will be able to supply in the coming year. If they cannot find these ships the flow of troops will have to be decreased.

Source Note: LT, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Container 47. Addressed below postscript: “Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly,/Admiralty House./Queenstown.”

Footnote 2: HANNIBAL was a destroyer tender.

Footnote 3: Capt. Joel R. Poinsett Pringle, Chief of Staff, Destroyer Flotillas. Although stationed at Queenstown, Pringle was traveling to the United States on a liaison trip.

Footnote 4: First Lord of the Admiralty Sir Eric Geddes

Footnote 5: This may have been Charles Francis Annesley Voysey, a noted architect of the time and probably a nephew of Bayly’s.

Footnote 6: Minister of Information William M. Aitken, Baron Beaverbrook.

Footnote 8: The transcript of Sims’ question and answer session has not been found.

Footnote 9: This letter has not been found.

Footnote 10: For more on this, see: Stevens and Rublee to Hurley, 26 September 1918.