Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels
U.S. NAVAL FORCES OPERATING IN EUROPEAN WATERS
U.S.S. MELVILLE, FLAGSHIP.
TELEPHONE VICTORIA 9110 30, GROSVENOR GARDENS
CABLE ADDRESS “SIMSADUS” LONDON S.W.1
REFERENCE No. September 27th. 1918
FROM: Force Commander
TO: Secretary of the Navy (Operations)
SUBJECT: General Report
1. ENEMY SUBMARINE OPERATIONS
September 1 – 7
During the week September 1 – 7 it is estimated that 18 submarines of a type which operate outside North Sea waters were out, included in this number being 3 ‘cruisers’, - one converted “Deutschland,” one improved type, and one new class minelayer to the westward of Ireland (homeward bound from the North American coast); one converted “Deutschland” in the vicinity of the Canaries; and one new class minelayer off the French coast of the Bay of Biscay. Another large minelayer may possibly have been out.
The remaining large boats were mainly operating in the Bay of Biscay and in the southern approaches to the Irish Sea, in the St.George’s Channel and off the Cornish coast.
There was a marked reduction in activity off the east coast of England, and probably one boat alone was operating there.
Two boats (probably Flanders Flotilla) were working off the coast of Portugal.
There was peculiarly little activity in the eastern portion of the Eastern Channel.
The following table gives the estimated distribution of enemy submarines in the Atlantic and North Sea waters.
Average no.of submarines in area per day
North Sea, south of 53° 30’ N.
North Sea, north of 53° 30’ N.
3 - 4
S.W. of Ireland
Atlantic, North of Finisterre
4 – 5
Atlantic, South of Finisterre
1 – 2
N.W. of Ireland and Scotland
2 - 3
Irish Sea, north of 54°N.
Irish Sea, south of 54°N.
Irish Sea, Bristol Channel
English Channel, Approaches.
English Channel, W. of Lyme Regis
English Channel, E. of Lyme Regis
Bay of Biscay
September 8 – 14
The principal feature for the week was the continued concentration of submarines off the entrances to the Bristol Channel, English Channel and the French ports. In the North Sea there have been several boats on passage, most of them passing north and south through Fair Island Passage, though one passed north of the Shetlands and straight across the barrage. Of these boats six were outward bound and four homeward bound.
In the North Sea and off the east coast of England there appears to have been only one or perhaps two submarines operating; results two small ships sank. There has been one boat operating in the North Channel; result one steamship sunk. The boat operating in St. George’s Channel appears to have gone to the northern part of the Irish Sea, and sunk two steamships on the 13th and 14th.
During the early part of the week there appears to have been six boats operating south of Ireland and north of 47° N, of which one is a new type of mine-layer that has probably laid her mines off the French coast north of Gironde. These boats have torpedoed three large British steamers, of which two have sunk. One of these ships was the GALWAY CASTLE, outward bound for South Africa with passengers and wounded. During the week three of these submarines have returned North, homeward bound, and two are operating North of 49°, so that for the moment the approaches to Brest and the French ports appear clear except for the minelayer, though two Flanders boats have appeared off Queenstown on the 14th and may operate in the approach area below 49°. It is worthy of note that these two Flanders boats went out around Scotland instead of through the English Channel as is usually the case.
There is a converted mercantile submarine bound for the American coast, and another outward bound north of the British Isles probably to operate off the American coast. The submarine that operated off the coast of Portugal has been lost track of and may have entered the Mediterranean. The converted mercantile operating about the Canaries is probably still there.
There appears to be five submarines operating in the Mediterranean; results of this week four steamers sunk, including British transport. Submarines have constantly increasing difficulty in passing the Otranto Barrage.
The tonnage losses for this week, i.e. 40,000 tons, are a little lower than last week.
ATTACKS UPON ENEMY SUBMARINES
During the week September 1 – 7 reports of fourteen encounters with enemy submarines have been received from Atlantic and North Sea waters as follows:
2 by T.B.D’s [i.e. Torpedo Boat Destroyers]
2 by Sloops
1 by ‘P’ class boat [i.e. Patrol]
1 by U.S.ocean escort.
3 by aircraft
3 by Auxiliary Patrol
1 by Submarine chaser
1 by merchant vessel.
The following reports of action of U.S.Naval Forces with submarines have been received.
U.S.S. AYLWIN and BEALE with convoy off Tuscar light, where CITY OF GLASGOW AND MESSAHA were torpedoed ad sunk. Depth charges were dropped with no apparent result; submarine continued to operate.
S.S. ACTON, while escorted by U.S.S. BEALE in 51° 40’ N.06°20’ W was torpedoed and sunk; depth charges were dropped by U.S.S.BEALE with no apparent results. Submarine continued to operate.
U.S.S. BALCH sighted peculiar object twelve miles distant 50°25’ N. 13°20’ W. which submerged, emitting blue smoke. Depth charges were dropped by U.S.S.BALCH with no apparent result. Submarine was reported to be in the vicinity and continued to operate.
The submarine attacked by U.S.S.TUCKER August 9 has not been heard of since, and it is believed by the Admiralty she was probably destroyed.
Recently while two submarines were crossing the Northern Mine Barrage, an explosion occurred at the time and place where they were cruising. Nothing has since been heard of either submarine.1
The American Submarine-Chasers made an attack on September 7th ten miles North of Lands End which seems very promising, though there is no proof that the submarine was destroyed or ceased to Operate. One Flanders boat that had been in Lyme Bay has not made an appearance since the 5th, so it is possible that this may be the boat. The submarine attacked by the U.S.S.CHESTER has returned to her base.
2. ENEMY MINE LAYING
September 1 – 7
No mine laying activity by enemy submarines was experienced during the week September 1 – 7. Two mines were destroyed, both from Moray Firth field, laid August 1918. . . .
5. MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS
U.S.S. FREDERIC. R.KELLOGG, which was torpedoed August 13 and reported in list of sinkings in the weekly memorandum of August 26, 1918, has been floated and towed to New York, and started undergoing repairs September 3.
While a convoy in the Mediterranean was being attacked by a submarine, a French escort vessel, in firing at the submarine, hit a British ship, loaded with rum. Ship caught fire and was lost.
The crisis with Germany and Spain on the question of the sinking of Spanish vessels remains serious. It is possible that a solution may be found by the Spanish Government accepting an offer from Germany to lease some of the ships to Spain, or to replace certain of the Spanish vessels recently sunk outside the barred zone, but any step on the part of the Spanish Government to recede from the position taken up in the Note of 14th August is almost certain to lead to a Ministerial crisis.
The Allies have recently taken over from the Russians in the Artic Sea one cruiser, 17 trawlers, 4 destroyers, 8 yachts and 8 icebreakers, which will be manned by British, French or American crews.
Although the minefields outside Sevastopol and Odessa have not been cleared, mine-sweeping is still in progress. Russian T.B.D’s are taking part in these proceedings under German supervision, and swept and buoyed channels are in use for merchant vessels. The merchant vessels in Sevastopol are flying the Ukraine flag.
In the half year ending July 1st the Norwegian Merchant fleet has had a net decrease of 68 ships, aggregating 96,000 tons. The corresponding period of 1917 showed a decrease of 630,000 tons. The losses from causes arising from the war show 75 ships, 120,000 tons. The losses from ordinary marine risk are 28 ships.
During the second quarter of 1918 Swedish cargo space has risen from 2494 ships with total capacity of 1,009,775 tons, to 2516 ships of 1,017,276 tons. . . .
6. FORCES BASED ON QUEENSTOWN
Vessels at this base are available for service with the following exceptions –
CALDWELL Operating on one shaft. Waiting completion of intermediate and main gears under manufacture at Cammel Lairds. Estimated date of completion 13 October. Ship is available for any service up to 18 knots.
DUNCAN Estimated date of completion of repairs to
bow be 28 September.
MANLEY Date of completion latter part of October.
Employment of the forces is as previously reported.2
During the week the OLYMPIC and UTAH were escorted through the zone and the ALLEN, KIMBERLY and CALDWELL carried out a hunting expedition. . . .
Torpedoing of S.S.MISSANABIS.
The S.S. MISSANABIS was torpedoed while in convoy OL-34 under escort of HMS DEVONSHIRE, CAMELLIA, BLUEBELL, PL-36 and U.S.S. JENKINS, PAULDING and McCALL on 9 September at 12:30 EST position 21° 01’ N. long, 7-28 W. speed of convoy 11 1/2 knots. At time of torpedoing, McCALL went full speed ahead, laying a barrage of 12 depth charges at ten-second intervals to prevent further attack on convoy. The MISSANABIS sank in nine minutes after being hit, going down by the stern in a sudden vertical plunge. RUSSELL and PL-69 proceeded to spot and picked up survivors. McCALL put over whaleboat and picked up nine survivors with great difficulty. McCALL then proceeded to screen by circling at speed of 22 knots and endeavoured to locate submarine. No indications at all of its presence. . . .
INSPECTION OF COMAMNDER-IN-CHIEF, ATLANTIC FLEET3
The Commander-in-Chief, U.S.Atlantic Fleet and staff arrived at the base on 12th September and inspected all activities, including all air stations in the vicinity and the following ships which were in port –
The following signal was sent to the force before the Commander-in-Chief’s departure –
“The Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet wishes to congratulate the Officers and men of the Queenstown forces on their cheerful and efficient accomplishment of their important and useful part in the war, and on their evident intention to keep up their good work.”
While at the base the Commander-in-Chief and his Flag Lieutenant were guests of the Commander-in-Chief, Coast of Ireland.4
They were entertained at Admiralty House and also on board the MELVILLE and DIXIE.
The following letter addressed to the Force Commander was received after their inspection of all U.S.Naval activities in Ireland –
“After spending sufficient time at the Queenstown Base to see something of each one of the activities covered by United States Naval Forces at that point, I desire to heartily congratulate you and all concerned in carrying on these activities, upon the manifestly thorough organization, system and general efficiency. The spirit and high sense of duty maintained by the entire personnel of these activities is one upon which not only all concerned but our country is to be congratulated and the harmony and spirit of co-operation maintained between the American and British personnel at that point was most apparent.
The above remarks may also be applied to our Air Stations on the Irish Coast although due to regrettable difficulties these stations are not yet in full operating conditions.”
/S/ H.T.Mayo. . . .
There is little change in the submarine situation in the Bay of Biscay a concentration being maintained south west of Brest averaging at least three submarines and occasionally more. The recent rough weather drove some of these submarines into more sheltered waters but they regained stations when the weather subsided.
A large mine laying submarine has been in this area and operated successfully against two convoys that were proceeding to the south’ard across the Bay of Biscay. The indications are that the concentration of submarines n the Bay of Biscay will remain until bad weather makes this area difficult for submarine operations.
There were probably five submarines south of Ireland instead of three. The report of a submarine off Santander is not confirmed. There was one south of Brest which went down the Portuguese coast and operated there during the following week with some success, sinking three small ships. . . .
18. OPERATIONS – SUB-CHASERS
(a) Detachment One.5
During the week chasers of this detachment have been kept;-
(a) With PARKER in area West of Scillies, between lat. 49° N and lat. 50°N.
(b) Off Cornish Coast.
(c) Off Lizard.
Severe weather conditions during the week have kept the chasers off their stations during the greater part of the time, and no new contact have been reported.
The attack off PENDEEN which was reported last week so still continuing was a very well conducted affair, and evidence leads to the belief that the submarine here attacked was destroyed. Nine chasers participated in attacks lasting more than twenty-four hours during which seventy depth charges were dropped.6
The submarine was heard hammering, and trying to <run> his engine, attempts in which he was apparently able to succeed but for short periods, during which the noises heard indicated that the machinery was damaged. His wake was sighted and bombed on five separate occasions. In one of these attacks a black object some two feet in diameter was blown fifty feet in the air. Following an attack at 3:23 p.m. ( first attack 11:30 a.m.) submarine bottomed and was apparently never able to rise again, though heard on several occasions trying to do so, and scraping along the bottom for a few yards. His machinery squeaked, strained, and ran intermittently, apparently with great difficulty and for short periods.
His position was buoyed and an obstruction located near it by sounding. The following day three rifles or revolver shots were heard followed by 22 others. Units remained in the vicinity of attack for thirty hours from first attack, when they were forced to leave by bad weather. British Admiralty Intelligence information shows that one of the submarines operating in this general vicinity is missing, and it is hoped that it was destroyed in these attacks.
The U-53 which was attacked by the U.S.S.PARKER and Unit 4 on Sept. 2, west of Brest, was next heard of off Scotland on her way back to Germany. It is possible she was damaged by this attack as she had not expended many torpedoes on her station.
The WILKES returned to Queenstown Sept.13, and the AYLWIN returned to Plymouth. . . .
Captain Plunkett7 commanding the Naval Railway Batteries reported for duty to General Pershing’s Headquarters on September 13 and thence in turn reported to the Chief of Artillery First Army and Commanding Officer of Artillery Reserve at Houssiment.8
Two guns are now in operation at the Front; the remaining three guns and mounts together with all trained equipment are being sent to the Reserve Artillery Base.
Particularly in view of the possibility of damage to this battery while operating in the field and the fact that it would be very difficult to repair the mounts, recommendation has been made that five additional mounts be supplied as soon as practicable.9
It is considered important for both the prestige and morale of the Naval Service, that this railway battery be maintained in the Field in the Highest possible state of efficiency. . . .
GAS MASKS AND GAS SHELL
The Admiralty have requested a sample U.S.Navy anti gas mask and our instructions concerning use and responsibility for their maintenance on board ship.
It is hoped that the Department will supply battleships abroad with armor piercing gas shells as soon as possible. . . .
The Board of Investigation consisting of representatives of the various bureaus of the Department has not yet been definitely constituted owing to the absence of the representative of the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts.
On September 17, 1918, an Aviation Conference was held in the British Admiralty at which the general American and British Air Programs for 1919 were discussed. Further and more detailed reports of the results of this Conference will be submitted as <and> when they have been definitely approved.10
Routine equipment of all Naval Air Stations is progressing. Tests recently conducted by the U.S.Naval Northern Bombing Group have demonstrated that the <D.H.-4> aeroplane is not able to keep position in the air with the <D.H.-9> type.11 Test flights were made by Squadron No.1 with Caproni Aeroplanes. No active operations against the enemy have been conducted since August 15, 1918, due to the unreliability of the Fiat Engines installed in the Caproni Aeroplanes. The Day Wings are unable to operate due to the insufficient number of planes which have been delivered to the Naval Northern Bombing Group.
A contract has been made with the British Royal Air Force for the exchange of aeroplanes for Liberty Motors.12 We will obtain ten Handley Page Night Bombing Aeroplanes and fifty-four <D.H.9a> Day Bombing Aeroplanes in exchange for engines. These machines will be delivered at Eastleigh where they will be assembled and flown to the Northern Bombing Group Flying Fields. In addition to these, several American made <D.H.4> aeroplanes are now being assembled at Eastleigh for use with the Northern Bombing Group.
The U.S.Naval Air Station at Porto Corsini has been taken over from the Italians and we have already instituted anti-submarine patrols from that point.
There are twelve American built <H-16> flying boats in commission at the U.S.Naval Air Station, Killingholme. These machines are principally engaged in convoy work and escorting British Mine Layers. Some difficulty has been experienced in connection with the horseshoe type American built radiators for which the square type of radiator is now being substituted. It is hoped that when these arrive in sufficient quantities, the station will be operating at full strength.
On September 2, 1918, Macchi-8,13 No.19006, pilot Lieutenant R.B. Read, USNRF. Observer A.L. Jones, QM2a, and Macchi-5, No.7294, Pilot Boatswain G.Varini, U.S.N. conducted a successful search patrol, ordered by Commander Vanutelli,14 for disabled Italian Submarine No.63. By means of a written message the position of the submarine was communicated to an Italian destroyer located after forty-five minutes search. The submarine was then towed to Venice. This operation received the highest commendation from Admiral Marzeola15 owing to the fact that unsuccessful attempts had been made by the Air Station at Venice to locate this submarine.
With full appreciation of the personnel problems which confront the Department particularly in supplying personnel for the growing U.S. Merchant Marine, it is nevertheless considered that certain exceptions must be made from the general policies and rules of the Department governing the entire Service, in so far as ships actively engaged in the War Zone are concerned.
In the case of the Battleship Division with the Grand Fleet the fact cannot be overlooked that the Grand Fleet is the foundation stone of the entire war.
It is unnecessary to comment upon the situation which would be created if the Grand Fleet should suffer defeat or be seriously depleted in strength.
It is considered that the Bureau Navigation action as contained in Opnav cable No. 185516 should be reconsidered, and that every step possible should be taken to retain on these battleships all experienced and skilled officers and men. When men throughout the country are being conscripted for the duration of the War, it does not seem logical and consistent to allow skilled men whose enlistments may expire to be permitted to leave stations permanently when it is believed that they can serve the country better in these stations than in any other.
It is believed that the request outlined in my cable No.452617 which requests that men be returned to their ships subsequent to their re-enlistment and after they have had their leave in the United States is fair to the men concerned, and further that it is more important to use the services of these trained men on the ships on which they have been trained than elsewhere.
Source Note: Cy, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517B.
Footnote 1: Both UB-109 and UB-12 were sunk by mines in the North Sea during this period. Kemp, U-Boats Destroyed: 55.
Footnote 2: See: Sims to Daniels, 19 September 1918.
Footnote 3: Adm. Henry T. Mayo, Commander, Atlantic Fleet.
Footnote 4: Possibly Cmdr. Leigh Noyes, Flag Secretary of Atlantic Fleet; and Adm. Lewis Bayly, R.N., Commander-in-Chief, Coast of Ireland.
Footnote 5: Submarine Chasers Detachment 1, Plymouth, England.
Footnote 6: Possibly a reference to UB-103, sunk off the straights of Dover on 16 September 1918, by depth charges or a mine. Kemp, U-Boats Destroyed: 56.
Footnote 7: Capt. Charles R. Plunkett, Commander, Naval Railway Battery.
Footnote 8: Maj. Gen. Edward F. McGlachlin, Jr., U.S.A., Chief of Artillery, First Army and Birg. Gen. Frank W. Coe, U.S.A., Commanding Officer of Artillery Reserve at Houssiment.
Footnote 9: See: Sims to William S. Benson, 17 September 1918, second cable of the day.
Footnote 10: See: Air Conference Conclusions, 17 September 1918.
Footnote 11: The British Airco DH 4 and DH 9 were single engine, bi-plane, day bombers.
Footnote 12: See: Sims to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 25 September 1918.
Footnote 13: The Aermacchi 8 was an Italian made flying boat and reconnaissance bomber.
Footnote 14: Pilot Boatswain Giochino Varini, and Cmdr. Lamberto Vannutelli, I.R.N.F.
Footnote 15: RAdm. Paolo Marzola, I.R.N.F.
Footnote 16: The referred to document has not been found.
Footnote 17: The referred to document has not been found.