Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels
September 5th 1918.
FROM: Force Commander
TO: Secretary of the Navy (Operations)
SUBJECT: General Report.
1. ENEMY SUBMARINE OPERATIONS ( August 11-17)
During the week August 11-17 the number of large submarines out was below the average, estimated as twelve, including three cruisers; one in the vicinity of the Azores, the other two on eastern seaboard of Northern America, where also an improved U-type vessel was working.
Activity was mainly experienced in the approach routes to the Bay of Biscay ports, while one or possibly more were in the vicinity of Brest; off the east coast of England between Lowestoft and the Tyne; and the eastern end of the Channel. The Irish Sea and the North Channel were apparently still free of submarines. . . .
ENEMY SUBMARINE OPERATIONS ( August 17-24)
The past week again shows a marked reduction in the number of enemy submarines operating. There appear to have been four small boats operating off the east coast of England, resulting in the sinking of six ships. No submarine stationed in the North Channel, though one ship was <sunk> in that area, possibly by one of the boats homeward bound from the Bay of Biscay. There has been one boat operating with success in the Irish Sea, having sunk six small ships, including the American steamship LAKE EDEN; one operating south of Ireland at the entrance to the Bristol Channel, with one sinking to her credit. In the English Channel there appears to have been two boats operating –results, two sinkings.
The American Chasers from Plymouth appear to have been doing excellent work in keeping their area clear.
The concentration off the Bay of Biscay appears to have completely dispersed, two submarines having returned north homeward bound on the 18th and another having left the Bay for the south on the same date. This b<o>at has sunk four small ships off the coast of Portugal, and as it was expected to operate off Cape Vincent, is probably on that station at the present time.
There has been one submarine to the west of Gibraltar operating but without results. There is nothing definitely known as to the whereabouts of U-157, but it is believed she is operating 100 miles N.E. of the Azores. In the Mediterranean there are five submarines, but this week they have had little success.
The tonnage losses for the week are unusually light, viz:- 52,000 tons.
It is worthy of note that of late there have been a great many claims by the patrol vessels and aircraft of having destroyed enemy submarines. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to allow these <claims>, but in some cases the submarine has been damaged to such an extent that it has been obliged to return to its base. The number of claims during the war where the attacking vessel feels certain that she has destroyed a submarine compared with the number of submarines actually sunk in such attack is 6-1/8 to 1.
ATTACKS UPON ENEMY SUBMARINES ( August 11-17)
Reports of 41 engagements were received with one submarine sunk. The engagements are as follows:-
10 by T.B.D. or T.B.’s
12 by Auxiliary patrol
15 by Aircraft.
1 by “P” class vessels
1 by Sloop
2 by Merchant Ship. . . .
2. ENEMY MINE-LAYING ( August 10 – 17)
There was no marked activity during the week, and 15 mines only were destroyed, including 3 swept up by the Harwich Fleet Sweeping Flotilla off the Dutch coast.
It is not definitely known that any enemy mines have been laid in the eastern Atlantic including North Sea during the week, but it is believed that a large submarine mine-layer may have laid a cargo of 36 mines to the seaward of the east coast of Scotland, and an extensive search is being carried out in this connection. . . .
The tonnage engaged in United Kingdom trade which was lost during the week was considerably less than the previous week. The percentage of losses to sailings of such vessels engaged in Overseas trade, which arrived at or left the United Kingdom ports during the week, is .78% as against 1.49% in the previous week. In Cross-Channel trades the percentage is .27% as against .48%; in Coasting trades .15% as against .29%. The British and Foreign Merchant vessels sailing in convoy which completed their voyages during the week ending August 17th and the losses sustained in such convoys was 3 out of 1448 ships convoyed; this as compared with losses for week ending August 10, two out of 1414 ships convoyed. The three losses in the Mediterranean were, one in the Port Said – Alexandria Convoy, and two in the Gibraltar – Bizerta Convoy. One lost last May not previously reported. . . .
4. MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS
It is reported that of the total German zeppelin fleet onhand at the beginning of the war and completed since, numbering 61 seven only are now available for service. <O>f the losses, a large number have been wrecked owing to bad handling, bad weather, lightning etc., the loss on this account being estimated as in excess of the number destroyed by allied action.
The number of ships in the Army Coal Trade as of July 23, 1918 is 69, with a total displacement of 175,360 tons. . . .
6. FORCES BASED ON FRENCH COAST
Report of operations of the Forces based on the French Coast for the week ending 10 August is forwarded herewith.
During the week there were at least three submarines operating offshore and one or two inshore. Considering the number of submarines at sea this was a marked concentration of submarines in the Bay of Biscay. Since the Dover Straits have become so dangerous to the passage of enemy submarines, the majority of submarines proceeding into the Bay of Biscay come down the west coast of Ireland and proceed directly south into the Bay of Biscay. It will be noted that this is an unfortunate circumstance as these submarines are operating some 300 miles from the Coast of France, which means that much time is lost in sending out tugs or augmenting escorts. During the next two months and until the approach of rough weather, this situation may be expected to continue, though concentration may or may not occur in this area.
It has been noted that a number of submarines sweep across the Bay of Biscay on north and south courses, evidently patrolling for convoys coming into French Atlantic ports while also covering the approaches to the Irish Sea and English Channel of all shipping bound to and from the South Atlantic. The records now indicate that the submarine that sank the MONTANAN was the day before in the Latitude of Cape Clear, Ireland. This submarine came across HB-8 and sank the MONTANAN and subsequently the WESTBRIDGE which had stripped her turbines and was lying dead in the water. The same submarine torpedoed the IDAHO out of a convoy proceeding to the southward from England. A second submarine torpedoed the CUBORE in a westbound convoy and subsequently followed this convoy until after the escort had left and torpedoed the JOSEPH CUDAHY. A third submarine worked through the same area and continued to the southward along the Portuguese Coast without finding any convoys. This concentration of three submarines offshore in the Bay of Biscay at the same time is considered a very unusual one. Unfortunately the results of the concentration were fairly successful and may cause a subsequent concentration in this area. While a few American ships may be sunk the amount of shipping passing through the Bay of Biscay will probably not warrant the enemy maintaining a concentration in this area unless he is making increased efforts to interrupt the transport of American troops and supplies.
With regard to the routing of convoys in the Bay of Biscay, it has been the practice to reserve the safest routes for troop convoys. The very safety of these routes for troop convoys lies in their not being largely used by other convoys. As the HB convoys were sailed every 16 days it was decided to give them a mean route through the middle of the Bay of Biscay, which route could be altered as necessary by wireless from Brest or by the destroyer escorts to avoid submarine activity along the route farther to the eastward. So far as I can see, there is no indication that submarines have discovered either the routes or the times of arrival of either troop convoys or mercantile convoys. Since HB convoys have been sailed every 8 days a greater variety has been given to the routing.
7. TUCKER’S ACTION
The TUCKER’S action with enemy submarine on 9th August was a very good report but unfortunately it cannot be confirmed that the submarine was actually destroyed. There is no chart or other evidence except the ship’s report that there was a submarine in this vicinity at the time. From experience throughout the war, there is no guarantee that the action of the TUCKER would have actually destroyed the submarine. There are repeated cases on record in which enemy submarines, as well as Allied submarines, have survived a much more severe attack than this one and either reached their home base or actually continued operations.
It is unfortunate that the TUCKER remained in the vicinity so short a time but at the same time it is realized that the position of an Escort Commander is a very difficult one. His responsibility for the troop convoy which he is proceeding to meet is naturally foremost in his mind and particularly, when, in his opinion, the number of destroyers which have been allocated to his escort is none too great to ensure the safety of the convoy once he has taken over the escort. . . .
9. FORCES BASED ON QUEENSTOWN . . .
During the weeks ending 18 and 25 August, the destroyers based on Queenstown, in addition to escorting the usual convoys also escorted the OLYMPIC, AQUITANIA, the 6th Battleship Division and various other single ships.
During the week ending 18 August the training barracks received 196 men and transferred 193 and during the week ending 25 August received 218 men and transferred 178.
Excellent progress is being made in the construction of a new storehouse. A shipment of provisions and clothing was made during the week to the OLYMPIA. The PROTEUS arrived and was discharged. The U.S.S. FRANK H BUCK arrived on the 20th August and her cargo of depth charges, airplanes, kite balloons and airplane propell<e>rs was immediately discharged. She was at once loaded with fresh meat for the BUSHNELL and left for Base Six on 23 August. . . .
There are now 326 men quartered in this house. A room has been fitted up with sixteen bunks for the accommodation of transient junior officers. During the week 10 Ensigns were quartered here while awaiting arrival of ships to which they had been assigned.
BASE HOSPITAL NO 4
The work of putting this hospital in commission continues. There are now attached 95 men of the hospital corps and a specially authorized complement.
TORPEDO REPAIR STATION.
The school of instruction for officers has been established and will be attended by junior officers now awaiting assignment to destroyers. This school will also undertake instruction of seamen gunners for destroyer duty. . . .
Six radio telephone sets have arrived: two will be installed on destroyers and the other sets will be forwarded to the Battleships for trial installation thereon.
It has not been possible to date to get satisfactory results from the Radio Direction Finders on destroyers. Tests at sea have, in some cases, given good bearings on strong signals but it is believed that the sensitiveness of the apparatus must be greatly increased before it will be of much practical value on destoryers.
RESCUE OF BRITISH AIRSHIP
Particular attention is invited to the excellent work carried out by the DOWNES ( as covered by separate correspondence) in rescuing a disabled British airship. The airship was at the mercy of the wind and was making rank shears in all directions making rescue work very difficult. The DOWNES succeeded in rescuing all of the crew and also all of the airship.
During the week ending 18 August there were received and distributed for training, 25 officers,and during the week ending 25 August 7 Reserve Ensigns for communications instruction and 24 other officers for destroyer duty.
During the week ending 25 August the following officers were detached and ordered to duty in the United States for new destroyer construction:-
8 Commanding Officers.
1 Executive Officer.
5 Torpedo Officers.
3 Engineer Officers.
Two hundred Mark 11 Mod. 2 depth charges arrived on board the U.S.S.PROTEUS and 1000 depth charges, some Mark 11 Mod. 1, and the majority Mark 11 Mod. 2 arrived on board the F.H.BUCK. It has been found that the Mark 11 Mod.2 charge has a defect more or less serious, and is liable to prevent the proper functioning of the charge. On the Mark 11 Mod.1 charge, at the primer extender end of the charge, there is a <flange> built in the charge case and to which the extender mechanism is bolted. On the Mark 11 Mod.2 charge this flange has been omitted, and in its place there is a rubber gasket. It has been found in this type that unless the extender mounting is extremely carefully installed and unless the nuts on the securing bolts are set up exactly right, the extender is liable to be canted to the one side preventing a proper and smooth operation. This trouble has been reported by all of the destroyers to whom the Mark 11 Mod.2 charges have been issued. It is requested that it be taken up with the Bureau of Ordnance as soon as practicable, and that each charge after assembling, be carefully examined to see that the extender operates properly.
Thirty submarine chasers comprising Submarine Chaser Detachment No 3 arrived at Base Six on the 21st August. The Detachment is under the command of Captain [Arthur J.] Hepburn and will be quartered at the Naval Training Barracks.
The following preliminary comments were made at Queenstown upon these chasers:-
(a) No method of sight illumination for work at night.
(b) No pamphlets or books of instruction available concerning ordnance equipment, including 3-inch gun, Colt Machine gun, the rifles and the automatic pistols. Such books are particularly necessary in view of the inexperienced personnel on these vessels.
(c) No lists of spare parts. The MELVILLE will undertake to prepare requisitions in order to keep a complete stock available.
(d) No anti-aircraft shrapnel available and no target practice ammunition available.
(e) No drill shell available. Targets have been constructed for the chasers and a system of target practice will be inaugurated immediately, including spotting practice and depth charge practice.
To date short range target practice has been carried out by 13 destroyers. While the results can hardly be called satisfactory, still a general improvement has been noted.
10. FORCES BASED ON GIBRALTAR
. . . It was regretted that neither the Assistant Secretary of the Navy nor the Naval Committee had sufficient time to visit Gibraltar.
Attention is invited to the necessity of increasing the destroyer forces based on Gibraltar on account of the movements of Army Storeships through the Straits. . . .
Battleship Division Six arrived at destination on 23 August after a fine and uneventful passage. The Commander proceeded immediately to London for conference with the Force Commander. As reported by cable, the Force Commander cannot avoid stating his opinion that the plan proposed by the Department for handling this battle cruiser raider situation is unsatisfactory in so far as it involves diverting convoys to other ports than their actual destination.
The danger against which this plan has been prepared resolves itself into two cases.
(1st) Advance knowledge of the escape of a raider. It is impossible to count upon obtaining such advance knowledge and very serious consequences will result if the shipping is suspended or seriously diverted upon a false rumour. Such a course would be playing into the enemy’s hands. It is highly undesirable to divert convoys to ports where there is no protected harbors and no supply or repair facilities. The problem of getting sufficient fuel to such p<o>rts would be a very serious one and would greatly add to the delays involved. It would in fact practically result in the equivalent of the loss of a large amount of tonnage.
(2nd) On the other hand if raiders should escape without knowledge, the first notice would be the attack upon a convoy, which would, in all probability, result in a disaster.
The Force Commander, therefore, submits that the only safe measure which can be taken against the possibility of a Battle Cruiser raid is the assignment of a sufficient force with each convoy to offset the danger from the enemy. It is understood from the Department’s cable No.724 that this will be done from the 9th September. . . .
There is the greatest urgency for completing the [North Sea mine] barrage before the end of September as the weather and visibility conditions are very unsatisfactory after that date.
The problem of finding the end of a completed section of the barrage in order to begin laying another section, is a very difficult one, in any but clear weather.
The procedure is to run a taut wire from one of the buoys, marking the limits of the declared area to the end of the section last laid. In order to manoeuvre the ten ships into position for laying, the end of the old section must be very closely located.
The Sixth Mining Operation was carried out on August 19 by 7 Mineplanters. The premature explosions including initial explosions plus countermining amounted to 8.7%, as against 18% on the 4th and 5th mining operations. This expedition completed the southern barrier entirely across area “A”. Admiral Strauss returned from Malta Conference and submitted the conclusions of the Conference. These were cabled to the Navy Department but his written report is held up pending remarks which he has been requested to make upon an alteration suggested by the Italian Government.
16. OPERATIONS – SUB CHASERS.
With the arrival of 30 sub-chasers at Queenstown August 21st, all on distant service were on stations allocated, as follows:-
Detachment One – 36 – Base 27 [Plymouth, England] Began operations July 1.
Detachment Two – 36 – Base 25 [Corfu, Greece] Began operations June 12th.
Detachment Three 30 – Base 6 [Queenstown, Ireland] Arrived August 21st.
Up to July 31st, sub-chasers had reported 18 sound <contacts> with supposed enemy submarines. In 7 cases the submarines were reported sighted. During same period 13 depth charge attacks were conducted. Hunt commanders claim four submarines destroyed; Admiralty decisions two “probably damaged”. In at least four cases there were evidences such as oil and bubbles of probable damage.
(b) DETACHMENT ONE
This has been an active week for the chasers of this detachment. Two to four units have been kept in hunting area in the vicinity of Scilly Islands with the PARKER as supporting ship and Commander Brown hunt commander. No contact with enemy submarines has been reported by this group.
In the vicinity of Eddystone three sound contacts, two sightings and two depth charge attacks are reported. In one depth charge attack 18 charges were dropped.
In two cases of sound contact the presence of the submarine was discovered by hearing under water signals. On some occasions the submarines use an oscillator (reported this week) of the submarine-bell type, but more often the signalling is carried on by tapping the underwater hull. Similar signals are reported by Detachment Two.
The attacks reported did not indicate damage to enemy submarine. Temporary cessation of signalling seems to have been all that we accomplished.
TRAINING LISTENERS: using the AL-3 [submarine] has continued, but after the coming week it is believed the listeners will have had sufficient training for the present and this will release the AL-3.
Lieutenant Raguet has spent the past week at Base 27 working on communication between chasers.
Eighteen chasers were docked at Devonport during past week. Chaser crews did all work on vessel, and were very favourably commented upon by Dockyard officials...
(c) DETACHMENT TWO
Cable information indicates five contacts with enemy submarines; for two of these no particulars other than “two interesting chases took place”.
The other three chases ended in attacks, 16, 15 and 3 depth charges respectively, being dropped. One attack thought successful because of bubbles, air and oil.
During the week gasoline tanker Masout was escorted to Augusta and return.
A station ship, other than the repair ship is needed at Base 25. The Detachment Commander needs a vessel available for him to visit the barrage and send on trips to Brindisi, Gallipoli and as necessary. The British have three such vessels and a fourth has been ordered from Bermuda.
Borrowed Italian submarine Nautilus has arrived at Gallipoli, Italy, and is being used for training our listeners. Training begins August 28th and will include conduct of attack and communications. Lieutenant V.Wood U.S.N., is in charge of this work.
Detachment Two has been directed to improve every opportunity for gunnery training, while instructing chaser crews.
(d) DETACHMENT THREE
Thirty chasers arrived at Queenstown August 31st. Following outline of operations for them to September 15th. Gunnery training, exercise with U.S.Submarines at Berehaven and cruising with primary object of learning coast. One Division (two units) now training Berehaven. . . .
(a) Base 25
1. Construction of pier. Work has commenced by the British who are in charge, they have employed 15 Maltese workmen for the work.
2. Personnel Ensign [James V.] Duffin, R.F. leaves London August 29th, for duty at the base. He is a civil engineer by profession.
3. Building Material has not yet arrived except a small quantity from Malta. Work is delayed due to non-arrival from United States.
4. Pipe line for fresh water system practically completed.
5. Y.M.C.A. Have taken quarters within two hundred yards of the base in an old house which ought to be of good use to them.
6. Subsidiary Gasoline depots. Details are practically complete for the one at Catrone, Italy. The delay here will probably be in getting the necessary piping.
(b) Base 27
Construction of Pier. Actual construction work not yet begun. Borings were made during the week, and it was found that in places they could not drive piling. This may mean an indefinite delay.
Chaser Dry Dock. Only some preliminary work has been done. Everything is at a standstill at present pending a decision of the Admiralty, in regard to the use of the property.
Y.M.C.A. Material for hut ordered, but work not begun. Tent is well patronized.
Portable houses have been ordered. Cable from U.S. states there are none in stock, four weeks required before will be ready to ship.
Experimental Section. Plans submitted have been approved, and orders have been issued for the section to be established. Some personnel from the United States for this section has been requested by cable.
Machine Shop. Not yet operating. Shafting is being installed and tools put in place.
Communications Officers. Three additional ones have been sent. This should be all that will be needed.
Marine Hotel. Is badly needed. We are now trying to get it back. The matter is in the hands of Admiralty authorities.
M.V. on WILKES. Preliminary tests using a chaser took place in Whitsun bay August 24th. No reports of results. During coming week exhaustive tests will be made.
O.S. Tube. Cable has been sent requesting O.S. tubes for Detachment Two. These should enable the chasers to conduct chases in rough weather when S.C. tubes are inoperative.
Double M.F. Have obtained from the Admiralty two of these tubes for trial on chasers. They are heavy and poorly made. Were designed by Lieutenant Houghton R.N., working with Professor Mason in the United States. A thorough try out on a chaser from Plymouth will be made.
Mark 1V.Search. Four sets have been promised by the Admiralty to be delivered at Plymouth, September 10th.
Drifting K-Tubes. We are supplying the Admiralty with 37 K-Tubes as requested.
Walser Device Installation of this device on the ISABEL at Brest should be completed shortly.
Listening Devices in Destroyers. We now have 32 destroyers in European Waters fitted with some sort of listening devices.
Aircraft Listening Devices. Three types of listening devices for aircraft have been received from the U.S. and sent to Queenstown for trial on our aircraft, under the supervision of our officers stationed there.
Instruction of British Forces in American Devices.
Mr Scott during the week has been in Penzance instructing officers and men of the Royal Navy in the use of American listening devices fitted to vessels operating from that Port. This was done at the request of the Admiralty. We still have two trained listeners regularly detailed to duty at the Hydrophone School in Portland. A recent letter from the Admiralty spoke very highly of the work being done by these men.
There are now approximately 1200 officers and men stationed at the Naval Aviation Base at Eastleigh (near Southampton) and an additional 400 men will be added to the station within the next few days.
Operations at Queenstown and Lough Foyle have commenced and it is expected that operations from the other Naval Aviation stations in Ireland will begin within the next fortnight.
The kite Balloon station at Berehaven has been placed on a stand by basis, in charge of a caretaker, until such time as it is required for active operations. A considerable amount of material at this station has been transferred to Brest and other localities where it can be put into immediate use.
To date the U.S. Naval Northern Bombing Group made only one raid on enemy bases, on August 15. These operations are being held up due to the large number of alterations necessary to make American-built-DH-4 Day Bombing Planes effective. A number of these have been received and are now en route to the U.S.Naval Repair Base, Eastleigh, England, where the necessary alterations will be made.
If the alterations required to make the American built DH-4 aeroplanes serviceable had been accomplished in the United States, it would greatly have facilitated our operations. As it is, we are now placed in an embarrassing position in our efforts to secure the necessary fittings to make the alterations prescribed by the Navy Department. We are attempting to procure these from the British, in which we will undoubtedly be successful, but this will entail a considerable delay.
Operations at the U.S.Naval Aviation Station, Killingholme, England, were first delayed by the receipt of defective propellers from the United States. We have overcome this difficulty and are now faced with the more serious one of defective radiators. It was impossible to ascertain that these radiators were defective until satisfactory propellers were available.
These radiators are American-built and should have been thoroughly tested in the United States before being shipped for foreign service. They begin leaking almost as soon as the engine is started and rarely last more than two or three hours. For this reason operations at Killingholme are limited to patrols up and down the coast whereas British flying boats are constantly making eight and nine hour patrols over the North Sea.
We are now negotiating with the British for some secondhand Rolls Royce radiators with which to operate our flying boats from Killingholme.
As regards Ireland, the situation is such that it is impossible to forecast the troubles which will be encountered as regards defective material, as it is impossible to ascertain what defects exist until the machines are flown in the air.
The majority of work at the U.S.Naval Aviation Stations in Ireland at the present time is centered in overhauling Liberty Motors and getting them ready for running in the air. This requires an average of 200 man hours per motor.
There are a few HS-1 seaplanes in France ready to operate as soon as bomb gears and starters are received. It is understood that this material has recently arrived in the SS RAPPAHANOCK, but inasmuch as the contents of this vessel are not known at the moment, it is not possible to state whether or not this material so essential to our welfare has been received. . . .
21. PLANNING SECTION
During the week the Planning Section held a conference with the British Plans Division together with the head of the Mercantile Marine Division of the Admiralty on the subject of the joint proposal in carrying out the Navy Department’s plan of operations in the event of a battle cruiser raid.
The Planning Section has also been working in conjunction with the Admiralty Plans Division upon the following problems:-
(a) Enemy Battle Cruiser raid.
(b) Possibility of peace with either Bulgaria or Turkey.
Captain Schofield has departed for France to take part in a Conference with the French concerning the Naval Air situation. . . .
24. MEDICAL DEPARTMENT
The hospital at Plymouth is being arranged to accommodate about thirty patients and when portable houses arrive from the United States, the capacity will be increased to seventy five.
Steps are being taken by the Naval Attache, Rome, to take over a small Red Cross hospital at Genoa for Navy uses. It will have about fifty beds.
A Red Cross hospital in the vicinity of Paulliac is being taken over by the Navy and the construction of a small dispensary on the dock at Bordeaux where Navy transports land, has been authorized by the Force Commander.
Base hospital No 3 has been placed in commission and is ready to receive patients. British patients are being handled there as long as our own demands permit.
25. DISTINGUISHED VISITORS.
During the past week Mr. Gompers and party arrived in England. They were met by a Naval Officer at Liverpool, who facilitated their landing and escorted them to London where another officer with motor cars met them at the station and took them to their hotel. The Force Commander had a long interview with Mr. Gompers and his principal assistants, and informed them that we were prepared at any time to arrange for his inspection of any U.S.Naval activities desired.
Also during the week Prince Axel of Denmark arrived. An officer of this staff has been in attendance on him constantly and he has been entertained by the Force Commander. Arrangements are being made to send him home on the next trip of the LEVIATHAN in company with the Assistant Secretary of the Navy.
Two Senators, Messers Lewis and Thompson, have called upon the Force Commander during the week and have been given all information requested. A trip for Mr Thompson to the Grand Fleet was arranged and carried out.