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 Rear Admiral Albert P. Niblack, Commander, Patrol Squadron Based on Gibraltar

September 22nd.1918.

My dear Nibs,

          Yours of September 10th. just received.1 I can quite imagine how welcome the BUFFALO is not to mention Tozer.2 I hope she is as well equipped with the necessary tools as the old DIXIE and MELVILLE. These vessels do quite 75% of the repairs of our destroyers. We now have a good part of the crew installed in barracks on shore so that the machine shops can be used during the twentyfour hours when necessary and it is necessary nearly all the time.

          Do not despise the Y.M.C.A. efforts at “uplift”. While I do not take so very much stock of the moral uplift part of it still the amusements that are afforded by the Y.M.C.A. are of great value. The clubs we have gotten up at Queenstown and elsewhere I believe to be absolutely indispensable. The Queenstown Club is run entirely by the men, the installation having been installed by the aid of money subscribed by London business men. I have just gotten hold of £2000 <6000> to establish a Club for the two or three hundred junior officers at Queenstown, both British and American.

          Your surmise that the arrival of Admiral Mayo,3 Wilson’s4 promotion to Vice Admiral and three battleships being on this side indicate a shake up, is doubtless wide of the point. Admiral Mayo is, theoretically in command of all the forces on this side though they are to all intents and purposes a separate force. There have been differences of opinion in the Navy Department as to the advisability of his visit over here, but it was finally decided in favor of it.

          The battleships were sent over here for a specific purpose. There seems to be some apprehension that a desperate move may be made on the part of the German battle cruisers. They have therefore decided to send a battleship with all of the troop convoys, and have some battleships on each side stationed by to reinforce these in case there is any trouble of the nature indicated. I do not think personally that there will be any such trouble.

          The Commander-in-Chief will visit Gibraltar after he finishes his visits to the stations in France. Thence he will return to France and probably go to Rome. I do not know just how soon you may expect him down there, but you will definitely be informed in plenty of time.

          We have no idea who Wilson’s relief will be. That sort of thing is determined at the Navy Department. We are not even sure that he will be sent home to the Fleet. We have seen it in the papers but have no official news on this subject.

          The Department has decided to send Rear Admiral Bullard5 to Malta as a liaison officer with the Commander in-Chief.6 Each one of the Allies has a Rear Admiral in this position, and he would be useful from time to time when questions come up for discussion which have heretofore necessitated our sending a Rear Admiral or a Captain from up here. There will of course not be much doing in the billet, but we feel that we ought to have a representative there.

          I am sorry to say that I can’t agree with your idea that it would be proper for you to be away from your station long enough to make a visit to England. Of course I understand that you have your organization in such shape that the work could go on successfully while you are absent, but I am afraid the effect would not be good of having the officer in chief command away so long. I would like very much to be able to run down to Gibraltar myself, but for similar reasons I think it would not be good business to be away so long. The great American public imagines that the officers in principal command over here are on the bridge of a ship with the wind blowing through their whiskers, assuring the safe arrival of our troop and supply transports!

Very sincerely yours,

Source Note: LT, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 76. Following the close, the letter is addressed, “Rear Admiral A.P.Niblack. U.S.Navy./ Gibraltar.”

Footnote 2: Capt. Charles Maxson Tozer, Commander, BUFFALO. BUFFALO served as the main tender and repair ship for the vessels based at Gibraltar.

Footnote 3: Henry T. Mayo, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet. For additional detail on this visit, see: Mayo to William S. Benson, 18 September 1918. Mayo remained in Europe through the duration of the war, and was in Italy on 11 November when Germany and its allies surrendered. Although he had planned to visit Gibraltar, as Sims notes below, Mayo never made it to this base of operations.

Footnote 4: ;Henry B. Wilson, Commander, United States Naval Forces Based in France. Wilson retained his position as head of the naval forces in France through the remainder of the war.

Footnote 5: William H. G. Bullard, Commander, Arkansas.

 

Footnote 6: VAdm. Sir Somerset A. Gough-Calthorpe, Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet.

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