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flag in command of the British and United States naval forces. The
relations between the officers and men of the two navies in this Command
were of the happiest possible nature, and form one of the pleasantest
episodes of the co-operation between the two nations. The United States
officers and men very quickly realized the strong personality of the
Commander-in-Chief at Queenstown, and became imbued with the same
feelings of great respect and admiration for him as were held by British
officers and men. Also he made the officers feel that Admiralty House,
Queenstown, was their home when in port, and saw that everything
possible was done for the comfort of the men. The very high standard of
duty set by Sir Lewis, and very fully sustained by him, was cheerfully
and willingly followed by the United States force, the personnel of
which earned his warmest admiration. I think it will be agreed in years
to come that the comradeship between the two navies, first initiated in
the Queenstown Command, went very far towards cementing the bonds of
union between the two great English-speaking nations.

This was the first step in co-operation. The next was taken when the
United States Navy Department, as the result of a request made by us to
Admiral Sims, sent to Gibraltar a detachment of three light cruisers and
a number of revenue cutters as patrol and escort vessels, placing the
whole force under the British senior naval officer at Gibraltar,
Rear-Admiral Heathcote Grant. Here again the relations between the two
navies were of the happiest nature. Finally, later in the year, I
discussed with Admiral Sims the desirability of a small force of United
States battleships being sent to reinforce the Grand Fleet.

When the project was first mentioned my object in asking for the ships
was that they might relieve some of our earlier "Dreadnoughts," which at
that time it was desired to use for another purpose. I discussed the
matter also with Admiral Mayo, the Commander-in-Chief of the United
States Atlantic Fleet, during his visit to this country in August, 1917,
and with Admiral Benson, the Chief of Operations in the United States
Navy Department, when he came over later in the year. Admiral Benson
gave directions that four coal-burning battleships should be sent over.
We were obliged to ask for coal-burning battleships instead of the more
modern vessels with oil-fired boilers owing to the great shortage of oil
fuel in this country and the danger of our reserves being still further
depleted. These vessels, under Rear-Admiral Hugh Rodman, arrived in
British waters early in December, 1917, and formed a division of the
Grand Fleet. The co-operation afloat was now complete, and all that was
needed was further co-operation between the British Admiralty and the
United States Navy Department.

This had already formed the subject of discussions, first between
Admiral Sims and myself, and later with Admirals Mayo and Benson.

During the summer of 1917 Admiral Sims had been invited to attend the
daily meetings of the naval members of the operations side of the Board,
an invitation which he accepted, and his co-operation was of great
value; but we both felt it desirable to go a step farther, and I had
suggested the extreme desirability of the United States Navy Department
sending officers of experience of different ranks to work in the
Admiralty, both on the operations and material side, officers upon whom
the Navy Department could rely to place before us the views of the
Department and to transmit their view of the situation as the result of
their work and experience at the Admiralty. We had pressed strongly for
the adoption of this course. Admiral Benson, after discussions, assented
to it, and the officers on the material side commenced work in the
Admiralty towards the end of 1917, whilst those on the operations side
joined the War Staff early in 1918.

It was felt that this course would complete the co-operation between the
navies of the two countries and, further, that the United States Navy
Department would be kept in the closest possible touch with the British
Admiralty in all respects.

It is particularly to be remembered that even before we had established
this close liaison the whole of the United States naval forces in
British waters had been placed under the command of British naval
officers. This step, so conducive to good results owing to the unity of
command which was thus obtained, won our highest admiration, showing as
it did a fine spirit of self-effacement on the part of the senior
American naval officers.

The visits of Admirals Mayo and Benson to this country were productive
of very good results. The exchange of information which took place was
most beneficial, as was the experience which the admirals gained of
modern naval warfare. Moreover, the utterly baseless suggestion which
had, unfortunately, found expression in some organs of the Press of the
United States that we were not giving the fullest information to the
Navy Department was completely disproved.

When Admiral Mayo arrived in England he informed me that the main
objects of his visit as Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet were:

(1) To ascertain our present policy and plans.

(2) To inquire as to the changes, if any, that were contemplated in the
immediate or more distant future.

(3) To ascertain what further assistance it was desired that the United
States should provide from resources then available or likely to be soon
available, and the measures that the United States should take to
provide future forces and material.

Papers were prepared under my direction for Admiral Mayo giving full
information of our immediate needs, of past procedure and of future
plans. As to our needs, the main requests were:

(1) An increase in the number of destroyers, in order to enlarge the
convoy system and to provide better protection for each convoy. An
additional 55 destroyers were stated to be required for this service.

(2) An increase in the number of convoy cruisers for the same reason.
The total addition of cruisers or old battleships was given as 41.

(3) An increase in the number of patrol craft, tugs, etc., for
anti-submarine work.

(4) The rapid building of merchant ships.

(5) The supply of a large number of mines for the proposed barrage in
the North Sea, and assistance towards laying them by the provision of
United States minelaying vessels.

(6) Aircraft assistance in the shape of three large seaplane stations on
the coast of Ireland, with some 36 machines at each station.

(7) The provision of four coal-burning battleships of the "Dreadnought"
type to replace Grand Fleet "Dreadnought" battleships which it was
desired to use for other purposes.

Admiral Mayo was informed that some 100,000 mines would be required from
the Americans for forming and maintaining that portion of the North Sea
Barrage which it was suggested should be laid by them, in addition to
the large number that it was proposed that we ourselves should lay in
the barrage, and that as the barrage would need patrolling by a large
number of small craft, great help would be afforded if the United States
could provide some of these vessels. It was estimated at that time that
the barrage would absorb the services of some 250 small vessels in order
that a sufficient number might be kept constantly on patrol.

It may be of interest to give the history of the North Sea Barrage so
far as I can recollect it. Our views on such a scheme were sought by the
United States Navy Department in the spring of 1917. Owing to various
military circumstances, even at that time we had no prospect of
obtaining mines in adequate numbers for such work for at least nine to
twelve months, nor could we provide the necessary craft to patrol the
barrage. Our view was that such mines as became available during the
last months of 1917 would be more effective if laid nearer to the German
North Sea naval bases, and in the Straits of Dover, than at such a
distance from these bases as the suggestion involved. Apart from our
desire to stop the submarines near their bases, the pros and cons of the
scheme were as follows:

The advantages were:

(1) That, except for the difficulty of preventing the submarines from
using Norwegian territorial waters for egress, a North Sea Barrage would
be a menace to submarines using the Kattegat exit as well as those
coming from North Sea bases.

(2) That the enemy would be unable to sweep up the minefield, owing to
its distance (over 200 miles) from his bases.

The disadvantages were:

(1) The immense number of mines required - some 120,000, excluding
reserves - and the improbability of producing them in Great Britain.

(2) The great depth of water in which many of them were to be moored, a
depth in which no mines had ever been successfully laid before; time
would be required to devise arrangements that would enable the mines to
be laid at such depths.

(3) The very large number of patrol craft that would be needed to force
submarines to dive into that portion of the minefield which was safe for
surface vessels and the difficulty of maintaining them at sea in bad
North Sea weather.

(4) The difficulty of preventing egress by the submarines in Norwegian
territorial waters, in which, even if mines were laid, they would have
to be moored at such a depth as not to constitute a danger to vessels on
the surface.

Shortly after the subject was broached to us we learned that the United
States Navy had devised a mine that it was expected would be
satisfactory for the purpose of the barrage. An experienced mining
officer was at once sent over by us to inspect the mine and to give to
the United States officers such assistance as was possible due to his
great knowledge of mining under war conditions.

When he arrived in the United States the mine was still in the
experimental stage, but later he reported that it promised to be
successful, and in view of the great manufacturing resources in America,
it appeared that a considerable proportion of the mines for the barrage
could be provided by the United States Navy. Our own efforts to produce
a mine suitable for very great depths were also proving successful and
anticipations as to manufacture were optimistic. Accordingly plans were
prepared for a barrage across the North Sea, which were given to Admiral
Mayo before he left England on his return to the United States. Without
seriously relaxing our mining operations in the Heligoland Bight, and
without interfering with our mine barrage on the Folkestone-Grisnez
line, we anticipated at this time that we could provide mines for our
portion of the North Sea Barrage by the time that the United States
supply of mines was in readiness to be laid.

Admiral Mayo was also furnished with papers dealing at length with our
naval policy at the time and the intended future policy, both in home
waters and abroad. Papers were given him relating to our air policy, to
the attitude of neutral countries, to the Belgian coast problem, to the
blockade, to the defence of trade (including one on the convoy system),
to such subjects as the defensive armament of merchant ships with guns,
smoke apparatus and mine defence gear, the instruction of the personnel
in their use, and the system of issuing route instruction to merchant
ships. An important statement was also supplied giving a detailed
account of our anti-submarine policy, both at the time and in the

These papers gave the fullest information on the naval problem, and were
intended to put the United States Naval Department in a position to
appreciate the whole position and its many embarrassments, though we
realized that these could be appreciated only by those who, like Admiral
Sims, were in daily contact with the problems. It will possibly be of
further interest if mention is made of some of the points to which
attention was drawn.

Admiral Mayo, for instance, was informed that British naval policy was
being directed in 1917, as during the remainder of the war, to exerting
constant economic pressure upon the enemy with a view to forcing him to
come to terms. We also endeavoured to prevent the enemy from interfering
with the conduct of the war by ourselves and our Allies. In the
effective pursuit of that policy the duty of the Navy involved:

(1) The protection of the sea communications of the Allied armies and
the protection of British and Allied trade.

(2) The prevention of enemy trade in order to interfere with his
military operations and to exert economic pressure.

(3) Resistance to invasion and raids.

It was pointed out that the question at issue in each case was the
control of sea communications, and in order to attain that control
permanently and completely the enemy's naval forces both above and below
water had to be destroyed or effectually masked. As the weaker German
Fleet not unnaturally refused decisive action and as its _destruction_
had hitherto not been achieved, we had adopted a policy of guarding an
area between our vital communications and the enemy's ports, and of
guarding the areas through which the trade and transports passed; these
were the only methods of frustrating attacks made either by surface
vessels or by submarines which succeeded in reaching open waters. It was
pointed out that a combination of these two methods had been in force
during the wars of the eighteenth century, blockades being combined with
the convoy system and the patrol of local areas by frigates, etc.
History, in fact, was repeating itself.

We mentioned that a close blockade of the German North Sea and Baltic
ports presented insuperable difficulties under the conditions of modern
warfare, and the alternative of controlling the Dover and
Norway-Scotland exits to the North Sea had been adopted. The former
protected the communications of the armies in France, whilst the two
combined covered the maritime communications of the world outside the
North Sea and Baltic, and if they could be effectively guarded our first
two objects would be attained.

So far as the Dover exit was concerned we stated that the narrowness of
the waters, with the consequent risk to the enemy from our mines and
torpedoes, had so far acted as a deterrent to his capital ships; we had
to depend on the light forces at Harwich and Dover to deal with any
enemy surface craft attacking the southern area from German ports.

We pointed out that the control of the Norway-Scotland exit depended
upon the presence of the Grand Fleet at Rosyth or at Scapa. This fleet
ensured the safety of all the vessels engaged in protecting trade and in
hunting submarines outside the North Sea.

Mention was made of the fact that the enemy could not open the sea
routes for his own war ships without risking a serious action, and that
so far he had shown no inclination to run that risk. The Battle of
Jutland having been fought in the previous year, any future movement of
the High Sea Fleet into the North Sea would probably be merely with the
object of drawing our capital ships into prepared areas so as to bring
about a process of attrition by mines and torpedoes. Such a movement had
been carried out on August 19, 1916. The reasons which had led to the
adoption of the Orkney-Faroe-Iceland blockade line were also explained.

It was pointed out that in the early stages of the war, the foregoing
general dispositions had sufficed to protect the Allies' communications
and to throttle those of the enemy outside the Baltic. Although enemy
cruisers in foreign waters and a few raiding vessels which had evaded
the blockade had inflicted losses on trade, losses from such causes
could not reach really serious proportions so long as the enemy trusted
to evasion and refused to face the Grand Fleet. The danger of serious
loss from attack by raiding surface craft had also been greatly
minimized by the adoption of the convoy system. But as the enemy's
submarines increased in size, efficiency and numbers, the situation had
been modified, for evasion by submarines of the command exercised by the
Grand Fleet was easy, and our vital sea communications could be attacked
by them without the risk of a fleet action.

So far as the protection of trade was concerned, the effect therefore of
the submarine campaign had been to remove the barrier established by the
Grand Fleet and to transfer operations to the focal areas and approach

As the situation developed, a policy of dealing with the submarines by
armed patrol craft and decoy ships in these areas had therefore been put
into force. Merchant ships had been armed as rapidly as possible, and in
addition efforts had been made to intercept the submarines _en route_ to
these areas both in the vicinity of German waters and farther afield.

The great area covered by the approach routes and the increasing radius
of submarine operations had made the provision of a sufficient number of
patrol vessels a practical impossibility and had led to a general
adoption of the convoy system as rapidly as the supply of fast small
craft made this possible.

The methods of attacking German submarines before they could reach open
waters, by extensive mining in the Heligoland Bight, with the exception
of Dutch and Danish territorial waters, were also mentioned.

As regards _future_ naval policy it was pointed out that the enemy
submarine campaign was the dominating factor to such an extent that any
sustained increase in the then rate of sinking merchant ships might
eventually prove disastrous.

Mention was made of the fact that the enemy was still producing
submarines faster than the Allies were destroying them; the policy of
coping with submarines after they reached the open sea had not as yet
been sufficiently effective to balance construction against losses, even
in combination with the extensive minefields laid in the Heligoland

The future policy was therefore being directed towards an attempt at a
still more concentrated and effective control in the areas between the
enemy's ports and our trade routes, and it was proposed to form some
description of block or barrage through which the enemy submarines would
not be able to pass without considerable risk. Four forms had been

(1) A method of blocking either mechanically or by mines all the exits
of the submarines from their North Sea or Baltic bases.

(2) A barrage of mines at different depths, from near the surface of the
sea to near the bottom.

(3) A combination of deep mines with a patrolling force of surface craft
and aircraft whose object would be to force the submarines under the
surface into the minefield.

(4) A force of surface craft and aircraft patrolling an area of
sufficient extent to prevent submarines coming to the surface to
recharge their batteries during the hours of darkness.

Admiral Mayo was informed that in our opinion the first scheme as given
above, viz. _that of absolutely sealing the exits, was the only radical
cure for the evil_, but that there were very great difficulties to be
overcome before such an operation could be successfully carried out. He
was shown the plan that had been prepared for a mechanical block of all
the enemy North Sea bases, and he entirely concurred in the
impracticability of carrying it out. Such a plan had been advocated by
some officers and by other people; it was, of course, most attractive in
theory and appealed strongly to those who looked at the question
superficially. When, however, a definite operation came to be worked out
in detail the difficulties became very apparent, and even enthusiastic
supporters of the _idea_ were forced to change their views. It was not a
matter for surprise to me that the idea of sealing the exits from
submarine bases was urged by so many people on both sides of the
Atlantic. It was, of course, the obvious counter to the submarine
campaign, and it appealed with force to that considerable section which
feels vaguely, and rightly, that _offensive_ action is needed, without
being quite so clear as to the means by which it is to be carried out.

In this particular case I informed the clever and able officers to whom
the planning of the operation was entrusted that they were to proceed on
the assumption that we intended to seal the enemy's ports somehow, and
that they were to devise the best possible scheme, drawing up all the
necessary orders for the operations. This was done in the most complete
detail and with great care and ingenuity, but at the end there was no
difference of opinion whatever as to the inadvisability of proceeding
with the operations.

It is to be observed in connexion with this question that sealing the
North Sea bases would not have been a complete cure, since submarines
could still make their exit via the Kattegat, where we could not block
channels without violating the neutrality of other nations.

The final conclusion arrived at _was to use a combination of the last
three alternatives_ provided that _a satisfactory type of mine_ could be
produced in sufficient numbers and a sufficient supply of small craft
provided by ourselves and the United States.

Full details were given to Admiral Mayo of the proposed North Sea
Barrage on a line totalling 230 miles in length, which was divided into
three parts, Areas A, B and C, of which Area A only would be dangerous
to surface vessels.

It was estimated that Area A would require 36,300 mines, and it was
proposed that this area should be mined by the United States forces with
United States mines.

It was proposed that the British should mine Area B, the requirements
being 67,500 mines, and that the United States should mine Area C, for
which 18,000 United States mines would be required.

The reasons governing the selection of the mine barrage area were fully
given, and the advantages arising from the use of the United States
pattern of mine instead of the British mine for Areas A and C were

Admiral Mayo was also informed of our intention to establish a mine
barrage in the Channel, on the Folkestone-Grisnez line, as soon as mines
were available, with a strong force of patrol vessels stationed there,
whose duty it would be to compel enemy submarines to dive into the
minefield. He was further made acquainted with our intended policy of
still closer minelaying in the Heligoland Bight.

Although Admiral Mayo was not actually informed of the details of the
future policy which it was hoped to adopt in the Adriatic for the
improvement of the Otranto Barrage, various schemes were at the time
being worked out between the British, French and Italian Admiralties,
having as their object the prevention or obstruction of the exit of
enemy submarines from the Adriatic, in the same way as it was hoped to
obstruct German submarines from making their exit from the North Sea
without incurring heavy losses. The great depth of water in the southern
part of the Adriatic constituted the main difficulty facing us in the
solution of this problem. In August, 1917, it was, however, definitely
decided to establish a barrage of nets and mines across the Straits of
Otranto, and the work was put in hand. This became effective during

The paper on Naval Air Policy showed the aim of the Admiralty to be:

To provide in sufficient numbers a type of airship which would be able
to scout with the Grand Fleet, and, in this respect, to perform the duty
of light cruisers. Airship stations had been established on the East
Coast for this purpose.

To provide also a type of airship for coastal patrol work and for the
escort of merchant ships in convoy. For these airships stations had been
established on the East, South and West Coasts and at Scapa.

To provide a sufficient supply of kite balloons for the work of the
Grand Fleet. Fleet kite balloon stations had already been established at
Rosyth and Scapa, and the resources of the latter station were
supplemented by a kite balloon ship. It was intended also to provide
kite balloons for flotillas or single vessels engaged in submarine
hunting or in convoy work. A large number of kite balloon stations for
anti-submarine work had been or were being established round the coast
for this work.

As to the future programme of rigid airships, Admiral Mayo was told that
it was under consideration to construct three new rigid stations, also
that three new stations for the use of non-rigids for anti-submarine
work were to be established, while it was also proposed to provide
sufficient resources to allow of a number of kite balloons being worked
in vessels between the North of Scotland and Norway and to the eastward

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Online LibraryJohn Rushworth JellicoeThe Crisis of the Naval War → online text (page 13 of 20)