Chapter II: New London
At New London the State pier was the base for these little motor boats. As soon as they had been equipped, the training of the men began. Each week day morning the officers and crews were assembled in a large room on the "second deck" of the pier, as it was nautically termed, and submarine exercises were gone through. Along one side of the room were placed three miniature wooden masts with yards and signal halyards, representing chasers, and a pelorus for taking bearings was sometimes used; at other times the bearing of a wooden submarine out on the deck was reported in points relative to the imaginary ship. At the center station representing the flagship were placed the plotting devices. These consisted of movable dials with three movable arms. Reports of the submarine bearing came from each of the three ships to the officer who was handling the plotting instrument. He adjusted the arms in accordance with the reports, and knowing the distance between ships he got what is called a "fix" of the submarine where the arms met. These movable arms were proportioned relative to the distance between ships, and he could read the distance and bearing of the submarine on the instrument. At the same time, another officer on the flagship plotted the bearings and got his "fix" on squared paper. Two successive "fixes," and the time between, determined the submarine's course and speed.
At each station representing a chaser was a lookout who gave the bearing to the captain who under actual conditions would transmit it by telephone or arrow, also there was a signalman who hoisted various shapes on the miniature halyards designating the compass bearing on which the line of advance was to be.
There was also much drill at arrow reading. The arrow is a large colored representation of the Redman's missile, mounted so that it can be pointed for 360 degrees in both the vertical and horizontal planes. Should there be no other way of sending bearings, courses, etc., to the other ships of the unit, the arrow was to be used. Drill at reading the instrument was carried on daily, and practically all became able to read within five to ten degrees. There was much signal practice, and the good old navy Swedish exercises were seldom forgotten. In this way on the State pier the wooden submarine was chased and its actions plotted for hours.
In the afternoon, units practiced just outside the harbor by chasing one of our own submarines, both on the surface and submerged. If a submarine was not available another chaser answered the purpose as a noise maker to give the listeners practice. When finally a number of boats and crews were thought to be sufficiently equipped and trained they were sent down to Bermuda under convoy of ocean-going tugs or battleships. The first detachment left about March 20th and the second at the end of the month. [See Note 1]
In this second detachment was a division of six chasers all built at the Norfolk Navy Yard, numbered 124 to 129 inclusive. The 124 was commanded by Mr. Kelly (" Red"), Lieutenant (J. G.), who was the only regular naval officer in the division. All the other officers were Reserves, and their only experience of this character was the trip from Norfolk, Va., to New London, Conn., and since that trip they had become firmly in sympathy with the expression of a certain four striper (naval captain) on board one of our battleships, who, when told the Reserves admitted their experience, or rather lack of it, said, "Well, may God help them."
As the time for the departure of the chasers drew near, an undercurrent of excitement could be felt by everyone. Last messages couched in the most ambiguous and mysterious terms puzzled the idle telephone and telegraph operators. Packages of tooth powder, chewing gum, cigarettes, and what not were hurriedly procured and carried under the eyes of the deck guards. The navy supply department was made to do double time to meet the absolutely necessary requisitions. The storekeepers had to sleep with one eye open on their supplies lest some mysteriously disappear. The officers of the personnel department had to hurry from luxurious repasts at the Mohican Hotel to attend to the transfer of men to complete complements. It was indeed a rush!
On the day before sailing all commanding officers were summoned on board the U. S. S. Salem, which was the senior ship, for instructions. Printed orders were issued to each boat and the details of the trip gone over.
__________Subchaser.org Editor's Notes:__________
Note 1: In fact the first convoy of chasers reached Bermuda on 1 March 1918, as evidenced by primary source documents including letters and official orders in the G.S. Dole collection. According to Lewis P. Clephane’s History of the Submarine Chasers in the World War, that group consisted of SC 92, 93, 143, 148, 177, 225, 244, 255, 256, 327 and 349, accompanied by USS Wadena; SC 90 arrived on March 23, accompanied by USS Leonidas (mother ship at the Otranto barrage); and the second convoy of chasers arrived on March 29, that group consisting of SC 94, 95, 147, 151, 179, 215, 224, 226, 227, 324, 337, 338, 351. The ships Chambers mentions – SC 124 to 129 – were in the third convoy, which reached Bermuda on April 5.