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Site Last Updated October 2016

Ships of the United States Navy in Cork Ireland during World War One
(For fleet list click here)

USS BALCH DD50
(Aylwin  Class, 1914)


Wartime photo of USS Balch.
Source: Naval History and Heritage Command

USS Balch arrived in Queenstown (now Cobh) in the south of Ireland, on the 17th of December , 1917.  Queenstown  was the centre for anti-submarine forces, on the Western Approaches, under the command of Admiral Lewis Bayley, Commander in Chief , Coast of Ireland. The Balch commenced operations on 24th  of November , 1917.

Initially there was uncertainty as to the most effective use of  destroyers. At first they were given patrol areas which they would scout, singly or in pairs. Any stray incoming merchantmen seen, were to be escorted to near their destinations. This was a most ineffective use of the force, as the chances of coming across, and destroying a lone submarine in the vastness of the Western Approaches was virtually nil.

By Summer 1917, under the urging of commanders such as Admiral Sims, Commander of US Naval Forces in Europe, the convoy system was initiated. Groups of merchantmen were escorted through the war zone by flanking destroyer screens. This had the dual effect of reducing the amount of targets for German u-boats, and allowing destroyers and sloops to attack the harassing submarines.  The priorities of the destroyers were to:

Destroy Submarines.

Protect and escort Merchantmen.

Save the crews and passengers of torpedoed ships.

Anti-submarine patrols did continue also for the duration of the war, especially in the Irish Sea and close to the coast of France, where u-boats would try to sink merchantmen as the convoys dispersed.  In 1918, any destroyer in the Irish Sea, which was not actively convoying, came under the orders of The Irish Sea Hunting Flotilla, under the command of Captain Gordon Campbell VC based in Holyhead, Wales.  US destroyers  were also used to patrol the west coast of Ireland to hunt suspected gun-running ships, for Irish Republicans.

The destroyers , initially, were ill-equipped to fight submerged submarines. When they arrived in Europe they were armed with guns and torpedoes. The only undersea weapons supplied were single hand-launched 50lb depth charges which were particularly ineffective. It was the later fitting of dual depth charge racks on the sterns of the ships, Thornycroft depth charge throwers, and Y shaped charge throwers that turned them into a dangerous force. These were capable of dropping and firing a continuous patterned barrage  of 200lb, charges around a submarine's suspected position. Most of the retro-fitting of these armaments was done at Cammel Laird in Birkenhead, England. Later arrivals such as Balch, had these already fitted, before leaving the USA.

In December, 1917, USS Balch was escort flagship to troop convoy No 13, to Brest and St Nazaire. The ships were caught out in winds of storm force 10 to 11, with 50 foot seas. USS Trippe lost one man overboard, and USS Jarvis had to be sent for Queenstown, due to fuel shortages. The convoy, however made to France, and Admiral Bayley, commended the crews.

On the 6th of January, 1918, in pos, 51.36N, 07.26W, torpedo was fired at Balch which missed, crossing her bow.  

On the 17th of January, 1918, Balch escorted oiler Vitol from Queenstown to Liverpool

On the 29th of January,1918, in pos 53.28N, 4.57W, Balch sighted submarine on surface. Dropped 3 depth charges. No result was seen   

In the week of  31st  Jan, 1918. 22nd Jan, USS Balch, Davis,Wadsworth, O'Brien, and Parker, escorted USS Bushnell, USS Genesee, and 6 submarines from 50.00N, 15.00W, to Queenstown.

On the 21st of April 1918, in pos 59 miles, 205 deg from the Smalls, USS Balch dropped depth charges on oil wake. Oil continued to rise to the surface.  

On the 7th of June 1918, in pos 52.45N, 05.35W, USS Balch dropped depth charges on moving wake. No result seen.  

On the 16th of July 1918, USS Duncan and Balch escorted USS Bushnell from Berehaven to Queenstown.  

On the 25th of July 1918, USS Stockton, Balch, Duncan, Trippe, Sampson, escorted HMS Aquitania from Liverpool to 8.00W (owing to bad weather).  

On the 4th of AUgust, 1918, in pos 13 1/2 miles, 140deg T from Kinsale, USS Balch, HMT Sarba, HMT Warrior observed well defined oil patch. Dropped barrage of depth charges, but no visible result.  

On the 10th August 1918, USS Stevens, Cassin, Sampson, Balch, Beale, escorted HMS Aquitania from 15.00W to Liverpool.  

On Aug 27th 1918, USS Balch, and Sampson escorted SS F.H.Buck from Berehaven to 15.00W  
 
On the 29th of August 1918, in pos 51.00N, 15.00W, USS Balch sighted enemy submarine on the surface.  

On the 10th ofSeptember 1918, USS Balch and HMS Flying Fox escorted oiler Thermidor, in convoy HH67, from relief rendezvous to Queenstown.  

On the 20th of September, 1918, in pos 51.00N, 15.00W, USS Balch sighted submarine on the surface  

On the 7thof October 1918. USS Balch and HMS Bluebell escorted SS British Duke from Queenstown to Dublin.  

On the 19th of October, 1918 - HMS Snowdrop and USS Balch escorted oiler Clam fromQueenstown to 14.00W.  

On the 20th of  October 1918, USS Paulding (Destroyer No. 22) collided with Balch during convoy escort operations. The collision knocked Balch's port hydrostatic depth charge overboard, but luckily with safety fork in place and it did not explode. Balch did suffer steering gear damage which required two weeks of repair at Queenstown. Then, on 5 November 1918, while escorting a convoy in the English Channel, the destroyer helped Sterett (Destroyer No. 27) rescue 29 survivors of the foundering merchant ship Dipton.

After returning to Queenstown with survivors, Balch received orders to sail for home and she departed Ireland on the  16th of November. She arrived at Norfolk via Ponta Delgada, Azores, on th 1st of  January 1919


Notes:

Commanding Officer,Commander W.S.Miller , 1917 to 1918,

Commanding Officer, W.F.Ameden, 1918,

Commanding Officer, L.P.Johnson, 1918,





The US Naval History and Heritage Website has a comprehensive history of this ship, which can be found

HERE

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