Fleet at Gibraltar
Great White Fleet at Gibraltar

Plans of the Atlantic Fleet
From a long report that has reached the Navy Department from Rear Adm. Sperry of the Atlantic battleship fleet, the vessels will need less in the way of repairs after the remarkable voyage around the world than had been expected. It had been supposed that their long absence from the Navy yards and the extensive service they have seen would make necessary extensive repairs at the end of the voyage. The plans for the distribution of the ships among the Navy yards to be repaired have been completed, and they will proceed to the yards designated to them shortly after they have been reviewed by the President in Hampton Roads Februrary 22. It is expected that all the necessary repairs will have been completed on May 17, and the entire fleet will again reassemble for the summer maneuvers along the Atlantic coast. They will take up the record target practice in Cape Cod bay, Mass., late in the summer, probably by the latter part of August. Upon completion of the firing practice it is likely that the fleet will go to the Caribbean.

Coal for the Big Fleet
Arrangements have been made at the Navy Department for the last shipment of coal for the battleship fleet on its globe-girdling cruise of 42,227 miles to end at Hampton roads February 22. Some 18,000 tons are to be shipped on chartered colliers, which leave Lamberts Point, Norfolk, Jan. 8, for Negro Bay, Morocco, while 3,000 tons will go on the collier Abarenda. These vessels are due at their destination about Jan. 28. Including all the coal shipped to the fleet, together with all purchases made, 365,000 tons will have been consumed on the cruise, and the total cost to the Navy Department will have been $2,543,839. This makes the average price paid about $7 a ton, including the last shipments.

Cannons Boom at Gibraltar
GIBRALTAR, Februrary 1- For one hour this morning the port of Gibraltar seemed to be the scene of a naval engagement at close range. The American battleships that arrived yesterday were exchanging salutes with shore and the foreign warships in the harbor that were omitted because of Sunday. The Connecticut saluted the port and the flag of Vice Adm. Sir James Goodrich, the commander of all the naval establishments at Gibraltar, with 21 guns, and when these had been returned, gun for gun, from a shore battery and the British battleship Albemarle, other salutes were fired to and answered by the Russian, French, and Dutch warships in port. The reverberations were incessant for an hour, and clouds of gray smoke blew over the waters. The colliers promptly took up their positions alongside the Minnesota, Vermont and Kansas, and before the sound of the saluting guns had died away the bands on board these ships were playing “ragtime” to liven up the dirty and arduous work of coaling. Each ship requires from 1,200 to 1,600 tons to fill her bankers for the homeward voyage. The Rhode Island and the New Jersey came into port at 10 o’clock this morning, and were followed and hour later by the fourth division (the Wisconsin, Illinois, Kearsarge and Kentucky) which anchored outside the breakwater. The third division, consisting of the Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio and Virginia, brought up the rear, and presented a beautiful picture as they steamed in, glistening in the sunlight, and their signal flags cracking in the smart breeze. The warship basin is too small to permit the entrance of the entire American fleet, consequently some of the vessels had to anchor outside. Rear Adm. Sperry, accompanied by the members of his staff, came ashore at noon and called officially upon Gen. Sir Frederick Forrester-Walker, the military governor. A guard of honor, consisting of a company of the Norfolkshire Regiment, in red coats, met the Admiral’s launch at King’s Stairs and escorted the carriages of the American naval officers to the residence of the governor. Gen. Forrester-Walker, who has been to Algiers for his health, returned especially to welcome Adm. Sperry, and this afternoon he called upon the Admiral on board the Connecticut. No shore liberty will be granted the American sailors during their stay here, except to permit them to participate in the athletic games being arranged by the crews of the British warships in port. The American officers listened to many congratulatory words from the British and other foreign officers who visited the ships. The official Chronicle concludes a laudatory technical article upon the remarkable homogeneity of the fighting fleet with the statement that the American Navy ranks second to the British. “The record at battleship steaming set when the cruise has been completed,” says the Chronicle, “will take a lot of beating. This is a triumph for American ships, American men and American organization.”

Advertisement using the Great White Fleet
Advertisement using the Great White Fleet

Importance of Sea Power as a Factor in Preservation of Peace Appreciated by the People
GIBRALTAR, Februrary 6 - Rear Adm. Sperry, prior to the departure of the American battleships for Hampton Roads this morning, expressed the greatest degree of satisfaction with the results of the around-the-world cruise. He then made the following statement: “This cruise marks an epoch in our naval annals, for the fleet has found itself-been welded into a unit. An aggregation of battleships, irrespective of the power and efficiency of the individual units, is not a fleet in the highest sense of the term until by long, faithful and harmonious work on the part of the personnel the spirit of the fleet has been developed. That now has been accomplished. The American people have come to appreciate the importance of sea power as one of the most potent factors in the preservation of a just peace, and they should appreciate what it means to have a fleet like this.

Lessons of the Cruise
The lessons of the cruise have been many, and it is no exaggeration to say that the condition of the ships is better today than when they sailed from Hampton Roads in December of 1907. During these fourteen months the fleet has been practically self-sustaining in the matter of repairs. The officers and men responsible for repairs have met every test, and the results prove that the ships have been better cared for than when they depend upon the Navy yards. Enlistments in the Navy certainly will be stimulated by the general interest in this cruise and the splendid opportunities afforded the men to see the world. Cruises to foreign ports, which keep the men interested and contented should be the rule and not the exception.

New Standards of Efficiency
New standards of efficiency in steam engineering, which means economy in coal consumption and increased radius of action, have been established. They voyage of 3,651 miles from Honolulu to Auckland was the longest ever undertaken by a large fleet without recoiling, yet we reached Auckland with coal enough in our bunkers to steam an additional thousand miles. “For technical work the cruise has been ideal. The long stretches between ports permitted unremitting daily exercise and maneuvering. The degree of gunnery efficiency has been greatly improved, as the long distance cruising cannot be equaled in home waters, where there is constant interference. The fleet everywhere has encountered unbounded hospitality. The lavish entertainment and perfect good feeling displayed were almost without precedent, and they should always be remembered by our people. Although the cruise has been intensely interesting and valuable to officers and men, there is naturally widespread elation throughout the fleet at the prospect of reaching home in a fortnight.”

Round the World Trip of the Battleships
The American battleship fleet left Hampton roads December 16, 1907, and when it again anchors in that port Februrary 22, it will have been gone one year and 68 days. No accident has marked the progress of the greatest armed fleet that ever made such a long voyage. The cruise has been in every respect an unqualified success. The trip has been watched with the greatest interest by all foreign powers, and whenever the vessels called at South America, Australia, Japan, China, Ceylon, Egypt and the ports of the Mediterranean the officers and men have been given hearty official and private welcome. The fleet left Hampton Roads under Adm. Robley D. Evan, who conducted it as far as San Francisco. Rear Adm. Charles M. Thomas then took command, but he was succeeded May 15 by Rear Adm. Sperry, who is bringing the vessels home.

Fleet at Gibraltar
Fleet at Gibraltar

Now on the Last Lap
GIBRALTAR, Februrary 6-With the band on board playing “Home Sweet Home,” the American fleet of 16 battleships under Rear Adm. Sperry left Gibraltar at 11 o’clock this morning for Hampton roads on the last lap of its famous around the world cruise of 45,000 miles. One hour later the vessels were well clear of the land and steaming westward in double column formation at a speed of ten knots an hour. They will follow the southern route to Hampton Roads, as distance of 3,600 miles, and about 1,000 miles off the American coast they will be met by the 3rd Squadron of the Atlantic Fleet under Rear Adm. Arnold, consisting of the battleships Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Idaho and the scout cruisers Chester, Birmingham and Salem. With Arnold’s ships as an escort, the world-touring vessels will proceed toward Hampton Roads, where they will be received by President Roosevelt [on] Washington’s birthday. The weather conditions at the time of departure were glorious. The sky was without a cloud, and there was just enough breeze to curl the crest of the sun-flooded waves. Nothing could have surpassed the beauty of the marine picture as the American armada emerged from the shadow of the towering rock of Gibraltar and move out into the straits.

Display of Seamanship
The difficult operation of getting the 16 huge battleships out of the narrow war basin of the port and underway as accomplished with a skill and perfection of maneuvering and detail which won the admiration of all the foreign naval officers who watched the proceedings critically from land and sea. Adm. Sperry directed the whole operation from the after bridge of the Connecticut. At 8:30 o’clock the signal to unmoor was given and the great chains holding the ships to the buoys were loosened, one by one, until the vessels were held to their anchorages by only a single strand. At 8:55 a stream of multicolored signal flags on the flagship communicated the order to get underway to the Georgia, the Nebraska, the New Jersey, the Rhode Island and the Virginia lying at the rear of the basin.

Ships Creep Out
As the flags came fluttering down five minutes later the designated battleships cast off their last lines and, like freed leviathans seeking escape, they slowly swung their noses in the direction of the breaches in the breakwater. Twisting and turning to the clanging of engine gongs, they crept out, the Georgia leading the way, with Lt. Cmdr. George W. Kline on the bridge. Once outside, Rear Adm. Wainwright’s division fell into formation and waited for the second and the third groups. The second group consisted of the Vermont, proudly flying the battle efficiency trophy at her fore; the Minnesota, Kentucky, Ohio and Kearsarge, and the third was composed of the Wisconsin, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Illinois. The three groups waited outside, and at 10:30 the Connecticut brought up the rear.

 

 

Courtesy of the Navy Historical Center
Exerpts from the Washington Evening Star
Images Courtesy of
Navy Historical Center and
The Mr. Bill Stewart Collection