File No. 811.0151/119

The Ambassador in Great Britain ( Page ) to the Secretary of State

No. 2675]

Sir: With reference to the Department’s instruction No. 1864 of November 9, 1915,1 respecting the reported improper use of the American flag by the British war vessel Baralong, I have the honor to enclose herewith a copy of the note from the Foreign Office upon which my telegram No. 3384 of to-day1 was based.

I have [etc.]

Walter Hines Page

The British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs ( Grey ) to the American Ambassador ( Page )

No. 185175/15]

Your Excellency: In the communication which I had the honour to receive from you under date of the 24th ultimo, your excellency requested that, in view of contradictory statements circulated on the subject, you might be furnished with an authoritative statement as to whether His Majesty’s ship [Page 651] Baralong when attacking an enemy submarine on August 19 last, hauled down the United States flag which she had previously been flying before opening fire.

I have the honour to state in reply that the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, to whom I referred your excellency’s request, inform me that the report of the commanding officer, His Majesty’s ship Baralong, dated the 20th August, states that when he sighted an enemy submarine shelling the steamship Nicosian on the 19th August the Baralong was flying neutral colours. The statement of persons on board the Nicosian that the colours were those of the United States may be accepted as correct though it is not so stated in the official report. The Baralong proceeded to close the Nicosian and then passed out of sight of the submarine behind the Nicosian.

The commanding officer’s report proceeds: “The moment Baralong was out of sight behind Nicosian I struck the neutral colours and hoisted the white ensign and trained two guns just in front of that vessel’s bow ready for the next appearance of the submarine, which I knew would be at close range.”

No shot was fired under neutral colours, the whole of the engagement taking place while the white ensign was flying.

I have [etc.]

Sir Edward Grey
W. Langley
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.