File No. 300.115Ev2/40

The German Ambassador (Bernstorff) to the Secretary of State

J. Nr. B 4884]

Mr. Secretary of State: Referring to your excellency’s kind note of the 5th instant1 about the sinking of the American steamer Evelyn, I have the honor to make to your excellency the following communication:

The investigation of the Evelyn and Carib casualties2 brought to light the fact that the vessels had on board Dutch, not German, [Page 670] pilots. Those pilots appear to have been furnished by the Rotterdam branch of the English Furness Steamship Company. Those pilots according to the inquiries made are not competent to navigate German waters. It was found, for instance, that H. Benne, the pilot taken by the steamer Osmulgu [Ocmulgee], who was formerly a Dutch district pilot but is already on the pension list, declared he knew nothing of a certain sailing direction for the German coast which is enough to show that he is not fit to steer a vessel to Germany. As a matter of fact he did not ever observe the sailing directions issued by the German Admiralty for the German coast and it was just luck that saved the Osmulgu from the fate of the Evelyn.

The master of the Evelyn declared that he sailed through the Channel and had a mine pilot along the English coast. It seems that the English officer who came on board with the pilot told him that he should steer not the northern course but the southerly course below the East Friesian Islands, which was the course taken by the other steamers. Whereupon he steamed for Rotterdam and there took a pilot. On being asked why he had not steered for Lister Tief, he replied that he had left everything to the pilot.

According to his chart the casualty occurred 53° 52’ north 6° 7’ east. The pilot, who had the looks of an old Dutch fisherman and made a rather unfavorable impression, declared that he had steered that course because he had heard that other ships had taken it. In reply to a question he said that he had never come with a ship into the German bay since the war began.

In order to avert further casualties as much as possible I have the honor to leave it to your excellency kindly to consider whether it may not be advisable to warn in such manner as may seem appropriate the American steamship companies concerned against applying to the above-mentioned firms for pilots. I make this recommendation all the stronger as there is reason to suspect that the enemy will spare no efforts to expose ships bound for Germany to danger and that influence is possibly brought to bear on the pilot service. I would in this connection again repeat that the course recommended in the Nachrichten für Seefahrer, No. 3161/14, north around Scotland to the guiding buoys of Lister Tief, offers the least danger.

Accept [etc.]

J. Bernstorff
  1. Not printed.
  2. Ante, p. 339.