This has been contributed by Vern Dander (email@example.com), who's Great Uncle, Lieutenant-Commander Mortimer Hawkins, commanded the ship. The West Bridge sustained major damage but made Brest.
The U.S.S. West Bridge, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Mortimer Hawkins, U.S. Naval Reserve Force, left New York, August 1st, 1918 in convoy with about twenty other vessels. The French Cruiser Marseilles acted as Convoy Escort and the S.S. Medina the Commodore Ship.
From the time of departure until about in Lat. 460 40 N. Long. 130 55 W. Greenwich on August 15th, West Bridge acted under orders received from the Convoy Escort as to courses, speeds, zig-zagging and navigating. At about 1740, the Captain of the West Bridge was notified by the Chief Engineer that the main engine turbine rotor was stripped and that the ship could not proceed or make any repairs. The Medina was notified of the engine trouble and the inability of the West Bridge to maintain position or hold speed.
At about 1800 the U.S.S. Montana, which was in the convoy and about four miles ahead of the West Bridge, was torpedoed. At about 1900 the U.S.S. Noma contacted the West Bridge to find out what our trouble was, and was advised of the engine trouble. The Noma circled around the ship, signaling to keep all lights out unless the West Bridge wanted to be torpedoed.
Despite these precautions, at 2358 one torpedo struck the West Bridge on her starboard side amidships abreast of the engine room. A second torpedo struck immediately afterwards at about twenty feet forward of the first. The vessel listed to starboard immediately and the captain ordered "Abandon Ship". She settled quickly so that there was about two feet of water on her well decks, but as she sank she came back to an even keel while the survivors stood by the stricken vessel in lifeboats.
Soon after day-light , smoke sighted by the lifeboat occupants was followed by the appearance of the Noma, which signalled that rescue would be made soon. About one hour later the U.S.S. Burrows picked up the crew. After boarding the Burrows, Lieutenant Commander Hawkins held a consultation with the commanding officer of Burrows and requested that he send his Executive Officer aboard the West Bridge with Hawkins for the purpose of survey.
After re-boarding the ship, it was determined, that although the West Bridge was on an even keel, her after well deck was awash, her forward well deck was slushing, and the #3 hold, engine room, and fire rooms were flooded. Upon returning aboard the Burrows, Hawkins informed the Commanding Officer of the condition of the ship. This opinion was confirmed by his officer. The Burrows stood by circling until the West Bridge began settling and all hope of saving her was abandoned. The Burrows then proceeded for Brest with the survivors which included two women stow-aways. After muster aboard the Burrows, four West Bridge crewmen were found missing.
Following the above action, Rear Admiral Henry B Wilson, Commander U.S. Naval Forces in France, issued a Letter of Admonition to Lieutenant Commander Hawkins because, despite her condition, the West Bridge did not sink at sea and was towed to Brest where she sank in the harbor. Based on depositions from the crew and other participants about the actions of Hawkins to save the ship, the Admonition was subsequently returned to Admiral Wilson upon his request for cancellation on September 27th, 1918.
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