1919: The German Fleet, Scapa Flow.
The signing of the Armistice on 11 November 1918, at Compiègne, France, effectively ended the First World War. The Allied powers agreed that Germany's U-boat fleet should be surrendered without the possibility of return, but were unable to agree upon a course of action regarding the German surface fleet. The Americans suggested that the ships be interned in a neutral port until a final decision was reached, but the two countries that were approached – Norway and Spain – both refused. Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss suggested that the fleet be interned at Scapa Flow with a skeleton crew of German sailors, and guarded in the interim by the Grand Fleet. The terms were transmitted to Germany on 12 November 1918, instructing them to make the High Seas Fleet ready to sail by 18 November. The German fleet was met by the light cruiser Cardiff on the morning of 21 November, and led to the rendezvous with over 370 ships of the Grand Fleet and other allied navies. There were 70 German ships in total and the destroyer V30 struck a mine while crossing and sank. The fleet had arrived at Scapa Flow by 27 November; the destroyers to Gutter Sound and the battleships and cruisers to the north and west of the island of Cava. Eventually a total of 74 ships were interned there, the König and Dresden, having been delayed with engine trouble, had arrived on 6 December accompanied by the destroyer V129, which replaced the sunken V30. The last ship to arrive was the battleship Baden on 9 January 1919. The crews on the German vessels were gradually reduced to care and maintenance levels and the surplus sailors returned to Germany. There was much concern in Germany over the future of imprisoned and fleet, previously the pride of Germany, and much wrangling among the Allies as to what the fate of the ships should be. The French and Italians particularly wanted to see the ships divided up between the victors, an easy and economical way of replacing their war losses and expanding their own fleets with modern vessels. The British wanted them destroyed as redistribution would upset the delicate balance of world naval power. The Germans themselves were worried that the fleet would be used as a bargaining counter in the ongoing negotiations over the Treaty of Versailles and might be seized by the Allies should the German Government reject the swingeing terms of the treaty, a very real possibility. Secretly, Admiral Reuter, commander of the fleet, had made arrangements for the fleet to be scuttled in just such a circumstance and ay 1000 on June 21st, 1919, the order was issued, just hours ahead of British plans to seize the fleet. By 1700, 15 of the 16 capital ships, 5 of the 8 cruisers, and 32 of the 50 destroyers had sunk. The remainder either remained afloat, or were towed to shallower waters and beached, these ships later being parcelled out among the Allies. 1774 German sailors were picked up from their ships' boats, 9 being shot and killed in the confusion. All but 7 of the ships were raised and scrapped between the Wars, partly because most had been sunk in shallow waters and posed a considerable danger to navigation at Britain's main naval anchorage. Although officially the British Government was highly critical of von Reuter's actions, privately they believed he had done them a great favour. In Germany, he was regarded as a hero.These pictures are published for pleasure/information/research purposes only and are not for sale or copy under any circumstances. Information in captions has been researched as thoroughly as possible but it accuracy cannot be guaranteed.Read More