German fleet scuttled at Scapa Flow to stop ships going to Allies

The scuttling of the German fleet took place at the Royal Navy's base at Scapa Flow, Orkney, after the First World War.

Wednesday, 20th September 2017, 4:56 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th September 2017, 11:33 am

The High Seas Fleet was interned there under the terms of the Armistice while negotiations took place over the fate of the ships.

Fearing that all the ships would be seized and divided among the allied powers, the German commander, Admiral Ludwig von Reuter, decided to scuttle the fleet. It was carried out on June 21, 1919.

Intervening British guardships were able to beach a number of the ships, but 52 of the 74 vessels sank.

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Many of the wrecks were salvaged in the next two decades and were towed away for scrap. Those that remain are popular diving sites.

I’m grateful to Dave Aldous, of Norfolk Street, Southsea, for these dramatic pictures.

When the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, ending the First World War, the Americans suggested the German ships be interned in a neutral port until a final decision was reached about the ships’ fate. But the two countries approached – Norway and Spain – refused.

The British suggested the fleet be interned at Scapa Flow with a skeleton crew of German sailors and guarded by the Grand Fleet.