Scapa Flow
disarmament, internment and scuttling of the German fleet



Under conditions of the Armistice of November 1918, the German battle fleet had to be disarmed rapidly and its newer units sailed to Scotland and surrendered to the combined Allied fleet (the British Grand Fleet plus 9 U.S. dreadnoughts). On the appointed day, following the orders of Adm. David Beatty, the Allied fleet drew up in a double column in the waters off Scapa leaving a wide expanse of grey water in between into which the rusty, weed-grown German battle fleet -- the Hochseeflotte, or High Seas Fleet -- steamed and anchored in a moving ceremonial on the morning of November 22.

Source: http://www.cityofart.net/bship/german_surr.html



The British checked each ship thoroughly to ensure disarmament and were apparently impressed with the quality of the ships, if less so by the crews.  From the 22-26 November the German ships left in groups for Scapa Flow, all having arrived by 27 November.

Disarmament

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Last voyage to Scapa Flow

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Internment and scuttling of the German fleet

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Plan of Scapa Flow with the interned German Fleet

Germany signed the Armistice with the Allies on 11 November 1918. Article XXI of this ordered the surrender of all German U-Boats, over 200 were handed over, mostly within the next two weeks.  Article XXIII involved the handing over and internment in Allied or neutral ports of seventy-four named warships, their fate to be determined by the peace negotiations.

Rear-Admiral Ludwig von Reuter was given command of this force and used Friedrich der Grosse as his flag ship. Apart from the unpleasant task of surrendering a powerful undefeated fleet he also had major problems with his men, many of whom were mutinous with communist tendencies and he had to ensure that his fleet was disarmed.

On the 19 November the German force set sail for the Firth of Forth where the British would check that the disarmament was complete before moving to other ports to be interned. The torpedo-boat V30 strayed off course and was sunk by a mine.  The Germans arrived at the Firth of Forth on the morning of 21 November and were met by an Allied force of 250 ships under Beatty which included most of the Grand Fleet, an American Battleship squadron and representatives of other navies with a total of forty four capital ships.  The Allied guns were trained fore and aft but the gun crews were ready for action. At 3.57 p.m. the German flag was ordered to be hauled down and was not hoisted again until the ships were scuttled.



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The German fleet in
Scapa Flow

Gunners in protective gear, toting gas masks against the chance of a German double-cross, watch from the deck of a British battleship as the German fleet steams past to be interned.



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German fleet in Scapa Flow
Baden, König Albert,
Kaiserin and Derfflinger
Von der Tann
Bayern and Emden 


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König, Baden,
Friedrich der Grosse, Kurfürst,
Bayern, Kronprinz and Markgraf



Königsklasse and Brummer


Regensburg

Evening sun over the 
German fleet.
f.l.t.r. Kaiser, Derfflinger, 
Prinzregent,
Kaiserin, Karlsruhe, 
König Albert,
König and Markgraf



The Germans were not happy at being interned at Scapa Flow as they felt that they should have been interned in a neutral port, and that the British were breaking the spirit, if not the word of the Armistice. They were however in no position to do anything about it.

By mid December the 20,000 crew who who had sailed the ships to Scapa were reduced to a caretaker crew of 200 per battlecruiser, 175 per battleship, 80 per light cruiser and 20 per destroyer (Torpedoboot) leaving a nominal total of 4,565 plus 250 officers and warrant officers, although the exact actual figures are thought to be higher.  This was considerably more than the British thought necessary but for once the German view prevailed.

There were considerable discipline problems amongst revolutionary elements in the German crews, with c150 trouble makers being sent home and Reuter changing his flag to the cruiser Emden. In June 1919 the crews were reduced to Royal Navy caretaker levels, 75 per battlecruiser, 60 per battleship, 30 per light cruiser and whatever was necessary for the destroyers, a total of about 1,700.

During this time the peace talks had been dragging on, with several extensions to the Armistice, and the Treaty of Versailles was not ready until May 1919.  The Allies were divided over the fate of the ships with many countries wanting a share, whilst the British, the major naval power at the time, were less keen to boost the strength of rival navies.  The treaty involved the surrender of the interned ships.

When Reuter heard this he became concerned that the British would seize the ships without notice and started active planning to scuttle the fleet, although he had been considering the option for some time.  The British were also well aware of the danger and had plans for armed seizure of the ships.  The German officers planned the scuttle, the troublesome crews were not told but in many cases worked out what was going on by watching the officers making preparations, many of the crews were then told.



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Hindenburg
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Kaiser Moltke Baden and Karlsruhe

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Königsberg Graudenz Seidlitz Friedrich der Große


On the morning of 21 June the British battleships at Scapa Flow, the First Battle Squadron, with their escorts, left for exercises.  At 10.30 am on 21 June Reuter signalled the fleet "Paragraph eleven. Confirm." - the code for immediate scuttle.  It took a while for the message to get around the fleet and it was an hour before all the ships acknowledged the signal.  The only British warships present were the destroyers Vespa and Vega as were a couple of depot ships and various trawlers and drifters.  They signalled the First Battle Squadron which returned to base at full speed.  The British managed to beach the Baden and the cruisers Nürnberg, Emden and Frankfurt, all the other major units sank.  In the confusion nine Germans were shot dead, the last kills of WWI, although nobody was drowned, on the whole light casualties under the circumstances.

Over 400,000 tons of modern warships were sunk, the largest loss of shipping in a single day in history.  Publicly the British were outraged but in private there was a sense of relief that the problem of what to do with the fleet was now ended. Considerable efforts were made by British Intelligence to prove that the scuttling had been authorised by Berlin but they never found any proof.

Source: http://www.worldwar1.co.uk/scuttle.html


Name  
Type  
Sunk/Beached 
Fate
Seydlitz Battlecruiser Sunk 13:50* Salvaged November 1929
Moltke Battlecruiser Sunk 13:10* Salvaged June 1927
Von der Tann Battlecruiser Sunk 14:15* Salvaged December 1930
Derfflinger Battlecruiser Sunk 14:45* Salvaged August 1939
Hindenburg Battlecruiser Sunk 17:00* Salvaged July 1930
Kaiser Battleship Sunk 13:15* Salvaged March 1929
Prinzregent Luitpold Battleship Sunk 13:15* Salvaged March 1929
Kaiserin Battleship Sunk 14:00* Salvaged May 1936
Friedrich der Grosse Battleship Sunk 12:16* Salvaged 1937
König Albert Battleship Sunk 12:54* Salvaged July 1935
König Battleship Sunk 14:00* Unsalvaged
Großer Kurfürst Battleship Sunk 13:30* April 1933
Kronprinz Wilhelm Battleship Sunk 13:15* Unsalvaged
Markgraf Battleship Sunk 16:45* Unsalvaged
Baden Battleship Beached Transferred to British control, sunk as a target in 1921
Bayern Battleship Sunk 14:30* Salvaged September 1933
Brummer Cruiser Sunk 13:05* Unsalvaged
Bremse Cruiser Sunk 14:30* Salvaged November 1929
Dresden Cruiser Sunk 13:50* Unsalvaged
Köln Cruiser Sunk 13:50* Unsalvaged
Karlsruhe Cruiser Sunk 15:50* Unsalvaged
Nürnberg Cruiser Beached Transferred to British control, sunk as a target in 1922
Emden Cruiser Beached Transferred to French control, broken up in 1926
Frankfurt Cruiser Beached Transferred to American control, sunk as a target in 1921
S32 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged June 1925
S36 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged April 1925
G38 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged September 1924
G39 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged July 1925
G40 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged July 1925
V43 Destroyer Beached Transferred to American control, sunk as a target in 1921
V44 Destroyer Beached Transferred to British control, broken up in 1922
V45 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged 1922
V46 Destroyer Beached Transferred to French control, broken up in 1924
S49 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged December 1924
S50 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged October 1924
S51 Destroyer Beached Transferred to British control, broken up in 1922
S52 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged October 1924
S53 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged August 1924
S54 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged September 1921
S55 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged August 1924
S56 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged June 1925
S60 Destroyer Beached Transferred to Japanese control, broken up in 1922
S65 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged May 1922
V70 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged August 1924
V73 Destroyer Beached Transferred to British control, broken up in 1922
V78 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged September 1925
V80 Destroyer Beached Transferred to Japanese control, broken up in 1922
V81 Destroyer Beached Sunk on the way to the breakers
V82 Destroyer Beached Transferred to British control, broken up in 1922
V83 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged 1923
V86 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged July 1925
V89 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged December 1922
V91 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged September 1924
G92 Destroyer Beached Transferred to British control, broken up in 1922
G101 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged April 1926
G102 Destroyer Beached Transferred to American control, sunk as a target in 1921
G103 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged September 1925
G104 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged April 1926
B109 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged March 1926
B110 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged December 1925
B111 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged March 1926
B112 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged February 1926
V125 Destroyer Beached Transferred to British control, broken up in 1922
V126 Destroyer Beached Transferred to French control, broken up in 1925
V127 Destroyer Beached Transferred to Japanese control, broken up in 1922
V128 Destroyer Beached Transferred to British control, broken up in 1922
V129 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged August 1925
S131 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged August 1924
S132 Destroyer Beached Transferred to American control, sunk in 1921
S136 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged April 1925
S137 Destroyer Beached Transferred to British control, broken up in 1922
S138 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged May 1925
H145 Destroyer Sunk* Salvaged March 1925
V100 Destroyer Beached Transferred to French control, broken up in 1921

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scuttling_of_the_German_fleet_in_Scapa_Flow


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