The German Scuttling At Scapa Flow

The German Scuttling At Scapa Flow

World War 1 / Battleships

While occurring technically after the conclusion of the First World War. The event is still very much entwined with the Great War.

EmdenFrankfurt and Bremse entering Scapa Flow
Illustration of Bayern steaming into Scapa Flow

At the conclusion of the War, the belligerent nations negotiated a peace treaty, The Treaty of Versailles.

SMS Hindenburg steams to Scapa Flow

While the negotiations were underway, the German ships were to be interned under the supervision of the British. As a result, that sent the German fleet to the UK.

The German Kaiserliche Marine was forced to sail to Scapa Flow, a British Naval base, that was located in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. For months German sailors would subsist on few rations sent over from Germany and depression among the men skyrocketed. This was the same Navy that felt they had never lost in battle, so this was a long humiliating action. Futhermore, despite having not “officially surrendered” British Admiral Beatty had ordered for the ships’ flags to be taken down.

Internment at Scapa Flow on 25 March 1919

Moroever, German Admiral Ludwig von Reuter worried that the UK might just seize the ships during their internment. Or worse, that maybe the German government could walk away from the Treaty of Versailles. And as a result, resume the war. The idea of his ships used against his homeland was too much to bear and Von Reuter chose to scuttle the fleet.

The heads of the “Big Four” nations at the Paris Peace Conference, 27 May 1919. From left to right: David Lloyd George, Vittorio Orlando, Georges Clemenceau, and Woodrow Wilson
The fleet at Scapa Flow in November 1918

Beatty Vs Jellicoe : Legends Of Jutland

SMS Hindenburg at Scapa Flow

The Germans carried out their plans on the 21st of June 1919.

German sailors fishing over the side of a destroyer
German battlecruiser SMS Hindenburg interned at Scapa Flow. Partially seen on the left edge of the photo is her sister ship SMS Derfflinger.

However British guard ships found themselves able to beach some of the ships. Saving 22 of the 74 German vessels. 52 would sink.

SMS BAYERN down by the stern and sinking at Scapa Flow.
Derfflinger capsizes
Salvage work in progress on Baden, while Frankfurt sits aground on the left
Seydlitz on her side
The graves of German sailors shot while attempting to come ashore surrendering.
SMS Hindenburg after scuttling
The three König-class battleships Kronprinz Wilhelm, Markgraf & König lie close together on the seabed of Scapa. Old shipwreck in the Churchill barriers, Orkney
Kronprinz Wilheim
See the source image
S.M.S. Konig
SMS Karlsruhe
See the source image

S.M.S. Kronprinz Wilhelm

World War 1 / Battleships

Furthermore, Admiral Jelicoe’s grandson Nicholas (our review on his Jutland book: Jutland: The Unfinished Battle) made an excellent documentary on the event, please see below:

The Animation of the 1919 German Fleet Scuttle in Scapa Flow

The German Scuttling At Scapa Flow