The Grand Scuttle: The Sinking of the German Fleet at Scapa Flow in 1919
They were under orders to be back in Scapa Flow by the extended deadline of 23 June to deal with any trouble that might arise should the Armistice not be further extended. A small guard-force of three British destroyers—Vegar, Vesper and an unserviceable destroyer, Victorious—was left behind.
At 10 a. He could hardly believe his luck when he learned that the British guard squadron had left the Flow on exercise earlier that morning. At a. This simple command was the pre-arranged coded order to the commanders of the other ships in the Fleet to initiate the scuttling of their vessels. Doors and hatches had been secured in the open position—some being welded open—so that the ships would flood more easily. Seacocks had been set on a hair turning and lubricated thoroughly. Large hammers had been placed beside any valves that would allow water to flood in if knocked off, and bulkhead rivets had been pried out.
Now that the order to scuttle had been given, seacocks were opened and disconnected from the upper deck to prevent any British boarding parties from closing them if they boarded before the ship went under. Seawater pipes were smashed, and condensers opened.
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As valves and seacocks were opened, their keys and handles were thrown overboard, so that they could never be closed again. Once the vessels started to scuttle, there was no way to stop the ships sinking other than by taking them in tow and beaching. The signal to scuttle was repeated from ship to ship by semaphore and by Morse code on signal lamps—and travelled slowly around the German Fleet.
The southernmost ships of the long lines of torpedo boats were not visible from the Emden, and it took a full hour before the order reached them. The pre-arranged responses started to come back slowly—the first reaching Emden at about a. In a patriotic gesture of defiance, many of the German ships ran up the Imperial Navy ensign at their sterns. The prohibited white flag, with its bold black cross and eagle, had not been seen at Scapa Flow before.
At noon, an artist who had hitched a ride on one of the patrolling Royal Navy drifters to sketch the German Fleet at anchor noticed that small boats were being lowered down the side of some of the German ships, against British standing orders. He alerted a British officer, but only 16 minutes later, the first of the warships to sink—the former flagship of Admiral Scheer at the Battle of Jutland, the Kaiser-class battleship Friedrich der Grosse—turned turtle and went to the bottom.
Hundreds of German sailors now began to abandon their ships into lifeboats. Some of the great warships settled into the water on an even keel, whilst others rolled slowly onto their sides. Some went down by the bow or stern, forcing the other end of the ship to lift high out of the water. The top-heavy battleships moored in deeper water listed and then turned turtle as they sank. The German ships began to sink in quick succession. Kaiserin went at 2 p. The first of the battlecruisers to sink was Moltke at p.
On the nearby battlecruiser Seydlitz, the entire crew stood proudly to attention on the deck singing the German national anthem and watching as Moltke sank beside them. The crew of Seydlitz then had to abandon their own ship, and 40 minutes later at p. As each ship sank, a whirlpool was created in which debris swirled around, slowly being sucked inwards and eventually being pulled under into the murky depths. Oil escaping from the submerged ships spread upwards and outwards to cover the surface of the sea with a dark iridescent film.
When it was realised that the entire German High Seas Fleet had started to scuttle, Sir Sydney Fremantle, now far out to sea with the First Battle Squadron, was advised and he immediately ordered his Squadron to return to Scapa Flow at full speed. The two serviceable British guard destroyers Vegar and Vesper fired warning shots with their main guns and fired with machine guns and small arms as they closed. Three German sailors in a lifeboat containing 13 men were killed and four were wounded.
Services to commemorate 100 years since scuttling of German fleet
The others were ordered back aboard their ships and forced by threats of further shooting to turn off the flood valves. Many of the German capital ships were already at the bottom of Scapa Flow, whilst those remaining afloat were in the advanced stages of sinking. Other British destroyers fired warning salvoes of shells from their main guns.
Armed boarding-parties went aboard the battleship Baden where they managed to restart the diesel generation units, restoring power and lighting, and enabling systematic pumping to start. She was driven ashore and beached in Swanbister Bay in sinking condition. A British drifter put an armed boarding-party aboard the battleship Markgraf to try and stop her flooding. He refused to obey an order from the boarding-party to have his own men go below and shut off the flood valves or to allow the Royal Navy boarding-party to do so.
The British boarding-party attempted to force their way below decks to halt the scuttle. A scuffle broke out in which Schumann was shot through the head and died immediately, and another officer was seriously wounded.
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But enough had been done to ensure Markgraf went to the bottom at p. Elsewhere, empty lifeboats rocked in the calm sea. Every now and then, a bubble of trapped air would escape from one of the submerged ships to break the surface and reveal the position of the ship below.
Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Grand Scuttle , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. May 11, Gill rated it liked it Shelves: , non-fiction , orkney , other-times. This book attempts to give a balanced view with a lot of research and facts, about the scuttling of the German Grand Fleet in Scapa Flow in I had not realised before that shootings had occurred whilst the men were attempting to abandon their sinking ships, nor that they were not allowed to board lifeboats without permission.
A great deal of time and trouble has been gone to by the author to find all the relevant archives both in Britain and in Germany relating to this event, and the causes This book attempts to give a balanced view with a lot of research and facts, about the scuttling of the German Grand Fleet in Scapa Flow in A great deal of time and trouble has been gone to by the author to find all the relevant archives both in Britain and in Germany relating to this event, and the causes which led to it.
It is sad that men lost their lives during it, and that the children who were out on an excursion to view the fleet were caught up in the horror of that day. Not an easy read, but a valiant attempt at an unbiased report of the events, and the following raising of some of the ships. Jan 13, Larry rated it really liked it. Dec 06, Tom rated it really liked it. The German fleet entered internment virtually intact under the terms of the Armistice.
Scuttling of the German fleet at Scapa Flow - Wikipedia
When it became clear that Germany would not recover its fleet once the Treaty of Versailles was finalized but instead risk seeing the ships incorporated into the navies of the Allies Admiral von "Grand Scuttle" by Dan Van Der Vat is a well-written book that covers the fate of the German Navy during World War I and its scuttling after being interned during the Armistice at the Scottish naval base of Scapa Flow. When it became clear that Germany would not recover its fleet once the Treaty of Versailles was finalized but instead risk seeing the ships incorporated into the navies of the Allies Admiral von Reuter decided to scuttle the fleet instead.
The author spends a great deal of time, and rightfully so, on the painstaking and dangerous salvage operations of the sunken and partly sunken German ships by various contractors after the war for the high quality steel. I dock the book one star for its lack of useful maps.
Much of the action takes place in the North Sea yet the only map of the North Sea is a crude, hand-drawn map measuring about 2" x 2". Unless you are already very familiar with the geography of the North Sea you might find yourself frustrated trying to pinpoint locations where battles and other action took place. Jun 15, Trish rated it liked it Shelves: history. A good, introductory history to the sinking of the German fleet after WWI, it goes into the Anglo-Naval arms race, the war itself - focused on the battles in the North Sea - and then the internment of ships and crew until the final scuttle.
Very readable and reasonably unbiased although you do kind of feel sorry for Admiral Reuter, who ordered the scuttle, but the end of it. It was to be one of the final acts of the First World War. The admiral was made a prisoner of war but his act of defiance was celebrated in Germany.
He described to his family the noise of steam hissing, gushing water and crew members shouting. Last updated Fri 21 Jun Share Tweet Reddit.