< back

SCAPA FLOW - historic irony

According to the terms of the armistice, Germany was obliged to surrender her warships. From November 1918 74 German ships were interned at Scapa Flow and most of their crews were returned to Germany.

Remains of German Fleet at Scapa Flow

During this time, they became a tourist attraction, with boat trips to see them. By June 1919, Rear Admiral von Reuter, the German Officer in command at Scapa Flow, knew that Germany would have to accept punitive surrender terms and on 21 June 1919, seven days before the signing of the final peace treaty, he gave the order for the German fleet to be scuttled in a final protest at the severity of the proffered terms.
Nine Germans, the last casualties of the war, were killed that day.

There was historic irony in the Kaiser's naval officers choosing a watery grave for his magnificent battleships in a British harbour. Had the Kaiser not embarked on a strategically unnecessary attempt to match Britain's maritime strength, fatal hostility between the two countries might have been avoided; so, too, in all possibility, might have been the neurotic climate of suspicion and insecurity from which the First World War was born. The unmarked graveyard of his squadrons inside the remotest islands of the British archipelago, guarding the exit from the narrow seas his fleet would have had to penetrate to achieve true oceanic status, remains as a memorial to selfish and ultimately pointless military ambition.

Where is Scapa Flow?