At the end of the war there was much debate concerning the German navy. It was agreed by the allies that the U-Boat fleet must be surrendered with no possibility of being returned but there was disagreement as to the High Seas Fleet. Several of the allies wanted to distribute the ships amongst themselves but the British were wary of this as it would disturb the status quo of naval power. As a compromise, the US suggested that the surface ships be interred in a neutral port whilst a final decision was made. Norway & Spain refused to accept the ships and they were ordered to the Royal Navy anchorage at Scapa Flow in Orkney.
As details of the Treaty of Versailles emerged, Admiral Ludwig von Reuter, commander of the High Street Fleet, ordered that the ships should be scuttled rather than be handed over intact. At 11.20 on June 21st 1919 the order was sent to all captains and 52 out of the 74 ships were sunk before the British could react.
Scuttled by their own sailors, the loss of the German High Seas Fleet was the single greatest loss of warships in history, and the sailors killed that day were the final casualties of WW1 – the Treaty of Versailles was signed the following week, formally bringing hostilities to an end.
Almost 100 years to the day, Tim, an eminent naval historian, will recount the detail.
Members of The Western Front Association and non-members are equally welcome. We ask for a modest £3 donation on the door. This includes tea, coffee and biscuits at the break (before the Q&A session with the speaker). There is a book raffle and books about the Great War are usually available for sale.
New visitors will be assured of a welcoming and friendly atmosphere among a group of like-minded enthusiasts.
The meeting starts at 7.45pm. Doors open at 7:15pm. Come early to browse the books for sale and to chat about the Great War with other attendees.
The image shows SMS Hindenburg half sunk at Scapa Flow. IWM © David Masters (Q 70580)