Scapa Flow
WWI

Scuttling Of German Fleet To Be Commemorated 100 Years On At Scapa Flow

The vessels, that were part of the German High Seas fleet, were deliberately sunk 100 years ago.

Scapa Flow

Personnel from the British and German militaries will be involved in the commemorations (Picture: MOD).

Commemorations will be held in waters near Orkney to mark 100 years since the scuttling of more than 50 German ships after seven months of incarceration.

Royal Navy and German naval officers will be laying wreaths in the water, including divers going down to the wreckage.

The German High Seas Fleet was interned at Scapa Flow following Armistice in November 1918, while negotiations for the Treaty of Versailles were ongoing.

Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter was in command of the 74 vessels - viewed as a threat to the UK's dominance at sea - but had not been informed of a last-minute extension to finalise details of the deal.

Historian Nick Jellicoe said:

"The real confrontations, in terms of Versailles, were about what to do with this fleet."

Admiral von Reuter did not want the assets shared among foreign powers without the German government's consent and was struggling with a mutinous, embarrassed and increasingly bored crew.

With the previous deadline for a treaty passed, he issued an order to scuttle the ships on June 21, 1919.

A total of 52 of the interned vessels sank and a number of men were injured - nine fatally.

It was 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.

His grandson, Yorck-Ludwig von Reuter, said this was "the hardest time" for his grandfather.

"He made that decision alone," he said.

"It's not only a story of dignity and honour - Germany had nothing, it was lost - this was a small sunshine for the population in Germany."

He added: "After 100 years, to come together, it really is a fine gesture."

The sinking of the German fleet has been described as a strategic victory for the UK as it closed the door on high-tech warships being distributed among rivals.