Scapa Flow June 1919

After the Armistice, the German High Seas Fleet was assembled under British control at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands pending disposition of the ships as war prizes. One hundred years ago today, by secret order from the ranking German officer on the scene, Konteradmiral Ludwig von Reuter (1869-1943), seventy-four of them were scuttled. Read the full story here.

The Royal Navy was caught completely by surprise and failed to prevent the total loss of fifty-one ships. Their attempts to stop the sinkings led to the death of nine Germans, including the captain of the battleship SMS Markgraf, and the wounding of several others. These are counted as the last German casualties of World War 1.

Scapa Flow today

Most of the wrecks were salvaged for scrap in later years, but four that still lie partly intact on the sea bed are presently being offered for sale on e-Bay by a prospective salvager who bought them in 1981. He was subsequently blocked by the British government which has placed the sites under historic protection, so you can own a piece of history but you can’t do anything with it.

James (“Jim”) Patton BS BA MPA is a retired state official living in Shawnee, Kansas and a frequent contributor to several WW1 e-publications, including "Roads to the Great War," "St. Mihiel Tripwire," "Over the Top" and "Medicine in the First World War." He has spent many hours walking the WW1 battlefields, and is also an authority on British regiments and a collector of their badges. An Army Engineer during the Vietnam War, he does work for the US World War 1 Centennial Commission and has memberships in the WW1 Historical Association, the Western Front Association, the Indian Military Historical Society and the Salonika Campaign Society.