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SCAPA FLOW AND THE GERMAN FLEET

SScapa Flow is a body of water in the Orkney Islands, sheltered by the islands of Mainland, Graemsay, Burray, South Ronaldsay and Hoy. At 140 square miles, with a sandy bottom, and relatively shallow (not deeper than 160 feet, and most of it about 70 feet deep), it is one of the great natural harbours/anchorages of the world, with sufficient space to hold a number of navies. It was the site of the United Kingdom's chief naval base during World War I and World War II. The base was closed in 1956.

World War 1

Historically, the main British naval bases were located near the English Channel to better face England's old enemies of France, Spain, and the Netherlands. In 1904, in response to the build-up of the German Kaiserliche Marine's High Seas Fleet, it was decided that a northern base was needed, to control the entrances to the North Sea. Originally, Rosyth was considered for the base, and then Invergordon at Cromarty Firth but construction in both places was delayed, leaving them largely unfortified by the time of the First World War. Scapa Flow was used many times for exercises in the years leading up to the War, and, when the time came for the fleet to move to a northern station, Scapa Flow was chosen for the main base of the British Grand Fleet, even though it was also unfortified.

John Rushworth Jellicoe, admiral of the Grand Fleet, was constantly nervous about potential submarine or destroyer attacks on Scapa Flow, and the base was reinforced with minefields, artillery, and concrete barriers starting in 1914. These fears were borne out when German U-boats twice attacked British ships in Scapa Flow, though the attacks themselves did no damage. The first, by U-18, took place in November 1914; but the sub was rammed by a trawler searching for submarines while it was trying to enter Scapa Flow, causing the submarine to flee and then sink. The second attack, by UB-116, in October 1918, encountered the sophisticated defenses then in place at Scapa Flow, was detected by hydrophones and then destroyed by shore-triggered mines before it could enter the anchorage.

Following the German defeat in the First World War, 74 ships of the Kaiserliche Marine's High Seas Fleet were interned in Gutter Sound at Scapa Flow pending a decision on their future in the peace Treaty of Versailles. On 21 June 1919 Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter, the German officer in command at Scapa Flow, after waiting for the bulk of the British fleet to leave on exercises, gave the order to scuttle the ships to prevent their falling into British hands. Fifty-one ships sank without loss of life. However nine German sailors died when British forces opened fire as they attempted to scuttle their ship, reputedly the last casualties of the First World War.

World War II

Early in World War II, on 14 October 1939, U-47, under the command of Günther Prien, penetrated Scapa Flow and sank the old battleship HMS Royal Oak anchored in Scapa Bay. Her second torpedo attack blew a 30-foot (9 m) hole in the Royal Oak and as a result she flooded and quickly capsized. Of the 1,400-man crew, 833 were lost. The wreck is now a protected war grave. After the attack, Winston Churchill ordered the construction of a series of causeways to block the eastern approaches to Scapa Flow; they were built by Italian prisoners of war held in Orkney. These "Churchill Barriers" now provide road access from the Mainland to Burray and South Ronaldsay, although they block maritime traffic.

Three days after this submarine attack, four Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88 bombers raided Scapa Flow in one of the first bombing attacks on Britain during the war. The attack badly damaged the elderly base ship, the former battleship HMS Iron Duke, but one bomber was shot down by an anti-aircraft battery on Hoy.

German Ships Interned at Scapa Flow World War 1

Ship

Type

Sunk/Beached

Fate

Seydlitz

Battlecruiser

Sunk 1350 GMT

Salvaged November 1929

Moltke

Battlecruiser

Sunk 1310 GMT

Salvaged June 1927

Von der Tann

Battlecruiser

Sunk 1415 GMT

Salvaged December 1930

Derfflinger

Battlecruiser

Sunk 1445 GMT

Salvaged August 1939

Hindenburg

Battlecruiser

Sunk 1700 GMT

Salvaged July 1930

Kaiser

Battleship

Sunk 1315 GMT

Salvaged March 1929

Prinzregent Luitpold

Battleship

Sunk 1315 GMT

Salvaged March 1929

Kaiserin

Battleship

Sunk 1400 GMT

Salvaged May 1936

König Albert

Battleship

Sunk 1254 GMT

Salvaged July 1935

Friedrich der Grosse

Battleship

Sunk 1216 GMT

Salvaged 1937

König

Battleship

Sunk 1400 GMT

Unsalvaged

Grosser Kurfurst

Battleship

Sunk 1330 GMT

Salvaged April 1933

Kronprinz Wihelm

Battleship

Sunk 1315 GMT

Unslavaged

Markgraf

Battleship

Sunk 1645 GMT

Unsalvaged

Baden

Battleship

Beached

To Britain, sunk as target 1921

Bayern

Battleship

Sunk 1430 GMT

Salvaged September 1933

Bremse

Cruiser

Sank 1430 GMT

Salvaged November 1929

Brummer

Cruiser

Sunk 1305 GMT

Unsalvaged

Dresden

Cruiser

Sunk 1350 GMT

Unslavaged

Koln

Cruiser

Sunk 1350 GMT

Unsalvaged

Karlsruhe

Cruiser

Sunk 1550 GMT

Unsalvaged

Nürnberg

Cruiser

Beached

To Britain, sunk as target 1922

Emden

Cruiser

Beached

To France, scrapped 1926

Frankfurt

Cruiser

Beached

To USA, sunk as target 1921

S32

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged June 1925

S36

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged April 1925

G38

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged September 1924

G39

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged July 1925

G40

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged July 1925

V43

Destroyer

Beached

To USA, sunk as target 1921

V44

Destroyer

Beached

To Britain, scrapped 1922

V45

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged 1922

V46

Destroyer

Beached

To France, scrapped 1924

S49

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged December 1924

S50

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged October 1924

S51

Destroyer

Beached

To Britain, scrapped 1922

S52

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged October 1924

S53

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged August 1924

S54

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged September 1921

S55

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged August 1924

S56

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged June 1925

S60

Destroyer

Beached

To Japan, scrapped 1922

S65

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged May 1922

V70

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged August 1924

V73

Destroyer

Beached

To Britain, scrapped 1922

V78

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged September 1925

V80

Destroyer

Beached

To Japan, scrapped 1922

V81

Destroyer

Beached

Sunk on way to breakers

V82

Destroyer

Beached

To Britain, scrapped 1922

V83

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged 1923

G86

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged July 1925

G89

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged December 1922

G91

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged September 1924

G92

Destroyer

Beached

To Britain, scrapped 1922

G101

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged April 1926

G102

Destroyer

Beached

To USA, sunk as target 1921

G103

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged September 1925

G104

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged April 1926

B109

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged March 1926

B110

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged December 1925

B111

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged March 1926

B112

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged February 1926

V125

Destroyer

Beached

To Britain, scrapped 1922

V126

Destroyer

Beached

To France, scrapped 1925

V127

Destroyer

Beached

To Japan, scrapped 1922

V128

Destroyer

Beached

To Britain, scrapped 1922

V129

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged August 1925

S131

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged August 1924

S132

Destroyer

Beached

To USA, sunk 1921

S136

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged April 1925

S137

Destroyer

Beached

To Britain, scrapped 1922

S138

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged May 1925

H145

Destroyer

Sunk

Salvaged March 1925

V100

Destroyer

Beached

To France, scrapped 1921

Sources: Wikipedia - Scapa Flow

Last updated 15 August, 2008

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