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The Scuttling of the German Fleet at Scapa Flow

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BerichtGeplaatst: 01 Jan 2010 14:21    Onderwerp: The Scuttling of the German Fleet at Scapa Flow Reageer met quote

The Scuttling of the German Fleet at Scapa Flow

"Paragraph eleven - Confirm"
21st June, 1919, approx 10:30am

Negotiations had been dragging on for months at Versailles, and until the treaty was signed Germany was technically still in a state of war with the Allies. The German Fleet, as part of the Armistice agreement, had been disarmed and were anchored in Scapa Flow Britain's main Navy anchorage for North Sea operations. Tensions were running high, as the negotiations turned to the fate of the German Fleet.

In Scapa Flow, Rear-Admiral Ludwig von Reuter had come to a difficult decision. News reports he had been reading did not fare well for his fleet, and he had been quietly making plans.

Early in the morning of 21st June, 1919, the majority of the British Fleet left to go on exercises. Only two ships, destroyers Vespa and Vega, remained in Scapa Flow to guard the now toothless German Fleet.

Rear-Admiral Ludwig von Reuter saw his opportunity and sent a pre-arranged signal out to the fleet: "Paragraph eleven. Confirm." It took an hour for all ships to reply via light signal or flags.

Half an hour later the crews of the Vespa and Vega looked on in horror as the captured ships, one by one, began to slowly sink into the harbour. They scrambled to signal the British Fleet to return. So began the largest scuttling in wartime history, and brought about the last deaths of The Great War.

How did it all come to this?
When the guns went silent on the 11th of November, 1918. among other things, the armistice agreed on what would happen to the German Imperial Fleet, and U-boat fleet. Article XXIII concerned the internment, in either Allied or neutral ports of the 74 German ships. Their ultimate fate would be decided by the treaty negotiations.

In accordance with the armistice, the fleet sailed to Firth of Forth under Rear-Admiral Ludwig von Reuter, arriving on the 21st November, 1918. There, the ships were inspected by the Allies to ensure all weapons had been either removed or rendered useless. Afterwards the German ships were escorted a few at a time to Scapa Flow, where they were to remain until their fate was decided.

Unlike British ships, their German counterparts were not designed to be lived on for long periods of time, and had fewer doors and open recreational spaces. Trapped in enemy territory the German officers and crew soon became restless. This restlessness was exacerbated by paranoia as negotiations at Versailles dragged on and the Allies de-crewed the ships further. Crews were reduced first in December 1918, when the 20,000 strong force was reduced to around 4,700 and crews reduced yet again in June 1919, leaving 1700 crew and officers to man 74 ships.

Von Reuter became convinced that the British were preparing the Fleet to be handed over. If that happened it would be more humiliating than their defeat. In June negotiations were underway on the fate of the German fleet. Von Reuter was out of the loop, and he had no idea what was happening at Versailles. His only news came from the newspapers, which were translated for him to read. If there was a chance the fleet would be handed over lock, stock and barrel then he had to act. In May he had already started to make plans, knowing the outcome might not be favourable. Not being able to return home with his ships was a dishonour he could not deal with.

His plan was simple: remove all the inner doors as quietly as possible, and prepare to scuttle the ship by opening the seacocks, allowing water to flow freely into them.

The British managed to beach the Baden and the cruisers Nürnberg, Emden and Frankfurt, but the rest of the fleet was sunk. The Germans deliberately sunk 400,000 tons of shipping in their enemy's main harbour rather than hand them over to the enemy. Six German crewmen died as a result of the sinkings. They were the last casualties of The War to End All Wars.

Publically. the British were outraged, but von Reuter's actions did solve the problem of what to do with the German fleet. There was no indication that von Reuter's orders had come from Berlin, and it seemed he had acted on his own in sinking the fleet. It did not stop negotiations or the formal treaty being signed.

All that was left to do now was salvage the ships.

Raising the Fleet
Most of the German ships were salvaged between 1922 and the early 1930's. The salvage operation started with ships lying in shallow waters and then moved onto the more challenging wrecks which had settled into deeper water. This had to be done. Despite the end of the war, Scapa Flow still remained a major British anchorage and the sunken German ships were a hazard to shipping.

Once the salvage operation moved to the deeper waters the salvage company, run by Earnest Cox, had to find new and inventive ways of raising the ships so that they could be dismantled and sold for scrap iron. By 1939 the majority of the wrecks had been cleared, but the commencement of World War 2 put a hold to salvage operations, as Scapa Flow became active again as the main base of operations for Britain's North Sea Fleet.

After WW2 ended only three ships remained: König, Markgraf and Kronprinz. Their positions make them almost impossibe to raise, but that does not mean the metal in the wrecks have not been used. They are are source of radiation-free metal, which is vital for certain types of scientific equipment

Lees verder en voor meer beeldmateriaal:

Bid to stop divers from plundering shipwrecks

By John Ross
August 20, 2005

NEW measures are being considered to protect wartime shipwrecks in Orkney from plundering divers.

Talks have been held over the last two days between police, boat operators, coastguards, Historic Scotland and the Receiver of Wrecks over the ongoing issue caused by a minority of divers.

About 3,000 people a year travel to Orkney to dive on wrecks of the German High Seas Fleet which was scuttled in Scapa Flow.

The wrecks were scheduled as ancient monuments in 2001. Although divers are allowed to visit the vessels, the legislation makes it illegal for them to be tampered with or for any items to be removed.

The most recent incident was three weeks ago when it was discovered that attempts had been made to remove the engine room telegraph from the warship, Markgraf. The equipment was found in lifting bags ready to be taken away.

Niall MacLean, an acting Northern Constabulary inspector based in Kirkwall, said: "We are keen to work with the dive boat operators and Historic Scotland to try to ensure that sufficiently strong legislation is in place to prevent the unauthorised removal of these artefacts.

"The vast majority of dive-boat operators working in Scapa Flow are legitimate and carry out a tremendous service. There is a small group [taking artefacts], but we are talking about important wrecks and if they are plundered the future enjoyment and historic importance could be lost forever."

Insp MacLean said some problems could be caused by foreign visitors who are not aware of the protection offered to the wrecks. Highlighting the issue in diving magazines was being considered.

Diving deep in Scapa Flow

By Suzy Bennett
August 20, 2005

The German Fleet in Scapa Flow.

ORKNEY ISLANDS, UK -- Mid-afternoon, 60 feet beneath the sea, Scapa Flow, Orkney. To one side of me, a shoal of crimson-coloured fish weaves in and out of a shipwreck. Below, a forest of soft corals is swaying in a gentle current. In the distance, iridescent jellyfish drift by, their frilled skirts shimmering in the sunlight.

As a column of sun lights up a cobalt-blue starfish, and a pipefish flutters in front of my dive mask, I struggle to re-adjust my view of what is and isn't Britain, because, from where I'm floating, it's doing a remarkable impression of the Caribbean.

Admittedly it's a fairly chilly Caribbean - the water temperature is 12C and I have to wear a dry suit to keep myself warm - but the sea life isn't so different. There are fish here as brightly coloured as their tropical counterparts, and corals that rival any I have seen in balmier climes.
This, scientists believe, could be one of the effects of global warming, and it's alarming. If sub-tropical marine species can survive this far north, it's only a matter of time before our environment is dramatically affected. But it's fascinating, too. The last time I dived in British waters was 10 years ago, and the highlight was seeing a shopping trolley furred in algae. This time, I feel as if I'm swimming in an out-take from Finding Nemo.

It's a similar story all along our coastline. Lured by rising sea temperatures, increasingly exotic creatures are starting to call Britain home. Leatherback turtles, ocean sunfish, sharks, dolphins, seahorses and jellyfish are now common sights along the west coast. Only this year, coral reefs were discovered off the south coast of England and the north coast of Scotland.

Unsurprisingly, these marine visitors are getting a warm reception. The British Sub-Aqua Club, the UK's main training body, reports that more than two million dives will be taken here this year, making scuba diving one of our fastest growing sports.

There are more than 500 regularly dived sites in the UK - at inland lakes, beaches and out at sea - but I'm at Scapa Flow, Britain's best known scuba diving destination.

"The Flow", a 144-square-yard lagoon encircled by the flat, heather-covered Orkney Islands, was the Royal Navy's principal anchorage during both world wars. Lying on its bottom is one of the wonders of the diving world: the remains of the German Imperial Navy's High Seas fleet, scuttled here by its commander on June 21, 1919, after a long and miserable internment.

Of the fleet of 74, most have been salvaged or have disintegrated. But still remaining within a few square miles of each other are the carcasses of seven vessels: three battleships, three light cruisers and one destroyer. In their time, they were part of a formidable force, which was a serious challenge to Britain's traditional naval supremacy.

I'm diving the SMS Cöln, one of the light cruisers, and the most intact wreck in the group. With me is Lindsey Cradock, a guide from Scapa Scuba, one of 15 operators that run daily tours to these ships.

Visibility is about 30 feet, and the Cöln is about 525 feet long, so it's impossible to see the entire wreck, but there's no shortage of things to look at.

The hull is a mass of swaying, trembling life, alternately toothy and tentacled, shelled and spiny, feathery and hairy. There isn't one inch of metal visible in this submarine city. Plumose anemones grope for food in the current with their delicate tentacles, a cuttlefish squirts ink at us, moray eels lurk in the shadows and lobsters lie in wait with their claws open like the arms of a child waiting for sweets. It's as if I'm swimming in an aquarium, only it's wild and natural.

Twenty minutes into the dive, Lindsey beckons me to swim deeper towards the stern of the ship. Soon I'm in a quiet, eerie world, floating over a graveyard of ghostly masts and spars.

Among the gnarled wreckage, Lindsey points out the grainy outline of the Cöln's armoured control tower, identifiable by its thin viewing-slits, and she shows me barnacled anchor chains and capstans.

Farther back, we spot the remains of gun turrets, steel searchlight platforms, lifeboat davits and, among the debris on the sea bottom, what could be a crow's nest. On the side of the wreck, portholes give us glimpses into the ship's cavernous interior and, through the dark soup of microscopic creatures inside, we catch an occasional tantalising glint of brass missed by salvagers.

I've dived about 300 times around the world, but I've rarely been so captivated by what I've seen. These ships have lain in this watery grave virtually untouched for more than 85 years - I feel as if I'm diving in a museum, where the only sound is my own deep breathing.

Back on the dive boat Lindsey explains the allure: "Some of the things you see down there beat the hell out of anything in the tropics," she says. "There's a real prettiness to the wrecks because the light is always changing."

Diving in Britain is generally more challenging than in warmer seas, and it requires special training. Before my dive on Scapa Flow I took a one-day dry-suit course, diving on shallower ships nearby to practise my buoyancy and acclimatise to the temperature.

I needed extra equipment, too: a 24lb weight-belt to compensate for the air in my dry suit, thick gloves to keep my hands warm and a torch to see in the darker waters.

Visibility in Britain can vary enormously. In western Scotland and Cornwall where the water is clear and unpolluted, visibility can reach up to 65 feet. On the south coast, the average is about 23 feet. Occasionally visibility is nil, and you can't even see your own hand in front of your face.

On the whole though, British diving is adventurous and exciting. As Lindsey puts it: "In warm water, everything is laid out on a plate for you and you get complacent. Here, you have to be on the ball. You sometimes have to look a bit harder for things, but it's much more rewarding.

There are colours you could never capture with a tin of paints.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 01 Jan 2010 14:23    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

En uiteraard deze pagina: en:
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BerichtGeplaatst: 25 Mrt 2010 23:10    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Nog een linkje hierover:

Gr P
Wie achter de kudde aanloopt, sjouwt altijd door de stront.
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BerichtGeplaatst: 27 Mrt 2010 9:20    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

3D-map met de ligging van de schepen.

PDF-file met mooie onderwaterfoto's.
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