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Remembered Today:

The last deaths of the war - the scuttling of the German fleet


John_Hartley

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The Germans scuttled their fleet at Scapa Flow, starting on the morning of 21 June 1919, taking advantage of there being almost no British war ships in the area. I understand that, by early afternoon, a British squadron had returned and marines boarded the sinking German ships. Apparently this resulted in nine Germans being shot dead - the last men killed during the war, according to the book I'm reading.

 

Are there any details of what happened that caused the marines to open fire? Presumably there must have been some resistance to the boarding. Was this just on one ship or several?

 

 

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John,

 

To be honest, this is not something which I am familiar with and the following was found on a web-search
It is from this site http://www.warfaremagazine.co.uk/articles/The-German-Fleet-at-Scapa-Flow-1919/160

 

“........With the main British Guard Fleet out of the Flow, the few remaining guards aboard the drifters could not cope, their numbers falling well short of the shipping and manpower needed to control any sudden German insurrection. 
The Flying Kestrel could not safely return to Stromness back through the sinking mass and had to be given an alternative route to avoid any possible danger to the children. Their new course took them on a wide arc around the German fleet, passing vessels which, having received their scuttling orders slightly later, were still in the early stages of sinking. German lifeboats were full to the gunwales with unarmed officers and men with their hands raised. Some were waving makeshift white flags when the children heard a rifle crack. 
Some children saw German sailors surrendering on the stern of a ship when one of them was shot, his body crumpling and falling into the sea. Fifteen-year-old Katie Watt watched a string of lifeboats being towed by a Royal Navy drifter. She saw a sailor shot dead as he was trying to cut his launch free. The remaining Royal Navy personnel had lost control. 
One lifeboat had cleared away from the destroyer V.126 as a Royal Navy drifter closed in. The German sailors were ordered back to save their ship. When they refused, the Royal Navy opened fire, instantly killing three men and wounding four more. Aboard another lifeboat a stoker was shot in the stomach and died later. 
The final killing took place later that same day when a German sailor, now a legitimate POW, was shot dead in front of a number of other prisoners, simply for refusing to follow a British order. When the other Germans protested, the Royal Navy blamed a crazed sailor for the death and made an arrest. The following year the case was dropped. The other killings were blamed on misunderstood orders and the atrocity has never been accounted for. 
Altogether nine men were killed and sixteen wounded throughout the Royal Navy’s unofficial shoot-to-kill policy. All were unarmed. All were surrendering. And all were the last casualties of the First World War.”

 

I hope that this helps

regards

Michael

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Thanks for that, Michael. I bow to your Googling skills.

 

Tragic events, particularly as not in the heat of battle. I'll be at Scapa Flow in a few weeks and will pay my respects, as well as to those RN men from Stockport who perished during the war.

Edited by John_Hartley
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We had an amazing time at Orkney last September. Lyness museum is at least a day's visit, and as well as the RN cemetery at Lyness there are other GW burials on the other side of Hoy at Osmundwalls cemetery.

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I have recently returned from Orkney. It really is "magical ". 

The info Michael supplied is much the same as related to me by a friend whose mother was one of the children on the boat. 

 

Hazel C

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The journalist Dan Van Der Vat has written a book which I think is called "The Great Scuttle". It is some time since I read it but I vividly recall the story of the local schoolchildren being taken out on a trip "to see the German fleet" as a treat, only to be confronted with the sight of said fleet sinking before their eyes.

 

I think also that some of the ships hoisted German ensigns before they were scuttled, something which Sir David Beatty's orders at the surrender had specifically forbidden them to do without permission.

 

Ron

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On ‎13‎/‎06‎/‎2017 at 18:32, John_Hartley said:

The Germans scuttled their fleet at Scapa Flow, starting on the morning of 21 June 1919, taking advantage of there being almost no British war ships in the area. I understand that, by early afternoon, a British squadron had returned and marines boarded the sinking German ships. Apparently this resulted in nine Germans being shot dead - the last men killed during the war, according to the book I'm reading

 

 

The book is wrong.   HMS Dragon 17/10/1919 were the last German/British hostilities deaths

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"The Great Scuttle" was recommended to me the first time I went to Orkney together with another called,if I remember correctly, "Scapa Flow". The latter is a wonderful read for anyone interested in the use of Orkney in both wars.  

 

Hazel C. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

This may be an appropriate place to mention that Vice Admiral Ludwig von Reuter's 1921 memoir of the scuttling was republished in 2005 by Wordsmith Publications (Chesham, UK), and again the following year. It should still be available, under the title: Scapa Flow: From Graveyard to Resurrection.If you want to order it through a local bookshop the ISBN is: 1-899493-04-2.

 

The book written by Dan van der Vat was called The Grand Scuttle, but that was published back in 1986 so I don't know if it is still available.

 

S.

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