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Transfer details of German ships to Scapa Flow

Date: 1918
Dimensions:
Sheet: 330 x 205 mm
Medium: Purple stencil printing ink on foolscap paper. Iron gall ink.
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Ephemera
Object Name: Letter
Object No: 00000442

User Terms

    Description
    A typewritten manuscript detailing the transfer of German ships from the Firth of Forth to Scapa Flow on 23 November 1918. This two page message is from the Admiral, Second in Command of the Grand Fleet to the Flag Officer commanding the German ships detailing instructions for the movement.

    This manuscript was received aboard HMAS SYDNEY (I), which was present at the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet on 21 November 1918.
    SignificanceThis is a copy of movements given by the Royal Navy to the defeated German ships after the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I.
    HistoryAfter the signing of the Armistice in November 1918, which effectively ended the First World War, the allied Entente powers decided to intern the German High Sea Fleet at Scapa Flow, Scotland until its fate was decided at the Versailles Peace Conference. In charge of the German Fleet and remaining skeleton crew was Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter.

    74 German ships gradually arrived at the Firth of Forth before being sent to Scapa Flow towards the end of November 1918. They were guarded by the Royal Navy under the command of Rear Admiral Sydney Fremantle.

    During the internment the German crews readied their ships for scuttling, the action to be decided based on the outcome of the Versailles negotiations. Britain was anxious to maintain the numerical superiority of the Royal Navy and many countries advocated the surrender of the entire German Fleet to be integrated into the victorious nation’s navies, an idea that was abhorrent to von Reuter.

    Von Reuter did not possess up to date information about the conference, however he realised the ships were unlikely to be returned to Germany. At 11am on 21 June 1919, when the RN guard ships were on a training exercise, the order was given for the ships to be scuttled. Fremantle was informed of the scuttling, quickly returned to Scapa Flow and attempted to limit the damage. The British towed several sinking ships to shore and beached them and tried to force the German crews to reverse the scuttling. Nine German crewmen were killed during the operation. Ultimately, 52 of the 74 ships were unable to be saved.
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Transfer details of German ships to Scapa Flow

    Assigned title: Transfer details of German ships to Scapa Flow

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