WWI Aftermath – German Fleet at Scapa Flow postcards

A fascinating group of over 20 cards I have just aquired shows the German naval battle fleet entering Scapa Flow at the end of 1918.

As part of the terms of surrender, the German U boat fleet was to surrender to the Allies at Harwich, with no possibility of these ships being returned. The surface fleet was to be interned at Scapa Flow until a final decision was made on its fate. Despite misgivings amongst the German officers that an increasingly mutinous crew would sail the ships, they did reach Scottish waters at the end of November 1918 and were escorted into Scapa Flow.

Of the 20,000 sailors in this initial convoy, most were repatriated over the following months, but those skeleton crews that remained suffered poor conditions, with lack of food and activity amongst them. While discussions on the fate of the fleet took place at the Paris Peace Conference, there was increasing concern that the German command would scuttle the fleet and certain Allied leaders wanted the ships cleared to lessen this possibility. However this was not acted upon and with Rear Admiral von Reuter, the German commander, concerned over the terms of the Versailles Treaty, he began to make detailed plans to scuttle the fleet.

The order eventually went out to scuttle the ships on 21st June 1919 when most of the Allied fleet were out on exercises and by that afternoon most of the ships had sunk (15 of the 16 “capital” ships including the flagship the “Frederich der Grosse”) or were out of commission. As a result of this breach of the armistice, the German sailors where treated as prisoners of war and von Reuter was summoned to the Allied command for a dressing down over a”violation of common honour and the honourable traditions of seamen of all nations”.

Over time several of the ships were salvaged but a number still sit at the bottom of the natural harbour of Scapa.

It is a fascinating part of the history of WW1 and these cards which are listed for sale in Reynard Collectables Delcampe shop here, at least capture part of this historic period with some of the bigger ships depicted (“Frederich der Grosse”, “Emden”, “Bayern”, “Hindenburg” etc). In fact a set of six cards show various explosions which I wondered  might be part of the scuttling, although I am far from certain on this. Great stuff anyway!!

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About reynardcollectables

Married to Barbara, two boys, work from home office. Trying to build my collectables hobby into a profitable business.
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