Friday, 14 December 2018

Peace On Earth 1918 - An Archive Advent Calendar #14

Although the armistice had been signed and hostilities were officially over, Orcadians would experience an even closer proximity to their former enemies at the end of 1918.

The terms of the Armistice demanded that 74 German battleships be interned in a neutral port. After failing to find a neutral country interested in this job, the allies settled for Scapa Flow. In late November, the British Grand Fleet left the Flow and gradually, the 74 German ships were led in to be interned until their scuttling in June 1919.

After the ships had arrived, many of their crew members were repatriated to Germany yet, by the end of the year, 5000 men still remained. The German ships, unlike their British counterparts, were not designed to be lived on for extended periods. The living quarters were grim, food very poor and mail and German newspapers arrived late and heavily censored. The crews were miserable.

In December 1918, The Daily Mail carried a large feature on the fleet which described 'ragged, dirty crews fishing from the side and through portholes... the main impression from the collection of German soldiers who fished was, first, their variegated, ragged and dirty clothing and, secondly, their extremely youthful appearance.'

The crew had begun to ignore their superiors and were amazed to see their British equivalents still parading on board their ships, One remarked in his diary 'We did not do that in time of peace,'
SMS Frederick Der Grosse - first ship to be scuttled in June 1919. Raised in 1937 and broken up for scrap on site.

SMS Dresden - one of the successfully scuttled ships, she remains unsalvaged.

SMS Kaiser - scuttled and raised between 1929 - 1937 to be broken up at Rosyth.

SMS Karlsruhe - scuttled and still remains on her starboard side in the water. Postcards from this ship were rescued in 2003, underwent conservation and are now in the Orkney Archive collection.

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