The Great War, I was there - Part 48

Above is the scene at Scapa Flow when the ships ot the German High Seas Fleet had come to their final anchorage. After the surrender the ships were escorted by the Grand Fleet to Rosyth, as related in this chapter, but afterwards they were taken to Scapa to be interned. A few German officers and men were left on board, and on June 22 they scuttled the whole fleet. On the extreme left of the photograph is the Houton seaplane station and on the right the balloon station. Imperial War Museum INGLORIOUS END OF A GREAT FLEET mast-head called down the tube to the captain’s bridge: “German Fleet insight on the starboard bow.” We were fifty miles out to sea east of the opening of the Firth of Foith. “ Der Tag,” murmured the Chief Yeoman of Signals, ashe levelled his telescope on the in­credible thing. First of all we saw a kite balloon towed along by the Cardiff, our light cruiser, in the proud job of marshalling the prisoners. Behind the Cardiff we saw a faint silhouette, dark grey against the grey haze like something cutout of paper.“ Seyd- litz,” said an oflicer. “When I saw her last she was fairly battered. Jutland.” So the five battle-cruisers were marching first to prison. Over the Seydlitz one of our North Sea airships kept watch and ward. The leading German ships showed great plumes of smoke. After the Seydlitz came the Moltke, Derfflinger, Hinden-burg, and Von der Tann. They were about three miles from us. “What a target! ”said our captain regretfully, and he made a rapid calculation of how long it would take our thirty-three battleships to sink their nine. The nine now loomed out of the haze, all moving as at some peaceful manoeuvres. They were in this order: Friedrich der Grosse, flying the flag of Admiral von Reuter Kaiser, Konig Albert, Prinzregent Luitpold, Kaiserin, Bayern (the very latest), Grosser Kurfurst, Markgraf, Kronprinz Wilhelm. There was a gap of three miles between the battleships and the seven light cruisers. These we could not see at all, nor the fifty German destroyers, all of the latest, type, that closed the pageant. The light cruisers were: Karlsruhe, Frankfurt, Emden (the suc­cessor to the famous raider), Niirnberg, Brummer, Ko’ .n, and The grandest sight was that of the nine battleships towering in the misty light— magnificent and also ignominious. Soon after they were visible the sunburst out fully and made a path of rippling dazzle between us and the Germans. The phlegm of the British sailor was proof even against this miracle. Round theme officers were calmly identifying the ships from their silhouette-books— “Seethe Derlllinger’s tripod masts,” and soon. Our sailors showed no emotion at all. There was not a cheer in all the British Fleet, although everywhere, on every turret and ledge, the men stood thickly, gazing silently or with some casual jest. One man who said tome :“This is what we’ve been waiting for all these years ”was an exception. The sailorman thought of peace to come and leave at last. There was chivalry in his heart for a beaten foe. I heard one say :“It’s a fine sight, but I wouldn’t be 011 one of them ships for the world.” A11 officer said tome :“We all feel this is an unparalleled humiliation to a great fleet. The High Seas Fleet has fought well,and we have nothing against it. The submarines are another story. We have won the greatest and the most bloodless victories in the history of the world. That’s enough. No mafficking on the sea.” Of what were the Germans aboard those ships thinking ?Three miles away on either side they watched our 1900 noble lines stretching far before and behind, shepherding them to an alien anchorage. The German ships advanced into the jaws of the Fleet until the leading ship was level with Admiral Beatty’s flagship, which came last as we went to sea, so that when we turned she would head the line into harbour. At this moment, ten minutes past ten, it was time for us to turn. A signal ran down the Fleet, and at once each division of ships turned outwards and round until the line was re-formed for the homeward journey. This was a beautiful thing to see. Each ship swept round with parade precision, furrowing up a wide wake all white and green as it turned. The sun caught everything that could shine, and lit up the flags at the masts. The Queen Elizabeth was resplendent, all her silvery bulk flecked with white and crimson. I 11 her wake followed the Oak, the Commander-in-Chief’s destroyer, after the Queen Elizabeth the Orion, the Thunderer, my ship, the Monarch, and the rest of the Second Battle Squadron. The Queen Elizabeth led the squadron in the culminating display, as she does when the Fleet goes into battle. Looking back atone moment I saw a score of battleships all changing course simul­taneously. This movement gave the finest of a day’s impressions of great strength and grace. From every fortress there spread a banner of smoke. One resplendent picture hid a nation’s tragedy— a blue dancing sea, grey-blue ships, flags flying, and quiet satisfaction in every man’s heart aboard. So complete was the triumph that the humane mind of the British seamen had thoughts to spare of pity, of fellow- feeling. We went back to port much slower than we came. The German ships were only making nine tenor knots.
Add Names


We have sought to ensure that the content of this website complies with UK copyright law. Please note however, that we may have been unable to ascertain the rights holders of some items. Where we have digitised items, we have done so with items that to the best of our knowledge, following due investigations, are in the public domain. While the original works are in the public domain we reserve all rights to the usage of the digital works.

The document titled The Great War, I was there - Part 48 is beneath this layer.

To view this document now, please sign up as a full access member.

Free Account Registration

Please enter your first name
Please enter your surname
Please enter a valid email address
Please enter your password, it must be 8 or more characters

Already a member? Log in now
Small Medium Large Landscape Portrait