News From Orkney Islands Council
A letter sent on behalf of the German Ambassador Dr Petter Wittig has thanked the Orkney community for a ‘remarkable’ programme of events marking the recent centenary of the scuttling of the German Fleet in Scapa Flow.
The letter, which was sent to Orkney Islands Council’s Convener Harvey Johnston, acknowledges the hospitality provided to the German delegation throughout the event, saying all were ‘deeply moved’, and adding that the “extremely welcoming attitude of the Orcadian people will never be forgotten.”
It goes on to say:
“I am profoundly convinced that the messages of reconciliation and peace which were sent from Kirkwall, Stromness and Lyness during these days will have a long lasting effect on current and future generations of both our countries.”
Councillor Johnston said:
“The letter is testament not only to Orkney’s open, welcoming and caring community folk, but also to our ability to rise to an occasion and put on an amazing programme of events such as only Orkney can.
“The events in Scapa Flow on 21 June 1919 and the subsequent loss of lives called for sensitive handling of any commemorative event so it was important to set an appropriate tone from the start and I think we got that just right.
“Our Council staff played an important role in planning and co-ordination, but the great strength of Orkney is the many individuals, community groups and organisations who selflessly pulled together to plan and put on such an interesting, informative and entertaining programme of events that spoke from the heart of reconciliation and respect, and which so deeply touched our visitors from Germany and beyond.”
The deliberate sinking of the fleet of German warships in Scapa Flow 100 years ago is one of the most extraordinary events in naval history.
It was on 21 June 1919 that Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter issued the order to scuttle the vessels under his command – 74 vessels from the German High Seas Fleet interned in Scapa Flow after the Armistice which ended the First World War.
Fifty of the warships went to the seabed.
Commemorations were held on 21 June this year in memory of the events and of the 15 German sailors who lost their lives during the internment and on the day of the scuttling.
At one point in the service the bell from one of the scuttled German warships, the von derr Tann, was rung by Yorck-Ludwig von Reuter, grandson of Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter. The bell had been brought to Orkney from Germany for the occasion.