On 21st of June 1919 the German High Seas Fleet was scuttled in Scapa Flow, Orkney
In 2019, on Hoy, at Lyness Naval Cemetery, a ceremony took place to remember the unarmed German sailors who were shot and killed on that day.
Whilst the peace negotiations were dragging on – basically working out the ‘spoils of war’ – 74 German vessels and crew were interned at Scapa Flow Orkney. The men were not prisoners of war but internees.
The Versailles negotiations dragged on and the conditions aboard the German vessels became atrocious.
There was to be no shore leave; mail and German newspapers were censored; all supplies except coal, diesel fuel and water had to come from Germany. Men became restless and mutinous. More men were transported back to Germany leaving behind 1,860 on board the vessels.
The scuttling of the ships took place on June 21st 1919 with the signal ‘Paragraph Eleven, Confirm.’ Around midday the first battleship Friedrich der Grosse started to go down. Men began leaving the vessels and as they did some of them were shot at supposedly to force them back on board.
Nine unarmed German seaman were shot dead with approximately 16 wounded.
“The fact remains that some of those who did die appear to have been deliberately targeted. ” Scapa 1919 The Archaeology of a Scuttled Fleet by Innes McCartney
Innes McCartney describes one incident on SMS Markgraf involving its Captain Walter Schumann:
‘Schuman was forced to take cover, and it was while waving a white handkerchief and trying to stop the shooting that he too was shot in the face and killed by a Lt Turner.’
The men killed were:
- Yeoman of Signals Hans Hesse
- Stoker Karl Bauer
- Cdr Walter Schumann
- CPO Hermann Dittman
- Warrant Engineer Wilhem Markgraf
- Chief Engine Room Artificer Gustav Funkrath
- Chief Engine Room Artificer Friedrich Beicke
- Stoker Karl Funk
- Apprentice Kuno Evertsberg (killed on HMS Resolution on the night of 23rd of June)
Reporter: Fiona Grahame