21 June 1919

As a condition of the Armistice of 11 November 1918, that halted the fighting of the Great War, 74 of the finest ships of the Imperial German Navy’s High Seas Fleet were interned under Allied guard at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands of northern Scotland. Their guns were disarmed and the bulk of the crews repatriated to Germany, leaving only skeleton crews aboard.

Seven months later, on 21 June 1919, in the belief that the Armistice was about to break down and the fighting start again – and with his ships unable to defend themselves against a British attempt to seize them, Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter issued a coded order for the entire fleet to scuttle en masse. It was the greatest act of maritime suicide the world has ever seen.

Most of the ships were raised from the bottom of Scapa Flow in the coming decades, but today there are 7 major High Seas Fleet warships still left on the bottom for divers to explore: three Konig-class dreadnought battleships, Konig, Kronprinz Wilhelm and Markgraf, along with three light cruisers, Coln, Dresden and Karlsruhe and the mine laying cruiser Brummer.

In addition to the main German wrecks there are countless other wrecks in Scapa Flow, such as the torpedo boat V83, the submarine UB119, the Icelandic trawler James Barrie, the WWI boom defence vessel HMT Strathgarry.

SMS Konig
25,796 tonnes dreadnought battleship
575 feet long with beam of 97 feet
10 x 12-inch main battery guns – range 12 miles
14 x 5.9-inch secondary guns, 7 on each beam
13.8-inch main vertical waterline armour belt