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Spitfires of the Sea @SeaSpitfires
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#OTD, 100 years ago, the German High Seas Fleet surrendered to the Royal Navy. After they had last met at Jutland, 70 German warships met well over 100 allied warships and sailed into captivity. It was the largest gathering of warships in close company in history.
Only the previous day, Germany's U-boats had sailed into captivity in Harwich, per the terms of the armistice signed the previous week.
The first U-boats sailed into Harwich as the mist began to lift on the morning of the 20th. The boats were received in silence: no jeering or cheering from either side. Once the formalities were done, the German crews watched as the White Ensign was raised over their vessels.
On the 21st, 40 battleships and over 150 cruisers and destroyers of the Royal Navy and US Navy rendezvoused off the coast of Scotland. At 10am they met the High Seas Fleet and carefully formed two lines, flanking the German fleet.
The German crews were lined on deck, with only engine crew below, and their guns faced forward and aft, unloaded. Admiral Beatty on the other hand, had his crews ready for action at a moments notice. Slowly, the lines steamed west.
JW Mitchell, on board Indomitable, wrote to his mother a few days later. "When we got to May Island, the 2nd Battlecruiser Sqn, which was leading one line, turned round, passed the enemy battlecruisers, then the battleships and light cruisers, and finally the destroyers, which...
... were surrounded by innumerable British destroyers. When we passed the last of them we turned round again and followed them in anchoring at 3pm across the firth. At 6pm we held a short thanksgiving service at the suggestion of the C in C."
George Fox found the whole spectacle overwhelming. "It was the most pitiful sight I think I shall ever see. To see such magnificent ships surrender to another fleet was pitiful really. You know I could have cried, honestly I could."
On German destroyer B110, Friedrich Ruge remembered "the realisation that we were now coming under the British yoke jarred on our nerves. I nearly rammed the ship ahead of us when our line became ragged because I was too excited to give the necessary orders.
There was some amusement to be had though. "A British aircraft taking pictures of the spectacle crashed into the sea near us. Destroyers recovered the soaking occupants from the water. The incident caused some amusement and helped to relieve the strained atmosphere."
By sunset, the German fleet was surrounded in the Forth. Beatty issued his order that the German ensign was to be hauled down and not raised again without permission. Operation ZZ, chosen as a note of finality, was over. But for the High Seas Fleet, the war was far from over.
Pictures from this fantastic pair of 1918 publications I got for pennies a few months ago. The British accounts from a handwritten letter I found inside them, and this radio show:…. The German account from Scapa Flow 1919 by Ruge. It's a really good read.
This article isn't bad either.…
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