Rare Photographs of Scapa Flow: Albert Göhler, SMS Hindenburg crew member, 1918-19.

SMS Hindenburg in Scapa Flow.

[Tom Muir, Engagement & Exhibitions Officer, Orkney Museum]

I was utterly delighted when I received a message from Aglef Kaiser via the Scapa Flow Museum Temporary Panels pages on this blog. He had found the post when looking for information about SMS Hindenburg’s time in Scapa Flow after the Armistice of 1918. The reason for my delight was that Aglef had photographs of his grandfather, Albert Göhler (1891-1967), when he was a crewman on the battlecruiser, SMS Hindenburg. The family have been very kind in letting me use these photographs in this blog. They show a small glimpse of one man’s naval career and life onboard a German ship interned in Scapa Flow after the Armistice in 1918. When we see photographs of the sinking German ships on that midsummer’s day in 1919, it is usually just large metal structures slipping beneath the waves. It is easy to forget that there were real human trauma happening at the same time, as sailors scrambled to get into boats, sometimes under fire from the British. We should not forget that men died that day, and on days afterwards. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Aglef and his family for letting us have a look in a family photo album and for sharing his grandfather’s brief notes on his life. If anyone else has photos or accounts of British or German ships and sailors in Scapa Flow in both World Wars, I’d love to see them and maybe turn them into a blog page as well.

The CV of Albert Julius Göhler, written around 1933. The text is given below in full, along with his photographs. As a CV it gives very little detail, which is a pity, but it is still a fascinating document.

Curriculum vitae
I, Alber Julius Göhler, was born in Singen Am Durlach on 5 December 1891 as the son of the former gendarme and current gendarme commissioner, Göhler, and was baptised and educated according to Protestant church customs.


As a result of various transfers of my father, I attended the elementary schools of various towns in Baden from Easter 1898 to April 1906. After my release from school, I entered a 3-year apprenticeship with the master locksmith Karl Friedrich Jund in Denzlingen and during this time attended the trade school in Emmendigen with good results. After completing my apprenticeship, I worked as a mechanic at the machine factories Gritzner Durlach, Schmidt & Burckmann, Pforzheim, and as an electrician at the general electric company in Freiburg im Breisgau. Afterwards, in the winter of 1910/11, I attended a semester at the State Technical College in Karlsruhe.

The battlecruiser SMS Göben, on which Albert served. Public domain.

As I had in the meantime reached the age of compulsory military service, I volunteered for the navy with the intention of pursuing a career as a technical deck officer. I joined the II Shipyard Division in Wilhelmshaven on 1.4.12. After my infantry training, I was ordered to- attend the training courses required for my career, in which I participated with distinction. Among other things, I also worked in the technical office for a long time.

“Forced sailing 11 Jan 1914 in Mediterranean Sea, SMS Göben”

In March 1913, I was sent abroad on the armoured cruiser “Göben”. On this cruiser I took part in all combat operations in the Mediterranean and Black Seas during the war until April 1916 and was awarded the Iron Cross II. and I. Class, as well as the Baden Medal of Merit and the Turkish Iron Crescent [Gallipoli Star] and was promoted to Artillery Mechanic Mate and later to Chief Mate.

Photograph taken onboard SMS Göben while in Turkey. Albert is not in this photo.

In April 1916 I returned to my regular company in Wilhelmshaven, as those crews who had been commanded on board the cruiser the longest had to be promoted home.

Wilhelmshaven Naval Base.
Crew members of the light cruiser SMS Strassburg. Albert had no connection to the ship, but this postcard and another one showing a crew member of the Strassburg would suggest that it was sent by a friend or family member who served on board the ship.
Postcard showing members of the ‘5 II Werft Division’ in which Albert served after returning from Turkey. They trained new recruits to the navy. The ‘II’ indicates that they were stationed at Wilhelmshaven, as the ‘I’ Werft Division were stationed at Kiel. Albert is not in this group.
Albert’s cap ribbons from the Werft Division and SMS Hindenburg.

From Wilhelmshaven, my command took place on 10.5.17 on board the armoured cruiser “Hindenburg”.

Still wearing their Werft Division cap ribbons, Albert is shown here with other crewmen from SMS Hindenburg, May 1917. Albert is in the centre. 5th from the right, although his images has been scratched by people pointing to him.
The battlecruiser SMS Hindenburg sailing to Scapa Flow. Public Domain.

When the German High Seas Fleet had to be surrendered after the armistice in November 1918, I took part in the sad voyage to Scapa Flow on the new battleship, where I and many comrades were held prisoner by the British until June 1919. After my return from English captivity, I was released in December 1919 after a longer leave to look for a civilian job.

Crewmen on the bow of SMS Hindenburg. It is easy to distinguish with its tripod mast and the A and B turrets placed one above the other. This is the design that would predominate in later warships. The low lying land on either side and the small number of crewmen would suggest that this photograph was taken in Scapa Flow.
The crew of SMS Hindenburg in Scapa Flow, Easter 1919. Albert is in the back row, 6th from the left with a dot over his head to mark him out.
A concert party of crewmen from SMS Hindenburg in fancy dress. Albert is front centre, holding a conductor’s baton. It is unclear whether this was taken in Scapa Flow, but to me the cramped conditions looks like it might be on board the ship.
Crewmen from SMS Hindenburg in a wash tub. Albert is not in this photograph and it is unknown if it was taken at Scapa Flow.
A photograph taken from SMS Hindenburg in Scapa Flow, looking south-south west towards the islands of Ryse and Hoy (North Walls). It shows the battlecruisers Von Der Tann, Moltke and Seydlitz, with German motor torpedo boats (destroyers) on the right.

I then found employment at the Freiburg City Theatre as an electric machinist. After I was dismissed there in July 1920 at my own request, I then came to Karlsruhe as a contract employee to the Pension Regulation Authority 33. Due to the personnel reduction ordinance, all non-civil servant personnel were dismissed in the spring of 1924 and I received my dismissal at the end of February 1924.

Albert in 1929.

From this time until the end of 1926 I ran a small farm. However, since this could not provide me and my family with a sufficient income, I then applied for various jobs and finally got one as a travelling salesman with the company Karlsruher Maschinenölimport J. Bahm, Karlsruhe. In this capacity I was with this company until the end of October 1933. On 31 October of the same year, I joined the State Finance Office, Foreign Exchange Office, Karlsruhe, as an employee, where I still am today.

Albert with one of his beloved horses.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version). My thanks to Aglef for providing this.

2 thoughts on “Rare Photographs of Scapa Flow: Albert Göhler, SMS Hindenburg crew member, 1918-19.

    1. He left home on 21st November 1918, arriving at the Firth of Forth the same day. From there the Hindenburg arrived at Scapa Flow on 25th November. He was on the ship when the scuttle occurred on the 21st June 1919, then held as a POW in England until he was repatriated to Germany, arriving at Wilhelmshaven on the 31st January 1920. He was away from home for 14 months.

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