Category: Scapa Flow Museum

Scapa Flow Museum Part 2, The Galleries

Tom Muir, Engagement & Exhibitions Officer, Orkney Museum.

The new Scapa Flow Museum opens on Saturday 2nd July 2022. It is still based at the former fleet’s pumphouse at Lyness, next to the ferry terminal, but a new building has been erected to house the internationally important collections of artefacts from both World Wars. This blog is just a taste of what is in store for the visitor.

Entrance and the new café windows.
The entrance lighting is based on the hoops of the boom defence nets, while the walls are painted with a ‘dazzle’ pattern, as used on warships to break up their profile. These are working shots taken when work was still being carried out on the museum.
Reused boom defence nets.
Model of the German battleship SMS Baden. It was beached at Swanbister Bay, Orphir, during the scuttling and was later sunk off Cornwall when it was used for target practice by the Royal Navy.

Display in pumphouse with signal lamp.
Small room showing computer graphics of Lyness during the war. A short film, ‘The Fleet in Action’, is shown in another part of the pumphouse.
Embroidered tablecloth, Caldale Air Station, World Was I and home made toys from World War II.
Children friendly research area with the painting, ‘The Dome’ by Jim Baikie.
Wash stand from HMS Iron Duke (right). The Union flag was flown by Admiral Sir John Jellicoe on his flagship, HMS Iron Duke, during the Battle of Jutland, 31st May/1st June 1916. Later that year he sent it south to be draped over his mother’s coffin as he was unable to attend her funeral. It was flown from HMS Duncan over the site of the battle during the centenary commemorations of the Battle of Jutland in 2016. It is a new exhibit, kindly donated by the Jellicoe family.
Display on HMS Hampshire, lost off Marwick Head, Birsay, on 5th June 1916. 737 men lost their lives when the ship struck a mine during a storm. Among the dead was Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War. Some items were illegally removed from the wreck in 1983 and were returned to Orkney by the Admiralty.
A gun from HMS Hampshire.
Items from HMS Hampshire, including souvenirs made from wood that washed ashore after the ship had sunk.
Items from the battleship HMS Vanguard, which blew up through an internal explosion of its magazines on 9th July 1917 in Scapa Flow. 843 men lost their lives, there were only three survivors but one died of his injuries soon after.
The destroyers HMS Opal and HMS Narbourgh were lost in a blizzard when a navigational error saw them collide with the cliffs at Hesta Head, South Ronaldsay, on 12th January 1918. The blizzard was the worse in living memory with visibility down to virtually zero. 188 men lost their lives, there was only one survivor, William Sissons, who clung to the cliff for 36 hours before being rescued.
Artefacts relating to Ernest Stanley Cubiss, who was lost on HMS Opal. His fascinating story unfolded after a diver found his engagement ring (front left, centre) during a dive on the wreck site. The destroyers were salvaged after the war and very little of them now remains.
The battleflag from SMS Hindenburg. It was taken as a souvenir and later used in Orkney as a children’s play tent. It is another new exhibit which has undergone conservation.
Road sign damaged by shrapnel during the air-raid on the Brig o’ Waithe houses, 16th March 1940. James Isbister became the first British civilian casualty of an air-raid on that day.
Propeller blade from a JU 88 German bomber, shot down at Pegal Burn near Lyness on 17th October 1939.
The battleship HMS Royal Oak was sunk in Scapa Flow on the night of 14th October 1939. The German U-boat, U47, had penetrated the defences and found the old battleship at anchor near Scapa Bay. 835 men and boy sailors lost their lives. The Royal Oak name plate was illegally taken from the wreck in the 1970s before being handed back to the Admiralty, who donated it to the museum.
Model of the tender Daisy II, which served HMS Royal Oak and saved many of her crew on the night she was sunk.
Whisky barrel from HMS Royal Oak.
As a result of the loss of HMS Royal Oak Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, ordered the building of the barriers that bear his name. Many Italian POWs were used as labourers during their construction.
Italian POWs were employed to work on the building of the barriers after the capitulation of Italy in 1943. This gave them some freedom to leave the camp and sell trinkets that they made. Many were given as gifts to local friends.
The reception desk, with ‘Rosie the Riveter’ duck.
The gift shop will be fully stocked by the opening date.
Enjoy a break in the new café. have made a lovely wee film about the new museum, featuring our Ellen and Jude who explain the process. Click on the link below.

To make a donation to any of the museums please follow the link and support us. Thank you.

Scapa Flow Museum Part 1, The Pumphouse

Tom Muir, Engagement & Exhibitions Officer, Orkney Museum.

The new Scapa Flow Museum opens on Saturday, 2nd July 2022. The historic pumphouse building has been restored back to its original appearance and a new world class exhibition space created where the historical artefacts relating to Scapa Flow in two World Wars can be safely displayed in environmentally controlled galleries. Many artefcats have been conserved and are on display for the first time. In this blog we are looking at the Pumphouse itself and the exterior of the museum. The galleries will follow in Part 2. More work is planned to renovate the oil tank, romney hut and to conserve the large guns and steam crane that have stood outside for many years. Their condition has deteriorated due to exposure to the weather and salt in the atmosphere. The guns will be placed inside once they have been stabilised, to preserve them for future generations.

A frequently asked question is how far is the Scapa Flow Museum from the ferry terminal at Lyness? Here is your answer. The museum is the white building, just a short stroll from the ferry.
The view of the ferry terminal from the museum sign.
The pumphose was used to pump oil from the overground tanks (one of which remains) to the oil tenders that fueled the naval ships in Scapa Flow.
The chimneys used to vent the fumes from the boilers that were used to power the machinery. One of them has had to be replaced, as it was in an unsafe condition. The new one is an exact copy of the original.
The new build is the dark grey structure on the right. It has been carefully attached to the original pumphouse to prevent any damage to the historically important listed building.
Displays inside the pumphouse, showing a signal lamp.
The boilers.
An underfloor oil pipe, now left visible, gives a glimpse of what lies under your feet.
One of the propellers from HMS Hampshire, which was lost after hitting a mine off Marwick Head, Birsay, 5th June 1916. 737 men lost their lives, including Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War. It was illegally salvaged in 1983 and returned to Orkney by the Admiralty.
The steam powered crane on rails, which was used at Lyness, is another conservation project.
Original World War II boom defence nets. have made a lovely wee film about the new museum, featuring our own Ellen and Jude who explain the process. Click on the link below.

To make a donation to any of the museums please follow the link and support us. Thank you.

Hoy and Walls Wartime Trail

The Hoy and Walls Wartime Trail was written by Ian Collins and Gavin Lindsay and is available as a leaflet at Orkney museums and other places. To get the information to as many people as possible it is being published here, online so that everyone can see it and learn about the military history of this important area.

(Captions L-R) Hackness Mortello Tower, Ore Farm, 17a REME Workshop and 17b REME Garage, 10 Crockness Camp, 21 Garrison Cinema, (22) HMS Iron Duke, HMS Exmouth, 25 H4 HAA Battery, Hills of Wards.
(Captions L-R) RAF Hydrogen Bottling Plant, RN Firefighting School, RAF Barrage Balloon and Caustic Soda Store, RN Torpedo Attack Teacher, RAF Hydrogen Plant, RN Night Attack Teacher, Generator House, Radar Training School.


George Manners.

[Tom Muir] I received a message from Mary Manners about her father’s war record, and a piece of World War II history that is not well known these days. I suggested that she send me any information and images that she had with which I could create a blog. The following is her tribute to her father, which I am sure you will find interesting.

by Mary Grace Manners

The mast at HMS Ganges naval training base in Suffolk.

I write this as a tribute to my father George Edward Manners who served in the Royal Navy from 25th November 1926 to 9th February 1953. I have researched archives and records and found much information which either was not previously known or only minimal details of events. He served for 27 years, 2 months and 12 day

George’s naval career started in November 1925 when he was just 14 years old. This came about when George attended a club in Goldington, Bedford, where he lived, which was run by a Commander Lionel Skipwith (retired) to teach boys boxing and life skills. For George boxing was to be a life- long passion.

HMS Arethusa, a veteran of the Crimean War, was reused as a training ship from 1874-1933.

Commander Skipwith realised George had a very keen interest in the Navy and after discussing this with Georges parents arranged for George to join the training ship Arethusa. George was with Arethusa for one year and was transferred to HMS Ganges in November 1926 as a Boy 2. HMS Ganges was another training institution for the Royal Navy. Life at Ganges was hard, very hard by today’s standards. Up at 5.00am to scrub floors and latrines and showers were across the parade ground and boys were made to run across the parade ground from the shower block in rain and snow to their dormitories unclothed. If caught smoking the punishment was harsh ….the culprit was made to chew and swallow the remainder of the cigarette! This did not stop George smoking and he did so until he died at the age of 87!!

Mess Hall at
Accommodation hut at HMS Ganges.
Boy sailors at HMS Ganges (shore establishment) in 1926, showing George front left.

I have been to the HMS Ganges museum at Shotley, Ipswich and although the camp has long since been closed it stands as a memorial to the young boys who trained there, many of whom, like George, stayed in the navy for many years.

The museum has the ‘button’ from the top of the mast which stood at the far end of the parade ground and was climbed by the boys as part of their training. The boys who climbed to the very top were known as’ button boys’ as they had stood on the button at the summit. George was proud to say he was one of the button boys.
Over the years it has become a respected title to have been a Ganges Boy.

Boys on the mast at HMS Ganges. Note the ‘button boy’ at the very top.
HMS St Vincent training base.

George was at HMS Ganges until May 1927 when he was in the first group to be transferred from HMS Ganges to HMS Vincent which had just opened as yet another training institution. This meant George was one of the first to be trained at St Vincent. On 31st July 1927 George graduated once more within St Vincent to a Boy 1.

The St Vincent museum is now just one room on the site of the training shore establishment which has now become a college. George left St Vincent on 17th October 1927 to join HMS Effingham on the 18th October 1927. On the 10th August 1927 he was made Ordinary Seaman whilst serving on HMS Effingham.

HMS Effingham, between the Wars.

George left HMS Effingham on 31st March 1930 and went to HMS Victory – a shore establishment at which further training and naval exams were taken and further qualifications gained. George was there for 6 weeks after which he joined HMS Champion on 17th May 1930 to September 22nd 1930. On September 23rd 1930 George joined HMS Royal Sovereign and was promoted to Able Seaman on 15th April 1931.

HMS Royal Sovereign in Scapa Flow during World War II.

17th October 1932 George left the Royal Sovereign to return to HMS Victory (shore establishment) where he stayed until he left on 16th January 1933. January 17th 1933 George left Victory to go to HMS Excellent (another shore establishment) for further training and exams. George left Excellent on 30th August 1933. The next day, 31st August 1933, George joined HMS Hood.

HMS Hood was the pride of the Royal Navy.

He served on HMS Hood as an able seaman for three years until he left on 10th August 1936 which was his 25th birthday. George loved HMS Hood and a brass replica which was made by able seaman Tilley from brass shells from the Hood’s ammunition and mounted on wood from HMS Hood was pride of place on the wall (along with his medals and silver oars won in rowing competitions on board ship) where ever we lived. My elder brother Ray now has the care of this and dads medals which are proudly displayed at his home.

George Manners in 1938.

11th August 1936 saw George back at HMS Excellent for more training and exams until he left on January 4th 1937.
Then he was back to sea to join HMS Suffolk on 5th January 1937. He was made leading seaman on 6th December 1938.

Whilst serving on HMS Suffolk he was based at the China Station in Hong Kong and Wei-Hai-Wei. On 21st November 1939 George was made Acting Petty Officer (this was the initial stage before becoming a Petty Officer).

George Manners (back row left) with the Rowing Team from HMS Suffolk while stationed in China.


HMS Suffolk was deployed from the China Station and after a brief stay at Portsmouth was sent to Scapa Flow…a remote Naval Base at Lyness. This is situated on the Orkney island of Hoy. Dad remembered it as remote, cold, windy and very wet!!! it must have been a shock after the bright lights of Shanghai!!

HMS Suffolk.

During the Norwegian campaign HMS Suffolk was deployed to Stavanger (a Norwegian port) to shell it from the sea. This was to be done as the Germans had invaded Norway and Stavanger Airport would have been very useful to them in their mission.

HMS Suffolk was dive bombed by German aircraft all the way home to Scapa Flow, She was so badly damaged the Captain had to order her to be beached before reaching Lyness to save her. Her stern was under water and she was in real danger of sinking completely.

Senior personnel from Lyness were alerted and sent across Hoy Island to Long Hope beach where Suffolk lay to get the injured back to the base hospital and to remove the dead.

The bodies of the dead are interred at the Royal Naval Cemetery at Lyness. All 32 men from HMS Suffolk who either died on September 17th 1940 or survived the night and died on 18th September 1940. George was awarded a DSM for his bravery that day.

Royal Naval Cemetery, Lyness. Rhonda Muir/ .
George Manners DSM.

The London Gazette of Friday 4th October 1940 reports:

The King has been graciously pleased to give orders for the following appointments to the Distinguished Service Medal and to approve the following awards:

For gallantry and devotion to duty when engaged with enemy aircraft off the coast of Norway:

Acting Petty Officer George Edward Manners P/JX 128640

The crew of HMS Suffolk, including George Manners, 1938.

In July 2011 I was able to visit Lyness. After searching various archives I found an eyewitness testimonial of the events of 16th/17th April 1940 written by a stoker on HMS Suffolk. He wrote a brilliant account of that day which brought the event to life.

HMS Suffolk on the River Tyne.

I have copied his transcript as it shows a very personal view of that day. [Courtesy of Orkney Library & Archive, ref. no. D1/930]

At 16.37 hours on the 16th April 1940 HMS Suffolk, an 8” gun cruiser of the County Class, slipped her moorings at Scapa Flow and headed out into the North Sea. She was escorted by four destroyers – HMS Juno – HMS Jason -HMS Kipling and HMS Hereward indicating a mission of some importance.

We, on the lower deck ( I was a stoker at the time) knew nothing of our destination. All we knew was that over the last few days all our armour piercing shells had been off loaded and replaced with some alternative, that latrine buckets had been distributed throughout the ship and that no hammocks were to be slung. Our objective was a matter of much speculation.

And so began OPERATION DUCK.

We had sailed from Portsmouth in the late evening of September 6th 1939 and as we sped westward down the channel with the ships sides freshly camouflaged and completely blacked out (no striking matches or lighters on the upper deck) we were actually aware that our lives had changed. Gone were the carefree peacetime days, the make believe war games….this was for real and I remember my thoughts were a blend of excitement and apprehension.
We had previously been engaged in patrolling the Denmark Straight north of Iceland – a monotonous activity –carried out in semi darkness- the sheer boredom of which tended to allay any anxieties.

But this was something quite different. We were off on an unknown and possibly aggressive adventure and again I experienced a feeling of excitement tinged with trepidation. Supper came and went with an unusually subdued atmosphere and then came the announcement that the Commander would shortly be addressing the ships company.
The eagerly awaited address by the Commander duly came.

“ We are proceeding to Stavanger in Norway to bombard the airfield there. The enemy is in occupation and using it to advance their push northward. Our objective is to render the airfield unusable. We expect to reach the target area at 04.00hrs. Ships Company will go into action stations at midnight and you are advised to be wearing clean underwear!”

Luftwaffe in Norway
Luftwaffe seaplanes near Sola Airport, Stavanger, 9th April 1940.

This ominous announcement conjured up rather unpleasant possibilities and then when the padre followed with a few prayers the reality of the situation really struck home and we wondered what the next few hours might bring.
At midnight the mess decks emptied as we went to our action stations. For me this was standby on the turbo-generators in the forward engine room. I descended down the two ladders into the engine room. The two generators were situated at the rear accessible only by a cat walk from the main deck plates and down another short ladder to the bilge plates, a position virtually at the bottom of the ship, well below the outside water line.

At my control position I stood in front of the generators looking aft about 10ft from the bulkhead which rose some 40ft up to the deck-head behind which lay the after engine room. On either side of me and approximately eight feet above me were the thrust blocks from which the main shafts revolved and which passed through the bulkhead then on through the after engine room on its way to the propeller. It was quite a pleasant place to keep watch, clean, well lit, pleasantly warm and despite the drone of the generators and the rumble of the propeller shafts, not excessively noisy. For company I had my watch keeping colleague and a leading stoker looking after the lubricating pumps.

The middle watch passed uneventfully and at 04.00hrs we changed watches. My colleague was taken over by the new stand-by watch-keeper and I took over the watch. At the same time I could hear the engine room telegraphs clanging and the revolution telegraph pinging then the main shafts began slowing down. Obviously we were nearing our rendezvous point but we down below could only assess what was going on from the sounds we could hear from up top.

Stavanger after the war.

At 04.14 hours, although we knew nothing about it at the time, Suffolk had located HMS Seal the submarine designated to mark the position for us and our two Walrus aircraft were catapulted off to spot for the gunners in the bombardment soon to commence. A RAF Hudson was to drop flares to pinpoint the target but apparently these could not be identified due to the anti-aircraft fire and rockets of the airfields defences.

A Walrus seaplane being launched by a catapult from HMS Bermuda.

Our speed had now been reduced to about 15 knots. At 05.13 the bombardment began.

As the 8” guns let drive the ship shuddered violently [NB: it is very likely that George Manners would have been manning the guns at this time as he was a trained gunner]. The vibration of the guns dislodged debris from the masses of steam pipes passing across the deck-head to the after engine room which rained down like confetti. Blue smoke belched in with the air supply fans accompanied with a strong smell of cordite.

We seemed to be swinging back and forth firing in violent bursts. This continued for almost two hours in which 217 rounds were fired and at 06.04 hours the bombardment ceased.

Apparently the observing Walruses were unable to maintain radio contact due to local interference but some damage was done and fires had been started. During the engagement a torpedo was seen to just miss our stern. After withdrawing we proceeded northward to intercept five destroyers reported to be in the area but failed to make contact. Again we knew nothing of this but we were well aware of the revolution telegraphs persistently pinging and I could see from the main shafts that we were increasing to high speed.

HMS Suffolk.

The mission obviously complete and now bowling along at around 30 knots tension relaxed and we all felt a great feeling of relief. At around 06.30 hours we were allowed to send someone to the messes for bread and butter and the galley also produced a boiled egg each.

Just before 08.00hrs it was announced there would be no change in watches and that we were to remain where we were. All in all we were pretty pleased everything had gone so well and that we were speeding back home. Normal chatter and banter resumed heightened by a sense of achievement.
But our euphoria was short lived.

The stoker on the telephone bellowed from above “enemy aircraft approaching”.

Anti-aircraft guns on HMS Suffolk.

Very soon we could hear the sharp crack of the anti-aircraft guns and at 08.26 hours the first bombs came down…….not all that close at first and sounding like depth charges. There followed a period of quiet and then the ship made a violent turn causing it to heel at almost 45 degrees. Buckets, toolboxes, and anything loose rattled across the deck plates whilst we had to cling to the handrail to maintain our balance. Simultaneously more bombs fell – closer this time – with shrapnel clanging against the ships side. There followed another period of peace and then came a sharp heel and more bombs. We were being attacked by waves of three aircraft at high level and apparently the Captain was sighting the bombs as they fell and taking evasive action accordingly.

Below decks we soon realised that the ship heeling and having to cling desperately to the handrail was the signal that more bombs were imminent. Each time we wondered if one would come crashing into the engine room. Some near misses were barely 5 yards away, the shrapnel making a fearful clattering. The situation, the sharp heeling, the clinging on and the clattering now became a pattern.

On either side of me the propeller shafts were rumbling noisily at around 280 rpm and I could imagine the conditions in the two boiler rooms – each with four boilers – at this speed of something over 30 knots. Each boiler front would be pulsating alarmingly as twelve sprayers roared into each furnace like giant blow lamps and the air supply fans screaming to maintain pressure.

Occasionally we could hear the rhythmic thump- thump of the pom-poms and we learned, later, that at times we were being dive bombed. At 10.57 hours, after enduring these attacks for over two hours, we felt a violent shudder and the ship seemed to dip momentarily.

Anti-aircraft guns on HMS Suffolk.

A large flash came from the generators and I could see from the ammeters that something drastic had happened. Nevertheless we kept going but a while later I saw water gushing in from the propeller shaft’s glands in the bulkhead.
I hurriedly informed the chief Engine Room Artificer and each of us taking a spanner tightened the glands to reduce the water flow. Quite clearly the after engine room was flooding – the engines obviously out of use and with just the two engines now running our speed would be no more than 18 knots

.Our avoiding actions became sluggish and we now presented a far more vulnerable target. My thoughts were that as we had sustained a hit at 30 knots how much easier it would be for the German Aircraft to hit us only travelling at 18 knots.

Still the attacks came.

Suddenly water started spurting over the deck plates from about 10ft up – drenching the telephones on the bulk head.
A seam on the plates had lifted. Even more alarming was the creaking of strained rivets some 20ft up where a large bulge had appeared with numerous further gushes of water. If the bulkhead gave way, releasing tons of water into the engine room there would be no hope for the ship or her crew.

But the danger had been seen and pandemonium broke out. Much shouting and clattering of feet came from the cat walk. Planks and tools were hastily brought down and the shipwrights amid frantic sawing and banging began shoring up the bulkhead. Anxiously we stood looking up…the bulkhead cracking…shrapnel battering outside…fully aware that another direct hit would be fatal. After a tense half hour the shoring was complete and seemed to be holding. Water streamed down from the innumerable splits…the flooding kept at bay by a furiously thumping bilge pump.

Junker JU 88 bomber, the same as the aircraft that seized Sola Airport on 9th April 1940.

We then heard that a fire was raging in one of the cabin flats and the whole after part of the ship was flooded. Only the battened down tiller flat remained dry. Part of the quarter deck was under water and we had a list to port. The generators were running but serving no purpose. We were now relying on the other two generators buried deep below the bridge to maintain power.

The attacks continued with monotonous regularity. 12.00 hours came. Then 13.00hours….At 13.05 power to the steering motors failed….Temporary repairs restored power for a time but at 13.25 hours all power to the motor was finally lost. Sometimes the period between attacks lengthened but just as we began to hope they had given up another attack would come with its explosions and clattering shrapnel.

It was not until 15.12 hours that the Germans finally withdrew. We had been under continuous attack for 6 hours and 47 mins. 33 attacks on us. Nearly 100 bombs aimed at us. A dive bomber had achieved just one hit with a 1000lb bomb which had exploded in the spirit room. It burst into the adjacent after engine room and disabled both X and Y turrets, lifting the top of X turret and killing all the crew inside.

Junker JU 87, or Stuka, dive bombers. It is likely that JU 87s were used to dive bomb HMS Suffolk, while the official report also mentions high level bombers, most likely JU 88s, which were stationed at Sola.

At 16.20 hours HMS Repulse and HMS Renown came to our assistance and when I was relieved at 19.00 hours I had been down below for 19 hours, we were surrounded by at least a dozen warships.

We limped into Scapa Flow early the next morning listing heavily to port……..our quarter deck awash having steered the last 164 miles by main engines only. The Commander gave the order for HMS Suffolk to be beached at Long Hope, Hoy to prevent her from sinking completely.

One officer was killed Thirty one ratings were killed. 35 ratings had been wounded.

A few had scrambled out of the engine room but were badly burned and died that night.
Only one do I recall who survived and he was receiving plastic surgery still many years later.

Two enemy aircraft were shot down. Three enemy aircraft were damaged.

Our two Walrus planes made their way back to land in lochs in Scotland.

Little if anything has ever been publicised of this – what I suppose was considered a minor incident in the history of the war. It was not a great success as the aircraft attacks against us cruelly testified. But we did what we were asked to do and 32 good men lost their lives.

For them, now resting in the bleakness of Scapa Flow some recognition of their sacrifice seems long overdue.

George Reed, Stoker, HMS Suffolk.

HMS Suffolk beached at Longhope.

As I previously stated I had the privilege to visit the war graves of all 32 servicemen who died on Suffolk during this mission. I was pleased to see a beautiful cemetery with flower boarders and trees overlooking Scapa Flow a fitting resting place for these hero’s.

(Above and Below) The Royal Naval Cemetery, Lyness. Rhonda Muir/ .

A prefix to this report of that day:

Years later my father was back at Chatham Docks, Kent and as he was passing through the barrack gates he was approached by a man who had an artificial arm. He asked if he (dad) was George Manners. George replied ‘Who wants to know?’ The man then explained that he had been serving on HMS Suffolk on that campaign and he wanted to thank George for saving his life by pulling him out of the burning turret. This relates to the ‘one survivor’ in the eye witness account who was still receiving plastic surgery for his injuries years later.

On board HMS Suffolk in Scapa Flow.

Another incident which happened that day:

After the main hit when the Suffolk was being shored up, above deck the order was given to seal the doors to the flooding section immediately so as to save the entire ship from flooding and ultimately sinking. George was the Acting Petty Officer and it fell to him to carry out this duty. He knew there were marines still in that section but it had to be done to save the ship and all the rest of the crew.

Having read the above eyewitness account it would seem the bomb had killed the marines prior to the doors being sealed but this event haunted George and he rarely spoke of it although confessed to thinking of it almost daily.

Copy of a photograph of Chief Petty Officer George Edward Manners DSM (far  right... on eHive

George Manners was awarded the DSM for his actions that day which included rescuing colleagues from the burning turrets whilst still being bombed and one colleague, George Courtney, related years later that George had thrown live bombs overboard.

It was also reported that because the Suffolk has already carried out their bombardment on Stravanger (and used most of her ammunition in that mission) whilst being attacked on their return they very soon ran out of ammunition thus leaving themselves with no power and nothing to fight back with.

After this HMS Suffolk was temporarily repaired then sent to Clydebank where she was restored to her former glory and returned to action within a year. George never returned to HMS Suffolk but she and HMS Hood remained his favourite ships. Georges naval record shows him leaving HMS Suffolk on 27th May 1940 but being as she was out of commission from 17th April 1940 it is likely this time would have been spent at Lyness Naval Base

HMS Manestheus was a Blue Funnel liner that was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and used as a minelayer.

28th May 1940 George was back at HMS Victory shore establishment. He stayed there until 7th June 1940.
George joined HMS Menestheus (minelayer) on 8th June 1940. During his time on Menestheus George was made Petty Officer on 21st November 1940. Once again he returned to HMS Victory on 31st December 1940 and stayed there until January 10th 1941 and returned once more to HMS Excellent on 11th January and studied there until 11th August 1941.

12th August 1941 saw George joining HMS Laforey (Destroyer) until 23rd August 1942. It was during this time that George received a scarf from the young ladies who knitted for sailors….one of George’s shipmates received a sweater and with it a note with an address. George asked if his mate was going to write to her and he said no so George wrote instead. This was to be to his future wife, Rene Nott.

HMS Laforey, 1942.

Rene did knit him a sweater …….George did not have it for long as HMS Eagle was sunk in a battle which HMS Laforey was also engaged in and Laforey picked up some survivors from HMS Eagle and George gave his jumper to one of the survivors. When Rene heard of this she went round all the shops in Lewisham to get enough wool to knit him another – wool was rationed and could only be bought with coupons.

George on horseback in Canada.

June 1943. I believe this time was spent on courses such as gunnery, torpedo etc. as George was a Torpedo Coxswain and was also a Gunner. On 1st July 1943 he went out to Canada and while he was there worked in the sugar factory and rode horses! His purpose in Canada was to crew HMS Antares back to England which he joined on 23rd August 1943 until 14th September 1943.

November 1943 George was awarded the 1939-43 Star. October 22nd 1944 George was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. He remained on HMS Antares until 2nd March 1945. The next day he joined HMS Thisbe.
On 7th January 1946 George became Chief Petty Officer (Torpedo Coxswain). On 23rd February 1946 he joined HMS Thruster and left inn April 1946 when he stayed ashore at Victory from April 1946 for two years. On 22nd September 1946 George married Rene. They had been exchanging letters and meeting up when George was on shore leave ever since the episode with the scarf and sweater on Laforey!!

HMS Whitesand Bay, 1945.

Then in April 1947 when his son Raymond George Manners was 6 months old George was sent out to Malta to join HMS Whitesand Bay (Frigate) He first served on HMS Whitsand Bay in the Mediterranean and in August 1948 the ship had the honour to carry the Olympic Torch from Greece to Italy. The HMS Whitesand Bay then went on to the West Indies.

In the summer of 1949 after the ‘Amethyst Affair’ (when the communists fired on HMS Amethyst in the Yangtze River and she escaped to Hong Kong) HMS Amethyst was moored alongside Whitesand Bay in Hong Kong Harbour. George always remembered that Amethyst had an armed guard on board.
…Whitesand Bay did not!

George also remembered Amethyst being famous for her ships cat – Simon –known as Able Seaman Simon- who was awarded the Dicken Medal (the animal Victoria Cross) after being wounded in service and for being a comfort to the ship’s crew.

Able Seaman Simon, 1949.

In September 1949 George was presented with:
1939-45 Star
Atlantic Star
Italy Star
War Medal

George came home in February 1950 and returned to HMS Victory until June 1950 when he went to Pembroke at Chatham. A sister to Raymond was born at Canada House Naval Maternity Home, Gillingham, Kent on 3rd March 1951 Mary Grace Manners.

HMS St Kitts.

19th April 1951 George went back to sea aboard HMS St Kitts and to celebrate the Festival of Britain toured around England visiting the ports of Great Britain.

On 21st August 1951 George left HMS St Kitts and returned to Pembroke until 9th February 1953 when he retired at the age of 41years.

George joined HMS Ganges on 25th November 1926.
Commenced 12 years service on 10th August 1929.
Commenced 10 years pension 10th August 1941.
He Served the Royal Navy for 27 years 2 months and 12 days.

Watford Boys Grammar School.

After his Naval Career, George went on to be a school caretaker at Watford Boys Grammar School. On 10th April 1958, Rene and George had a second daughter, Jacqueline Wendy Manners.
George retired in March 1976 and lived with Rene in Eastbourne for 18 years. Later he moved to Somerset where he died on 5th August 1999.

Rene now lives in Tolleshunt Knights, Essex. She is 95 years old! (written in May 2021)
George is interred at Old Cleeve Church Somerset. It was the place he chose as it overlooks the sea.

His remembrance stone reads:


[Tom] HMS Suffolk, along with HMS Norfolk, went on to play a crucial role in detecting and shadowing the German battleship Bismark in the Denmark Strait between Iceland and Greenland in May 1941. This would lead to the destruction of George’s other favourite ship, HMS Hood, which was blown up by Bismark. The Bismark would be sunk on 27th May. For the official report of the attack on HMS Suffolk during Operation Duck, see this website.

To make a donation to any of the museums please follow the link and support us. Thank you.

Model Ship from Jack Webster.

Social History Curator Ellen Pesci with the model of a Tribal Class destroyer.

[Tom Muir, on behalf of Ellen Pesci, Social History Curator]

A recent donation to the Orkney Museum has a hidden story that we would like to try to find out more about. Bill Webster has donated a model of a Tribal Class destroyer, which his father, Jack Webster, had bought while stationed in Orkney during World War II.

Jack was born in Scarborough on the 10th October, 1909. When war came he was called up in January 1940, but it was decided that he was better employed on essential war work in Yorkshire. In the first year he installed tank traps, pill boxes and gun emplacements along the Yorkshire coast. Some of the gun emplacements were dummy ones, with telegraph poles painted to look like gun barrels. The second year saw him working on the building of a listening station at Scarborough and a radar station on the Yorkshire coast. He was then sent to Redesdale in Northumberland, where he continued to install defences.

Jack Webster, in his Royal Marine Engineers uniform.

In 1942 Jack was again called up and sent to the Royal Marine Engineers, doing exactly the same work as he had been doing as a civilian. After his training he was sent first to Iceland to construct defences before being stationed in Orkney in 1943.

Jack was stationed at ‘Scapa Camp, Scapa Flow’, which was at Scapa Beach, just south of Kirkwall. He was a joiner to trade. An officer asked him if he had any experience of fitting greenheart wooden piles to a pier. The pier at Scapa, he was informed, was damaging ships that tied up alongside it as it was bare stone. Jack said that he did have experience in fitting such piles, but that he needed specialised tools to do the job. He drew up a list of the tools that he needed and set to work with two other men. They worked from a raft, which could rise and fall with the tide.

The model Tribal Class destroyer, bought by Jack for his baby son, Bill.

It was when he was working on the pier that Jack met an old man who had been a boat builder, but was now too infirm to work. Instead, he made models of the ships that frequented Scapa Flow and sold them to sailors who were stationed there. He was also on the lookout for scraps of wood to build his models with, which the soldiers provided. When Jack’s son, Bill, was born on the 2nd January 1944 Jack bought a model of a Tribal Class destroyer from the old man, as a toy for his baby boy.

The other side of the model destroyer.

How much the model cost, Bill has no idea, but he thought that it couldn’t have been very expensive. Jack sent most of his army wages home to his wife and just kept a small amount as ‘pocket money’. He returned home after the war, where he lived until his death in 2000.

After having a clear-out it was decided to donate the ship model to the Orkney Museum, as Bill’s son and grandsons didn’t want it. Ellen Pesci, the museum’s new Social History Curator, is keen to find out who the mystery model builder was. He was an old man in early 1944, a former boat builder who was no longer fit to carry out his trade. He must have been active in the Scapa district, probably living in the vicinity of the camp. Do you have any idea who this man might have been? If you have any information, please contact Ellen Pesci at the Orkney Museum, 01856 873535 ext 2524, e-mail

Ellen with the model ship.

To make a donation to any of the museums please follow the link and support us. Thank you.

The Scuttling of the German Fleet: 2019 Summer Exhibition at the Orkney Museum. Panel 6. Salvage.

A German ship raised using compressed air.

[Tom Muir, Engagement & Exhibitions Officer]

Admiral von Trotha (right) welcomes Rear Admiral von Reuter and the German sailors on their arrival in Wilhelmshaven on 31st January 1920. While von Reuter had saved national pride with the scuttling, the order may have been passed on to him verbally by von Trotha when von Reuter was back in Germany for medical treatment in early 1919.
The light cruiser SMS Nurnberg ashore on Cava. The superstructure of the battlecruiser SMS Hindenburg can be seen on the left. Tom Kent Collection, Orkney Library & Archive.
SMS Hindenburg. Orkney Library & Archive.
The bows of the light cruiser SMS Bremse. It was towed into shallow water but turned over before it could be beached. Orkney Library & Archive.


Some of the German ships were beached and later refloated and towed away by the Royal Navy. Ironically, von Reuter’s flagship, the light cruiser SMS Emden was among those that did not sink that day. A British patrol boat had been lying alongside it at the time of the scuttling, and they were late in starting. In total, there were 19 torpedo boat/destroyers, three light cruisers and only one of the large capital ships – the battleship SMS Baden. Despite being a new ship, it was used as a target by the Royal Navy and sunk off Cornwall. There was one more destroyer captured. The B98 was the mail ship from Germany that arrived in Scapa Flow on the 22 June, the day after the scuttling. It was seized by the Royal Navy. During the attempt by the Royal Navy to tow seven German destroyers to Rosyth, a storm blew up, the destroyers broke their tow lines and most sank. One was towed back to Scapa Flow, but sank before arriving. The hapless B98 broke its tow line and drifted north, beaching at Lopness Bay in Sanday, where it was stripped of its valuable metals. The remains of its turbine engines can still be seen at low tide.

The destroyer B98 arrived after the scuttling and was seized by the Royal Navy. Tom Kent Collection, Orkney Library & Archive.
(Above and below) the remains of the German destroyer B98 at Lopness Bay, Sanday.

The Admiralty adopted a hard line when it came to deciding what should be done with the sunken ships. “There can be no question of salving the ships. And, as they offer no hindrance to navigation, they need not be blown up. Where they were sunk, there they will rest and rust.” But the sunken ships did form a hazard to shipping. The battle-cruiser SMS Moltke lay on its side, just under the surface at high tide, while the battle-cruiser SMS Seydlitz rose from the sea like a new island.

Beached destroyers. Orkney Library & Archive.
(Above and below) salvaging destroyers. Orkney Library & Archive.
Salvage workers on a destroyer. Orkney Library & Archive.

Eventually, small salvage teams would start to buy destroyers and raise them to be beached and broken up. In 1924, the scrap company Cox & Danks began to salvage not only the destroyers but the big ships, too. This was done by fitting air-locks onto the submerged hulls and filling the ship with compressed air. Teams of workers would then enter the hull and patch holes. They would divide the inside into air-tight compartments, ready to be filled with more air, which would float the ship up to the surface. The hull was cleared of obstructions by divers and then towed to the breakers yard at Rosyth. Ernest Cox, the engineering pioneer who solved the problem of raising huge, upside-down ships in deep water, bowed out in 1933 after making a loss with the salvaging. He sold his interests in Scapa Flow to Metal Industries Ltd, who continued to raise the big ships until World War II broke out in 1939. The remaining three battleships and four light cruisers were sold to small salvage businesses, who broke up the wrecks with explosives and lifted the scrap with floating cranes.

Diver Arthur Nundy during the salvage of the SMS Bayern. It was raised by Metal Industries Ltd. on 5 September 1934. Orkney Library & Archive.
Ernest Cox of Cox and Danks Ltd was a pioneer of salvaging ships. Orkney Library & Archive.
(Above and below) The upright battlecruiser SMS Hindenburg caused more problems than the upside down sunken ships. Here it is seen with superstructure cut away to lighten it. Orkney Library & Archive.
SMS Hindenburg kept developing a list when they attempted to raise it. Orkney Library & Archive. Orkney Library & Archive.
Two views of a salvage attempt on SMS Hindenburg. Tom Kent Collection, Orkney Library & Archive.
The light cruiser SMS Bremse being broken up at the pier at Lyness. Orkney Library & Archive.
(Above and below) Workmen cutting away armour plating and propellers before towing the hulks south to be broken up at Rosyth.
Airlocks were attached to the hull of the sunken ship and air pumped in to push out the water. A work crew would then have to work inside the upturned hull on the seabed, under pressure from the air being pumped in. This caused numerous cases of ‘the bends’. Orkneu Library & Archive.
(Above and below) Workers inside the upturned hulls of a ship on the seabed. They had to seal the hull into airtight compartments. Orkney Library & Archive.


The remaining wrecks are now recognised as an international destination for recreational diving and have developed into important marine habitats. Stromness Museum whose own 2019 summer exhibition focuses on the salvage and marine ecology aspects of the ships had an exhibition of German wreck material in 1974, collected during salvage work from as early as the 1920s. The exhibition went on to form a permanent display in the museum, which inspired a visiting journalist, Dan van der Vat, to write the book ‘The Grand Scuttle’ in 1982. This brought the story of the scuttling and the remaining wrecks to a larger audience for the first time. In 2001, the remaining seven wrecks were awarded ‘ancient monument’ status, giving them the same legal protection as Skara Brae or St Magnus Cathedral.

Much material has been stripped illegally by divers over the years and whilst attitudes have changed, heavy fines and protected status have not entirely stopped such thefts. The wrecks are now regarded as structures of significant cultural and heritage importance. While this has protected them from further salvage work, and has curtailed thefts, protected status cannot stop the elements and time from slowly destroying them.

A shortage of coal during the General Strike of 1926 left Cox and Danks with the problem of how to carry on work without the fuel for the salvage vessels. This was solved by Cox when he decided to cut into the hull of the battlecruiser SMS Seydlitz, which was lying on its side, exposing its coal bunkers. It was like having your own coal mine in Scapa Flow. Orkney Library & Archive,
Pumping compressed air into the ship made it buoyant again and it shot to the surface. Orkney Library & Archive.
Once on the surface the tall airlocks were replaced with shorter ones. Accommodation huts were built on the upturned hull for the maintenance crew who would sail with the ship when it was towed to Rosyth to be broken up. Orkney Library & Archive.
The maintenance crew on a hull under tow enjoy a game of cricket. Orkney Library & Archive.
The weather could make the trip dangerous. Note the man standing at the bow. Orkney Library & Archive.
SMS Kaiser under tow.
In the dry dock at Rosyth being broken up. Orkney Library & Archive.

To make a donation to any of the museums please follow the link and support us. Thank you.

The Scuttling of the German Fleet: 2019 Summer Exhibition at the Orkney Museum. Panel 5. The Murder of Kuno Eversberg.

Kuno Eversberg’s grave.
Postcard of SMS Frankfurt.
The light cruiser SMS Frankfurt in Scapa Flow, 1918. Kuno Eversberg was a mechanic onboard.

The Murder of Kuno Eversberg

At five minutes past midnight on the 24 June 1919 two German Prisoners of War were being escorted to the toilet onboard HMS Resolution by two armed guards. A shot rang out and one of the Germans, 19 year old Kuno Eversberg, moaned and stumbled, clutching his side. The guards’ rifles were checked and found not to have been fired. Able Seaman William Berry arrived quickly on the scene. One of the guards and the other prisoner helped Eversberg to the sick bay where he was examined before being transferred to the hospital ship HMS Agadir, where Surgeon Commander Frank Bolton operated on the perforated bowels. The doctor didn’t hold out much hope for Eversberg, and he died of Peritonitis (blood poisoning) at 9.40 a.m. on the 29 June. It was decided to offer his family £300 in compensation for the murder.

HMS Resolution.
SMS Frankfurt (left) with the battleship SMS Baden (centre right) and von Reuter’s flagship, the light cruiser SMS Emden (far right) beached in Sanbister Bay. Royal Navy ships can be seen in the background. The battleship HMS Resolution is on the left. James Omand. Orkney Library & Archive.

Captain Alington of HMS Resolution informed Rear Admiral Sir Sydney Fremantle of the shooting later the same day and was ordered to investigate. A search had found the murder weapon, a rifle, hidden next to B Turret, the upper of the two front gun turrets. Alington sent a telegram to Fremantle on the 20 July saying, “I regret it has been impossible to charge any particular person on board.” The Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic and Home Fleet, Admiral Sir Charles Madden, was only informed of the murder on the 25 July – over a month after the shooting. He was furious that he had not been informed and that a court of enquiry had not been carried out. Also, Eversberg was listed among those killed on the 21 June in a document dated 29 June (the day that he died), which was sent to the German government in response to their request for the names of the dead. A court of enquiry was held but found out nothing. Among those questioned was William Berry, who said he knew nothing about the killing. A second court of enquiry was held, but this time it was more thorough. Berry had been unofficially told that he was the prime suspect and named Ordinary Seaman James Wooley from Blackburn, Lancashire, as the murderer. He was able to name witnesses who could verify part of his story.

SMS Frankfurt beached at Swanbister Bay, Orphir. Tom Kent Collection, Orkney Library & Archive.
Kuno Eversberg’s gravestone at the Royal Naval Cemetery, Lyness, with the incorrect date of his death. He died on the 29th June, but there was an attempt to claim that he died during the scuttling and so avoid the scandal of his murder while he was a Prisoner of War.

HMS Resolution had sailed for Invergordon a few days after the shooting, and the crew were given leave while it was refitted. James Wooley didn’t return and was reported as a deserter on the 30th July. He was arrested on 18th September and received 60 days detention. While in the naval prison he was informed that he was to be charged with Eversberg’s murder. A police sergeant from Orkney escorted him to Kirkwall where the charge of murder was brought against him. Wooley refused to make a statement. He stood trial at the Edinburgh High Court on the 9th February 1920. Berry said that on the 23rd June Wooley was drunk, having got German cognac from the crew of a drifter, and was saying that he was going to kill a German for revenge, as he’d lost two brothers in the war. Berry saw him later lying by B Turret with a rifle and again repeated that he “was going to get his own back.” Berry told him, “Carry on, but don’t mention my name.” The judge said that in his opinion Berry should be held as an accomplice. Another witness, Able Seaman John Copeland, had heard Wooley say he wanted to kill a German and had found him with a rifle and had taken the cartridge out of the chamber before Wooley turned violent and threatened him. Copeland hadn’t checked to see if Wooley had any other bullets on him, and he didn’t report it.

A newspaper cutting showing James Wooley (centre, wearing his sailor’s uniform) on trial for the murder of Kuno Eversberg.

Professor George Robertson MD said that having examined Wooley he found a slightly flattened spot on his skull, which was the result of being struck on the head by a stone when he was a child. He said that this old injury could cause problems in his mental state, aggravated by alcohol. The verdict was Not Proven, a Scottish law where there is insufficient evidence or doubt to convict a person. Wooley wept as his sailor friends cheered. He was discharged from the Royal Navy. A recommendation to discharge Berry and Copeland for their “low moral character” was later turned down. Whether Wooley was the real murderer remains a mystery – or was it Berry? He must certainly be considered an accomplice, as the judge observed during the trial. The medical evidence of his mental state might have helped the jury reach their verdict. Maybe it was just too close to the end of the war and a German nationals’ murder would not arouse any sympathy. Whoever the murderer was, Kuno Eversberg did not receive justice.

(Above and below) As part of the centenary commemorations of the scuttling of the German Fleet, which were held during 2019, Kuno Eversberg’s gravestone was altered to give the correct date of his death.
(Above and below) Kuno Eversberg’s old ship, SMS Frankfurt, was given to the US Navy and used as a target for aerial bombing in July 1921. This would prove that air power was of strategic importance in a war at sea.
SMS Frankfurt sinking by the bow.

To make a donation to any of the museums please follow the link and support us. Thank you.

The Scuttling of the German Fleet: 2019 Summer Exhibition at the Orkney Museum. Panel 5. The Aftermath.

Surrendering German sailors.

[Tom Muir, Engagement & Exhibitions Officer.]

Photographs by James Omand. Orkney Library & Archive.


The chaos that followed the scuttling saw acts of violence that the German government declared as war crimes. Seven men were killed that day, one died of his wounds the following day. One German sailor’s body sank was never found. There were also 21 inured, mostly by bayonet wounds, although the Royal Navy only officially recorded four. A ninth victim, Kuno Eversberg, would be murdered by a British sailor after the peace treaty had been signed. German sailors taken onboard Royal Navy ships were now classed as Prisoners of War and many were robbed and faced physical and verbal abuse from their captors. The eight dead German sailors were buried at the Naval Cemetery, Lyness, along with five other Germans who died of illness before the scuttling. A sixth sailor vanished on the night of 6th December 1918 from SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm, and his body was never found. In total, 15 German sailors would not make the journey home.

The battleship SMS Markgraf capsizing (left). Phorographed by James Omand. Orkney Library & Archive.
Four photographs of the sinking of the battleship SMS Markgraf. Her wreck is still in Scapa Flow. James Omand. Orkney Library & Archive.

Part of the German Government’s complaint of war crimes

Names have been removed as it is not known if this is an accurate account of events.

“When the German fleet was scuppered at Scapa Flow on 21 June 1919, Captain … issued an order to shoot at defenceless German officers and crews who floated in their boats or in the water. According to statements of the allied marine commission, 8 participants were killed and 4 seriously injured. The commander of the “Markgraf”, corvette captain Schumann, was shot on board his ship without any reason. A British officer held a pistol to Second Lieutenant Lampe of the VI. Flotilla’s forehead and pulled the trigger: the bullet only missed because the barrel slid off, but hair and skin were singed. Captain … issued the order personally to his officers to shoot Lieutenant Wehr immediately if his boat V43 sank, even though he knew that it was not possible to close the opened valves; only after a semaphore message from the British repair ship was the shooting abandoned.”

SMS Markgraf. Orkney Library & Archive.
Boarding party removing German flags from a destroyer. Orkney Library & Archive.

“The same fate impended on corvette captain Cordes. Even though he called out “don’t shoot, we surrender, shooting will be a horrible massacre”, the Second Lieutenant of the British trawler “Gamma” threatened him with execution by shooting. Second Lieutenant Horstmann of the “Baden” was bound and forced on the “Baden” and ordered to start the diesel engine under the threat of execution by shooting. On his refusal abuse followed. The shooting continued on the swimming men of lieutenant (junior grade) Hoffmann who had jumped into the water from the boats during the cannonade, likewise on the men from the groups of Nordmann and Klüber. The cannonades were under the leadership of the British naval officers of the armed trawler “Gamma” and “Truston”, as well as the buoy steamer “Bendoria” and aimed against the ships as well as the lifeboats, unmindful of the white flag that was shown and that the crew raised their hands. Civilians also participated in the shooting.”

Salvage work on SMS Baden.
SMS Baden was beached at Swanbister Bay, Orphir, along with the light cruisers Frankfurt (seen here on the left) and Emden.

“The crew under the command of Second Lieutenant Klüber were even forced to return to their sinking ship under the threat of immediate execution by shooting and after lifejackets and lifeboats were taken away they were left behind with the words “Then you shall die on board”. Second Lieutenant Zaeschmar with his men was also forced to return to his sinking boat V126. He had wanted to leave the boat in a cutter with 13 men when he came under fire by a drifter, on which civilians participated again in the shooting, by a destroyer and by the English on V45. The machinist Markgraf, Bleike and Pankrath were killed at this; furthermore Schröder, Hebel and Müller were wounded, so 7 of the 13 persons that were present on the cutter. By an abdominal bullet wound seriously injured, and later deceased, Pankrath was not allowed to be lifted from the alongside attached cutter, instead the cutter was left to drift into the surge with the seriously injured and the two dead, despite repeated pointers to this fact. Only after 2 hours, following multiple requests from “Sainthorst” [Sandhurst, depot ship], were investigations into the cutter pursued.

In general it can be established that ships and lifeboats, despite waving a white flag and raising hands, were shot at by destroyers, drifters and tugboats with machine guns, Winchesters and rifles, always under leadership of British naval officers and with involvement of civilians, and that the shooting was not even abandoned when people jumped from the cutters into the water.”

Surrendering German sailors, with a light cruiser behind them.

A statement given by a German sailor about his treatment onboard the Royal Navy battleship HMS Resolution is an insight into the treatment of prisoners on that ship.

Sworn statement of Lieutenant G.:

“The behaviour of the English crew from the ‘Resolution’ was quite beyond belief. At every available opportunity (fetching food, relieving oneself etc.) our men were insulted in the meanest manner, caps were struck from their head, navy cap ribbons were stolen etc.; these things happened even though two guards were always in attendance with bayonet fixed and a sergeant. The first mate seemed to be embarrassed by the unbelievable behaviour of his men, but was powerless against it. The examination of the luggage was performed under the supervision of two officers of the ‘Royal Marines’ in the presence of myself and the whole staff sergeants of the ship. The keys to their clothes bags had been previously taken away from corporals and crews by the English. Nevertheless not a single lock was opened, but every bag was sliced open, in some cases even lengthwise from top to bottom. The staff sergeants put aside whatever was at all possible during this examination, during which a mess was caused deliberately. Footwear, soles, razors, cigars, self-made works were cast aside inconspicuously despite my constant objection.”

German sailors and luggage under tow from a Royal Navy pinnace being taken to a British ship.
German boats under tow by a Royal Navy drifter.
British soldiers guarding a beached German destroyer on the island of Fara. Tom Kent Collection. Orkney Library & Archive.

To make a donation to any of the museums please follow the link and support us. Thank You.

The Scuttling of the German Fleet: 2019 Summer Exhibition at the Orkney Museum. Panel 4. Eyewitness Accounts.

Fleet tender Flying Kestrel.

[Tom Muir, Engagement & Exhibitions Officer]

The German ships in Scapa Flow. Tom Kent Collection, Orkney Library & Archive.
The 137 feet long tug and passenger tender Flying Kestrel was commandeered by the Admiralty during World War I and used as a tender to carry water to the ships in Scapa Flow.

Eyewitness Accounts

On the morning of Saturday 21st June 1919 a group of excited schoolchildren gathered at the pier in Stromness to board the fleet tender, Flying Kestrel. It supplied the ships with water from Stromness but today it was hired to take the children from Stromness Public School on a trip to see the German ships in Scapa Flow. At that time the Stromness Primary School and Stromness Academy, as they are now, were combined in the one place, the Stromness Public School. The children arrived at the school at 09:45 and proceeded to the pier. It would be a school trip like no other and one that would never be forgotten.

Ivy Scott, a pupil on the Flying Kestrel.

“It was a good day for a sea trip – a light breeze and the sun shining when we, pupils and teachers of Stromness Academy, set sail on the Flying Kestrel, which ran water out to the fleet from the Pump Well, in Stromness. This day she embarked us all for a trip down Scapa Flow to see the German Navy. A boy from my school group lived in Lyness, so he was an excellent guide, shouting in a loud voice the name, tonnage and gun power of each ship as we came along. Our headmaster, Major Hepburn, had given us instructions on how to behave in such circumstances. We simply stared, amazed. One of our party was handing around a poke of sweets, and we were all just chatting pleasantly.”

Peggy Gibson, a pupil on the Flying Kestrel.

[The pupils had been] “warned by the teachers that [we] hadn’t to make any noise or cheer. We were to show no signs of hate or anything, but no signs of friendliness either … I thought it was rather hard. And not to wave to the men.”

This photograph of the Flying Kestrel seems to show its decks full of small children, some standing on the lower railings. This must be the Stromness Children leaving on that fateful day, 21st June 1919. Orkney Library & Archive.
The Flying Kestrel at home in Liverpool. It used to take sightseers on cruises around the Irish Sea.
The German ships at anchor around the small island of Cava (middle right), as seen from Orphir. It was here that John Tulloch witnessed the scuttling from the Calf of Cava, the small lump of land that is held on to Cava by a narrow spit of land. It looks like another island in this photograph. Tom Kent Collection, Orkney Library & Archive.

John Tulloch, a small boy on Cava.

“As I sat upon my knoll, musing my childish thoughts and watching the cattle and arctic terns and the surrounding ships I saw a flag being hoisted on the flag halyards of the SMS Friedrich der Grosse, the ship nearest to the Calf of Cava. When the flag reached its highest point a light breeze caught it for a moment and it fluttered out, the iron cross and double eagle of Germany, then right behind it another red flag climbed the mast but no breeze stirred it, like a piece of old rag it hung in shame*. Then across the waters a bell began to ring, clang, clang, clang…” [the bell of the SMS Friedrich der Grosse]

“…I gazed around from ship to ship and could see that they were all now either flying flags or in the act of hoisting them, and a great number of the ships were listing over to one side. Returning my gaze to the Beyern** that was lying immediately in front of where I sat I could see that something most unusual was taking place aboard as she had now taken a dangerous list to the right. Many times before I had seen ships being listed over so that seaweed and barnacles could be scraped off their bottoms and at first this occurred to me, but as the Beyern kept listing further and further my mind panicked. “She has listed too far, they will never get her back.” I thought. By this time I was standing up with excitement, then from the far side of the ship appeared two boats loaded with sailors; they headed straight for the Calf of Cava, their nearest shore right below where I was standing. I was rooted to the spot in fascination as the Bayern continued to list further and further until she at last dropped over on her side, hesitated for a few moments before turning upwards, then with a slow motion the bows disappeared under the water, the stern shot up into the air and with a smother of foam and exploding bubbles of air she slid into the depth of Scapa Flow. For a while I stood in a daze watching fountains of water shoot up from where the SMS Beyern had disappeared. Then across the waters floated a German cheer, “hooch, hooch, hooch”. Suddenly my senses returned; I looked around me and on every side battleships, cruisers and destroyers of the German High Seas Fleet were sinking…”

*[John Tulloch had mistaken this red flag as Communist, when in fact it was the signal to attack the enemy.]

** [Actually the battleship SMS Friedrich der Grosse.]

SMS Bayern sinking. Orkney Library & Archive.

Kitty Tait, a pupil on the Flying Kestrel.

“We were looking at them and I saw what I would say would be one of the biggest ships – suddenly it shuddered and shuddered and shuddered and then suddenly it toppled over and I can remember seeing Germans coming off on rafts.”

James Taylor, a pupil on the Flying Kestrel.

[The German ships’] “decks were lined with German sailors who….did not seem too pleased to see us. Suddenly without any warning and almost simultaneously these huge vessels began to list over to port or starboard; some heeled over and plunged headlong, their sterns lifted high out of the water. Out of the vents rushed steam and oil and air with a dreadful roaring hiss. And as we watched, awestruck and silent, the sea became littered for miles round with boats and hammocks, lifebelts and chests… and among it all hundreds of men struggling for their lives. As we drew away from this nightmare scene we watched the last great battleship slide down with keel upturned like some monstrous whale.”

Boats leaving German destroyers. Orkney Library & Archive.
SMS Seydlitz lying on its side. Orkney Library & Archive.

John Tulloch, a small boy on Cava.

“The SMS Seydlitz was anchored in shallow water therefore did not turn turtle like most of the others, she heaved over on her side and there she lay like a monster whale with one half above water. The Germans must have had pigs aboard as one swam away squealing in terror until it eventually cut its own throat with its front hooves.

“The SMS Moltke turned turtle near the island of Rysa Little but as she was also in fairly shallow water we could hear the masts and superstructure crunching as it broke with her weight bearing down upon them into the sea bed. When she finally subsided her keel still showed above the water where it could be seen for some time afterwards, but she kept settling down until only her keel showed at low tide.”

The Royal Navy whaler Ramna grounded on the hull of SMS Maltke. Orkney Library & Archive.

Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter, Commander-in-Chief of the Interned Squadron.

“What a sight! In front of us the Grosser Kurfürst reared herself steeply into the air. Both cables parted with a loud clinking; she fell heavily to port and capsized. The red coating of her bottom shone wide over the blue sea.”

SMS Grosser Kurfurst sinking. Tom Kent Collection, Orkney Library & Archive.

Len Sutherland, pupil on the Flying Kestrel.

‘I saw at least one sailor shot on the deck of one vessel, but whether by a German officer or a British officer I could not say. There was chaos aboard the ship. Sailors were making rafts and jumping into the water.’

J.R.T. Robertson, pupil on the Flying Kestrel.

“On the way back we passed the sinking ships, very close to, and saw what appeared to be hundreds of men on the surface swimming. As we looked further away, we heard small arms fire – machine-guns. I can still hear it, and heavier guns; and eventually, of course, we got back to Stromness.”

Rosetta Groundwater, a pupil on the Flying Kestrel.

“Men were in boats, and I definately saw one man shot. He dropped right out of the stern of the boat. The other men were standing with their hands up. I presume it was surrender.”

Armed boarding party alongside a German destroyer. Eight German sailors were killed that day; a ninth would be murdered in Scapa Flow while a prisoner. Orkney Library & Archive.
Surrendering German sailors. Some were indiscriminately shot.

John Tulloch, a small boy on Cava.

“But they did not all sink without some effort from the few British ships still remaining in the Flow. Drifters were pulling at huge battleships like ants with large beetles. Two destroyers, the Westcott and the Walpole, were now tearing around the Flow blowing out anchor chains. The drifter Clonsis had the SMS Dresden in tow, but could not quite make it to Cava before it sank. The anchor chains of the SMS Nurnberg was somehow dropped and this ship drifted into the shore directly below my home on the island of Cava.”

“The SMS Derfflinger was anchored under the cliffs known as The Bring on the island of Hoy, and she made a great fuss about sinking. After listing over and over until she lay on her side then she turned turtle and her stern shot up into the air until she appeared to be standing on her bows, then she dived into the depth below, something aboard her exploded and fountains of water shot into the air, after a little while a second explosion sent more water rocketing out of the sea above her. The water around where she had vanished seethed and boiled for a long time after she had gone. She must have been a mighty Gladiator in battle and such an undignified death was hard to bear.

“The SMS Kaiser turned over at a great speed. I was watching her turn over and saw a steam pinnace that was in the davits on her off side soar into the air; the fastening ropes broke and it somersaulted over and over slowly in the air before it dropped down into the sea right side uppermost and floated away to drift in below my home and lie on the rocks until my uncle later salvaged it.”

The light cruiser SMS Nurnberg ashore on Cava. Tom Kent Collection, Orkney Library & Archive.
The battlecruiser SMS Derfflinger sinking. Orkney Library & Archive.

Peggy Gibson, pupil on the Flying Kestrel.

“As a child I thought, why shouldn’t they go down with their flags flying, even though they had been conquered. We felt sorry for them, you see – we felt sorry for those that were in the sea and the struggle with the ships. Being children, we didn’t think of them as being an enemy.”

Kitty Tait, pupil on the Flying Kestrel.

“At the time that they were sinking the ships my own mother was at the end of the pier and my eldest brother was home on leave out of the Navy. He was lying in bed, and of course they were all up the wall about us down there – frightened we were going to be pulled under with the suction of the ships going down. She surely ran upstairs to this older brother and shouted,

“James Robert, do you know what the Germans are doing?”


“They are sinking their ships rather than let the British get them, or the French or any of the Allies.”

And he just said,

“Yes, Mother, if that had been the British you would have said – ‘What brave men’.””

A German destroyer sinking. Note that it has been half painted. Orkney Library & Archive.
The battlecruiser SMS Hindenburg was the last ship to sink at 17:00. The light cruiser SMS Nurnberg is behind it, note the boats leaving. John Tulloch’s home is behind it on the island of Cava. Orkney Library & Archive.

To make a donation to any of the museums please follow the link and support us. Thank you.

The Scuttling of the German Fleet: 2019 Summer Exhibition at the Orkney Museum. Panel 3, Part 4 HMS Vega.

HMS Vega.

[Tom Muir, Engagement & Exhibitions Officer]

1st Battle Squadron in April 1915. A much larger force than Vice Admiral Fremantle commanded in 1919, his squadron comprised the battleships Revenge, Resolution, Ramillies, Royal Oak and Royal Sovereign.
1st Battle Squadron in 1917, HMS Benbow leads HMS Marlborough and HMS Iron Duke.

HMS Vega

When the 1st Battle Squadron left to carry out exercises on the morning of the 21st June 1919, there were only a few ships left in Scapa Flow to guard the German ships. The German ships only had enough coal to keep steam pressure up in order to run generators to provide electricity for the ship. There was not enough steam for the ships to sail, so they were considered safe. The ships left behind were the depot ship Sandhurst and the former battleship Victorious, which had been stripped out and was used as a workshop. The force that guarded the German ships consisted of three destroyers, HMS Walpole, HMS Westcott and HMS Vega. The Vega and Walpole were undergoing repairs at the depot ship, while the Westcott was refuelling at Lyness. There were also several smaller vessels, mostly armed trawlers.

HMs Vega making smoke.
HMS Vega in Russia, 1919.
HMS Walpole, on service in World War II.
The depot ship HMS Sandhurst, ex Manipur, in Malta between the wars.
HMS Sandhurst still acting as a depot ship for destroyers in 1940.
HMS Sandhurts earlier in World War I when it was used as a dummy battleship pretending to be HMS Indomitable. It was later converted to a depot ship.
HMS Victorious in 1903. It was an obsolete warship by the outbreak of World War I. Its guns were removed and fitted on a monitor and it was converted for use as a workshop.

When news of the scuttling reached the Royal Naval destroyers, the ones under repair immediately raised steam to sail. HMS Westcott tried to use her guns to break anchor chains and beach German ships. When HMS Vega was able to sail, it rushed towards the German destroyers, anchored in Gutter sound between Fara and Hoy. On reaching them there seems to have been either a problem with the engine or communication between the captain and the engine room, but as a photograph taken at the time shows, HMS Vega rammed into the much smaller German torpedo-boat/destroyer. Maybe it was an attempt to push the German vessel ashore – it must be remembered that many of these small ships were not manned at the time.

HMS Vega rams a much smaller German destroyer during the scuttling on 21st June 1919. It suffered damage to its bows in this collision. Orkney Library & Archive.
HMS Westcott, the third destroyer in Scapa Flow when the German ships were scuttled, seen here on service in World War II.
German destroyers beached at Mill Bay, near Lyness. Tom Kent Collection, Orkney Library & Archive.
HMS Vega between the wars. Also seen is the aircraft carrier HMS Furious, the ship that Commander Edwin Dunning landed his Sopwith Pup on in Scapa Flow on 2nd August 1917; the first time an aircraft had landed on a moving ship. At that time it didn’t have a flat-top, just a flying off deck at the bow.
HMS Vega on escort duty in 1944.

To make a donation to any of the museums please follow the link and support us. Thank you.