1916-1925: America– War and Peace

Author: Charles G. Gill  | Date: 1918

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Wrecking the German Navy Under the Armistice

SEVENTY ships of the German Navy—five battle-cruisers, nine battleships, seven light cruisers, and forty-nine destroyers—were interned on November 21 [1918] at Rosyth. One battleship, one battle-cruiser, one light cruiser were short of the numbers named in the Armistice terms. The number of capital ships interned was brought up to sixteen by the inclusion of eleven battleships and five battle- cruisers. On the 22nd the enemy ships set out under a strong escort for Scapa Flow, where they were to remain until the Peace Treaty decided their fate.

At 11:00 a.m. on the 21st Admiral Beatty made a signal by wireless to the German Admiral:—"The German flag will be hauled down at sunset to-day (Thursday), and will not be hoisted again without permission." This order was complied with by the Germans, but on the following day Rear-Admiral von Reuter from the "Friedrich der Grosse" issued a protest to Admiral Beatty:—

"According to the terms of the Armistice, the ships were to be interned in neutral harbors or in harbors of the Allies. As far as I know, during internment in neutral harbors during this war and former wars flags have always remained hoisted. Had I been interned in a neutral harbor this would have been the case. Neutral harbors and harbors of the Allies are absolutely parallel, according to the literal conditions of the Armistice and to the sense of the conditions of internment.

"Therefore, I esteem it unjustifiable and contradictory to international custom to order the striking of the war flags in the German ships. In addition, I am of opinion that the order to strike the flag is not in keeping with the idea of chivalry between honorable opponents. I therefore now enter an emphatic protest against this order."

The Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet made the following reply:—

On November 20 twenty German submarines came to surrender to the British squadrons and flotillas under the command of Rear-Admiral Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt off the Suffolk Coast. The submarines were accompanied by two German transports, the "Tibania" and "Sierra Ventana," which were to take the submarine crews back to Germany. All the crews of the British ships were at their quarters, and with the U-boats in charge proceeded toward Harwich. About 20 miles off the port the ships anchored and British crews were put on board the German vessels to take them into harbor. As the boats went through the gates the White Ensign was hoisted over each German flag. On November 21 nineteen of the submarines, one having broken down on the way, surrendered to the British naval forces. On November 22 twenty more submarines were surrendered, and on November 25 a further twenty-eight U-boats arrived.

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Chicago: Charles G. Gill, "Wrecking the German Navy Under the Armistice," 1916-1925: America– War and Peace in America, Vol.12, Pp.184-186 Original Sources, accessed December 2, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=E7I3AM9ME9ZCN2M.

MLA: Gill, Charles G. "Wrecking the German Navy Under the Armistice." 1916-1925: America– War and Peace, in America, Vol.12, Pp.184-186, Original Sources. 2 Dec. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=E7I3AM9ME9ZCN2M.

Harvard: Gill, CG, 'Wrecking the German Navy Under the Armistice' in 1916-1925: America– War and Peace. cited in , America, Vol.12, Pp.184-186. Original Sources, retrieved 2 December 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=E7I3AM9ME9ZCN2M.