Orkney, United Kingdom
By Nigel Roddis
Flying over the lush, green islands of Orkney in Scotland, it is hard to imagine the area as an important naval base during the two World Wars. But a wide expanse of water south of Orkney mainland used to be just that.
The area, known as Scapa Flow, has seen its fair share of bloodshed. It was also the scene of the “Grand Scuttle,” when more than 50 German warships were sunk at the orders of their own Rear Admiral.
This strange event came about after Germany, defeated in World War One, had 74 ships interned at Scapa Flow.
On June 21, 1919, Rear Admiral Ludwig Von Reuter mistakenly thought that the Armistice had broken down. To prevent the British seizing his warships, he ordered them to be sunk, or “scuttled”.
Direct witnesses of the Grand Scuttle have now sadly died, but I managed to track down some of their relatives who still had tales to tell. One of them was Gary Gibson, whose mother Peggy was 10 years old when she saw the fleet go down.