Photographers' Blog

Tales of War: Scapa Flow and the Grand Scuttle

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.

An aereal view of part of the Orkney Islands, Scotland, May 3, 2014.The Orkney Islands North of the Scottish mainland was a major British Naval base during WWI and WWII. It was also the scene of the Grand Scuttle on June 21 1919 when 74 interned German battleships were scuttled on the orders of Rear Admiral Ludwig Von Reuter. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

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.

A view of the interned German fleet is seen in this handout picture provided by the Gibson family, taken in 1919, at Scapa Flow in Orkney, Scotland May 5, 2014. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

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.

World War One – a glimpse of the front

Paris, France
By Charles Platiau

Editor’s Note: The animated images in this blog are made from stereoscopic glass plates taken during World War One.

Stereoscopic photography uses two images seen together through a special viewer, creating a picture that looks almost three dimensional.

The images here are produced using a GIF file that rapidly repeats the left and right stereoscopic plate, in order to give a 3D effect, without having the original viewer.

Remembering Verdun

Verdun, France

By Charles Platiau

Verdun was the site of one of World War I’s bloodiest battles. Hundreds of thousands of French and German soldiers lost their lives in this north-eastern corner of France, where fighting raged for months in 1916.

Yesterday’s enemies are now united on the battleground. Members of French and German historical associations, all keenly interested in the First World War and all passionate about historical re-enactments, gather in Verdun every year to take part in a commemorative march.

One sunny Saturday in March, I joined up with four historical associations who took part in the event: “Le Poilu de la Marne” – from France, and “Darstellungsgruppe Suddeutches Militar”, “IG 18” and “Verein Historische Uniformen”- from Germany.