Sunday, March 27, 2016

WWI GERMAN DESTROYERS IN ENGLAND

27 March 2016: to those of you who celebrate such things, happy Easter. Today's post comes from the Independent, a British news source, and is kind of in keeping with some of the stories we've posted in the past month. Unlike the German sub raised from Lake Ontario, this one is real and makes for an interesting read.
Thanks to David Keys, archeology correspondent, for contributing to this article.

                                   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two long-lost First World War German warships have been rediscovered – forgotten for decades in Portsmouth Harbour.
 

Archaeologists found them by examining aerial photographs from the 1940s – and by then searching through local newspaper reports from the 1920s .

Researchers say that the two destroyers are among the very few surviving vessels from the Imperial German Navy that can still intermittently be seen above water anywhere in the world.

Archaeologists believe that the vessels are the  V44 and the  V82 (both launched in the German port of Kiel –  in February 1915 and July 1916, respectively). The V44 is particularly significant from an historical perspective – because it played a crucial role in the strategically important escape of the German fleet after the key phase of the Battle of Jutland at the end of May 1916. It was one of the vessels which successfully used torpedoes to prevent the British pursuing and destroying the 93 ships that remained of Imperial Germany’s High Seas Fleet.
1917 painting by German artist Willy Stower showing V44 firing torpedoes at British ships in Battle of Jutland 1916
 
Next month,  archaeologists from Britain’s Maritime Archaeology Trust, will carry out a detailed survey of the two vessels, which are only visible at extreme low tide, and even then very difficult to access because of highly hazardous quicksand-style mudflats. One of the warships is thought to still have its boilers and some other machinery intact.
Originally the two destroyers were among the 70 German warships which surrendered to the Royal Navy in November 1918 and were subsequently interned in Scapa Flow Harbour in the Orkneys. However, in June 1919, in violation of the Allied/German armistice agreement, those German naval personnel, still  on-board their ships in Scapa Flow, hatched a plot to defiantly re-fly their battle ensigns and then scuttle their entire fleet. Much of the plan worked – for they succeeded in sinking the majority of their vessels (thus preventing the Royal Navy getting permanent possession of them). They failed in only two dozen cases, two of which were the  V44 and the V82 – because Royal Navy officers managed to intervene on those vessels to prevent the Germans opening the bilge valves and flooding those particular ships.
 
1920's painting of V82 aground in Portsmouth Harbor by English aritist William Wyllie
The  V44 and the V82 (and a third ship, a cruiser called the Nürnberg) were then taken to Portsmouth and subsequently used for naval ‘big gun’ target practice. The Nürnberg was sunk in the English Channel -  while the two destroyers were deliberately run aground by the Royal Navy on tidal mudflats near Whale Island in the eastern part of Portsmouth Harbour.
In the early 1920s, thieves looted the two destroyers for loose scrap metal – and later in the same decade, both ships were sold for scrap. However, only parts of the vessels were removed by the scrap merchants. The substantial remnants – including much of the ships’ hulls – were then abandoned and rapidly forgotten. Eight decades then passed before they were rediscovered by the archaeologists.
 
Obviously, a great deal of work remains to be done and as we learn of progress, we will post it here on Maritime Maunder.
 
Until next time,
                                Fair Winds,
                                            Old Salt
 
 
 
 
 

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