Monday, 22 July 2019

Idle curiosity ...

... can sometimes lead us into new projects.

Just over one hundred years ago on 21st June 1919, a large part of the German Highs Seas Fleet was scuttled in Scapa Flow by the ships' crews. The ships had been interned there under the terms of the Armistice whilst negotiations as to the eventual fate of the ships took place. Due to poor communications, the German commander – Admiral Ludwig von Reuter – believed that the Allies were about to seize his ships, and ordered them to be scuttled. (In fact, the Armistice – which had been about to expire – had been extended so that negotiations could be concluded, but the German admiral had not been informed of this and had prepared his ships for scuttling to prevent their seizure.)

The scuttled SMS Hindenberg.
This topic came up over dinner at COW2019, and led on to a general discussion about the Treaty of Versailles and its effects on the German armed forces. No one seemed to be very clear as to the exact terms of the treaty, so when I returned home, I began to undertake some research ... and that research led me into a new project … the German Reichswehr after the Treaty of Versailes.

I began by looking at the exact text of the relevant sections of the treaty, which are contained in Part V. Military, Naval and Air Clauses (Arts. 159–213). I will be covering the text of these clauses over the next few days. Please note, that I will only quote what I consider to be the most relevant of the clauses and articles.


  1. Sounds like an interesting topic for a 'what if'? Suppose, for example, that the Allies thought to ameliorate the humiliation and harshness of what had so far been imposed upon Germany, that they could keep its navy, including its capital ships, but forbade any further ship-building, including upgrades to its existing fleet. Unlikely, sure, but some compromise might have been plausible - the scrapping of 'Dreadnought' types, perhaps, with Germany keeping its 'pre-Dreadnought' types. Just a thought.

    1. I seem to remember hearing about US contingency plans to fight the UK (or vice versa or both). Maybe only contingency plans, but if the RN had got its hands on the German ships in 1919.......

    2. Archduke Piccolo,

      Had the bulk of the German High Seas Fleet not been scuttled, it is likely that the ship's would have been shared out amongst the allies. The UK and US would probably have had little use for the ship's they received, but the French, Itslians, and Japanese might have incorporated their share of the vessels into their navies. This would have affected the subsequent negotiations that took part in Washington.

      As to the Germans ... well they might have received better treatment if they hadn't scuttled their ships and Soviet Russia had posed a greater threat to the western powers. In those circumstances they might have been allowed to keep some of their earliest dreadnoughts rather than be confined to a purely pre-dreadnought navy.

      It's an interesting 'what if' to think about.

      All the best,


    3. Nundanket,

      Although the plans existed, it was the Japanese that posed the greatest threat to the US, and once the former UK/Japan alliance ended, Plan Orange (the plan for war with Japan), occupied prime position within the US Navy's thinking.

      The Royal Navy also saw Japan as the biggest threat they were likely to face in the future, and many of the ship's designed in the 1920s and 1930s were expected to fight the Japanese. The growth of German sea power in the late 1930s added another layer of problems they had yo deal with.

      All the best,



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