When we last visited one of Crafty Green Boyfriend's aunts, she had just come back from a holiday touring some of the Scottish Islands. While talking about Orkney, she told us how she knew someone who had made his fortune from salvaging the German navy ships drowned at Scapa Flow. (All of us have seen the remaining ships that stand as memorials in Scapa Flow to this day and our aunt used to live in Rosyth where the metal from the ships was ultimately salvaged).
Later that afternoon, in a second hand shop, I found this book, which is the story of how those very navy ships were salvaged. It seemed such a wonderfully serendipitous finding that I immediately bought the book and will have finished reading it by the next time we see this aunt and I'll give it to her as a gift!
In May 1916 the German Navy surrendered after the battle of Jutland. Their boats were towed all the way to Scapa Flow, in the Orkney Islands, to the north of Scotland, which was the base for the British fleet. On 21 June 1919, the German navy scuttled (deliberately sank) their ships. At first the British Admirality left them there but eventually (due to the ships causing obstructions in the shipping channels and a lack of scrap metals) the ships were brought up from the sea floor and towed to the shipyards at Rosyth, in Fife where the metals were salvaged.
The bulk of the book looks at how each individual ship was salvaged, often with quite a lot of technical detail. There are some fascinating stories woven into the overall narrative
"Next day Hindenburg was beached in Mill Bay. Mrs McKenzie, wife of the salvage officer, found the crow's nest of the ship a delightful place to occupy for her reading and knitting"
The salvage was a long, painstaking process that lasted years and resulted in the loss of several lives.
A fascinating part of history, which I had only been vaguely aware of.
Jutland to Junkyard by S C George published by Birlinn.