NO DOUBT, readers will be aware that it is 100 years since the interned ships of the Imperial German Navy were scuttled at their anchorage in Scapa Flow in Orkney.
I have, in my possession, a WWI German Navy Diver’s knife; I acquired it on one of my many visits to the Orkney Islands. It bore no resemblance to the Seibe Gorman diver’s knives that I was familiar with. The only thing that convinced me that it could be a diver’s knife was the weight of the handle, which is 1.2 kilograms.
The handle is of lead filled brass and the blade steel. The handle and blade screw into a brass scabbard which has a belt loop.
On my return home, I wrote to the Naval Attaché at the German Embassy in London, enclosing a photograph of the knife and scabbard. They replied saying that it was, indeed, a diver’s knife of a pattern that had been issued to the Imperial German Navy of WWI and later to the Krieg’s Marine of WWII.
I also have, in my possession, a German Sailor’s tobacco box. The box is of brass with a steel disc on the lid with an embossed view of Cologne Cathedral and the river Rhine. I was informed that both items were recovered from the Battle Cruiser SMS Moltke when it was being salvaged by Cox and Danks in 1928. When Admiral Reuter gave the order to scuttle the German ships interned in Scapa Flow, trusted crew members opened port holes, sea cocks and other under water valves on the ships allowing the sea water to flood into the engine rooms and under water compartments. With their job done, crew members entered lifeboats and rowed away from the sinking ships. Unfortunately, some of the British sailors and Marines who had been taken completely by surprise, rushed to the scene and, unfortunately, some of them panicked and fired upon the unarmed German sailors, many of whom had their hands above their heads. A shameful episode in British naval history. Regrettably, nine German sailors were killed and sixteen were injured. The bodies of the dead were finally laid to rest in the Naval Cemetery at Lyness on the island of Hoy. Regrettably, at the time of their interment, errors were made on the gravestone inscriptions, however these have since been corrected. Shown here are photographs of the diver’s knife and tobacco box.
DAVID H SELLARS