Record of the salvage operations by Metal Industries Ltd to lift scuttled German warships from Scapa Flow and thence tow the hulls to Rosyth for conversion to scrap metal.
THE SALVAGING OF THE EX-GERMAN HIGH SEAS FLEET AT SCAPA FLOW 1924 - 1939. Narrative of the video made from private films taken between 1930 and 1939 covering the salvaging, towage and subsequent scrapping of the vessels. Notes:- For indexing purposes the video has been fully rewound, and the playback timer set to zero. All times are relative to this datum. This narrative is specific to the IWM video copy of the film. TIME Description of scene. 00m 17s Start of film. Assembling and preparing a 90 ft. airlock ashore at the salvage depot at Lyness. This is the port bunker compartment airlock for S.M.S. KÖNIG ALBERT. 00m 34s Airlock still onshore. Note the holes drilled in the 7 ft. diameter base section for bolting onto the hull of the wreck. 00m 54s The airlock is being transferred from the jetty onto the pontoon crane for further work and subsequent tow out to wreck. 01m 18s Note tendency of airlock to swing violently. 01m 54s Pontoon Crane with airlock being towed out to wreck. 02m 00s Operation of lowering and fixing airlock in progress. 02m 28s Divers descending to bolt base flange to hull and to fix eyebolts to hull and attach guys. 03m 15s Surface crew at work tensioning guys. The intermediate and lower guys had to be set up and tensioned by divers. 03m 30s View of foredeck of the salvage vessel (S.V. BERTHA), and further views of fixing airlocks. The airlock is now pressurised allowing access to the hull to seal the base flange and to cut the entry hole into the wreck. 04m 16s Diver preparing to descend. 04m 45s Salvage crew preparing to enter airlock to descend into wreck in calm weather. 04m 59s Salvage crew leaving airlocks in typical weather conditions. 05m 23s Airlock work in summer squall conditions. Access to and from airlock ladders from the workboats was a hazardous operation in this weather.These scenes show the difficulty the salvage crew may have in leaving the wreck if the weather on the surface suddenly deteriorates. The salvage workers cannot just come up on a signal and leave as they must still carry out their decompression procedure before leaving the airlock. Falling off the airlock ladder or missing the workboat whilst wearing seaboots or wading dress would probably be fatal. Work below was frequently interrupted by the weather deteriorating suddenly.(See also supplementary material at 26m 15s) 05m 54s View of airlocks of S.M.S KÖNIG ALBERT with wreck almost ready for lifting. Also general boatwork for access to wreck. 06m 47s A dramatic sequence showing S.V. BERTHA being battered by heavy seas. This gale sprang up in July 1935 when S.M.S. KÖNIG ALBERT was almost ready for lifting. The salvage vessel could not just run for it in these circumstances as all air and power supplies to the wreck would then be cut off. Also with that wind direction she would be swept onto the wreck if she attempted to slip her moorings without a tug to assist. 07m 31s View after the gale when all work has been completed and the wreck is ready for the final lift. The salvage vessels have been pulled well clear of the wreck for safety reasons in case of a violent sheer. Final checks and the reduction of the list were carried out before the bow was raised. The final lift was timed to coincide with low water to take advantage of the lower external head of water and reduced bow-up angle. 08m 28s View of the bow of S.M.S. KÖNIG ALBERT breaking surface. The bow initially rose very slowly as the suction of the mud was broken and then rose to the surface in a few seconds. 08m 58s Another sequence of the bow rising taken from the salvage vessel. The slow initial rise as the suction of the mud is broken is clearly visible. Note the escape of huge quantities of surplus air together with mud and debris. 09m 30s Views of the bow just after raising. The slight list was found to be benificial in controlling stability by minimising the "Free Water" effect. A significant list would be corrected before lifting the stern. 09m 47s Airlocks well up and stern of wreck surfacing. The rise is slower as there is no excess buoyancy required to break the mud's suction. Also some midship sections were not fully pressed down, but relied on the expansion of the air due to the reducing external water pressure as the ship rose to drive the water out. 10m 18s Close up view of stern surfacing taken from the salvage vessel. 10m 46s View of the stern just after raising. The wreck is being checked for damage and whether the turrets have lifted with the wreck or remained on the seabed. 11m 00s Views of whole wreck after salvage and close-up views of deck showing airlock bases and supporting guys. Note how low in water wreck still lies. 11m 35s Unique views of the bow of the last vessel to be raised. This was S.M.S DERFFLINGER salvaged on 3rd August 1939 from a depth of 156 ft with a list of 20o to Starboard. Nine giant airlocks each 130 ft. long were needed to gain access to the wreck. 12m 28s Consolidation work on S.M.S KÖNIG ALBERT to increase buoyancy prior to towing to Lyness. 12m 45s Towing wreck stern first to Lyness to take advantage of more sheltered waters and close proximity of salvage depot. 14m 42s S.M.S KÖNIG ALBERT safely berthed off Lyness near to S.M.S BAYERN which was salvaged on 1st September 1934 and is now ready to be towed to Rosyth. General scenes of diving work and short airlocks in use on S.M.S. BAYERN. 16m 04s S.M.S KAISERIN being towed to Rosyth in foggy weather. Note angle of towrope and rapid changes of bearing of tugs showing how unwieldy the wrecks were under tow. 16m 34s S.M.S KAISERIN approaching Forth Bridge in tow of M/T ZWARTE ZEE. The other tugs (S/Ts RODE ZEE & GANGES) are now alongside to provide astern power. 17m 38s Aerial view of S.M.S. KAISERIN passing under Forth Bridge. 18m 15s S.M.S. FRIEDRICH DER GROSSE (OR GROSSER KURFÜRST) - tow being handed over from ocean going tugs M.Ts. ZWARTE ZEE, THAMES & WITTE ZEE? to harbour tugs for final docking at Rosyth. 18m 43s An early colour film showing S.M.S. FRIEDRICH DER GROSSE (OR GROSSER KURFÜRST) entering dock at Rosyth. Note how wreck has been pumped up to maximum buoyancy and confirmed by draught marks forward and aft. The draught of wreck and freedom from any bits hanging down was further checked physically by dragging templates under wreck. There was only 6 inches clearance between wreck and dock sill at high tide. 20m 19s S.M.S KAISERIN safely docked, and the dock pumped out. All the blocking up required to distribute the load over the dock floor had to be done by divers. Note also proportion of vessel below water accounting for large drag whilst towing and tendency to sheer uncontrollably. 20m 40s Further views of dock being emptied. 21m 05s Scrapping of vessel has commenced. Propellers and shafting being removed. 21m 59s Views from under wreck showing blocking up work carried out by divers underwater prior to emptying dock. 22m 53s View of bow being scrapped. Note double bottom and close underwater compartmentation. 23m 08s Cutting up armour plate and scrapping main reduction gearwheels which reduced the turbine speed to the propeller shafts. 23m 26s S.M.S. KAISERIN scrapping well advanced. View of forward 12 inch gun turret on floor of dock. Each twin turret weighed about 600 tons. Later views show scrapping nearly complete. 25m 15s END OF MAIN FILM. 26m 15s Airlock work in rough weather. This weather was typical of the region. The worst scenario was the sudden deterioration of the weather whilst a shift was below requiring an emergency recall. The men still had to undergo decompression before surfacing. Also a slip from the ladder would be fatal for men in seaboots or wading dress. Most were non-swimmers. 26m 24s This scene is irrelevant and need not be copied again. This extends to approx 27m 15s. 27m 15s These frames show some aspects not covered elsewhere. This short scene shows the removal of the long airlocks with short locks being substituted. Until this was done the only access into the the ship was by climbing to the top of the 90 to 130ft tall airlocks by the external ladders, then climbing down them into the ship. 27m 26s This sequence was taken in 1939 is not about the salvaging of the German Fleet. This shows the towing out and sinking of the blockship S.S. SORIANO. Without checking Admiralty Records I am not sure whether she was sunk just prior to the war or arrived one day after H.M.S. ROYAL OAK was torpedoed by U39.The submarine penetrated into Scapa Flow through HOLM SOUND which was not properly sealed by blockships at the time. Ironically the blockships to complete the sealing of Holm Sound were already en-route and arrived at Scapa just days after H.M.S ROYAL OAK was sunk. 29m 06s This short sequence was shot to finish the film in 1952 and shows R.M.S. AQUITANIA (1914 - 1952) arriving at Faslane for scrapping.