Rare Photographs of Scapa Flow: Albert Göhler, SMS Hindenburg crew member, 1918-19
I was utterly delighted when I received a message from Aglef Kaiser via the Scapa Flow Museum Temporary Panels pages on this blog. He had found the post when looking for information about SMS Hindenburg’s time in Scapa Flow after the Armistice of 1918. The reason for my delight was that Aglef had photographs of his grandfather, Albert Göhler (1891-1967), when he was a crewman on the battlecruiser, SMS Hindenburg. The family have been very kind in letting me use these photographs in this blog. They show a small glimpse of one man’s naval career and life onboard a German ship interned in Scapa Flow after the Armistice in 1918. When we see photographs of the sinking German ships on that midsummer’s day in 1919, it is usually just large metal structures slipping beneath the waves. It is easy to forget that there were real human trauma happening at the same time, as sailors scrambled to get into boats, sometimes under fire from the British. We should not forget that men died that day, and on days afterwards. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Aglef and his family for letting us have a look in a family photo album and for sharing his grandfather’s brief notes on his life. If anyone else has photos or accounts of British or German ships and sailors in Scapa Flow in both World Wars, I’d love to see them and maybe turn them into a blog page as well.
I, Alber Julius Göhler, was born in Singen Am Durlach on 5 December 1891 as the son of the former gendarme and current gendarme commissioner, Göhler, and was baptised and educated according to Protestant church customs.
As a result of various transfers of my father, I attended the elementary schools of various towns in Baden from Easter 1898 to April 1906. After my release from school, I entered a 3-year apprenticeship with the master locksmith Karl Friedrich Jund in Denzlingen and during this time attended the trade school in Emmendigen with good results. After completing my apprenticeship, I worked as a mechanic at the machine factories Gritzner Durlach, Schmidt & Burckmann, Pforzheim, and as an electrician at the general electric company in Freiburg im Breisgau. Afterwards, in the winter of 1910/11, I attended a semester at the State Technical College in Karlsruhe.
As I had in the meantime reached the age of compulsory military service, I volunteered for the navy with the intention of pursuing a career as a technical deck officer. I joined the II Shipyard Division in Wilhelmshaven on 1.4.12. After my infantry training, I was ordered to- attend the training courses required for my career, in which I participated with distinction. Among other things, I also worked in the technical office for a long time.
In March 1913, I was sent abroad on the armoured cruiser “Göben”. On this cruiser I took part in all combat operations in the Mediterranean and Black Seas during the war until April 1916 and was awarded the Iron Cross II. and I. Class, as well as the Baden Medal of Merit and the Turkish Iron Crescent [Gallipoli Star] and was promoted to Artillery Mechanic Mate and later to Chief Mate.
In April 1916 I returned to my regular company in Wilhelmshaven, as those crews who had been commanded on board the cruiser the longest had to be promoted home.
When the German High Seas Fleet had to be surrendered after the armistice in November 1918, I took part in the sad voyage to Scapa Flow on the new battleship, where I and many comrades were held prisoner by the British until June 1919. After my return from English captivity, I was released in December 1919 after a longer leave to look for a civilian job.
I then found employment at the Freiburg City Theatre as an electric machinist. After I was dismissed there in July 1920 at my own request, I then came to Karlsruhe as a contract employee to the Pension Regulation Authority 33. Due to the personnel reduction ordinance, all non-civil servant personnel were dismissed in the spring of 1924 and I received my dismissal at the end of February 1924.
From this time until the end of 1926 I ran a small farm. However, since this could not provide me and my family with a sufficient income, I then applied for various jobs and finally got one as a travelling salesman with the company Karlsruher Maschinenölimport J. Bahm, Karlsruhe. In this capacity I was with this company until the end of October 1933. On 31 October of the same year, I joined the State Finance Office, Foreign Exchange Office, Karlsruhe, as an employee, where I still am today.