The Scuttling of the German Fleet: Part 4 HMS Vega

The Scuttling of the German Fleet: 2019 Summer Exhibition at the Orkney Museum. Panel 3, Part 4 HMS Vega

HMS Vega.
1st Battle Squadron in April 1915. A much larger force than Vice Admiral Fremantle commanded in 1919, his squadron comprised the battleships Revenge, Resolution, Ramillies, Royal Oak and Royal Sovereign.
1st Battle Squadron in 1917, HMS Benbow leads HMS Marlborough and HMS Iron Duke.

HMS Vega

When the 1st Battle Squadron left to carry out exercises on the morning of the 21st June 1919, there were only a few ships left in Scapa Flow to guard the German ships. The German ships only had enough coal to keep steam pressure up in order to run generators to provide electricity for the ship. There was not enough steam for the ships to sail, so they were considered safe. The ships left behind were the depot ship Sandhurst and the former battleship Victorious, which had been stripped out and was used as a workshop. The force that guarded the German ships consisted of three destroyers, HMS Walpole, HMS Westcott and HMS Vega. The Vega and Walpole were undergoing repairs at the depot ship, while the Westcott was refuelling at Lyness. There were also several smaller vessels, mostly armed trawlers.

HMS Vega making smoke.
HMS Vega in Russia, 1919.
HMS Walpole, on service in World War II.
The depot ship HMS Sandhurst, ex Manipur, in Malta between the wars.
HMS Sandhurst still acting as a depot ship for destroyers in 1940.
HMS Sandhurts earlier in World War I when it was used as a dummy battleship pretending to be HMS Indomitable. It was later converted to a depot ship.
HMS Victorious in 1903. It was an obsolete warship by the outbreak of World War I. Its guns were removed and fitted on a monitor and it was converted for use as a workshop.

When news of the scuttling reached the Royal Naval destroyers, the ones under repair immediately raised steam to sail. HMS Westcott tried to use her guns to break anchor chains and beach German ships. When HMS Vega was able to sail, it rushed towards the German destroyers, anchored in Gutter sound between Fara and Hoy. On reaching them there seems to have been either a problem with the engine or communication between the captain and the engine room, but as a photograph taken at the time shows, HMS Vega rammed into the much smaller German torpedo-boat/destroyer. Maybe it was an attempt to push the German vessel ashore – it must be remembered that many of these small ships were not manned at the time.

HMS Vega rams a much smaller German destroyer during the scuttling on 21st June 1919. It suffered damage to its bows in this collision. Orkney Library & Archive.
HMS Westcott, the third destroyer in Scapa Flow when the German ships were scuttled, seen here on service in World War II.
German destroyers beached at Mill Bay, near Lyness. Tom Kent Collection, Orkney Library & Archive.
HMS Vega between the wars. Also seen is the aircraft carrier HMS Furious, the ship that Commander Edwin Dunning landed his Sopwith Pup on in Scapa Flow on 2nd August 1917; the first time an aircraft had landed on a moving ship. At that time it didn’t have a flat-top, just a flying off deck at the bow.
HMS Vega on escort duty in 1944.

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