First World War Scapa Flow battleships put up for sale...on eBay

Three First World War German warships and a cruiser that have been lying on the seabed in Scapa Flow for a century have been put up for sale on eBay.
Three First World War German warships and a cruiser that have been lying on the seabed in Scapa Flow for a century have been put up for sale on eBay.
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The wrecks of four First World War ships that have been lying on the seabed in Orkney for a century have been put up for sale on eBay.

The vessels are part of the German High Seas Fleet, which was famously scuttled at Scapa Flow while interned there as the Treaty of Versailles was being finalised.

The scuttling was carried out on 21 June 1919 on the orders of Admiral Ludwig von Reuter to prevent allied forces seizing the ships after Germany’s defeat in the conflict.

Intervening British guard boats were able to beach a number of the ships, but 52 of the 74 interned vessels sank.

Many of the wrecks were salvaged over the next two decades and towed away for scrapping.

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The seven that remain today – three battleships that took part in operations such as the Battle of Jutland, three light cruisers and a fast mine-layer – have become popular diving sites.

Prospective buyers now have the chance to snap up some of the historical vessels, which are protected as official scheduled monuments.

It’s the first time the ships have been put on the market for nearly 40 years.

Their current owner, Tayside-based diving contractor Thomas Clark, bought them from a salvage firm for an undisclosed sum in 1981.

Now aged 70, Mr Clark has retired and hopes the ships will be taken on by someone with a vision for their future.

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Mr Clark said: “It has been an absolute pleasure to own and dive on these iconic vessels and I regret I have not managed to do more with them during the period of my ownership.

“I look forward to passing them on to the new owner and hope they get the opportunity to realise their aspirations for the vessels.”

The selling agent has described the unusual offering as “a once in a lifetime opportunity” for someone to own their own sizeable naval fleet with historical significance – albeit a sunken one .

Up for grabs are what’s left of three dreadnought battleships – the sister ships Kronprinz Wilhelm, Konig and Markgraf – listed at a ‘Buy it now’ price of £250,000 each, and the cruiser Karlsruhe, at a slightly more affordable £60,000.

To get them all would set you back just under £1 million, including vat.

Some of the vessels have already been partly salvaged and some materials removed.

Currently recreational divers are allowed to access the waterspace around the wrecks, but are not permitted to touch, enter or to go within one metre of them.

New owners would have the right to dive on the ships, including touching and entering, and also to reclaim items from within – subject to gaining the necessary permissions from the heritage body Historic Environment Scotland.

The listing suggest there could be opportunities to generate revenue through tourism or recovery of materials from the wrecks, but warns that potential buyers should satisfy themselves of these possibilities.

The Royal Navy battleship HMS Royal Oak – sunk in 1939 with 883 crew aboard – also lies in Scapa Flow and has been designated a war grave.

If the ships fail to sell by 26 June they will go to auction on the online site for 10 days.