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16 November 2017

Recognising the Marine Heritage of Scapa Flow

HES is looking for your views on how best to recognise Orkney's underwater archaeological remains

a bay of blue water with green land curving around it

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is reviewing the protection of the wrecks of the German High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow, Orkney. Currently, they are scheduled monuments and we would like to explore if that continues to be the best way of recognising and protecting this hugely important part of our wartime heritage.


Orkney has one of the most outstanding collections of First World War and Second World War remains, both above ground and under water.


The array of underwater archaeological remains includes wrecks from the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet in June 1919, two major naval disasters with significant loss of life (the loss of the HMS Vanguard in 1917, and HMS Royal Oak in 1939), and the supply and defence of the Royal Navy anchorage using block ships, barriers, and networks of mobile boom defences.


A major resource for salvage from 1919 to the 1970s, nowadays the wrecks of the German High Seas Fleet are a significant heritage asset, attracting visitors from all over the world and contributing to the economy of Orkney.


Recent survey work by ourselves and our partners on Orkney has shed new light on how much survives underwater. Our research shows that the condition of the wrecks is deteriorating and these important remains will not last forever.


Andrew Fulton, Senior Designations Officer, explains more about the review, “We’d like to talk to everyone who has an interest in Scapa Flow to hear their views about its marine heritage. Scapa Flow is an important harbour and is used by many different communities and we’d like to know more about this too.


“We’ll be in Orkney during the first week of December and I’d really like to talk to as many people with an involvement in Scapa Flow as possible. The feedback we get will help inform how the current protection of the German High Seas Fleet wrecks is working and whether any changes need to be made.


“I’m also looking for views on whether any of the other wartime underwater sites within Scapa Flow merit designation and if, so, what would be the best mechanism to achieve this.”


There are a variety of ways which the public can offer their views. We have an online survey which is open to everyone and can be accessed on our website. Andrew will be holding drop-in sessions at three locations in Hoy, Kirkwall and Stromness between 4 and 7 December 2017.

Everyone with an interest in Scapa Flow is encouraged to come along and share their views. 

Event Details

Monday 4 December – YM Hall, Longhope, Hoy 3:30pm-7:30pm
Tuesday 5 December – Pickaquoy Centre, Kirkwall 4:00pm-8:00pm
Wednesday 6 December – John Rae Room, Old Warehouse Building, Orkney Council, Stromness. 5:00pm -8:00pm
Thursday 7 December – John Rae Room, Old Warehouse Building, Orkney Council, Stromness. 5:00pm-8:00pm

Notes to Editors 

  1. Seven wrecks from the German High Seas Fleet were designated as scheduled monuments in 2001. The scheduling means that visitors can dive on the wrecks on a look but don’t touch basis so long as no damage occurs or objects are removed. Scheduled monument consent from Historic Environment Scotland is required for works to a scheduled monument.

  2. The wrecks of the HMS Royal Oak and HMS Vanguard are designated as controlled sites under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. The responsible authority is the Ministry of Defence. Although a hugely important part of the story of Scapa Flow, their status does not form part of this review.

About Historic Environment Scotland (HES)

Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017

2017 is the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology (HHA), a year that will celebrate Scotland’s people, our distinct culture and traditions, our historic landscapes, attractions and icons as well as our hidden gems and amazing stories. From World Heritage Sites to ancient monuments, listed buildings to historic battlefields, cultural traditions to our myths, stories and legends, 2017 is the year to explore Scotland’s fascinating past. This is a Scottish Government initiative being led by VisitScotland and a variety of partners.

Get involved on Twitter with #HHA2017

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For further information

Seumas Skinner
Historic Environment Scotland Media Office
Direct Line: 0131 668 8714
Mobile: 07776 243 809
seumas.skinner@hes.scot

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