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Two WW1 guns to undergo conservation at Scapa Flow Museum

The historic gun taken from the SMS Karlsruhe at Scapa Flow Museum.

Two historic armoured weapons are to undergo extensive conservation as part of the multi-million-pound refurbishment of the Scapa Flow Museum.

The massive guns which currently sit on plinths near the Scapa Flow Museum in Lyness, Orkney, will be partially dismantled and hoisted over to the museum’s workshop for conservation.

Both artefacts were used in WW1 aboard the SMS Bremse and SMS Karlsruhe as part of the German High Seas Fleet.

The guns are now showing signs of exposure to the elements and age being over 100-years-old.

Nick Hewitt, culture team leader for Orkney Islands Council, explains: “While we all love to see large objects outdoors, decades in a harsh marine environment have not been kind to these very important artefacts, which are two of only five First World War German naval guns surviving in the UK.

“Both are now showing signs of the exposure, so it’s definitely time for them to come indoors if we want them to survive for another hundred years.

Over 100 years of history at Scapa Flow.

The Scapa Flow Museum charts Orkney’s storied history during the first and second World Wars and contains a large collection of wartime artefacts.

The repairs and conservation of the two historic weapons is part of the museum’s extensive refurbishment which is due for completion in spring 2022 and cost around £4.3 million.

When reopened the museum will make use of a new extension and refurbishment of the Pumphouse which is being carried out by local firms Orkney Builders Contractors Ltd and Heddle Construction Ltd.

The two firms are also responsible for the relocation and heavy lifting of the two guns which is to take place next week.

The guns are an imposing presence for visitors coming to the Scapa Flow Museum.

The guns from SMS Bremse and SMS Karlsruhe are both 15cm SK L45 – both vessels were interned with the rest of the fleet at Scapa Flow in 1918.

Instead of being captured by the British, the Fleet Admiral decided to scuttle the ships on June 21, 1919.

A total of 52 out of the 74 strong fleet were sank in deep water while British guard ships managed to beach the rest.

SMS Bremse took part in a daring attack on British ships in the North Sea in 1917 which resulted in the loss of two Royal Navy destroyers and nine merchant ships.

Launched in 1916 in Kiel, SMS Karlsruhe was a light cruiser that operated in the North and Baltic Seas. The gun from this vessel in the museum’s collection is missing its gun shield.

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