It was a deliberate act of destruction that transformed a quiet part of Scotland into the world’s biggest naval graveyard.
And now, 100 years after the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow on Orkney, a public consultation has been launched with a view to making the site a Historic Marine Protected Area.
The news was announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at Scotland’s International Marine Conference in Glasgow.
She said: “Marine protected areas are an undoubted success story.
“In the last seven years, the network has doubled and they now account for more than a fifth of Scotland’s seas.
“It is important we conserve sites of historic interest and that the public are able to have a say on how we do this.
“Scapa Flow is clearly a very important part of Scotland’s maritime history, particularly during the world wars.
“As we move towards the 2020 Year of Coasts and Waters, it is right that appropriate steps are taken to ensure this wartime heritage is preserved in a way that we can enjoy, remember and understand responsibly.”
Historic MPAs are designed to preserve maritime assets of national importance, so they can be protected, valued and understood.
Orkney has one of the most outstanding collections of First and Second World War naval wreckage remains, both above and under the water.
Since 2001, the remains of three battleships and four cruisers of the German fleet, which were scuttled a century ago, have been protected as scheduled monuments.
But the change to a Historic MPA is considered a more appropriate way to manage this fragile part of Scottish history.
Philip Robertson, deputy head of designations at Historic Environment Scotland, said: “Scapa Flow is an internationally significant heritage asset which attracts visitors from all over the world.
“It’s important the public have their say in how best to manage the site, balancing the protection of Orkney’s important wartime heritage, while taking account of the importance of the harbour to its economic growth.
“I’d like to encourage everyone with an interest in Scapa Flow to take this opportunity to share their views about our nation’s priceless marine heritage.”
As part of the Armistice agreement at the end of the First World War, Germany had to surrender most of its vessels and a total of 74 ships arrived in Scapa Flow for internment.
On June 21, 1919, under the mistaken belief that peace talks had failed, Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter gave the command to scuttle the entire fleet.
A total of 52 ships went to the seafloor, making it the greatest loss of shipping ever recorded in a single day.