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The Reality of History

Nothing like repeating yourself!!

By Gail WyliePublished about a year ago 3 min read

In 2006, My husband and I took the opportunity to travel to the Orkney Islands in Scotland to see if we could learn more about his great grandfather William Wylie, who immigrated to Canada from there in 1860 to work for the Hudson's Bay Company. It was an incredible journey for us in many ways.

This morning we were watching the history channel when a close-up of this shipwreck appeared on the screen. We immediately recognized it, as we had driven by it so many times while we were there. This led to us to watching the whole program and in doing so, learning one of the most interesting history lessons I have ever heard. I decided it is worth sharing.

The causeway we were driving on, where this ship is pictured, was built during the 2nd World War to prevent German submarines from entering the Scapa Flow, one of the British Navy's deepest harbours. We were told that this ship, in the photo above, likely had been scuttled at that time, in an attempt to block the submarines from entering.

And now for the rest of the story!

The show on the History Channel started with a description of the fights between the German U Boats and the Ally Navies during the first world war. In time the Germans were defeated. After the war was over all of the battleships of the German Navy were assembled and sailed to the Scapa Flow with their crews still on them. There they were kept while the allies discussed how ownership of these ships would be divided between them as victors. On the day that their decision was to be announced to the world, all of the ships vanished beneath the water. The German crews had sunk every one of them. 70 ships were gone!

The show we were watching, which features the draining of the ocean, was focused on figuring out how the Germans were able to do this. The Scapa Flow was drained and their team of experts went into the ships to find out how they had been sunk. The experts determined that a major mistake had been made leaving the crews on the ships. Not only did the Germans have the manpower to do what they needed to do, but also all the tools as nothing had been removed from the ships at the time. The Germans had cut holes into the ships to sink them and then escaped by swimming to shore. But this wasn't the most interesting part of this story. Because, when they drained the water, there were only 7 ships lying on the sand. What had happened to the other 63?

As the years passed, some resourceful Scots decided not to leave the ships lying there. They salvaged the ships and sold all the steel they had harvested to the highest bidder. And who did that turn out to be? Hitler, who used this steel to build the submarines and other war machines for World War II. So goes the human race!!

P.S: While we were in the Orkneys we also learned another interesting piece of history. While searching for information on our Wylie ancestors, we were told that there were two lines of Wylies in the area: the red Wylies and the black Wylies, based on the colour of their hair. The red Wylies had come to the Orkneys from Aberdeen and were known for their red hair and the tendency to be lefthanded. This fits my husband’s family. On the other hand, the black Wylies are the direct descendants of a sailor who managed to make it to shore back in 1588 during the sinking of the Spanish Armada. History is never boring!

fact or fiction

About the Creator

Gail Wylie

Family therapist - always wanted to be a writer. Have published books on autism. Currently enjoying trying my hand at fiction. Loving the challenges of Vocal. Excited to have my first novel CONSEQUENCES available through Amazon.

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    Gail WylieWritten by Gail Wylie

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