Excellent reporting Paul and great pictures too-for which many thanks-the whole sad business was triggered by the sheer tardiness of the peace talks.The British had already circulated orders aimed at minimising the effects of scuttling, but knew in their heart of hearts that they could do little about it. If peace talks did not succeed before the Armistice ended a state of war would once again break out. If this happened, Rear Admiral von Reuter had decided that he would sink his entire Fleet rather than let the British have the ships.
Unfortunately for von Reuter, the only information that he could get about the peace talks was from the British, or what he could read in four-day-old copies of The Times. This lack of up to date information had a bizarre consequence. Von Reuter must have realised that his fleet would never return to Germany, and therefore he would almost certainly have scuttled it, if only to preserve the honour of the German Navy. However his actual decision to scuttle was based on a misleading report in a copy of The Times, which was four days old when he read it.
At Versailles the peace talks were in chaos, and as the end of the Armistice drew near, a final agreement still had not been reached. Eventually the British, tired of the whole mess, gave the German Government an ultimatum either to accept the peace terms by noon on 21 June or face renewed hostilities. That is what von Reuter read in his copy of The Times four days later and that is the information that he acted on. What he did not know is that later on the same day the Germans capitulated, accepted the terms, and the Armistice was extended until 23 June to tie up the loose ends.