Apparently a clip has ended up on YouTube showing the German Navy practicing its ramming drills on....er, the German Navy. I haven't seen it 'cos I can't access YT at work, but it's in the Guardian today.
Watch out!" a voice bellows. Then there is a thunderous crunch as one German navy boat rams into another. It is the kind of moment that any captain would like to consign to history and forget all about - but there is little chance of that in the age of the internet.
The crash, which took place in fairly good weather conditions off the Lebanese coast, is now on YouTube for all to see. And tens of thousands of visitors have already indulged in a spot of schadenfreude. The Deutsche Marine is not getting away with it lightly. "The German navy is at war: with itself!" ran the headline of Germany's much-read SpiegelOnline website. "Are you drunk boys?" enquired the Ostsee Zeitung, a local paper from the port city of Rostock.
The navy confirmed that the dramatic looking crash, which happened in April, cost millions of euros and the captain his job. For the marines, the YouTube publicity highlights a string of embarrassing accidents and mishaps last year. And the list is long.
First there were the "navigational errors" which sent a ship crashing into a rock near Norway. Then there was the tale of the Lübeck, which received a 76-mm shot in the bow thanks to soldiers repairing the ship's cannon. Elsewhere, a brand new 89-metre frigate ran into a stone canal bank, and then there was a ship near the northern port city of Kiel which "accidentally" fired five shots from a cannon.
Captain Götz Meiert, a spokesman for the marines, admitted the clip, entitled "German navy boats crashing", doesn't make for pleasant viewing. "It's not a good record but the point was that last year there were spectacular crash images which were spread by the media," he told the Guardian.
"The number of accidents wasn't particularly high in total. It's bothersome that such things happen - but they do."
There were 37 crashes and accidents recorded last year, which he described as average. But the footage has sparked national outrage, both from media commentators and people watching the movie-like clip of the collision online.
"Sooner or later these ships land on the rubbish dump," read one posting on YouTube. "Until then let the incompetent Mickey Mouse [navy] play a bit of war - at least as long as our exorbitant taxes pay for it." Another asked: "Who has to pay the millions? - We do."
Der Spiegel's website commented: "It begs the question whether the naval forces have grown weary of the long stint of peace and have searched for, and finally found, an adversary: themselves."
But the navy, which has warships taking part in Nato missions around the world, especially off the coast of Lebanon, insisted that there had been some exaggeration. "In the past, these accidents happened and the pictures only made it into the daily papers. Now they are on the net and they stay there, for years and decades," Captain Meiert said, adding that he hoped for a better year in 2008.