The day on board HMS Royal Oak on the 13th October 1939 no doubt started off as normal for the 1,234 men and boys on board this Royal Navy Battleship. As well as going about their duties; there would likely have been much joshing, joking and general morale building antics/keeping their spirits up to be found, but most of all there would have been comradeship, the type of which can only be experienced within the confines of a ship no matter the size. The one thing that would not have been expected as she lay at anchor just after midnight on the 14th October; was that the “impenetrable” safe haven of Scapa Flow off the coast of Orkney, was soon to be penetrated, with the loss of 834 souls; either on that fateful night or later from their injuries.
As we approach the 80th anniversary of the sinking of HMS Royal Oak, The Orkney Museum has a display of artefacts from the ship and it’s crew on show. The Museum exhibit is entitled “Remembering HMS Royal Oak 1939-2019” and can be found in the Special Exhibition Room on the ground floor to the left as you go in the front door’ until October 26th 2019.
If you can get along to see this exhibition before it closes I would recommend it, we went along yesterday to see the exhibits for ourselves and to say it was poignant is an understatement. From the medals of survivor Able Seaman Stanley Cole
to the photo of the Buoy that marks the spot where the battleship lies in it’s final resting place,
to the Daisy which helped with the rescue,
this is an exhibition with remembrance at it’s heart.
You can find the bell from HMS Royal Oak across the road in St Magnus Cathedral
Here are some of our photos for those that may not be able to go visit.
HMS Royal Oak; was one of 5 battleships built for the Royal Navy during WW1. At this time she was involved as part of The Grand Fleet in the battle of Jutland. In peace time between the two wars she served in the Home, Atlantic and Mediterranean fleets.
On October the 13th/14th HMS Royal Oak was stationed in Scapa Flow off the coast of Orkney, in it’s role as an anti-aircraft defence for Scapa Flow anchorage and the Radio Direction Finding station at Netherbutton.
Under Commander Prien, the German submarine U-47 released her first torpedo which struck HMS Royal Oak at 12.58am, the second torpedo missed but in the ensuing confusion onboard HMS Royal Oak, Commander Prien was able to return to his original position and release a third torpedo which was a direct hit.
HMS Royal Oak only took minutes to sink, 834 lives were lost.
The graves for many of the men and boys that lost their lives can be found at the Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery on Hoy.
After the sinking of HMS Royal Oak, many blockships were sunk immediately as a safety precaution and the construction of the Churchill Barriers began.
The wreck of The Royal Oak is a designated war grave and no unauthorised diving is allowed.
You can find The Orkney Museum at Broad Street Kirkwall