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Hms Royal Oak: Scapa Bay, Scapa Flow, Orkney

Battleship (20th Century)

Site Name Hms Royal Oak: Scapa Bay, Scapa Flow, Orkney

Classification Battleship (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Scapa Pier; Gaitrip; Gaitnip; Hms Royal Oak; Unknown 1728

Canmore ID 102373

Site Number HY40NW 8001

NGR HY 43491 05253

Datum WGS84 - Lat/Long

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/102373

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Maritime - Orkney
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Maritime
  • Former County Not Applicable

Archaeology Notes

HY40NW 8001 4343 0518

N58 55.8333 W2 58.9667

NLO: Scapa Bay [name centred HY 435 075]

Stromness [name: HY 253 090]

Scapa Flow [name centred HY 36 00].

Formerly entered as Site no. 8918.

Quality of fix = CR

Evidence = Echo sounder

Horizontal Datum = OGB

Buoyage =

General water depth = 26

Orientation of keel/wreck = NE/SW

Circumstances of Loss Details

-----------------------------

The battleship HMS ROYAL OAK was torpedoed by German submarine U47. It sank with the loss of 834 officers and ratings out of a total complement of 1146.

Surveying Details

-----------------------------

6 October 1939. The stern lies in a position bearing 259 degrees, 1400 metres from Gaitrip [Gaitnip], with the bows on a bearing of 052 degrees, 189 metres from the stern, at 58 55 50N, 002 58 58W.

Report by Kings Harbour Master, Scapa Flow.

12 March 1941. The least depth over the wreck is 1.8 metres.

(authority not stated)

17 May 1941. A buoy has been laid.

(authority not stated)

23 June 1943. A beacon has now been established on the wreck.

(authority not stated)

1 July 1949. The beacon has been removed.

Report by Royal Naval Officer, Orkney.

20 December 1974. Permission to dive on the wreck has been requested by Chorley BSAC.

Report by Department of Naval Contracts.

26 January 1983. The vessel is reported to be still complete except that the spotting top has collapsed and now lies alongside the vessel. The boats still remain at their davits. The site is 'surveyed' annually by a diving team from HMS COCHRANE, on which occasions a white ensign is always replaced on the ensign staff flagpole.

Report by Mr Winter.

Note: site is a Designated War Grave.

Hydrographic Office, 1995.

(Classified as battleship: date of loss cited as 14 October 1939). HMS Royal Oak: this vessel was torpedoed by U47.

Registration: London. Built 1914. 29150 tons [standard] displacement. Length: 174m. Beam: 28m.

(Location of loss cited as N58 55.83 W2 58.97).

I G Whittaker 1998.

(Proposed for designation as a Controlled Site under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986). The battleship HMS Royal Oak was with the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow. On the morning of 14 October 1939, the ship was lying at anchor at the extreme end of the harbour at Scapa [Scapa Flow] when she was struck by a salvo of torpedoes from a U-boat which had managed to penetrate the incomplete coastal defences.

Of the complement of 1,234 officers and men, 833 lost their lives.

(The ship was a converted coal-burning vessel of the First World War, and has some 75 fuel tanks. She was fully fuelled at the time of loss, and still leaks small quantities of heavy fuel oil).

Information from MOD (Military Maritime Graves consultation) per Mr I Oxley (Historic Scotland), 7 February 2002.

This wreck has been designated a Controlled Site under the Protection of Military Remains ACT (PMRA), 1986.

(Comprehensive list of Controlled Sites in article).

Source: Stuart Bryan in Nautical Archaeology, 2001.3, p. 12.

NMRS, MS/2745.

Length: 620.4 ft (189m)

Beam: 88.5ft (27m): increased to 101.4 ft (30.9m) with addition of anti-torpedo bulges

Draught: design std 28.5ft (8.7m); 32.5 ft (9.9m) deep load as built; 31.5 ft (9.6m) deep load after bulges fitted

Standard displacement: 25,750 tons (as built); 29,150 tons (at time of sinking)

Deep load displacement: 31,150 tons (as built); 33,240 tons (after bulges fitted)

Armament (as built): 8 x 15 ins (38cm: 42 cal: Mk I: twin turrets); 14 x 6 ins (152mm: 45 cal: Mk XII: single mountings); 2 x 3ins (76mm: single mountings) AA; 4 x 3pdr; 4 x 21 ins (533mm) torpedo tubes (submerged)

Armament (at time of sinking): 8 x 15 ins (38cm: 42 cal: Mk I: twin turrets); 12 x 6 ins (152mm: 45 cal: Mk XII: single mountings); 8 x 4ins (102mm: HA/LA: Mk XIX: twin mountings) AA; 16 x 40mm pom-pom; additional light AA; 4 x 21 ins (533mm) torpedo tubes (above water, beam)

Armour (as built): lower belt 13 ins (33cm); upper belt (15cm); deck 2 ins (51mm); turrets 13 ins (33 cm); conning tower 10 ins (25cm)

Armour (at time of sinking): main belt 10 ins (25cm); lower armour deck 1.75 ins (44mm); turrets 11 ins (279mm); control tower forward 10 ins (25cm); control tower aft 8 ins (203 mm)

Propulsion (at time of sinking): eighteen oil-fired superheated Yarrow boilers (250 psi wp); two (also cited as four) sets Parsons steam turbines driving four propellers; 40,300 nominal shp; 23 kts designed speed; 40,360 shp on trials.

Fuel: 3400 tons oil (Coal also carried for 'domestic' use)

Range: 4200 miles at 10 kts

Complement: 997/1247

This post-Dreadnought battleship of the five-strong Royal Sovereign class was built at HM Dockyard, Devonport, being laid down in January 1911 and launched on 17 November 1914. Completed in May 1916, she saw First World War service (in the Fourth Battle Squadron) at the Battle of Jutland.

Between the wars, she was engaged on the diplomatic duties and planned exercises (mainly based in Malta) that were typical of the period, coming to public notice only through collision with HMS Campania (NT28SW 8001) in November 1918 and the 'Royal Oak affair', a minor but unfortunately well-publicised disagreement between senior officers in 1928.

The ship was extensively refitted during her life (the last occasion being in 1934-5) with consequent increase in weight and decrease in speed. These changes included the fitting of a wide range of additional anti-aircraft armament, the provision of a further 900 tons of armour, and the fitting of an aircraft catapult (on X turret). Her radio (including direction-finding) equipment and fire control directors were also updated. Specifically, the 1924-7 refit saw bulges 7ft (2.1m) wide fitted along the sides of the hull while that of 1934-7 saw additional armour (4ins or 102mm maximum) installed over the magazines and machinery spaces.

The ship was sunk at anchor on the night of 13-14 October 1939 by torpedoes fired at 0104 and 0116 from U-47 under the command of Kapitanleutnant G Prien, one of the three recognised U-boat aces of the Second World War. The battleship was then moored in the NE corner of the Flow, so that her guns might afford protection to the radar station (HY40SE 32) at Netherbutton, and was the only heavy ship in the Flow at the time. A total of 833 officers and ratings were lost, but the loss of this single elderly and arguably outdated ship was less of a setback than might have been expected had the Flow been more fully occupied. Nevertheless, her loss caused some heavy ships to be temporarily based at Loch Ewe, while the realisation that U-47 had entered the Flow through Kirk Sound (around HY 484 010) prompted the immediate sinking of further blockships and (subsequently) the permanent blockage of the eastern sounds though the construction of the Churchill Barriers (HY40SE 25 and ND49NE 15-17). The sinking was a notable German propaganda coup and some detailed aspects still give rise to conjecture.

The wreck lies 1.63nm (3 km) SSW of Scapa Pier (HY40NW 19.00), and is charted (Wk). There is a buoy immediately to the SW and the charted depth is 26m, but the seabed is not specified. Action is in hand to contain or remove the remaining fuel leak from the ship, which has been afforded statutory protection as a war grave.

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 13 November 2002 and 30 December 2002.

H M Le Fleming 1961; H J Weaver 1980; G Bennett 1983; D M Ferguson 1985; P L Smith 1989; R and B Larn 1998; R Macdonald 1998; [Jane] 2001; M Brown and P Meehan 2002.

HO chart no. 35 (1980, revised 1991).

p. 24, fig. 16 high resolution swathe bathymetry (colour)

NMRS, MS/829/63

Plans and photographs of this vessel are held in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

(For online catalogue of negatives, see www.nmm.ac.uk/historicphotographs).

Information from Ms G Fabri (NMM), 7 November 2003.

Operations to remove the remaining fuel oil began in 1996, and developed into a major operation in 2001. Completion of the process is expected by summer 2005.

NMRS, G/93656/NC.

Listed as Designated controlled site under PMRA 1986.

(Area within 200m distance around N58 55.848 W2 59.001).

MS/5253.

Activities

Reference (2011)

Whittaker ID : 69

Name : HMS ROYAL OAK

Latitude : 585550

Longitude : 25858

Date Built : 1914

Registration : LONDON

Type : BATTLESHIP

Tonnage : 29150

Tonnage Code : D

Length : 174

Beam : 28

Draught : 9m

Position : Exact Position

Loss Day : 14

Loss Month : 10

Loss Year : 1939

Comment : Torped by U47

Reference (2011)

Whittaker ID : 12267

Name : UNKNOWN 1728

Latitude : 585600

Longitude : 25800

Registration : DUBLIN

Tonnage : 250

Loss Month : 1

Loss Year : 1728

Comment : Wrecked on the west side of Holm. Capt. Stewart

Cargo : TIMBER

Reference (19 April 2012)

UKHO Identifier : 001281

Feature Class : Wreck

Wreck Category : Dangerous wreck

State : LIVE

Status : Historic

Classification : Unclassified

Position (Lat/long) : 58.93122,-2.98173

Horizontal Datum : ORDNANCE SURVEY OF GREAT BRITAIN (1936)

WGS84 Position (Lat/long) : 58.93079,-2.98334

WGS84 Origin : 3-D Cartesian Shift (BW)

Previous Position : 58.93122,-2.98162

Position Quality : Precisely known

Depth : 1.8

Depth Method : Found by echo-sounder

Depth Quality : Least depth known

Water Depth : 26

Water Level Effect : Always under water/submerged

Vertical Datum : Lowest Astronomical Tide

Name : HMS ROYAL OAK

Type : BATTLESHIP

Flag : BRITISH

Length : 189.0

Beam : 26.8

Draught : 8.5

Orientation : 45.0

Tonnage : 29150

Tonnage Type : Gross

Date Sunk : 14/10/1939

Contact Description : Entire wreck

Original Sensor : Reported Sinking

Last Sensor : Acoustic Sensor

Original Detection Year : 1939

Last Detection Year : 2006

Original Source : Other

Last Source : Other

Markers : G CONL, FL(3)G 20 SEC, CLOSE SW.

Circumstances of Loss : **BUILT IN 1914 BY DEVONPORT DOCKYARD. A DREADNOUGHT BATTLESHIP. YARROW BOILERS, TURBINE ENGINES OF 40,000 IHP FOR 22 KNOTS. EIGHT 15 INCH, TWELVE 6 INCH, EIGHT 4 INCH AND FOUR THREE PDR GUNS. TORPEDOED BY GERMAN SUBMARINE U 47 (GUNTER PRIEN). STRUCK INITIALLY IN THE BOW AND SHORTLY AFTERWARDS BY A SALVO OF 3 OR 4 TORPEDOES. SANK WITH LOSS OF 834 OFFICERS AND RATINGS OUT OF TOTAL COMPLEMENT OF 1146.

Reference (March 2012)

Sitename : HMS Royal Oak: Scapa Bay, Scapa Flow, Orkney

Source :

Scapa Flow East in WGS1984 at 2m resolution Bathymetry Id 2010-27833_ScapaFlowArea2a_2m_SB_WGS84.bag,Fathoms Ltd,2010

References

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