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HMS Royal Oak remembered at Scapa Flow

The Lord-Lieutenant of Orkney Bill Spence lays a wreath at the Royal Oak Memorial this morning.
(Tom O’Brien/www.theorcadianphotos.co.uk

Further events around the anniversary of the sinking of HMS Royal Oak were held today, Monday — 80 years on, to the day, of the sinking of the battleship in 1939.

On a gloriously calm and quiet morning, a service was held at the Royal Oak Remembrance Garden, at Scapa Beach, with readings, hymns and prayers given by John Mitchinson from the Kirkwall branch of the Salvation Army.

Speaking to the large group of attendees, Lt Mitchinson remarked on all he had learned about the sinking of the battleship — from the building of the ship in Devonport to its sinking in Scapa Flow, to catastrophic loss of life, in the early hours of October 14, 80 years ago.

With pipes and trumpets playing to a large group of attendees, wreaths of poppies were then laid at the Royal Oak Memorial, by Lord-Lieutenant Bill Spence, the chairman of the Royal Oak Association Gareth Derbyshire and many others.

A short time after, a number of vessels, including HMS Bangor, left from Scapa Pier, heading out to the location of the World War One-era battleship in Scapa Flow, to pay tribute.

Carnations are thrown into the waters of Scapa Flow, in memory of those lost aboard HMS Royal Oak.
(Tom O’Brien / www.orcadianphotos.co.uk)

Carnations were thrown into the sea from the gathered vessels, with the majority of these coming from those on the passenger ship Flotta Lass, which had carried many family members of casualties or survivors of the torpedoing of HMS Royal Oak.

Marking the end of the ceremony, the bell from HMS Royal Oak, which is now normally kept in St Magnus Cathedral, was rung by navy personal aboard the Northern Lighthouse Board vessel Pharos.

An event was then held in the Kirkwall Branch of the Royal British Legion. As is tradition, an ensign, which has been tied to the wreck of the battleship was presented to a family member of one of the crewmen. This year, it was presented to Allan Myers from Stoke-on-Trent, whose father, marine George Myers, was lost aboard the battleship.

HMS Royal Oak sank to the bottom of Scapa Flow after it was torpedoed by the German submarine U-47. Of the ship’s 909 crew members — many of whom were very young men — 834 were lost.

For more coverage of the events taking place around the anniversary of the sinking of the ship, see this Thursday’s edition of The Orcadian.

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