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Remembering the loss of HMS Royal Oak

HMS Royal Oak.
(© IWM (FL 12252))

A SERIES of poignant events are set to take place to mark the 80th anniversary of the sinking of HMS Royal Oak.

Recent research carried out by Orkney wartime historian Brian Budge, and the Royal Navy, reveals that the number of men and boys who died as a result of the sinking of the battleship has risen from 834 to 835.

On Sunday, a service of remembrance is to take place at St Magnus Cathedral, focusing on the tragic events of October 14, 1939, when HMS Royal Oak was sunk by a German U-Boat in Scapa Flow.

Later on that day, at 2pm, a community poppy planting session will take place at the Royal Oak memorial garden at Scapa.

Phil and Heather Taylor have manufactured 1,239 wooden poppies (one for each crew member aboard on the night of the sinking) to plant ahead of the anniversary.

There will be a large Royal Navy presence while the community plant all of the stems in the ground.

At 7pm on Sunday in the King Street Halls, Kirkwall, “An Evening with HMS Royal Oak” — a presentation, exhibition and virtual reality sessions — will take place, hosted by the Royal Oak Association, the Royal Oak 80 survey team, and Bill Spence, Lord-Lieutenant of Orkney.

On Monday, — the actual day of the anniversary — at 9.30am, a service of remembrance will take place at the garden of remembrance at Scapa.

Then, at 10.30am, with vessels departing from Scapa pier, a further service of remembrance will take place over the wreck of HMS Royal Oak, during which 835 red carnations will be placed over the wreck, as well as bio-degradable wreaths.

Those taking part will then return to Kirkwall Royal British Legion for refreshments and presentations.

A team from the Royal Navy Northern Diving Group have also been in Orkney this week to carry out the annual changing of the ensign which is attached to the wreck each year.

• To mark the 80th anniversary of the sinking, a special display of objects from the ship and her crew is on show at the Orkney Museum in Kirkwall, entitled Remembering HMS Royal Oak, 1939-2019.

Further details in The Orcadian.