In October 1939 HMS Royal Oak, which was originally built for action in WW1, came under attack from German U-boats at Scapa Flow. By the end of the attack, 833 out of a crew of 1,234 perished in the icy sea.
Every year, in October, Royal Navy divers pay tribute to those lost, by changing the White Ensign (the flag of the Royal Navy) on the wreck. This year three memorial plaques were also placed within the ship, two of which in memory of crew members Marine Kenneth Edwin Hall, and Able Seaman Stoker Joseph Paschal Wilkins, the third in remembrance of another crew member who passed away this year. Royal Navy Clearance Divers, who placed the commemorative flag and plaques, also work as maritime bomb disposal experts. Earlier this year they had to deal with a suspicious item on the seabed near the wreckage, which turned out to be a WW2 torpedo, most likely to have been fired at HMS Royal Oak.
Additional reading from Forces War Records:
This year marks the 77th anniversary of the sinking, and we honoured the occasion with a special feature in the Forces War Records magazine, gruesome first hand accounts from 3 crew members, which you can read for free here.
However, HMS Royal Oak’s first combat was during the Battle of Jutland, and to honour the 100 years anniversary of this momentous battle, Forces War Records produced a special edition magazine, which you can download for free here.