HMS Royal Oak (08)
May 23, 2022
HMS Royal Oak was a Revenge-class battleship of the British Royal Navy. Launched in 1914 and completed in 1916, she first saw action at the Battle of Jutland. In peacetime she served in the Atlantic and Mediterranean fleets and in British territorial waters, being the subject of accidental attacks on more than one occasion. The ship attracted worldwide attention when in 1928 her high-ranking officers were court-martialed in a highly controversial proceeding. Attempts to modernize the Royal Oak throughout her twenty-five year career failed to remedy her lack of speed, and by the start of World War II she was no longer stationed on the front line of combat. On the night of October 14, 1939, the battleship was anchored at Scapa Flow, an anchorage in the Orkney Islands, north of Scotland, when it was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U 47. Of its 1,234 crew members, including many minors, 833 died that night or from their injuries. The loss of the old battleship—the first of five British Royal Navy battleships and battlecruisers sunk in the course of World War II—did little to affect the numerical superiority of the English navy and its allies, but the effect on morale in wartime it was considerable. The attack immediately made a celebrity and war hero in Germany for the U-boat commander, Lieutenant Commander Günther Prien, who was the first Kriegsmarine submarine officer to be awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. . For the British, the attack on the Royal Oak demonstrated that the Germans were capable of taking naval warfare into their own waters, and the impression made had the immediate effect of tightening port security. The battleship currently rests about thirty meters deep, almost upside down, and with her hull only five meters from the surface. The remains of the Royal Oak are declared a war cemetery, and in an annual ceremony to remember the loss, Royal Navy divers place their official flag, the White Ensign or St. George's ensign, over the ship's submerged stern. Diving among the remains of the wreck is totally prohibited to unauthorized divers.