History, World War II

HMS Royal Oak leaving the harbor at Malta

HMS Royal Oak leaving the harbor at Malta

HMS Royal Oak was a Royal Navy battleship that served during World War I. Here’s a brief overview:

  1. Construction and Commissioning: HMS Royal Oak was one of the five Revenge-class battleships built during the early 1910s. It was laid down in 1914, launched in 1916, and commissioned in 1916.
  2. World War I Service: Royal Oak participated in various operations during World War I, including the Battle of Jutland in 1916, one of the largest naval battles of the war. It sustained some damage during the battle but managed to return to service.
  3. Interwar Period: After the war, HMS Royal Oak underwent several modifications and refits. It served in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Home Fleets during the interwar period.
  4. Outbreak of World War II: With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, HMS Royal Oak was stationed at Scapa Flow, a naval anchorage in Orkney, Scotland. It was assigned to protect the anchorage from potential German naval threats.
  5. Sinking: On the night of October 14-15, 1939, HMS Royal Oak was torpedoed by the German submarine U-47 under the command of Günther Prien while anchored at Scapa Flow. The torpedoes caused a catastrophic explosion, leading to the rapid sinking of the battleship.
  6. Casualties: Tragically, 834 crew members lost their lives in the sinking, out of a total crew of around 1,200. The attack on HMS Royal Oak shocked the British public and highlighted the vulnerability of even well-protected naval bases.
  7. Consequences: The sinking of HMS Royal Oak had significant repercussions, leading to changes in the anchorage and defensive measures at Scapa Flow to prevent similar incidents. The loss of the battleship was a propaganda victory for Germany early in the war.
  8. Memorials: Several memorials, including a plaque at Scapa Flow, commemorate the crew of HMS Royal Oak. The wreck itself is considered a war grave, and visits are restricted.

The sinking of HMS Royal Oak was one of the early naval losses for the Royal Navy in World War II, and the tragedy had lasting implications for naval operations and security measures.

Photo: HMS Royal Oak in better times leaving the harbor at Malta. The battleship would by sunk by Gunther Prien’s U-47 in Scapa Flow on October 14, 1939.
Date: 1939.

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