More than 100 people gathered under the grey skies of Scapa Flow this morning to pay tribute to the 834 men who lost their lives on HMS Royal Oak.
Marking the 75th anniversary of the tragic sinking of the Revenge-Class battleship, a shore side ceremony at the HMS Royal Oak Memorial in Scapa, Orkney, was followed by a wreath-laying above the wreck of the ship in Scapa Flow.
HMS Royal Oak sank in Scapa Flow after being hit by torpedoes from German U-Boat U-47. Launched in 1914 and in service in 1916, the ship saw service in the First World War, including the Battle of Jutland. The torpedo strikes which claimed the ship and so many lives were delivered barely a month into World War II.
It is thought that only three survivors remain from the 1,234-strong crew and, for the first time in many years, none were able to make the journey to Orkney for the annual memorial.
Many families of survivors and those who lost their lives, however, were there to pay their respects – one couple had flown in from Canada – as were councillors from Orkney Islands Council, Lord Lieutenant of Orkney Bill Spence, Flag Officer Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland Rear Admiral John Clink and Naval Regional Commander Scotland and Northern Ireland Captain Chris Smith.
One of the councillors attending was Dr Stephen Clackson, whose grandfather, Seaman Ronald Clackson aged 20, lost his life on HMS Royal Oak on that tragic night. He was accompanied by two of his children, Wulfric, 17, and Frideswide, 11.
Dr Clackson said: “It’s important to keep the memory alive. My son is only three years younger than my Grandfather was when he was killed.”
The service at the memorial was conducted by the Reverend David Dawson and the haunting strains of the Last Post from Bugler Chris Bray of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Band Scotland drifted out to sea.
Those who had gathered then boarded vessels – one of which was Royal Navy mine hunter HMS Bangor – to make the short voyage across the bay to the wreck.
The White Ensign which was exchanged from the wreck for a new one by the Royal Navy’s Northern Diving Group from HM Naval Base Clyde last Thursday, was presented at a ceremony later to Henry Blythe, whose uncle perished on the Royal Oak.