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Faces of HMS Royal Oak (Hardback)

The 'Mighty Oak' Disaster at Scapa Flow

Maritime > Naval > Royal Navy Military > Frontline Books

By Dilip Sarkar MBE
Frontline Books
Pages: 224
ISBN: 9781399062329
Published: 20th October 2023


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On 14 October each year, a White Ensign is placed on the stern of an upturned warship by Royal Navy divers. This act commemorates the 835 men of HMS Royal Oak who died in 1939 when the battleship was sunk at anchor in Scapa Flow by the German U-boat U-47.

The sinking of the veteran First World War Revenge-class Royal Oak shocked not only the Admiralty, but the whole nation. Though Scapa Flow was far from being impregnable as a base for the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet, it was surrounded by a ring of islands separated by shallow channels subject to fast-racing tides. While it was recognised that it was not impervious to enemy submarines, measures had been put in place to minimise any such threat. Blockships had been sunk at potentially vulnerable points and anti-submarine booms deployed across the wider channels. The outbreak of war in September 1939 saw additional anti-submarine measures put in hand.

Despite these increased precautions, German aerial reconnaissance had spotted weaknesses which were exploited on the night of 13/14 October 1939, by Kapitänleutnant Günther Prien in U-47. The German submarine was able to slip into Scapa Flow undetected and fire three torpedoes towards Royal Oak. Only one torpedo found its mark. A second salvo was fired and this time all three hit the battleship, igniting a magazine causing massive damage. Within thirteen minutes, HMS Royal Oak had turned over and sank.

In Faces of HMS Royal Oak, Dilip Sarkar not only reveals the tragic and moving stories of many of those who died, but also some of the 399 who survived the sinking of the first Royal Navy battleship lost in the Second World War.

Through their photographs, and in some cases words, the horrors of those fateful few minutes as Royal Oak rolled and slid into the cold, dark waters of Scapa Flow, are relived in startling clarity.

Article: Lest we forget: Families mourn the 853 men and boys who died in shock sinking of Royal Oak

The Sunday Post, November 11th 2023

This book was truly a haunting, and vivid description of life aboard the HMS Royal Oak, and the lives destroyed by a torpedo attack by a German submarine.

As I read this book, it was hard to not go back and look at the faces of the men that were stationed aboard this vessel, and the tragic loss of life that occurred.

Absolutely a fantastic and devastating read.

NetGalley, Rebecca Hill
 Dilip Sarkar MBE

About Dilip Sarkar MBE

Driven by his passion to record and share the human experience of war, DILIP SARKAR is a best-selling and prolific author whose work is highly regarded globally. A noted expert on the Battle of Britain period, the Few and Spitfire stories, Dilip enjoyed a long and very personal relationship with many survivors. Made an MBE for ‘services to aviation history in 2003, he was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Historical Society in 2006. A sought after, dynamic, speaker both in person and, more recently, ‘virtually’, Dilip’s enthusiasm is infectious; he has exhibited internationally and spoken at innumerable prestigious venues. An experienced broadcaster and presenter, he continues to work on TV documentaries both on and off camera, and is a firm supporter of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust.
Dilip is Project Lead on Battle of Britain: The People's Project, a new project launched in July 2022 in partnership with Pen & Sword and the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust, which aims to discover untold stories from the Battle of Britain as part of a comprehensive seven-volume history of the battle. Visit the project website at https://www.battleofbritainpeoplesproject.com.

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