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Faces of HMS Royal Oak (ePub)

The 'Mighty Oak' Disaster at Scapa Flow

Maritime > Naval > Royal Navy Military > Frontline eBooks

By Dilip Sarkar MBE
Frontline Books
File Size: 119.1 MB (.epub)
ISBN: 9781399062343
Published: 30th 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

Dilip Sarkar has now written over sixty well-received books. Having enjoyed a privileged relationship with many of The Few, he is a globally acknowledged expert on the Battle of Britain, currently working on a career-topping eight volume official history for The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust and National Memorial to The Few. Described by the late Dr Gordon Mitchell, son of the Spitfire’s designer RJ Mitchell, as an ‘aviation detective’, Dilip Sarkar did actually begin his professional life as just that – a police detective. His evidence-based approach and ability to discover new material is well-known – in 2023, for example, he was responsible for having Air Chief-Marshal Sir Keith Park, a New Zealander, officially recognised as one of The Few. Made an MBE for ‘services to aviation history’ in 2003, Dilip was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Historical Society in 2006, achieved First Class Honours in Modern History as a mature student in 2010, and in 2024 was made both a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and member of London’s Royal Air Force Club. During his long career, Dilip has exhibited and spoken internationally at such prestigious venues as Oxford University, the RAF Museum, IWM Museum, and Airborne Museum, Oosterbeek; he has worked on many TV documentaries, on and off screen, again internationally, and has an engaging presence on YouTube and Facebook in particular.

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