HMS Royal Oak

HMS Royal Oak was a Revenge class battleship, most famous for her destruction by U-47 while at anchor in Scapa Flow in 1939. She had been laid down in January 1914, and entered service in May 1916, making her one of the newest ships to take part in the battle of Jutland. There she formed part of the main Grand Fleet, taking part in the two brief battleship clashes.

HMS Royal Oak in Interwar Period
HMS Royal Oak in Interwar Period

Although the Revenge class ships were retained after the First World War, they were not as highly regarded as the Queen Elizabeth class ships, and so did not benefit from extensive modifications. The Royal Oakwas modified in 1922-24, when she was given anti-torpedo bulges. In 1934-36 her deck armour was improved.

At the start of the Second World War, the Royal Oak was part of the Home Fleet, based at Scapa Flow. On the night of 14 October 1939, U-47 commanded by Gunther Prien, managed to get past the anti-submarine defences of Scapa Flow. He fired two salvoes of torpedoes at the Royal Oak. Only one torpedo from the first salvo hit, causing a small explosion. Onboard the Royal Oakthis was believed to have been an internal explosion, and the flammable stores were flooded. However, three or four torpedoes from the second salvo hit, ripping the bottom out of the ship. She sank in ten minutes, with the loss of over 800 lives. Amongst them was Rear-Admiral H. E. C. Blagrove. Prien returned to a hero's welcome in Germany, which included a triumphal procession through Berlin. Just as in 1914, the British fleet was forced to abandon Scapa Flow while its defences were improved.

Blacksmith's Shop, HMS Royal Oak
Blacksmith's Shop, HMS Royal Oak

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



4,200 nautical miles at 10kts

Armour – decks


 - belt


 - bulkheads


 - barbettes


 - turret faces


 - conning tower



624ft 3in


Eight 15in Mk I guns
Fourteen 6in Mk XII guns
Two 3in Mk I AA guns
Four 3pdr guns
Four 21in submerged torpedo tubes

Crew complement



17 November 1914


May 1916


C. Maclachlan (1916)

Sunk by U-47

14 October 1939

The Ultimate Sacrifice, David Turner. Written by a nephew of one of the officers lost on HMS Royal Oak, this book looks at the loss of that battleship, sunk at anchor in Scapa Flow on 14 October 1939. After setting the sinking in context, Turner focuses on the fate of the crew of the Royal Oak, reminding us of the terrible price paid by the 833 victims of the sinking. [see more]
cover cover cover

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (10 November 2007), HMS Royal Oak ,

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