HMS Royal Oak Sailing

The Royal Oak sailing under its power.

Royal Navy Ensign
Laid down: January 15th 1914
Launched: November 17th 1914
Commissioned: May 1st 1916
Fate: sunk by U-47 while at anchor at Scapa Flow
General Characteristics
Displacement: 33,500 tons
Length: 620.5 feet
Beam: 88½ ft (27 m) as built; 102 ft (31.1 m) after bulging
Draft: 28.5 ft
Speed: 20 knots (37 kph)
Complement: 1,009-1,416 men and officers
Armament: 4 × twin BL 15-inch MK I guns, 12 × single 6-inch (150 mm) MK XII guns, 4 × 2 4-inch (102 mm) guns, 2 × 8 QF 2-pdr (40 mm) anti-aircraft guns, 4 × 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
HMS Royal Oak Jutland

The Royal Oak at Jutland

HMS Royal Oak was a Revenge class battleship of the Royal Navy, during The Second World War. She is famous for being torpedoed at anchor by U-47 at the Royal Navy Base at Scapa Flow in October 1939. She was launched in 1914, and fought at the Battle of Jutland. Between the world wars, she served in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. But her flaw, a lack of speed could not be fixed by several attempts to modernize her. The Royal Oak was at anchor on October 14th 1939, when U-47 entered the harbor and fired several torpedoes, sinking her. She was the first Royal Navy Battleship sunk in World War II, sinking with 833 out of her crew of 1234.


The Revenge Class was basically a coal-fired version of the Queen Elizabeth class super-dreadnoughts. This was to prevent a shortage of fuel, since the Queen Elizabeth class was oil driven. In case of a successful naval blockade of Britain, all oil imports would be stopped. But there was a lot of coal in England, ensuring the mobility of the Revenge class. The problem was that coal would be slower. The Revenge Class was designed to be the strongest battleships in the Battle line.

The Royal Oak was the fourth of her class, laid down in early 1914. After oil supplies were obtained, the performance of coal which was limited was replaced with oil. The Royal Oak was redesigned to be a oil powered ship. She was launched in November 1914.



The First World War had been going on for two years, until the Royal Oak was commissioned. Under the command of Captain Crawford Maclachlan,Royal Oak left Scapa Flow on the evening of 30 May in the company of the battleships Superb, Canada and Admiral Jellicoe's flagship Iron Duke. The next day's indecisive battle saw Royal Oak fire a total of thirty-eight 15-inch (380 mm) and eighty-four 6-inch (150 mm) shells, claiming three hits on the battlecruiser Derfflinger, putting one of its turrets out of action, and a hit on the cruiser Wiesbaden. She avoided damage herself, despite being straddled by shellfire on one occasion.

Peace TimeEdit

HMS Royal Oak Anchor

The Royal Oak at Anchor

Between the World Wars, she was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. She also was involved in the Royal Oak Mutiny, in which her captain and commander were courtmartialed. She was then assigned to, and later became flagship of the Second Battleship Division.


U-47 was the submarine ordered by German Commander Dönitz to attack Scapa Flow. On the surface, and illuminated by a bright display of the aurora borealis, the submarine threaded between the sunken blockships Seriano and Numidian, grounding itself temporarily on a cable strung from Seriano. It was briefly caught in the headlights of a taxi onshore, but the driver raised no alarm. On entering the harbour proper at 00:27 on 14 October, Prien entered a triumphant Wir sind in Scapa Flow! in the log and set a south-westerly course for several kilometres before reversing direction. To his surprise, the anchorage appeared to be almost empty; unknown to him, Forbes' order to disperse the fleet had removed some of the biggest targets. U-47 had been heading directly towards four warships, including the newly commissioned light cruiser Belfast, anchored offshore of Flotta and Hoy 8 km distant, but Prien gave no indication that he had seen them. On the reverse course, a lookout on the bridge spotted Royal Oak lying approximately 4,000 m to the north, correctly identified as a battleship of the Revenge class. Mostly hidden behind her was a second ship, only the bow of which was visible to U-47. Prien mistook it to be a battlecruiser of the Renown class, German intelligence later labelling it Repulse. It was in fact the World War I seaplane tender Pegasus.

Site of attack on Royal Oak, with oil risen from the wreck visible At 00:58 U-47 fired a salvo of three torpedoes from its bow tubes, a fourth lodging in its tube. Two failed to find a target, but a single torpedo struck the bow of Royal Oak at 01:04, shaking the ship and waking the crew. Little visible damage was received, though the starboard anchor chain was severed, clattering noisily down through its slips. Initially, it was suspected that there had been an explosion in the ship's forward inflammable store, used to store materials such as kerosene. Mindful of the unexplained explosion that had destroyed HMS Vanguard in Scapa Flow in 1917, an announcement was made over the Royal Oak's tannoy system to check the magazine temperatures, but many sailors returned to their bunks, unaware that the ship was under attack. Prien turned his submarine and attempted another shot via his stern tube, but this too missed. Reloading his bow tubes, he doubled back and fired a salvo of three torpedoes, all at Royal Oak, and this time he was successful: at 01:16 all three struck the battleship in quick succession at her amidships. A series of explosions ran through the ship, followed by an inrush of seawater. The ship immediately listed some 15°, sufficient to push the open starboard-side portholes below the waterline. She soon rolled further onto her side to 45°, hanging there for several minutes before disappearing beneath the surface at 01:29, 13 minutes after Prien's second strike. 833 men died with the ship, including Rear-Admiral Henry Blagrove, commander of the Second Battleship Division. The admiral's wooden gig, moored alongside, was dragged down with Royal Oak.

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