In 1939 the Royal Navy battleship, HMS Royal Oak was moored in Scapa Flow and on 14 October she was sunk in a night time attack by a German U-boat which had entered this natural harbour between the mainland and Lamb Holm island. 833 lives were lost and the sunken battleship is a designated war grave marked by a buoy next to Scapa Beach where there is a Memorial Garden.
Although the shallow eastern passage into Scapa Flow had been protected by sunken block ships and anti-submarine nets the U-boat was able to navigate around them at high tide and escaped the same way. As a war grave, the remains of the Royal Oak are protected by a ‘cage’ and diver’s are forbidden to trespass. However a diver did recover the ship’s bell and after a period of time he handed the bell over to the authorities and it is now preserved in Kirkwall Cathedral as a memorial.
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