NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Wreath laying marks sinking of Royal Oak in Orkney

Sunken HMS Royal Oak Image copyright Royal Navy
Image caption HMS Royal Oak sank in 1939 after being torpedoed by a German U-boat

More than 100 people attended a ceremony to remember the crew of a battleship which sank in 1939.

Wreaths were also laid above the wreck of HMS Royal Oak to mark the 75th anniversary of its sinking.

The warship was torpedoed by a German U-boat while it was at anchor in Scapa Flow in Orkney.

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Media captionSurvivors of HMS Royal Oak recall the moment the boat was torpedoed

Most of the 1,234 crew were asleep below deck, and 834 - including many boy sailors - died.

The wreaths formed part of the first significant Royal Oak anniversary not to be attended by any of the remaining survivors.

There are believed to be just three men who survived the sinking still alive today.

However, families of the the crew, and the community in Orkney, have vowed to carry on the act of remembrance for generations to come.

The Royal Oak, which also served in World War One, including the Battle of Jutland, is an official maritime war grave.

The memorial service was conducted by the Reverend David Dawson and the Last Post was played by bugler Chris Bray of Her Majesty's Royal Marines Band Scotland.

Image copyright Orkney Library and Archive
Image caption HMS Royal Oak served in both world wars
Image copyright Orkney Library and Archive
Image caption At the time of the sinking there were more than 1,000 sailors onboard

Relatives of the survivors and those who lost their lives were taken to the site of the wreck by HMS Bangor.

Rear Admiral John Clink said: "It is entirely my honour to have been able to pay tribute to the 834 men who lost their lives in Scapa Flow 75 years ago.

"And we remember, too, those who survived that tragedy, living with difficult memories of their lost friends from that terrible night throughout their lives.

"The Royal Navy will never forget."

Orkney councillor, Dr Stephen Clackson, whose grandfather Seaman Ronald Clackson lost his life at the age of 20, was at the service, which was attended by a number of Royal Navy dignitaries.

Image copyright Orkney Library and Archive
Image caption The warship firing during training

"It's important to keep the memory alive," Dr Clackson said. "My son is only three years younger than my grandfather was when he was killed."

"Being aboard HMS Bangor was fascinating and it gave us a picture of what it would have been like for my grandfather, seeing how enclosed it was and the thought of being trapped down there when the torpedo hit."

The White Ensign was exchanged from the wreck for a new one by the Royal Navy's Northern Diving Group from HM Naval Base Clyde last week.

It was later presented to Henry Blythe, whose uncle died on the Royal Oak.

Image copyright Orkney Library and Archive
Image caption The funeral procession marking the deaths of more than 800 men
Image copyright Other
Image caption The white ensign on the sunken ship was replaced by Navy divers

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