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Naval divers ‘raise’ the White Ensign to mark Royal Oak tragedy

14 October 2021
A fresh White Ensign today ‘flies’ on the Royal Oak after Navy divers completed their sacred duty in Scapa Flow.

Clearance Divers from the Northern Diving Group in Faslane returned to the wreck of the battleship to survey the sunken leviathan – and replace the White Ensign attached to the upturned hull.

Some 835 sailors – many of them boys – were killed when the dreadnought was sunk at anchor one Saturday night in October 1939 after a German submarine evaded the defences and slipped into the Royal Navy’s most important wartime base.

Divers from Faslane travel to Orkney every year to take part in the memorial events to remember those lost (with the exception of last year as a result of the pandemic).

This was the first time Diver Charlie Hopper has descended on Royal Oak.

“I was honoured to be part of the team that carried out the Ensign change on HMS Royal Oak this year. It is the first time I have dived on the wreck and it was a wonderful and poignant opportunity to pay our respects to the 835 lost servicemen. It was a privilege and a dive I will always remember,” the 25-year-old said.

It was a privilege and a dive I will always remember

Able Seaman (Diver) Charlie Hopper

Northern Diving Group personnel also joined relatives and friends of those who were lost during the sinking of the Revenge-class battleship – after 82 years, survivors of the tragedy have all crossed the bar – to pay tribute and lay wreaths at a memorial service in the Garden of Remembrance.

Brigadier Andy Muddiman RM, Naval Regional Commander Scotland & Northern Ireland said: “The annual commemoration for the sinking of HMS Royal Oak and the loss of 835 lives is an event close to the hearts of many Orcadians, it is a part of their own history and many have heard recollections from their own families of that terrible event.

“It is through community efforts and those of the Royal Oak Association, which runs commemorations elsewhere in the UK, that the memory of those sailors who perished and of survivors alike, is maintained. The Royal Navy is very grateful for this collective remembrance effort and we are proud to be invited to take part.

He continued: “I would also like to praise the efforts of the Kirkwall Branch of the Royal British Legion Scotland who have ensured that the event remains as it always has, a simple and fitting tribute to the Fallen. It is they who have ensured that the 14th October never passes without acknowledging the sacrifices made on behalf of us all.”

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