Remembering HMS Royal Oak at Orkney Museum

Remembering HMS Royal Oak at Orkney Museum
04 September 2019

To mark the 80th anniversary of the sinking of HMS Royal Oak on 14th October 1939, a special display of objects from the ship and her crew is on show at Orkney Museum in Kirkwall.

'Remembering HMS Royal Oak, 1939-2019' features items from the Scapa Flow Museum in Lyness, currently under refurbishment, including the bronze name plate from the ship, illegally removed by a diver in the 1970s and presented to Orkney Islands Council by The Admiralty in 1995.

Also on display are medals and personal belongings from victims of the disaster including ‘boy sailors’, Kenneth Hawkins and Harry Griffin, and crew mates Henry Blyth, Robert Cannon, and John Milligan.

The story of survivors is told too, with a model of drifter Daisy II, which rescued nearly 400 members of Royal Oak’s crew, on show, and the dress worn by Nursing Auxiliary, Ms Sutherland-Graham, who attended survivors, probably at the Balfour Hospital.

The display tells the remarkable story of Stanley Cole, who volunteered for naval service in 1938, and for whom HMS Royal Oak was his first sea-going ship. A cap and medals belonging to Stanley Cole, and an oil painting of the ship gifted to him by fellow survivor, H.J. Instance, are on display.

Some objects have never been displayed before, including a platter from the Admiralty pattern dinner service which would have been used on-board, and various small brass items salvaged by divers in the 1970s before the wreck was designated under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.

The display tells the pre-World War II story of HMS Royal Oak, alongside the account of her sinking by U47 and the subsequent reception of the U-boat in Germany. It also explores post-war environmental concerns about the fuel oil remaining on the wreck and includes a decanter of oil pumped from Royal Oak’s fuel tanks.

The display was put together with the help and advice of the HMS Royal Oak Association who work to ensure the story of the disaster remains alive. Gareth Derbyshire, Honorary Secretary, said, "The HMS Royal Oak Association is truly grateful to Orkney Islands Council for creating this display. It will provide a point of interest for the many families who will visit Orkney in October 2019 to mark the 80th anniversary of the loss of the ship and remind them of the special connection that HMS Royal Oak has with the people of Orkney".

'Remembering HMS Royal Oak, 1939-2019' is at Orkney Museum until 26 October 2019 and entry is free.

School Place, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1NY

Telephone: 01856 873535


Orkney Islands Council: BOREAS DOMUS MARE AMICUS