Loss of the ROYAL OAK


Loss of the ROYAL OAK

Liverpool Daily post, 0ct 16th 1939



When the Battleship ROYAL OAK was sunk by an enemy submarine, about 800 perished with her.

The 8th list of survivors contains 18 names bringing the total rescued to 414, the possibility of there being more survivors must now be regarded as remote.

HMS ROYAL OAK was laid down in 1914, at a cost of £2,468,269 and three years ago repairs were carried out on her at a cost off about £1,000,000. A battleship of the Royal Sovereign class, she had a displacement of 29,150 tons and carried a compliment of 1,009 to 1,146. The other vessels of the class are the Royal Sovereign, Resolution, Ramillies and Revenge.

The ROYAL OAK carried 8, 15ins guns, 12, 6inch guns, 8, 4inch anti-aircraft guns, one twelve pounder, besides torpedo tubes and smaller armament She also had one aircraft launched by catapult.

Recommissioned in Portsmouth on June 7th, she was a veteran of the last war, for she was in action at the Battle of Jutland and in recent years has been under fire in the Spanish Civil War.

She was much in the news in 1928, by reason of the dance band court martial at Gibraltar.

Capt W. G. BENN one of the survivors took command of the Royal Oak last July, and had previously commanded the aircraft-carrier ARGUS, from 1935-1938 he was Directory of the Navigation of the Admiralty.

The 8th list of survivors issued by the Admiralty [ 1st was on Saturday morning] contained 15 names and it was added that the officers and men had been landed and none were seriously injured.

Oct 17th 1939

Birkenhead ROYAL OAK Survivor

Midshipman asks parents for clothes and pipe

One of the first acts of Midshipman, Norman William ROCKINGHAM, who is among the survivors of the Royal Oak, when he had safely landed, was to telephone his parents, who lived at Combe Hey, Grosvenor Rd, Birkenhead, telling them he was safe and asking for an outfit of clothes and a pipe. All his possessions were lost with the ship, all the clothes he had were a pair of dungrees supplied by his rescuers.

He entered the service on leaving school, aged 17, and was appointed to the Royal Oak as a midshipman, he had instruction and short courses on other ships, one being, HMS COURAGEOUS. He was on board the Royal Oak in 1937 at Valencia, when she came under anti-aircraft fire from the contending Spanish forces. He is due to pass out as Sub-Lieut in December, considering he is 21 next year, he has had a fair share of experience in active service. He was one time a pupil of Birkenhead School.

Included in the list of survivors is Lieut Com James P. INGPEN, who is well known in Warrington. For the past 5yrs he has occupied the position of Employment Officer with the firm of Whitecross Wire Co. Ltd, Warrington.

Liverpool naval men not on the list of survivors:-

Leading Stoker Cornelius CURTIN, aged 23, Albert Buildings, Great Mersey St.

Seaman Christopher MAHER, aged 19, Queen Anne Tenements, Harker St.

CURTIN had been in the navy for 4yrs and was assisting, out of his navy pay, to educate his younger brother who had won a scholarship to St Edwards College, Liverpool.

Seaman MAHER joined the navy a year ago and transferred to the Royal Oak at the outbreak of war. He celebrated his birthday on Oct 5th. He was a single man, an expert swimmer and athlete. He was the eldest of four sons and joined the navy against his parent's wishes. As soon as he was old enough he joined.

Relatives at St Helens yesterday, learned that Stoker Norman ATHERTON, aged 22, of Friar St, Windle City, had been lost on the Royal Oak. He joined the navy 3yrs ago and formerly served on the IRON DUKE.

Oct 18th 1939

Survivors tell of Royal Oak's end

Vincent MARCHANT, aged 18, of Kings Ave, Maltby, Doncaster, Robert MARTIN, aged 18, of Canon Place, Brighton and Robert HAYHOE of Bedford told last night of the end of the ROYAL OAK.

They are now with other survivors, ashore in hospital.

MARCHANT, said he was asleep in his hammock when the first explosion occurred.

"I ran to the upper deck to see what had happened, there was a second explosion 20mins later, followed by a third, then a fourth, the ship was lilting and sinking rapidly."

Remembering what happened on the COURAGEOUS and the lesson of what the sinking of the aircraft-carrier taught us. I stripped off my clothes and tying my safety belt around my waist, dived into the water. Searchlights were playing over the surface and I could see heads bobbing around.

Great volumes of oil belched to the surface. My eyes started to smart and the faces of all the men in the water turned a greasy black. I was caught in the searchlight for several minutes and saw two of my friends swimming alongside me. Later however they got cramp and disappeared.

I must have swam a mile and a half when I felt the rock underneath me. I have the vague recollection of climbing up the sheer face of a cliff 20 to 30ft high. Another figure climbing behind me slipped a fell crashing on the rocks. I fell down at the top of the cliffs and lost consciousness."

Robert MARTIN also swam Ashore and was found on the rocks.

Paymaster Lieut G. R. HARRISON a son of the harbour master at Lerwick declared;-

It was 2mins to 1 on Saturday when there was a minor explosion. No one paid much attention to it I was sitting in the mess with some other officers and I awakened some of the men who didn't hear the explosion.

I walked upon deck. Three minutes after I left the mess there was a violent explosion. I joined a queue and was making to go overboard on the portside, when there was a fourth explosion."

18th Oct 1939

Liverpool youths lost on Royal Oak

A Dingle mother, after being told her son was safe, after the sinking of the Royal Oak on Saturday morning at Scapa Flow, has been officially informed that he was lost.

Mrs WOOD, a widow of 7 Homer St, received a telegram that her son, Boy [1st class] Stanley WOOD, was safe, but then received a second that he was lost, then a third confirming it.

Boy WOOD, was 18 yrs old and joined the navy in June last year. He had served on HMS HAWKINS, from which he was transferred to the Royal Oak. He was formerly a pupil of Matthew Arnold School, Dingle Lane.

Edward John STEVENSON, Boy [1st class] of 45 Robsart St, Everton, is among those lost. He was a pupil of Penrhyn St, Council School, then served 2yrs on the INDEFATIGABLE, the Mersey School-ship. He had been 7mths on the Royal Oak. His father Joseph STEVENSON, served in the last war and was a prisoner in Germany.


Oct 17th 1939

CURTIN, Oct 14th, suddenly, aged 22, Cornelius eldest son of James and Catherine CURTIN, of 7 Albert Buildings, Kirkdale. R.I.P.

Oct 18th 1939

BOYD, Lost on HMS Royal Oak, Thomas Alexander, aged 19, much loved younger son of Thomas Hugh and Jennie BOYD, 1 Beech Mount, Beech St, Liverpool

FOWLER, Lost on the Royal Oak, aged 23yrs, John Walter, only son of John and Annie FOWLER, 74 Tollerton Rd, Liverpool 12.

Oct 20th 1939

DUNCALF, Lost on HMS Royal Oak, aged 28, Thomas, beloved son of George and Ethel DUNCALF, Northcote, Long Lane, Aughton, [late of Walton] also dearly beloved husband of Louisa Mary DUNCALF

DUNCALF, Lost on HMS Royal Oak, aged 28, Thomas, sadly missed by all at, 66 Bedford Rd, Walton.

DUNCALF, Lost on HMS Royal Oak, aged 28, Thomas, Sadly missed by Uncle Harold and Aunty Florrie.

Oct 18th 1939

U-boat Captain's story

"A job to smuggle into Scapa Flow"

The name of the Commander of the U-boat which sank the Royal Oak was given by German radio as Capt Commodore DOELITZ, he has been promoted to Count-Admiral by Hitler.

The U-boat reached its base at 9am yesterday and was met by Admiral RAEDER Commander-in-Chief, who congratulated the Commander on his "brilliant feat."

The crew, were decorated with the Iron cross on the instructions of Hitler.

Commanders description of his exploit at Scapa Flow:-

"It was quite a job to smuggle ourselves into Scapa Flow through all the British defences. I saw two British warships to the north of me, and discharged two torpedoes at them. I at once turned my boat and left the harbour because I did not want my ship or crew to be captured.

As I left the port I heard two explosions and saw a column of water rising from the British ship lying furthest north. A moment later the other ship exploded. I saw parts of her blown in the air and the whole ship disappeared.

Then I realised that the northern ship was seriously damaged too-she had two funnels which proves she was not the Royal Oak. Just as we were leaving the port intense activity began there. The surface of the sea was lit by British searchlights and several depth charges exploded behind us."






Commonwealth War Graves for those lost


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