Navigation lamps from Royal Oak
Naval History

New Images Released Of HMS Royal Oak Wreck

Divers are working on a survey of the battleship ahead of the 80th anniversary of its sinking.

Navigation lamps from Royal Oak

Navigation lamps on seabed amid wreck of Royal Oak (Picture: Marjo Tynkkynen/HMS Royal 80 Survey).

New imagery of a Royal Navy battleship that was sunk at the start of the Second World War have been released.

A volunteer team had been given special permission to dive on the wreck of HMS Royal Oak.

Plans to produce video and 3D images were delayed following the theft of a laptop and two external hard drives from the team.

The laptop and back-up discs, containing months of work, were stolen from a property in Stromness, Orkney on Sunday.

A £1,500 reward has been offered after a laptop was taken containing vital survey data about the shipwreck.

"Just from a data point of view, this is months of someone's time," Emily Turton, the survey organiser, told the BBC.

"We have got a few months before this data was supposed to be ready to share with the families and the relatives of the people who died on that ship.

"Just hand it in, give the stuff back."

Gun casement from Royal Oak
Gun casement encrusted with sea life on Royal Oak wreck (Picture: Marjo Tynkkynen/HMS Royal 80 Survey).

HMS Royal Oak was torpedoed by a German submarine off Orkney just six weeks into the Second World War.

The battleship was struck on the night of 14 October 1939 by the U-boat while anchored at the wartime home of the fleet at Scapa Flow.

It sank in a matter of minutes, killing 834 men, including more than 100 boy sailors.

A team of volunteer civilian divers were granted permission to dive the wreck by the MOD ahead of the 80th anniversary of the loss of the ship this year.

HMS Royal Oak on manoeuvres in 1928
HMS Royal Oak on manoeuvres in 1928.

Inspector Keith Bendall said: "This is an unusual incident in Orkney and we would urge anyone who has information which could assist our enquiries to come forward.

 "Anyone with information can contact Police Scotland on 101, quoting incident NK97/19, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111."

Prior to the theft, Gareth Derbyshire, chair of the Royal Oak Association, had spoken of his hope that the survey would reveal details of huge historical value:

"There are few details of the ship in the public domain, despite the huge loss of life.

"We believe that the survey will not only be of significant interest to those with a decent connection to the ship, but also act as an important means of ensuring that the history of the ship and the circumstances of its loss are available to future generations."

3D image of Royal Oak on seabed
A 3D image of the Royal Oak wreckage on the seabed (Picture: Marjo Tynkkynen/HMS Royal 80 Survey).

The team plan to use state-of-the-art underwater imagery techniques to produce high-quality photography and video.

The divers are also aiming to use new 3D photogrammetry techniques to allow them to produce 3D models of the wreck.

They hope that by sharing the imagery with the relatives of those who died, as well as the wider public, the Royal Oak tragedy will not be forgotten.

The site is an official war grave and Royal Navy divers visit the wreck annually to pay respects to the lost sailors and fly a White Ensign.