Scapa Flow

A great natural anchorage in the Orkney Islands, Scapa Flow is bordered by the islands of Orkney Mainland, Hoy, Burra, Flotta and South Ronaldsay and extends for 10 miles (16 km) east to west and 8 miles (13 km) north to south. Scapa Flow has played an important role in naval history. It was a key base for the British Navy in both World Wars and the British Grand Fleet sailed from here to the Battle of Jutland in 1916. Disaster struck on 9th July 1917 when HMS Vanguard exploded at anchor in the Flow, with the loss of over 1000 lives, reputedly due to the ignition of unstable cordite. On 2nd August the same year the first landing of aircraft on a carrier took place here when Commander Edwin Dunning brought his Sopwith Pup down onto the deck of HMS Furious. Sadly Dunning was killed five days later while attempting a similar landing. HMS Queen Elizabeth visited Scapa Flow exactly 100 years later on 2nd August 2017 to commemorate Dunning's achievement. It was here too that the remainder of the German High Seas Fleet was scuttled in 1919, having surrendered the previous year. This sinking caused widespread environmental damage and, although most of the ships were raised for salvage, seven remain where they sank, their wrecks are popular with scuba divers.

During the Second World War, Scapa Flow was used by the Home Fleet as a base for its role in protecting the Arctic Convoys. After the sinking of HMS Royal Oak here by a German U-boat, with the loss of 833 lives, Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered the creation of a defence along the eastern side of the Flow to prevent a further attack. The result, known as the Churchill Barriers, comprised a series of causeways that were built by Italian prisoners-of-war to link the islands of South Ronaldsay, Burray, Glimps Holm, Lamb Holm and the Orkney Mainland. The Royal Oak still lies a half-mile (1 km) offshore, to the south of Scapa Bay, as a designated war grave.

The naval headquarters was at Lyness on Hoy, and there are considerable remains of the shore station and oil terminal there, together with a museum - the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre.

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