German U-Boat

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Battle of Scapa Flow

Contents of this chapter
Scuttling of German High Seas Fleet
The Defenses of Scapa Flow
The Mission
Foray into Scapa Flow
Attack on the Royal Oak
Retreat from Scapa Flow
Celebration in Berlin
Impact of the Raid
Wreck Diving in Scapa Flow

The Battle of Scapa Flow is especially poignant because of its connection to the German scuttling of its High Seas Fleet at the end of the First World War and the false sense of security the British had about this port and surrounding waters during the Second World War. During the disarmament process of the First World War, almost the entire German Navy was scuttled and lay at the bottom of Scapa Flow. The German Navy deeply resented this, and between the wars, they had long wanted to penetrate the defenses of the port to send a British warship to the depths of the watery graves alongside with their fallen comrades.

The raid on the Royal Navy’s supposedly impregnable anchorage at Scapa Flow would combine the nerves of a reckless gambler with the skill and precision of a surgeon and was to have far reaching consequences. For the British, it ended the career of several prominent figures and for the Germans, it was a major propaganda victory – the day when everything seemed possible.

U-47 departing Kiel harbor HMS Royal Oak Gunther Prien
The U-47, one of the 24 Type VIIB U-boats was made famous for its daring attack in Scapa Flow. The original emblem is seen here mocking the British prime minister Neville Chamberlain. The HMS Royal Oak, a dreadnought battleship under the Royal Sovereign class was a veteran of World War One. Gunther Prien, the skipper who pulled it off. He would later become the most celebrated U-boat ace during the war.

Due to the significance of the Battle of Scapa Flow, this topic is presented in great detail, covering from the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet in 1919 to the aftermath of the battle.

The date: October 1st 1939. The skipper: KL Gunther Prien. The boat was U-47; and was about to embark on “Operation Order North Sea Number 16”, which was soon destined to be one of the most audacious missions of World War Two.

Winston Churchill would call it ”a remarkable exploit of professional skill and daring”.

“it was a unique triumph. A deed of great daring, achieved in the very place where a weak Germany had surrendered its entire fleet in 1918” – Adolf Hitler

Next: Scuttling of German High Seas Fleet

U-995 German Type VIIC U-Boat

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