Colin F. Jones

THE SINKING OF HMS ROYAL OAK

Like a sleeping giant the Royal Oak lay,
When the U-47 Submarine struck,
Three ‘eels’ were fired two lost their way,
But with one there was some luck.

It hit Royal Oak’s anchor cable,
Though it hardly left a mark,
Her shaded anchor lights still burned,
Faintly in the dark.

Flood number five from number one,
Open the outer door; she’s ready!
‘Los’; number five; fired from the stern,
The line of travel steady.

Close outer door! Tube is secured;
The fourth ‘eel’ is on its way.
But only a spiral of spurting sea,
Was visible through the spray.

“Reload the tubes,” Priens order came,
“Prepare another ‘fan’ of three,”
Down came the chain hoist from above,
As the Sub ploughed through the sea.

“Attack” the order turned the bows,
towards the sleeping ship,
Endrass bent over the optic aim,
Felt the Submarine turn and dip.

Doors reopened, the eels jumped out,
Three torpedoes from the bow,
Towards the Royal Oaks starboard side,
That were closing faster now.

The great ship shuddered, lifted up,
Then she gently settled back,
Lights flickered out, fans stopped running,
All power she did lack!

Across the decks the water flowed,
And a sheet of orange flame,
Exploded beneath the starboard deck,
Impossible to restrain.

Thick black smoke rose o’er the port,
Bulkheads shuddered and cracked,
Decks caved in and swirling flames,
Rose from the cruel impact

Through doors and hatches men were blown,
From hot ladders they were flung,
In hammocks brutally devoured by fire
Their flesh from the cabin walls clung.

Her death throes over the Royal Oak
Plunged beneath the waves;
A tomb for more than eight hundred men
For few that day were saved.

Silently the Submarine slipped
Out to the ocean deep,
Leaving Scarpa Flow and the Royal Oak,
To the nightmares of their sleep.

Author’s Note: Lest We Forget the 833 officers and men, who lost their lives at Scarpa Bay on 14th October, 1939