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U-47 in Scapa Flow: The Sinking Of HMS Royal Oak 1939

U-47 in Scapa Flow: The Sinking Of HMS Royal Oak 1939 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review November 2015 Title U-47 in Scapa Flow: The Sinking Of HMS Royal Oak 1939
Author Angus Konstam Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2015 ISBN 9781472808905
Format 80 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $18.95


In arguably the first major naval action in World War II, Nazi German submarine U-47, under Kapitänleutnant Günther Prien’s command, stole into one of the Royal Navy’s principal protective anchorages – and sank the battleship HMS Royal Oak.

Wonderfully researched, Osprey’s vital little volume tells the total tale. In just 80 pages, author Angus Konstam nimbly knits technology, politics and history to craft a really ripping read.

Geography, oceanography and meteorology play critical parts, too. And, day-by-day, Konstam deftly distills their roles in accurately reconstructing events – especially in tracking U-47 movements.

After entering Scotland’s Scapa Flow “with considerable skill and daring”, the German submariners sought a target. Literally minute-by-minute, Konstam chronicles their stealthy stalk – and audacious attack. And after a period of fruitless searching, U-47 spotted Royal Oak – the sole British capital ship there.

The slow, 23-year-old warship had, by 1939, retired to second-line roles. Compared to the armament of most German battleships, however, Royal Oak’s 15-inch main battery retained considerable punch. And the Royal Navy veteran still proved a valuable objective.

By Royal Oak’s bridge clock, shortly after 1:04 AM, 14 Oct 1939, a wakeless electric torpedo struck the battleship’s starboard bow. Ten minutes later, two more torpedoes from a second salvo exploded. HMS Royal Oak capsized and sank in less than 15 minutes – 833 Royal Navy sailors losing their lives.

U-47’s crew returned to a heroes’ welcome. And British reputations – including that of First Sea Lord Winston Churchill – suffered.

Osprey’s captivating chronicle sports photos, maps and extended captions.

U-47’s success confirmed Kriegsmarine ability to strike at vital Royal Navy assets. Find out how it all happened. Grab Osprey’s terrific little tome.

Highly recommended!

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!