Royal Navy bomb disposal experts have detonated a Second World War torpedo found during a routine seabed survey in Scapa Flow.
The torpedo is likely to have been one of those fired at HMS Royal Oak, as the battleship lay at anchor in Scapa Flow in 1939. The attack by the German U-boat U47 sunk the Royal Oak with the loss of 833 lives.
Lying in around 35 metres of water, the torpedo was first spotted during a sonar survey carried out by SULA Diving on behalf of Orkney Islands Council Marine Services. Video footage was then captured using an ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle).
A Royal Navy Explosives Ordnance Team from the Northern Diving Group, on a recent visit to Orkney, viewed and discussed the video footage with the Orkney Harbour Authority.
The Navy divers then examined the torpedo on the seabed and a plan was drawn up for its safe disposal.
Today the divers, on a return visit to Orkney, attached explosives to the torpedo on the seabed. When detonated, a section of the torpedo containing its own explosive charge broke free and appeared on the surface. The Navy divers then carried out a second controlled detonation to destroy this section.
David Sawkins, Orkney Islands Council’s Deputy Harbour Master, said: “The torpedo had been sitting on the seabed of Scapa Flow for almost 80 years. Although it posed minimal danger to shipping, our responsibility is to operate a safe harbour and, as it was likely to contain live explosives, the prudent course of action was to alert Royal Navy bomb disposal experts and arrange for its safe disposal.
“This was carried out with great professionalism by the Navy divers and we are grateful for their assistance and expertise. The hope now is that the rear section of the torpedo, including the propeller, will be recovered and after a full examination returned to go on display in Orkney later in the year. It would be a poignant reminder of the huge loss of life when the Royal Oak went down in October 1939.”