The Battle of Britain & Sinking the Bismarck

HMS Hood in Scapa Flow © Orkney Library & Archive, ref. L3789-2

HMS Hood in Scapa Flow © Orkney Library & Archive, ref. L3789-2


Although armed reconnaissance flights to monitor the disposition of the Home Fleet continued on into 1940, the campaign to secure Scapa Flow as a strategic Main Base for the British Navy’s operations in northern waters was effectively won. Had this not been the case then the entire course of the war at sea may have been quite different. The experience gained through the most intensive period of air raids that the UK had yet witnessed also made a significant contribution to the outcome of the Battle of Britain that would be fought predominantly over the south coast of England later in the year. Technical and operating improvements to early warning RDF/Radar and procedures for fighter interception that were critical to the success of the battle were developed during the raids of March and April 1940. The two Hawker Hurricane fighter squadrons based at Wick, 43 & 111 Squadron, also gained invaluable combat experience over Orkney with many of their pilots going on to become aces during Dunkirk evacuation and the Battle of Britain. The early interception of the German battleship Bismarck by HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales in May 1941 would also not have been possible had Scapa Flow not been ‘retaken’.


Hoy’s involvement in global war narratives did not end in 1940 with the securing of the Fleet anchorage but continued on throughout WWII. The refuelling, rearming, repairing and victualling of warships involved in the Norwegian campaign continued until the withdrawal of troops from Norway in June 1940. The civilian salvage company Metal Industries, who had been based at Lyness since 1934 recovering the wrecks of the WWI German Fleet, proved invaluable during this campaign repairing and in some cases, refloating ships such as the cruiser HMS Suffolk which limped back into Scapa Flow following intense action (TNA: ADM116/5790 p.390). After Norway, much of the war’s focus shifted south to France and the Low Countries where the British, French & Belgian Forces continued to be pushed back by the German Blitzkrieg.


© Source: Lindsay, G.J. & Dobney, K. (2014). Legacies of Conflict: Hoy & Walls Wartime Heritage Project, Wartime Development Document. Island of Hoy Development Trust.


THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF THE UK (TNA), (1937-1946). ADM116/5790 Main Fleet Base – Scapa Flow: Inception, Development and History. Unpublished Archive Document.


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