Signal Tower, Stanger Head
Signal Tower, Stanger Head

Defending the Fleet

Scapa Flow is a body of water in the Orkney Islands. During both World Wars it was the most important anchorage of the British Royal Navy. To protect the fleet against enemy attacks numerous defense measures were taken. Block ships, booms, mines, coastal batteries en airfields turned Scapa Flow into a safe haven for the British fleet.

At the beginning of World War II the old defenses of World War I had fallen in disrepair. On 14 October 1939 the German U-boat U-47 penetrated Scapa Flow and sank the battleship HMS Royal Oak. 833 of the crew were lost. After this incident Scapa Flow became one of the most strongly fortified harbors in the world. After the war Scapa Flow lost it’s strategic importance and the navy facilities were closed down in 1956.

My first trip to the Orkney Islands was in 2009. My first encounter with the defenses was a visit to the coastal battery at Rerwick Head. I was impressed by the old concrete buildings and the coastal landscape and decided to start a photo project about Orkney’s wartime heritage. I returned in 2011 and visited Twatt airfield, the coastal batteries at Hoxa Head and the remains of the naval base at Lyness. This year I visited Stanger Head on the island of Flotta. I have plans to finish this project next year.

25 Photos of Defending the Fleet