HMS Iron Duke bombed in Scapa Flow

Four Ju 88s from Sylt approach Scapa Flow at 11,000 ft in line astern and, diving out of the sun, bomb the ship. One crashes on Hoy as a result of shore based AA fire.

Moored off Lyness, HMS Iron Duke is the only vessel left in Scapa Flow after the sinking of HMS Royal Oak three days earlier. It was serving as the flagship of the Admiral Commanding Orkney and Shetland. Damaged in the raid it is towed to a nearby sandbank to prevent it from sinking and remains beached for the rest of the war.

HMS Iron Duke was a dreadnought battleship which served as the flagship of the Grand Fleet during the First World War, including at the Battle of Jutland. Sold for scrap in 1946.

804 Sqn. scrambled to intercept raid over Scapa Flow

Shetland radar picks up a raid approaching Orkney from the east. Ten minutes later they arrive in two groups, one over Hatston and the other over Scapa Flow. Estimates put the number of aircraft at 35 He 111 (KG 26?) but the twilight makes identification difficult.

One hundred high explosive and incendiary bombs fell on land, half in error at Brig of Waithe in the parish of Stenness where James Isbister becomes one of the first civilian to be killed by bombing in the war. Most of the other bombs fall near Hatston creating eight foot wide craters and narrowly missing the bomb dump. The only casualty is one of 800 Sqn. ground crew hit by shrapnel whilst taking a walk a mile from the airfield.

The attack on Scapa Flow is more successful with the cruiser HMS Norfolk hit and holed with the loss of three of her officers and six ratings injured.

The whole of 804 squadron is scrambled from Hatston. They fail to make contact with any enemy aircraft and have difficulty returning to their own base.

Both the Royal Navy and the RAF blame inadequate radar coverage from Nethebutton on Orkney which is poorly situated.

Major R T Partridge recalls in his book Operation Skua:

The whole squadron (804) got airborne but, in the gathering darkness, no contacts were made and we all had a hell of a job landing back at the airfield as there were no flares or runway lighting.

Cottages at Brig of Waithe, Orkney
One of these cottages was hit by a bomb during the raid on 16 March 1940 killing its occupant James Isbister

Cottages at Brig of Waithe, Orkney in 2020
Cottages at Brig of Waithe, Orkney in 2020

Raid detected approaching Orkney

Anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Curlew's radar plot shows unidentified aircraft approaching, 80 miles from Orkney at 12,000 to 20,000 feet.

(HMS Curlew will be sunk by Ju 88 bombers of Kampfgeschwader 30 near Narvik on 26 May.)

Source: @Ness_Battery

Hurricanes intercept He 111s over Orkney

Hurricanes from Wick intercept 6 enemy aircraft 40 miles E of Copinsay. Formation broken up, one shot down into sea. Heinkel 111 lands at Wick, 2 crew dead, pilot & wireless operator taken prisoner. Great difficulty for pilots - planes attacking from West, no light.

HMS CURLEW estimates 24 planes in attacks, 6 turned away by fighters. "the objective appeared to be the Hoxa and Switha booms. High level bombing against a floating boom could hardly be expected to achieve success. No bombs fell particularly close to the target."

The raid is made up of He 111 and Ju 88.

War Diary Appendix 3 showing times of raid on 8.4.1940

Source: @Ness_Battery

Main air raid on Orkney starts

Estimates vary, possibly as many as 60 aircraft, Junkers 88s and Heinkel 111s, 7-10,000ft. One wave approaches from the east and another from the south-east.

605 Sqn. Hurricanes are scrambled from Wick and 804 Sqn. Gladiators are scrambled from Hatston.

OPERATIONS RECORD BOOK of (Unit or Formation) No. 605 Squadron.

Place Date Time Summary of Events References to Appendices
WICK. 10.4.40. Fine day with little wind. No activity in the morning and patrols were ordered over South going convoy from Kirkwall. At approx. 1545 hours P/O.Muirhead while on convoy patrol sighted enemy aircraft and carried out two attacks before losing him in cloud. An hour later F/O. Leeson leading red section saw two enemy aircraft at 14000 ft. climbed and brought the one down and two of crew jumped with parachute. It is unknown for certain whether the first machine encountered by F/O. Muirhead was brought down or not. For the next six hours there was intense activity far greater than anything seen previously. The released Squadron was brought to Stand-By; at one time we had three sections at Stand-By and it was still said there there were not sufficient fighter aircraft. Four pilots fired rounds at enemy aircraft and made out reports. F/O Lesson P/O. Carter, P/O. Muirhead and Sgt.Moffatt. Red section were available for 2¼ hours. "A" Flight were supplying the night phase pilots at at approx. 2045 hours Wick Air Raid Warning sounded; two of Red and Yellow section took off together with others from 43 and 111 Squadrons there were about 10 aircraft in the air after dark to encounter a raid on Scapa of about 40 enemy aircraft who came over in successive waves. Anti-Aircraft fire was intense and there were one or two loud reports of bombs one on the Pentland Skerries but no damage at all was reported. P/O. Edge and Flying Officer Austin P/O Currant and Sgt Mainland took part; F/O. Edge attacked three separate enemy aircraft and P/O. Current used all his ammunition on one enemy aircraft but neither pilots was able to say definitely with what results. It was reported that this station together with Hatston and anti-aircraft had accounted for seven enemy aircraft during the day.

Source: @Ness_Battery

All Clear ('Raiders Past') given to Orkney

AA guns fired 2450 rounds, claim 3 shot down. RAF shot down at least 2, possibly 6. At least five aircraft are shot down and later intelligence reports that several damaged aircraft failed to make it back to their bases. The Luftwaffe never again attacked Scapa in such strength. Churchill praises Scapa's defences for repelling the attacks: "The batteries can deliver...what is probably far the heaviest concentration of anti-aircraft fire in the world." WSC 11-4-1940

Newspaper report of Orkney raid

Source: @Ness_Battery

Ju 88 Shot down over Orkney

Grumman Martlet, piloted by Lt. L.V. Carver and Sub/Lt. T.R.V. Park, from 804 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm, based at RNAS Skeabrae, shoots down a Ju 88 which crash lands near the farm of Flotterston in Sandwick, on the West Mainland of Orkney. Lt. K. Schipp, Fw. H. Schreiber, Uffz. J. Spoertl and Oberfefr. K. Rotter all taken prisoner. This is the first kill of the war by a UK pilot in a US aircraft. Aircraft salvage complete by 15/3/41 and stored in a hanger at Skeabrae for some time.

Ju 88 crash landed at Flotterston, Sandwick, West Mainland, Orkney on Christmas day 1940