Divers help mark centenary of HMS Vanguard tragedy

Royal Navy divers from Faslane are helping to mark tomorrow’s centenary of the sinking of battleship HMS Vanguard.

Built in 1909, Vanguard was the eighth ship to bear the name and was one of the new generation of Dreadnought battleships.

On July 9 1917, she had been conducting exercises in Scapa Flow and had proceeded to anchor for the evening.

But at 11.20pm there were a series of catastrophic internal explosions and the ship sank almost immediately. Of the 845 men aboard, 843 were lost.

Royal Navy clearance divers from HM Naval Base Clyde’s Northern Diving Group (NDG) have travelled to Orkney to carry out the poignant duty of changing the White Ensign on the wreck of Vanguard.

Leading Diver James Brown said: “The waters of Scapa have always held a special place in NDG’s heart; whenever an opportunity arises for us to work in Orkney there is a competition within the team to secure a place.”

During the week leading up to the anniversary, the NDG will carry out a sight survey and replace the White Ensign, laid in by the Royal Navy in 2009, with a new flag.

The centenary on Sunday will be marked by services and commemoration events, attended by 40 descendants of the men who died.

The day will culminate with a special night watch service at St Magnus’ Cathedral in Kirkwall.

Starting at 11pm, it will mark the moment when the ship was destroyed by the explosions on board.

During the service, the White Ensign that was recovered by the Royal Navy’s NDG will be presented to the people of Orkney.