During the First and Second World War Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands was Britain's main fleet anchorage. My Great Grandfather Q.M. Sjt. Gilbert Price of the Royal Marine Artillery (RMA) served there in 1918 as a Cyclops II man. Furthermore two of my Great Uncles - both also RMA - visited regularly by virtue of the fact that they were gunners on capital ships. One of them, my Great Uncle Ernest, served on HMS Tiger and saw action at the Battle of Dogger Bank (1915) and the Battle of Jutland (1916).
|Blockship SS Reginald between Glims Holm and Burray|
|The Italian Chapel - Built by PoWs|
|First World War battery - Hoxa Head|
The first Second World War era battery is adjacent to the Great War era example and incorporated many of the original buildings. Whilst much remains, the roofs of the two 6 inch gun positions have been collapsed by the landowner (presumably as a precaution against injury as the fabric of the building deteriorates).
|Collapsed roof of WWII gun position|
Moving to 6 o'clock on my imaginary clock-face is the island of Flotta which is only accessible by ferry. Flotta is home to a modern oil storage facility and for this reason a major part of the island requires special permission for a visit.
I had a couple of hours on the island and managed to squeeze in an exploration of the Buchanan Battery (which faces Hoxa Head across Hoxa Sound), a walk around the batteries on Stanger Head (which lie in the shadow of the now disused Naval Signal Station) and a stop-off at what is left of the old WWII era cinema.
|Stanger Head Naval Signals Station, Flotta|
|Lyness CWGC Military Cemetery|
|Original wartime oil tank at Lyness|
|Scad Point Battery|
At 10 o'clock on my imaginary clock-face lies the town of Stromness. My visit was a brief one and unfortunately I wasn't able to schedule a visit to the nearby Ness Battery which is opened for tours on a regular basis. The little museum at Stromness is hosting an exhibition to mark the centenary of the scuttling of the German fleet in 1919. It's well worth seeing.
|Exhibition in Stromness Museum|
|Ferry Terminal at Houton|
The town of Kirwall is home to the striking Cathedral of Saint Magnus and the HMS Royal Oak's bell, which was retrieved from the ocean floor in the 1970s, is set up as a memorial to the 834 crew who were killed on 14th October 1939 when Gunther Prien's U-47 penetrated the Scapa Flow defences.
|Royal Oak Memorial, Kirkwall|
The final leg of my circumnavigation took me to Deerness where there is a fine example of an anti-tank defensive line near Dingieshowe, St Peter's Pool.
|Anti-tank defences at Deerness|
The Orkney Islands are a wonderful place to visit and I've rarely seen a place with such a rich legacy of military history - much of it evident in the numerous wartime buildings and structures, many of which are readily accessible. I'm sure I will return.