"Only HMS Royal Oak, which in a biting force-nine velocity gale had lost contact with her escorts, turned to home water, to the serenity of her protective ring of islands around her anchorage in the northeast corner of the Flow. Already war-weary, the
elderly lady ached in her joints, clumsily lumbered into her appointed place, barely making it, for the rough seas had put her port battery completely out of action, damaged ventilators and exhausts on bulkheads, caused many of her rivets to loosen,
side plates to leak, letting salt water into her starboard aft fresh water tank and into the Royal Marines’ mess deck, as well as into the implement store immediately below, which stood awash in two feet of salt water.
" The Royal Oak Disaster by
Gerald S. Snyder, at page 79.

When
HMS Royal Oak joined the Grand Fleet, she was a state of the art battleship, one of five sisters of the Royal Sovereign Class. Mounting eight 15-Inch guns, the heaviest and most powerful armament of the time, the Rs as they were called were meant
to lie in line of battle against opposing dreadnoughts. "
In 1914, when they began to take shape, they were the ultimate in battleship design, far superior to the equivalent German designs of the time, and, in their internal armor protection, actually
superior to the ‘Queen Elizabeths’, a fact often overlooked or ignored in reference books.
" Battleship Royal Sovereign and Her Sister Ships by Peter C. Smith, at page 11. Through their life span of four decades, the Royal Sovereign Class was often
overlooked, under-appreciated, and just plain belittled next to the preceding battleship design, the fabled fast battleships of the
Queen Elizabeth Class.
HMS Royal Oak was the proud bearer of a distinguished name, the 11th Royal Navy warship so named. At the Battle of Worcester in 1651, the "Round Head" army of Parliament and Oliver Cromwell finally finished off the "Cavalier" army of King Charles
I and the Royalists, ending the English Civil War. One participant of the Battle was Charles, Prince of Wales, eldest son of Charles I. During the night after the Battle, Prince Charles found refuge from the searching patrols of the Parliamentarians by hiding
in an Oak tree and thereafter made his escape to the continent. Ten years later, after the beheading of Charles I and the death of Oliver Cromwell through natural causes, the majority of the populace and especially key generals, such as George Monk, were
tired of the puritanical totalitarianism of the Interregnum. Charles, Prince of Wales, was restored to the throne as Charles II, the Merry Monarch, so called because of his amorous exploits with the opposite sex. To celebrate the Restoration and honor the
new King’s escape from the Battle of Worcester, one of the first ships of the line to be constructed, finished in 1663, was named
HMS Royal Oak.

Eustace Tennyson d’Eyncourt was appointed Director of Naval Construction (DNC) shortly after his predecessor, Phillip Watts, had designed the
Queen Elizabeth Class. His first task was to design a battleship that would be a 15-Inch gunned version of
the
Iron Duke. As such, the class was meant to be part of the line of battle, which was the traditional mission of all battleships of the Royal Navy. The Queen Elizabeth Class was designed from the start to form a fast wing of the battlefleet but with the
Royal Sovereign Class it was back to the basics. Exceptional speed was not needed, so armor and armament were to be emphasized at the expense of speed. The requirements were to design a ship with the speed of the existing battleline, 21 knots, to
incorporate ten 15-Inch guns, to look at the feasibility of incorporating the triple turret and to revert to a coal fired power plant, rather than the oil fired machinery of the Queen Elizabeth. All of these items were to be used within a design in the dimensions
of the
Iron Duke Class.

Within a month the DNC reported back that a ten-gun design would not be possible within the displacement and length constraints imposed in the specifications. A fifth, Q turret amidships, arranged as in
Iron Duke, would require a significant rise in length
and displacement and because of its placement, would have limited fields of fire. He also reported that there was an insufficient number of 15-Inch guns ordered to equip the class with ten guns and that since the Royal Navy had no experience with a triple
gun turret, a lengthy time was necessary to experiment with any triple gun design, before it could be worked into a design. The Board agreed to his proposal for an eight gun design and on March 31, 1913 designated the new design as T1, the first-class
battleship design for the 1913 Estimates.
The new design was at 580 feet in length between perpendicular bulkheads, the same as Iron Duke but twenty feet shorter than Queen Elizabeth. Compared to the Queen Elizabeth, the design was also shortened by two feet in beam and three feet in
draught, with a displacement reduction of 1,750 tons. Although the main armament was the same, the new design had fourteen 6-inch secondary guns grouped amidships, rather than the sixteen gun spread-out design of the
Queen Elizabeth. The armor
scheme was to be heavier, with a uniform 13-Inch belt, rather than a tapering belt in
Queen Elizabeth, and an armored deck one deck higher and six-inches thicker than the previous design. The freeboard was the same as in Iron Duke, which was lower
than the
Queen Elizabeth design. The new design, designated the Royal Sovereign Class in the summer of 1913, had one other critical difference. To make the ships steadier gun platforms, the metacentric height of the design was to be two feet lower
than in the
Iron Duke. That was fine as long as the units in the class suffered no significant underwater damage but if significant flooding were to occur, they would lose stability much faster than the previous design. To counteract this, the design was
given a protective deck at main deck level and internal armored bulkheads, running the length of the ships between the main and middle decks.

Originally there were to be ten ships in the class but three were soon cancelled and when Jackie Fisher became rejoined the Admiralty, the materials for two more of the
Rs were used to build two more of Fisher’s pets, the battle cruiser. These two became
Repulse and Renown. Fisher also made another, very important change to the Royal Sovereign Class. He insisted that the battleships be given entirely oil fired machinery rather than the original mixed coal and oil fired propulsion system. This one changed
the class speed to 22-knots. Although not as fast as the
Queen Elizabeths, the Rs were still faster than the balance of the battleline.
In the years prior to the First World War, the Royal Navy had been experimenting with schemes to provide additional underwater protection from mines and torpedoes. While the Royal Sovereign Class was still under construction, Tennyson d’Eyncourt
reported to the Admiralty in September 1915 that if a series of tubes was incorporated outboard of the armor belt in a torpedo bulge, protection from underwater attack would be greatly enhanced. The Admiralty decided to try this device on one of the
Rs
and
Ramilles was selected for the experiment with the provision that launching not be delayed. Since this was a feature added to the Ramilles after she was substantially built, rather than designed into the ship from the start, the design was somewhat
inferior to the bulge design as worked-up. After completion in tests with
Ramilles it was discovered that the ship still could maintain fleet speed of 21-knots, that the bulges cut down the roll of the ship and that there was no significant impairment of
capabilities. The Admiralty quickly approved
Revenge and Resolution for a better bulge design without the tubes, fitted during 1917-1918. Royal Sovereign did not receive her bulge until 1920 and Royal Oak was last to receive this feature, in a refit from
1922-1924 with a even newer bulge design, rising almost to the 6-inch battery level. "
The rounded humps, thought ‘proof’ against torpedo warheads of 450-500 pounds, decreased the Oak’s draft, looked, as one observer put it, ‘as if someone had
sliced a huge sausage down the centre and stuck one half to her starboard side, the other to her port side.
" The Royal Oak Disaster by Gerald S. Snyder, at page 81.

The resulting battleships, with their single funnel and tripod foremast, had a most impressive appearance and came to characterize the British battleline between the wars.
HMS Royal Oak was commissioned at Devonport on May 1, 1916, the second after
Revenge of the five Rs to be completed. She immediately joined the 4th Battle Squadron with the Revenge joining the 1st Battle Squadron. The pair both fought at Jutland. Royal Oak was given the position directly behind the fleet flagship, Iron Duke.
During the battle she engaged
Derfflinger at 14,000 yards and scored several hits from the 38 15-inch shells fired by her during the battle.
During the 2 ½ years left in World War One Royal Oak received some minor changes. Two extra 36-inch search lights were added in the top and for awhile range baffle flanges were added to the topmast and funnel. In 1917-1918 she received
coffee-box search light towers on the funnel, the control top was enlarged, a high angle AA director was added on top of the control top, deflection scales and range clocks were added, a new search light platform was also added to the sides of the main
mast and other search light positions were moved. Flying-off platforms were added on top of B and X turrets on all five in the class in 1918, which were removed in refits in the 1920s. In November 1918
Royal Oak led one line of the Grand Fleet to
meet the High Seas Fleet steaming to Scapa Flow for internment.

After the war she was transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet and in 1919 served off of the coast of Turkey. As mentioned earlier,
Royal Oak received her very large torpedo bulges in a refit from 1922 to 1924. Also the middle bridge was extended aft to
touch the funnel, a larger range-finer was added to B turret, a high angle range-finder was added in a small tower over the bridge and range clocks were moved around.

Another minor refit came in 1927, when the control top of
Royal Oak was again enlarged and modified, the upper pair of 6-inch guns were removed and 4-inch HA AA guns were added. The 1931-1932 refit removed the range clocks as well as the
upper deck 6-inch casemate guns. The last minor refit received by
Royal Oak was from June 1934 to August 1936. In this process single 4-inch HA AA guns were replaced by twin mountings, 6-inch director towers were moved to new platforms on
the foremast below the 15-inch director, multiple 2 pounder pom-poms were added around the funnel, Vickers quad .50 caliber machine guns were added around the conning tower, four above-water experimental 21-inch torpedo tubes were added in
recessed ports in the forecastle in front of A turret as existing twin 21-inch torpedo positions were removed, new 44-inch search light were fitted, a training catapult was fitted, tripod legs were added to mainmast, upper bridge was reworked and lower
bridge extended aft to the funnel. On August 2, 1936
Royal Oak joined the Home Fleet as part of the 2nd Battle Squadron. In 1938 she transported the body of Queen Maude of Norway back to Norway from Britain. On June 7, 1939 she was designated
to join the Mediterranean Fleet but with the worsening political situation was retained in home waters pending a fleet organization in August. She never made it to the Mediterranean as by September time had run out for the Royal Navy and
HMS Royal
Oak
. In the time before October 14, 1939, she spent her time between Rosyth and Scapa Flow.
During the 20 years that separated the end of the First World War and the start of the Second World War, Royal Oak, along with the other four ships of the Royal Sovereign Class, always received minimal refits and modernization. With limited inter-war
funding, the Royal Navy was very constrained in what it could fund for modernization of its battleships. The full modernization funding was applied to the glamour ships of the battlecruisers and
Queen Elizabeths with nary a pound left for the overlooked
and tired
Rs. This penny-wise pound-foolish political attitude would come back to haunt the Royal Navy, Royal Sovereign Class and Royal Oak in particular.

On October 8, 1939 Admiral Forbes at Scapa Flow, hearing of a sortie of units of the Kriegsmarine, put his ships on alert. A Hudson bomber/reconnaissance aircraft of Coastal Command found the
Gneisenau off of Lister Sound on the Norwegian coast.
Forbes suspecting a German breakout into the Atlantic, put his forces into motion.
Hood, Repulse, Sheffield, Aurora and four destroyers worked up speed, steaming towards Norway. Nelson, Rodney, Furious, Newcastle and eight destroyers made for
the water northeast of the Shetland Islands.
HMS Royal Oak, too slow for either of the other hunting groups, made for a position west of Fair Isle Channel between the islands of Shetland and Orkney. On that same day U-47 made transit from the Baltic
into the North Sea, through the Kiel Canal on one of the most daring missions ever attempted by the U-Boat Fleet, the penetration of Scapa Flow.
U-47 penetrated Scapa Flow and at 0100 hit Royal Oak with one torpedo. The submarine had fired three but only one had struck on the starboard anchor chain. "At 1:04 a.m. on Saturday the 14th Ordinary Seaman Leonard E. Soal, on watch on the
compass platform of Royal Oak’s upper bridge, heard suddenly a near thunder, an explosion, saw linked cable shackles jump into the air, white and yellow smoke rise from the deck forward, then pieces of wood floating in the water, ten feet off of
the starboard bow.
" The Royal Oak Disaster by Gerald S. Snyder, at page 103.

While the crew members were scratching their heads and looking around to see what happened,
U-47 was listening. At 0115 U-47 fired again with tube number five but missed again. " Four shots, three misses, only one hit. It was inconceivable to the
men on the bridge that a submarine could fire four torpedoes at a stationary target, see only one hit, even that take little effect, more astonishing that no alarm had been given.
" The Royal Oak Disaster by Gerald S. Snyder, at page 121.
The crew of U-47 reloaded her tubes. Another three torpedo salvo was fired. At 0116 at least two torpedoes hit and tore the bottom out of Royal Oak. "The Oak shuddered; after a short interval, about one or two seconds, perhaps three – exactly how
many no one would ever agree – there came another explosion, then another , each equally violent, booming fatal thumps down the starboard side, between ‘A’ and ‘Y’ turrets and taking immediate and catastrophic effect: the ship lifted, and then
settled back, the officers stared with horror, countenances smitten by the revelation that the impossible was happening.
" The Royal Oak Disaster by Gerald S. Snyder, at page 123.

Within thirteen minutes
Royal Oak turned turtle and went down, taking 24 officers and 809 ratings with her. HMS Royal Oak still rests at Scapa Flow, having been designated a war grave. (History from British Battleship Royal Sovereign and Her
Sister Ships
by Peter C. Smith; Battleships of World War Two, An Illustrated Encyclopedia by M.J. Whitley; British Battleships of World War One by R.A.Burt; The Royal Oak Disaster by Gerald S. Snyder)
Orange Hobby HMS Royal Oak in 1:700 Scale - Why the R Class is so neglected by model producers is beyond me. With five in the class and appearing as the most modern battleships in the Royal Navy in World War One and as rather dumpy matrons
escorting convoys and lucky to be missed by Japanese carriers in World War Two, the
R Class presents opportunities galore for multiple models. Only the ancient Frog Royal Sovereign in 1:500 scale and the WSW 1:700 scale Royal Oak have been
produced in the past. Luckily we now have the
Orange Hobby Royal Oak and it is an excellent kit of the most up to date of the R Class at the start of World War Two. Hey produders! How about some more Rs! The Orange Hobby release has
extraordinary detail but is not without flaws. When taking photographs of the model against the 1:700 scale profile and plan in the
Royal Oak Profile Morskie, I noticed that the model was slightly smaller than the plan and profile. The waterline length
measured 10.4-inches, which measured out at 606.67-feet. The actual waterline length was 614.5-feet. So the model actually is in 1:708 scale. The kit is a true multimedia product with resin parts, brass photo-etch and turned brass barrels and masts.

The detail on the hull will knock you out. The detail on the hull sides is spectacular!  It is a two piece hull with separate upper and lower halves, so can be built waterline or full hull. You will immediately notice the prominent anti-torpedo bulges, which
accentuate the side detail. Hull plate detail is finely done and is somewhat rare on 1:700 scale warship models. Along the bulge are numerous strakes or waste water exhausts and along the waterlines are bilge vents. The portholes has very nice
rigolles/eyebrows, which is another rarity among 1:700 scale model warships. On the bow are hull side anchor hawse and a little further back the ports for above water torpedo tubes, which had been added in the 1934-1936 refit. The 6-inch gun
casemates are crisply done. The casting quality is excellent, with only very minor clean up to be done, except for removal of the casting block below the waterline at the stern.
My only significant complaint about the kit is the total absence of deck planking. In 1:700 scale the seams of the deck planks could probably not be seen but as a modeler, I want my deck planks with butt end detail. I have checking to see if any of the
wooden deck producers have come out with a wooden deck for the
Orange Hobby Royal Oak but so far no luck. The deck detail on the hull casting is prolithic, especially on the shelter deck level. On the forecastle are anchor run plates, deck anchor
hawse, windlasses, twin bollards, open chocks and deck access coamings, all of which are nicely done. The windlasses and bollards have the delicate hourglass shape. Aft of the placement lines for the brass breakwater are clusters of fine mushroom
ventilators, lockers and more deck access coamings. The mushroom ventilators and deck access coaming detail continues on the shelter deck and 03 levels behind B barbette. A crisp walkway is cast on the sides and face of the conning tower and there is
a triangular well for the bridge piece. The shelter deck is glorious in detail with a prominent stack bottom apron, curved deck access positions, lockers, deck access coamings, skylight, small deckhouses and boat chocks. There are locater depressions for
the twin 4-inch HA guns and octuple pom-pom platforms. Detail aft of the shelter deck through the quarterdeck is of the same excellent quality with numerous fittings as the rest of the deck detail.

The smaller resin parts are cast on runners. There are quite a number of them. Runner A has the 15-inch gun turrets and five ship’s boats. The turrets are stunning with double lines of rivets on the turret crowns, the correct overlapping crown plates,
angular sides, forward cupolas and U shape gun openings. There are two different turret types with one type with locater positions for the two separate large rangefinders and two with cast on smaller range finders. The ship’s boats have good detail with
engine and thwart detail. There are actually two B runners of parts. One has the tripod legs and forward superstructure. The splinter bulkheads on the superstructure are a little thick. The other runner has various booms. C runner continues with the
superstructure with the upper level behind the stack and the stack itself. The stack has vertical and horizontal reinforcing bands. Detailed steam pipes are separate from the stack. Also included are two more tripod legs as the mainmast is also a tripod, a
large whaler and two cabin motor launches with very good detail such as an open stack top and cabin skylights. D runner has smaller pieces of the superstructure such as the pom-pom platforms, main mast control top with starfish, stack apron, and
smaller deck houses. E runner has the forward control top with starfish, main director and various mast platforms, as well as two dinghies. F runner is also in two parts with the twin 4-inch gun shields and lovely Seafox floatplane on one part and the
Seafox pontoons, pom-pom mounts and balsa raft on the other. G runner has HA directors, crane base, carley rafts in three sizes, and search lights. H runner has mostly lower hull parts with rudder and propeler shafts and struts. However, detailed
paravanes are also on this runner. K runner has beautiful secondary casemate position, as well as one blast bag for one of the main guns. The rest of the main gun blast bags are on the four parts making up L runner. The two part J runner is a mixed bag
with parts for the breach blocks of the twin 4-inch guns and quadruple Vickers .50 machine guns. The anchor and binocular mounts are also on this runner.
With the Orange Hobby Royal Oak you set three brass photo-etch frets and quite a few turned brass parts. A fret is almost all railings, custom sized to the position of attachment. Other parts on the fret are a boom fitting, yards with foot ropes, paravane
fins and cable cutter, block tops for the twin 4-inch guns, and doors with frames that can be posed open or closed. There is relief etching on the door frames and block tops. B fret has some very nice items and also has some relief etching. It is dominated by
the aircraft crane. The crane has multiple parts including upper pulleys, lower block and tackle, vertical ladder, crane tower to go with the main crane. For the crown of the forward control top are a semaphore and various navigational fittings. There are two
lovely boat positions with detailed davits safety nets and falls. Another large part is the relief-etched catapult that is fitted on the crown of X turret. Other turrets get walkway and safety railing details for their crowns. Other parts on this fret include windlass
heads, yardarms, accommodation ladders, pom-pom gun barrels, Vickers barrels, Seafox propellor, cable reels, smaller davits, breakwater gussets and numerous inclined and vertical ladders. The inclined ladders have trainable treads. The largest parts on
sprue C are the two bilge keels, which fit into slots on the lower hull. The breakwater is on this fret and has slots for the support gussets ob B sprue. Other parts on this fret are the propellers, flag staff, jack staff, fore and main top masts, stack grate/clinker
screen, cargo davits, main mast upper and lower platforms, shelter deck bulkheads and brackets above the casemate positions. The kit also gives you a full set of turned brass barrels for the 15-inch and 6-inch guns. These have the nice muzzle flair as well
as hollow muzzles. Also included are two upper masts.

A decal sheet is included. This sheet has the Union Jack, White Ensign and for the Seafox, roundels and tail flashes. Unfortunately the red centers of the roundels are printed off-center. A four piece wooden stand is included for those wishing to build the full
hull version. The instructions come on three back-printed sheets.  They are a series of drawings, which are rather busy. Fortunately, every part has the resin or brass identity number next to it so it is easy to find the correct part for the assembly steps. Page
one has six modules. These consist of lower hull, two types of cable reels, breakwater assembly, forward turret assemblies, and forecastle assembly. Page two has seven modules. These include additional detail for the forward turrets, paravane assembly,
midship detailing, twin 4-inch gun assembly, two modules on quarterdeck assembly, and a module on aft turret assembly with catapult on X turret and Seafox assembly. Page three has six modules. Three are more midship assembly steps and three small
insets for assembly of 3-inch HA, quad Vickers and octuple pom-poms. Page four has five modules. Four of them finalize superstructure assembly and the last one is for the main mast tripod. Page five has three modules. One is for the aircraft crane, one for
the forward tripod and one overall with instructions for the wooden stand. Page six has the parts laydown for the resin and brass parts.
The Orange Hobby HMS Royal Oak in 1:700 scale is a beautifully produced kit with a cornucopia of intricate detail. A true multimedia kit with optional lower hull, extraordinarily detailed hull, three brass photo-etch frets, turned brass barrels for 15-inch
and 6-inch guns, and wooden stand, the kit has everything. However, in my opinion, it is marred by the lack of any wooden plank deck lines. Still, it is highly recommended and further, it is the only
R Class available.

Steve Backer
Huntsville, Alabama
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