Scapa Flow (Naval Anchorage)

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Map of Scapa Flow (Naval Anchorage)

Scapa Flow, extensive landlocked anchorage in Scotland’s Orkney Islands, which lie off the northern tip of the Scottish mainland.[1] The anchorage is approximately 15 miles (24 km) long from north to south and 8 miles (13 km) wide and is bounded by the islands of Mainland (Pomona) to the north, South Ronaldsay to the east, and Hoy to the west.[2] The main entrance is in the south, from Pentland Firth, the strait separating the Orkney Islands from the mainland of Scotland.[3] The Sound of Hoy on the west leads to the Atlantic, and three intricate channels on the east give access to the North Sea.[4]

Royal Navy

In the 19th century Scapa Flow was first surveyed by the Department of Admiralty's surveying service in 1812, the report that followed was a high recommendation to use it as a future naval anchorage. However it would not be until 1909 that the Royal Navy began to use the anchorage on an operational basis. shortly before the start of of World War One a Royal Naval Oil and Torpedo Depot was constructed at Lyness. This depot would then go onto service the British Grand Fleet that chose Scapa Flow as its chief base of operations for the rest of the Great War until 1919 when it was wound down extensively during the inter war years 1920 to 1938, but was used as a base for Atlantic Fleet (1919-1932).

In 1939 at the advent of World War Two the anchorage was chosen again to station the Home Fleet as its main base of operations for the duration of the rest of the war until 1945. During both world wars the operational shore based commander responsible for the defence of the anchorage and all shore facilities was the Rear-Admiral Commanding, Scapa later called Rear-Admiral, Scapa, he in turn reported to the commanding officer of the Orkneys and Shetlands Command. The Royal Navy continued to use Scapa Flow until 1957 when the final naval base at Lyness was closed down.


  1. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (20 April 2018). Scapa Flow. Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. Access Date: November 13, 2019
  2. Scapa Flow. Encyclopedia Britannica.
  3. Scapa Flow. Encyclopedia Britannica.
  4. Scapa Flow. Encyclopedia Britannica.