- Gregory, Mackenzie J.
- WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 1998 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
He swung his boat and fired the stern tube, but without success.
His crew rapidly reloaded the torpedo tubes and at 0122 another 3 “fish” were fired. 3 minutes later explosions were heard and the 31,100 ton Battleship H.M.S. Royal Oak sank in 13 minutes, leaving only 375 survivors.
She took 24 Officers and 809 Sailors with her to a watery grave.
Amongst the survivors was the only Australian on board, Lieutenant Commander F. N. Cook RAN, the brother of our immediate past president of the Society.
Notwithstanding the swift incoming currents Prien was able to pilot U-47 away from the hunting British destroyers and slipped out of Scapa Flow to head for home (the British wrongly announced that they had sunk the offending U-Boat).
On the 14th of October, the BBC announced “This is the BBC Home Service. Here is the News Bulletin. As it was reported late this morning, the Secretary of the Admiralty regrets to announce that H.M.S. Royal Oak has been sunk, it is believed by U-Boat action. Fifteen survivors have been landed …
Prien had achieved a magnificent coup. He took his boat back to Wilhelmshaven, arriving on the 17th of October at 1144.
The entire crew was flown to Berlin to be personally greeted by Hitler, and Prien was awarded The Knights Cross. Hitler entertained the crew at lunch.
Prien in his U-Boat career sank 31 ships for a total of 194,103 tons, and was involved in 10 patrols, spending 237 days at sea on this duty.
He went missing on the 7th of March 1941, in the North Atlantic near the Rockall Banks. It is not certain how he or U-47 died, and for many years it was believed that H.M.S. Wolverine was responsible for sinking this U-Boat. Later intelligence suggests Wolverine actually attacked a different German submarine.
The loss of U-47 could have been caused by mines, by its own circling torpedoes, or by an attack of H.M.S. Camellia and H.M.S. Arbutus, both Royal Navy Corvettes. By whatever means he was killed “Gunther Prien, who had lived by the Sword, had now died by the Sword”.