The Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme

The loss of HMS Narborough and HMS Opal

On the night of the 12th January 1918 two Royal Navy destroyers, HMS Opal and HMS Narborough, were escorting the light cruiser HMS Boadicea on patrol against mine layers. There came such a severe blizzard of snow and high winds that the destroyers were forced to return to base at Scapa Flow.

   H.M.S. Narborough. (c) Imperial War Museum SP 1425


H.M.S. Opal Copryight unknown

Unable to see, a navigational error caused the ships to sail straight into the cliffs at Hesta Rock, just to the north of Windwick Bay, South Ronaldsay. There was only one survivor, Able Seaman William Sissons of HMS Opal. He survived by clinging to a cliff ledge for 36 hours before he was rescued. 188 men died that night, either killed by the impact, drowned or died of exposure. One of the victims was Ernest Stanley Cubiss. A heart warming story can be read about him in the following section 'Just a few bits of metal.'

 The cliff that the ships ran into. (c) SFLPS