King George V's Visits to Scapa Flow

Brian Budge (, as part of his researches into the loss of HMS Vanguard, has provided the following summary of the various visits of King George V to his fleet in Scapa Flow. The source used is that excellent history of the Flow, This Great Harbour by Bill Hewison.

King George made several visits to the Grand Fleet in Scapa Flow, the first in July 1915, another in July 1916 when he stayed overnight on HMS Iron Duke and visited the flagships of all the squadrons in the Flow (to congratulate them on the Battle of Jutland).

King George V made another visit to Scapa in June 1917, arriving on HMS Castor during a Force 8 gale and thunderstorm on Thursday 21st. He stayed with Admiral Beatty on the flagship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, where he was welcomed by all the Admirals, his son Prince Albert (later King George VI, then serving in HMS Malaya) and Midshipman "Dickie" Battenberg (later Earl Mountbatten). On Friday 22nd the weather was still poor, so plans to go to sea with the Fleet for firing practice were put on hold and the King spent two hours touring the Queen Elizabeth, then went on board Revenge, King George V and Barham. On Saturday 23rd the King visited the submarine depot-ship Lucia (formerly the German Spreewald), then lunched with Admiral Sturdee in HMS Hercules, before returning to Queen Elizabeth to sail with her, Barham, Malaya, Warspite and Valiant for firing practice in the Pentland Firth. On Sunday, after morning service, the King held an investiture and decorated over forty officers (including a GCVO for Beatty and ensignia of Knight Commander of the Victorian Order for Rear Admiral O. de Brock). After lunch the King went on board the submarine K2, the minesweeper Godetia, the hospital ship Plassy and finally his son's ship, Malaya. He left Scapa on Monday, 25th June, steaming through the Fleet in Castor, each ship cheering as they passed.

If Bill Hewison's details above are correct (and he usually was very thorough - he died in 2001), then the King did NOT visit HMS Vanguard, so the photo of Kyosuke Eto being presented to him was probably taken on board HMS Hercules (a 'Colossus' Class battleship, completed in 1911) on Saturday 23rd June 1917.

This excerpt from Hewison's This Great Harbour (pages 85-87) recounts the King's 1915 visit:

... on 7 July [1915], the Grand Fleet had its first royal visitor in Scapa, King George V, himself a former naval officer who had intended to make the Navy his career until the death of his older brother made him next in line of succession to the Throne, forcing him to leave the sea in order to concentrate on affairs of state. He had previously been in Orkney in 1898 when commanding the cruiser Crescent, which now, in World War I, was guard ship covering Hoy Sound until the shore batteries became operational.

This time he was met at Thurso by his son Prince Albert and Admiral Colville, ACOS, a former shipmate, and they crossed to Scapa in the destroyer Oak, the Commander-in-Chief's despatch boat, with an escort from the Second Flotilla. At Hoxa they were met by the C-in-C, Admiral Jellicoe, who came on board while they steamed round the 11 miles of booms and their attendant trawlers. 'I then inspected the fleet by steaming between the lines,' the King wrote in his diary that night, 'Each ship cheered as we passed, splendid sight, but it was cold and overcast with NE breeze which was a pity.'

After visiting the hospital ship Drina where Prince Albert was soon to go for observation, 'as he has not been quite the thing', the King landed at Longhope where he was greeted by Colville and his staff. He inspected the officers and men of destroyers, trawlers, store ships and dockyardmen who were drawn up 'on the road to his [Colville's] house and they cheered at the end. I am staying with Colville, his house is quite comfortable, it was a small inn. Bertie [Prince Albert] is staying here too,' wrote the King in his diary. Colville's 'house' was, in fact, the Longhope Hotel.

Next day, Thursday 8 July, he went out to the Iron Duke where he was received by Jellicoe and 'all his Admirals'. He went on to the Emperor of India (Adm. Duff), Benbow (Adm. Sturdee), St Vincent (Adm. Evan Thomas), Marlborough (Adm. Cecil Burney) where he lunched, Collingwood (Captain Ley, Prince Albert's ship), Defence (Adm. Sir R. Arbuthnot), Shannon (Adm. Calthorpe) and Agincourt (Captain Nicholson) where he had tea. In his diary he wrote, 'Onboard each flagship all the officers and men, not only of the flagships, but of their respective divisions marched past me on the quarter deck. Everything was beautifully arranged, I must have seen close on 20,000 men. I also walked round some of the ships when there was time. Got back to Longhope at 6.30, a distinctly long but interesting day. The spirit of the fleet is splendid. Dined aboard Iron Duke with Commander in Chief at 8.30. 26 at dinner including 11 Admirals.

Friday, 9 July started off with something unusual for the Longhope Hotel - an investiture. The King's diary records: 'Gave Cecil [Adm. Colville] the GCVO [Grand Cross of the Victorian Order] after breakfast.' They then left Longhope in the Oak and visited Stanger Head Battery on Flotta, landing in the geo below the guns which was still known as King's Hard in World War II.

He had seen his old command, the Crescent, and then, on Flotta, inspected officers and men of light cruisers, minesweepers, sloops and destroyers of the Second and Fourth Flotillas, 4,550 of whom were on parade. After lunch on board the King George V there was a march-past of her officers and men along with those of Ajax and Centurion which, he wrote in his diary 'was beautifully arranged with massed bands playing.' On to Orion, Monarch and Conqueror where 'unfortunately it came on to rain and blow rather hard, but it did not dampen their spirits.' Finally he boarded the Queen Elizabeth which had been in action in the Dardanelles, being hit 17 times but with no casualties; then the Benbow again for tea before saying farewell to Jellicoe and the Vice-Admirals. He left Scapa in the Oak, again accompanied by Bertie and Colville, sailing through the Fleet which manned ship and cheered as they passed and he wrote: 'It was a great success in every way, I saw over 35,000 men in two days and the spirit of officers and men is splendid. We had an escort of destroyers'

Last Updated: 25 May, 2002.

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