Orkney was a key strategic location during the Second World War. The vast anchorage of Scapa Flow was the main haven for the Royal Navy's Home Fleet. As such, the war was very real to Orcadians from the outset. The naval base, and by extension the islands, was a prime target for the Luftwaffe and attempts to bomb the anchorage were made from the beginning of the war. In the early hours of 14 October 1940, a German submarine apparently penetrated Scapa Flow's defences and managed to sink the ageing battleship HMS _Royal Oak_ with the loss of 834 of her crew, including many boy sailors. The loss shocked both Orkney and wider Britain and was a huge propaganda coup for Nazi Germany at this early stage in the war.
Although isolated from the mainland, the people of Orkney made a very substantial contribution to the war effort and many paid the ultimate price, losing their lives in the service of their country.