Did Günter Prien Have Help at Scapa Flow?

German Kriegsmarine 1935-1945.
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John W. Howard
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Did Günter Prien Have Help at Scapa Flow?

Post by John W. Howard » Sun May 25, 2003 10:41 pm

My father was US soldier in Germany following WWII, and read in an Allied publication that a watch-maker in Scapa Flow spied on the British Fleet there for the Germans. He allegedly provided sailing data and other details which were of great use to Prien and his U-47, when they entered the Flow and sank the Royal Oak in 1939. The watch-maker knew many British sailors personally from working on their watchs and drinking with them in pubs, and felt much guilt over the terrible loss of life when the Royal Oak sank. My father let a German POW, who knew English, read the story and the POW was incredulous and angry as if Prien's having help somehow lessened the incredible accomplishment; he insisted it could not have been true.
The watch-maker was a deep-cover spy, who had entered England many years before, and was officially activated at the outbreak of hostilities between Great Britain and Germany.
Does anyone have any idea if the story was true? Did Prien have help with penetrating Scapa Flow? Any information would be greatly appreciated.
John W. Howard

Visje
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Re: watchmaker

Post by Visje » Mon May 26, 2003 6:15 am

According to Ladislas Farago in his book "The Game of the Foxes", about the activities of the German Abwehr, the whole story was fabricated by a journalist in New York, who sold these stories to Saturday Evening Post.

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Visje

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John W. Howard
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Prien

Post by John W. Howard » Mon May 26, 2003 9:35 pm

Hello Visje:
Thank You for the information!!! I will check out Farago's book and tell my father. He will be most interested. Best Wishes.
John W. Howard

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Post by sid guttridge » Tue May 27, 2003 6:42 am

Hi John,

I don't suppose British complacency counts?

Cheers,

Sid.

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John W. Howard
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Ha Ha Ha!!!

Post by John W. Howard » Tue May 27, 2003 11:39 pm

Hello Sid:
It is amazing how much complacency contributes to amazing feats in war-time!!! Truth is very much stranger than fiction sometimes. Best Wishes.
John W. Howard

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Post by Wolfkin » Fri May 30, 2003 7:48 pm

Very interesting story! Most likely not true, eh? Kind of like the German Paratroopers sent to get Churchill, eh?

Cheers,

Wolfkin
Amateurs limit their study to either Tactics, Strategy or Logistics. Professionals study ALL THREE of these!!!

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Post by Wolfkin » Fri May 30, 2003 7:52 pm

....darn! Hit submit too soon...and y'all can not edit posts in this section...

Anyway, Ah was gonna say that even though these stories are not true they still make good subjects at "story telling time" !!! :D 8) :wink:

Cheers,

Wolfkin
Amateurs limit their study to either Tactics, Strategy or Logistics. Professionals study ALL THREE of these!!!

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Post by Sam H. » Fri May 30, 2003 7:58 pm

Thanks for setting the records strait. I heard the story on the "History Channel" once, but was not able to confirm anything independently.

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John W. Howard
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Hey Guys!!

Post by John W. Howard » Fri May 30, 2003 10:26 pm

I found a copy of Farago's book at my local library and when I get the chance I will summarize what I find. My father was very amused. Every day his unit would go to the POW cages and bring 5-6 skilled German mechanics to work on American trucks etc. in exchange for food, cigarettes, and some pay. These POW's were very angry about the article, because in their eyes, it detracted from Prien's great success.
All these years later my father had to laugh, because the POW's had it right!!!
John W. Howard

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Scapa Flow and the Watchmaker

Post by rclayton » Thu Jun 19, 2003 7:04 am

I've heard this story before and, as already stated in one of the previous posts, the story is in all probability a fabrication.
However, like all the best myths there is probably a grain of truth in it.
While the Royal Navy at the time, and since, have been prepared to admit that the Royal Oak was sunk by Prien there is a particular complication to his story.
Prien maintained that as well as the Royal Oak he had also torpedoed and damaged/sunk another warship. Later German claims stated that the other ship had been HMS Repulse. I also believe that even after the war several U Boat men who'd been with Prien stuck with this story about the other 'two funnelled warship' that had been attacked.
The Royal Navy, to this day, catagorically state that no other ship beside HMS Royal Oak was attacked in Scapa Flow that night, let alone sunk.
Furhtermore it is now a matter of proof that HMS Repulse was not anchored in the Flow that night but was at Rosyth.
Repulse had been anchored in the Flow the previous day and, interestingly enough, in roughly the position where Prien had reported the mystery ship. The relative positions of Royal Oak and Repulse, and for that matter other ships in the Flow, would have been taken from German aerial reconnaisance, carried out the day before the attack.
Another fact to take into consideration is that Royal Oak had been taking on stores the day before. These stores had been loaded from the dockside by civilian labour. They had stcked crates and boxes in gangways deep inside the ship. My point is that there was opportunity to get explosive devices onboard the ship so sabotage can not be ruled out completely.

Hope it's been of interest

"There are no flowers on a sailors grave"

Ron Clayton

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John W. Howard
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Thank You Ron!!

Post by John W. Howard » Fri Jun 20, 2003 4:08 pm

Hello Ron:
Thank you very much for the addendum to the Royal Oak story!! I guess I am going to have to read a little more about Prien's adventures in the Flow; this thread has piqued my interest. I will pass on the information about the continuing mystery to my father, who will be most interested. Thanks again. Best Wishes.
John W. Howard

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Post by rclayton » Thu Jun 26, 2003 6:33 am

Hi John.
Glad you found the information of interest. I found the basis of it in an article I read long ago and I've just dug out the magazine in question.Where you'd get a copy I don't know, but this is the reference: The title of the article is, THE DEATH OF THE ROYAL OAK, there is a subtitle as follows,' Sunk in Scapa Flow she certainly was. But did this British battleship really fall victim to the sneak attack of U-47?'
This article written by John Scott appeared in ISSUE 6 of WEAPONS AND WARFARE, a monthly part publication that appeared in the mid Seventies.
It was published by PHOEBUS PUBLISHING, an imprint of BPC Ltd and printed by Purnells. In fact it might have appeared in the Purnell's History of the Second World War, or subsequent magazines by this publisher.

The controversy about the sinking still exists and I wonder why there hasn't been a serious investigative dive on the Royal Oak to try and shed some light on events.
Best of luck with your research.
Regards Ron Clayton.

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Re: Royal Oak

Post by Visje » Fri Jun 27, 2003 9:24 am

Why dive? U-47 sank Royal Oak.

Period.

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John W. Howard
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Thanks Ron!!!

Post by John W. Howard » Sat Jun 28, 2003 12:28 am

Thank You Ron for the information on the magazine article. I have made a note of it and will see if I can track it down. One would think that someone would dive on the Royal Oak; it seems to be the rage now days. It would make an interesting documentary, especially with the added information you have provided. The death of these great ships is always terribly sad, but also very interesting to those of us who were not left struggling in the water for our survival. Best Wishes.
John W. Howard

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Post by Horace Bachelor » Sat Jul 05, 2003 6:41 am

Hi John,
Just come across this forum completely by accident whilst browsing.
I've found this thread about Royal Oak and the watchmaker very interesting. I've certainly never heard this story before and have to say find it a little unlikely.
I personally think Royal Oak's sad end was down to the sheer audacity and bravery of Prien and his crew, coupled with British complacency and possibly a little luck.
As for diving the wreck, this would not be allowed as the site is a war grave.
Cheers, Rich.

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