IT was one of the UK's worst naval disasters, which saw the waters around Orkney claim the lives of all the sailors involved except for one man.

Now the sinking of the destroyers HMS Opal and HMS Narborough will be commemorated with a simple ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the tragedy.

On Friday 12 January 2018, a wreath will be laid at the Opal and Narborough memorial at Windwick Bay in remembrance of the 188 men who perished in the stormy seas of South Ronaldsay.

HeraldScotland: HMS Opal

The two warships were on a night patrol to the east of Orkney and on the lookout for German ships and submarines laying mines, but were ordered to return to return to Scapa Flow when a blizzard set in.

But with visibility near zero, they ran on to rocks and were torn apart by the crashing waves and wild winds.

The only crewman found alive, Able Seaman William Sissons, was rescued two days later.

He was a gunner aboard the Opal and survived not only the loss of his ship but the cold and snow once he got ashore. 

HeraldScotland: William Sissons

Many of those who died were never recovered. The graves of 55 of the men who perished in the disaster can be found at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Royal Naval Cemetery at Lyness on the island of Hoy.

 Captain Chris Smith, Royal Navy Regional Commander for Scotland and Northern Ireland, said: "The tragedy that claimed the lives of the crews of HMS Opal and HMS Narborough is a reminder that the sea can be a dangerous place and not just with the threat of enemy action.

 “The link between the Royal Navy and the Orcadians has been a long one and we are once again grateful to see that our collective history is being recognised, especially noting the effort that many people on the islands have put into the commemorations of the last few years.

 “We will once more be joining them in solemnly paying tribute to the men who lost their lives during the night of 12 January 1918 and ensuring the names of all 188 men are remembered appropriately."