Eight months until an important First World War centenary

Restoration work progressing on the Kitchener Memorial at Marwick Head, Orkney
Restoration work progressing on the Kitchener Memorial at Marwick Head, Orkney

Eight months from today on the evening of 5 June 2016 a remembrance service will take place high above Orkney’s Atlantic shoreline exactly 100 years after 737 men were lost nearby when the Royal Navy warship HMS Hampshire sank.

The tragedy on 5 June 1916 claimed the life of Britain’s Secretary of State for War, Earl Kitchener, a hero of the British Empire, but also many other men whose names have barely featured in history.

Men like John William Harry Beechey, Stoker on the Hampshire, whose niece recently wrote to us with a photograph of her uncle.

John William Harry Beechey, Stoker on HMS Hampshire, one of 737 men lost on 5 June 1916
John William Harry Beechey, Stoker on HMS Hampshire, one of 737 men lost on 5 June 1916

The Kitchener Memorial was unveiled in 1926, and the 48-feet high stone tower overlooking the site of the sinking has become an iconic and important part of the Orkney coastline at Marwick Head.

Work is underway to restore the memorial in time for the centenary commemorations, which will be attended by many relatives of those lost with HMS Hampshire.

But volunteers from the Orkney Heritage Society project also want to “better remember” the sacrifice of the other men. A low commemorative wall is to be built alongside the tower, engraved with the names, arranged alphabetically, of everyone who died on that stormy June evening during the First World War.

Many generous donations of money, time, materials and mementoes have been received but, frustratingly, we still find ourselves around £15,000 short of the money we need to complete the project in time for next year’s centenary.

Thank you to everyone who has helped, in whatever way. If you would like to help financially please go to our JustGiving fund-raising page: https://www.justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety/.

You can follow the progress of the project on Facebook (@Kitchener.Memorial) and Twitter (@kitchenerorkney).

If you would prefer you can contact us via email – kitchener.memorial@gmail.com – or write to Orkney Heritage Society, PO Box 6220, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 9AD.

Graham Brown

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