BBC Radio Scotland’s World War One At Home series is to feature the story of Earl Kitchener and the sinking of HMS Hampshire as part of a week of programmes from Orkney and Shetland.
Neil Kermode, Chair of the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project committee, is interviewed for the HMS Hampshire programme which will be broadcast on Tuesday (26 May), telling listeners about the warship’s sinking close to the Orkney coast with the loss of hundreds of men.
Monday’s programme has Andrew Hollinrake – another of our committee members – talking about the importance of the Ness Battery at Stromness.
Edwin Dunning, the first pilot to land an aircraft on a moving ship (in Scapa Flow), is the subject on Wednesday and on Thursday it is the turn of the Shetland Blockade.
The programmes, each five minutes or so long, will be broadcast on Good Morning Scotland (0600-0900), John Beattie (1200-1330) and Newsdrive (1600-1830). The exact times for for the pieces being played are not available. And because these are live news programmes which react to the day’s news, there is always the possibility that a piece may be dropped.
But don’t worry if you miss them. The stories are made available to listen online after broadcast via this page, which has a wealth of other fascinating material: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01p33jl.
If you are new to the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project, we aim to restore the Kitchener Memorial, situated on Marwick Head, Orkney, and create an adjacent HMS Hampshire commemorative wall, engraved with the names of all the men who were lost when the ship sank on 5 June 1916 after hitting a mine.
Hello again. First of all, good news since our last blog. As you may have read or heard if you live in Orkney, the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project was awarded a £50,000 grant by Orkney Islands Council’s Community Development Fund sub-committee.
This is a big step forward for our project, and work is going on behind the scenes to secure more funding towards the estimated £200,000 cost. I hope we will be able to bring you more news soon.
In the last blog I wrote about the arc shape which was chosen for the HMS Hampshire commemorative wall, after public consultation. Since then we have applied to Orkney Islands Council for the necessary planning permission to build this wall next to the Kitchener Memorial.
For those of you new to our Orkney Heritage Society project, we hope to restore the Kitchener Memorial, built in the 1920s to remember Earl Kitchener, a hero of the British Empire, and to create a low commemorative wall alongside on which will be engraved more than 700 names – all those who were lost, including Kitchener, when HMS Hampshire hit a mine off Orkney in 1916.
Our aim is to have this work completed in time for the centenary of the sinking, on Sunday 5 June 2016, when commemorations will take place in Orkney.
Details of how the day will unfold are being worked on, in co-operation with Orkney Islands Council, the British Legion, the Royal Naval Association and HM Armed Forces.
But anyone planning to visit Orkney for that weekend may want to think about accommodation which could be in short supply. Please go to www.visitorkney.com or www.visitscotland.com/orkney – or contact Visit Scotland’s office in Kirkwall, Orkney on +44 (1856) 872856.
Extensive research is being undertaken as part of our project. Already we have discovered many more men died than previously thought. We hope to arrange an exhibition about the loss of HMS Hampshire and a book is planned. If you have family memories or stories that you would like to share, please let us know.
Completion of our project is, of course, subject to sufficient funds being raised through grants and public donation. If you would like to donate please do so at justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety/.
Finally, thank you to Moya McDonald, of Another Orkney Production, and to Bryony Dixon, of the British Film Institute, for the recent screening in Orkney’s Pickaquoy Centre of the restored British silent film The Battles Of Coronel And Falkland Islands. This tells the story of two early First World War naval battles with compassion, humour and realism and is fascinating for anyone who is interested in naval history of the period.
A letter from our project chairman Neil Kermode, published in The Orcadian newspaper this week, announces the choice of shape for the HMS Hampshire commemorative wall – an arc. Here is the text of the letter:
“I would like to thank everyone who took part in our consultation about the design for the proposed HMS Hampshire commemorative wall by visiting our display at Birsay Community Hall, completing questionnaires or responding via Facebook and Twitter.
“The plan which received the most votes was the arc shaped wall, and the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial committee has agreed to proceed with this design.
“We will now seek planning permission to build the wall, a little over a metre high, next to the Kitchener Memorial at Marwick Head. It will carry the names of more than 700 men who died, along with Earl Kitchener, when HMS Hampshire hit a mine and sank just off the coast in June 1916.
“I believe this will be an appropriate way to “better remember” these men as we approach the centenary of their loss.
“For the record, the number of votes cast for different wall shapes were 15 for the arc, 12 for the square wall, and three for the square with a cut-off corner. Two other ideas were also put forward.
“The creation of a commemorative wall is part of the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project, organised by Orkney Heritage Society with support from Birsay Heritage Trust. The Kitchener Memorial itself will be restored to its original 1926 condition, retaining its iconic profile.
“The restoration and commemorative wall are to be officially unveiled at events marking the centenary of the sinking on Sunday 5 June 2016, and already a number of relatives of those who died are making plans to visit Orkney for the occasion.
Neil Kermode, Chairman, Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial committee, Quarry House, Finstown
Meanwhile, did you catch the BBC Two Scotland two-part documentary, Scotland’s War At Sea? The first part was The Dreadnoughts Of Scapa Flow and part two – which told the story of the sinking of HMS Hampshire – was The Battle Of The U-Boats.
Both programmes, presented by David Hayman, feature shots of Orkney and interviews with Orcadians. There is still time to watch these programmes on BBC iPlayer, as I write, but the clock is ticking: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05qy7nq.
And, if you are in Orkney, the classic silent film The Battles of Coronel And Falkland Islands, made in 1927, is showing at the Phoenix Cinema at the Pickaquoy Centre, Kirkwall on Friday 8 May. Described as a thrilling reconstruction of two decisive naval battles from the early stages of the First World War, the film has been restored by the British Film Institute.
You can hear Bryony Dixon of the BFI talk about the film on BBC Radio Orkney’s Around Orkney programme for today, Friday 24 April. Her interview starts just before the 24 minutes mark…
A display of plans for our proposed memorial wall bearing the names of more than 700 men lost when HMS Hampshire sank opens today (Thursday 26 March) at Birsay Community Hall, West Mainland, Orkney.
Three options are shown for the wall, planned to be built next to Orkney’s Kitchener Memorial in order to “better remember” those who died alongside Earl Kitchener on HMS Hampshire.
The display will be in Birsay Community Hall until Monday 6 April. Residents and visitors are invited to comment via a questionnaire on the options, which are a square wall around the existing monument, a square with a cut-off corner, and an arc.
The commemorative wall is part of the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project, organised by Orkney Heritage Society with support from Birsay Heritage Trust. The Kitchener Memorial itself will be restored to its original 1926 condition, retaining its iconic profile.
Neil Kermode, chair of the project, said: “Fundraising is underway and after extensive consultation the erection of a low wall bearing the names of all those lost is now proposed. Three schemes have been designed and public opinion is being sought as to which is best.”
HMS Hampshire sank in a storm off Orkney on 5 June 1916 after hitting a mine. It was long believed that 643 men died but research for the memorial project has identified the names of 736 lost. There were 12 survivors.
Earl Kitchener, a member of the British Cabinet and Secretary of State for War when he died, was travelling to Russia for talks. He is perhaps best known today as the face of the “Your Country Needs You!” recruiting posters.
The planned commemorative wall, subject to planning permission, will be a little over a metre high. Local building stone will be used for the seaward side. The names of the 736 men who died, including Kitchener, will be engraved in granite in order to be more weather resistant.
The restoration and commemorative wall are to be officially unveiled at events marking the centenary of the sinking on Sunday 5 June 2016.
If you are unable to visit Birsay Community Hall you can see and comment on the drawings via the project’s web outlets: Facebook (@Kitchener.Memorial), Twitter (@kitchenerorkney) and, of course, this blog.
Also, comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or posted to: Neil Kermode, Quarry House, Finstown, Orkney, KW17 2JY.
Finally, a few more updates on the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project.
Grant applications are in with the War Memorials Trust, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Orkney Islands Council Community Development Fund. We should hear about all of these in April.
We are grateful for the donations coming into our JustGiving page and as cheques. We want to say a sincere thank you for this, but are grappling with the finer points of JustGiving’s website and confidentiality. However in lieu of a personal note we really do appreciate the heartfelt support we have found.
Hello again. First of all thank you to everyone who is taking an interest in our Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project, following the blog, adding likes on our Facebook page, re-Tweeting us, making donations, spreading the word, whatever you are doing it is a great help, and much appreciated.
Thank you also to everyone who came on our fund-raising tour of Orkney’s Ness Battery and shoreline, organised and led by one of our project volunteers, Andrew Hollinrake. This raised more than £120 and boosted the local war-time knowledge of those attending.
You may have heard on BBC Radio Orkney, or read on The Orcadian website, that we hope to organise a giant recycling project by sourcing stone somewhere in the West Mainland of Orkney for our proposed commemorative wall to the 736 men lost on HMS Hampshire.
We are looking for someone with suitable stone, or a ruin, on their land that we could use to build the wall; an opportunity to get what might be the remains of an old family home, or perhaps an old animal shelter, turned into a significant war memorial.
Our press release explaining more about this appeal for help is reproduced at the bottom of this blog.
Recent press coverage of our Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project includes Scotland Outdoors (which has a feature on Orkney in its March/April edition), the Culture24 website and the Portsmouth News.
The Portsmouth News article received an amazing response. Nine groups potentially interested in coming to Orkney for next year’s HMS Hampshire centenary commemorations contacted the journalist Chris Owen. And our JustGiving website received a significant boost in donations. Thank you all.
Opportunity to recycle old stone into war memorial
Volunteers behind plans to build a commemorative wall for the 736 men lost on HMS Hampshire in 1916 are hoping to create an unusually large recycling project in Orkney.
The planned wall, to be built next to the Kitchener Memorial, will be around 20 metres long and the project team hope to find the required stone somewhere in West Mainland.
“We are looking for someone with some suitable stone, or a ruin, on their land in the West Mainland, preferably Birsay, that we could use to build the wall,” said Neil Kermode, chair of the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project.
Because this is a specialist job we are looking for several possible donors and we will then get the masons to pick the stone they think will work best.
“I hope potential donors will see this as an opportunity to get what might be the remains of an old family home, or perhaps an old animal shelter, whatever it is, turned into a significant war memorial that will be visited by hundreds of people.”
The project team will arrange the removal of the chosen stone from the land and the delivery to the tower.
Anyone who would like to offer stone can email email@example.com or write to Neil Kermode, Quarry House, Finstown, Orkney, KW17 2JY.
The planned wall, subject to planning permission, will be a little over a metre high. Local building stone will be used for the seaward side. The names of the 736 men who died, including Kitchener, will be engraved in granite in order to be more weather resistant.
The project team also plan to restore the Kitchener Memorial to its original condition. Orkney Islands Council has already granted planning permission for this part of the project which will see the tower’s stonework restored to its original condition, the roof inspected and repaired, the ventilation reinstated and the former inspection doorway in the memorial restored.
You can follow the progress of the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project on Facebook (@Kitchener.Memorial), Twitter (@kitchenerorkney) and via a blog at kitchenerhampshire.wordpress.com/.
Project team member Andrew Hollinrake is running a special tour to the Ness Battery in Stromness, Orkney this Saturday (21 February 2015). All are welcome, entry is by donation. All money collected will go towards our Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project.
The walk, taking place on International Tourist Guide Day, will be along the Ness shore, exploring some of the wartime relics, then visiting Ness Battery, including its mess hall with the famous mural. Ness Battery is an important relic of Orkney’s wartime heritage and once defended Scapa Flow against enemy attack.
Saturday’s tour starts at 2.00pm, at the Point of Ness, and lasts approximately 90 minutes. Andrew says: “Please note there are no bathroom facilities along this route. It is also rather exposed, so please wrap up warm!” No booking is required.
To remind you, we aim to restore the Kitchener Memorial, at Marwick Head on Orkney’s Atlantic coast, and build a commemorative wall engraved with the names of all 736 men lost when HMS Hampshire sank in June 1916.
Meanwhile, two pieces of good news for our project since our last blog: Orkney Islands Council has given planning permission for the restoration work on Kitchener Tower.
And on Saturday The Times published a double-page spread about the project.
Once again, thank you for following our project, and for the generous donations we have already received.
We are delighted to announce the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project has launched a JustGiving page to allow anyone who would like to help the project financially to donate.
This is an important step towards our aim of restoring the Kitchener Memorial and creating a commemorative wall around the memorial, engraved with the names of more than 700 men who were lost on HMS Hampshire in 1916.
Here is a link to our JustGiving page…
We announced this development with press releases to the media both in and out of Orkney. As a result we received handsome coverage in our local newspaper The Orcadian and in the Press & Journal. Neil Kermode, who chairs our project, was interviewed by Fionn McArthur from the ever-helpful team at BBC Radio Orkney (Interview at 24:30).
To allow those of you following the project an insight into our thinking, and the story of HMS Hampshire, we reproduce below the press release which went to the media outside Orkney.
Thank you for your interest in the project, and for the generous donations we have already received.
Press release dated 2 February 2015
Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial: A project to better remember more than 700 men lost on HMS Hampshire
A commemorative wall bearing the names of more than 700 men lost when their warship sank in the First World War is to be built in Scotland.
The wall will surround Orkney’s Kitchener Memorial in order to “better remember” those who died alongside Earl Kitchener on HMS Hampshire.
A web page allowing people to contribute to the project is officially launched this week.
HMS Hampshire sank in a storm off Orkney on 5 June 1916 after hitting a mine. It was long believed that 643 men died but recent research suggests it was 737. There were 12 survivors.
The Kitchener Memorial, a 48-feet high stone tower, was unveiled in 1926 on cliffs at Marwick Head, on the Atlantic west coast of Mainland Orkney. The site is within an RSPB reserve and offers stunning views.
Earl Kitchener was a member of the British Cabinet and Secretary of State for War when he died. He was travelling to Russia for talks. He is perhaps best known today as the face of the “Your Country Needs You!” recruiting posters.
A plaque on the memorial only makes brief reference to the other men lost that day.
Orkney Heritage Society aims to restore the Kitchener Memorial to its original condition, retaining its iconic profile, and to build a low wall of local stone around the memorial, on which will be engraved in granite the names of all those lost. The wall itself will be of local stone.
Anyone who wishes to donate towards the £200,000 needed is welcome to do so online at justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety/. The project committee is also applying for grants towards the cost.
The restoration and commemorative wall are to be officially unveiled at events marking the centenary of the sinking on Sunday 5 June 2016.
Neil Kermode, who is leading the project for Orkney Heritage Society, says: “As the centenary of the loss approaches, we believe those 737 men deserve to be better, and appropriately, remembered. I also believe there is unanimous agreement locally for this idea and great interest further afield.
“The project committee is working hard to get grants towards the cost but we will also rely on public donations. We would be grateful for any contributions, large and small.”
A planning application has been submitted to Orkney Islands Council for work to restore the Kitchener Memorial. Soon a planning application will be submitted for the wall, which will be a little over a metre high and built around four sides of the memorial.
Anyone without computer access who wishes to donate may send a cheque, payable to Orkney Heritage Society, to Orkney Heritage Society, PO Box 6220, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 9AD.
Background notes to the press release
The Kitchener Memorial
The plaque on the Kitchener Memorial reads: “This tower was raised by the people of Orkney in memory of Field Marshal Earl Kitchener of Khartoum on that corner of his country which he had served so faithfully nearest to the place where he died on duty. He and his staff perished along with the officers and nearly all the men of HMS Hampshire on 5th June 1916.”
The memorial cost £734 to build, paid for by public subscription from Orcadians.
HMS Hampshire and the sinking
HMS Hampshire, a Devonshire-class armoured cruiser, was launched in 1903 and went into service with the Royal Navy in 1905.
She took part in the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916.
A few days later, on 5 June, she left the Royal Navy’s anchorage at Scapa Flow, Orkney, bound for Russia. Earl Kitchener was on board, heading for secret talks with Britain’s war-time ally.
But at about a quarter to eight in the evening, in stormy conditions less than two miles from shore, she struck a mine laid by a German u-boat. Only 12 crewmen survived.
It was long thought that Earl Kitchener was one of 650 men lost from HMS Hampshire. But recent research by local historian Brian Budge suggests the final death toll was as high as 737.
The restoration project
A planning application has been submitted to Orkney Islands Council for work to restore the Kitchener Memorial. The plans would see the stonework restored to its original condition, the roof inspected and repaired, the ventilation reinstated and the former inspection doorway in the memorial restored.
A second planning application is being submitted for a low wall, a little over a metre high and made from local stone, around four sides of the Kitchener Memorial. The names of the 737 men lost would be inscribed in granite on this wall.
Relatives of those who were on board HMS Hampshire, or others with knowledge about those lost, are invited to contact the project to share memories and information (email: firstname.lastname@example.org). Decisions about how the interpretive material will be displayed have not yet been made.
Orkney Heritage Society
Orkney Heritage Society is undertaking the project as its contribution to the centenary of World War 1, to preserve the existing tower and to enhance the environment.
Founded in 1968, the society is a charitable body whose objectives are: to stimulate public interest in, and care for, the beauty, history and character of Orkney; to encourage the preservation, development and improvement of features of general public amenity or historic interest; to encourage high standards of architecture and planning in Orkney.
Neil Kermode writes about revised plans for the Kitchener Memorial, in an article originally published in The Orcadian newspaper on 11 December 2014…
In just under 18 months’ time on 5 June 2016 the people of Orkney will mark the centenary of the sinking of HMS Hampshire, with the loss of – we now believe – more than 700 men.
By then the 14-metre high Kitchener Memorial, unveiled in 1926 on the west coast of Mainland Orkney, will have been restored and safeguarded for the future.
And a more fitting monument will have been created to remember all those men who died along with Earl Kitchener, Britain’s Secretary of State for War, as they attempted to sail from Scapa Flow to Russia.
We have had a lively, respectful debate in Orkney about the form this monument should take and I would like to thank everyone who has contributed. The initial suggestions caused some consternation and from the ensuing discussions several things emerged. Principally everyone has agreed that it is right to properly remember all the men who died that night.
The plans now envisage creating a low wall, a little over a metre high and made from local stone, around four sides of the Kitchener Memorial. The names of the 737 men lost would be inscribed on this wall.
Shortly planning applications will be submitted to Orkney Islands Council for this work. The plans would also see the Kitchener Memorial stonework restored to its original condition. The roof would be inspected and repaired, the ventilation reinstated and the former inspection doorway in the memorial restored.
However the project, which I am leading on behalf of Orkney Heritage Society, would see this door being kept locked and only opened for maintenance work as unauthorised access to the interior of the tower seemed to be the main concern expressed as a result of the earlier consultation.
A project group has been set up by the Orkney Heritage Society to progress the construction work.
A number of relatives of those lost with HMS Hampshire, including representatives of Earl Kitchener’s family, have been in touch to support the project and express their appreciation that the people of Orkney want to remember their loss.
Both Birsay Community Council and Harray and Sandwick Community Council are supportive of these plans, as are the British Legion and the Royal Naval Association, but I would also like the wider community in Orkney to tell us what they think.
Do you feel a wall with its 737 carved names, around a restored Kitchener Memorial, is the right way to commemorate the loss of HMS Hampshire? Should this be called the ‘Hampshire Memorial’? Should the loss of seven others in the following week, when the Laurel Crown hit the same minefield, also be commemorated? Is a wall too much and would a book of remembrance suffice?
Some initial ideas for the memorial wall have been worked up by local architect Leslie Burgher. The project group is keen to make sure the ideas fit with the iconic position the tower enjoys, but also provide enough space for the names of those lost. More work will be done on the detail, but the illustrations give a flavour of what is being proposed.
As I said before, it is important that whatever proposals are taken forward have the support of Orkney. Expressing your opinions will allow a strong case to be made for funding and ensure that the work is in keeping both with proper commemoration of the losses and the wishes of the people of Orkney.
We hope to fund the project through grants but also through public donations. Soon a Just Giving website will launch, through which individuals may donate.
This project has been one of discovery – finding out what the public want, meeting people with precious memories, unearthing information – and we have much more to research.
For example it was found, early on in the project, that the memorial was not actually built on the land intended for it and was in fact sitting on RSPB land. Elsewhere along the cliff top part of the RSPB reserve was, technically, not theirs but belonged to Orkney Islands Council. I would like to thank employees of both organisations for their help in resolving this by means of a land swap.
Please do express any opinion about this project on Facebook (/Kitchener.Memorial) and Twitter (/kitchenerorkney), by email email@example.com or by writing to: Neil Kermode, Quarry House, Finstown, Orkney, KW17 2JY. Or you are welcome to comment on this blog.