Making connections

Postcards of HMS Hampshire
Postcards of HMS Hampshire donated to our project

One of the pleasures of volunteering with the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project is the connections we are able to make across the world, and languages, and into the past.

Recently two of our volunteers, Neil Kermode and Andrew Hollinrake, were interviewed for a report in Gaelic about our project on BBC Alba’s evening news programme. Fortunately they were able to make their contribution in English.

The TV report by Donald Morrison, with beautiful shots of Orkney’s scenery, was able to show that restoration is well underway on the Kitchener Memorial itself and good progress is being made on the new HMS Hampshire commemorative wall which will be engraved with the names of all 737 men lost, including Earl Kitchener, when the warship sank on 5 June 1916.

You may have read in our previous blog how members of the United States National Guard (Air and Army), visiting Scotland as part of their summer exchange, joined with Orkney’s own Royal Engineers to help progress the building work.

Memorial postcards for Earl Kitchener
Memorial postcards for Earl Kitchener donated to our project

And, thanks to the power of social media, we were contacted by Cathy Bryan on Facebook who said: “I live in the city of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada; it was renamed ‘Kitchener’ from ‘Berlin’ in honour of Lord Kitchener after his death. I would like to see the city somehow involved in the centenary or with the Kitchener memorial.”

We were thrilled to hear from Cathy and we hope to involve Kitchener, Ontario in our project. Many folk living in Orkney and who visit on holiday may not realise that the Canadian city has a Kitchener Memorial Auditorium Complex, home to the Kitchener Panthers baseball team and the Kitchener Rangers ice hockey team.

Meanwhile our appeal for memorabilia about the loss of HMS Hampshire has not gone unnoticed and Colin Nibbs of Crosby, Liverpool sent us a fascinating collection of material which will form part of a display to coincide with next year’s centenary.

This collection – as you can see in this blog – includes old photographs and postcards, as well as a copy of the official Admiralty report into the loss of HMS Hampshire, a good conduct medal and two copies of a book written by one of the 12 survivors of the tragedy, W.C. Phillips – one of them signed by the author.

Colin wrote to us to say: “They are gifted to you in memory of my maternal grandfather Frederick E Waight, Stoker P.O., number 308424 (Po), who perished on HMS Hampshire.”

Thank you Colin. Thank you also to everyone who has made financial and other donations to our project.

I should say we are still short of our fund-raising target – perhaps £15,000, or more, depending on the bills – so work on that front continues for us. If you would like to help 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

Links

Kitchener Memorial Auditorium Complex – http://www.theaud.ca/

Kitchener Panthers – http://kitchenerpanthers.pointstreaksites.com/view/kitchenerpanthers

Kitchener Rangers – http://kitchenerrangers.com/

Royal Engineers & US National Guard boost our project

Boots on the scaffolding at the Kitchener Memorial (image: Leslie Burgher)
Boots on the scaffolding at the Kitchener Memorial (image: Leslie Burgher)
An aerial view of work to create the HMS Hampshire wall (image: Leslie Burgher)
An aerial view of work to create the HMS Hampshire wall (image: Leslie Burgher)

Our project has taken big strides in the past week with help from the British Army and US National Guard in restoring Orkney’s Kitchener Memorial and building a commemorative wall to the men lost with him on HMS Hampshire during the First World War.

A squad from 71 Engineer Regiment’s 10 (Orkney) Field Troop have been working with colleagues from both the US Army National Guard and the Air National Guard. They are due to finish their part of the project tomorrow (Tuesday 4 August).

Earl Kitchener himself served with the Royal Engineers so it was appropriate to have some of his successors working on his memorial’s restoration (mortar picking) and creating the foundations to the new HMS Hampshire commemorative wall, alongside our contractors Casey Construction Ltd.

The appearance of the military at Marwick Head caused much interest locally. You can read a detailed report in The Orcadian newspaper when it publishes on Thursday.

Meanwhile, take a listen to this edition of BBC Radio Orkney’s Around Orkney (11 minutes in)…

And take a look at this video (with audio) posted by Orkney.com…

Andrew Hollinrake, a member of our Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project committee, told the press: “We are most grateful to the Royal Engineers for their help on this important memorial work. Their effort moves our work on substantially, and reduces our funding gap. We are getting donations from relatives and others, but still have a gap to fill.

“Several of Kitchener’s party setting out for Russia were serving Army officers, and two senior civil servants from the Ministry of Munitions in the party were temporarily given Army rank, a Brigadier-General and a Lieutenant-Colonel, presumably for the benefit of the Russians who no doubt would expect such a military mission to be made up of high-ranking officers.

“Kitchener himself started his army career as an officer in the Corps of Royal Engineers, so it’s fitting that Orkney’s Army Reservists, alongside personnel from the USA, are helping with the work on his memorial since they are now part of 71 Engineer Regiment.”

Digging out the foundations of the HMS Hampshire wall (image: Leslie Burgher)
Digging out the foundations of the HMS Hampshire wall (image: Leslie Burgher)

Earl Kitchener, Britain’s Secretary of State for War, was among those lost when HMS Hampshire, sailing from Scapa Flow to Russia, sank just off Orkney’s Atlantic coast in 1916.

Restoration work started on the 90-year-old Kitchener Memorial, a 48-feet high stone tower, at the end of June. It involves restoring the stonework to its original condition, inspecting and repairing the roof, reinstating the ventilation and restoring the inspection doorway.

The HMS Hampshire wall – to “better remember” all those lost on HMS Hampshire – will, when complete, carry the engraved names of all 737 men lost with the warship.

Orkney Heritage Society volunteers still need around £15,000 to complete the project and are seeking further funding.

A fund-raising guided walk on Sunday led by Andrew to Stromness wartime sites, including the Ness Battery, raised £115.

Signpost to the Kitchener Memorial (image: Graham Brown)
Signpost to the Kitchener Memorial (image: Graham Brown)

Anyone wishing to donate towards the project can do so online at justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety/ or send a cheque payable to Orkney Heritage Society.

Please continue to follow the progress of our project via this blog, on Facebook (@Kitchener.Memorial) and Twitter (@kitchenerorkney).

Oh, and if you are a reader of the monthly magazine Living Orkney, we’re in that as well. L.C. Littlejohn’s article is in the August edition, in the shops now.

Graham Brown

A walk into the past

The arc-shaped HMS Hampshire commemorative wall has received planning permission (image: Leslie Burgher)
The arc-shaped HMS Hampshire commemorative wall has received planning permission (image: Leslie Burgher)

This entry is from guest blogger, Owen Peters, who writes:

Recently I had the good fortune to leave London’s hurry, bustle and pace behind, allowing my backpack and I to become reacquainted whilst walking the coast and hills of Orkney.

On a bright fresh morning my walking route was simple. Hug the coastline from Stromness, along to Black Craig, Bay of Skaill, onwards to Marwick Head. No rush, see how I feel as the walk unfolds.

The weather had turned cold and windy. As I left a road section and climbed the beckoning hill offering a wonderful panoramic view for miles around, I was met by a couple coming in the opposite direction. We exchanged pleasantries. They had started off with a longer walk in mind but turned back due to the adverse weather setting in. I told them of my walking plans, then everything changed.

With an outstretched finger he asked: “You see that monument way over there across the hills along the coastline?” Squinting through a pair of binoculars I said yes. “Well that’s the Kitchener Memorial. Lovely walk on the right day. I wouldn’t think you’d get there today though,” he said helpfully and factually. As we said our goodbyes, little did he know he had turned my walk into a challenge. Kitchener’s Memorial here I come. I hope!

Suffice to say, having met many interesting people along the way, viewed exhilarating sections of coastline, many, many hours later my backpack and I finally arrived at the end of this self-initiated challenge. The stone-clad tower of Kitchener’s memorial was before me.

My knowledge of Lord Kitchener, besides his Boer War exploits, doesn’t stretch much further than he being the iconic poster figurehead pointing outwards with questioning eyes demanding recruits for World War I. The imposing stone tower, unveiled in June 1926, has a simple commemorative plaque. It states:

“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.”

Whilst I found the monument impressive and the plaque sentiments respective I was left with the question, what about the crew, where is their recognition? Surely the tragedy was more than about one man?

In typical tourist mode I pondered the injustice but carried on exploring Orkney during my remaining days. Somehow the whole experience didn’t feel right.

It was whilst leaving Orkney on my return ferry journey to Scrabster I was given a swift reminder, people who recognise injustice do something about it. I read Neil Kermode’s excellent article in The Islander magazine, confirming a project had been set up by The Orkney Heritage Society to restore the memorial. I didn’t realise until I read Neil’s article, over 700 men were lost at sea on that fateful night.

The Orkney Heritage Society intend to construct a wall next to the existing Kitchener Memorial, engraved with the names of those men.

To all those involved with the project, I’m sure the families of the HMS Hampshire crew and passengers, and the inhabitants of Orkney who keenly felt their loss, will be indebted as their loved ones are eventually and finally recognised. They died serving their country.

For anyone reading this article who would like to know more about the Kitchener Memorial project, or make a donation, please email kitchener.memorial@gmail.com or go online to justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety, Facebook (@Kitchener.Memorial) or Twitter (@kitchenerorkney).

Owen Peters

Permission granted for HMS Hampshire commemorative wall

Work begins on the Kitchener Memorial restoration (image: Orkney Heritage Society)
Work begins on the Kitchener Memorial restoration (image: Orkney Heritage Society)

Have you heard the good news? Yesterday Orkney Islands Council’s Planning Committee granted planning permission for our HMS Hampshire commemorative wall, to be built alongside the Kitchener Memorial at Marwick Head, Orkney.

We issued the following press release to the media.

Graham Brown

Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project press release

Volunteers working to “better remember” 737 men who died when HMS Hampshire sank off Orkney during the First World War have secured planning permission for a commemorative wall engraved with the names of all those lost.

The wall will be a little over a metre high, made of Orkney stone, and laid out in an arc shape alongside the existing Kitchener Memorial tower. The wall will be capped in sandstone with a pillar at each end. Artist-designed carved sandstone panels will be incorporated in the pillars and the internal face of the wall will be faced in dark coloured granite to list the names.

The Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project will also see the Kitchener Memorial restored. Work began on the tower’s restoration last week (week beginning Monday 29 June) and involves restoring the stonework to its original condition, inspecting and repairing the roof, reinstating the ventilation and restoring the inspection doorway.

The contractor chosen by Orkney Heritage Society for the tower restoration and to build the wall is Casey Construction Ltd of Kirkwall.

Permission for the wall was granted by Orkney Islands Council’s Planning Committee today (Wednesday 8 July).

Graham Brown, a member of the memorial project committee, said: “We are delighted to have secured permission for the commemorative wall. We believe that, together with a restored tower, this will make a fitting place of remembrance for next year’s centenary and beyond.”

Now the volunteers have to secure funding to ensure the commemorative wall can be completed. They estimate they need at least another £15,000 to realise the project.

The Kitchener Memorial, a 48-feet high stone tower, was unveiled in 1926 to commemorate Earl Kitchener, Britain’s Secretary of State for War, who was among those lost when HMS Hampshire sank just off Orkney’s Atlantic coast on 5 June 1916.

The restored tower and wall will be officially unveiled at events marking the centenary of the sinking on Sunday 5 June 2016. Relatives of some of those lost are expected to attend.

The project committee would like to hear from anyone who may have artefacts linked to HMS Hampshire for a planned exhibition around the time of the centenary. Please email kitchener.memorial@gmail.com or write to Orkney Heritage Society, PO Box 6220, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 9AD.

Anyone who wishes to donate towards the project can do so online at justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety/ or send a cheque payable to Orkney Heritage Society.

Follow the progress of the project on Facebook (@Kitchener.Memorial), Twitter (@kitchenerorkney) and via a blog at kitchenerhampshire.wordpress.com/.

Kitchener Memorial restoration begins

The Kitchener Memorial (image: Orkney Heritage Society)
The Kitchener Memorial (image: Orkney Heritage Society)

I am delighted to report that work to restore Orkney’s Kitchener Memorial ahead of centenary commemorations next year is due to begin this week (beginning Monday 29 June).

Visitors to Marwick Head will see scaffolding on the memorial as work begins to restore the stonework to its original condition, inspect and repair the roof, reinstate the ventilation and restore the inspection doorway.

The contractor chosen by Orkney Heritage Society for the work is Casey Construction Ltd of Kirkwall.

The Kitchener Memorial, a 48-feet high stone tower, was unveiled in 1926 to commemorate Earl Kitchener, Britain’s Secretary of State for War, who was lost when HMS Hampshire sank just off Orkney’s Atlantic coast on 5 June 1916.

The restored tower will be officially unveiled at events marking the centenary of the sinking on Sunday 5 June 2016. Relatives of some of those lost are expected to attend.

Visitors to Marwick Head may be surprised to see the Kitchener Memorial surrounded by scaffolding but we think people will understand this is necessary, for a short while, to safeguard this iconic structure and ensure it is in fine condition for the centenary events.

Volunteers from the Society have now identified the names of the last of the 737 men, including Kitchener, who were lost that night. In addition to the restoration we hope to build a low arc-shaped commemorative wall alongside the tower engraved with all the men’s names. This element of the project is subject to receiving planning permission from Orkney Islands Council and sufficient funds being raised.

Anyone who wishes to donate towards the project can do so online at justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety/. Or, send a cheque, payable to Orkney Heritage Society, to Orkney Heritage Society, PO Box 6220, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 9AD.

Follow the progress of the project on Facebook (@Kitchener.Memorial), Twitter (@kitchenerorkney) and via this blog.

Graham Brown

HMS Hampshire and 737 men were lost 99 years ago today

Aerial view of the Kitchener Memorial (image: Frankie Tait)
Aerial view of the Kitchener Memorial (image: Frankie Tait)

Ninety-nine years ago tonight the British warship HMS Hampshire sank just off the coast of Orkney, in the north of Scotland, leading to the loss of 737 men, including Britain’s Secretary of State for War, Earl Kitchener.

The ship was taking Kitchener to Russia for secret talks when, at about 7.45pm, she hit a mine in atrocious weather conditions and sank in about 15 minutes.

For many years it was thought more than 600 men were lost, including Kitchener, but now our Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project has discovered the true figure to be 737.

This week we issued a press release – reproduced below – to mark the anniversary and to announce, and explain, this shocking new death toll figure.

Our project is to “better remember” all the men who were lost by building an HMS Hampshire commemorative wall, engraved with all the men’s names, alongside Orkney’s Kitchener Memorial, which we plan to restore.

There is still an annual memorial service for Earl Kitchener at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, this year on Sunday 7 June. You can find more about this on the Kitchener Scholars website: http://kitchenerscholars.org/copy-of-memorial-service-at-st-pauls-cathedral-1-1

Graham Brown

Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial press release: 4 June 2015

Volunteers working on a planned commemorative wall to more than 700 men lost on HMS Hampshire in the First World War believe they have identified all the men on board, 99 years after the sinking.

The warship sank off the coast of Orkney on 5 June 1916 while taking Earl Kitchener, Britain’s Secretary of State for War – famous for the “Your Country Needs You!” recruitment posters – to Russia for secret talks. There were only 12 survivors.

Ten years later the Kitchener Memorial, a 48-feet high stone tower overlooking the site of the sinking, was unveiled on cliffs at Marwick Head, on the Atlantic west coast of Mainland Orkney. It has a plaque which only makes brief reference to the men lost with Kitchener.

But those working for Orkney Heritage Society’s Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project want to “better remember” all those lost by building an arc-shaped low wall, engraved with their names, alongside the memorial.

It was long believed that 643 men died after HMS Hampshire hit a mine in stormy weather but recent research by Orkney historian Brian Budge discovered the names of more than 730 men who were lost, with many of the additional names being part of Kitchener’s party.

Now project committee member Andrew Hollinrake has researched online and travelled from Orkney to spend hours digging through hundreds of files at The National Archives in Kew, London, to arrive at a final figure of 737 men lost, including Kitchener. Part of his research involved untangling two family names which had been wrongly joined together.

Andrew explains: “Brian Budge had compiled a list of names from various sources including the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. This included 723 members of the ship’s complement, and most of Kitchener’s party. But more than one source referred to other, previously-unnamed civilian staff on the mission to Russia, suggesting that there were as many as 13 accompanying Kitchener.

“One of the party, Kitchener’s personal servant, was named by many sources as Henry Surguy-Shields. I discovered that this was an error, and the name listed had been a misreading of a press bulletin naming Henry Surguy and “—- Shields”, with a dash in place of Shields’ forename being mistaken for a hyphen, and so misread as a double-barrelled name.

“I visited the National Archives and, after sifting through several large volumes of documents relating to the sinking, I found not only a detailed list of the sailors lost, but also a complete list of Kitchener’s party. This included William Shields, a former soldier, valet to Lt Col Fitzgerald, Kitchener’s military secretary.

“Also listed was Frank West, personal servant to Sir H.F. Donaldson, another key member of the mission as a technical advisor to the Ministry of Munitions. I was already on the trail of West, since I’d found a reference to him in a family tree published on Ancestry.co.uk, but it was good to confirm his presence from an official, primary source!

“We’re now fairly sure we have the complete list, bringing the total to 737.”

The proposed commemorative wall’s arc shape was chosen following a public consultation. Planning permission for the wall, a little over a metre high, is being sought from Orkney Islands Council.

The project team also plan to restore the existing Kitchener Memorial to its original condition, retaining its iconic profile.

The restored tower and the commemorative wall are to be officially unveiled at events marking the centenary of the sinking on Sunday 5 June 2016. Relatives of those lost, including Kitchener, are expected to attend.

Anyone who wishes to donate towards the £200,000 cost can do so online at justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety/. The project committee is also applying for grants towards the cost and has already secured a £50,000 grant from Orkney Island Council’s Community Development Fund.

Neil Kermode, leading the project for Orkney Heritage Society, says: “As the centenary of the loss approaches, we believe the hundreds of men who died deserve to be better, and appropriately, remembered. 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 help, large and small.”

Follow the progress of the project on Facebook (@Kitchener.Memorial), Twitter (@kitchenerorkney) and via a blog at kitchenerhampshire.wordpress.com/.

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.

Orkney & Shetland feature on BBC Radio Scotland’s World War One At Home

Neil Kermode is interviewed by BBC Radio Scotland
Neil Kermode is interviewed by BBC Radio Scotland

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.

If you would like to contribute financially to the £200,000 project please do so at justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety. Thank you for your interest.

Graham Brown