A memorial for generations to come

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Centenary commemoration for the men of HMS Hampshire and HM Drifter Laurel Crown (image: Lucy Gibbon)

On Sunday the people of Orkney welcomed relatives of 737 men who were lost when HMS Hampshire sank in the First World War for a centenary commemoration.

HMS Hampshire hit a German mine about 1.5 miles off Orkney’s Atlantic coast in atrocious weather conditions. Only 12 crew survived.

The Kitchener Memorial, a 48-feet high stone tower on Marwick Head, Orkney, overlooking the site of the tragedy, was unveiled in 1926 to remember Britain’s Secretary of State for War, one of the men who died.

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HMS Hampshire commemorative wall (image: Orkney Heritage Society)

But no other names appear on the tower so Orkney Heritage Society, while restoring it, also created an adjacent low arc-shaped wall engraved with the names of everyone who was lost on the night of 5 June 1916.

On 22 June 1916 nine more men, including Orcadian George Petrie, were lost when HM Drifter Laurel Crown hit another mine nearby. Their names are also on the wall.

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The HM Drifter Laurel Crown panel on the wall (image: Orkney Heritage Society)

The new wall was unveiled as part of Sunday evening’s service and there was a two-minute silence at the actual time of the sinking.

The feedback from the relatives after the service – and the weekend hospitality organised by Birsay Heritage Trust  – is heart-warming. Comments include: “Thank you from my heart… I and my party were made to feel like old friends. I do hope I can revisit your lovely island again… The islanders did us all proud… a truly memorable event in my life.”

The service was broadcast on the internet, and can be viewed again here:

http://livestream.com/accounts/19161857/Hampshire

One person watching online was Liz Granby, who was moved to write: “l am thinking of you all on this special day. I have just written this in remembrance of those men whose names are on the memorial, especially my uncle George Edwin Smith. Thank you to the people of Orkney for remembering the Hampshire.”

The seagulls cried and the sea rose up 100 years ago today,
As the brave men on the Hampshire sailed out into the bay.
The cold black mine that lay in wait bobbed up and down with the waves,
Waiting patiently for the ship to hit and to take those brave lads to a watery grave.
Let us remember all those men, and read their names with pride.
Carved here on this Grand Memorial as we stand side by side.

Liz Granby

Children from Dounby Community School in Orkney made a recording of the names of all the men lost with HMS Hampshire which was played as people arrived for the service. You can hear their living tribute in full here:

https://soundcloud.com/milestone-kirk/hms-hampshire-memorial-list-of-names

A key theme of the service was established with a poem in three parts by Rev David McNeish, one of the ministers who led the service:

Let there be stones
– on the centenary of the loss of HMS Hampshire

Let there be a tower of stones.
A monument to a man and more.
A refuge from the inhospitable sea.
Hewn from rock,
Raised by the people of Orkney.

Let there be a tower of stones.
At the nearest point of land.
The highest point of survey.
A beacon of solidity.
A fixture for generations to come.

Let there be a tower of stones.
____________________

Let there be a wall of stones.  
Gathered in an arc
The curve of horizons
And protective arms
The shelter stones of harbour
And safe passage.

Let there be a wall of stones.
Built on solid foundations
Strengthened against the battering wind.
And fashioned by hands who know how to neighbour rocks.
This is no hasty undertaking.

Let there be a wall of stones.
To better remember.
And on this wall.
Let every name be etched.
Every name recalled,
Every life valued and mourned
In grief and gratitude.

Let there be a wall of stones.
__________________

Let there be living stones.
People cut and crafted in different places.
Forged in different fires
Pressed in different circumstances.
Gathered in reflection.

Let there be living stones.
Succeeding generations
Of survivors, of relatives,
Of locals.
For voices that were silenced
May the stones themselves cry out.
Recalling details and dramas long since played out.
Petitioning the wind for forgiveness.

Let there be living stones.
Men and women who stand
Against all injustice
Against all hatred and tyranny.
Against every act of oppression
Whose lives are prayers for peace,
Vital poems of compassion
And monuments of mercy.

Let there be living stones.

Rev David McNeish

There are many reports online and in print about Sunday’s events, and lots of wonderful photographs on social media. Orkney’s weekly newspaper, The Orcadian, has produced a splendid commemorative pull-out.

Some of the online reports…

http://www.orcadian.co.uk/2016/06/hundreds-gather-remember-loss-hms-hampshire/

http://www.centenarynews.com/article/orkney-remembers-the-dead-of-hms-hampshire

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-36443888

http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/defence/service-commemorates-the-men-of-hms-hampshire-1-7416919

Elsewhere individuals and organisations posted biographies, or photographs, of the men who were on HMS Hampshire and these include…

https://dailydiaryww1.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/june-5-1916/

https://mitchamwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/walter-ewing-lost-with-the-hampshire/

https://history.blog.gov.uk/2016/06/06/hugh-obeirne-and-the-sinking-of-hms-hampshire-a-diplomat-remembered/

A huge thank you to everyone who was involved with the weekend events, the service, the restoration of the Kitchener Memorial and the creation of the HMS Hampshire wall.

And thank you to everyone who attended the service at Marwick Head, to those who watched on a big screen at nearby Birsay Community Hall, and those who joined via the internet.

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The final engraved panel on the HMS Hampshire commemorative wall (image: Orkney Heritage Society)

The following morning it was touching to see some of the relatives of the men lost with HMS Hampshire return to look again at the names engraved in the wall.

For generations to come there will be visitors to see the Kitchener Memorial and the HMS Hampshire wall – to remember, to wonder, to commemorate and to discover the events of 5 June 1916.

Graham Brown

 

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

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/.