The countdown continues – it is now just over three weeks until people from far and wide gather in Orkney to remember the sinking of HMS Hampshire 100 years ago and the 737 men who died on that stormy June night in 1916.
Relatives of those lost with HMS Hampshire – or HM Drifter Laurel Crown – should by now have heard from Orkney Islands Council about arrangements for the commemorative events. If you have not heard, and think you should have done, please contact Susan Learmonth by email – Susan.Learmonth@orkney.gov.uk – or telephone 01856 873535.
If you live in Orkney look out in this week’s edition of The Orcadian for a programme of events, published by Orkney Islands Council, marking the centenaries of the Battle of Jutland and the loss of HMS Hampshire.
For those of you elsewhere please keep an eye on this page on the council’s website which is being updated with further information:
Meanwhile, as promised in this blog’s headline, we can bring you exciting news of a new book about HMS Hampshire. The Orkney Heritage Society announcement follows.
Orkney Heritage Society announces the forthcoming publication of a book to commemorate the centenary of the loss of HMS Hampshire:
HMS Hampshire: a Century of Myths and Mysteries Unravelled
by James Irvine, Brian Budge, Jude Callister, Kevin Heath, Andrew Hollinrake, Issy Grieve, Keith Johnson, Neil Kermode, Michael Lowrey, Tom Muir, Emily Turton and Ben Wade
The book assembles hitherto unused contemporary evidence to explore the causes and circumstances of the loss of HMS Hampshire on 5 June 1916 and the associated myths and mysteries.
It will include the new Roll of Honour, accounts of Hampshire, Lord Kitchener and the mission to Russia, the rescue efforts and associated rumours and outrage, the conspiracy theories, the minelaying and minesweeping operations, the loss of HM Drifter Laurel Crown, the Kitchener Memorial, the diving expeditions on the wreck, the artefacts, and the centenary events, and notes on the survivors and many of the men who lost their lives (brief contributions still welcomed).
This A4 120 page illustrated case-bound book will be launched on 30 August 2016 and retail at £25 plus postage & packing. All proceeds, including authors’ royalties, will go to the Orkney Heritage Society for the Kitchener Memorial refurbishment project.
Two pre-launch offers are available for orders placed before 20 August 2016 (this has been extended from 30 June 2016):
Either: Copies may be ordered for £25 with free UK postage and packing
(plus £5 supplement for Europe, £10 supplement for rest of world);
Or: Copies may be ordered for £20, ie 20% off, for personal collection in exchange for receipt at the launch on 30 August, or thereafter from Lucy Gibbon at The Orkney Archive, Junction Road, Kirkwall.
Payment for the above pre-launch offers may be by:
Either: cheque payable to “The Orkney Heritage Society” and sent to the OHS Treasurer, PO Box 6220, Kirkwall, KW15 9AD. Please enclose name, email address (for receipt), and (for postal option) delivery address;
Or: cash or cheque at the Birsay Community Hall on 3 to 5 June, 11am – 5pm and evenings.
Please note: this blog was amended on 13 May 2016 to change the url of the Orkney Islands Council webpage giving information about centenary events and to add a link to Orkney Heritage Society’s PayPal facility. It was further amended on 5 July 2016 to reflect the new final date of 20 August 2016 for book pre-launch offers.
It is hard to believe that on Sunday it will only be four weeks until centenary commemorations take place to mark the loss of HMS Hampshire and 737 men, close to the Orkney coast, during the First World War. The restored Kitchener Memorial at Marwick Head will be officially unveiled, together with the new HMS Hampshire wall engraved with the names of all those lost.
Meanwhile, we have some exciting news in today from the University of the Highlands and Islands about a survey of the wreck due to take place tomorrow. Their press release below explains all.
HMS Hampshire condition assessment
HMS Hampshire struck a mine at 19.40 on the 5th June 1916 while transporting Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, to Archangel in northern Russia for a meeting with Tsar Nicholas II. She sank within 20 minutes, with the loss of 737 lives, including Lord Kitchener. Only 12 of the company survived. The German U-boat U-75 laid the mine on the 29th of May 1916 off Marwick Head in Orkney.
HMS Hampshire, a Devonshire class armoured cruiser, was completed in 1905. Joining the Grand Fleet in January 1915 she played a minimal role in the Battle of Jutland from the 31st May to the 1st June 1916, before being assigned to the transport of Lord Kitchener.
Presently, the wreck lies upside down in approximately 60 metres of water, surrounded by a large debris field. The HMS Hampshire site was designated in 2002, under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. There have previously only been two remote surveys of the wreck since the salvage activities of 1977 to 1983.
The condition assessment of HMS Hampshire will be the first extensive mapping of the wreck site since her sinking in 1916. It is a collaborative project between ORCA Marine, University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute and Seatronics, an Acteon company.
It aims to assess the condition of the wreck a hundred years after she tragically sank, documenting the impact of salvage activities and environmental factors on the integrity of the remains.
Sandra Henry, University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, Marine Archaeologist, said: “It is really significant in the run up to the centenary of the HMS Hampshire to carry out a condition survey and map the extent of the wreck site. This survey is being undertaken as a mark of respect and remembrance for those who lost their lives aboard, and all those who lost their lives at sea during the First World War.”
Alistair Coutts, Senior Sales & Business Development Manager, Seatronics, said: “We are delighted to be collaborating on this exciting project on this historic anniversary. Our aim is to use our Predator inspection class ROV to survey the wreckage along with the latest 2D and 3D scanning technology to identify key areas of interest, providing informative imagery and insight into the current conditions of the site.”
This project has received funding and sponsorship from Interface, Orkney Islands Council and Northlink Ferries.
When we started our Kitchener and HMS Hampshire Memorial project to “Better Remember” the hundreds of men who were lost one stormy summer night in the First World War the centenary of the tragedy seemed a long way away.
But now it is less than four months until folk will gather at Marwick Head, Orkney on 5 June 2016 to commemorate the men who were lost with HMS Hampshire. How is the Orkney Heritage Society project progressing?
Well, the existing Kitchener Memorial, a 48-feet high stone tower built in 1926, is now restored – the roof is repaired, the pointing finished, only the concrete apron remains to be finished.
Work to build the new commemorative Hampshire wall will start soon. An order has already been placed with engravers who will carve in granite the 737 names of the men lost with the warship, along with the nine lost shortly afterwards on HM Drifter Laurel Crown.
The money to complete the project is still a few thousand pounds short of what we need. Thank you to everyone who has helped so far, if you would like to donate please go to our JustGiving page.
Meanwhile the Birsay Heritage Trust’s Remembering The Hampshire project is also making good progress. Many of you have offered artefacts and mementoes for the exhibition to be held, near Marwick Head, at Birsay Community Hall from 3 to 5 June.
If you think you can help with artefacts of HMS Hampshire and her crew and passengers, including Earl Kitchener, or spare time as a volunteer, please contact Alan Manzie, Birsay Community Development Worker (details at the bottom of this blog entry).
Our family and naval historian Andrew Hollinrake is turning up some fascinating stories about the men who were lost with HMS Hampshire. Just one example is a surprising cricket link. The Hampshire’s chaplain Rev Philip George Alexander was married to Fannie, niece of perhaps England’s most-famous cricketer W.G. Grace. You can read more about the chaplain on the webpage The history of the War Memorial, Downend, Bristol.
Speaking of Andrew, he will be giving a talk about HMS Hampshire at an event next week, Friday 26 February, which falls exactly 100 days before the centenary of the warship’s loss. Birsay Heritage Trust is hosting an Orkney Seafarer’s Group lunch in the Hampshire lounge at the Barony Hotel, Birsay. Tickets price £6 are on sale from Voluntary Action Orkney, 6 Bridge Street, Kirkwall until Wednesday 24 February.
Plans for the centenary weekend itself are falling into place. Information about the weekend’s events, and those for the Battle of Jutland centenary a few days earlier, are available on the Orkney Islands Council website.
Shortly afterwards the St Magnus International Festival will mark both centenaries when the St Magnus Festival Chorus and BBC Symphony Orchestra perform Stanford’s Songs of the Fleet. They are also performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and rehearsals begin on Monday 22 February. More information on the festival website.
To find out more and help
Anyone who would like to offer artefacts or memories, or act as a volunteer, can contact Alan Manzie, Birsay Community Development Worker, by telephone (07503 519328), email (Alan.Manzie@vaorkney.org.uk) or by writing to: Alan Manzie, Birsay Community Development Worker, Voluntary Action Orkney, Anchor Buildings, 6 Bridge Street, Kirkwall, KW15 1HR.
Families of those who were lost with HMS Hampshire, and the Laurel Crown, are encouraged to contact our historian Andrew Hollinrake via the above Facebook, Twitter, blog or website contacts, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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, KW15 9AD.
With less than eight months to go until the centenary of the sinking of HMS Hampshire, just off Orkney on 5 June 1916, we are starting to hear from more and more relatives of the men who were lost.
It is a privilege to be a volunteer on our project – to restore Orkney’s Kitchener Memorial and create an HMS Hampshire commemorative wall – and to receive so many treasured mementoes, memories and photographs.
Meg Hartford is one relative who has unearthed a number of articles and cuttings. For our latest blog we are publishing her own story, as she tells it, of her great uncle. We’ve edited Meg’s account slightly to reflect the revised death toll – for many years it was thought that about 650 men were drowned when HMS Hampshire hit a mine, we now know it was 737.
Robert Brotherton Black, R.N.
Robert Brotherton Black, my grandfather’s brother, was born on 9 April 1890 in Westoe, South Shields.
The Black family were originally from Kilrenny in Fife but by the late 1700s had settled in Blyth. They were sailors and owned several vessels including the Caroline, which was captured by the French off Dungeness in 1809, and the Agenoria which traded between Scandinavia, the Mediterranean and various North East ports.
Robert’s father was James William Black, born in Blyth in October 1856. He was recorded as a sailor in the 1881 census but also spent time working as a driller in the shipyards before returning to the sea. He was lost when the benzine ship, The Vedra, grounded, caught fire and sank in Morecambe Bay in December 1914.
The Brotherton name comes from his mother, Margaret Kelly Brotherton, born in South Shields in 1857. The Brothertons were also of Scottish descent. The family are to be found in Leith in 1841. In the census returns, four sons of Adam, a seaman, and Christiana Brotherton are recorded as merchant seamen. Several of them settled in North and South Shields, married local girls and became mates and masters of vessels.
James William Black married Margaret Kelly Brotherton in South Shields on 15 September 1879. In 1881 they lived at Dairy Lane, Westoe with Adam Brotherton Black, aged seven months. By 1891 three more children had been born, Caroline in 1884, James William in 1886 (my grandfather) and Robert Brotherton Black in 1890. The family had two rooms at 34 Wellington Street, Westoe.
Between 1891 and 1901 the family moved to Sunderland. In the 1901 census 10-year-old Robert and his family lived in two rooms at 3 Wall Street, Hendon. His father and brother Adam were working in the shipyards.
Not surprisingly, considering his family history, Robert went to sea. He joined The Royal Navy on 1 June 1908, signing on for 12 years. His official Royal Navy number was K.13405. Before joining the Royal Navy, Robert had served aboard the SS Napo, formerly the Harmony, a Sunderland-built merchant vessel.
In 1911 he was an Assistant Leading Stoker aboard HMS Superb which was docked at Portsmouth. He remained on this vessel until 5 May 1913.
The Superb was a Bellerophon-class battleship. The vessel was built at Armstrong Whitworth’s Elswick yard and commissioned in 1909. Robert’s brother, James, a brass moulder, was employed at Armstrong’s, Elswick, for many years.
Robert married Ethel Whatcott in Sunderland in the October quarter of 1912. She was born on 19 April 1890 in Sunderland.
Robert was also deployed as an Assistant Leading Stoker on board the Victory II and the Fisgard until June 1913 when he was upgraded to acting Stoker Petty Office on board the Fisgard. He continued with this rating during deployments to the Victory II for a second time and to the Europa.
On 27 January 1914 Robert joined HMS Hampshire, a Devonshire-class armoured cruiser, on the China Station and he was commissioned as a Petty Officer, Stoker on 16 October 1914.
HMS Hampshire was another Armstrong Whitworth vessel, launched on 24 September 1903 at Elswick. Her first assignment was to the 1st Cruiser Squadron of The Channel Fleet. She underwent a refit at Portsmouth in December 1908 and after time in the Reserve and Mediterranean Fleets she was transferred to the China Station in 1912.
When the First World War was declared HMS Hampshire was still part of the China Station. At the end of August 1914 she sailed to the Bay of Bengal to search for the German light cruiser, Emdem, which was attacking British shipping. She remained there with other vessels until Emden was destroyed on 9 November by HMAS Sydney.
Hampshire then escorted an ANZAC troopship through the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea to Gibraltar where she was refitted in December 1914. In January 1915 she was assigned to the Grand Fleet and later that year was escorting shipping in the White Sea.
HMS Hampshire, as part of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, was present at the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916, but she did not engage the enemy.
Immediately after the battle she was ordered to carry Lord Kitchener and his staff from Scapa Flow in Orkney to Archangel on a diplomatic mission to the Russians.
On 5 June 1916 the weather in the Orkneys was bad, gale force winds were blowing, so it was decided the Hampshire would sail through the Pentland Firth to shelter from the worst effects of the wind. As she met with her escort vessels, the destroyers Unity and Victor at 5.45pm, the gale became stronger and the wind changed direction, so that the convoy were heading directly into it. The escort ships were unable to keep up with the Hampshire.
At 7.40pm the Hampshire was between The Brough of Birsay and Marwick Head, off Orkney mainland, when she struck a mine and an explosion ripped through the ship causing her to heel to starboard. The explosion holed the cruiser between the bows and the bridge and the lifeboats were smashed against her side by the heavy seas as the crew attempted to lower them. About 15 minutes later the Hampshire sank by the bows with the loss of 737 men, including Petty Officer Robert Brotherton Black and Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War. Only 12 crew managed to reach safety.
Robert’s body was not recovered for burial.
A small piece in the Sunderland Echo of 12 June 1916 gives details of an official notice and letter that his widow, Ethel, would have received…
Ethel and Robert had no children. Ethel did not remarry. I remember her 35 years later, living in Priory Grove, Sunderland. She was great friends with my grandmother and they visited each other regularly. In fact my grandmother stayed with her for several weeks while our house in Brookland Road was repaired after suffering bomb damage in World War II.
Ethel died in 1978 aged 88.
As a child I remember the adults talking about the Battle of Jutland. I took little notice except to look it up in my atlas. Over 50 years later what they were saying finally made sense to me as I discovered my great uncle’s naval career and sad end.
We are also seeking artefacts linked to HMS Hampshire for a planned exhibition around the time of the centenary. Please email email@example.com or write to Orkney Heritage Society, PO Box 6220, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 9AD, UK.
It’s been a notable week for naval history here in Orkney.
On Monday the UK Government announced plans for the centenary commemoration of the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval battle of the First World War, in which 6,000 British and 2,500 German personnel died.
Orkney will play a central role in the events on 31 May 2016 with a service at St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall and a ceremony at the Royal Naval Cemetery, Lyness, Hoy.
Also this week, on Wednesday, it was the 76th anniversary of the HMS Royal Oak disaster, which is always marked with poignant commemorations here in Orkney. She was torpedoed by a U-boat while in Scapa Flow with the loss of 834 lives in the early days of the Second World War.
Meanwhile our work on the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire project continues – we are restoring Orkney’s Kitchener Memorial and creating a memorial wall engraved with the names of all 737 men lost with HMS Hampshire in time for the centenary on 5 June 2016.
Today we make a significant announcement. We are going to include on the wall the names of nine men who died when HM Drifter Laurel Crown sank in the same minefield as Hampshire on 22 June 1916. They include George Petrie, who came from Burray, Orkney.
Below is the press release we issued to the media this week. You may have heard about our plans to remember the Laurel Crown on BBC Radio Orkney this morning, or read about them in today’s The Orcadian (page 5) and in the Press & Journal.
Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project press release
Laurel Crown crew to be remembered on Hampshire memorial
Volunteers creating a memorial wall for 737 men lost with HMS Hampshire in the First World War will also commemorate nine more men – including an Orcadian – lost in the same minefield later the same month.
HMS Hampshire sank near Orkney’s Atlantic coast on 5 June 1916 after hitting a German mine while sailing to Russia. The dead included Britain’s Secretary of State for War, Earl Kitchener.
On 22 June HM Drifter Laurel Crown was one of eight vessels on their way to sweep for mines near the site of the disaster when she too struck a mine and was lost, with all hands.
The names of the nine Laurel Crown men who died will be engraved on the HMS Hampshire commemorative wall being created next to the Kitchener Memorial at Marwick Head. They include George Petrie, aged 32, a married man with one son from Burray.
Military historian Brian Budge has researched his background: “George Petrie was born at Wart, Burray on 8th August 1883, the oldest son of Crofter George Petrie and Betsy Petrie (née Brown). George’s parents had both died and he was working as a fisherman when he married Flora Taylor on 10th September 1914. They made their home at Wart and had a son, also called George.
“George enrolled into the Royal Naval Reserve at Kirkwall on 15th May 1916. He reported to HMS Zaria, an Auxiliary Patrol depot ship based at Longhope in Scapa Flow and soon joined the crew of HM Drifter Laurel Crown as a deck hand.”
After the sinking Engineman Thomas Baker’s body was recovered, identified and buried in Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Hoy. George Petrie and four more of the crew are commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, on Southsea Common, Hampshire. George is also remembered on a family gravestone in Burray Cemetery.
The loss of the Laurel Crown was brought to the attention of Orkney Heritage Society’s Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project by marine historian Kevin Heath, of SULA Diving, after he heard about the group’s plans at a public meeting.
Neil Kermode, project chair, said: “We started this project wanting to ‘better remember’ the men who died alongside Earl Kitchener in 1916. It seems entirely fitting that we should also commemorate those lost shortly afterwards on the Laurel Crown in the same minefield.”
The project’s volunteers are restoring the Kitchener Memorial and creating the commemorative wall in time for events on 5 June 2016 marking the centenary of the warship’s loss. Many donations of money, time and goods have been received but the volunteers estimate they need a further £15,000 to ensure work is finished before the centenary.
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.
The project committee would also 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Orkney Heritage Society, PO Box 6220, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 9AD, UK.
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: email@example.com). 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.