This week has brought news of two surveys of the wreck of HMS Hampshire, which sank after hitting a mine off Orkney on 5 June 1916. At the time she was taking Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, to Russia for talks. In all, 737 men died, and only 12 survived.
You may have read on our blog about the ROV (remotely operated underwater vehicle) survey to be carried out by the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Archaeology Institute.
That survey went ahead earlier this month – with one of our project’s volunteers, Andrew Hollinrake, on board – and the first results have been announced.
The survey confirms previous findings that HMS Hampshire capsized as she sank and lies with an upturned hull on the seabed, in approximately 60 metres of water.
The superstructure is compressed and buried in the silt of the seabed. The hull is damaged in places, exposing parts of the interior, including torpedo tubes and machinery.
Update to blog (28.5.16): On Wednesday (1 June) at 7.30pm there will be an illustrated talk ‘Remembering The Hampshire’, presented by the Archaeology Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands, using some of the dive footage and scans. It’s at Birsay Community Hall and it’s a free event.
We are delighted to hear that the Woodland Trust Scotland is to create an HMS Hampshire Centenary Wood on land owned by Orkney Islands Council.
The 746 trees will commemorate the 737 men lost with HMS Hampshire, which sank close to Orkney on 5 June 1916, and the nine men lost soon afterwards on HM Drifter Laurel Crown, who include Orcadian George Petrie from Burray.
Help is needed from the public to plant the trees, on land close to Kirkwall Grammar School, on Saturday 2 April. Free refreshments will be provided and car parking is available.
Jenny Taylor, local woodland consultant, worked with the trust to identify the site and choose the trees. She appeared on BBC Radio Orkney today to talk about the project, along with Andrew Hollinrake, from the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project. They spoke to Fionn McArthur (about 10 minutes into the programme):
Kirkwall tree planting tribute to HMS Hampshire
For immediate release – 15 March 2016
The Woodland Trust Scotland will plant hundreds of trees in Kirkwall on Saturday 2 April to create HMS Hampshire Centenary Wood ahead of the centenary of the ship’s sinking off Marwick Head in June.
746 trees including hawthorn, hazel and rowan will be planted on land owned by Orkney Islands Council near to Kirkwall Grammar School.
Members of the public are invited to help plant the trees from 11am to 4pm. Car parking is available opposite Kirkwall Grammar School and free refreshments will be provided.
Jillian Donnachie from the Woodland Trust Scotland said: “The First World War affected every community in Britain. Through our Centenary Woods project we are planting millions of trees across the country as a special thanks to everyone who took part in the conflict.
“Thanks to Orkney Islands Council and our lead partner Sainsbury’s we are able to create the HMS Hampshire Centenary Wood in Kirkwall, which will stand as a growing tribute to those who lost their lives in the tragic events of June 1916.”
Orkney Island Council’s Convener, Steven Heddle, said: “With the national World War 1 commemorations taking place in Orkney this year, the HMS Hampshire Centenary Wood in Kirkwall will be an ongoing reminder of all the men who lost their lives from the sinking of the ship.
“The loss of the HMS Hampshire led to the building of Kitchener’s Memorial, where the names of those who died will be unveiled on a new memorial wall in June.
“Trees are something that will grow and develop over time and will continue to remind the people of Orkney of the sacrifice of those who gave their lives in the service of their country.”
The saplings represent each of the men who died during the sinking of HMS Hampshire and the HM Drifter Laurel Crown. Both vessels sank in June 1916 after hitting mines off Marwick Head, Birsay.
HMS Hampshire was carrying Lord Kitchener to secret talks in Russia when it sank on June 5. 737 men drowned with just 12 survivors. The nine crewmen of the Laurel Crown, including Deck Hand George Petrie from Burray, died when it sank on June 22nd.
The Woodland Trust’s First World War Centenary Woods project will see four flagship woods created across the UK alongside many smaller community woods and millions of trees planted to honour all those involved in the First World War.
The First World War Centenary Woods are located at Langley Vale, Surrey, Dreghorn Woods, near Edinburgh, Coed Ffos Las in Carmarthenshire and Brackfield Wood in County Londonderry. The project is supported by lead partner Sainsbury’s, helping the Woodland Trust to plant millions of native trees to commemorate the First World War.
The Woodland Trust Scotland
The Trust has three key aims: i) to plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife; ii) to protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable; iii) restoration of damaged ancient woodland, allowing native flora and fauna to return.
Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering approximately 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres). In 1984, the Trust acquired its first wood in Scotland. Today the Trust owns 80 sites across Scotland covering 8,750 hectares.
The Woodland Trust is a charity registered in Scotland (No SC038885) and in England and Wales (No 294344). A non-profit making company limited by guarantee. Registered in England No 1982873. Registered Office: Kempton Way, Grantham, Lincolnshire, NG31 6LL. The Woodland Trust logo is a registered trademark.
Sainsbury’s has supported the Woodland Trust since 2004 with the launch of free range Woodland eggs. Since then donations through product sales have expanded to chicken, turkey, apples and honey. The partnership has helped the Woodland Trust to plant two million trees, including establishing a special Sainsbury’s Wood at The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Wood in Leicestershire. The partnership has also enabled the Woodland Trust to provide support and advice to Sainsbury’s on tree planting and maintenance to deliver to their farmers across the UK. Most recently, Sainsbury’s is supporting Woodland Trust’s First World War Centenary Woods project, where four new woods and millions of trees will be planted to commemorate the First World War.
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.
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.”
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.
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…
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/.
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.