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

 

Plans coming together for HMS Hampshire centenary

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A view of Marwick Head, with Kitchener Memorial in the distance (image: Scott McIvor)

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.

Alternatively, contact can be made through through Facebook (@Kitchener.Memorial), Twitter (@kitchenerorkney), this blog or the new HMS Hampshire history website, www.hmshampshire.org.

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 kitchener.memorial@gmail.com.

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.

Graham Brown

Remembering The Hampshire

A Birsay Heritage Trust project

Do you think you might have artefacts related to the loss of HMS Hampshire, or to Lord Kitchener, famous for the First World War “Your Country Needs You!” recruitment posters?

If so, Birsay Heritage Trust would love to hear from you. The group’s volunteers are arranging an exhibition to mark the centenary of the sinking of the warship off Orkney with the loss of 737 men, including Kitchener.

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HMS Hampshire (image: © IWM (Q 39007))

Keith Johnson, Chairman, Birsay Heritage Trust, believes there may be artefacts, photographs, letters and memorabilia hidden away in cupboards, attics and sheds which would be of great interest to the public. Or, perhaps you have a family story related to the Hampshire to be told?

A replica of HMS Hampshire has been specially commissioned as a contribution to the “Remembering The Hampshire” exhibition, to be held from 3 to 5 June at Birsay Community Hall, Orkney.

The model, expected to be around one metre long, is to be built by professional model maker, Paul Tyer, of Peedie Models, Tankerness, using Admiralty plans obtained by the trust.

HMS Hampshire was taking Earl Kitchener, Britain’s Secretary of State for War, to Russia for talks when she sank on 5 June 1916. There were only 12 survivors.

Keith Johnson said: “We hope the exhibition will interest local people and the many visitors expected here in June to remember the loss of the crew of HMS Hampshire, as well as Lord Kitchener and his staff, when she foundered after hitting a mine off Marwick Head.

“We are appealing to folk throughout Orkney, and the UK and abroad, for items, photographs, and memories.”

The trust will work with Voluntary Action Orkney to record oral memories which will be made public in both audio and written formats, and preserved for posterity.

Volunteers will be trained in the correct use of the equipment, and in the techniques used to best “draw out” family memories and stories from people who have come forward. Help is also needed to staff the exhibition throughout its opening times.

Birsay Heritage Trust’s Remembering The Hampshire – supported by Orkney Island Council’s World War I Culture Fund – is intended to complement Orkney Heritage Society’s Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project which will see the Kitchener Memorial at Marwick Head restored and a commemorative wall created alongside, engraved with the names of all men lost with the warship.

On Sunday 5 June, the centenary of the sinking, an evening service will be held at Marwick Head, Orkney. It is expected the nearby Birsay Community Hall will be the hub of activities that weekend with talks, films and catering.

Mr Johnson said: “We hope the exhibition events will be a focal point for those attending the centenary events, enriching their visit and offering them some Orkney hospitality.”

All historic items not needing to be returned afterwards will be held by Birsay Heritage Trust and publicly shown, on an ad hoc basis, as opportunity arises.

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.

Alternatively, contact can be made through through Facebook (@Kitchener.Memorial), Twitter (@kitchenerorkney), this blog or the new HMS Hampshire history website, www.hmshampshire.org.

Thank you.

Graham Brown

 

HMS Hampshire commemorative wall: Arc design selected

The arc design for the HMS Hampshire commemorative wall (image: Leslie Burgher)
The arc design for the HMS Hampshire commemorative wall (image: Leslie Burgher)

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.

“Finally, thank you to everyone who has already contributed financially towards this project via our fund-raising page justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety/.”

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…

https://soundcloud.com/radio-orkney/around-orkney-24th-april-2015.

I will be at the cinema on 8 May, perhaps I’ll see you there.

Graham Brown

Options for HMS Hampshire memorial wall on display

A display of plans for our proposed memorial wall bearing the names of more than 700 men lost when HMS Hampshire sank opens today (Thursday 26 March) at Birsay Community Hall, West Mainland, Orkney.

Three options are shown for the wall, planned to be built next to Orkney’s Kitchener Memorial in order to “better remember” those who died alongside Earl Kitchener on HMS Hampshire.

Options for the HMS Hampshire Memorial wall
Options for the HMS Hampshire Memorial wall

The display will be in Birsay Community Hall until Monday 6 April. Residents and visitors are invited to comment via a questionnaire on the options, which are a square wall around the existing monument, a square with a cut-off corner, and an arc.

The commemorative wall is part of the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project, organised by Orkney Heritage Society with support from Birsay Heritage Trust. The Kitchener Memorial itself will be restored to its original 1926 condition, retaining its iconic profile.

Neil Kermode, chair of the project, said: “Fundraising is underway and after extensive consultation the erection of a low wall bearing the names of all those lost is now proposed. Three schemes have been designed and public opinion is being sought as to which is best.”

HMS Hampshire sank in a storm off Orkney on 5 June 1916 after hitting a mine. It was long believed that 643 men died but research for the memorial project has identified the names of 736 lost. There were 12 survivors.

Earl Kitchener, a member of the British Cabinet and Secretary of State for War when he died, was travelling to Russia for talks. He is perhaps best known today as the face of the “Your Country Needs You!” recruiting posters.

The planned commemorative wall, subject to planning permission, will be a little over a metre high. Local building stone will be used for the seaward side. The names of the 736 men who died, including Kitchener, will be engraved in granite in order to be more weather resistant.

The restoration and commemorative wall are to be officially unveiled at events marking the centenary of the sinking on Sunday 5 June 2016.

If you are unable to visit Birsay Community Hall you can see and comment on the drawings via the project’s web outlets: Facebook (@Kitchener.Memorial), Twitter (@kitchenerorkney) and, of course, this blog.

Also, comments may be emailed to kitchener.memorial@gmail.com or posted to: Neil Kermode, Quarry House, Finstown, Orkney, KW17 2JY.

Finally, a few more updates on the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project.

Grant applications are in with the War Memorials Trust, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Orkney Islands Council Community Development Fund. We should hear about all of these in April.

We are grateful for the donations coming into our JustGiving page and as cheques. We want to say a sincere thank you for this, but are grappling with the finer points of JustGiving’s website and confidentiality. However in lieu of a personal note we really do appreciate the heartfelt support we have found.

You can make donations to this £200,000 project via justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety/.

And we have had our first confirmations of relatives coming to the centenary in June 2016, both of HMS Hampshire crew and Earl Kitchener. We look forward to making them welcome in Orkney.

Graham Brown