HMS Hampshire centenary: one week to go

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Aerial view of since-completed restoration work at Kitchener Memorial, showing the arc-shape of HMS Hampshire wall to be unveiled on 5 June 2016 (image: Scott McIvor)

In seven days’ time we will gather in Orkney to remember the 737 men who died when HMS Hampshire sank on 5 June 1916.

The centenary commemorations are not confined to Orkney though. We have heard of events in Norfolk and Winchester, while others in the UK and around the world will join via the internet or through quiet reflection at home.

HMS Hampshire was sailing to Russia in stormy conditions when she hit a mine at about 8.45pm, British Summer Time, just off Marwick Head, Orkney. There were only 12 survivors.

There will be a service to remember these men from 8.00pm on Sunday 5 June on Marwick Head, adjacent to the Kitchener Memorial. The service ends at 8.45 with a two-minute silence.

During the service the new HMS Hampshire commemorative wall, an Orkney Heritage Society project, will be unveiled. The low arc-shaped wall is engraved with the names of all 737 men, as well as the nine who died when HM Drifter Laurel Crown was lost on 22 June 1916.

Incidentally, the society has received many generous donations, and grants, towards the cost of the wall. If you feel you would like to help there is a JustGiving page.

We have posted, on Facebook, some advice for those attending the service. Key points include: make sure you book a place at the service and on the shuttle buses; if you are a visitor to Orkney, please note it may be surprisingly cold and wet on Marwick Head; and it is a steep walk to the Kitchener Memorial from the bus drop-off point.

The service will be streamed on the internet and onto a screen at Birsay Community Hall. For the latter, book here.

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Three men whose names will be on the new wall: George Petrie of Orkney (left), JWH Beechey (top right) and AG Watts (bottom right)

Birsay Heritage Trust has organised a series of centenary events under the banner Remembering The Hampshire.

These include an HMS Hampshire exhibition at Birsay Community Hall, Orkney on Friday 3 June, Saturday 4 June and Monday 6 June from 11.00am to 5.00pm. Historic artefacts will be on display, along with a new model of the ship made by Paul Tyer of Peedie Models, Orkney – and there will be cream teas.

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The cover of the book – HMS Hampshire: A Century Of Myths And Mysteries Unravelled

There will also be a chance to order the new Orkney Heritage Society book,  HMS Hampshire: A Century Of Myths And Mysteries Unravelled, to meet editor James Irvine and for relatives of the crew and passengers of HMS Hampshire to contribute short anecdotes for inclusion in the book.

And you will be able to see three new sketches by Belgian artist Koen Broucke, who is attending the exhibition. Two of the acrylic and pencil sketches depict Marwick Head, one showing the Kitchener Memorial when it was being restored by Orkney Heritage Society, and the third is entitled The Return Of The Hampshire. After the exhibition the sketches will be loaned to the Orkney Islands Council collection.

Other events include:

Wednesday 1 June, 7.30pm: Illustrated talk, Remembering The Hampshire, presented by the Archaeology Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands. Birsay Community Hall. Free event.

Friday 3 June, 6.30 & 8.30pm, also Saturday 4 June, 7.30pm: Birsay Drama Group & Friends present A Fitful Sea, a commemorative programme in narrative, poetry, music and song, at Birsay Community Hall. Tickets from: OIC Customer Services, Kirkwall; Warehouse Buildings, Stromness; Dounby Post Office; Palace Stores, Birsay.

Saturday 4 June, 3.00pm: The Battles Of Coronel And Falkland Islands film show, Birsay Community Hall.

A full list of events linked to the HMS Hampshire centenary, and that of the Battle of Jutland, is on the Orkney Islands Council website.

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Poster for HMS Hampshire concert at Winchester Cathedral (image: Winchester Consort)

Away from Orkney, there is a concert by the Winchester Consort in Winchester Cathedral on Sunday 5 June. The programme of music includes Lullabye For Lucy by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. More information and booking here.

And in Norfolk on Sunday 5 June people will gather to commemorate one of the men lost with HMS Hampshire, Ship’s Corporal George Harry Bond, whose parents were living in Great Ryburgh. Activities include displays, a special peal and a tree planting.

At least 20 members of George Harry Bond’s family travelling from Australia, Canada and across England will visit Great Ryburgh over the weekend. Amongst the visitors will be the grandchildren of George Harry’s sister, Celia Clara Riddy, who, one year after her brother’s death, penned the following verse into her scrapbook:

“In loving memory of Dear Brother George Harry Bond who lost his life on H.M.S.Hampshire June 5th 1916.

“We cannot forget him we loved him too dearly
For his memory to fade from our lives like a dream
Our lips need not speak when our hearts mourn sincerely
For grief often dwells where it seldom is seen.”

Graham Brown

Please note: this blog has been updated since it was first posted to include more information about the HMS Hampshire book, Koen Broucke’s sketches and the webpage for the live feed of the memorial service.

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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

Project update: stone appeal – and creating a stir in Portsmouth

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

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.

Scotland Outdoors magazine
Scotland Outdoors magazine

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.

Graham Brown

Some recent press coverage

Portsmouth News (4 March 2015)

The Orcadian (4 March 2015)

Culture24 (25 February 2015)

Our press release about the stone appeal

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 kitchener.memorial@gmail.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/.

Fund-raising is underway for the £200,000 project and donations are welcome via the group’s JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety.

A fund-raising tour of Ness Battery (on Saturday 21 February), led by Andrew Hollinrake, one of the project team volunteers, raised more than £120.

End of press release