Quiet reflection planned for 101st anniversary of HMS Hampshire sinking

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Some of the many names on the HMS Hampshire commemorative wall (image: Orkney Heritage Society)

Nearly a year has passed since the wonderful and moving events to mark the centenary of the loss of HMS Hampshire and 737 men – and, since the last blog entry here.

But yesterday we issued a press release announcing plans for the 101st anniversary of the sinking which this year falls on a Monday. We have already received online coverage from The Orcadian and The Orkney News, and if you live in Orkney you may have heard us on BBC Radio Orkney’s news bulletin this morning (24 May).

This year’s event is explained in the press release below. I hope some of you will be able to join us on 5 June.

Graham Brown

Press release from Orkney Heritage Society’s Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project

The 101st anniversary of the loss of HMS Hampshire will be marked next month (June 2017) at Marwick Head, Orkney with a period of quiet reflection and a two-minute silence.

Last year a major event was held to commemorate the centenary of the warship’s loss, in which 737 men died. Relatives travelled many miles to join Orcadians during an evening service, and for a weekend of events which was attended by HRH The Princess Royal.

The 2016 service was a high-profile occasion and saw the official unveiling of the HMS Hampshire wall, bearing the names of all the men who were lost, built alongside the restored Kitchener Memorial.

This year volunteers from Orkney Heritage Society’s Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project committee and some of the participants in last year’s event will gather on Monday 5 June to carry out some improvements to the ground around the memorial – raking stones and planting grass seed – before gathering quietly together to commemorate the men lost.

Neil Kermode, committee chairman, said: “Our project to better remember the men of HMS Hampshire culminated in a wonderful service last year when relatives and local folk gathered in brilliant sunshine at Marwick Head.

“We feel it is important to continue our remembrance of the 737 with a low-key event this year. Everyone who wishes to join us for a common private reflection will be welcome.”

The work party will start at 7.30pm on Monday 5 June, and will gather for the reflection in time for the two-minute silence at 8.45pm, the time of HMS Hampshire’s sinking. Thoughts will also turn to the nine men of HM Drifter Laurel Crown, including Orcadian George Petrie, who died on 22 June 1916 and who are also commemorated on the wall.

There is more about HMS Hampshire and the memorial on Facebook (@Kitchener.Memorial), Twitter (@kitchenerorkney), via a blog at kitchenerhampshire.wordpress.com/ and at the website, hmshampshire.org/.

Ends

Background notes to press release

HMS Hampshire and the sinking

HMS Hampshire, a Devonshire-class armoured cruiser, built by Armstrong Whitworth, Elswick, 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.

On 5 June 1916 Earl Kitchener, Britain’s Secretary of State for War, was heading to Russia to take part in talks. He set sail from the Royal Navy’s base at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands on board HMS Hampshire.

But at about 8.45pm (British Summer Time), in a heavy storm, the warship hit a mine laid by a German u-boat just off Orkney’s Atlantic coast. There were only 12 survivors and 737 men, including Kitchener, died.

The Kitchener Memorial

Kitchener was a hero of the British Empire and in 1926 the Kitchener Memorial was unveiled at Marwick Head, Orkney, overlooking the site of the sinking.

The memorial, a 48-feet high stone tower, cost £734 to build, paid for by public subscription from Orcadians, and was unveiled in 1926. The site is now within an RSPB reserve.

The restoration project and building the wall

Planning permission was granted by Orkney Islands Council in February 2015 for work to restore the Kitchener Memorial. The stonework was 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 was approved in July 2015 for a low arc-shaped wall, a little over a metre high and made from local stone. The names of all the men lost, including Kitchener, are inscribed in inlaid granite on this wall together with the names of nine men lost with HM Drifter Laurel Crown on 22 June 1916.

Many generous private donations were received for the work, along with grants from Orkney Islands Council’s Community Development Fund and the War Memorials Trust. Casey Construction carried out the building work assisted, in part, by the Royal Engineers.

Research

For many years it was thought that about 640 men died when HMS Hampshire sank. But research by Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project volunteers has identified the names of 737 men who were lost.

Relatives of those who were on board HMS Hampshire, or others with knowledge about those lost and about HMS Hampshire, are invited to contact the project to share memories, artefacts and information (email: kitchener.memorial@gmail.com).

HMS Hampshire book

An Orkney Heritage Society book, “HMS Hampshire: a Century of Myths and Mysteries Unravelled”, which 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, is available from The Orcadian bookshop in Kirkwall or The Orcadian bookshop website.

Orkney Heritage Society

Orkney Heritage Society undertook the project, with the support of Birsay Heritage Trust, as its contribution to the centenary of World War I, 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.

Coverage of our latest press release to date

The Orcadian (23 May 2017)

The Orkney News (23 May 2017)

BBC Radio Orkney (24 May 2017)

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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

 

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.

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

 

Commemorating a great uncle lost on HMS Hampshire

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.

Graham Brown

Robert Black's Service Record
Robert Black’s Service Record

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…

A cutting from the Sunderland Echo announces Robert's death
A cutting from the Sunderland Echo announces Robert’s death

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.

Meg Hartford 2015

Thank you Meg.

We would love to hear on Facebook (@Kitchener.Memorial) and Twitter (@kitchenerorkney), or via this blog, from others who wish to share memories and photographs.

We are also seeking artefacts linked to HMS Hampshire for a planned exhibition around the time of the centenary. Please email kitchener.memorial@gmail.com or write to Orkney Heritage Society, PO Box 6220, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 9AD, UK.

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.

Laurel Crown crew to be remembered on HMS Hampshire memorial

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.

George Petrie, lost with HM Drifter Laurel Crown (believed to be a family photograph published in The Orcadian when his death was announced)
George Petrie, lost with HM Drifter Laurel Crown (believed to be a family photograph published in The Orcadian when his death was announced)

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.

Graham Brown

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 kitchener.memorial@gmail.com or write to Orkney Heritage Society, PO Box 6220, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 9AD, UK.

Follow the progress of the project on Facebook (@Kitchener.Memorial), Twitter (@kitchenerorkney) and via a blog at kitchenerhampshire.wordpress.com/.

End of press release

Links

BBC News on Battle of Jutland centenary – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34506679

Battle of Jutland centenary press release on Commonwealth War Graves Commission website –

http://www.cwgc.org/news-events/news/2015/10/uk-government-announces-plans-for-battle-of-jutland-centenary.aspx

The Orcadian reports on the Royal Oak 76th anniversary –

http://www.orcadian.co.uk/2015/10/memorial-service-marks-76th-anniversary-of-royal-oak-disaster/

BBC Radio Orkney reports on our Laurel Crown announcement. One of our committee members, Andrew Hollinrake, is interviewed, together with Brian Budge, towards the end of the programme –

https://soundcloud.com/radio-orkney/around-orkney-thursday-15th-october-2015