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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