Royal Engineers & US National Guard boost our project

Boots on the scaffolding at the Kitchener Memorial (image: Leslie Burgher)
Boots on the scaffolding at the Kitchener Memorial (image: Leslie Burgher)
An aerial view of work to create the HMS Hampshire wall (image: Leslie Burgher)
An aerial view of work to create the HMS Hampshire wall (image: Leslie Burgher)

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.”

Digging out the foundations of the HMS Hampshire wall (image: Leslie Burgher)
Digging out the foundations of the HMS Hampshire wall (image: Leslie Burgher)

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.

Signpost to the Kitchener Memorial (image: Graham Brown)
Signpost to the Kitchener Memorial (image: Graham Brown)

Anyone wishing to donate towards the project can do so online at justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety/ or send a cheque payable to Orkney Heritage Society.

Please continue to follow the progress of our project via this blog, on Facebook (@Kitchener.Memorial) and Twitter (@kitchenerorkney).

Oh, and if you are a reader of the monthly magazine Living Orkney, we’re in that as well. L.C. Littlejohn’s article is in the August edition, in the shops now.

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

The loss of HMS Hampshire: 18 months to the centenary

Neil Kermode writes about revised plans for the Kitchener Memorial, in an article originally published in The Orcadian newspaper on 11 December 2014…

In just under 18 months’ time on 5 June 2016 the people of Orkney will mark the centenary of the sinking of HMS Hampshire, with the loss of – we now believe – more than 700 men.

By then the 14-metre high Kitchener Memorial, unveiled in 1926 on the west coast of Mainland Orkney, will have been restored and safeguarded for the future.

And a more fitting monument will have been created to remember all those men who died along with Earl Kitchener, Britain’s Secretary of State for War, as they attempted to sail from Scapa Flow to Russia.

We have had a lively, respectful debate in Orkney about the form this monument should take and I would like to thank everyone who has contributed. The initial suggestions caused some consternation and from the ensuing discussions several things emerged. Principally everyone has agreed that it is right to properly remember all the men who died that night.

The plans now envisage creating 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 on this wall.

Shortly planning applications will be submitted to Orkney Islands Council for this work. The plans would also see the Kitchener Memorial stonework restored to its original condition. The roof would be inspected and repaired, the ventilation reinstated and the former inspection doorway in the memorial restored.

However the project, which I am leading on behalf of Orkney Heritage Society, would see this door being kept locked and only opened for maintenance work as unauthorised access to the interior of the tower seemed to be the main concern expressed as a result of the earlier consultation.

A project group has been set up by the Orkney Heritage Society to progress the construction work.

A number of relatives of those lost with HMS Hampshire, including representatives of Earl Kitchener’s family, have been in touch to support the project and express their appreciation that the people of Orkney want to remember their loss.

Both Birsay Community Council and Harray and Sandwick Community Council are supportive of these plans, as are the British Legion and the Royal Naval Association, but I would also like the wider community in Orkney to tell us what they think.

Do you feel a wall with its 737 carved names, around a restored Kitchener Memorial, is the right way to commemorate the loss of HMS Hampshire? Should this be called the ‘Hampshire Memorial’? Should the loss of seven others in the following week, when the Laurel Crown hit the same minefield, also be commemorated? Is a wall too much and would a book of remembrance suffice?

Some initial ideas for the memorial wall have been worked up by local architect Leslie Burgher. The project group is keen to make sure the ideas fit with the iconic position the tower enjoys, but also provide enough space for the names of those lost. More work will be done on the detail, but the illustrations give a flavour of what is being proposed.

Illustration: how a wall commemorating those lost with HMS Hampshire might look (image created by Leslie Burgher, Chartered Architect)
Illustration: how a wall commemorating those lost with HMS Hampshire might look
(image created by Leslie Burgher, Chartered Architect)

As I said before, it is important that whatever proposals are taken forward have the support of Orkney. Expressing your opinions will allow a strong case to be made for funding and ensure that the work is in keeping both with proper commemoration of the losses and the wishes of the people of Orkney.

We hope to fund the project through grants but also through public donations. Soon a Just Giving website will launch, through which individuals may donate.

This project has been one of discovery – finding out what the public want, meeting people with precious memories, unearthing information – and we have much more to research.

For example it was found, early on in the project, that the memorial was not actually built on the land intended for it and was in fact sitting on RSPB land. Elsewhere along the cliff top part of the RSPB reserve was, technically, not theirs but belonged to Orkney Islands Council. I would like to thank employees of both organisations for their help in resolving this by means of a land swap.

Please do express any opinion about this project on Facebook (/Kitchener.Memorial) and Twitter (/kitchenerorkney), by email kitchener.memorial@gmail.com or by writing to: Neil Kermode, Quarry House, Finstown, Orkney, KW17 2JY. Or you are welcome to comment on this blog.

Thank you.

Neil Kermode