New book to commemorate centenary of loss of HMS Hampshire

The countdown continues – it is now just over three weeks until people from far and wide gather in Orkney to remember the sinking of HMS Hampshire 100 years ago and the 737 men who died on that stormy June night in 1916.

Relatives of those lost with HMS Hampshire – or HM Drifter Laurel Crown – should by now have heard from Orkney Islands Council about arrangements for the commemorative events. If you have not heard, and think you should have done, please contact Susan Learmonth by email – – or telephone 01856 873535.

If you live in Orkney look out in this week’s edition of The Orcadian for a programme of events, published by Orkney Islands Council, marking the centenaries of the Battle of Jutland and the loss of HMS Hampshire.

For those of you elsewhere please keep an eye on this page on the council’s website which is being updated with further information:

Meanwhile, as promised in this blog’s headline, we can bring you exciting news of a new book about HMS Hampshire. The Orkney Heritage Society announcement follows.

Graham Brown

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

Orkney Heritage Society announces the forthcoming publication of a book to commemorate the centenary of the loss of HMS Hampshire:

HMS Hampshire: a Century of Myths and Mysteries Unravelled

by James Irvine, Brian Budge, Jude Callister, Kevin Heath, Andrew Hollinrake, Issy Grieve, Keith Johnson, Neil Kermode, Michael Lowrey, Tom Muir, Emily Turton and Ben Wade

The book 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.

It will include the new Roll of Honour, accounts of Hampshire, Lord Kitchener and the mission to Russia, the rescue efforts and associated rumours and outrage, the conspiracy theories, the minelaying and minesweeping operations, the loss of HM Drifter Laurel Crown, the Kitchener Memorial, the diving expeditions on the wreck, the artefacts, and the centenary events, and notes on the survivors and many of the men who lost their lives (brief contributions still welcomed).

This A4 120 page illustrated case-bound book will be launched on 30 August 2016 and retail at £25 plus postage & packing. All proceeds, including authors’ royalties, will go to the Orkney Heritage Society for the Kitchener Memorial refurbishment project.

Two pre-launch offers are available for orders placed before 20 August 2016 (this has been extended from 30 June 2016):

Either: Copies may be ordered for £25 with free UK postage and packing
(plus £5 supplement for Europe, £10 supplement for rest of world);

Or: Copies may be ordered for £20, ie 20% off, for personal collection in exchange for receipt at the launch on 30 August, or thereafter from Lucy Gibbon at The Orkney Archive, Junction Road, Kirkwall.

Payment for the above pre-launch offers may be by:

Either: cheque payable to “The Orkney Heritage Society” and sent to the OHS Treasurer, PO Box 6220, Kirkwall, KW15 9AD. Please enclose name, email address (for receipt), and (for postal option) delivery address;

Or: cash or cheque at the Birsay Community Hall on 3 to 5 June, 11am – 5pm and evenings.

A PayPal payment facility is also available via this Orkney Heritage Society page.

Queries to

Please note: this blog was amended on 13 May 2016 to change the url of the Orkney Islands Council webpage giving information about centenary events and to add a link to Orkney Heritage Society’s PayPal facility. It was further amended on 5 July 2016 to reflect the new final date of 20 August 2016 for book pre-launch offers.

Making connections

Postcards of HMS Hampshire
Postcards of HMS Hampshire donated to our project

One of the pleasures of volunteering with the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project is the connections we are able to make across the world, and languages, and into the past.

Recently two of our volunteers, Neil Kermode and Andrew Hollinrake, were interviewed for a report in Gaelic about our project on BBC Alba’s evening news programme. Fortunately they were able to make their contribution in English.

The TV report by Donald Morrison, with beautiful shots of Orkney’s scenery, was able to show that restoration is well underway on the Kitchener Memorial itself and good progress is being made on the new HMS Hampshire commemorative wall which will be engraved with the names of all 737 men lost, including Earl Kitchener, when the warship sank on 5 June 1916.

You may have read in our previous blog how members of the United States National Guard (Air and Army), visiting Scotland as part of their summer exchange, joined with Orkney’s own Royal Engineers to help progress the building work.

Memorial postcards for Earl Kitchener
Memorial postcards for Earl Kitchener donated to our project

And, thanks to the power of social media, we were contacted by Cathy Bryan on Facebook who said: “I live in the city of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada; it was renamed ‘Kitchener’ from ‘Berlin’ in honour of Lord Kitchener after his death. I would like to see the city somehow involved in the centenary or with the Kitchener memorial.”

We were thrilled to hear from Cathy and we hope to involve Kitchener, Ontario in our project. Many folk living in Orkney and who visit on holiday may not realise that the Canadian city has a Kitchener Memorial Auditorium Complex, home to the Kitchener Panthers baseball team and the Kitchener Rangers ice hockey team.

Meanwhile our appeal for memorabilia about the loss of HMS Hampshire has not gone unnoticed and Colin Nibbs of Crosby, Liverpool sent us a fascinating collection of material which will form part of a display to coincide with next year’s centenary.

This collection – as you can see in this blog – includes old photographs and postcards, as well as a copy of the official Admiralty report into the loss of HMS Hampshire, a good conduct medal and two copies of a book written by one of the 12 survivors of the tragedy, W.C. Phillips – one of them signed by the author.

Colin wrote to us to say: “They are gifted to you in memory of my maternal grandfather Frederick E Waight, Stoker P.O., number 308424 (Po), who perished on HMS Hampshire.”

Thank you Colin. Thank you also to everyone who has made financial and other donations to our project.

I should say we are still short of our fund-raising target – perhaps £15,000, or more, depending on the bills – so work on that front continues for us. If you would like to help please go to our JustGiving fund-raising page:

You can follow the progress of the project on Facebook (@Kitchener.Memorial) and Twitter (@kitchenerorkney). If you would prefer you can contact us via email – – or write to Orkney Heritage Society, PO Box 6220, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 9AD.

Graham Brown


Kitchener Memorial Auditorium Complex –

Kitchener Panthers –

Kitchener Rangers –

A walk into the past

The arc-shaped HMS Hampshire commemorative wall has received planning permission (image: Leslie Burgher)
The arc-shaped HMS Hampshire commemorative wall has received planning permission (image: Leslie Burgher)

This entry is from guest blogger, Owen Peters, who writes:

Recently I had the good fortune to leave London’s hurry, bustle and pace behind, allowing my backpack and I to become reacquainted whilst walking the coast and hills of Orkney.

On a bright fresh morning my walking route was simple. Hug the coastline from Stromness, along to Black Craig, Bay of Skaill, onwards to Marwick Head. No rush, see how I feel as the walk unfolds.

The weather had turned cold and windy. As I left a road section and climbed the beckoning hill offering a wonderful panoramic view for miles around, I was met by a couple coming in the opposite direction. We exchanged pleasantries. They had started off with a longer walk in mind but turned back due to the adverse weather setting in. I told them of my walking plans, then everything changed.

With an outstretched finger he asked: “You see that monument way over there across the hills along the coastline?” Squinting through a pair of binoculars I said yes. “Well that’s the Kitchener Memorial. Lovely walk on the right day. I wouldn’t think you’d get there today though,” he said helpfully and factually. As we said our goodbyes, little did he know he had turned my walk into a challenge. Kitchener’s Memorial here I come. I hope!

Suffice to say, having met many interesting people along the way, viewed exhilarating sections of coastline, many, many hours later my backpack and I finally arrived at the end of this self-initiated challenge. The stone-clad tower of Kitchener’s memorial was before me.

My knowledge of Lord Kitchener, besides his Boer War exploits, doesn’t stretch much further than he being the iconic poster figurehead pointing outwards with questioning eyes demanding recruits for World War I. The imposing stone tower, unveiled in June 1926, has a simple commemorative plaque. It states:

“This tower was raised by the people of Orkney in memory of Field Marshal Earl Kitchener of Khartoum on that corner of his country which he had served so faithfully nearest to the place where he died on duty. He and his staff perished along with the officers and nearly all the men of HMS Hampshire on 5th June 1916.”

Whilst I found the monument impressive and the plaque sentiments respective I was left with the question, what about the crew, where is their recognition? Surely the tragedy was more than about one man?

In typical tourist mode I pondered the injustice but carried on exploring Orkney during my remaining days. Somehow the whole experience didn’t feel right.

It was whilst leaving Orkney on my return ferry journey to Scrabster I was given a swift reminder, people who recognise injustice do something about it. I read Neil Kermode’s excellent article in The Islander magazine, confirming a project had been set up by The Orkney Heritage Society to restore the memorial. I didn’t realise until I read Neil’s article, over 700 men were lost at sea on that fateful night.

The Orkney Heritage Society intend to construct a wall next to the existing Kitchener Memorial, engraved with the names of those men.

To all those involved with the project, I’m sure the families of the HMS Hampshire crew and passengers, and the inhabitants of Orkney who keenly felt their loss, will be indebted as their loved ones are eventually and finally recognised. They died serving their country.

For anyone reading this article who would like to know more about the Kitchener Memorial project, or make a donation, please email or go online to, Facebook (@Kitchener.Memorial) or Twitter (@kitchenerorkney).

Owen Peters

HMS Hampshire and 737 men were lost 99 years ago today

Aerial view of the Kitchener Memorial (image: Frankie Tait)
Aerial view of the Kitchener Memorial (image: Frankie Tait)

Ninety-nine years ago tonight the British warship HMS Hampshire sank just off the coast of Orkney, in the north of Scotland, leading to the loss of 737 men, including Britain’s Secretary of State for War, Earl Kitchener.

The ship was taking Kitchener to Russia for secret talks when, at about 7.45pm, she hit a mine in atrocious weather conditions and sank in about 15 minutes.

For many years it was thought more than 600 men were lost, including Kitchener, but now our Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project has discovered the true figure to be 737.

This week we issued a press release – reproduced below – to mark the anniversary and to announce, and explain, this shocking new death toll figure.

Our project is to “better remember” all the men who were lost by building an HMS Hampshire commemorative wall, engraved with all the men’s names, alongside Orkney’s Kitchener Memorial, which we plan to restore.

There is still an annual memorial service for Earl Kitchener at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, this year on Sunday 7 June. You can find more about this on the Kitchener Scholars website:

Graham Brown

Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial press release: 4 June 2015

Volunteers working on a planned commemorative wall to more than 700 men lost on HMS Hampshire in the First World War believe they have identified all the men on board, 99 years after the sinking.

The warship sank off the coast of Orkney on 5 June 1916 while taking Earl Kitchener, Britain’s Secretary of State for War – famous for the “Your Country Needs You!” recruitment posters – to Russia for secret talks. There were only 12 survivors.

Ten years later the Kitchener Memorial, a 48-feet high stone tower overlooking the site of the sinking, was unveiled on cliffs at Marwick Head, on the Atlantic west coast of Mainland Orkney. It has a plaque which only makes brief reference to the men lost with Kitchener.

But those working for Orkney Heritage Society’s Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project want to “better remember” all those lost by building an arc-shaped low wall, engraved with their names, alongside the memorial.

It was long believed that 643 men died after HMS Hampshire hit a mine in stormy weather but recent research by Orkney historian Brian Budge discovered the names of more than 730 men who were lost, with many of the additional names being part of Kitchener’s party.

Now project committee member Andrew Hollinrake has researched online and travelled from Orkney to spend hours digging through hundreds of files at The National Archives in Kew, London, to arrive at a final figure of 737 men lost, including Kitchener. Part of his research involved untangling two family names which had been wrongly joined together.

Andrew explains: “Brian Budge had compiled a list of names from various sources including the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. This included 723 members of the ship’s complement, and most of Kitchener’s party. But more than one source referred to other, previously-unnamed civilian staff on the mission to Russia, suggesting that there were as many as 13 accompanying Kitchener.

“One of the party, Kitchener’s personal servant, was named by many sources as Henry Surguy-Shields. I discovered that this was an error, and the name listed had been a misreading of a press bulletin naming Henry Surguy and “—- Shields”, with a dash in place of Shields’ forename being mistaken for a hyphen, and so misread as a double-barrelled name.

“I visited the National Archives and, after sifting through several large volumes of documents relating to the sinking, I found not only a detailed list of the sailors lost, but also a complete list of Kitchener’s party. This included William Shields, a former soldier, valet to Lt Col Fitzgerald, Kitchener’s military secretary.

“Also listed was Frank West, personal servant to Sir H.F. Donaldson, another key member of the mission as a technical advisor to the Ministry of Munitions. I was already on the trail of West, since I’d found a reference to him in a family tree published on, but it was good to confirm his presence from an official, primary source!

“We’re now fairly sure we have the complete list, bringing the total to 737.”

The proposed commemorative wall’s arc shape was chosen following a public consultation. Planning permission for the wall, a little over a metre high, is being sought from Orkney Islands Council.

The project team also plan to restore the existing Kitchener Memorial to its original condition, retaining its iconic profile.

The restored tower and the commemorative wall are to be officially unveiled at events marking the centenary of the sinking on Sunday 5 June 2016. Relatives of those lost, including Kitchener, are expected to attend.

Anyone who wishes to donate towards the £200,000 cost can do so online at The project committee is also applying for grants towards the cost and has already secured a £50,000 grant from Orkney Island Council’s Community Development Fund.

Neil Kermode, leading the project for Orkney Heritage Society, says: “As the centenary of the loss approaches, we believe the hundreds of men who died deserve to be better, and appropriately, remembered. The project committee is working hard to get grants towards the cost but we will also rely on public donations. We would be grateful for any help, large and small.”

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

Anyone without computer access who wishes to donate may send a cheque, payable to Orkney Heritage Society, to Orkney Heritage Society, PO Box 6220, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 9AD.

Orkney & Shetland feature on BBC Radio Scotland’s World War One At Home

Neil Kermode is interviewed by BBC Radio Scotland
Neil Kermode is interviewed by BBC Radio Scotland

BBC Radio Scotland’s World War One At Home series is to feature the story of Earl Kitchener and the sinking of HMS Hampshire as part of a week of programmes from Orkney and Shetland.

Neil Kermode, Chair of the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project committee, is interviewed for the HMS Hampshire programme which will be broadcast on Tuesday (26 May), telling listeners about the warship’s sinking close to the Orkney coast with the loss of hundreds of men.

Monday’s programme has Andrew Hollinrake – another of our committee members – talking about the importance of the Ness Battery at Stromness.

Edwin Dunning, the first pilot to land an aircraft on a moving ship (in Scapa Flow), is the subject on Wednesday and on Thursday it is the turn of the Shetland Blockade.

The programmes, each five minutes or so long, will be broadcast on Good Morning Scotland (0600-0900), John Beattie (1200-1330) and Newsdrive (1600-1830). The exact times for for the pieces being played are not available. And because these are live news programmes which react to the day’s news, there is always the possibility that a piece may be dropped.

But don’t worry if you miss them. The stories are made available to listen online after broadcast via this page, which has a wealth of other fascinating material:

If you are new to the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project, we aim to restore the Kitchener Memorial, situated on Marwick Head, Orkney, and create an adjacent HMS Hampshire commemorative wall, engraved with the names of all the men who were lost when the ship sank on 5 June 1916 after hitting a mine.

If you would like to contribute financially to the £200,000 project please do so at Thank you for your interest.

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”

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:

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…

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 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

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