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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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