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: https://www.justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety/.

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

Graham Brown

Links

Kitchener Memorial Auditorium Complex – http://www.theaud.ca/

Kitchener Panthers – http://kitchenerpanthers.pointstreaksites.com/view/kitchenerpanthers

Kitchener Rangers – http://kitchenerrangers.com/

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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