Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project update: JustGiving page launches

We are delighted to announce the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project has launched a JustGiving page to allow anyone who would like to help the project financially to donate.

This is an important step towards our aim of restoring the Kitchener Memorial and creating a commemorative wall around the memorial, engraved with the names of more than 700 men who were lost on HMS Hampshire in 1916.

Here is a link to our JustGiving page…

Donate with JustGiving

We announced this development with press releases to the media both in and out of Orkney. As a result we received handsome coverage in our local newspaper The Orcadian and in the Press & Journal. Neil Kermode, who chairs our project, was interviewed by Fionn McArthur from the ever-helpful team at BBC Radio Orkney (Interview at 24:30).

Press & Journal article of 3 February 2015
Press & Journal article of 3 February 2015

The Orcadian also published a shorter online article, and The Scotsman newspaper published a story in its online edition.

Look out for more coverage to come.

To allow those of you following the project an insight into our thinking, and the story of HMS Hampshire, we reproduce below the press release which went to the media outside Orkney.

Thank you for your interest in the project, and for the generous donations we have already received. 

Graham Brown

Press release dated 2 February 2015

Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial: A project to better remember more than 700 men lost on HMS Hampshire

A commemorative wall bearing the names of more than 700 men lost when their warship sank in the First World War is to be built in Scotland.

The wall will surround Orkney’s Kitchener Memorial in order to “better remember” those who died alongside Earl Kitchener on HMS Hampshire.

A web page allowing people to contribute to the project is officially launched this week.

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 recent research suggests it was 737. There were 12 survivors.

The Kitchener Memorial, a 48-feet high stone tower, was unveiled in 1926 on cliffs at Marwick Head, on the Atlantic west coast of Mainland Orkney. The site is within an RSPB reserve and offers stunning views.

Earl Kitchener was a member of the British Cabinet and Secretary of State for War when he died. He was travelling to Russia for talks. He is perhaps best known today as the face of the “Your Country Needs You!” recruiting posters.

A plaque on the memorial only makes brief reference to the other men lost that day.

Orkney Heritage Society aims to restore the Kitchener Memorial to its original condition, retaining its iconic profile, and to build a low wall of local stone around the memorial, on which will be engraved in granite the names of all those lost. The wall itself will be of local stone.

Anyone who wishes to donate towards the £200,000 needed is welcome to do so online at justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety/. The project committee is also applying for grants towards the cost.

The restoration and commemorative wall are to be officially unveiled at events marking the centenary of the sinking on Sunday 5 June 2016.

Neil Kermode, who is leading the project for Orkney Heritage Society, says: “As the centenary of the loss approaches, we believe those 737 men deserve to be better, and appropriately, remembered. I also believe there is unanimous agreement locally for this idea and great interest further afield.

“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 contributions, large and small.”

A planning application has been submitted to Orkney Islands Council for work to restore the Kitchener Memorial. Soon a planning application will be submitted for the wall, which will be a little over a metre high and built around four sides of the memorial.

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

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.

The Kitchener Memorial on Orkney's Atlantic coast
The Kitchener Memorial on Orkney’s Atlantic coast

Background notes to the press release

The Kitchener Memorial

The plaque on the Kitchener Memorial reads: “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.”

The memorial cost £734 to build, paid for by public subscription from Orcadians.

HMS Hampshire and the sinking

HMS Hampshire, a Devonshire-class armoured cruiser, was launched in 1903 and went into service with the Royal Navy in 1905.

She took part in the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916.

A few days later, on 5 June, she left the Royal Navy’s anchorage at Scapa Flow, Orkney, bound for Russia. Earl Kitchener was on board, heading for secret talks with Britain’s war-time ally.

But at about a quarter to eight in the evening, in stormy conditions less than two miles from shore, she struck a mine laid by a German u-boat. Only 12 crewmen survived.

It was long thought that Earl Kitchener was one of 650 men lost from HMS Hampshire. But recent research by local historian Brian Budge suggests the final death toll was as high as 737.

The restoration project

A planning application has been submitted to Orkney Islands Council for work to restore the Kitchener Memorial. The plans would see the stonework restored to its original condition, the roof inspected and repaired, the ventilation reinstated and the former inspection doorway in the memorial restored.

A second planning application is being submitted for 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 in granite on this wall.

Research

Relatives of those who were on board HMS Hampshire, or others with knowledge about those lost, are invited to contact the project to share memories and information (email: kitchener.memorial@gmail.com). Decisions about how the interpretive material will be displayed have not yet been made.

Orkney Heritage Society

Orkney Heritage Society is undertaking the project as its contribution to the centenary of World War 1, to preserve the existing tower and to enhance the environment.

Founded in 1968, the society is a charitable body whose objectives are: to stimulate public interest in, and care for, the beauty, history and character of Orkney; to encourage the preservation, development and improvement of features of general public amenity or historic interest; to encourage high standards of architecture and planning in Orkney.

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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