Surveying the wreck of HMS Hampshire

hms-hampshire-stern-uhi
Stern of HMS Hampshire showing portside bronze propellor. The rudder lies on the seabed. The starboard propellor was previously salvaged (image: Roving Eye Enterprises Ltd)

This week has brought news of two surveys of the wreck of HMS Hampshire, which sank after hitting a mine off Orkney on 5 June 1916. At the time she was taking Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, to Russia for talks. In all, 737 men died, and only 12 survived.

You may have read on our blog about the ROV (remotely operated underwater vehicle) survey to be carried out by the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Archaeology Institute.

That survey went ahead earlier this month – with one of our project’s volunteers, Andrew Hollinrake, on board – and the first results have been announced.

Hollinrake - First sighting of Hampshire on the echo sounder
First sighting of Hampshire on the echo sounder

The survey confirms previous findings that HMS Hampshire capsized as she sank and lies with an upturned hull on the seabed, in approximately 60 metres of water.

The superstructure is compressed and buried in the silt of the seabed. The hull is damaged in places, exposing parts of the interior, including torpedo tubes and machinery.

Hollinrake - Keith Bichan at the ROV controls - looking at remaining propeller
Keith Bichan, of Roving Eye Enterprises, at the ROV controls – looking at the remaining propeller

The UHI Archaeology Institute was working in partnership with Seatronics – an Acteon Company, Teledyne RESON, Roving Eye Enterprises Ltd and Triscom Marine Ltd. You can read more about what was found – and what happens next – on the institute’s own blog: https://archaeologyorkney.com/2016/05/26/hms-hampshire-initial-rov-images/.

Hollinrake - In the engine room - open hatches of one of the upside-down furnaces
In the Hampshire’s engine room – open hatches of one of the upside-down furnaces

Meanwhile, a second survey was announced this week which, like the ROV survey, is operating with permission from the Ministry of Defence.

A  team of specialist international divers will undertake a photographic and 3D-imaging survey of the wreck. They will be diving from MV Huskyan, which is based in Stromness, Orkney.

Expedition leader Rod Macdonald says the objective is to undertake a detailed survey of HMS Hampshire, and to record it using stills and video photography.

A detailed written and visual survey report will be compiled, which will be made available to the MoD, museums in Orkney and Historic Environment Scotland.

There is more about the dive survey in BBC Radio Orkney’s Around Orkney programme, about 12 minutes in…

https://soundcloud.com/radio-orkney/around-orkney-thursday-26th-of-may-2016

Update to blog (28.5.16): On Wednesday (1 June) at 7.30pm there will be an illustrated talk ‘Remembering The Hampshire’, presented by the Archaeology Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands, using some of the dive footage and scans. It’s at Birsay Community Hall  and it’s a free event.

Graham Brown

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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 kitchener.memorial@gmail.com or go online to justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety, Facebook (@Kitchener.Memorial) or Twitter (@kitchenerorkney).

Owen Peters

A special fund-raising tour of wartime Orkney

Project team member Andrew Hollinrake is running a special tour to the Ness Battery in Stromness, Orkney this Saturday (21 February 2015). All are welcome, entry is by donation. All money collected will go towards our Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project.

The walk, taking place on International Tourist Guide Day, will be along the Ness shore, exploring some of the wartime relics, then visiting Ness Battery, including its mess hall with the famous mural. Ness Battery is an important relic of Orkney’s wartime heritage and once defended Scapa Flow against enemy attack.

Saturday’s tour starts at 2.00pm, at the Point of Ness, and lasts approximately 90 minutes. Andrew says: “Please note there are no bathroom facilities along this route. It is also rather exposed, so please wrap up warm!” No booking is required.

Ness Battery (image: courtesy of Ness Battery)
Ness Battery (image: courtesy of Ness Battery)

There is more about Ness Battery here – https://www.facebook.com/NessBattery.

And more about International Tourist Guide Day here – http://www.wftga.org/tourist-guiding/february-21st-international-tourist-guide-day.

As well as donating on Saturday’s walk, you can also contribute to our Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project by going to https://www.justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety/.

To remind you, we aim to restore the Kitchener Memorial, at Marwick Head on Orkney’s Atlantic coast, and build a commemorative wall engraved with the names of all 736 men lost when HMS Hampshire sank in June 1916.

Meanwhile, two pieces of good news for our project since our last blog: Orkney Islands Council has given planning permission for the restoration work on Kitchener Tower.

The Times of 14 February 2015
The Times of 14 February 2015

And on Saturday The Times published a double-page spread about the project.

Once again, thank you for following our project, and for the generous donations we have already received.

Graham Brown