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.

Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial: first grant secured, planning permission sought

Hello again. First of all, good news since our last blog. As you may have read or heard if you live in Orkney, the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project was awarded a £50,000 grant by Orkney Islands Council’s Community Development Fund sub-committee.

This is a big step forward for our project, and work is going on behind the scenes to secure more funding towards the estimated £200,000 cost. I hope we will be able to bring you more news soon.

In the last blog I wrote about the arc shape which was chosen for the HMS Hampshire commemorative wall, after public consultation. Since then we have applied to Orkney Islands Council for the necessary planning permission to build this wall next to the Kitchener Memorial.

Kitchener Memorial at sunset (image: Andrew Hollinrake)
Kitchener Memorial at sunset (image: Andrew Hollinrake)

For those of you new to our Orkney Heritage Society project, we hope to restore the Kitchener Memorial, built in the 1920s to remember Earl Kitchener, a hero of the British Empire, and to create a low commemorative wall alongside on which will be engraved more than 700 names – all those who were lost, including Kitchener, when HMS Hampshire hit a mine off Orkney in 1916.

Our aim is to have this work completed in time for the centenary of the sinking, on Sunday 5 June 2016, when commemorations will take place in Orkney.

Details of how the day will unfold are being worked on, in co-operation with Orkney Islands Council, the British Legion, the Royal Naval Association and HM Armed Forces.

But anyone planning to visit Orkney for that weekend may want to think about accommodation which could be in short supply. Please go to www.visitorkney.com or www.visitscotland.com/orkney – or contact Visit Scotland’s office in Kirkwall, Orkney on +44 (1856) 872856.

Extensive research is being undertaken as part of our project. Already we have discovered many more men died than previously thought. We hope to arrange an exhibition about the loss of HMS Hampshire and a book is planned. If you have family memories or stories that you would like to share, please let us know.

Completion of our project is, of course, subject to sufficient funds being raised through grants and public donation. If you would like to donate please do so at justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety/.

Meanwhile, you can follow the progress of the project on Facebook (@Kitchener.Memorial), Twitter (@kitchenerorkney) and through this blog.

Finally, thank you to Moya McDonald, of Another Orkney Production, and to Bryony Dixon, of the British Film Institute, for the recent screening in Orkney’s Pickaquoy Centre of the restored British silent film The Battles Of Coronel And Falkland Islands. This tells the story of two early First World War naval battles with compassion, humour and realism and is fascinating for anyone who is interested in naval history of the period.

If you missed the screening do try and see the film on a big screen. Alternatively, a BFI DVD is available to purchase. There’s more about the film here – http://www.bfi.org.uk/whats-on/bfi-film-releases/battles-coronel-falkland-islands – and, to finish, here is a trailer for the film:

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 justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety/.”

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: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05qy7nq.

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…

https://soundcloud.com/radio-orkney/around-orkney-24th-april-2015.

I will be at the cinema on 8 May, perhaps I’ll see you there.

Graham Brown