HMS Hampshire book shortlisted for prestigious award

It is thrilling to report that the HMS Hampshire book published by Orkney Heritage Society has been shortlisted for a prestigious award.

The Mountbatten Maritime Award 2017 will be presented at a London dinner on Wednesday 8 November.

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The cover of the book – HMS Hampshire: A Century of Myths and Mysteries Unravelled

‘HMS Hampshire: a Century of Myths and Mysteries Unravelled’ is one of 13 books shortlisted for the award, from an original long-list of more than 40.

The book, edited by James Irvine and written with 11 local experts – Brian Budge, Jude Callister, Issy Grieve, Kevin Heath, Andrew Hollinrake, Keith Johnson, Neil Kermode, Michael Lowrey, Tom Muir, Emily Turton and Ben Wade – commemorates the 737 men who died and the 12 survivors when Hampshire was lost off Orkney on 5 June 1916.

The authors address Kitchener’s last voyage, Jellicoe’s routing instructions, the eye-witness accounts as Hampshire sank, the search and rescue efforts at sea and ashore and the outrage arising, the minelaying and sweeping operations, the censorship and consequential rumours and conspiracy theories, the Kitchener Memorial on Marwick Head, diving the wreck, the artefacts recovered, and the centenary events of 2016.

Meanwhile the book is attracting complimentary reviews, including these…

Dr Ray Fereday: “A magnificent historiography, bridging the gulf between local and national history.”

Sigurd Towrie: “Succeeds in its goal admirably, deserves a place on any bookshelf.”

Cdr John Bingeman RN: “An in-depth study and important contribution to naval history.”

Professor Tom Stevenson: “A darned good read.”

Living Orkney: “Without doubt – this is a Christmas present worth giving to anyone with even the slightest interest in Orkney and its wartime history.” John Ross Scott

Centenary News: “This is a meticulous, but nonetheless enthralling, new account of a naval disaster that shook Britain at the height of the First World War.”

The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology: “This is an interesting publication, covering many topics surrounding this most enigmatic of shipping losses, and it will appeal to a wide range of readers. There is even a chapter covering conspiracy theories. A worthy addition to any library covering Orcadian or broader naval history; recommended.”

Naval Review: “Buy it, borrow it, steal it if you must, – but read it! The people of the Hampshire and of Birsay deserve no less.” John Burgess, Rear Admiral, RN
(review in full – http://hmshampshire.org/hms-hampshire-a-century-of-myths-and-mysteries-unravelled-book-reviews/)

Stand To, the thrice-yearly journal of The Western Front Association: “The book, with its wealth of new information and copiously illustrated, is a fitting tribute to those who sailed that evening on HMS Hampshire and never returned.”

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Orkney Heritage Society book, HMS Hampshire: a Century of Myths and Mysteries Unravelled

The book is £25 plus p&p from The Orcadian online bookshop or, if you live in Orkney, visit The Orcadian bookshop in Kirkwall. All proceeds, including authors’ royalties, go to the Orkney Heritage Society’s Kitchener Memorial Refurbishment Project.

So, fingers crossed for the awards dinner on 8 November – which James Irvine and Andrew Hollinrake will attend – but, whatever happens, it is wonderful news that the book is shortlisted for this award.

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Walking to Kitchener Memorial on 5 June 2017 to commemorate 101st anniversary of loss of HMS Hampshire – and to do some grass-seeding around the memorial (image: Graham Brown)

You can find more online about the men lost on the HMS Hampshire website, you can also follow news updates on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

For now, I will leave you with some of the stories relating to HMS Hampshire from recent months, please see the links below.

Graham Brown

The story of HMS Hampshire survivor Richard Simpson inspires a schools’ project in north-east England, hear more on this BBC Radio Orkney report (at 12min 10sec) – https://soundcloud.com/radio-orkney/around-orkney-thursday-21st-september-2017

More than £1million awarded to Lyness Museum renovation project (HMS Hampshire propeller is displayed outside) – https://www.orcadian.co.uk/1-million-awarded-lyness-museum-renovation-project/

Church windows honouring Ashby’s war dead go on public display (includes one of HMS Hampshire’s men) – http://www.scunthorpetelegraph.co.uk/news/church-windows-honouring-ashbys-war-396095

Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA) announces a collaborative maritime archaeology project surveying shipwrecks of the German High Seas Fleet and the war graves HMS Hampshire, HMS Vanguard and HMS Royal Oak – http://www.heritagedaily.com/2017/07/maritime-archaeology-project-underway-orkney/116134

 

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Quiet reflection planned for 101st anniversary of HMS Hampshire sinking

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Some of the many names on the HMS Hampshire commemorative wall (image: Orkney Heritage Society)

Nearly a year has passed since the wonderful and moving events to mark the centenary of the loss of HMS Hampshire and 737 men – and, since the last blog entry here.

But yesterday we issued a press release announcing plans for the 101st anniversary of the sinking which this year falls on a Monday. We have already received online coverage from The Orcadian and The Orkney News, and if you live in Orkney you may have heard us on BBC Radio Orkney’s news bulletin this morning (24 May).

This year’s event is explained in the press release below. I hope some of you will be able to join us on 5 June.

Graham Brown

Press release from Orkney Heritage Society’s Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project

The 101st anniversary of the loss of HMS Hampshire will be marked next month (June 2017) at Marwick Head, Orkney with a period of quiet reflection and a two-minute silence.

Last year a major event was held to commemorate the centenary of the warship’s loss, in which 737 men died. Relatives travelled many miles to join Orcadians during an evening service, and for a weekend of events which was attended by HRH The Princess Royal.

The 2016 service was a high-profile occasion and saw the official unveiling of the HMS Hampshire wall, bearing the names of all the men who were lost, built alongside the restored Kitchener Memorial.

This year volunteers from Orkney Heritage Society’s Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project committee and some of the participants in last year’s event will gather on Monday 5 June to carry out some improvements to the ground around the memorial – raking stones and planting grass seed – before gathering quietly together to commemorate the men lost.

Neil Kermode, committee chairman, said: “Our project to better remember the men of HMS Hampshire culminated in a wonderful service last year when relatives and local folk gathered in brilliant sunshine at Marwick Head.

“We feel it is important to continue our remembrance of the 737 with a low-key event this year. Everyone who wishes to join us for a common private reflection will be welcome.”

The work party will start at 7.30pm on Monday 5 June, and will gather for the reflection in time for the two-minute silence at 8.45pm, the time of HMS Hampshire’s sinking. Thoughts will also turn to the nine men of HM Drifter Laurel Crown, including Orcadian George Petrie, who died on 22 June 1916 and who are also commemorated on the wall.

There is more about HMS Hampshire and the memorial on Facebook (@Kitchener.Memorial), Twitter (@kitchenerorkney), via a blog at kitchenerhampshire.wordpress.com/ and at the website, hmshampshire.org/.

Ends

Background notes to press release

HMS Hampshire and the sinking

HMS Hampshire, a Devonshire-class armoured cruiser, built by Armstrong Whitworth, Elswick, 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.

On 5 June 1916 Earl Kitchener, Britain’s Secretary of State for War, was heading to Russia to take part in talks. He set sail from the Royal Navy’s base at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands on board HMS Hampshire.

But at about 8.45pm (British Summer Time), in a heavy storm, the warship hit a mine laid by a German u-boat just off Orkney’s Atlantic coast. There were only 12 survivors and 737 men, including Kitchener, died.

The Kitchener Memorial

Kitchener was a hero of the British Empire and in 1926 the Kitchener Memorial was unveiled at Marwick Head, Orkney, overlooking the site of the sinking.

The memorial, a 48-feet high stone tower, cost £734 to build, paid for by public subscription from Orcadians, and was unveiled in 1926. The site is now within an RSPB reserve.

The restoration project and building the wall

Planning permission was granted by Orkney Islands Council in February 2015 for work to restore the Kitchener Memorial. The stonework was 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 was approved in July 2015 for a low arc-shaped wall, a little over a metre high and made from local stone. The names of all the men lost, including Kitchener, are inscribed in inlaid granite on this wall together with the names of nine men lost with HM Drifter Laurel Crown on 22 June 1916.

Many generous private donations were received for the work, along with grants from Orkney Islands Council’s Community Development Fund and the War Memorials Trust. Casey Construction carried out the building work assisted, in part, by the Royal Engineers.

Research

For many years it was thought that about 640 men died when HMS Hampshire sank. But research by Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project volunteers has identified the names of 737 men who were lost.

Relatives of those who were on board HMS Hampshire, or others with knowledge about those lost and about HMS Hampshire, are invited to contact the project to share memories, artefacts and information (email: kitchener.memorial@gmail.com).

HMS Hampshire book

An Orkney Heritage Society book, “HMS Hampshire: a Century of Myths and Mysteries Unravelled”, which assembles hitherto unused contemporary evidence to explore the causes and circumstances of the loss of HMS Hampshire on 5 June 1916, and the associated myths and mysteries, is available from The Orcadian bookshop in Kirkwall or The Orcadian bookshop website.

Orkney Heritage Society

Orkney Heritage Society undertook the project, with the support of Birsay Heritage Trust, as its contribution to the centenary of World War I, 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.

Coverage of our latest press release to date

The Orcadian (23 May 2017)

The Orkney News (23 May 2017)

BBC Radio Orkney (24 May 2017)

A memorial for generations to come

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Centenary commemoration for the men of HMS Hampshire and HM Drifter Laurel Crown (image: Lucy Gibbon)

On Sunday the people of Orkney welcomed relatives of 737 men who were lost when HMS Hampshire sank in the First World War for a centenary commemoration.

HMS Hampshire hit a German mine about 1.5 miles off Orkney’s Atlantic coast in atrocious weather conditions. Only 12 crew survived.

The Kitchener Memorial, a 48-feet high stone tower on Marwick Head, Orkney, overlooking the site of the tragedy, was unveiled in 1926 to remember Britain’s Secretary of State for War, one of the men who died.

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HMS Hampshire commemorative wall (image: Orkney Heritage Society)

But no other names appear on the tower so Orkney Heritage Society, while restoring it, also created an adjacent low arc-shaped wall engraved with the names of everyone who was lost on the night of 5 June 1916.

On 22 June 1916 nine more men, including Orcadian George Petrie, were lost when HM Drifter Laurel Crown hit another mine nearby. Their names are also on the wall.

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The HM Drifter Laurel Crown panel on the wall (image: Orkney Heritage Society)

The new wall was unveiled as part of Sunday evening’s service and there was a two-minute silence at the actual time of the sinking.

The feedback from the relatives after the service – and the weekend hospitality organised by Birsay Heritage Trust  – is heart-warming. Comments include: “Thank you from my heart… I and my party were made to feel like old friends. I do hope I can revisit your lovely island again… The islanders did us all proud… a truly memorable event in my life.”

The service was broadcast on the internet, and can be viewed again here:

http://livestream.com/accounts/19161857/Hampshire

One person watching online was Liz Granby, who was moved to write: “l am thinking of you all on this special day. I have just written this in remembrance of those men whose names are on the memorial, especially my uncle George Edwin Smith. Thank you to the people of Orkney for remembering the Hampshire.”

The seagulls cried and the sea rose up 100 years ago today,
As the brave men on the Hampshire sailed out into the bay.
The cold black mine that lay in wait bobbed up and down with the waves,
Waiting patiently for the ship to hit and to take those brave lads to a watery grave.
Let us remember all those men, and read their names with pride.
Carved here on this Grand Memorial as we stand side by side.

Liz Granby

Children from Dounby Community School in Orkney made a recording of the names of all the men lost with HMS Hampshire which was played as people arrived for the service. You can hear their living tribute in full here:

https://soundcloud.com/milestone-kirk/hms-hampshire-memorial-list-of-names

A key theme of the service was established with a poem in three parts by Rev David McNeish, one of the ministers who led the service:

Let there be stones
– on the centenary of the loss of HMS Hampshire

Let there be a tower of stones.
A monument to a man and more.
A refuge from the inhospitable sea.
Hewn from rock,
Raised by the people of Orkney.

Let there be a tower of stones.
At the nearest point of land.
The highest point of survey.
A beacon of solidity.
A fixture for generations to come.

Let there be a tower of stones.
____________________

Let there be a wall of stones.  
Gathered in an arc
The curve of horizons
And protective arms
The shelter stones of harbour
And safe passage.

Let there be a wall of stones.
Built on solid foundations
Strengthened against the battering wind.
And fashioned by hands who know how to neighbour rocks.
This is no hasty undertaking.

Let there be a wall of stones.
To better remember.
And on this wall.
Let every name be etched.
Every name recalled,
Every life valued and mourned
In grief and gratitude.

Let there be a wall of stones.
__________________

Let there be living stones.
People cut and crafted in different places.
Forged in different fires
Pressed in different circumstances.
Gathered in reflection.

Let there be living stones.
Succeeding generations
Of survivors, of relatives,
Of locals.
For voices that were silenced
May the stones themselves cry out.
Recalling details and dramas long since played out.
Petitioning the wind for forgiveness.

Let there be living stones.
Men and women who stand
Against all injustice
Against all hatred and tyranny.
Against every act of oppression
Whose lives are prayers for peace,
Vital poems of compassion
And monuments of mercy.

Let there be living stones.

Rev David McNeish

There are many reports online and in print about Sunday’s events, and lots of wonderful photographs on social media. Orkney’s weekly newspaper, The Orcadian, has produced a splendid commemorative pull-out.

Some of the online reports…

http://www.orcadian.co.uk/2016/06/hundreds-gather-remember-loss-hms-hampshire/

http://www.centenarynews.com/article/orkney-remembers-the-dead-of-hms-hampshire

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-36443888

http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/defence/service-commemorates-the-men-of-hms-hampshire-1-7416919

Elsewhere individuals and organisations posted biographies, or photographs, of the men who were on HMS Hampshire and these include…

https://dailydiaryww1.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/june-5-1916/

https://mitchamwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/walter-ewing-lost-with-the-hampshire/

https://history.blog.gov.uk/2016/06/06/hugh-obeirne-and-the-sinking-of-hms-hampshire-a-diplomat-remembered/

A huge thank you to everyone who was involved with the weekend events, the service, the restoration of the Kitchener Memorial and the creation of the HMS Hampshire wall.

And thank you to everyone who attended the service at Marwick Head, to those who watched on a big screen at nearby Birsay Community Hall, and those who joined via the internet.

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The final engraved panel on the HMS Hampshire commemorative wall (image: Orkney Heritage Society)

The following morning it was touching to see some of the relatives of the men lost with HMS Hampshire return to look again at the names engraved in the wall.

For generations to come there will be visitors to see the Kitchener Memorial and the HMS Hampshire wall – to remember, to wonder, to commemorate and to discover the events of 5 June 1916.

Graham Brown

 

New book to commemorate centenary of loss of HMS Hampshire

The countdown continues – it is now just over three weeks until people from far and wide gather in Orkney to remember the sinking of HMS Hampshire 100 years ago and the 737 men who died on that stormy June night in 1916.

Relatives of those lost with HMS Hampshire – or HM Drifter Laurel Crown – should by now have heard from Orkney Islands Council about arrangements for the commemorative events. If you have not heard, and think you should have done, please contact Susan Learmonth by email – Susan.Learmonth@orkney.gov.uk – or telephone 01856 873535.

If you live in Orkney look out in this week’s edition of The Orcadian for a programme of events, published by Orkney Islands Council, marking the centenaries of the Battle of Jutland and the loss of HMS Hampshire.

For those of you elsewhere please keep an eye on this page on the council’s website which is being updated with further information:

http://www.orkney.gov.uk/Service-Directory/S/first-world-war-commemorative-cultural-programme.htm

Meanwhile, as promised in this blog’s headline, we can bring you exciting news of a new book about HMS Hampshire. The Orkney Heritage Society announcement follows.

Graham Brown

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The cover of the book – HMS Hampshire: A Century of Myths and Mysteries Unravelled

Orkney Heritage Society announces the forthcoming publication of a book to commemorate the centenary of the loss of HMS Hampshire:

HMS Hampshire: a Century of Myths and Mysteries Unravelled

by James Irvine, Brian Budge, Jude Callister, Kevin Heath, Andrew Hollinrake, Issy Grieve, Keith Johnson, Neil Kermode, Michael Lowrey, Tom Muir, Emily Turton and Ben Wade

The book assembles hitherto unused contemporary evidence to explore the causes and circumstances of the loss of HMS Hampshire on 5 June 1916 and the associated myths and mysteries.

It will include the new Roll of Honour, accounts of Hampshire, Lord Kitchener and the mission to Russia, the rescue efforts and associated rumours and outrage, the conspiracy theories, the minelaying and minesweeping operations, the loss of HM Drifter Laurel Crown, the Kitchener Memorial, the diving expeditions on the wreck, the artefacts, and the centenary events, and notes on the survivors and many of the men who lost their lives (brief contributions still welcomed).

This A4 120 page illustrated case-bound book will be launched on 30 August 2016 and retail at £25 plus postage & packing. All proceeds, including authors’ royalties, will go to the Orkney Heritage Society for the Kitchener Memorial refurbishment project.

Two pre-launch offers are available for orders placed before 20 August 2016 (this has been extended from 30 June 2016):

Either: Copies may be ordered for £25 with free UK postage and packing
(plus £5 supplement for Europe, £10 supplement for rest of world);

Or: Copies may be ordered for £20, ie 20% off, for personal collection in exchange for receipt at the launch on 30 August, or thereafter from Lucy Gibbon at The Orkney Archive, Junction Road, Kirkwall.

Payment for the above pre-launch offers may be by:

Either: cheque payable to “The Orkney Heritage Society” and sent to the OHS Treasurer, PO Box 6220, Kirkwall, KW15 9AD. Please enclose name, email address (for receipt), and (for postal option) delivery address;

Or: cash or cheque at the Birsay Community Hall on 3 to 5 June, 11am – 5pm and evenings.

A PayPal payment facility is also available via this Orkney Heritage Society page.

Queries to jamesmirvine@hotmail.co.uk

Please note: this blog was amended on 13 May 2016 to change the url of the Orkney Islands Council webpage giving information about centenary events and to add a link to Orkney Heritage Society’s PayPal facility. It was further amended on 5 July 2016 to reflect the new final date of 20 August 2016 for book pre-launch offers.

Laurel Crown crew to be remembered on HMS Hampshire memorial

It’s been a notable week for naval history here in Orkney.

On Monday the UK Government announced plans for the centenary commemoration of the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval battle of the First World War, in which 6,000 British and 2,500 German personnel died.

Orkney will play a central role in the events on 31 May 2016 with a service at St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall and a ceremony at the Royal Naval Cemetery, Lyness, Hoy.

Also this week, on Wednesday, it was the 76th anniversary of the HMS Royal Oak disaster, which is always marked with poignant commemorations here in Orkney. She was torpedoed by a U-boat while in Scapa Flow with the loss of 834 lives in the early days of the Second World War.

Meanwhile our work on the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire project continues – we are restoring Orkney’s Kitchener Memorial and creating a memorial wall engraved with the names of all 737 men lost with HMS Hampshire in time for the centenary on 5 June 2016.

George Petrie, lost with HM Drifter Laurel Crown (believed to be a family photograph published in The Orcadian when his death was announced)
George Petrie, lost with HM Drifter Laurel Crown (believed to be a family photograph published in The Orcadian when his death was announced)

Today we make a significant announcement. We are going to include on the wall the names of nine men who died when HM Drifter Laurel Crown sank in the same minefield as Hampshire on 22 June 1916. They include George Petrie, who came from Burray, Orkney.

Below is the press release we issued to the media this week. You may have heard about our plans to remember the Laurel Crown on BBC Radio Orkney this morning, or read about them in today’s The Orcadian (page 5) and in the Press & Journal.

Graham Brown

Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project press release

Laurel Crown crew to be remembered on Hampshire memorial

Volunteers creating a memorial wall for 737 men lost with HMS Hampshire in the First World War will also commemorate nine more men – including an Orcadian – lost in the same minefield later the same month.

HMS Hampshire sank near Orkney’s Atlantic coast on 5 June 1916 after hitting a German mine while sailing to Russia. The dead included Britain’s Secretary of State for War, Earl Kitchener.

On 22 June HM Drifter Laurel Crown was one of eight vessels on their way to sweep for mines near the site of the disaster when she too struck a mine and was lost, with all hands.

The names of the nine Laurel Crown men who died will be engraved on the HMS Hampshire commemorative wall being created next to the Kitchener Memorial at Marwick Head. They include George Petrie, aged 32, a married man with one son from Burray.

Military historian Brian Budge has researched his background: “George Petrie was born at Wart, Burray on 8th August 1883, the oldest son of Crofter George Petrie and Betsy Petrie (née Brown). George’s parents had both died and he was working as a fisherman when he married Flora Taylor on 10th September 1914. They made their home at Wart and had a son, also called George.

“George enrolled into the Royal Naval Reserve at Kirkwall on 15th May 1916. He reported to HMS Zaria, an Auxiliary Patrol depot ship based at Longhope in Scapa Flow and soon joined the crew of HM Drifter Laurel Crown as a deck hand.”

After the sinking Engineman Thomas Baker’s body was recovered, identified and buried in Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, Hoy. George Petrie and four more of the crew are commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, on Southsea Common, Hampshire. George is also remembered on a family gravestone in Burray Cemetery.

The loss of the Laurel Crown was brought to the attention of Orkney Heritage Society’s Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project by marine historian Kevin Heath, of SULA Diving, after he heard about the group’s plans at a public meeting.

Neil Kermode, project chair, said: “We started this project wanting to ‘better remember’ the men who died alongside Earl Kitchener in 1916. It seems entirely fitting that we should also commemorate those lost shortly afterwards on the Laurel Crown in the same minefield.”

The project’s volunteers are restoring the Kitchener Memorial and creating the commemorative wall in time for events on 5 June 2016 marking the centenary of the warship’s loss. Many donations of money, time and goods have been received but the volunteers estimate they need a further £15,000 to ensure work is finished before the centenary.

Anyone who wishes to donate towards the project can do so online at justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety/ or send a cheque payable to Orkney Heritage Society.

The project committee would also like to hear from anyone who may have artefacts linked to HMS Hampshire for a planned exhibition around the time of the centenary. Please email kitchener.memorial@gmail.com or write to Orkney Heritage Society, PO Box 6220, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 9AD, UK.

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

End of press release

Links

BBC News on Battle of Jutland centenary – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34506679

Battle of Jutland centenary press release on Commonwealth War Graves Commission website –

http://www.cwgc.org/news-events/news/2015/10/uk-government-announces-plans-for-battle-of-jutland-centenary.aspx

The Orcadian reports on the Royal Oak 76th anniversary –

http://www.orcadian.co.uk/2015/10/memorial-service-marks-76th-anniversary-of-royal-oak-disaster/

BBC Radio Orkney reports on our Laurel Crown announcement. One of our committee members, Andrew Hollinrake, is interviewed, together with Brian Budge, towards the end of the programme –

https://soundcloud.com/radio-orkney/around-orkney-thursday-15th-october-2015

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

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