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

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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