Quiet reflection planned for 101st anniversary of HMS Hampshire sinking

hms hampshire wall
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)

Options for HMS Hampshire memorial wall on display

A display of plans for our proposed memorial wall bearing the names of more than 700 men lost when HMS Hampshire sank opens today (Thursday 26 March) at Birsay Community Hall, West Mainland, Orkney.

Three options are shown for the wall, planned to be built next to Orkney’s Kitchener Memorial in order to “better remember” those who died alongside Earl Kitchener on HMS Hampshire.

Options for the HMS Hampshire Memorial wall
Options for the HMS Hampshire Memorial wall

The display will be in Birsay Community Hall until Monday 6 April. Residents and visitors are invited to comment via a questionnaire on the options, which are a square wall around the existing monument, a square with a cut-off corner, and an arc.

The 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.

Neil Kermode, chair of the project, said: “Fundraising is underway and after extensive consultation the erection of a low wall bearing the names of all those lost is now proposed. Three schemes have been designed and public opinion is being sought as to which is best.”

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 research for the memorial project has identified the names of 736 lost. There were 12 survivors.

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

The planned commemorative wall, subject to planning permission, will be a little over a metre high. Local building stone will be used for the seaward side. The names of the 736 men who died, including Kitchener, will be engraved in granite in order to be more weather resistant.

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

If you are unable to visit Birsay Community Hall you can see and comment on the drawings via the project’s web outlets: Facebook (@Kitchener.Memorial), Twitter (@kitchenerorkney) and, of course, this blog.

Also, comments may be emailed to kitchener.memorial@gmail.com or posted to: Neil Kermode, Quarry House, Finstown, Orkney, KW17 2JY.

Finally, a few more updates on the Kitchener & HMS Hampshire Memorial project.

Grant applications are in with the War Memorials Trust, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Orkney Islands Council Community Development Fund. We should hear about all of these in April.

We are grateful for the donations coming into our JustGiving page and as cheques. We want to say a sincere thank you for this, but are grappling with the finer points of JustGiving’s website and confidentiality. However in lieu of a personal note we really do appreciate the heartfelt support we have found.

You can make donations to this £200,000 project via justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety/.

And we have had our first confirmations of relatives coming to the centenary in June 2016, both of HMS Hampshire crew and Earl Kitchener. We look forward to making them welcome in Orkney.

Graham Brown