A fitting memorial to remember all of the 736 men lost with Field Marshall Lord Kitchener is planned at the Kitchener Memorial on Orkney
The sea around Scapa Flow holds the graves of hundreds of unfortunate sailors who went down with their ships during two world wars.
© Orkney Heritage Society
As the main British naval base for both conflicts, the deep waters of the natural harbour in Orkney today contain the protected war graves of HMS Royal Oak, the dreadnought HMS Vanguard and the armoured cruiser HMS Hampshire. The site also contains the remains of the German fleet, scuttled in 1919, and other relics of the twentieth century's bloodiest conflicts.
But it was the sinking of HMS Hampshire in a gale force storm off the mainland of Orkney between Brough of Birsay and Marwick Head on June 5 1916 that captured the public imagination of the time.
The battleship, which only days earlier had taken part in the Battle of Jutland, was on a diplomatic mission to Murmasnk with Secretary of State for War Field Marshall Lord Kitchener on board when it struck a mine laid by a German U-Boat. Kitchener and over 700 men were lost in the stormy seas.
As a famous Colonial and Boer War veteran - and a Cabinet Minister - Kitchener was a prominent figure and had been the face of the early wartime recruitment drive. He is best known today for the much parodied "Your Country Needs You!" recruiting posters but in 1916 his death made the headlines across the world.
In 1926 the Kitchener Memorial, a 48-feet high crenelated stone tower, was unveiled on the cliffs at Marwick Head, looking out across the Atlantic from the west coast of Mainland Orkney. And although the memorial, which was paid for by public subscription, formed a fitting memorial to a towering figure, a plaque on its wall made only a brief reference to the other men lost on HMS Hampshire with him.
Now the public is being asked to back a campaign, which has been launched to “better remember” all of the men lost on June 5 1916 – a figure which new research puts at 736 rather than 643.
Orkney Heritage Society aims to restore the Kitchener Memorial to its original condition, retaining its iconic profile but also add a new low wall of local stone around the memorial, with the names of all of those lost engraved in granite.
“As the centenary of the loss approaches, we believe those 736 men deserve to be better, and appropriately, remembered,” says Neil Kermode, who is leading the project for Orkney Heritage Society. “There is unanimous agreement locally for this idea and great interest further afield.”
A Just Giving page has been established towards the £200,000 needed to complete the project at justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety/.
"The project committee is working hard to get grants toward the cost,” adds Kermnode,”but we will also rely on public donations. We would be grateful for any contributions, large and small."
The restored memorial and the commemorative wall will be officially unveiled at events to mark the centenary of the loss on 5 June 2016.
You can follow the progress of the project on Facebook, via Twitter @kitchenerorkney and via a blog at kitchenerhampshire.wordpress.com.
Donations can also be made by cheque payable to Orkney Heritage Society, and sent to Orkney Heritage Society, PO Box 6220, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 9AD.
© IWM (Q 38999)
© Graham Brown
© IWM (Art.IWM ART 5252)
© Orkney Heritage Society
- Find out more about Orkney's wartime heritage at www.visitscotland.com/about/history/orkney/wartime
- Read about the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre at www.scapaflow.co.uk/sfvc.htm
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