Families gather to remember 737 who died in 1916 Orkney sinking

The  Kitchener Memorial at Marwick Head. Picture: PA
The Kitchener Memorial at Marwick Head. Picture: PA
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A special commemoration service has been staged of the north of Scotland to mark 100 years since the sinking of First World War ship HMS Hampshire with the loss of hundreds of lives.

Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, Britain’s secretary of state for war at the time, was among 737 who died when Hampshire struck a German mine off the coast of Orkney on 5 June 1916.

HMS Hampshire, which survived the Battle of Jutland only to be sunk days later by a German mine off the coast of Orkney. Picture: PA

HMS Hampshire, which survived the Battle of Jutland only to be sunk days later by a German mine off the coast of Orkney. Picture: PA

The sinking came within days of the devastating Battle of Jutland, the biggest naval battle of the war, which resulted in the deaths of 6,094 British seamen.

Descendants of the Hampshire’s crew last night joined locals and officials for a service of remembrance, which was held at a dramatic vantage point on the cliffs overlooking the spot where the ship went down a century ago and the wreck still lies.

A new commemorative wall engraved with the names of all those who died was unveiled as part of the ceremony.

The low arc-shaped wall bears the names of all 737 men who died, as well as nine others who perished when HM Drifter Laurel Crown was lost on 22 June 1916.

It was heart-breaking for them that he was buried so far away, with no possibility of her and the children being able to travel to Orkney to visit his grave

JACKIE BAYNES

Jim Foubister, vice-convener of Orkney Islands Council, said: “The men who died deserve to be remembered and now their names will live on and never be forgotten.”

HMS Hampshire, a Devonshire-class armoured cruiser, survived the Battle of Jutland.

However, a few days later, after leaving the Royal Navy’s anchorage at Scapa Flow in stormy conditions, the ship was struck by a mine laid by a German submarine.

Only 12 crewmen survived.

The ship was bound for Russia and Kitchener – familiar as the moustached face on the famous “Your Country needs you” wartime recruitment posters – was on board as part of a diplomatic and military mission.

A decade after the war, the people of Orkney erected a commemorative stone tower, known as the Kitchener Memorial, at Marwick Head.

Until now only Lord Kitchener’s name has been commemorated at the site. Now, a century on, it has been restored by the Orkney Heritage Society and a wall built with the names of all those who died.

Jackie Baynes, from Ports-mouth, was attending the ceremony to remember her grandfather William Cake, who was serving on HMS Hampshire when the ship went down.

Mrs Baynes said: “I feel very close to my grandfather, despite his early death. The family often spoke of him and called him fondly ‘our father’.”

The body of 38-year-old Mr Cake was recovered from a beach, and relatives believe he was on one of only two life rafts to make it through rough seas to shore.

It is believed he died of hypothermia, as his fingers were badly cut and his nails broken through his desperate efforts to pull himself ashore. The seaman of 20 years was buried at the Royal Naval Cemetery at Lyness, on the Orkney island of Hoy.

His widow Minnie was left alone to care for seven children on the Isle of Wight.

She was never able to make the journey north to visit her husband’s final resting place.

“It was heart-breaking for them that he was buried so far away, with no possibility of her and the children being able to afford to travel to Orkney to visit his grave,” Mrs Baynes said.

“It wasn’t until 1988 that one of the daughters, who was then 82, finally managed to visit Lyness.”