HMS Natal commemorations

The tragedy saw the HMS Natal capsize in the Cromarty Firth
The tragedy saw the HMS Natal capsize in the Cromarty Firth
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Commemorations are taking place today to mark the sinking of a warship which sank a century ago in Highland waters during WWI – resulting in the loss of 421 lives, including seamen, women and children.

A church ceremony and wreath laying are being held in memory of those who died on HMS Natal.

The tragedy saw the ship capsize while anchored in the Cromarty Firth, add she sank just five minutes after a series of explosions ammunition on board.

Rosalind Cahill, the granddaughter of Captain Back with children from Cromarty Primary School.

Rosalind Cahill, the granddaughter of Captain Back with children from Cromarty Primary School.

Captain Eric Black was at the time hosting a film party on the fatal afternoon, on 30 December, 1915, and had invited the wives and children of his officers.

A civilian friend, the factor of Novar Estate, his family, as well as nurses from a nearby hospital had also also attended.

Many of the crew were on shore leave at the time the explosions tore through the rear part of the ship.

Some of the sailors were playing football in Cromarty and saw their ship go down with their comrades on board.

The tragedy was not publicised at the time, as the Great War at just begun.

An Admiralty court-martial later ruled out sabotage by the Germans and concluded the sinking was due to an internal ammunition explosion, possible down to a faulty cordite.

The Natal had been launched at Barrow-in-Furness on 30 September, 1905, so the events will commemorate the 110th anniversary of her launch, as well as the centenary of the disaster.

A buoy marks the site of the sinking today. Much of the steel from the warship was salvaged after the incident.

A memorial church service at Invergordon Parish Church, to be followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the Natal Buoy in the middle of the Firth.

Boats will be going out from both Invergordon and Cromarty.

The Cromarty boat will have Mrs Rosalind Cahill, grand-daughter of Capt Black, along with her daughter and son-in-law.

Mrs Cahill will lay a wreath at the buoy.

Cromarty School pupils will also pay a tribute at the 15 Natal graves in Cromarty cemetery by laying flowers at each grave.

Local pipers will play to introduce and close the event, which will include a bugler from the band of the Royal Marines playing the Last Post.

The full marching band of the Royal Marines will then perform Beating the Retreat at Cromarty Harbour. A specially-commissioned memorial panel, telling the story of the disaster, will be unveiled by Mrs Cahill.