Orkney WWI memorial wall “heroes” honoured

The memorial wall at the restored Kitchener Memorial on Orkney. PIC Historic Environment Scotland

The memorial wall at the restored Kitchener Memorial on Orkney. PIC Historic Environment Scotland

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The volunteers who created a memorial wall on Orkney to remember all 746 men who died in one of WWI’s most deadly naval attacks have been honoured with a top award.

Brick-by-brick, the wall commemorates the 737 men killed on the HMS Hampshire - including the Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener - after it struck a German mine on June 5 1916 less than two miles from the Orkney coast.

Nine others whose lives were claimed by the minefield two weeks later are also remembered.

Neil Kermode, managing director of the European Marine Energy Centre on Orkney, decided to “better remember” all the men who lost their lives after visiting the existing Kitchener Memorial at Marwick Head.

He worked with a team of fellow Orcadians to create the wall with the memorial in place for the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the HMS Hampshire earlier this year.

READ MORE: The truth behind the sinking of HMS Hampshire revealed

Last night, Mr Kermode collected a Scottish Heritage Angels Award on behalf of his team and said he had been “humbled” by the response to the memorial wall.

He said he hoped it brought “out of the shadows” the hundreds of men who died in the attack.

The awards, which are funded by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, were held in the Assembly Rooms tonight (Tuesday).

Speaking before the ceremony, Mr Kermode said: “To me it just seemed wrong that one person had their name on the memorial and that the other officers weren’t mentioned.

READ MORE: Where are the statues of Scottish women?

“I though it would be appropriate to do a 21st Century memorial for this 20th Century tragedy and colour these people back into history who had disappeared into the shadows.

“To win the award would be recognition for the whole team and all the unsung parts that people played in getting the wall in place.

“I hope the wall has left an indelible and positive mark on the whole of Orkney and I hope it shows others what you can do.”

The award also recognises the work carried out by the Orkney Heritage Society to restore the existing Kitchener Memorial.

It was long thought that about 650 men, including Kitchener, died when HMS Hampshire was lost. But recent research by Orkney historians Brian Budge and Andrew Hollinrake has revealed that the final death toll was 737.

Each brick in the wall is engraved with the names of the men who died.

Now included amongst them is Kitchener’s personal protection officer, Matthew McLoughlin, who served with the Metropolitan Police. The force has since named a new office complex after the officer after his role in the disaster emerged.

Mr Kermode and his team raised £165,000 through a mix of Orkney Council funding, private donors and donations from members of the public.

Mr Kermode said: “I have spoken to true Orcadians who for a long time had not gone up to the Kitchener Memorial. People are now going back up there and I think the wall has done its job to bring what has happened back into public consciousness.”

Mark Cranston of Jedburgh was also honoured last night for his “remarkable project” to research the Scottish industrial brick industry. He has spent a number of years investigating brick making and now has 2,000 bricks in his collection.

Mr Cranston’s work credited with “significantly adding” to knowledge on this aspect of Scotland’s industrial past.

The Friends of Kinneil were also awarded for the “outstanding work” they do in championing the heritage of Kinneil House, museum, estate and nature reserve in Bo’ness.

The Young Heritage Angel Award was won by the ‘Dig TV’ young volunteer group who made a programme on their archaeological excavation in the Black Loch of Myrton, near Whithorn.

The Lifetime Contribution to the Historic Environment award was presented to Brian Watters for his work relating to the Carron Iron Works in Falkirk.

For more than 30 years. Mr Watters has devoted much of his spare time to undertaking hours of research and delivering public talks on the works.

He was credited with boosting “worldwide knowledge” on the iron works and its related industrial history.

Following the awards, Lloyd Webber said: “The Scottish Heritage Angel Awards highlight what can be achieved when local people get involved in rescuing and restoring heritage throughout Scotland – from Dumfries to Orkney to Bo’ness.

“Huge congratulations to the winners, and indeed to all who were shortlisted, not only for the work they do but for being outstanding ambassadors for heritage. I urge everyone to use the light we shine on these projects and their unsung heroes to unlock further funding and to inspire others to get involved.”

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