A COMMEMORATIVE wall is to be built in memory of over 700 men who died when their warship, carrying Lord Kitchener on a secret mission, was sunk off Orkney during WWI.
The wall will surround the island’s Kitchener Memorial in order to “better remember” those who died alongside the Field Marshall, the Secretary of State for War, on HMS Hampshire 99 years ago.
Kitchener, best known today as the face of the “Your Country Needs You!” recruiting posters, was travelling to Russia for important talks to ensure the Tsar’s troops remained fighting in the war.
A web page allowing people to contribute to the £200,000 project was officially launched this week.
HMS Hampshire sank in a storm two miles off Orkney on 5 June, 1916, believed to have exploded after striking a mine laid by a German submarine.
It was long believed that 643 men died, but recent research suggests it was 737. There were 12 survivors.
The Kitchener Memorial, a 48-feet high stone tower, was unveiled in 1926 on cliffs at Marwick Head, on the Atlantic west coast of Mainland Orkney.
A plaque on the memorial only makes brief reference to the other men lost that day.
Orkney Heritage Society aims to restore the Kitchener Memorial to its original condition, retaining its iconic profile, and to build a low wall of local stone around the memorial, on which will be engraved in granite the names of all those lost. The wall itself will be of local stone.
The restoration and commemorative wall are to be officially unveiled at events marking the centenary of the sinking on Sunday 5 June 2016.
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Neil Kermode, who is leading the project for the heritage society, said: “As the centenary of the loss approaches, we believe those 737 men deserve to be better, and appropriately, remembered. I also believe there is unanimous agreement locally for this idea and great interest further afield.
“The project committee is working hard to get grants towards the cost but we will also rely on public donations. We would be grateful for any contributions, large and small.”
A planning application has been submitted to Orkney Islands Council for work to restore the Kitchener Memorial.
Soon a planning application will be submitted for the wall, which will be a little over a metre high and built around four sides of the memorial.
HMS Hampshire was one of six Devonshire-class armoured cruisers built for the Royal Navy in 1903.
The ship hunted for German commerce raiders until she was transferred to the Grand Fleet at the end of 1914. She was present at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.
Several days later she was sailing to Russia carrying Kitchener but is believed to have struck a mine laid by a German sub.
Rumours later circulated of German spies and sabotage being involved in the sinking.
Her wreck is listed under the Protection of Military Remains Act, though part of it was later illegally salvaged. Several films have been made exploring the circumstances of her loss.
The plaque on the Kitchener Memorial reads: “This tower was raised by the people of Orkney in memory of Field Marshal Earl Kitchener of Khartoum on that corner of his country which he had served so faithfully nearest to the place where he died on duty. He and his staff perished along with the officers and nearly all the men of HMS Hampshire on 5th June 1916.”
The memorial cost £734 to build, paid for by public subscription from Orcadians.
Relatives of those who were on board HMS Hampshire, or others with knowledge about those lost, are invited to contact the project to share their memories and information.