Falling masonry casts Jutland memorial service in doubt

The poppy sculpture Weeping Window cascades down the side of St Magnus Cathedral. Picture: Getty Images
The poppy sculpture Weeping Window cascades down the side of St Magnus Cathedral. Picture: Getty Images
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Experts have had to be called in to inspect the country’s most northerly cathedral just hours before the 900-year-old building is due to host a major event commemorating the First World War that will be attended by the prime minister and members of the royal family.

The alarm was raised after a masonry fell from St Magnus Cathedral in Orkney, the venue for a ceremony being held tomorrow to mark the centenary of the Battle of Jutland.

David Cameron and the Duke of Edinburgh are expected to join descendants of those who fought in the battle for the service.

But stone masons were alerted when it was discovered a chunk of sandstone surrounding a stained glass window high in the south transept had broken off over the weekend.

It is believed the stonework fell about 70ft to the ground overnight between Saturday and Sunday.

However, the latest reports suggest tomorrow’s events will go ahead.

The Battle of Jutland was the biggest sea battle of the First World War, bringing together the two most powerful naval forces of the time.

More than 6,000 Britons and 2,500 Germans died in the 36-hour clash, which involved about 250 ships.

It was fought from 31 May to 1 June 1916 in the North Sea, near the coast of Denmark’s Jutland peninsula, and was the only full-scale clash of battleships during the war.

Tomorrow’s event is part of a series that kicked off in South Queensferry and Rosyth over the weekend and featured the warship HMS Kent.

Scotland’s First Minister and the Princess Royal were among those paying tribute during the ceremonies, which included a wreath-laying service at a war graves cemetery in the Fife town of Rosyth.

Rosyth was the base for the naval force during the conflict.

Nicola Sturgeon said: “The sacrifices made by those who fought in this battle, the largest naval encounter of the First World War, and by other seafarers throughout the conflict must never be forgotten.”

A minute’s silence was held after the ringing of a bell made from the hull of the battlecruiser HMS Tiger, which was damaged during the Jutland campaign.

Construction began on St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall in 1137, with several extensions added over the centuries since.

Thousands of ceramic poppies from the acclaimed Tower of London art installation are currently on display at the cathedral as part of the national First World War commemorations. The cathedral is the first in Scotland to host the artwork, named Poppies: Weeping Window.