THE Orkney Islands are to be the focal point for the 100th anniversary commemorations of the biggest naval battle in the First World War, the UK Government will announce today.
A series of events in the Orkneys, which became the base for the Royal Navy during the war, will mark the centenary of the Battle of Jutland which took place in 1916 and eventually ended up being decisive to the final victory by Britain and her allies two years later.
While the battle just off Denmark itself ended in stalemate, it meant that the Royal Navy was able to maintain a blockade which would ultimately starve Germany into submission.
The hostilities on 31 May 1916 brought together the two most powerful naval powers of the time in the most pivotal naval engagement of the war, with the Royal Navy’s 151 ships facing off the Imperial German Navy’s 99 ships.
It was the culmination of an arms race to build the superships of the time known as the Dreadnoughts.
At the end of two days of fighting the British had lost 14 ships and 6,094 personnel while the Germans lost 11 ships and 2,551 men.
British and German representatives are due to come together to commemorate the event with a service at St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall and a Royal Navy event at Lyness on the Isle of Hoy.
A wreath will also be laid by German and British representatives on Jutland bank while there will events Portsmouth, Belfast, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Germany.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is also due to announce details of how relatives can attend the different events.
Nick Jellicoe, the grandson of Admiral John Jellicoe, who commanded the British fleet, said: “Listening to other people’s memories – from my extended family or complete strangers – has brought him to life for me. I only wish that I’d asked the one person who knew him better than anyone: my own dad. Those are memories I would have cherished.”
Councillor Jim Foubister, Vice Convener of Orkney Islands Council, said: “It is fitting that Orkney will host the national commemoration and that this will draw to a close at Lyness among the graves of some of the many thousands of sailors who lost their lives at Jutland.”
Meawnhile SNP Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The Battle of Jutland was the war’s largest naval battle and this will be an important commemoration when we should reflect on the bravery of the Navy and its sailors.”