On June 5, 1916, at least 100 Royal Navy sailors who lived in Portsmouth died when their cruiser hit a mine and sank.
Another 636 perished that day and almost all of them would have spent time in the city.
There were many ‘big’ sinkings of warships during the First World War and each hit Portsmouth hard. But the destruction of the Portsmouth-based Devonshire-class cruiser HMS Hampshire is most-often remembered for the ‘celebrity’ who went down with her off Orkney – Lord Kitchener.
Next year marks the centenary of the sinking and a campaign has been launched to finally do justice to the hundreds of ‘ordinary’ officers and men who lost their lives in the incident which came immediately after the Battle of Jutland.
For a commemorative wall bearing the names of the 736 lost men is being planned overlooking the spot where Hampshire went down.
The wall will surround Orkney’s Kitchener Memorial in order to ‘better remember’ those who died alongside Kitchener.
After Hampshire sank in a storm, during which she hit that mine, it was long believed that 643 men died, but new research has identified the names of 736 lost. There were 12 survivors.
The Kitchener Memorial, a 48ft high stone tower, was unveiled in 1926 on cliffs at Marwick Head, on the Atlantic west coast of Mainland Orkney. The site is within an RSPB reserve and offers stunning views.
Field Marshal Lord Kitchener was a member of the Cabinet and Secretary of State for War when he died. He was travelling to Russia for talks and to this day is perhaps best-known as the face of the First World War ‘Your Country Needs You!’ recruiting posters.
A plaque on the memorial only makes a passing 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.
Anyone who wishes to donate towards the £200,000 needed can do so online at justgiving.com/orkneyheritagesociety/. The project committee is also applying for grants towards the cost.
The restoration and commemorative wall will be unveiled at events marking the centenary of the sinking on Sunday, June 5, 2016.
Neil Kermode, who is leading the project for Orkney Heritage Society, says: ‘As the centenary approaches, we believe those 736 men deserve to be better, and appropriately, remembered. I also believe there is unanimous agreement locally for this idea and great interest further afield.
We believe those 736 men deserve to be better, and appropriately, rememberedNeil Kermode
‘The project committee is working hard to get grants towards the cost but we will also rely on public donations.’
Anyone without computer access may send a cheque, payable to Orkney Heritage Society, to Orkney Heritage Society, PO Box 6220, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 9AD.