A Portsmouth woman spoke of her family’s loss as she joined a commemoration for the men of HMS Hampshire
Jackie Baynes travelled to the Orkney Islands for a service held to mark 100 years since the sinking of First World War ship HMS Hampshire with the loss of 737 lives.
Lord Kitchener, Britain’s secretary of state for war, was among the casualties when Hampshire struck a German mine off the coast of Orkney on June 5 1916.
The loss came within days of the devastating Battle of Jutland which saw the deaths of 6,094 British seamen.
Descendants of the Hampshire’s crew gathered for a service of remembrance above the cliffs at Marwick Head, on Orkney, overlooking the waters where it went down a century ago, where a new commemorative wall engraved with the names of those who died was unveiled.
Mrs Baynes remembered her grandfather William Cake who was serving on HMS Hampshire as acting stoker petty officer.
It was heart breaking for them that he was buried so far away, with no possibility of her and the children being able to afford to travel to Orkney to visit his graveJackie Baynes
She said: “I feel very close to my grandfather despite his early death. The family often spoke of him and called him fondly ‘our father’.”
The body of 38-year-old Mr Cake was recovered from a beach and relatives believe he was on one of only two life rafts that managed to make it through rough seas to the shore.
His fingers and nails were badly cut and broken through his efforts to pull himself ashore.
The seaman of 20 years was buried at the Royal Naval Cemetery at Lyness on the Orkney island of Hoy.
His widow Minnie was left with seven children aged from two to 20 to care for at their small terraced house at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight.
Mrs Baynes said: “It was heart breaking for them that he was buried so far away, with no possibility of her and the children being able to afford to travel to Orkney to visit his grave.
“It wasn’t until 1988 that one of the daughters, who was then 82, finally managed to visit Lyness.”
Jim Foubister, vice convener of Orkney Islands Council, said: “The men who died deserve to be remembered and now their names will live on and never be forgotten.”
HMS Hampshire left the Royal Navy’s anchorage at Scapa Flow in stormy conditions and was struck by a mine laid by a German submarine. Only 12 crewmen survived.
The ship was bound for Russia and Kitchener - familiar as the face on wartime recruitment posters - was on board as part of a diplomatic and military mission aimed at boosting Russia’s efforts on the eastern front.
A decade later the people of Orkney erected the Kitchener Memorial above the cliffs at Marwick Head which has recently been restored by the Orkney Heritage Society.