Royal Navy marks centenary of sinking of HMS Hampshire

The Royal Navy has marked the centenary of the sinking of HMS Hampshire in Orkney with the loss of 737 men, just days after she had survived the historic Battle of Jutland.

As the fog of battle cleared on the morning of 1 June 1916, HMS Hampshire returned to Scapa Flow along with the rest of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, and was almost immediately ordered to carry Lord Kitchener on a diplomatic mission to Russia.  

She sailed in stormy conditions on 5 June 1916, when she hit a mine at around 8.45pm, just off Marwick Head, Orkney. There were just 12 survivors.

To the people of Orkney the loss is deeply felt, as demonstrated by the large crowd who turned out to attend the evening service. Over 500 locals gathered around the Kitchener Memorial, until now the only symbol commemorating the loss. 

The tower, located on a windy hilltop at Marwick Head on the north west coast of Orkney has now been enhanced by a new Memorial Wall, an Orkney Heritage Society project, inscribed with all 723 names of the crew as well as that of Lord Kitchener and his 13 staff who perished that stormy night which will be unveiled.

Whilst the Royal Navy paid their respects at the Memorial with a Ceremonial Guard from the Faslane-based Northern Diving Group, the Type 45 Destroyer HMS Duncan was at anchor over the spot where Hampshire was lost and a held their own memorial service on board.

The two services included a two-minute silence at 8.45pm, the time of the sinking, signalled by the firing of a Saluting Gun from the ship. 

A wreath was laid at sea over the wreck, whilst at Marwick Head Admiral Sir Jock Slater, a former First Sea Lord laid the wreath on behalf of the Royal Navy at the request of Captain Chris Smith RN, Naval Regional Commander for Scotland & Northern Ireland who also attended the shore-side service. 

The Guard gave the General Salute, a mark of respect generally reserved for Senior Officers or Members of the Royal Family. Here, it was in honour of those fallen souls.

During the service the new arc-shaped HMS Hampshire commemorative wall was unveiled and on completion the audience was invited to spend time studying the engraved names inscribed, which includes the nine who died when HM Drifter Laurel Crown, checking for further mines in the area was lost on 22 June 1916.

The commemoration marked the end of HMS Duncan’s visit to Kirkwall, where it arrived on Friday from Jutland Bank where the ship had taken part in the Battle of Jutland Commemorations.