When it became clear that the bodies of those killed during the first World War would not be brought home for burial, the people of Britain wanted to mark their deaths in a communal way. All over Britain War Memorials to commemorate the dead were unveiled. There is one in almost every parish and unfortunately many more names have been added to these after the second world war claimed many more lives.
The Royal British Legion web site gives an Introduction to War Memorials in Orkney and is also a very good site if you want to look up those missing in action. Brian Budge has done tremendous work in this area and he can be contacted through the Legion’s website.
The Lyness Royal Navy Cemetery was begun in 1915 when Scapa Flow was the base for the Grand Fleet. The cemetery is beautifully kept and is well worth visiting. It makes us stop and think about the terrible loss of life caused by wars and accidents at sea. Here, are memorials to the men who lost their lives on HMS Vanguard, HMS Hampshire, HMS Narbourgh and HMS Opal – all lost through accidents.
Twenty six men who lost their lives on the HMS Royal Oak are buried here as well as fourteen sailors of the German Navy. Nine of these were German fatalities shot by small arms fire during the scuttling of the German Fleet. In addition, there are stones in memory of the men lost at the Battle of Jutland and to the Roman Catholic Officers and men of the Grand Fleet.
Tragic loss of staff from HM Hospital Ship China
At the entrance at the Lyness Cemetery there is a plain cross set upon a stepped plinth. It says “Sacred to the memory of Lionel A Martin, Surgeon, R.N. Herbert M Marshall, Dental Surgeon R.N.V.R. Cyril Le Gai Hayward, 3rd Officer and Louisa C Chamberlain Q.A.R.N.N.S.R. who were accidently killed while boating in Northern waters on August 3rd 1918.”
Erected by their shipmates in H.M.H.S. China REQUIESCANT IN PACE. This is a memorial only and none of the people named were interred in the cemetery. The memorial was erected by the crew of the hospital ship to commemorate their colleagues. The ‘HMHS’ was a hospital ship which was moored out in the bay and one day a 3rd officer, a nurse and two surgeons, took out a sail boat intending to enjoy some time off.
Unfortunately, the wind fell and the officer in charge of the boat misjudged the strength of the tide. The small boat was caught in the tide and was drawn towards the minefield at Cantick, which was laid to keep enemy submarines out of the Flow. There was nothing that anyone could do and the boat and its passengers were swept into the minefield.
A witness to the event said that the man who would have been on duty that day could have switched off the fields if he had seen the danger the boat was in, but unfortunately he was away for the day and the new man did not know how to switch off the electrical field.
Nothing was found, the poor folk were blown to pieces and only the nurse’s white head dress was washed up on the beach the next morning. In his memory, Lt Marshall’s parents, Septimus and Margaret Marshall, provided money to build the Marshall Memorial Hall in Sunderland.
The cemetery is worth a visit if you are in Lyness.
South Walls Memorial
This memorial is nine feet high and is made from granite. It shows a Celtic cross and is set upon a base of Melsetter freestone. It was unveiled on the 9th of October 1921 by Mr Thomas Middlemore. It is very similar to the one in St Ola Cemetery.
Hoy War Memorial
There is a stone plaque in the church vestry which is dedicated to the war dead.
St Ola War Memorial
This beautiful memorial is called the Cross of Sacrifice and was erected by The Imperial War Graves Commission. It was unveiled by Rear Admiral Peter Skelton C.B. on Sunday the 3rd of June 1956. The dedication was read by Rev J M Rose M.A. the Hon Chaplain to the forces. The Guard of Honour was provided by the 430 Coast Regiment R.A.T.A.
Orphir War Memorial
The memorial shows a red granite tablet with a cross on the top. It was unveiled by Mrs Miller of Swanibster, sister of a man who was lost in the war.
This memorial was unveiled on the 5th of September 1920 and shows a granite cross on a concrete plinth.
The war memorial stands in the cemetery at the old ruined kirk of St Lawrence. It is a beautiful stone and shows two crossed rifles and a hat lying between them.
The stone reads Erected by the inhabitants of Burray in grateful memory of the Islesmen who fell in the Great War 1914 – 1918.
Burray was of course still an island during the first World War, the barriers only being built in the second world war.
St. Margaret’s Hope and South Ronaldsay
This statue was sculpted by Alexander Carrick, whose mother came from Saint Margaret’s Hope. The statue was based on a photo belonging to Private Robert McLaughlin of the Black Watch, who was killed on the Somme in 1915. It is sculpted from corstorphine and shows a Seaforth Highlander.
In Orkney there are only three memorials which show a figure. There is this one, the angel at the Kirkwall and St Ola memorial and the Stromness memorial. All the others are simple memorials. It was unveiled and dedicated on Sunday the 21st of August 1921.
On the 5th of September 1948 a plaque was added to the stone pedestal by Miss Marjory Rosie of Roselea in South Ronaldsay in memory of her uncle who was lost on a Russian convoy. If you would like to read more about the war dead do try ot get a copy of the book 'For Freedom and Honour ' written by George Esson.
Also take the time to look up the web site run by Brian Budge. Brian has spent many years gathering together information on Orkney men lost during the wars. A link to this site can be found at the side of the page.
Flotta War Memorial
This is a lovely memorial which is a red granite pillar with a cross above. It was unveiled on the 18th of September 1921 by Mrs Catherine Norquoy and Mrs Christine Sutherland who had both lost two sons.
Only one serviceman was lost from the island of Flotta during the second world war. He was Petty Officer James Sutherland Mackay Flett who was serving as a Canteen Manager on S.S. Baltonia, a merchant ship when he was killed in a action.
A framed photograph of him is inside the Flotta Kirk. You can read more about James Flett by clicking on a link at the side of the page.
Stromness War Memorial
The Stomness Memorial was unveiled on the 4th of August 1921by Mr James Robb of Stromness. He and his wife Ann lost two sons in the war. Charles was killed in Flanders on 3rd June 1916 and George lost his life on the 17th June 1917 when SS Don Arturo was sunk. Neither of their sons has a known grave.
The memorial shows a female figure on top of the plinth and there aretwo First World War panels on the memorial and one Second World War Panel.
Dunning Stone of Remembrance
Below Smoogro House on the shore is a stone of remembrance for Commander Edwin Dunning. He was a pilot who made the first ever landing on the deck of a ship while at sea. After two successful attempts he lost his life on the third attempt when a gust of wind tipped his plane over the edge of the ship.
The gilded inscription and a Royal Navy Officer Cap Badge are carved on the rock. The writing has greatly faded today due to weathering of the sand stone of which it is made. It reads
'SQUADRON/ COMMANDER/ EDWIN DUNNING/ DSC RNAS/ JULY 1982 AUGUST 1917/ ON 2ND AUGUST 1917 LT. DUNNING/ TOOK OFF FROM RNAS FLYING FIELD/ AT SMOOGRO TO MAKE THE FIRST EVER/ LANDING ON THE DECK OF A SHIP AT SEA./ DUNNING MADE A SECOND SUCCESSFUL/ TOUCHDOWN ON THE FOREDECK OF/ H.M.S. FURIOUS ON 7TH AUGUST 1917/ ND WAS KILLED ATTEMPTING A THIRD/ LANDING THAT DAY./ THIS STONE IS PLACED ON SMOOGRO/ FORESHORE ON MEMORY OF THIS/ DISTINGUISHED PIONEER NAVAL AIRMAN'
The stone was designed by Brian Clouston, Architect and was carved by Alan Stout who was the Stone Mason for Saint Magnus Cathedral.
It was unveiled by Admiral Sir Raymond Lygo on the 2nd of August 1992
Although not a war memorial the statue of St George slaying the dragon is a memorial to the Italian prisoners of war who helped to build the barriers and who spent some of their time in captivity in Orkney.
It is constructed from barbed wire and cement and the base of the statue contains a scroll which has the names of the Italian prisoners.
A panel on the base of the statue reads
Arctic Convoy Memorial
On the 22nd of August 2009 a new memorial was unveiled at the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre. It is dedicated to the thousands of seamen who died during the Arctic Convoys of World War 2 while they were delivering vital supplies to Soviet Russia.
Councillor Jim Foubister came up with the idea and he asked Stuart Wylie (a glass engraver) to come up with a design. The model was made and Gary Gibson (local artist) designed the round plaques that are set into it. The text for the carved stone plaque in front was written by members of the Kirkwall and Stromness branches of the British Legion and representatives from Russia.
The stone was hand quarried from Orkney Aggregates and the two pieces are set up to resemble the bow of a ship.
Royal Oak Memorial,Scapa Bay
A new memorial was erected within the Royal Oak Memorial Garden in December 2010. The obelisk was paid for by donations from survivors, families of those lost and friends of the H.M.S Royal Oak Survivors Association.
A donation was also made from the Orkney Marine Services on behalf of Orkney Islands Council as well gifting the piece of land on which the memorial stands.
The obelisk was made in Aberdeen and erected by James Dowell & Sons of Kirkwall. At just a little over six foot high it is made from Norden Grey stone.