John Avery Heritage
Member Southampton Heritage Federation
 Sharing local history with the community
In 1967 the Queen Mary set off on her final voyage to Longbeach, California. This watercolour by Eric Crompton records the farewell.A stone carving on the RSH Hospital Chapel.An afternoon stroll on Plymouth Breakwater
John Avery is a Fellow of the Huguenot Society of Britain and Ireland, a member of Southampton
Heritage Federation, City of Southampton Society [Honorary Life Member], Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery [Honorary Life Member],  Friends of  Town Quay Park, National Federation of Cemetery Friends, The Southampton Fryatt Plaque, Devon Family History Society, West Country Historic Omnibus & Transport Trust , Landmark Trust, National Trust
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   Home      Lord Kitchener lost on HMS Hampshire

Lord Kitchener lost in the sinking of HMS Hampshire

by John Avery

HMS Hampshire was commissioned in 1905 at a cost of £833,817.

The ship served in China, the Far East and the Mediterranean later took part in the Battle of Jutland on 31st May 1916. Several days later she was sailing to Russia, carrying the Secretary of State for War, Field-Marshall Lord Kitchener on a diplomatic mission to meet the Tsar when she struck a mine laid by a German submarine off the Orkney Isles. She sank with heavy loss of life [643 men], including Kitchener and his staff on 5th June 1916.

It has been claimed that the ship had on board two million pounds worth of gold sovereigns to persuade and to enable Tsar Nicholas II to build a greater fighting resistance to his cousin the German Kaiser. This has always been denied by the authorities.

After the explosion all the electric lights failed. Hundreds of men found themselves trapped below deck. Many of the firemen and stokers were severely burned with scalding water. Others were injured by flying debris.

Three rafts were lowered each bearing fifty to seventy men. There were fourteen survivors, two of whom died of exposure before they were rescued from the rafts. Those men who had climbed into the boats that were still positioned in their cradles disappeared when the ship did a complete somersault, sinking headfirst and turning over taking everyone, boats and all, down with her.

The seasoned Orkney islanders proud of their lifeboat rescues immediately wanted to launch in spite of the terrific gale but the Admiralty forbade any civilian assistance. Locals gathering to aid any survivors up the steep cliffs were ordered back to their cottages and to stay indoors.

A news report gave this account:

 London, June 11.The Admiralty issued the following announcement yesterday:-"Admiral Jellicoe reports that it is now established that the Hampshire struck a mine at about 8 o'clock in the evening. Two destroyers accompanied her until the captain was compelled to detach them at about 7 o'clock, owing to the very heavy seas. According to the statements of the few survivors, the explosion occurred shortly before 8 o'clock and the ship sank in 10 minutes. All available vessels were sent to the scene, and were ordered to search for and to assist the four boats which were seen to leave the ship. But despite all efforts, Admiral Jellicoe, with the deepest regret, concludes that there is no doubt that the boats were wrecked, owing to the heavy sea and lee shore, and that beyond the 12 survivors on the raft, all hope of survivors must be now abandoned. The survivors of the Hampshire had terrible experiences when the rafts were being launched; the seas were so heavy that they completely enveloped the Hampshire. The rafts came ashore five miles from the wreck. The first intimation the islanders had was when some seamen, utterly exhausted, tottered up to a farmhouse. They were then quite incoherent. The farmer at first believed that a patrol boat had been sunk, but later the full extent of the disaster became known. Ten of the 12 rescued men are now recovering. Several rafts were flung into the crevices on the rocky coast, and the task of recovering the dead will be a hazardous one, as the bodies must be hoisted over the face of the cliffs by ropes. A patrol vessel has reported that the Hampshire was on fire about 90 minutes after she left the Orkneys and that she sank 20 minutes afterwards. Seventy or so bodies came ashore, a number of them being still warm. In their desperate efforts to climb the cliffs some lost their fingers and their toe nails, and died from exposure. The "Daily Express" states that Lord Kitchener and the members of his staff got clear of the wreck in a ship's boat, which, however, was swamped by the terrific sea.

The CWGC Hollybrook War Memorial at Southampton records the names of Kitchener and the men lost on HMS Hampshire. Kitchener’s body was never recovered.

snowfall Southampton Old Cemetery courtesy FoSOCSeamen's strike at Southampton 1966Royal Blues at Bournemouth c 1949 photo by Derek Amey local historians Jim Brown and John Avery deep in thought. Image Ann MacGillivray Veronica Tippetts addressing Court Leet Oct 2nd 2012. Image Will TempleJohn Melody Southampton Town Crier at Court Leet 2012. Image Will Temple