Lord Kitchener: this statue, at Chatham in the UK, formerly stood in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum (Photo: Centenary News)

100 Years Ago Today: Lord Kitchener & more than 730 die in HMS Hampshire sinking

Posted on centenarynews.com on 05 June 2016
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Britain's War Minister, Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, was killed at sea on June 5th 1916 while setting off on a secret diplomatic mission to Russia.

He was among 737 men lost when the cruiser, HMS Hampshire, struck a mine laid by a German submarine off the Orkney Islands. Only 12 crewmen survived.

The disaster happened as news was still filtering through of heavy British casualties at the Battle of Jutland only days earlier.

Hampshire, herself newly returned from the battle, put to sea again from the Royal Navy's wartime anchorage of Scapa Flow with Kitchener and his staff on board

A fierce storm forced the cruiser's destroyer escorts to turn back. The bad weather had also disrupted mine-sweeping operations and resulted in a change of course. Hampshire sank 15 minutes after hitting the mine close to the cliffs of Marwick Head.

The Kitchener Memorial in Orkney, funded by public subscription and dedicated in 1926 (Photo: Centenary News)

Field Marshal Kitchener is best remembered today for his launch of a mass recruiting campaign at the start of the First World War. 

After a career soldiering in the British Empire, he joined the Government in August 1914 and unlike some, he foresaw a prolonged conflict. 

The new War Minister promoted a drive to recruit volunteers to strengthen Britain's relatively small army of professional soldiers. Hundreds of thousands of men answered the call to join up.

By 1916, however, Kitchener's influence in Government was waning, as the military deadlock continued.

The failed Gallipoli campaign and the so-called 'Shell Crisis' over munitions supplies on the Western Front in 1915 took a toll on his reputation.

In early May 1916, he had to make a statement to the UK Parliament, explaining the surrender to the Ottomans of the British/Indian garrison at Kut-al-Amara in Mesopotamia after a five-month siege. 

'Kitchener's New Armies' of volunteers would face their biggest action of the war so far at the Battle of the Somme less than a month after his death.

The Centenary of HMS Hampshire's loss is being marked in the Orkney Islands today (June 5th 2016) with the inauguration of a new memorial to all those who died. Centenary News reports from the ceremony at the Kitchener Memorial, Marwick Head.

Source: Wikipedia/various

Images: Centenary News

Posted by CN Editor in Orkney