The deck gun from the German destroyer B98, before leaving Orkney for the National Museum of the Royal Navy (Photo: Orkney Islands Council)

From Scapa Flow to Portsmouth - Jutland guns to feature at 2016 centenary exhibition

Posted on on 18 December 2015
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Guns that saw action at Jutland and a British officer's battle-stained diary will be among exhibits at the National Museum of the Royal Navy's centenary exhibition in 2016.

A large deck gun from the German destroyer B98 and a smaller gun from a British counterpart, HMS Opal, have arrived at the museum in Portsmouth after being transported across the UK.

Both have been lent by Orkney Islands Council from their usual display at Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum, Lyness.

They will undergo extensive conservation work in preparation for NMRN's Battle of Jutland Centenary exhibition, launching on May 19th 2016.

B98's gun will set the scene for visitors arriving at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, says Senior Heritage Project Officer Victoria Ingles.

"The Battle of Jutland was all about the big guns and the clash between the two naval forces which saw them unleash their awesome power," she explained. 

"This gun, and the smaller one we will have from HMS Opal, will be a fitting reminder of the huge human loss each side experienced as a result of the battle."

Orkney will be hosting the UK's national commemorations of Jutland on May 31st 2016.

There will also be a major exhibition at the Orkney Museum in Kirkwall and revamped displays at the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum.

Harvey Johnston, Chair of Orkney Islands Council’s Education, Leisure and Housing Committee, said: “We also felt it was appropriate to loan exhibits from the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre to what will be the UK’s main exhibition telling the story of the battle itself.

“The guns from our collection were fired in anger at Jutland and are of international importance – as is clearly demonstrated by the request for them to be sent on loan for the exhibition in Portsmouth.

“It is particularly pleasing that because of the conservation work that will be carried out, they will return to us in even better condition than when they left.”

The diary of Major Raymond Poland, a Royal Marines officer on HMS Warspite, is among exhibits lent for the exhibition. On the left-hand page, Major Poland records the damage caused by flooding to his cabin when the British battleship came under fire on May 31st 1916. Warspite was repeatedly shelled but reached Scotland for repairs (Image courtesy of NMRN and the family of Major Raymond Poland)

Britain's Grand Fleet sailed from the vast natural harbour of Scapa Flow to intercept the German High Seas Fleet off the Danish coast at the end of May 1916.

SMS B98 and HMS Opal both survived the battle. Opal was wrecked in January 1918 after hitting rocks during a night patrol off Orkney. 

B98 was part of the German fleet interned at Scapa Flow after the First World War. She ran aground on the island of Sanday while under tow. Some of the wreckage can still be seen in the Bay of Lopness.

Also in Centenary News:

Jutland ensigns to be displayed at NMRN.

Descendants invited to Orkney commemorations.

Jutland centenary website launched by Admiral Jellicoe's grandson.

Sources: Orkney Islands Council; National Museum of the Royal Navy

Images courtesy of Orkney Islands Council (B98's gun leaving Orkney); NMRN (guns in Portsmouth); Family of Major Raymond Poland (diary pages)

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News