Nationalist Volunteers on Falls Road paid farewell to Naval Surgeon in Hampshire. Orkney’s tributes to Hampshire
In June 1916, Field Marshall Earl Kitchener, the Minister of War, was scheduled to visit Russia for a series of negotiations aimed at ensuring that the Tsar’s forces would stay in the war.
Earl Kitchener did not complete this mission. HMS Hampshire, the cruiser in which he was a passenger sank. It is presumed Hampshire hit a German mine. 643 men as well as Kitchener and his staff were lost. Amongst their number were at least eight from Northern Ireland.
Several of them were members of the Orange Order and one had been active in the Irish Volunteers prior to joining the Royal Navy. He was a surgeon, Hugh Francis De Salle McNally. He had grown up in Belfast where his father had been a school principal prior to his retirement when he went to live in Portaferry
Kitchener had landed in Orkney were he briefly met Admiral Jellicoe before he joined the cruiser HMS Hampshire and prepared to set sail through Scapa Flow.
HMS Hampshire pulled up anchors at 4:40pm on Monday 5 June, 1916. With her were the destroyers HMS Unity and Victor. As they left Scapa Flow they sailed into stormy weather. The two destroyers struggled with the force nine gale and by 6:30pm they had both been signalled to return to base. The Hampshire fought on alone.
Unbeknown to the master and her crew, Scapa Flow had been visited by a German U-boat at the end of May. Undetected, U-75 laid 22 mines off the coast of Orkney. Bad weather at the beginning of June prevented the routine sweep of the area, so all the mines were out there as the Hampshire sailed on.
Struggling against the wind HMS Hampshire (photo above) could only maintain 13.5 knots and was roughly one and a half miles from shore. At 7:45pm an urgent telegraph message was sent from nearby Birsay Post Office to Kirkwall and Stromness. It read: “Battle cruiser seems in distress between Marwick Head and the brough of Birsay.”
A mile and a half out at sea the Hampshire was indeed in difficulties. An explosion had shaken the whole ship, the power had failed and she was unable to radio for assistance. She began to sink.
Birsay Post Office transmitted a second message signalling that there was a “vessel down”.
The RNLI rushed to Stromness Naval HQ with the offer to launch a lifeboat. To their surprise their help was strenuously rejected. Further up the coast armed soldiers stood guard over the coast preventing locals from reaching the stricken ship.
The Hampshire had been down for four hours by the time her lifeboats started to reach the shore. The first raft, which had 40 men in it when it left the sinking ship, picked up a further 30 from the water. By the time it reached land only six were left alive. A second craft made it to the shore. Of the 40 or 50 men on board only four had survived the journey. Those who made it were unable to haul themselves up the rocks, and most died on the shoreline. Of the 667 people who had left Orkney only 12 survived the sinking. Kitchener was not among them. He died along with his staff.
The action of the authorities on the night inevitably led to intense speculation about the sinking. Questions were asked about why the Hampshire left Orkney in such a hurry, with such bad weather conditions forecast. What of the armed men stationed round the cliffs to ward off curious locals? If people were actively discouraged from helping rescue the stricken craft, there must have been a reason. Theories circulated that Kitchener had been deliberately killed or that he had not even been on the boat and that a body-double was lying dead in the sea in his place.
To this day, nobody is sure sure what happened on the night the Hampshire sank. What is likely is that in the confusion of the Battle of Jutland, naval staff had failed to note that U-75 had penetrated the Orkneys. On the night itself general confusion meant officials were unsure what boat had sank, initially unsure if the boat was German or a British warship.
For people living at the time the death of Kitchener was akin to the death of JF Kennedy or Princess Diane. Soldiers would later recall where they were and what they were doing when they heard that Kitchener was killed. With him dead there was a genuine fear that the war would be lost.
Field Marshall Earl Kitchener
Field Marshal Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener entered the Royal Engineers in 1871, Kitchener saw extensive service in the Near East and Egypt as a surveyor and junior officer. In 1892, while a colonel, he was tapped to be the Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Army and tasked with re-taking the Sudan from the Mahdists.
Building an effective fighting force, he defeated the Mahdists at Omdurman in 1898. Dispatched to South Africa the following year, he was initially Field Marshal Frederick Roberts Chief of Staff during the Second Boer War before being made commander-in-chief in 1900. Criticized for his brutal tactics in suppressing the Boer insurgency, he advocated for a reconciliatory peace.
Following a stint as the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, he served as Agent and Consul-General in Egypt until the outbreak of World War I. Returning to Britain, he was appointed Secretary of State for War and charged with overseeing British strategy. Greatly expanding the British Army, his reputation was damaged by the failure of the Gallipoli Campaign and the 1915 Shell Crisis. Declining in influence, he was reduced to overseeing manpower and recruitment until selected for the diplomatic mission to Russia in May 1916.
After the war a large monument was raised in Kitchener’s memory on Marwick Head, overlooking the massive cliffs where so many lives were lost. His body was never recovered and must still lie at the bottom of the sea at Scapa Flow. The graves of those men whose bodies were recovered are to be found at the Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery on the isle of Hoy, Orkney, together with a memorial stone.
Nationalist Volunteers on Falls Road paid farewell to Naval Surgeon
Dr Hugh Francis McNally was a 24 year old naval Surgeon born and schooled in Belfast, (St Malachy’s College, Queen’s University).
He is referred to in Richard S Grayson’s, “Belfast Boys: How Unionists and Nationalists Fought and Died Together.”
Grayson states that McNally was the Commander of the Irish National Volunteers in Belfast, and that In the parallel worlds of Belfast newspapers, The Irish News did not cover the massive parade of 17,000 men of the Ulster Division, on Friday 17/05/1915.
He continues, “Instead it commented on the simultaneous departure of the INV’s Belfast Commanding Officer, Hugh McNally, a qualified doctor who had enlisted and was taking up a medical position in the Royal Navy. He was seen off by the remnants of the Belfast INV at the Brigade Hall in the Falls Road on the day after the Ulster Division’s city parade.” (Page 22).
An exhibition on the centennary of the loss of Hampshire at Belfast City Hall included a pair of photographs of 24-year-old Hugh Francis McNally showing him in Irish Volunteers uniform, and in his Royal Navy greatcoat. Also among the exhibits was a letter to his parents expresses sympathy from local worthies in the Volunteers, the best known Belfast nationalist councillor of the day among them.
The parents of the Queen’s medical graduate lived in Portaferry. Some references to Surgeon McNally include De Salle as a Christina name. However, this name does not appear in any official Naval record, nor in the QUB Book of Remembrance.
HMS Hampshire’s record
The Hampshire served with the Channel Fleet in the 1st Cruiser Squadron until given a refit at Portsmouth in December 1908. She was then recommissioned into the Home Fleet, 3rd Division in August 1909 and then transferred to the 6th Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean Fleet in December 1911. HMS Hampshire was then moved to China until the beginning of world war one. On 11th August 1914 she too captured a German merchant ship and then took part in the hunt for the German ship Emden. At the end of 1914 she joined the Grand Fleet and, in January 1915, became part of the 7th Cruiser Squadron. HMS Hampshire was then given the job of protecting shipping in the White Sea during November 1915. When she took part in the Battle of Jutland on 31st May 1916, she was serving with the 2nd Cruiser Squadron. After taking Lord Kitchener and his staff on board she headed to North Russia but struck a mine off the Orkney Islands on 5th June 1916, losing all but 12 of a crew of 643.
Development of HMS Hampshire Memorial in Orkney
The Kitchener Memorial, Marwick, Orkney
The names of every man lost in a naval disaster which was a bodyblow to the British Empire were unveiled on a new memorial to mark the centenary. Twelve of the 736 names are of men from Northern Ireland.
The sea around Scapa Flow holds the graves of hundreds of unfortunate sailors who went down with their ships during two world wars. As the main British naval base for both conflicts, the deep waters of the natural harbour in Orkney today contain the protected war graves of HMS Royal Oak, the dreadnought HMS Vanguard and the armoured cruiser HMS Hampshire. The site also contains the remains of the German fleet, scuttled in 1919, and other relics of the twentieth century’s bloodiest conflicts.
But it was the sinking of HMS Hampshire in a gale force storm off the mainland of Orkney between Brough of Birsay and Marwick Head on June 5 1916 that captured the public imagination of the time.
The battleship, which only days earlier had taken part in the Battle of Jutland, was on a diplomatic mission to Murmasnk with Secretary of State for War Field Marshall Lord Kitchener on board when it struck a mine laid by a German U-Boat. Kitchener, his staff and over 700 men were lost in the stormy seas. Only twelve survived.
The tragedy came just two days after news of the titanic clash between the British and German Navies at Jutland – a battle whose immediate outcome came as a huge disappointment to the British public.
As a famous Colonial and Boer War veteran – and a Cabinet Minister – Kitchener was a prominent figure and had been the face of the early wartime recruitment drive. He is best known today for the much parodied “Your Country Needs You!” recruiting posters but in 1916 his death made the headlines across the world.
In 1926 to mark the tenth anniversary of the disaster Orcadians erected the imposing Kitchener Memorial, a 48-feet high crenelated stone tower on the headland overlooking the site of the wreck at Marwick Head. And although the memorial, which was paid for by public subscription, formed a fitting memorial to a towering figure, a plaque on its wall made only a brief reference to the other men lost on HMS Hampshire with him.
As part of the centenary commemorations, the Kitchener Memorial is undergoing extensive restoration.
Detailed research by historians Brian Budge and Andrew Hollinrake has resulted in the most accurate roll of honour for the Hampshire ever produced.
Some 737 names will be inscribed in panels on the wall, which will arc around the tower, with a separate panel for the staff of Lord Kitchener – and another one bearing the names of nine men killed on the drifter Laurel Crown, which was blown up in June 1916 while trying to clear the minefield.
HMS Hampshire Memorial, Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery on the isle of Hoy, Orkney
ROLL OF HONOUR HMS HAMPSHIRE
RNR. Stoker. S444956. HMS Hampshire. Died 05/06/1916. Foster son of Elizabeth O’Neill, Whiteabbey. Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Panel 28. Kitchener Memorial, Orkney
RNR. Seaman. A8031 (Po). HMS Hampshire. Died 05/06/1916. Had served in Royal Irish Fusilliers and was wounded in the South African War. B 02/08/1877. Son of John and Catherine (nee Murray) Cunningham, Boat St., Newry.. Brother of Cecilia, Thomas St., Newry. Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Panel 23. Kitchener Memorial, Orkney
RNR. Stoker. HMS Hampshire. Died 05/06/1916. Age: 40. Son of John and Hannah Devlin, Killeenan, Kildress, Cookstown. Before joining the Royal Naval Reserve, James was employed in Iron Works at Port Clarence-on-Tees, where he had lived and worked for over 20 years. Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Panel 18. Donaghendry Church of Ireland RH. Stewartstown WM. Kitchener Memorial, Orkney
RNR. Stoker. 5278S. HMS Hampshire. Died 05/06/1916. Age 32. Born Coleraine 10/12/1884. Enlisted Glasgow 06/01/1915. Son of Robert and Mary Doherty, Kyles Brae, Coleraine. Brother of Bridget, Killowen St., Coleraine. Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Panel 23. Coleraine WM. IMR. Kitchener Memorial, Orkney
RNR. Stoker. S3263(Po). HMS Hampshire. Died 05/06/1916. Born Belfast 18/10/1889. Husband to Annie Ecclestone, Matchett St., Belfast. Kitchener Memorial, Orkney
RN. Mechanician. 306289. HMS Hampshire. Died 05/06/1916. Age 35. B 07/03/1882, St Helen’s Lancs.Son of W and J Evans, McClure St., Belfast; husband to Alice J. Vickery (formerly Evans), Hunter St., Burton-on-Trent. Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Panel 15. Kitchener Memorial, Orkney
RN. Stoker 1st Class. K27693(Po). HMS Hampshire. Died 05/06/1916. Age 24. B 24/04/1892. Born Cookstown. Son of John and Rachel Forrest, Tullyhogue, Cookstown. John had gone to work in the United States of America for a few years before returning to Britain in January 1915 when he was employed in Scotland. He joined the Royal Navy in August 1915 and received his training in Portsmouth. He later qualified as a Stoker 1st Class and was posted to H.M.S Victory and later joined H.M.S Hampshire in early 1916. Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Panel 18. Donaghendry Church of Ireland RH. Stewartstown WM Kitchener Memorial, Orkney. ADM 188/922/27693
RN. Boy 1st. Class. J34712 (Dev). HMS Hampshire. Died 05/06/1916. Boy service from 12/02/1915. In Impregnable, Victory I and Hampshire (30/05/1915 – 05/06/1916). Born Belfast 12/04/1899. Nephew of Elizabeth, 103 Newtownards Rd., Belfast. Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Panel 13. Kitchener Memorial, Orkney. ADM 188/716/34712
RN. AB. 177117(Po). HMS Hampshire. Died 05/06/1916. B Belfast 21/06/1877. Brother of Martha Jane McCullough, Upper Meadow St., Belfast. Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Panel 13. Printing Trades WM Belfast Cathedral. IMR. Kitchener Memorial, Orkney
RND. Leading Seaman. 176819. HMS Hampshire. Died 05/06/1916. Mine explosion off Orkneys. Age 40. Born Belfast. Served in the Naval Brigade under Sir George White at the Siege of Ladysmith. Son of John and Rachel McLaughlin. Husband to Sarah McLaughlin, Hillview St.,Oldpark Rd., Belfast. Plymouth Naval Memorial. St Silas’ Church, Belfast WM. IMR. Kitchener Memorial, Orkney
+McLOUGHLIN, Robert Joseph
RNR. Stoker. 6955. HMS Hampshire. 05/06/1916. Age 25. Native of Newry. Son of John and Mary McLoughlin, Beacon St., Liverpool. Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Panel 23. Kitchener Memorial, Orkney
+McNALLY, Hugh Francis
RN. Surgeon. HMS Hampshire. Died 05/06/1916. Age 24. In the ship which was carrying Lord Kitchener on a diplomatic mission to Russia which it is believed was struck by a mine off Orkneys. Hugh McNally was the Commander of the Irish National Volunteers in Belfast. In the parallel worlds of Belfast newspapers, The Irish News did not cover the massive parade of 17, 000 men of the Ulster Division, on Friday 17/05/1915. “Instead it commented on the simultaneous departure of the INV’s Belfast Commanding Officer, Hugh McNally, a qualified doctor who had enlisted and was taking up a medical position in the Royal Navy. He was seen off by the remnants of the Belfast INV at the Brigade Hall in the Falls Road on the day after the Ulster Division’s city parade” (Richard S Grayson, Belfast Boys: How Unionists and Nationalists Fought and Died Together, Page 22). Born Belfast. Son of Nicholas and Elizabeth McNally, “The Shore,” Shore St, Portaferry, Co. Down. Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Panel 11. MB, BCh, BAO, QUB 1915. QUB WM. Kitchener Memorial, Orkney
Andy Hollinrake and Alan Manzie, of the Orkney Heritage Society, Richard Moss, Culture 24, Richard S Grayson, Queen’s University Book of Remembrance, Irish News