The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is helping to bring Orkney’s war time history to life with the launch of 21st century signage at Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery on Hoy.
The interactive CWGC Visitor Information Panels at Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery were unveiled on 31 May by Mr Colin Kerr, the CWGC’s lead director for the Centenary of the First World War, during an event to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Jutland – the largest naval battle in history.
On 31 May 1916, the main fleets of the British and German navies clashed on the eastern side of the North Sea, at the Battle of Jutland. For the Royal Navy, Jutland was unprecedented and remains unsurpassed: some 110,000 sailors fought in 150 British and 100 German vessels.
A total of 14 British and 11 German warships were lost or damaged beyond repair. More than 6,000 Royal Navy sailors and 2,500 Germans were killed, with many others suffering serious burns and wounds. Despite its losses, the Royal Navy retained command of the sea.
Mr Kerr said: “The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is at the heart of events to mark the Centenary of the First World War. We see an important part of that role as encouraging greater numbers of visitors to our cemeteries and then helping those visitors to appreciate why these places are here, who looks after them and why it is important to remember those who died.
“Here at Lyness, surely one of the most beautiful CWGC cemetery locations, we have been pleased to work with our partners in the Orkney Islands Council and the Royal Navy to raise awareness of the sacrifices made by the men and women of the Royal Navy during the two world wars.
“The new panels at Lyness will be an interactive way for new generations to learn about the final resting place of so many Commonwealth
servicemen and women, in an engaging and meaningful way. I hope that the installation encourages many more people to visit this stunning and moving cemetery, and remember those who fell during both world wars.”
Among the stories revealed on the panels at Lyness are those of Walter Adams from Somerset, who died when HMS Hampshire struck a German
mine off Marwick Head in heavy weather on the evening of 5 June 1916 and sank within 15 minutes.
All but 12 men of over 650 on board perished, including Lord Kitchener, who was travelling with a delegation to Russia.
Some of the personal stories from the panels can be viewed on the Commonwealth War Grave Commission website.
The panels at Lyness are among 500 to be installed at CWGC locations worldwide and feature information about the site of the cemetery with a QR (Quick Response) code.
When scanned with a smartphone, the QR Code provides access for further information including the personal stories of some of the casualties buried or commemorated there.