Sunday, 7 September 2014

Kyle of Lochalsh memorials

The Kyle of Lochalsh is a village on the north-west coast of Scotland opposite the Isle of Skye. A bridge connect the mainland to the island and the village of Kyleakin. We stopped at Kyle of Lochalsh  for a short time before crossing over to the Isle of Skye. While the exploring the village I came across two mines that tell the story of the involvement of area in the Second World War.
Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War preparations were already being undertaken to establish a military presence on the Atlantic coast of Scotland including on the Isle of Skye and at Kyle of Lochalsh. These settlements with their vantage points, narrows and sea lochs protected by hills, were selected for the establishment of bases for convoys and mine sweeping operations, observation points and radar location posts. Plans were made to lay mines at strategic places from the Irish sea and along the Scottish coast towards Orkney. Gaps were left for British shipping to safely pass through. The first mine has a plaque commemorating the Officers and Men of the First Minelaying Squadron formed in July 1940 and based at Kyle of Lochalsh until November 1943.
The plaque then tells the story of one of the mine-laying ships, the Port Napier, which in November 1940 was blown off course in a gale and the ship's two anchors became entangled with a collier. When a fire broke out aboard the Port Napier a team worked furiously to remove the detonators from the mines on the ship until order to abandon the vessel. People living in the neighbouring area were evacuated and trains to the area were stopped until the all clear was given. There were explosions and the ship sank. Diving teams salvaged some of the ship as the metal was required for the war effort.
Around the corner is another mine.
The plaque on this mine commemorate the officers and men of HMS Trelawney, which was one of the names given to the base, and the ships of the First Minelaying Squadron who were based at Kyle of Lochalsh. This memorial was unveiled in April 1982.

HMS Port Napier - Kyleakin Local History Society

War comes to the crofters 2 - Remembering Scotland at War

Dunvegan War Memorial

A shop window in Portree, Skye, had this display prepared by the Portree Local History Society advertising a Commemorative Parade to be held on 4 August 2014 at 2.45 pm ending at the Dunvegan War Memorial on Skye.

A Facebook page - Dunvegan Community Council - WWI Community - had been established to promote the event. Photos of the event commemorating 100 years since the outbreak of World War I can be viewed on this site.

Dunvegan War Memorial - The Scottish War Memorial Project

Scapa Flow

Scapa Flow
Scapa Flow has been used as a safe anchorage for ships since the times of the Vikings in Britain. Surrounded by many of the islands making up the Orkneys this large expanse of water provided a natural shelter for many ships so during the First World War and the Second World War the British Navy used Scapa Flow as a base.

At the beginning of the First World War barriers in the form of block ships were put in place at five entrances to try and prevent German U-boats from entering Scapa Flow. Some of the ships were purchased by the Navy while others were the result of 'spoils of war'. Once in place the ships were filled with ballast and sank. Anti-submarine netting was also used to protect the entrances. Defencive mine-fields were also laid and gun batteries were installed at strategic points for further protection. The presence of the British Fleet in the North Sea restricted the movement of Germany ships in the area and made it difficult for the Germans to move supplies to their country by sea.

In May1916 the Grand Fleet left Scapa Flow to engage ships from the German Navy in the Battle of Jutland. Two hundred and Fifty ships were involved in the battle which lasted all night until the German ships retreated from the scene. Fourteen British ships were lost with 6,094 men while the Germans lost eleven ships with 2,551 men. However the Germans determined not to risk a major battle in open seas with the British again.

Although every effort had been made to prevent German U-boats entering the seas near Scapa Flow the Germans managed to lay at least one mine resulting in the sinking of HMS Hampshire on 5 June. The ship was on its way to Russia with the British War Minister, Lord Kitchener aboard.

After the declaration of the Armistice seventy-four German ships with skeleton crews were interned and escorted to Scapa Flow. On 21 June 1919 Rear Admiral Von Reuter told his men to scuttle the ships which they did at 12 noon. Fifty-two of the ships were sunk while the others were towed to shallow waters. Most of the ships have since been salvaged but some wrecks still remain.
When visiting the Orkney Islands some of the wrecks of ships are visible, especially when crossing the Churchill Barriers.
During the Second World War Scapa Flow was again used to house the British Fleet. However it was soon obvious that the defences established during the First World War were insufficient. Between the wars some of the block ships had also been removed to make safe passage for fishing boats to enter the North Sea. On 14 October 1939 the HMS Royal Oak was torpedoed from a German u-boat and sank in Scapa Flow. Eight hundred and thirty-four men died. After the Germans also carried out aerial bombing of sites in October 1939, the British fleet was removed from the area for six months until effective anti-aircraft defences could be installed to protect ships and surrounding area. During the first German air raid the HMS Iron Duke was bombed.  The ships returned on 8 March 1940. German air raids continued until 10 April 1940 but additional protection was also provided from the RAF station at Wick and radar was also used to detect approaching aircraft. Scapa Flow was essential to British naval plans and needed to be well protected.
It had already been decided to install additional block ships to protect the area however another method of protecting the entrances was also instigated - the Churchill Barriers. The plan was to build four causeways between five of the islands - Lamb Holm, Glimps Holm, Burray, South Ronaldsay and the Orkney Mainland - thereby permanently blocking these entrances. When a shortage of labour threatened the project it was decided to establish a prisoner of war camp for Italian prisoners of war and use this additional manpower to complete the project.
Only the chapel from Camp 60, at Lamb Holm, remains today.
The chapel was constructed from Nissan huts with a facade attached to the front.
Inside the decorations of the chapel appear to be ornate
but the walls of the hut have been cleverly painted to produce effect of tiles and other decorations.
The chapel has been kept as a reminder of Camp 60 and this period of British history.

Scapa Flow was strategially important to the defence of Britain during both World Wars.It is a most interesting place to visit.

Scapa Flow

Scapa Flow - historic wreck site

Scapa Flow - First World

Scapa Flow - Block ships

Battle of Jutland - Eyewitness history

Lord Kitchener - First World

Scuttling of the German Fleet - Wikipedia

Defending Scapa Flow - Remembering Scotland at War

Battle of Orkney - Scapa Flow

Italian chapel - Undiscovered Scotland

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Portree Primary School Project

Walking towards the port in Portree on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, I passed this memorial to soldiers from the area who had died during the First World War and the Second World War. The inscription
MAIRIDH AN CLIU GU BRATH (May their fame live on forever) was written on the pedestal

Lest We Forget
Donated by Seoid
Portree Primary School
War Time Memories Project
Donated to thank the Community
In memory of all 
who sacrificed so much during
The Great Wars

A search on the Internet shows that Portree Primary School has undertaken a number of War Time Memories projects over the years including producing a book and a CD relating the war time experiences of the ordinary people of Skye from photographs and personal reminiscences. A number of such programs appear to have been undertaken at different times.

Portree War Memorial

Situated in the Town Square of Portree on the Isle of Skye, Scotland is a memorial to the 104 men from the area who died during the First World War. The population of the island during the First World War was approximately 1,000. Ten men from the island were killed near Festubert in France on one night in 1915.
Names of those who died in the Second World War and one from the Korean War were added later.
The design of the memorial is a mercat cross (a market cross) with a lion on the top. It is constructed from grey granite.

Further reading:
Scottish War Memorial Project

Skye's Band of Brothers - BBC

Names List - War Memorial Portree, Skye

War Memorials on the Isle of Skye

Neil Oliver Remembers the Brave Men of Skye

Commando Memorial

The Commando Monument is a Category A listed monument dedicated to the men of the British Commando Forces raised during the Second World War. The memorial is located 2 kilometres north west of Spean Bridge in Scotland. The monument is more than 5 metres tall and consists of three soldiers looking out over the mountains. The commandos trained around the area where the memorial now stands. The bronze monument is the work of Scott Sutherland and was unveiled by the Queen Mother on 12 September 1952.
Around the monument are the words, United We Conquer. The plaque below reads -
  • In Memory of the Officers and Men of the Commandos who died in the Second World War 1939-1945. This Country was their Training Ground.
In 2012 a memorial garden was added where ashes of former commandos could be placed. The garden also serves as a memorial for commandos who have died in recent conflicts - particularly Afghanistan and Irak.
Further information:
Commandos Veterans Association

Commando Memorial - Undiscovered Scotland

Knitting for Victory

Knitting for Victory is a project from the UK encouraging the knitting of poppies throughout the world, similar to our 5000 Poppies project. In one of the posts they acknowledge the 5000 Poppies project as the inspiration for their project. The Knitting for Victory Facebook page includes photos of a variety of knitted poppies, patterns, kits being sold as a fundraiser and lots of pictures of people knitting poppies.
According to one of the posts:
The purpose of the FaceBook page 'Knitting for Victory' is to unite knitters from around the world who wish to knit poppies and be part of a team unified in knitting and fundraising for the British Legion's Poppy Appeal 2014.
West Yorkshire Spinners, Artysano and Rowan have all supplied yarn for us to make poppy knitting kits thus expanding the opportunity for new knitters to join us from around the globe!

As well as keeping the art of knitting alive we are also focused on fundraising particularly in this the centenary of the First World War.

Another worthwhile community project commemorating World War I.