Jutland events programme announced

Orkney is gearing up for what is set to be a busy start to the summer season by hosting the UK's commemoration of the centenary of the Battle of Jutland.

Orkney is gearing up for what is set to be a busy start to the summer season by hosting the UK's commemoration of the centenary of the Battle of Jutland.

A week-long series of official and cultural events has been planned to mark the occasion.

The Battle of Jutland was the largest naval battle of the First World War and saw the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet steam from Orkney's famous natural harbour of Scapa Flow.

By the end of the engagement in the early hours of the 1st of June 1916, more than eight thousand British and German personnel had lost their lives.

An artists impression of the Battle of Jutland

Now, one hundred years later, a full commemorative programme has been put together which will give both locals and visitors the chance to learn more about the battle and pay their respects to those who didn't come home.

It all gets underway on the 31st of May with a ceremonial march from Kirkwall harbour to St Magnus Cathedral at 10.30am, before two invitation only services are held at the Cathedral and at the Lyness Naval Cemetery in Hoy. Large screens in the Pickaquoy Centre and on Kirkwall's Broad Street will broadcast the services to those without a ticket.

Then, throughout the week, there will be talks, walks, visits and exhibitions across Orkney for people to enjoy.

Some of the highlights include a concert by the Royal Marines Band and the Federal German Navy Band in Kirkwall's Pickaquoy Centre on the 1st of June. Tickets are free but booking is essential - contact the Centre on 01856 879900 for details.

A number of Royal Navy vessels will visit Orkney's outer isles on the 1st and 2nd of June before ships will be open to the public at Hatston Pier in Kirkwall between 10am and 4pm on the 4th of June.

As the week goes on the attention turns to HMS Hampshire. The ship left Scapa Flow on the 5th of June 1916 bound for Russia and carrying Earl Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War. It struck a mine off the west coast of Orkney in stormy seas with the loss of 737 men.

The Kitchener Memorial at Marwick Head in Orkney - image by Iain Sarjeant

A project to restore the Kitchener Memorial on Marwick Head has been carried out in recent months and a memorial wall built, with the names of all those who lost their lives included.

The parish of Birsay will host much of the events focused on the loss of HMS Hampshire. An exhibition will open in the community hall at 11am on the 3rd of June with a special Hampshire Foy to be held at 6.30pm and again on the 4th of June at 7.30pm. Tickets are available from various outlets in Orkney. The island of Sanday will be busy on the 4th of June too with a full programme of events - find out more from the Sanday website.

The centenary of the sinking, the 5th of June, will see a service held in St Magnus Cathedral before a commemorative service takes place at the Kitchener Memorial on Marwick Head at 8pm. Free tickets are available for the event.

Many activities and exhibitions will continue during the summer months if you can't make it Orkney during the week itself.

The beautiful 'Poppies: Weeping Window' installation at St Magnus Cathedral will be open until the 12th of June. Across the road the Orkney Museum's summer exhibition focusing on Orkney's involvement in the war at sea will run all summer.

The 'Poppies: Weeping Window' display at St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, Orkney

The Scapa Flow Visitor Centre in Lyness has a new WWI display with features on the Battle of Jutland and HMS Hampshire, with the Stromness Museum focusing on HMS Hampshire and the death of Lord Kitchener.

An exhibition in the Sanday Heritage Centre will showcase the story of the B-98 wreck and u-boat U-70 during the summer.

There is still accommodation available in Orkney during the official programme of events between the 31st of May and the 5th of June if you want to make a last minute trip to Orkney to take it all in.

But, if you plan to come to Orkney later in the summer, there is still plenty to see and do right across the islands.

Find out more about Orkney from our website and Orkney.com.

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