Sailors from the Royal Navy warship HMS Sutherland has begun five weeks of commemorations marking the huge loss of life at the WW1 naval battle of Jutland 100 years ago.
The Plymouth-based frigate visited Scotland to pay tribute to the fallen, hundreds of whom were from the city.
Originally 24 warships of the Jutland battle fleet sailed from the Cromarty Firth in Scotland in May 1916 – part of an armada of 150 Royal Navy vessels which clashed with the German Fleet in the North Sea on May 31 and June 1 1916 at the Battle of Jutland.
More than 6,000 British and over 2,500 German sailors were killed – 25 ships never returned to their bases, 14 of them Royal Navy.
In the days after Jutland men succumbed to their wounds up and down the east coast of England and Scotland, including nine sailors from vessels based at Invergordon, visited by HMS Sutherland.
These fatalities were buried in the grounds of Rosskeen Parish Church – just a small number of the 136 victims of both world wars laid to rest in the remote cemetery.
HMS Sutherland attended a community service of remembrance at the cemetery this week to honour the dead, coinciding with the ship’s visit to her affiliated area of Scotland.
A poignant service led by Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness, was supported by a guard of honour from the ship and a single rose was laid by the community in front headstones, while Sutherland’s guard performed the general salute – normally reserved only for very senior officers or members of the Royal Family.
After a minute’s silence and a piper’s lament, there was a parade through Invergordon – the Cromarty Firth served as a major Royal Navy base for 40 years from the eve of World War 1 through to the 1950s.
Captain Chris Smith, Naval Regional Commander Scotland and Northern Ireland, and one of the planners of the Jutland centenary events in Orkney on May 31 said: “Of the three Scottish ports associated with the Royal Navy in World War 1, Invergordon is the first to mark the centenary of the Battle of Jutland – and so begins this period of commemoration for that particular stage of the war.
“It’s been a real honour for the Royal Navy to be invited to participate and I’m delighted that HMS Sutherland was perfectly placed to be able to deliver the kind of support which such an event deserves.
“The people of Invergordon and the Cromarty Firth should be rightly proud of their heritage and they have done a marvellous thing in setting the standard, acknowledging the tragic losses of both the sinking of HMS Natal and the Battle of Jutland. We are really grateful to have played a part in their commemorations.”
Plymouth’s Jutland 100 major commemorative event is on Plymouth Hoe on Tuesday 31st May with a special public memorial event. A military ceremonial parade, religious service and wreath-laying will take place at the Royal Naval War Memorial starting at 10.30am.
The event is being hosted by the Lord Mayor of Plymouth and jointly organised with the Royal Navy. Attendees include MPs, serving and former military personnel and descendants of those who fought in the battle. The public are welcome to attend.
The crew of some Devonport ships at Jutland were manned almost all from Plymouth. HMS Indefatigable and HMS Defence exploded and sunk in minutes with the loss of almost all hands. The Plymouth casualty list reads: HMS Indefatigable 600+, HMS Defence 600+, HMS Warrior 50+, HMS Invincible 50+, HMS Queen Mary 50+, HMS Lion 50+, HMS Tiger 12.
Devonport ships at Jutland were: HMS Minotaur 1906, Armoured Cruiser, HMS Temeriare 1907, Bellerophon class Battleship, HMS. Collingwood 1908, St Vincent class Battleship, HMS Indefatigable 1909, Battlecruiser (self class), HMS Lion 1910, Battlecruiser HMS Centurion 1911, KGV class Battleship, HMS Marlborough 1912, Iron Duke class Battleship, HMS Warspite 1913, Queen Elizabeth class Battleship, HMS. Royal Oak 1914, Revenge class Battleship, HMS Defence 1907, Minotaur class Armoured cruiser, (built at Pembroke, but manned by Devonport men).