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HMS Dalriada goes North

4 January 2017
2016 marked the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland, the greatest naval battle of World War One, which resulted in over 9,000 sailors from both sides killed or wounded but reinforced Britain’s dominance of the North Sea. In commemoration of this, members of Glasgow’s Royal Naval Reserve Unit, HMS Dalriada, visited Orkney, the main base of the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet in World War One.

Fifteen officers and ratings of HMS Dalriada’s Ship’s Company spent a weekend in Orkney visiting sites that played key operational roles in the First and Second World Wars.

The Scapa Flow Visitor Centre on the island of Hoy provided a fascinating opportunity to learn more about the ships involved in the Battle of Jutland and latterly, the hunt for the Bismarck and the long-running Battle of the Atlantic during the Second World War.

The museum tells the very human story of the thousands of servicemen and women based at Scapa Flow who endured air raids and dangerous duty in the North Atlantic and on the Arctic Convoys, far from their homes.

While on Hoy, the reservists attended the Lyness Military Cemetery where they held a service of remembrance and laid a wreath in memory of all the Royal Navy sailors who lost their lives. The visit highlighted the number of Royal Navy sailors based in Orkney who perished at sea, sometimes with almost entire ship’s crews being lost.  

It was particularly sobering for the younger members of the group to learn that many of those lost were under the age of eighteen.

Midshipman Ryan Tumulty

Leading Seaman Cartlidge, who laid the wreath, said: “The time at the cemetery allowed us the opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices made by so many and, in particular, the contribution of our predecessors in the Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve.”

Back in Kirkwall, the St Magnus Cathedral houses the Ship’s Bell of HMS Royal Oak, a Battleship sunk in October 1939 by German U-Boat U-47 while at anchor in Scapa Flow with the loss of 833 lives.

Midshipman Ryan Tumulty noted: “It was particularly sobering for the younger members of the group to learn that many of those lost were under the age of eighteen. This terrible loss led to the Admiralty discontinuing the tradition of sending boy sailors to sea on active service.”

A highlight of the weekend was a visit to the Italian Chapel and Churchill Barriers, which were built by Italian prisoners of war during the Second World War.  The ingenuity and flexibility of the prisoners in turning a basic Nissan hut into a beautiful work of art was fascinating.

The range of practical skills and resourcefulness utilised by the prisoners of war in creating the Italian Chapel is echoed by the broad background of civilian skills reservists bring to the UK Armed Forces today.

Prior to leaving Orkney, the reservists presented a ship’s crest from HMS Dalriada to the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre who were delighted to be able to display it alongside the crests of many ships from the navies around the world which have previously visited or been based in Scapa Flow.

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