Friday, 30 September 2016

Orkney at War (August - December 1916)

The 9th instalment of our Orkney at War Exhibition is now available to see in the Archive corridor upstairs in Orkney Library & Archive. The display attempts to show how Orkney and Orcadians were affected by the war, using items from the Archive collections which were created at the time. Items such as newspaper reports, scrapbooks, council minutes, photographs, letters and diaries.

Visit by Commander in Chief.
On 1st August 1916 Admiral Jellicoe, Commander in Chief, his wife Gwendoline and her sister Freda Cayzer all signed the visitor's book of the YMCA in Longhope

First page of entries of YMCA visitors book (Archive Reference: D1/1207)
"Long Hope Bay during the war was the headquarters of the auxiliaries of the Grand Fleet, and never in its history were so many vessels of such varied types assembled in the harbour. The village of Long Hope, where there is a good pier, naturally became much frequented by officers and men from the ships, and eventually a commodious Y.M.C.A. was erected, which did much useful work. Tea on the beach was always a pleasant change from ship life (and tinned milk!) and the Post Office at Long Hope became a favourite rendezvous for informal tea-parties."
Extract from Scapa and a Camera by C W Burrows, p51 (Orkney Room reference 941.09 Y)

Water Levels Running Low
"At a Meeting of the Provost, Magistrates and Councillors of the Burgh of Stromness held in the town Clerk's office on Tuesday 8th August 1916 at 10.30am, the Council instructed that a letter should be sent to the Competent Naval Authority here asking him to draw less water for Naval purposes as the supply is running low."

Stromness Town Council minute (Archive Reference S1/5)
"The Burgh Surveyor was asked to report to Mr Setchell, Superintending Engineer to the Admiralty, on Saturday of each week, the depth of water in the reservoir."

Margaret Tait's Diary
1st September 1916 "Jim has got married and Maggie is in Aberdeen too. Jennie is in the house and I have had a lovely time in the shop myself. Got a bit of wood carved out of the Hampshire boat from a fleet man. It is meant for a brooch and cut heart shape."

Why the Germans Loathe Kirkwall
In the August London, Percival A. Hislam contributes an article on the British blockade in which the following passage occurs:- "The general practice is this: if a ship smells clean - that is to say if her papers and a brief examination of her cargo reveal nothing suspicious, she is allowed to proceed, but at the merest scent of something wrong the examination party flutter a farewell signal to their parent ship and proceed to take the suspicious trader into Kirkwall.
Now there are few places on earth whose name is more offensive to German ears than Kirkwall, a little town of four thousand inhabitants buried away up in the Orkneys, nor is the reason far to seek.
Just as Folkstone is the principal customs barrier for people coming up to England from the continent, so is Kirkwall a sort of filter through which almost everything must pass that seeks to enter Northern Europe by sea. Because such vast quantities of stuff destined for Germany have been diverted at Kirkwall to other destinations the Germans loathe it. The call it our Police Bureau.published in the Orcadian newspaper on the 1st September 1916.

Orcadians with the Colours
Private William G Linklater, Seaforth Highlanders, son of Mr and Mrs Andrew Linklater, Millquoy, Firth.

Seaman George Petrie Duncan, now serving in one of H.M. Ships is the eldest son of Mr and Mrs John Duncan, Lynnside, St Ola.

Cuttings from John Fraser's Scrapbook ( Archive Reference D1/692)

Margaret Tait's Diary
Sunday 17th September 1916 "Rainy and cold. been in the house all day resting. Last night I was up the Willow Road to see Mrs Leask. Coming home at night everything looked so gloomy with every window covered with black blinds. Also all the shops have to be blinded with DR blinds so you can't see the least glimmer of light. It looks as though the town is deserted or as if everyone was dead with not even the street lamps lighted. We will have it proper dark this winter."

Kitchener Memorial Decision
"At a meeting of the Kirkwall Town Council held on the 20th September:

The Provost intimated the Public meeting held in the Town Hall on the 7th inst. had unanimously decided that the Orkney Memorial to Lord Kitchener should be a massive tower on Marwick Head, Birsay, any surplus funds going to the National Memorial Fund and that the original suggestion by the Council of a Memorial Window in St. Magnus Cathedral had been abandoned."

The Collection of Sphagnam Moss for Wound Dressings
"It will be remembered that Provost Baikie, in response to an appeal from Aberdeen for sphagnum moss, took up the matter in Orkney and succeeded in enlisting the sympathy of many ladies and gentlemen in the county in the work. Quite a number of sacks of moss were gathered by ladies in town and country, whilst the Kirkwall Boys Brigade, the Scouts, the Girl Guides and the scholars of Holm East and West schools, Tankerness, St Andrews, Orphir, Firth, Stenness, Dounby, Rendall, Sourin, Rousay and Skelwick, Westray, all contributed large quantities. Some ninety-seven sacks of dried moss have already been despatched to Aberdeen and there are sixty-seven sacks of moss still being dried in Kirkwall. It is expected the Boys' Brigade, the Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides of Kirkwall will still make a collection before the season closes so that the contribution from Orkney will be considerable." Published in the Orcadian 21st October 1916

Our Roll of Honour - Flotta's Wounded and Missing Soldiers

"Second-Lieutenant Robert Taylor (wounded in the shoulder), after being in hospital in England for a considerable time, is now home on sick leave, but expects to return to France shortly. Private Robert Mowat (Seaforths), wounded in leg, has also, after a lengthy hospital experience, been home a few days on sick leave. Sapper John Flett, Royal Engineers, seriously wounded in leg, is in hospital in England, his left leg having been amputated near the knee. Private William Sutherland (Seaforths) reported wounded over two months ago, but not heard of again, now appears to be missing. There is still a hope that Willie (who was a favourite with everybody) is a prisoner of war. Meantime his parents (Mr and Mrs Donald Sutherland, Windbrake) who have other two sons at the French front, have the community's sympathy in the state of suspense in which they are being kept." Date of publication in newspaper is unknown but roughly Aug-Dec 1916. Cutting from John Fraser's Scrapbook ( Archive Reference D1/692)

The Bluejacket Boy

It is now almost 100 years ago since "The Bluejacket Boy" wrote his letter in December 1916.  We now know him as David "Dai" Phillips, a seaman stationed in Orkney who wrote a letter and then left it on a fireplace in a house in Bridge Street, Kirkwall to post later. 
The letter was never posted and was forgotten about for 64 years! During a refurbishment in 1980 it was found down the back of the fireplace. From 1980  it was kept as a piece of WW1 memorabilia until Oct 2013 when the letter was handed in to the Orkney Archive. Through this blog with the wonderful help of our followers from all over the world, we were able to solve the mystery of who he was. 
David "Dai" Phillips - the Bluejacket Boy
But it wasn't until February 2014 that one researcher spotted a marriage of Catherine Johnston to David Phillips on a Canadian genealogy website and from that connection we were able to contact the Bluejacket Boy's grand-daughter. She has now received a copy of the letter now written almost 100 years ago.
The letter talks about his time in Orkney, the fishing methods of locals possibly in Stromness this little place up here is exactly the same as...small fishing villages in the pictures and about all the parcels  of clothes, etc. he has exchanged with his family. (Archive Reference: D1/1124)

Click on the label "Orkney at War" below to see more blog posts on this subject.

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