Saturday 15 September 2018

Orkney at War (July - December 1918)

The 13th instalment of our "Orkney at War" Exhibition is now available to see in the Archive Public Searchroom. [All images and text used in these exhibitions can now be seen in a folder in the Orkney Room]
The display shows how Orkney and Orcadians were affected by the war in their daily lives, using items from the Archive collections which were created at the time. Items such as newspaper reports, scrapbooks, council minutes, photographs, letters and diaries.

Here are a few items from the main exhibition:

From the Orcadian 4th July 2018:

"The New Voters Roll
Large Increase in Number of Voters
Over 1500 absent Voters on Orkney Roll
Compared with the register of voters, when last made up on 1st October 1914, the electorate has increased from 4414 to 11726 an increase of 7315.
As female voters account for 4568 of the total on the new list, male voters show an increase of 2747, or, excluding the 1547 men shown to be on active service, an increase of 1200."

Extracts from the Memoir of Bernard Williams (Archive ref: D1/526):

"The weather in July 1918 was perfect for this was the month that we embarked on the wooden 150 ton boat Minerva from Kirkwall to Pierowall Bay. It was as well that this boat was motivated by an eight horsepower combustion engine with a propeller with a 2 foot diameter, for if it relied on sail we should have been becalmed and stranded, this calm weather was unusual for the Orkneys.
When about to cast we had a distribution of letters and parcels from home. I well remember my packet contained a slab of Rowntree's plain chocolate which sustained me on this long sea epic to Pierowall, Westray Island, the most northern of the Orkney Islands [sic.] It was remarkable that Air Force authorities thought it not necessary to provide us rations until the end of this long sea journey. Of course the need for our visit to Westray was to make dawn attacks on U-boats that had become a menace to our shipping lines supplying food and arms to the Allied Forces and civilian population. The Minerva was already accommodating depth charges for this macabre mission of ours, also an Observation Balloon, also a 1 ton lorry with windlass and wire anchoring rope. They played a prominent part in spotting German submarines in the vicinity of the Northern Orkney Islands.
There was no slipway at Pierowall Bay so all loading had to be done by a rowing boat belonging to a Westray owner. The Minerva docked on the sea side of the pier at full tide. This, whether by fortune or guile of our intrepid pilot who charted us through this perilous venture, lessened the ordeal of unloading all our equipment. The lorry was removed first and was soon to be the first motorised vehicle to operate on the island of Westray. Only equestrian drawn traps and carts prevailed before

From John Fraser's Scrapbook, Archive Reference D1/692:

Letter to Willie Rendall from his mother about life in Kirkwall in July 1918. Part of the letter states that: "I can not get jam here today or Saturday as the Americans has been ashore on leave by the thousands and bought up everything we had".
Robert Rendall Papers D27/7/10

From book, Early Flying in Orkney by Dr. T Crowther Gordon: Extract from his day-to-day log book while stationed at Houton Air Station, Orphir. p20-21.
"The most exciting, dangerous and perplexing day of my whole career was Sunday 15th September [1918].
At 2.15pm I took off in F.3 4235 with Observer Harwood and flew at 1500 feet to squares 83, 84, and 95 in search of U-boats. When sixty miles out eat I decided to return to base with nothing to report, but the wind rose and low clouds obscured the Orkney Islands. I asked my navigator for my position, but he confessed he did not know. My engineer tapped me to draw my attention to the starboard engine. I was horror-struck. The petrol pipe was severed and more than half of the petrol was running along the outside of the exhaust pipe, which on an RR360 was very short. Flames flared from the inside of the exhaust while petrol ran along the outside. In a moment the whole machine could go down in flames and out of control. We were over a minefield; there was no ship small or large in sight. The revs dropped from 1400 to 400. The sea was rising. owing to low clouds no land was in sight. Four lives were at stake. One thing was clear to me: I would stay in flight for as long as the plane would fly.

Dr. T Crowther Gordon
On we flew and finally, plunging down through thick clouds, I levelled out to see just ahead of us the Horse of Copinsay, Holm Sound and the Flow. As the boat landed the starboard engine cut out completely. We were helpless but we were home. On examination the slipstream had kept the two broken halves of the petrol-pipe close enough to allow some of the fuel to pass into the engine and so keep the machine in the air."

From John Fraser's Scrapbook, Archive Reference D1/692:

From the Orcadian newspaper 19th September 1918 p7:


The urgent claims of coal economy make it imperative that baking days should be as infrequent as possible. But infrequent baking days have their disadvantages - among them numerous dry, stale crusts of bread which just before baking day comes round again accumulated remarkably fast. Bread does get dry nowadays!

Here is a good recipe for using up some of the crusts - and for making at the same time some excellent cakes for tea:-

Put the crusts of bread in a basin and pour boiling water on them. Meanwhile prepare a plain short pastry and line a number of small patty pans with it.

Drain away the water from the bread and beat with a fork. Add some dried egg beaten up with water, a little sugar, and if obtainable a few currants. If the currants cannot be had, flavour the bread mixture with ratafia.

Ratafia is a liqueur flavoured with almonds or the kernels of peaches, apricots or cherries.

From the Orcadian 14th November 1918, p4:

The news of the signing of the Armistice with Germany was received in Kirkwall on Monday morning. The announcement was received with intense enthusiasm. The shipping in harbour, and the streets of Kirkwall were quickly bedecked with bunting, whilst the steamers in port voiced the feelings of all by the continuous sounding of sirens. All through the day the manifestations of joy continued; as ship after ship entered the bay, the glad tidings were announced to the mariners by renewed blowing of whistles.
On the recommendation of Provost Baikie, all places of business in the town were closed in the afternoon, and a joint service of thanksgiving, in which the ministers of the town took part, was conducted in St. Magnus Cathedral at night.

From John Fraser's Scrapbook, Archive Reference D1/692:

From the Orcadian newspaper 21st November 1918:

DISTRICT NEWS                                 FLOTTA
CELEBRATING "THE DAY" - The day on which the Germans signed the Armistice, which means peace, with glorious (if dear bought) victory for our side, was made memorable here by the blowing of their sirens for a long time, both in the forenoon and at night, by the "multitude" of vessels in the vicinity; by the hoisting of flags at prominent places, and by the ringing (by the minister himself) of the Parish Church bell. And now we will be looking for the early return of our dear ones who have "come through the war". Alas! That the general joy of meeting the living will be so much taken away from by the sorrow for those whom we will meet no more on earth. With every community in the empire, we thank God that the carnage has eventually ceased; and that it is hardly within the bounds of possibility that there will be another "world conflict" for generations to come.
Surrender of the German High Seas Fleet, November 1918:
It was actually November 1918 that the German High Seas Fleet came to Scapa Flow.

The German Fleet in Scapa Flow, Orkney

[All images and text used in these exhibitions can now be seen in a folder in the Orkney Room]. Click on "Orkney At War" in the labels to see more blog posts on this subject.
Dusty's first attempt at the 'Cakes from Crusts of Bread' recipe shown here at our Staff Christmas Party on the 8th December. They do look nice, but they were not very tasty, since the only sweet ingredient was the currants.