On the 30th of May 1916, Admiral Sir John Jellicoe led the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet from Orkney's famous natural harbour of Scapa Flow towards the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval engagement of the First World War.

The Home Fleet in Scapa Flow, Orkney - image courtesy of the Orkney Library and Archive

Jutland brought together the two most powerful naval forces of the time. By the end of the battle in the early hours of the 1st of June 1916, more than eight thousand British and German personnel had lost their lives.

Now, one hundred years later, Orkney will be hosting the national commemoration of the battle on the 31st of May, with a series of special cultural events to be held throughout the summer.

An artists impression of the Battle of Jutland

At the centre of the commemorations will be a service in St Magnus Cathedral on the morning of the 31st of May and at the Lyness Royal Naval cemetery in the afternoon. Although these services are for ticket holders, there are plans to broadcast them to members of the public in Kirkwall.

Events will culminate on the 5th of June with a service at Kitchener's Memorial on Orkney's west coast to remember the men lost during the sinking of HMS Hampshire a century ago. Restoration work has been ongoing at the memorial on Marwick Head over recent months and a commemorative wall is being built at the site, listing the names of all those who lost their lives.

The Royal Navy also plans to have several ships stationed in Orkney during the week with opportunities for members of the public to meet personnel and visit a number of the vessels.

It's expected that Orkney will be very busy during this week as the commemorations are attracting significant media interest. You can still be part of it throughout the summer months though as a local programme is also being put together which will include exhibitions, displays, tours and concerts.

HMS Invincible after breaking up and sinking at the Battle of Jutland

St Magnus Cathedral will also be hosting Poppies: Weeping Window from the installation 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red', originally presented at the Tower of London in 2014. Thousands of ceramic poppies will go on display outside the Cathedral in Kirkwall between the 22nd of April and the 12th of June.

The Orkney Museum's summer exhibition, from May until September, will focus on the War at Sea and Orkney's role in it. Meanwhile the Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum at Lyness will open early this year with a new WWI display and extra material focused on the Battle of Jutland and the sinking of HMS Hampshire. It will be on display from Easter until the end of October. The Stromness Museum will also focus on the Battle of Jutland and the story of HMS Hampshire.

There are also special events planned in Sanday, with guided walks to the B98 shipwreck - the only remaining visible German shipwreck from Jutland, and in Birsay, with an exhibition and performances.

It's hoped the events this year will honour those on all sides who lost their lives and also provide an opportunity to recognise the impact of the First World War on Orkney and the role the islands played during the conflict.

The official programme will be announced soon and will be included as part of our events calendar. You can also keep up to date with the latest news from Orkney, including updates on the WWI programme, by signing up to the Orkney.com monthly newsletter.

If you'd like to be part of the commemorations and special events then find out more about travelling to Orkney and book your accommodation with us.

You can also find out more about the events planned from Orkney Islands Council's dedicated WW1 Commemorations page.

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