Press release

Nation marks 100 years since great naval battle

The nation has marked the centenary of the Battle of Jutland at events in the Orkney Islands today

Saint Magnus Cathedral
Saint Magnus Cathedral

The UK Government, in collaboration with Orkney Islands Council and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, has hosted two events to mark 100 years since the largest naval clash of the First World War.

The commemorative events included a morning service at St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, followed by a ceremony at the Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery at Hoy, where over 400 Commonwealth servicemen and German sailors from the First World War are buried - some as young as 16.

The Princess Royal, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, Mr Joachim Gauck, President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon attended the commemorative event alongside descendants of wartime sailors and local residents. Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport John Whittingdale and First World War Minister David Evennett also attended the event.

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport John Whittingdale said:

The Battle of Jutland was the most brutal naval battle of the First World War and it is important that we remember the thousands who lost their lives at sea and commemorate the heroism of all who served one hundred years ago.

First World War Minister David Evennett said:

It is right that we remember the thousands who lost their lives during the biggest naval battle of the First World War. My own grandfather fought at Jutland and was lucky enough to have survived and he never forgot the bravery of the young men who served alongside him. Today on the Orkney Islands we also remember the role Scotland played in housing the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet.

The Battle of Jutland was the most significant naval engagement of the First World War with over 100,000 sailors involved on 250 ships. More than 6,000 Royal Navy and 2,500 German sailors lost their lives.

The events remembered those who lost their lives during the battle and also paid tribute to the role of the Royal Navy and all those involved in the war at sea throughout the First World War. The commemorations emphasised the vital role that Scotland, and the Orkney Islands in particular, played in hosting the Grand Fleet throughout the war.

During the war, the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet was based at Scapa Flow, a natural harbour at the heart of Orkney. The presence of the Grand Fleet and its thousands of sailors had a major impact on the lives of ordinary Orcadians.

Over the wrecks of HMS Invincible, HMS Queen Mary, SMS Lutzow and SMS Pommern, their modern day counterparts HMS Duncan and FGS Brandenberg held a moments silence to honour all those lost during the Battle of Jutland. In a remembrance service, sailors from both navies scattered symbols of remembrance – British poppy petals and German forget-me-nots — into the water. HMS Kent, visible from the Royal Naval Cemetery in Lyness, fired a 21-gun salute.

Today there was also a series of other events across the country to mark the centenary of the Battle of Jutland. These included:

  • Royal Navy remembrance events in Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth;
  • The opening of HMS Caroline - the only surviving ship that saw action at the Battle of Jutland - in Belfast as a museum and visitor attraction; and
  • The laying of commemorative paving stones to remember the four Victoria Cross recipients from the Battle of Jutland.

To see photographs of the Battle of Jutland commemorations, click here

For more information:

  • Press Enquiries: 020 7211 6263
  • Public Enquiries: 020 7211 6000
Published 31 May 2016