World War I – 12th January 1918:
In atrocious weather destroyers HMS Opal and HMS Narborough were wrecked on the rocks of Hesta, Orkney .
There was 1 survivor Able Seaman William Sissons, 188 men and boys perished that day.
Able Seaman William Sissons was a gunner aboard the Opal and was rescued two days after the disaster.
The bodies of most of those who perished have never been found although the final resting place of 55 of them can be found in Lyness War cememtery, Hoy.
To mark their sacrifice there will be a wreath laying at Windwick Bay, South Ronaldsay where the 1993 memorial is. Only invited guests will be able to attend. It will be followed by a further commemoration at the Cromarty Hall, St Margaret’s Hope to which all are invited.
Extensive research has been carried out about the tragedy by Brian Budge and Andrew Hollinrake. Due to their endeavours a new book of remembrance has been opened with the addition of names missing from the previous one.
Little remains of the ships but a diver exploring the wrecks in 2007 found a ring belonging to one of the crew, Stanley Cubiss.
Stanley Cubiss served in the engine room aboard HMS Opal and saw action at the Battle of Jutland. He had been married for less than a year when he lost his life on 12th January 1918. The ring, an engagement present, bears the inscription ‘To Stanley from Flo – 6 March 1916’.
Convener of Orkney Islands Council Harvey Johnston said:
“There was terrible loss of life when the two warships were wrecked on that fateful night close to Windwick, where we will lay a wreath in memory of those who perished.
“As with the commemorative events marking the Battle of Jutland and the loss of HMS Hampshire and HMS Vanguard, we will again remember the enormous sacrifice of those who served in our local waters during the First World War.”
In February 2018, a temporary exhibition of objects from HMS Narborough and HMS Opal, including the ring, will go on display at the Orkney Museum. The Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum to which Stanley Cubiss’ ring was donated by his nephew is currently closed whilst it is being refurbished.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”