CLICK HERE to read about HMS Hampshire Conspiracy Theories
Also see Hampshire's Gold and the conspiracy theory printed in The Sunday Times in August 1998.
Over eighty years have come and gone since Kitchener went down with the Hampshire; yet still rumours persist that a cover-up conceals some dark, terrible conspiracy to make a premature end of the great soldier. Why, it is asked, did the Hampshire leave port in such a hurry, when imminent severe gales had been forecast? Why had she, contrary to her original orders, set off round the West Orkney coast into the teeth of a Force 8 north west wind? And why, given the status of the Hampshire's VIP passenger (Kitchener), had nothing been done to save his life? Kitchener was last reported seen pacing the deck, seemingly resigned to his fate. Old Orcadians to this day tell stories of armed soldiers posted on the cliffs around Birsay, keeping curious folk away at bayonet point. Will we ever know the truth about the Hampshire's end? Probably not.
MISTAKE or CONSPIRACY
Here is another fact which I have learned since creating this website which points to maybe not a conspiracy but a mistake, something which was over looked at the time leading to disastrous consequences.
Fact: 29th May 1916 - The U75 German U-Boat laid mines West of Orkney.
Fact: (little known as it maybe) 2nd June 1916 - The British Naval Vessel 'Laurel Crown' a 'drifter' or trawler hit one of the mines laid by the U75 West of Orkney and sunk.
Fact: 5th June 1916 - HMS Hampshire hits another mine laid by the U75 West of Orkney and the rest is history.
Here's the Theory:
It appears that in the days between when the U75 laid the mines West of Orkney (29th May) and the Hampshire sinking (5th June) that, that particular area of sea wasn't sweep for mines due to the 'bad' weather conditions. Prior to the 2nd June 1916 German surface minelayers and mine laying U-Boats didn't even present a danger in this area as they were thought to have insufficient range to reach the Orkneys, the farthest they had been seen were the seas off the Firth of Forth.
After the Laurel Crown struck a mine on the 2nd June (3 days before the sinking of the Hampshire) the English Fleet Directors must have now known of U75’s mine barrier, yet the area wasn't sweep for mines and the Hampshire was still sent on this deadly route.
Now was this because the Battle of Jutland had just taken place and in the confusion after the Battle the report of the Laurel Crown sinking was delayed, paid no attention to or maybe the Fleet Directors were unaware of it. In this case it was a 'mistake' with deadly consequences which is now not the best kept secret, but it is also not very well known.
The only other alternative is that the Fleet Directors were fully aware of the sinking of the Laurel Crown and the U75 mine barrier along this route. If this was the case the demise of the Hampshire was deliberate and Kitchener, together with his staff of six officers and the crew of the Hampshire were sent to their doom intentionally.
Here are some 'theories' given by other people:
I recently bought a book at a fair by Ernst Carl, Germany's master spy in Britain during 1914-1918.the book was published in 1935 by Jarrod and is a personal biography of the author's war service mainly undercover in England.
A large part of the book is devoted to Ernst Carl's plan and execution to blow up HMS Hampshire which he devised with Sinn Fein agents working in the UK and Ireland.
The author describes how Sinn Fein agents took naval positions on many of the navy's ships during this period and of a great plot to destroy the British fleet in port by placing large bombs in the ammunition rooms of the whole fleet so that on the designated day the fleet would be sunk which would in effect end the war.
Sinn Fein hated Kitchener and knew that when the war was over he would turn returning troops to Ireland and they had been planning to assassinate him for some time.
It seems impossible to me that this book could be anything but fact as there is much detail from the sinking including how Ernst Carl and his compatriots watched the Hampshire leaving port from a pub on the Orkney Isles after a three hour delay during which they thought their plan had been found out.
The author also states categorically that there was a large amount of gold on the ship which Kitchener was taking to the hotbed of Russia to use as a bargaining tool.
With regards to the above conspiracy, I was emailed in February 2003 by a Television producer who was looking at making a documentary on the Sinking of the Hampshire. He said that he had been approached by a 'reputable' Journalist who had evidence from a recent dive of the Hampshire that the Plating at the bow of the ship was blown outwards and not inwards, indicating the explosion which sunk the Hampshire was internal not external.
Roger Collins wrote to tell me about Frank Power a journalist who was involved in a hoax regarding the body of Kitchener.
Frank Power was a journalist who caused much trouble over the sinking of the Hampshire. In October 1925 he began a weekly series of articles in the "REFEREE", a popular Sunday paper of the time. Week after week he piled claim upon claim, causing a public outcry. Public meetings were held all over the country, and the government began discreet enquiries, interviewing many persons about their recollection of events. This information was pulled together and published in August 1926, and finally told the whole truth about the Hampshire.
Power then changed his line, and claimed that Kitchener's body had been located in Norway. He made a trip to Norway with a film crew and a few weeks later a coffin arrived at Waterloo station in London, where Power picked it up. At this stage the authorities intervened and the coffin was opened in the presence of the police and Sir Bernard Spilsbury (the leading forensic scientist of the time). Power did not attend the opening as he was seeing his wife off on holiday!!
The coffin was empty, and it was later proved that Power had engaged in an elaborate hoax. The "REFEREE" disowned Power and he was interviewed several times by the police, but in the end he was not prosecuted.
This was a sad episode, causing a lot of grief to relatives of the men on the Hampshire.
I would like to impart some information that has been passed on to me via a colleague at school.
The theory is: Kitchener allegedly shot himself in a government building and this fact was covered up by saying that he was lost on a mission to Russia on board HMS Hampshire.
The information to my colleague was passed to him by somebody, many years ago who said he was there when Kitchener committed suicide.
I have to say that I find it hard to believe that, during wartime, The government via the Admiralty would sacrifice an entire ship and her crew just to kill one man that was off to Russia anyway, where he could be assassinated at a fraction of the price and no comeback on HM Government!
Simon D Smith
I talked to one 'local' (who held a position of Authority) in the Orkney's when I visited. He told me how on the 5th June 1916 the life boats where not launched for a period of time and also the few who knew of the disaster, who wanted to help, were in some cases “forcibly prevented under dire threats”. One man was told by a soldier “that all civilians were to remain in their houses and not to venture near the shore or we should be fired on”.
He went on to say that some of the survivors who reached the shore were shot by our own soldiers.
Is this true or just hearsay? I know it sounds 'unbelievable', but without saying where he worked the source of this information does have a reasonable strong connection with the Hampshire.
Dave in Carlisle.
To add some depth to the above theory Mike Jefferies emailed saying that he too had heard local rumours that the local home guard had been told that a German warship had been sunk that night and that they were to shoot survivors and that some had been shot on the cliffs. If this was the case, an initial mistaken identity of the sunken ship, it may explain why there was such a delay in launching the life boats and why locals had witnessed soldiers shooting the survivors, they assumed the survivors that made it to the shore would be foe not friendly.
I just finish to read a book called "les dessous de l'espionnage anglais , des documents, des faits" written by Robert Boucard in 1925 .
(an "insider", he worked for the French intelligence during WWI and again for the British Intelligence after the war).
This author, and I are not what people can say "British lovers". In his theory he says KITCHENER was murdered (time bomb ?), by the British Intelligence .
When KITCHENER went to Russia, it was in order to speak with the Czar about some high ranking officers who were German agents (Soukhomlinof = war minister) . It was after the reading of Sidney Reilly's reports upon felons in czar's staff. His mission was to reorganize the Czar's staff .
But according to Boucard's theory there were people in the British government who were thinking of a Russian defeat and an agreement with Germany (the "great game" and geopolitical theory of MacKINDER ) were earning a lot of money making business with Germany through the neutrals (Punch's drawing: William II saying "God bless England " with in his back bags of cotton, sugar , tea, ..........)
So, KITCHENER, who was close to France " The defence of London begin on the shores of Calais" was an obstacle for them .
I would like to have your opinion about this .
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