Orkney Islands Council is urging local people to see if they can help complete a photographic collection of all Orcadian service personnel killed during the First World War, as the centenary of the end of the conflict draws near.
The collection, hosted by the Royal British Legion in Kirkwall, is being compiled by local historian Brian Budge. Brian, who was awarded a British Empire Medal in June this year in recognition of his services to military history in Orkney said:
"Many people have dedicated time and energy to gathering photos over a period of 20 years or more and would like to see the collection completed as far as possible for the centenary of the Armistice on 11 November this year.
“Having a nearly complete set of images of all the Orcadians lost would be a most poignant way for our community to mark this anniversary and a wonderful resource for future generations.”
It’s believed 578 Orcadians died serving in the Great War and the Legion’s collection, available to view on their website, contains photos of just over half – 297 – of those lost.
The Council’s call comes as part of Orkney’s First World War commemoration programme, which is being coordinated by the Council with invaluable contributions and support from local organisations community groups and individuals.
As part of a series of events on November 11 Orkney will participate in a national commemorative event that involves as many photos of local lives lost in the war as can be found and the participation of their families, a further reason for trying to complete the collection.
Lucy Gibbon from the Council’s Library and Archive service said there may well be much sought-after photos in people’s attics and family memorabilia collections: “Whilst very few people had a camera during the Great War, nearly all towns had photo studios. Most servicemen visited one of these while training in the UK.”
“If you know you lost an Orcadian relative in the war, now is a great time to find out more about them. The Orkney Library and Archive might have some items to help shed light on their story.”
The Legion’s photo archive has been made possible thanks to the generosity and hard work of many – for example around half of the photos have been sourced from the Orcadian newspaper who published photos sent in by families in a feature called ‘Our Roll of Honour’ during the Great War. Other notable contributors and donators over the years include Tom Gibson of Rousay, Beatrice Thomson of North Ronaldsay, Mabel Eunson of Deerness and the late Margaret Watters of Stenness, Bill Miller of Stronsay, Phyllis Gee of Flotta, and George Esson who spent two decades visiting families in South Ronaldsay and Burray seeking photos of loved ones lost in the war, and with the help of and David Mackie and Colin Rendall made copies for the Orkney Library and Archive. These and many more contributors are noted on the project’s website - where people can also view images in the collection by Parish and by significant battles.
Anyone with photos they believe are not already included in the Legion’s collection is urged to contact Brian Budge by email or by phoning 01856872225 - or to drop into the Orkney Library and Archive in Kirkwall.