Orkney Islands

Iceland Cruise 26 – Scapa Flow & Churchill Barriers, Orkney, Scotland

Iceland Cruise March 2018 – The coach trip we choose to go on when we visited Orkney, included Scapa Flow and Churchill Barriers.  We travelled over all four causeways and had good views of the Scapa Flow straits.  There are a few photos I took on route, just to give the feel of the islands.

A little history……..The Churchill Barriers are a series of four causeways in Orkney, Scotland, with a total length of 1.5 miles (2.4 km).  They link the Mainland in the north to South Ronaldsay, via Burray, and the two smaller islands of Lamb Holm and Glimps Holm.  They were built in 1940 as naval defences following the sinking of The Royal Oak, but now serve as road links, carrying the A961 road from Kirkwall to Burwick.  Within a month of the sinking of the Royal Oak, Winston Churchill visited Orkney and ordered that work begin on the construction of four permanent barriers, to stop any further German U-Boat attacks.  Italian prisoners of war built the causeways and also the Italian Chapel, which I have posted about. The work began in May 1940 and was completed by September 1944.  The Churchill Barriers were formally opened by the first Lord of the Admiralty on 12th May 1945, four days after the end of World War II in Europe.  The lasting role of the Chruchill Barriers has not been as a defence for Scapa Flow, but as a series of causeways linking the five islands together.  The roads crossing them have been improved over the years and Barrier No 4, no longer looks artificial. Over the years dunes have accumulated on the eastern side to form a lovely sandy beach and as a result Burray and South Ronaldsay are no longer really separate islands.

In 1919 the German High Seas Fleet was brought to Scapa Flow after the German surrender.  A misunderstanding over the progress of the peace talks led the German commander, Admiral von Reuter, to believe that war was about to resume.  To avoid his fleet falling into British hands he ordered the scuttling of the 74 German battleships and other warships at anchor in Scapa Flow, on 21 June 1919.  Many of these were salvaged for scrap after the war, but others still remain on the sea bed as a magnet for divers…… the following photos show some of the rusting remains of the blockships.

With the help of Italian prisoners of war, the construction phase used bolsters – wire cages or baskets filled with broken rock and dropped into the water of the channels.  Most of this lies under the surface, with the topping and road surface built from dumped aggregate and concrete blocks.  In total, around 250,000 tons of stone rubble and 66,000 concrete blocks were used to build the barriers.  The next photo show how the blocks were used making the barriers/causeways.  I have added the information board and hopefully it is just about readable.  

West Pier Lighthouse 1854, Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland

Iceland cruise March 2018 – When we were exploring Kirkwall, the chief town of Orkney, I found this small lighthouse down in the harbour.  The light was built in 1854, but creased working in 1994.  There is a new modern light, that has taken its place, but it nice to know the old one was kept, as it makes a nice focal point to the harbour.  Another one for the ‘Lighthouse Category’

 

 

The Italian Chapel, Lamb Holm, Orkney, Scotland

Iceland Cruise March 2018 – On my ‘want to do list ‘ was a visit to the Italian Chapel on Orkney, and guess what I got to see it, one of the coach trips included a tour…..so that was the one we went on, well husband got the whisky trip and I got the church.  I had always wanted to visit Orkney, as my great-grandfather was stationed there during WW1, teaching the Scottish ladies on how to make submarine nets.  He actually went to the Dardanelles and fitted them in place, but thats another story, maybe one day.  Well back to our visit, we travelled over a causeway to the small island of Lamb Holm and there, the only building left, is the beautiful Roman Catholic chapel which was constructed by Italian POWs during the Second World War.

In October 1939 a German submarine under the command of Gunther Prien entered Scapa Flow and sank the British battleship ‘Royal Oak’ with the loss of 834 lives. Winston Churchill, at that time First Sea Lord, visited Orkney and the decision was taken to construct barriers to close off four of the entrances to Scapa Flow to make the base for the home fleet more secure.  There was a shortage of manpower to build the barriers, so 550 Italian prisoners of war captured in North Africa, were transported to the Island of Lamb Holm to construction the barriers.

Following a request from the camp priest, Fr Giacobazzi, it was agreed that two Nissen huts would be joined together to provide a chapel. Among the Italians in Camp 60 was an artist, Domenico Chiocchetti, and he was given the task of transforming the two Nissen huts into a chapel. He was assisted by other tradesmen – in particular Giuseppe Palumbi a blacksmith, and Domenico Buttapasta a cement worker.  The chapel is the only building left of Camp 60.  I have added information boards at the bottom of the post.

For taking my photos of this beautiful chapel, I had to rush in before our coach party descended on the chapel, as it would then be impossible to take any people free photos.  My practice of taking photos in a very short time, came into full use and I got most of them, then just aimed for the ceiling.  For those few moments of just me, the chapel felt so serene.  

Chioccetti set to work on the painting of the interior of the sanctuary. The end result is a work of art that is magnificent, and must have been utterly stunning to those imprisoned here. Another prisoner, Giuseppe Palumbi, who had been a blacksmith in Italy before the war, spent four months constructing the wrought iron rood screen, which still complements the rest of the interior today.

Scapa Whisky Distillery, Orkney, Scotland

 

 

Iceland Cruise March 2018 – When we arrived on Orkney, one part of our coach trip was to see a whisky distillery, Scapa Whisky.  The weather was overcast and cold, also the windows of the coach were tinted and not that clean, so the photos I took out of the window were a bit hit and miss.  The tour was interesting and you got a wee dram and the glass to keep at the end of the tour, which pleased husband, and he was also pleased to add a new one to our ‘Whisky Distillery Category’

 

A little history……….Scapa has long been known as the ‘other distillery’ on Orkney, overshadowed in both reputation and popularity by the neighbouring Highland Park. This is hardly surprising, given Scapa’s relatively small annual capacity of just under 1 million litres. In recent years however, Scapa has enjoyed increasing popularity as a single malt.

The distillery was originally founded in 1885 by Macfarlane and Townsend, near the town of Kirkwall at the head of Scapa Bay. This location was significant during both World Wars, when it was used as a naval base for the British fleet. Following WWII the distillery was taken over by Hiram Walker & Sons, and then existed in relative anonymity for years before being mothballed in 1994. However, from 1997 until 2004 a small team of staff from Highland Park used the Scapa facility to distil small amounts of whisky and keep the equipment in use.

In 2004, Scapa underwent an extensive refurbishment worth over £2million and full-time production re-commenced. Ownership of the distillery transferred to Pernod Ricard in 2005, and they have helped to raise the profile of the Scapa brand considerably since then. Shortly after this takeover the traditional 12 year old Scapa was replaced with a new 14 year old expression. This was subsequently replaced again with the current 16 year old expression in 2008.