HMY Iolaire sank on January 1 1919
HMY Iolaire sank on January 1 1919

Prince Charles will pay his respects to the Iolaire lost

Prince Charles is to attend the centenary service to mark the 100th anniversary of Britain’s worst peacetime disaster at sea.

The Prince will attend the commemoration the loss of HMY Iolaire.

During the Service, Prince Charles will deliver a scripture reading and lay a wreath. After the service, HRH will unveil a new sculpture, which has been created to mark the centenary of the tragedy.

After meeting community representatives, including family members of those involved in the tragedy, The Prince will be presented with a copy of the book The Darkest Dawn, for which HRH as written a foreword in English and Gaelic.

HMY Iolaire sank on the approach to Stornoway Harbour on 1 January 1919, with the loss of 201 Islanders returning home following the end of World War One. Of those known to have died, 174 came from Lewis with seven Harrismen amongst the dead. A further 18 crew and two passengers on their way to the Stornoway Naval Base were killed.

The men, mostly naval reserves, made it to Armistice but drowned within a short reach of their families who had gathered on Stornoway Pier to greet them.

Organised by WW100 Scotland in conjunction with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council), the National Commemorative Service will take place at the Iolaire Memorial in Stornoway on New Year’s Day, 100 years to the day of the tragedy.

It will be attended by hundreds of local people including: Iolaire descendants; HRH The Prince Charles, Lord of the Isles; First Minister Nicola Sturgeon; Scotland’s most senior naval officer Rear Admiral John Weale and convener of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council), Norman A Macdonald, each of whom will lay a wreath.

HMY Iolaire sank on January 1 1919

In his foreword, Prince Charles has written: ‘I am most touched to have been asked to provide a foreword for this important publication.
The Darkest Dawn is a deeply poignant tribute to all those who so tragically lost their lives when HMY Iolaire sank a century ago, in the early hours of 1 January 1919.

‘This is a profoundly moving record of a disaster which has had a truly lasting effect on the communities of Lewis, Harris and Berneray. It must also not be forgotten that there were an additional twenty-six people on board from communities stretching from Aberdeen to Penzance. This book enables present and future generations to know something of the indescribable grief of those families, relatives, neighbours and friends who were so cruelly affected by the loss of their loved ones.

‘After miraculously surviving their military service during the First World War, they perished only a few hundred yards from their final destination.

‘It is perhaps understandable that, until recently, the circumstances surrounding this most tragic of events in the history of the Islands have not been widely discussed. This book, therefore, provides us with a fitting legacy with which to mark the loss of 201 passengers and crew of HMY Iolaire.

‘Acair are to be congratulated for producing this most comprehensive publication; its detailed and personal narrative, coupled with rare photographs of those caught up in this tragedy, has created a fitting epitaph to those Servicemen whose loss had such a devastating effect on the island communities.’

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