World War 1 had a huge impact on the Shetland islands. In proportion to the population the community suffered one of the highest losses of life of any area in the UK. The total number listed on the Shetland war memorial and the Shetland Roll of Honour is close to 700. By the end of the war Williamina Sutherland had lost her husband and one of her sons.
Seaman Andrew Thomas Sutherland Royal Naval Reserve was born on the 10th of June 1895, Unst, Shetland, the third child of Charles and Williamina Barbara Sutherland (née Mouat). His parents Charles and Williamina were born and raised in Unst and married 1st Sept 1887. Like the vast majority of the population of Shetland the family were tied to the land and the seasons through crofting and fishing. Islanders still grew, reared or caught a large proportion of their own food.
The two decades before World War 1 had seen a decline in the fishing industry in Shetland and many men had joined the Mercantile Marine as a result. Another income source was the Royal Naval Reserve. If you had sea experience from fishing or the merchant fleet then the R.N.R . were keen to sign you up. It would have been seen as a ready way of making a little additional money. The R.N.R, established in 1862, provided a pool of experienced seamen for use during times of war. Reserves were paid a yearly fee and had to attend a couple of weeks training sessions a year, for which they were also paid. The men knew that if there was a war they’d be called up to serve in the naval forces, but it’s unlikely the possibility of this ever crossed their minds.
Andrew’s father Charles signed up for war service on the 21st of December 1914 and died on the 2nd of October 1915. According to the war graves roll there’s no record of his resting place. Andrew’s body was never recovered from Lough Swilly after the sinking of HMS Laurentic. Both are commemorated on the World War 1 memorial in Norwick, Shetland.
The National Archives of the UK, Kew, Surrey, England.
Shetland Roll of Honour: National Library of Scotland: deriv.nls.uk/dcn23/1005/2884/100528842.23.pdf
Imperial War Museum: http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/8846
The Scottish Military Research Group : warmemscot.s4.bizhat.com/warmemscot-ftopic3482.html