Albert Nisbet

Albert Nisbet

Albert Nisbet (1899-1988) was Shetland’s last Battle of Jutland veteran. He was born into Shetland’s diaspora in Liverpool, where his father was a policeman. The family returned home to Yell when Albert was age six, on the death of his mother. When World War One broke out he was a crane boy on the ss St Ninian. By June 1915 he had resolved to join the Gordon Highlanders, but on coming down to Lerwick he found the recruiting officer was in the country, and joined the Royal Naval Reserve instead. He modified his age, needless to say.

He volunteered for a draft to Portsmouth and it wasn’t long before he found himself on the brand new battleship Barham, along with a number of other Shetlanders. He was three years there and saw action at the Battle of Jutland. He was part of back up operating a hand training mechanism for a six inch gun, in case the main hydraulic system failed. In 1988 he told Radio Shetland how he took a look outside amid the fighting.

I went out around da superstructure to have a look, ta see whit, if I could see anything. An then the first that I seen wis the horizon just ablaze an we seemed to be right in da middle of it. Our two A and B turrets wis for’ard of coorse, an dat wis da first we fired. An I wis havin a look an I went right on me back on da deck. An I saw me cap goin ower da side wi da concussion. I wisna lang scurryin ta get inside again, I can tell you.

A shell hit the for’ard wireless station beneath him and killed the crew there. In 1918 he had another near miss with Spanish flu, but recovered and married Minnie Spence in 1919. He was in the Merchant Navy for most of the rest of his working life. He encountered the Spanish Civil War and an earthquake in the Solomon Islands.

In World War Two he finally realised his ambition to be in the Gordon Highlanders when he served as a private in the Shetland Home Defence Battalion.

Albert Nisbet's recording BBC Radio Shetland
Albert Nisbet's recording for BBC Radio Shetland.