Western Isles Highlights

Western Isles Highlights

The German submarine that visited St Kilda.

Early in World War One the Royal Navy erected a signal station on Hirta and daily communications with the mainland were established for the first time in St Kilda's history. In a belated response, a German submarine arrived in Village Bay on the morning of 15 May 1918 and after issuing a warning, started shelling the island. Seventy two shells in all were fired and the wireless station was destroyed. The manse, church and jetty storehouse were also damaged.

As a result of this attack a gun was erected on a promontory overlooking Village Bay, but it was never fired in anger. Of greater long-term significance to the islanders was the introduction of regular contact with the outside world and the slow development of a money-based economy, both of which made life easier, but less self-reliant.

The Westminster Gazette commented that:

It can said that the "Fiery Cross" was sent round some the sparsely-populated districts of the highlands. While many Lewis men got the call at Peterhead and Aberdeen, others who were on their crofts or fishing were blissfully ignorant. But news travels far, swiftly, and mysteriously in the outer Hebrides and islands. The crofter laid down his hoe in the turnip field; the fisherman drew his boat well above the water-line; the cotter left his job at the mainland; and all faced the mysterious South. The shrill scream of the pibroch was heard in strath and glen, and people coming into the village and the post office saw his Majesty's proclamation confirming the news of war.