Three Wee Crows is a very talented theatre company based in Taynuilt in Argyll, with its director David Price. The ‘three wee crows’ are three women performers of astonishing versatility and focus.
The company has a track record of creating and performing new work and often in spaces well beyond formal performance venues – in, for example, the intrinsically theatrical St Conan’s Kirk in Lochawe and the powerful preserved industrial remains of the Bonawe Iron Furnace in Taynuilt itself.
Agyll and Bute Council is to be congratulated for its initiative in commissioning a new performance, Home fires, broken sons, from Three Wee Crows for a performance in Helensburgh’s Victoria Halls on Sunday 15th May.
This will be part of the Clydeside town’s weekend of events presented in commemoration of the centenary of the Battle of Jutland.
It is good to see Helensburgh at last having the nous to play the advantage of its own role in 20th and 21st century naval defence capabilities. It is the UK National Submarine Base, in the strategically advantageous location of the waterways of the Firth of Clyde. Whatever the outcome of the disputed renewal of the nuclear armed Trident submarine force, Faslane will remain integral to the UK’s submarine operations, for as long as Scotland is a member of the union.
By establishing a submarine museum, a major enterprise that will be a unique attraction for Helensburgh; and by seizing hold of what it can contribute to the nationwide Battle of Jutland centenary commemorations, Helensburgh can cement awareness of its role as host to the UK national submarine base at Faslane.
The naval battle, off the Jutland peninsula in the north of Denmark, was the single full-on surface fleet engagement of the first World War, involving around 250 ships and 100,000 men.
It took place between the British Grand Fleet, based in Scapa Flow in Orkney and the German High Seas Fleet, over 31st May and 1st June 1916, with most of the action taking place after nightfall on 31st May and into the morning.
Naval historians mark the battle not just as a turning point of the WW1 war at sea but for successful classic naval ‘deployments’ [a term with a specific naval meaning in battle formations] used by both sides. Britain’s Admiral Jellicoe performed a 90 degree wheel of his fleet to port, bringing them into a single battle line and getting between the German Fleet and their retreat back to base.
Then Germany’s Admiral Reinhard Scheer performed three successive 180 degree tuns away to escape, under cover of darkness, through the light forces at the rear of the Grand Fleet – and head for home.
The battle was effectively a draw, with both sides claiming the win, although Britain lost more ships and twice as many sailors – at 6,784 men and 111,000 tons, with German losses at 3,058 men and 62,000 tons.
Jellicoe had failed to press his advantage to a conclusion. Scheer had failed to destroy a significant percentage of the British Grand Fleet, to try to level the contest in which Britain had a powerful material advantage in the numerical strength and nature of the navy built by First Sea Lord, Jackie Fisher.
The key outcomes which allowed the battle to be understood later as the tuning point of the war at sea in WW1, were that:
- Britain retained control of the North Sea;
- Germany never again tried conclusions in fleet engagements with the Grand Fleet. She turned her effort instead to attacking merchant shipping – a strategy continuing in World War 2 – working to try to bring Britain down by attacking its supply lines and starving its island nation.
This shifted the German naval focus from surface warships to the fabled U-boats – which sort of brings us back to Helensburgh and its role in today’s naval defence capability.
Home fires, broken sons will, as its title suggests, focus on the sharp contract between the nightmare of frontline fighting and its impact on domestic life in the families and communities of the west coast of Scotland. It will involve music, dance, poetry and multi-media to bring its vignettes to life.
There will be two performances, both on Sunday 15th May in Helensburgh’s Victoria Halls – at 2pm and 5pm.
Tickets are available from Helensburgh Library [phone 01436 658833] – and booking is imperative.