|home | about | academic| news | features | links|
The purpose of this section of the IRS&TH web site is to provide a glimpse of what the British railway press was saying about various issues in the past. These excerpts from the railway press date from the 1990s to as far back as the 1840s. They are taken from the collections in the National Railway Museum Library here in York. Sometimes the excerpts are grouped according to particular themes, but there are also more random selections of some interesting, entertaining, or just plain bizarre corners of the railway news of the past. We hope that you will find it interesting and illuminating. It's one way of finding out what has changed, and what has not, over the past century and a half of the railway press. Previous editions are accessible through the archive page.
|IRS&TH: Railway Readings|
The case of Captain Fryatt
During the First World War the Great Eastern Railway maintained its steamer services from England to the Netherlands, despite the nearness of the hostile German-occupied coasts of Belgium and France and the dangers posed by German naval forces. Captain A. C. Fryatt was a merchant captain in the employment of the GER; his ship was the Brussels, sailing from Harwich to the Hook of Holland. In 1915 Fryatt escaped the threat of capture by a German u-boat when, refusing to obey its order to stop, he steamed straight towards it, forcing it to submerge. The German authorities regarded this as an act of piracy, outside the laws of war, and they had not forgotten about it when the Brussels and her captain fell into their hands in July 1916.
This month's Railway Readings looks at the coverage of the tragic and controversial Fryatt affair in the pages of his own railway company journal, The Great Eastern Railway Magazine.
July 1916:the capture of the GER steamer Brussels is announced in the Great Eastern Railway Magazine
September 1916: extracts from the GER Magazine's detailed reporting of the Fryatt affair
November 1916: the stewardesses captured aboard the Brussels are released, reports the GER Magazine
January 1917: the GER Magazine reports that Captain Fryatt to be memorialized at the Dovercourt Cottage Hospital
November 1917: the GER Magazine reports on a memorial to Fryatt erected by subjects of neutral countries
October 1918: an account of Fryatt's arrest, trial and execution, provided by crewmembers of the Brussels
December 1918: the evacuation of the Belgian coast by the Germans in the closing stages of the war reveals new details of the Fryatt affair
August 1920: the GER Magazine's account of the unveiling of a memorial to Captain Fryatt at Dovercourt
June 1920: Fryatt's ship, the Brussels, is raised and presented to the British Nation by the Belgian Government
'S.S. "Brussels" captured by Germans'
From the Great Eastern Railway Magazine, July 1916, p. 183
Just on going to press news has come of the capture by the enemy of the G.E.R. steamer 'Brussels.' She has been taken to Zeebrugge. Besides a valuable cargo of foodstuffs, the vessel was conveying refugees from Belgium and parcels mails. Travellers via Harwich-Antwerp will be well acquiainted with this ship, which was built in 1902 by Messrs. Gourlay Bros., of Dundee, for that service. She was fitted with wireless telegraphy and submarine signalling.
Return to top
'The story of Captain Fryatt'
From the Great Eastern Railway Magazine, September 1916, pp. 218-226
The closing of the second year of the war was marked by the startling and substantial victories obtained simultaneously by the allies on the Eastern the Western, the Italian and the Turkish fronts; and by a revival of frightfulness against prisoners of war, civilians in the occupied territories and the seamen, including the deliberate murder of Charles Algemon Fryatt, master of the G.E.R. Company's steamer 'Brussels.'
The deep sympathy of the staff of the Company and of the whole nation has gone out to Mrs. Fryatt and her children. After facing imminent dangers for nearly two years Captain Fryatt was captured and then, according to the laws qf civilised warfare, his family had the right to expect their loved one to be at least safe in life and limb. They had, indeed, just heard from him that he was at Ruhleben and well. Their first fears had subsided when the blow fell.
News of the Murder.
The Continental Traffic Manager first received the news from the Admiralty. Only too often has he had to receive bad news arising from the common dangers of the sea, and at such a time he could not know what might befall; but this was beyond his experience and expectation. 'In the midst of life we are in death' is true enough, but one does not expect a European nation to murder its prisoners of war. One had a vague feeling that even the absurd policy of German frightfulness had its limits, that the modem Huns might give some kind of recognition to the laws of warfare that have been made and recognised through the centuries as fair and essential to combatants; laws which were embodied in their own codes. It is true that one had no cause to hope for even a transient gleam of humanity from German authorities, but there was the chance they would have the sense to play, especially at this stage, to the neutral gallery; and would appreciate the political effect the crime would have throughout the British Empire for a long period. We know now that neither humanity nor sanity influences their actions, and this knowledge lends a supreme horror to these days.
As the news passed on, men exclaimed 'The cowards - the brutes!' and then became grimly silent. When they spoke it was of the murdered man's family and of revenge. Upon tde acting Marine-Superintendent, Captain Chilver, fell the hard task of informing the widow, a task rendered harder because he had spent his life in the service and with Captain Fryatt, whom he knew to be a fine specimen of the British seaman.
'The darling of the crew
Who never from his word departed
Whose heart was kind and true.'
Mrs. Fryatt was a true consort to such a man. At first she could not believe - but Captain Chilvers found her 'a plucky little woman.' One of the great number of 'plucky little women' of Britain who wait day by day and who learn so frequently with tight lips of the loss of the splendid men give to the nation.
His Family Provided for.
No one can undo what has been done, but it gratifying to Englishmen to know that the widow was quickly relieved of the financial cares which loss of a husband often means. The Directors of the G.E. Railway promptly accorded her a life pension of £250 per annum; and the Government granted £100 per annurn beyond the pension to which she is entitled under the Board of Trade scheme insuring merchant seamen. Captain Fryatt was insured with the Provident Clerks' Association who very speedily, dispensing with all formalities as a mark of sympathy, arranged to pay the £300 due to thewidow.
Moreover, the public were eager to take action. The Royal Merchant Seamen's Orphanage kindly offered to educate and look after two of the children (there are seven: Olive, 18; Victoria, 16; Doris, 14; [p.219>] Vera, 11; Mabel, 10; Charlie, 5; Dorothy, 2½) and offers hae been made of generous sums. There was, however, no need to take advantage of those offers. Indeed, from all sources expressions of sympathy and indignation come which testify to the fact that the public appreciate the signal services such men as the late Captain Fryatt are rendering the nation, and that they regard this murder as one involving principles closely affecting all British citizens. Speaking at the graveside of the heroic boy, John Travers Cornwell, Dr. T. J. Macnamara, Financial Secretary to the Admiralty, said:
'That story (of Captain Fryatt) fills all your minds to-day, and stirs you to the deepest horror and indignation. Your sentiments concerning this outrage, this crime, will 1 am sure, be shared by the whole of the civilised world. As for this gallant and brave representative of the mercantile marine, who has been done to death in the way you have read, his name will be for ever honoured amongst English speaking people.'
The Imperial Merchant Service Guild telegraphed to Mrs. Fryatt:
'Words cannot convey to you the disgust we feel at the most despicable crime vet perpetrated by Germany. The whole of the merchant service join in sympathy for you and in mourning the loss of our member, Captain Fryatt, whose name as a hero and martyr of the profession to which he belonged will be handed down to generations of seafarers.'
Resolutions of sympathy and indignation came from various political, business and social gatherings of Englishmen; from Shipping Associations; Chambers of Commerce; County Councils; Mutual Aid Societies; Trade Unions, etc.: nothing has stirred the country more. At a great meeting in Trafalgar Square, organised by the British Empire League, the British Workers' National Union, and others, at which Tories, Liberals and Socialists united, the Government was urged to take the strongest action. This intense national feeling found its best expression in the letter addressed to the bereaved widow from the King:-
August 3rd, 1916.
In the sorrow which has so cruelly stricken you, the King joins with his people in offering you his heartfelt sympathy.
Since the outbreak of the war, His Majesty has followed with admiration the splendid services of the Mercantile Marine.
The action of Captain Fryatt in defending his ship against the attack of an enemy submarine was a noble instance of the resource and self-reliance so characteristic of that profession.
It is, therefore, with feelings of the deepest indignation that the King learnt of your husband's fate, and in conveying to you the expression of his condolence, I am commanded to assure you of the abhorrence with which His Majesty regards this outrage.
Yours very faithfully
[p.220>] The Captain's Career.
Captain Fryatt was born on December 2nd, 1872, at Southampton. He was educated at Freemantle School, Southampton, and at Corporation School, Harwich. Entering the service of the sea he sailed in 'County Antrim' of Belfast, 'Ellenbank' and 'Marmion' of Liverpool, and 'Harrogate' of London. He joined the service of the Great Eastern Railway as a seaman on the s.s. 'Ipswich' in 1892, thus following the example of his father, who was, before his retirement, a first officer of the G.E.R. steamship 'Cambridge.' When A.B. Fryatt joined the G.E.R. the s.s. 'Colchester' was the latest passenger ship and the paddle steamers were running. He passed through the various grades until he became master first of the s.s. 'Colchester' on occasional service Antwerp-Harwich, and in 1913 of the s.s. 'Newmarket' on the Rotterdam-Harwich cargo trade. Since the beginning of the war he had made 143 passages between Harwich or Tilbury and Rotterdam, maintaining, with his colleagues, the route of the G.E.R. Continental service in spite of unlighted coasts, mines, enemy submarines, aircraft and warships. These men depended on their own strong nerves, their skill, the faithfulness of the good crews under their command, and a hope of the observance of sea-law - a hope which was considerably diminished by the attacks on merchant shipping made without warning and without care of life.
In March, 1915, three attacks were made by submarines upon G.E.R. steamers, the first one upon the s.s. 'Wrexham' (actually a G.C.R. boat), the last upon the s.s. 'Brussels,' Captain Fryatt being in command on these occasions. The second attack was upon the s.s. 'Colchester' - see February, March and April numbers, 1915. As a result of these attacks the famous watches were presented. On March 2nd, 1915, about noon, near the Schouwen Bank, the 'Wrexham,' proceeding to Rotterdam, was chased for 40 miles by an enemy submarine. Deck hands assisted the firemen to get every ounce of speed, and the enemy's signal to stop was ignored. They made sixteen knots out of a boat which could hardly be expected to do fourteen knots, and dodging shoals and floating mines, as well as the submarine, Captain Fryatt got his boat safely into Dutch waters. She entered Rotterdam with funnels burnt and blistered, the crew black with coal-dust. The master reported that had it not been for the good work put in by the engineers and the men firing he could not have escaped; but his own pluck and skill was recognised by the Company in the presentation of a watch.
The Consul-General at Rotterdam reported after interrogating the Captain and First Officer that the master, the officers, the enigineers and the crew were worthy of the highest commendation for their action. The Lords Commissioners of the Admiraltv informed the Company they considered that the conduct of the master, officers and crew of the vessel, and especially of the engine-room complement, shewed spirit and was creditable to them. The enemy would no doubt argue from these commendations a direct instigation on the part of the British Government to the destruction of helpless German submarines. At that time, however, German seawarfare made it clear to British seamen that their lives depended upon the ship's speed or the chance of destroying the enemy ship. The greatest instigation to the destruction of German submarines by merchant shipping when attacked (the only conceivable circumstance in which a merchant vessel would attempt to destroy a war [p.221>] vessel) was that declaration of the German Government in February, 1915, that merchant ships in the waters round Great Britain and Ireland might be destroyed without warning, and the acts that confirmed it.
While the masters of British ships could alone decide what action they ought to take in the event of being attacked and their decision would be unfettered, they would know that, if they could not escape, to attack would be the course most likely to save the ship and the lives of the people on the ship; they would know they were justified in doing so by maritime law and that their owners and their Government would uphold them. Lord Claud Hamilton has indeed publicly indicated his approval of such action on the part of his captains, but he was only stating the safest course under the conditions set by the German Admiralty as the difference in the fate of two vessels - the 'Brussels' and the 'Falaba' - on March 28th, 1915 proved. That there was no doubt about this right of attack when attacked (a signal to surrender or the mere approach of an enemy vessel is an attack) was proved by the open offer of reward to merchant captains in this country. It is however an absurdity, which only Germans, who fight for loot, could be capable of, to suggest that the reward of a few hundred pounds would cause the master of a thirteen to fifteen knot vessel to attack a submarine if he saw a chance to escape or even if he had hopes of fair treatment on surrendering. Twenty-two British merchant ships had been sunk without warning.
On the afternoon of Sunday, March 28th, the s.s. 'Brussels,' near the Maas L.V., on way to Rotterdam, sighted a German submarine at a distance of four miles steering southward, which then turned towards them very fast. Captain Fryatt said it was no use trying to get away as he could have been easily torpedoed on his course and the speed of the submarine was far greater than that of the 'Brussels.' The submarine hoisted two flags for him to stop but, he stated, he did not like to give up his ship. He then, to save the lives and property under his care, took the splendid decision to ram the submarine if possible. For that decision he has been murdered; for that decision his name is honoured throughout the British Empire. He sent down the engineers to get all possible speed; ordered the crew aft out of the way in case the ship was fired at; got the chief officer to fire off three socket rockets to make the enemy believe he had a gun and steered straight for the conning tower of the submarine, then not far away. The latter, seeing his signals ignored and hearing the rockets, immediately submerged. Captain Fryatt steered straight for the spot where the submersion took place and when he thought he was on top of the enemy saw his periscope come up just alongside. He then gave the order to sweep over the periscope and I have heard this order was slightly anticipated, the wheel being moved first. The safety of the ship of course depended upon keeping the submarine down - a second chance was not likely to be given to her. The Captain did not feel the ship striking the submarine, but one fireman reported a bumping sensation under the bottom of the ship. The submarine, the U 33 as we know now, was one of the large type then coming out and must have had a remarkable escape. Captain Fryatt thought he must have damaged or sunk it as he considered it was impossible for it to get clear according to the position of its periscope when it came to the surface. After it passed the Brussel's bridge it came further out of the water shewing a decided list, after which it disappeared. Although a good look-out was kept, nothing further was seen of it.
The master thought the submarine to be quite 300 ft. long, very high bow and very large circular conning tower, and she had no distinguishing marks. German submarines had distinguishing marks eliminated to remove the possibility of a particular boat being credited with high-sea murders. The submarine chased the 'Brussels' for twenty minutes and the latter ship made the very good speed of 15½ knots.
Those true details of the attacks of March 2nd and 28th, 1915, amply illustrate that Captain Fryatt was worthy ol the honour in which his name is now held. The narratives require to be read with consideration and imagination for proper appreciation. In the second case, the quick resolution, the bluff of the rockets, the cool observation of the enemy, and the calmness and quickness of the crew, all shew what kind of men these North Seamen of the British race are. One wonders whether that submarine actually escaped. The ship's bottom shewed no signs of contact. Witnesses from her are alleged to have appeared at the mock trial. Yet it is just as likely as not the only evidence the Germans possessed was the uncensored reports that appeared in Dutch and British papers.
One official German tale is that the submarine was allowed to approach as for examination, yet their own accusation of nearly successful attack proves that the 'Brussels' was going at top speed all the time.
Now on this very day, March 28th, 1915, the s.s. 'Falaba,' 4,806 gross tons, of the Elder Line' was signalled by a submarine to stop and did so. Within ten minutes, before the people on her could all get into the boats, she was blown up, and there was much loss of life. Three days before, the Dutch ship 'Medea' was sunk by a German submarine: in this case the crew were allowed to get into boats, but this illustrated what 'examination' by a German submarine meant. The day before, the 'Aguila' was sunk without warning; a few weeks later the 'Lusitania'; G.E.R. steamers also have had most narrow escapes from torpedoes discharged without notice - indeed the enemy has been most consistent in his criminality; the few cases in which German commanders have not pursued an illegal or inhumane course have been noted in our newspapers as extraordinary exceptions.
The Famous Watches.
It was at first stated from German sources that watches had been found on Captain Fryatt on which were inscriptions proving that he had sunk a submarine. The Germans of course knew that no such inscribed watches had been found but did they believe the second part? It was later on that it was known that the attack was apparently unsuccessful. The inscriptions on the watches and on the vellum certificate presented on behalf of the Admiralty by the Mayor of Harwich have already been given [p.222>] in this magazine and were therefore publicly known. They were:
On watch presented by the Company:-
'Presented to Captain C. A. Fryatt by the Chairman and Directors of the G.E Railway Company as a mark of their appreciation of his courage and skilful seamanship on March 2nd 1915'
On watch presented by the Admiralty:-
'Presented by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to Chas. Algernon Fryatt Master of the s.s 'Brussels' in recognition of the example set by that vessel when attacked by a German submarine on March 28th 1915.'
On vellum certificate presented by the Admiralty:-
Admiralty, 21st May, 1915.
To Captain Charles Algernon Fryatt
Master of s.s. 'Brussels.'
The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty are pleased to express to you their marked approbation of the manner in which you carried out your duty when attacked by a German submarine on the 28th March 1915.
By command of their Lordships.
(Signed) W. GRAHAM GREENE
The Lords Commissioners of the greatest Admiralty of history do not lightly express 'marked approbation.' It is also not likely that the proud possessor of such testimonials would carry them with him to sea. They are precious heirlooms. Dr. Macnamara, Secretary to the Admiralty, announced the award of the watch by the Admiralty in the House of Commons on April 28th 1915, mentioning Captain Fryatt, amongst others, as one who was deserving of reward for specially meritorious services.
His Service to the Country.
There was something to account for the peculiar hatred that appears to have been centred upon the unfortunate master of the 'Brussels.' It is not to be supposed that the Germans cared two straws about the fate of a submarine crew, but the exploit occurred at a time when it pointedly demonstrated to a Dutch population, liable to be overawed by their powerful and terrible neighbour, that the submarine terrorism so bombastically announced and so ruthlessly carried out was not competent to keep British shipping off the seas. Although the Germans held half the Belgian coast the G.E.R. steamers continued to carry cargo into and out of Rotterdam. The following letter to the Company which we have been privileged to see dated April 8th 1915, clearly demonstrates the value attached to the service by the British Government:-
I am commanded by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to inform you that H.M. Consul-General at Rotterdam has called the attention of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to the highly courageous and meritorious conduct of the Masters of the s.s. 'Cromer,' 'Brussels,' 'Colchester' and 'Wrexham'' which during the whole period of hostilities have run between Rotterdam and Harwich. The fact of these British boats running regularly is reported to have had a great moral effect locally at a time when Dutch and other ships have ceased running and shewed nervousness. In forwarding this report the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has expressed his appreciation of the services rendered by these officers. My Lords endorse Sir E. Grey's approbation and desire that you will be good enough to convey his thanks and theirs to the officers concerned for their conduct which has reflected credit on British seamanship.
(Signed) W. GRAHAM GREENE.
One of these masters had turned upon the destroyer and he had become the embodiment of the great failure of the German submarine menace to achieve anything more substantial than an evil name on the sea. Coolly carrying out his service for the Great Eastern Railway so long in spite of the malicious tricks they could play, he represented British defiance of such methods and they had sworn to get him he was told in Rotterdam (he told me so himself). As Mr. Balfour stated:-
Doubtless it is their wrath at the skill and energy with which British merchant captains and British crews have defended the lives and property under their charge that has driven the German Admiralty into their latest and stupidest act of calculated ferocity - the judicial murder of Captain Fryatt.
The 'Brussels' Captured.
Although G.E.R. steamers have had narrow escapes since, it is curious Captain Fryatt was not again attacked until he was captured by a concerted coup - over a year later. On the night, June 22/23, 1916 with refugees on board and cargo of foodstuffs, the 'Brussels' left the Hook of Holland. Two days later she was heard of as captured and taken into Zeebrugge. It is not certain how she was captured, but it would appear that some array of force was shewn, that it occurred suddenly and that knowledge of the ship's position was indicated. After a time postcards were received in Harwich from the ship's staff at Ruhleben; one came from the captain at the same place; and finally cards came from the stewardesses at Holzminden, near Hanover. All reported themselves well but in need of parcels. The last news received by his wife from Captain Fryatt was sent from Ruhleben, July 1st and reached her July 29th the morning after his death at Bruges. Various reports have appeared as to the fate of the Belgian refugees.
The Trial Reported.
On July 16th. a report appeared in the Dutch 'Telegraaf' that Captain Fryatt was being charged at Ghent on a charge of sinking a German submarine. The charge was said to be founded on an inscription on a gold watch found on him. This report was incorrect in detail, but its appearance together with the detention of the stewardesses gave rise to anxiety and efforts were made as shewn by the published official correspondence.
On June 28th the United States Ambassador was asked to ascertain the names of the British subjects on board the 'Brussels' and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs trusted that the stewardesses would be repatriated at an early date.
July 1st - The United States Ambassador reported the officers and crew to be safe and well, interned at Ruhleben. The master desired his wife to be informed and requested parcels to be sent. It appeared that the five stewardesses were separated from the crew at Cologne and the United States Ambassador was enquiring their whereabouts and urging their prompt repatriation.
July 18th - The Foreign Office asked the U.S.A. Ambassador to ascertain by telegraph if the report in the 'Telegraaf' " of July 16th was correct.
Captain Fryatt Acted Legitimately.
July 20th - Referring to the previous note, the Foreign Office wrote:-
'Sir E. Grey would be greatly obliged if the United States Ambassador at Berlin could be requested by telegraph to take all possible steps to secure the proper defence of Captain Fryatt in the event of the court-martial being held, and if his Excellency could be informed confidentially that his Majesty's Government are satisfied that, in committing the act impugned, Captain Fryatt acted legitimately in self-defence for the purpose of evading capture or destruction.'
[p.224>] Again on July 25th, Sir E. Grey wrote to the United States Ambassador:-
'Should the allegations on which the charge against Captain Fryatt is understood to be based be established by evidence His Majesty's Government are of opinion that his action was perfectly legitimate. His Majesty's Government consider that the act of a merchant ship in steering for an enemy submarine and forcing her to dive is essentially defensive, and precisely on the same footing as the use by a defensively-armed vessel of her defensive armament in order to resist capture, which both the United States Government and his Majesty's Government held to be the exercise of an undoubted right.'
July 29th - The Foreign Office wrote to the United States Ambassador referring to the following official German telegram reported by the Press:-
'On Thursday, at Bruges, before the Court Martial of the Marine Corps, the trial took place of Captain Charles Fryatt, of the British steamer 'Brussels' which was brought in as a prize. The accused was condemned to death because although he was not a member of a combatant force, he made an attempt on the afternoon of March 28th 1915, to ram the German submarine U 33 near the Maas L.V. The accused, as well as the first officer and the chief engineer of the steamer, received at the time from the British Admiralty a gold watch as a reward for his brave conduct on that occasion. and his action was mentioned with praise in the House of Commons.
On the occasion in question, disregarding the U boat's signal to stop and show his national flag, he turned at a critical moment at high speed on the submarine, which escaped the steamer by a few metres only by immediate diving. He confessed that in doing so he had acted in accordance with the instructions of the Admiralty. The sentence was confirmed yesterday (Thursday) afternoon and carried out by shooting.
One of the many nefarious franc-tireur proceedings of the British merchant marine against our war vessels has thus found a belated but merited expiation.'
The letter states:-
'If the German Government have in fact perpetrated such a crime in the case of a British subject held prisoner by them, it is evident a most serious condition of affairs has arisen.'
Witnesses could not be Detained!
The reply of the American Ambassador to these notes, dated July 29th, states they requested an opportunity to engage Counsel, but the German Foreign Office had stated it was impossible to grant a postponement because the submarine witnesses could not be further detained, and that a Major Neumann, in Civil life an attorney and justizrat, had been appointed as defending counsel. Somewhat characteristic that a military officer should defend a naval case!
Directly the fact of the murder became known the gravity of the occurrence was appreciated by everybody. The crime at once shewed that the enemy had overthrown the last vestiges of principle in their warfare; that henceforward it must be reckoned they would conduct the war along the crudest lines of savagery. Hitherto they had endeavoured to throw over their violence some excuse that might appeal to minds who respect legal quibbles more than humanity, but now they had executed a man because he had done an act perfectly legal according to all codes. The franc-tireur argument raised by them obviously is not intended to convince anyone except German civilians. Peaceful civilians should be entitled to immunity from acts of war so far as possible, and a franc-tireur is one who takes advantage of this fact. A merchant ship belonging to the enemy is, however, immune from no peril of war until captured or surrendered, except that her captain is entitled to the option of surrendering or resisting. The attacking vessel must regard the merchant ship as a combatant liable to employ any ruse or to use any force until she is surrendered or captured. That seems to be the position and it is quite a plain one. The franc-tireur argument, together with the fact that the trial could not wait for that argument to be met by disinterested counsel, only makes it more clear that the murder of Captain Fryatt was to be carried out at all costs. Throughout the War the German Government has used the franc-tireur argument to cover a myriad of cowardices and it must now fail to convince those most friendly to them.
The Government Announcement.
On July 31st, Sir E. Carson, in the House of Commons, asked the intentions of the Government, and Mr. Asquith said:-
'I deeply regret to say that it appears to be true that Captain Fryatt has been murdered by the Germans. His Majesty's Government have heard with the utmost indignation of this atrocious crime against the laws of nations and the usages of war. Coming as it does contemporaneously with the lawless cruelty towards the population of Lille and other occupied districts of France, it shews that the German High Command, under the stress of military defeat, have renewed their policy of terrorism. It is impossible of course to conjecture to what atrocities they may proceed.
His Majesty's Government desire to repeat emphatically their resolve that such crimes shall not, if they can help it, go unpunished. When the time arrives they are determined to bring to justice the criminals whoever they maybe and whatever position they may occupy. In such cases as these the authors of the system under which such crimes are committed may well be the most guilty of all. The question of what immediate action can be taken is engaging the earnest attention of the Government and I hope very soon to announce to the House of Commons what we can do.'
'Purge the World of the Culprits.'
This was a most momentous statement. It committed this country to continue the war until retribution could be brought home to the criminals. The insane blunder of the German officials, committed, according to their own statement, after calm consideration and thorough investigation, had succeeded in putting out of question, if previous similar atrocities had not done so, any peace bargaining such as they still seem to think possible. It is not possible for justice to be done in a case like this : there can be no balancing of the scales. What can be done is to purge the world of the diseased things that have found expression in the present war. To all future generations it must be demonstrated that society will not permit the chaos to which the German policy would lead; and will enforce those humane national and international laws upon which civilisation depends. Wilhelm Hohenzollern, Falkenhayn, Wurtemberg and the other crowd of back-numbers who can find wisdom or delight in such wanton deeds as the murder of Fryatt must be eliminated whatever the cost. It is possible that before the end of the war the process of elimination may be taken in hand by the Germans themselves; if so, peace will come sooner. Only an irresponsible fool would desire the continuation of this ghastly war an unnecessary moment, but until there is an expiation of those things what Englishman can advocate peace?
A pressman naively asked me whether he could say the staff viewed the murder with horror. I assured the cautious one he might say so. If the Germans were in London I suppose someone would be round anxious to know if one felt excited. The [p.225>] views of those on the G.E. Railway have been sufficiently expressed by the following:-
Lord Claud Hamilton, M.P.:-
'The latest act of the Hun is nothing less than sheer, brutal murder. Captain Fryatt was a most estimable man. I have known him personally for many, many years, He was one of the most trusted servants of the Great Eastern Railway Company.'
The General Manager: His view is well expressed in this letter to the British Empire Union:-
'I regret I am unable to participate in the meeting to be held under the auspices of the British Empire Union on Sunday, but I desire to record my admiration for the spirit which has prompted the movement, and my sympathy with it. The unjustifiable execution of a fine and courageous man, who only performed an act of self-defence furnishes but another example of the character of the enemy. An imperishable monument has been erected to the memory of Captain Fryatt for, long after the names of those who are responsible for his murder have sunk into a merciful oblivion, his name, with those of all the other martyrs in this great cause will live in the hearts of the people. It is for those who are left to see to it that Captain Fryatt has not died in vain, and to consecrate themselves with an even greater determination to the task of securing a complete and conclusive victory.
H. W. THORNTON.
The Continental Traffic Manager:-
'Without professing to be versed in maritime law, I have always regarded it as a captain's duty to defend himself from attack, and, viewed from this standpoint, the crime is more unthinkable than that which sent Nurse Cavell to her doom. Captain Fryatt was one of our ablest and most respected officers.'
One of the other Captains:-
'I know now bow they will treat me if they get me.'
He possesses one of the watches. He sailed the following day.
The Cry for Action.
The impulse of feeling throughout the country endeavours to find expression. The question of escheating German property, of the internment of German-born persons, of trying submarine prisoners as Captain Fryatt was tried, of immediate measures to secure commercial reprisals after the war, have arisen in Parliament and elsewhere. The studied opinion of the country is, however, that in inhumane reprisals our principles do not allow us to compete with the enemy; and it all boils down to this: that reparation can only come through a thorough defeat of the enemy to be brought about by the whole force of the Empire rightly applied in happy conjunction with our allies. The Germans are right in one thing - force rules the world. They overlooked the fact that there is nothing mightier than the struggle of the human race to higher planes. They have created against themselves a veritable Holy War of which the Jerusalem is the reparation of those gross acts of inhumanity which strike at social existence. The British Government has stated that we cannot enter into diplomatic intercourse with this people until there has been reparation for this murder and other crimes : to this same end our allies are as determined. If this reparation cannot be obtained to the satisfaction of the nations concerned, then the allies will have failed to attain their military objective.
The Mayor of Harwich has issued a circular as follows:-
2nd August, 1916
As Mayor or of the borough I have decided to open a fund to commemorate in history the dastardly shooting by the German Government of Captain A. C. Fryatt of the s.s. 'Brussels'. The money subscribed will take the form of a lasting memorial, which will be decided upon by an influential committee, the family already being well provided for by the Government and the Great Eastern Railway Company. Any subscriptions sent will be duly acknowledged and paid into a special account and properly audited.
Cinema theatres in the neighbourhood are arranging special performances to aid this fund.
In connection with this, traders connected with the route, including those of neutral nations (a public subscription for all Dutchmen has been proposed by a prominent citizen of Holland), have expressed their desire to subscribe towards something of this nature, and a suggestion has been made that the most appropriate idea would be a fund to aid the families of seamen lost at sea or the increase of life-saving apparatus on the coasts of Eastern England and Holland. Possibly there are families in financial distress through German submarine warfare: if so it would seem suitable for funds in the name of Captain Fryatt to be put to their aid.
When one considers that this crime involves a disregard of principles which would have forced Great Britain into the war had she maintained neutrality (such a case did actually bring this country into the war) it may be disappointing that no official expression of disapproval has come from neutral countries, but most decided statements have appeared in their Press, and in Holland at least the German Consulate has seen a public demonstration against its doors. I give below some statements in neutral journals from the great number that have been quoted in our press:-
New York Times: 'A deliberate murder - a trifle to the Government that has so many to answer for.'
New York Herald: 'The crowning German atrocity'
Tribune, New York: 'in the year in which Captain Fryatt made the fatal mistake of attempting to save his ship from destruction, Germany's licensed submarine assassins torpedoed and sank forty unarmed British vessels without the slightest warning. These adored heroes of the Fatherland succeeded in a single year in slaughtering more than 2,000 helpless men, women and children. But their victims were non-combatants: hence what they did was fairplay and in no sense comparable to the criminal attempt of Captain Fryatt to defend himself. The German Government's revenge is what might be expected. The cowardly method of warfare that has made the German navy distinct from all others has been worthily upheld. Chivalry in this case would have been grossly inconsistent.'
Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant: 'The sentence was contrary to any humane interpretation of the laws of war. When Captain Fryatt made the attempt on the German vessel the submarine war was being waged in the most brutal manner in defiance of humanity. Whoever wished to save his life was obliged to defend it because the submarine war was illegal. The Germans claim for themselves the right to kill hundreds of civilians but call those who do not willingly submit to execution "franc-tireurs." This is measuring with a definite measure for their enemies and themselves and we call it arbitrary and unjust.'
De Telegraaf Rotterdam: 'After the shameful, cowardly murder of Miss Cavell or rather a long time before this, we knew that the Germans were not afraid to commit any crime.... A deed as low as the shooting of the brave English nurse, a repetition on a smaller scale, dishonouring to humanity and calling for revenge to heaven, as was the "franc-tireurs" war in Belgium of which the world in the beginning of the war was witness. Now it is known what a captain of a merchant ship, desirous of saving his ship and the lives of his crew and not willing to undergo with his crew the same fate as those of the "Lusitania" and consequently defends himself, will meet, when failing in the hands of the defenders of Kultur.
This paper suggests that members of crews of Zeppelins and submarines are imprisoned in England who have more on their consciences than the captain of the 'Brussels,' and that the only method the Germans can feel is their own.'
Handlesblad Holland: 'A cowardly murder inspired by hatred and revenge.'
Gazette de Hollande: 'The shooting of this luckless captain should help to bring borne the fact that the ideals for which Germany stands are utterly and fundamentally different from those of the rest of Europe.'
[p.226>] After the War.
The crime has put an end to the idea that relations with Germany after the war can he carried out on a commercial basis. Neither their people nor their goods can be received in this country unless it is clone under such State-controlled conditions that there is the guarantee it is at the will and to the advantage of this country. And it becomes practically an axiom that international commerce through Germany will have to be controlled be International Commissions acting in the interest of the allies. Further, in international trade, it seems impossible to allow the free use of their own shipping to Germans. For a period the Germans must become a controlled nation whilst they have time to think it over and to acquire those qualities of real national culture which will recognise other national rights and the rights of humanity. At present we can only view them through a mist of blood and speak of them with execration.
A suggestion has come from a high Italian official which seems fruitful. The idea is that an International Tribunal should be set up to judge such cases as Captain Fryatt's, and it is significantly stated that evidence and the names of culprits is already being collected by the Allies. So the third year of the war opens with an added load of bitterness against the great Empire which had visions of a realm stretching from the North Sea and Baltic to the Persian Gulf, and yet went so low as to shoot a three months' old civilian of Dinant as a franc-tireur, a crime I would remind readers that occurred in the first year of the war.
The fate of the stewardesses remains still in jeopardy. They have not been repatriated at the time of writing. The President of the United States of America, in giving reasons for keeping from the European struggle, mentioned, I think, the good that country could do in assisting the unfortunate natives in occupied territories. And most nobly and carefully have the Americans carried out this work, but in face of recent events, one wonders whether it is possible for them to achieve further good work in Germany; whether the faces of German authorities are not set against them. As this goes to press we learn that United States officials are refused permission to visit British prisoners set to labour in Poland.
* * *
Mrs. Fryatt wishes to convey through the medium of this magazine her grateful appreciation of the many expressions of sympathy to herself and her children in their sad bereavement. The esteem in which the name of her beloved husband is held by her countrymen affords her a great consolation.
* * *
There has since appeared an admirable pamphlet published by Messrs. Hodder and Stoughton for 2d., entitled 'The Murder of Captain Fryatt' which excellently exposes the illegality of the crime under International law. It is a pamphlet that should be sent to the neutrals and to all 'Peace for the sake of Peace' societies.
Return to top
'The stewardesses released'
from The Great Eastern Railway Magazine, November 1916, pp. 273-4
It was indeed a pleasure and a relief to see again the released stewardesses of the s.s. 'Brussels.' Mrs. Elwood, Miss Elwood, Mrs. Stalker, Miss Bobby and Miss Smith have passed through a most [p.274>] trying experience and have done so in a manner of which G.E.R. women can be proud. The Germans who boarded the 'Brussels' wondered at their calmness and asked if they were not afraid of being shot. 'We are Englishwomen' was considered sufficient reply. After the tiring work of providing for the refugees on board the 'Brussels' they were resting, when at 1.30 a.m., June 23rd, they noticed the stopping of the engines and heard noises on deck. Chief Steward Tovill said there was trouble and told them to get their life-jackets on. The ship was the prize of five torpedo boats and the Germans were on board. The captain had been hailed in English. For the sake of the women and children he sent no wireless message: if it had not been for them there is little doubt that the Germans would not have been able to take the ship whole. There was an argument as to whether the ship should be sunk or spared, but she was taken to Zeebrugge, where a huge crowd of sailors and soldiers greeted her, and thence to Bruges, the captors on the way enjoying a most hearty meal. They called for wine but fortunately, think the stewardesses, there was none on board. The stewardesses were kept busy for some five hours serving the Germans and comforting the unfortunate weeping refugees whom they provided, as soon as the alarm came, with abundance of biscuits and bread. Two nights were passed at the Bruges Townhall, the stewardesses being locked in an upper room icily cold: the guard later gave them an opportunity to share the guardroom fire which they were glad to accept. Black bread and liquid, yclept coffee, was served but they could not touch it. Refugees who had white bread from the ship insisted upon giving it to them - the stewardesses had provided themselves with a few biscuits only. They passed the day with the officers and crew in a shed below. They went in a cattle truck to Ghent and there spent a night in a slimy damp cellar, in which were straw mattresses laid in pools. They stood all night. In the early morning, they were made to walk with their baggage about a mile down the railway line and entrained there in a German fourth-class carriage (the Belgians very completely evacuated their rolling stock into France, I believe) to Cologne. The seating of these carriages, in dimensions or design, bears no relation to the human frame. They lived on their biscuits and some weak coffee. One officer found them milk which another appropriated for other purposes. Captain Fryatt assured them it could only mean some days' detention for them and for the men, at the worst, detention during the war. Without opportunity to say farewell they were then separated from the 'Brussels' men and passed on in another fourth-class misfit to Holzminden, where they had to march two miles with their luggage to the camp. There they suffered from bad accommodation, verminous and damp bedding, rations inadequate and uneatable, unpleasant company, and all that lack of liberty means. They were not molested in any way by the Germans they came into contact with: some were German-natured and others human-natured: generally they carried out their duties without annoying their prisoners. They were apt to remind them of the sins of England. An English nurse with them who spoke German would ask for better food, paraffin or other trifles and would be told she must get them from England for England was stopping everything. She replied if England was doing so it must be right and they would do without. The stewardesses wore their blue uniform with brass buttons and Germans took them for fighting women: England's last hope, taken in a great fight for H.M.S. 'Brussels.' Some Finnish sailors deprived themselves of food to aid them and they also received help from a French Committee. Without this early aid and the parcels subsequently received from the Company and the Red Cross they could hardly have endured. At the camp they learnt with great grief of Captain Fryatt's death. They could not communicate with the crew at Ruhleben. Scarcely could they believe their good fortune when released and hurried to the frontier station - their baggage was not examined, a most unusual circumstance. But they passed from Germany in dignity.
Return to top
'Memorial to the late Captain Fryatt'
From The Great Eastern Railway Magazine, January 1917, p. 26.
It has been decided that a wing shall be added to a Cottage Hospital to be erected at Dovercourt, as a useful and permanent memorial to the late martyr, Captain Charles Algernon Fryatt. This is to be called 'The Fryatt Memorial Wing.'
An appeal is now being made for the necessary funds, and subscriptions may be sent to the Mayor of Harwich, to Mr. C. Busk, Continental Traffic Manager, Liverpool Street Station, or to Captain Chilver, Acting Marine Superintendent, Parkeston Quay.
Return to top
'Presentation of a Captain Fryatt memorial tablet'
From The Great Eastern Railway Magazine, November 1917, p. 248.
In the beginning of 1916, some subjects of neutral countries living at Paris founded the 'League of Neutral Countries' under the presidency of Mr. Macon, a well-known Swiss journalist of Geneva. Leading, men of all neutral countries were invited to join this League, whose foremost object was to protect small neutral States against the repetition of such acts of brutal force as those of which Belgium and Serbia became the victims. It was desired to convince neutral states of the need for protesting against such inhumane acts, and the subjects of those states were called upon to compel their governments to move in the direction of a union of neutral States, to attain the objects of the League.
From no other country was this call answered sooner and more fervently than from Holland. The Dutch branch of the League was founded at Amsterdam. Its president is Professor J. F. Niermeijer who occupies the Chair of Economic Geography at the University of Utrecht; its vice-president is Dr. Van der Hoeven Leonard, and the honorary secretaries are Dr. Baart de la Faille and the famous Dutch composer, Dr. Alphons Diepenbroek. The honorary presidency was accepted by Dr. Cuypers, the famous Dutch architect, builder of the National Gallery and the Central Railway Station at Amsterdam. Men of all ranks of Dutch society joined as members. The Dutch section of the League publishes a fortnightly organ, called 'Onze Zelfstandigheid' (Our Independence), which has published several excellent articles on questions relating to the war, especially with regard to Alsace-Lorraine, Belgium, and the pan-German movement which constitutes so much danger for Holland. Furthermore, the Dutch section published a series of pamphlets which dealt more elaborately with Holland's interests in the war, and with the historical development of the annexation movement in Germany.
The position of the Central section of the League at Paris, the capital of a non-neutral State, caused some difficulty, and the Paris committee invited the Dutch to act as the Central Committee. In that capacity the Dutch section has launched a series of sharply worded protests against acts of violence, such as Germany's deportations carried on in Belgium and northern France, the atrocities of German submarine warfare, the invasions of Dutch territory by German aircraft, etc. One of these wanton acts, the sentence of death against Captain Fryatt, of the G.E.R. steamer 'Brussels,' made such a deep impression in Holland that the Committee of the Dutch section resolved to present to the Board of the Great Eastern Railway Company a Memorial Tablet of his cruel death. The necessary funds were in a few days voluntarily contributed by the members of the Dutch section.
The tablet consists of a finely executed portrait of Captain Fryatt sculptured by Mr. Van Golberdingen in bronze upon a marble slab which bears the words:-
To the Memory of Capt. Chas. Fryatt, July 27th 1916. From the neutral admirers of his brave conduct and heroic death. The Netherlands' Section of the League of Neutral States, July 27th, 1917.
This memorial has been placed in a prominent position in the main line booking hall at Liverpool Street Station.
Return to top
'Captain Fryatt - Commander Von Yorke'
From The Great Eastern Railway Magazine, October 1918, pp. 189-190
The more complete details we have of hte murder of Captain Charles Fryatt throw into crude contrast his gallant straightforward conduct with the callous cowardice of the German naval officials concerned.
It was apparently on the shore of Holland that the first act in the capture of the S.S. Brussels occurred. As the vessel left the Hook-of-Holland lights were shewn on the beach and rockets appeared to be fired. Shortly after, a small craft, probably a submarine submerged, commenced morsing. A steamer without lights was seen going the same way as the Brussels and soon after five German destroyers surrounded the vessel.
Captain Fryatt gave orders for the passengers to prepare for the boats; and quietly told Mr. Hartnell, his Chief Officer, to destroy all dispatches and other official papers. The last bag was burnt as German seamen, armed with pistols and bombs, appeared in the starboard alleyway. The wireless could not be used, as the destroyers had their guns trained on to the ship, and with their own powerful wireless could have stopped any message. The first Germans on board made for the wireless room, drove the operator out, and smashed the wireless instruments with cutlasses and heavy implements, and to make more sure, a guard remained in the wireless room until in port. The prize crew on board, and self-congratulations on the grosse prize having been loudly made, the destroyers left.
The German officers then got rather confused. Having had most of the crew, including engineers and stokers, driven on to the destroyers, the commander obtained no response to his signals to the engine-room. He raged and was with difficulty persuaded as to the reason by the ship's officers. German seamen went down to the engines and put them astern instead of ahead, whilst the steam fell for want of the stokers. The commander raged more, threatening to shoot Captain Fryatt and Mr. Hartnell adn to blow up the ship. He was no doubt very eager to get away with his big prize. However, things settled down and, escorted by aeroplanes and destroyers, the G.E.R. steamer entered Zeebrugge, and five hours later started for Bruges. Captain Fryatt and the crew were confined to quarters, but Mr. Hartnell had to stand under guard on the bridge while he was questioned on various things upon which the Germans desired information. Along the canal were excited crowds of soldiers and marine landstürm. After disagreeable experiences, including bad quarters, cattle-truck travelling, and exhibition at Berlin, Hanover and other stations, the officers and crew arrived at Ruhleben June 28th.
The German authorities speedily decided that through Captain Fryatt a blow of terrorism might be struck at the British mercantile marine - they conceived a brilliant stroke in naval strategy that was to keep our North Sea men in port or harmless at sea. Two years later the published list of the commanders of one hundred and fifty lost submarines and the recorded fate of the worst of them shews the result of this German naval strategy. Two days after, Captain Fryatt and Mr. Hartnell were returned to Bruges and were treated as criminals. Officials visited them and questioned them with regard to the submarine Captain Fryatt was supposed to have sunk. The captain made a clear open statement from which he never departed. On sighting the submarine he had resolved if possible to save ship and crew: to turn to port or starboard meant destruction by torpedo, so the only thing he could do was to keep the enemy ahead and force him to submerge, which he did. Possibly the submarine was sunk - the ship was not again molested, and the German officials at the court stated that for some reason the commander of the U boat could not be present at the trial. On the other hand two naval officers were present at the trial who were said to have been in the U 33 at the time; these two gentlemen were schooled up in Captain Fryatt's statements and used a blackboard for sketching the positions Of the U 33 and the Brussels. Perhaps the production of these sketches was intended as a form of justice towards the prisoner but the only thing they could prove was that Captain Fryatt did not leave his and those whose lives he had in charge to the mercy of men filled with the glory of such episodes as the sinkings of the Lusitania and the Falaba.
The President of the Court at Bruges Town Hall, July 27th, 1916 was Commander Von Yorke, senior naval officer at Bruges and Zeebrugge. He [p.190>] also acted as interpreter. When history tells the story of Captain Fryatt no doubt Commander Von Yorke will be mentioned. Mr. Hartnell and four of the crew were present at tde trial and answered questions which to the chief officer appeared ridiculous, leading neither to the defence nor the condemnation of the accused Captain. Many English papers of March and April, 1915, were produced, all containing reports of the doings of Captain Fryatt and of the gold watch awarded him for ramming or attempting to ram a submarine. The Germans were obviously annoyed that he had not the watch with him, As the trial went on Hartnell could plainly see that the Captain stood no chance whatever. Late in the course of the trial a Major Neuman entered and stated he was for the defence. When Captain Fryatt rose to speak he asked him to sit down as they did not understand, otherwise he spoke no more until the end when he passed a few words in German to the officers presiding. He then informed Captain Fryatt he had been found guilty of being a franc-tireur and that the gentlemen on the benches would retire and consider the verdict; he would do all possible for him.
The drama had been pre-arranged; the denouement was openly revealed by the German naval officers in the town. The captain and chief officer of a captured British ship brought to Bruges the first week in July were told that Captain Fryatt and Chief Officer Hartnell were in prison there: that the captain was to be shot and it would be serious for the Chief Officer.
At 4.40 p.m. that day the two were jostled back to their cells under a strong escort. At 5.30 p.m. the Chief Warder informed Mr. Hartnell it was Captain Fryatt's last night and he was to stop with him. Captain Fryatt was very much distressed, not so much because of the verdict as of the unfair and cowardly manner in which everything was done. He understood he was to be shot the next morning but at 6.30 p.m. a prison official said the escort would shortly be there and he would be shot at seven o'clock. Five minutes before that time Mr. Hartnell left him, promising to deliver his last messages, which were many. He then appeared very weak and lame.
Mr. Hartnell remarks: I was and am still very proud of Captain Fryatt's manly conduct right up to the last - at the trial when he rose to speak for himself not a German present could face him.
At 7.0 p.m. July 27th, a band began to play a short distance from the prison walls and poor Fryatt was no more. The bullets from sixteen German rifles passed through his body.
(From the reports of Chief Officer W. Hartnell, S.S. Brussels, recently returned home from Holland together with Second Engineer F. J. Starkey.)
Return to top
'War and the railway'
From The Great Eastern Railway Magazine, December 1918, pp. 221-222
For East Coasters the evacuation of the Belgian coast by the Germans was a matter of profound relief. During their long period of occupation there they certainly did their worst towards us and gave us many bad hours. Their own devilry has turned against them, and finally they were most appalled at the terrors of the air forces. Their coastal menace did not stop the G.E.R. service with Holland from running before Zeebrugge bringing in foodstuffs and comforts to our men, prisoners in Germany; adn only one ship was lost from torpedo attack - the Copenhagen. The Colchester and the Brussels were captured by cruisers. During the voyages made the greater part of these four years there were usually six steamers in the G.E.R. service crossing, and it is a matter for congratulation that each one of the six has come safely through. A magnificent achievement.
The ports of Belgium will now soon be available, and the work of Belgian repatriation and reconstruction, with which the G.E.R. is very much concerned, must shortly commence. Very interesting are the photographs of the entrance to Zeebrugge at the time of the British entry, shewing the masts and funnels of the famous Brussels above the water close to the mole. On October 14th, the dashing Dover patrol decided to run in and sink the Brussels. In spite of shallow water, the narrowness of the opening at the Mole, and a boom, as well as the best endeavours of the enemy, a torpedo was put into the old G.E.R. passenger boat, which sank amidst a glare of searchlights and the blasts of heavy guns.
The entry into Bruges brought further details of the 'Captain Fryatt' tragedy. The following is the translation of a notice in German, Flemish and French of the [p.222>] execution, which was signed and posted up by the German admiral:-
'NOTICE. The English captain of the Mercantile Marine, Charles Fryatt, of Southampton, though he did not belong to the armed forces of the enemy, attempted on March 28th, 1915, to destroy a German submarine by running it down. This is the reason why he has been condemned to death by judgment this day of the War Council of the Marine Corps and has been executed. A perverse action has thus received its punishment, tardy but just. Signed VON SCHRODER, Admiral Commandant of the Corps de Marine, Bruges, July 27th, 1916.'
When one thinks of the murderous entry into Belgium in 1914, and now watchs with wonder the world transformed as the Germans retire from Belgium, one sees a better application of the words 'a perverse action has thus received ite punishment, tardy but just.' The Germans hurried the murder lest they might be thwarted; and their officers laughed as Captain Fryatt uprightly and calmly awaited his doom. He did not die in vain nor is his story yet finished. The grave in Bruges cemetery has been visited by the British Minister at the Hague, Sir Walter Townley. It was marked by a biack wooden cross, and is beside the graves of six devoted Belgians who were also shot without justice; upon it the sexton had placed an anchor of srnall cactus plant. The captain's name is now painted white on the black cross, and Lady Susan Townley, wife of the Minister, placed a wreath of immortelles tied with British colours upon the grave.
Return to top
'Unveiling of the memorial stone erected over the grave of the
late Captain Fryatt in Dovercourt parish churchyard'
From The Great Eastern Magazine, August 1920, pp. 153-154
The ceremony of unveiling took place on Friday, June 18th last, and was performed by the Rt. Hon. Lord Claud Hamilton, who besides being the Chairman of the Great Eastern Railway Company is also High Steward of the Borough of Harwich.
The memorial is a simple and yet dignified one in Portland stone, the work of Messrs. Farmer and Hindley, of Westminster Bridge Road.
Surrounding the inscription is an interwined ropework of handsome character, and the top is surmounted by the badge of the Mercantile Marine, whilst underneath the inscription is a wreath of laurel leaves with the words 'Pro Patria' in the centre. The inscription reads:-
'In memory of Captain Charles Algernon Fryatt, Master of the Great Eastern Steamship, Brussels, illegally executed by the Germans at Bruges on the 27th July, 1916.
Erected by the Company as an expression of their admiration of his gallantry.'
The picturesque churchyard was crowded, all uniting to honour the memory of a brave man.
A procession was formed at All Saints Church and proceeded to the memorial which stands at a spot at the bottom of the main walk, a position which overlooks the harbour, from which the late Captain was wont to sail, and also overlooking the historic old church and churchyard where many Great Eastern steamship men have been buried.[...]
Before performing the unveiling ceremony, Lord Claud Hamilton delivered an impressive address. He said it was difficult for anyone on an occasion like the present to say anything about the late Captain Fryatt which had not already been said, not only in the British Isles, but in every land over which the Union Jack flew. He did not propose, therefore, to enter upon a narrative of that gallant career and cruel death. But that career suggested thoughts which might with advantage be impressed upon existing and future members of the Mercantile Marine, the gallant and patriotic service to which he belonged. A man might be as modest and retiring as he was, and yet might possess the heart of a lion; he might, in outward appearance be only the courteous and capable chief of a [p.154>] passenger or cargo steamship, but on questions of control and discipline he could exercise the authority of a Nelson. In ordinary worldly matters he might never essay to be the superior of his colleagues in outward respect for religion, but, nevertheless, he might be a truly God-fearing man. As a husband and a father, he need say nothing in the presence of his widow and children, for the domestic happiness of his family circle was well known by those amongst whom he lived. Upon the last occasion on which he saw him he presented him with a gold watch on behalf of the Great Eastern Railway, in recognition of his services, and his colleagues and himself were much impressed by his gentle and unassuming bearing, until at the close of the proceedings he said, 'I hope, Captain Fryatt you will never lose an opportunity of ramming a German submarine,' when his face lighted up with a glow of enthusiasm, and he replied, 'You may trust me for that, sir.' That trust, said his lordship, was not misplaced. And now they were about to unveil and dedicate to his memory a simple but, he hoped, a worthy token of their respect for, and their gratitude to him. 'May it always,' concluded his lordship, 'inspire the members of his noble profession with a desire to tread in his footsteps, and may it help to maintain that spirit of loyalty to King and country which disregards danger and fears not death where the safety of the Empire is at stake; and now, one final expression of a hope: may the rising generation and future rising generations in the district of Harwich always have vividly placed before them by their school teachers the career of this man as an incentive to duty, and of loyalty to Sovereign and country.
Rear-Admiral Mansell also delivered an excellent address. He said, in the name of the Corporation of Trinity House and in the name of the Services which it administered, the Pilotage service, the Steam Vessel service, and the Lighthouse and Light Vessel services, he tendered homage to their gallant sea comrade. No one could appreciate the actions of a seaman better than his fellow-seamen, and by fellow-seamen he meant seamen of all nationalities. There was a fellowship of the sea which knew no frontiers, no national boundaries; the spirit engendered by the common dangers and hardship and struggle against the elements which were the lot of all went down to the sea in ships, even in times of peace. That fellowship had in former wars survived, even in the bitterness of strife. Warfare at sea, between ourselves and the Dutch and French was conducted on both sides with chivalry. The victor and the vanquished could meet one another after the fight with mutual respect, and both had reason to be proud of their deeds, whether they had won or lost. These were wars between the old sea nations, with the sea instinct and sea honour bred in their bones Their late enemy had none of that sea instinct, and no sea traditions. Chivalry to them spelt weakness, and the enemy's chivalry was something to turn their own advantage. The amazing effrontery of the G.E.R. steamers in maintaining a service between Harwich and the Hook of Holland, and the example set by the captains, officers and crews of those steamers, of skill, doggedness and courage, was particularly galling to the Germans. Emden was on one flank of the steamship route and Zeebrugge on the other and yet they ran with comparative immunity. Many attempts were made by the enemy to capture or sink the vessels, and at last the 'Brussels' was captured. This was the longed-for chance of perpetrating an act of frightfulness which, it was hoped, would destroy the morale of our Mercantile Marine. Captain Fryatt was judicially murdered. In that place, and upon that solemn occasion, one could not use the words that sprang to one's lips at such a dastardly cowardly act. This was an occasion to thank God that Britain still bred men like Captain Fryatt who took no count of their own lives in serving their country. He rests in an honoured place: no memorial was needed by him - his memorial was in the hearts of his countrymen and countrywomen - but he hoped that the memorial unveiled that day would serve to remind those who came after them of the fate which would have overtaken thousands of them had the Germans landed in this country, and let them keep ready, and, above all them bring up their children in the spirit of devotion, self-sacrifice, and patriotism, which were represented in the person of their murdered comrade.
Captain Jackman followed with a brief address, in the course of which he said he felt great pride in the Merchant Service, and the active part theyplayed in the Great War. Men never hesitated from going to sea. In every way they upheld thegreat traditions of the service.
His lordship then unveiled the memorial.
After the dedication by the Rev. T. Grey Collier and a prayer, the vast audience joined in the singing of the hymn 'O God, our Help in ages past,' and the Blessing, followed by the singing of the National Anthem, terminated an historic and excellently arranged ceremony.
Return to top
'S.S. "Brussels" presented to the British nation'
From The Great Eastern Magazine, June 1920, p. 102
When the S.S. 'Brussels' was raised from her bed under the Zeebrugge waters, where she had remained since the British raid on the harbour, she was towed to Antwerp. Having been in the service of the Germans, and retaken in Belgian waters she was a prize belonging to the Belgians. At Antwerp, on Monday, April 26th, at 3.0 p.m. the famous ship, as an act of international courtesy, was presented by the Belgian Government to the British. The Belgians were represented by their Minister of Marine, M. Poulet, and the British by their ambassador, Sir Francis Villiers. At the same time, on behalf of H.M. King Albert, M. Poulet gave Sir Francis the Belgian Maritime War Cross, posthumously awarded to the late Captain Fryatt [...]. A distinguished company attended on board the old ship and the speeches dilated upon her war history and upon the heroism which actuated Captain Fryatt and his brethren in the mercantile marine in those days. By request of the Ministry of Shipping, a G.E.R. captain took temporary charge of the 'Brussels' when once again the Union Jack flew over her.
Assisted by three tugs, she left Antwerp for England on May 17th. During the voyage, it is reported, that she was flooded in the 'tween decks, and the three tugs employed had a difficult task to keep her from disaster. The steamers she passed paid sea compliments, and there was a civic reception by the Mayor of South Shields when she arrived in the Tyne on May 20th. A life-sized photograph of Captain Fryatt draped in crepe and backed by the Union Jack was placed on the deck house.
Return to top
|IRS&TH home | University of York | National Railway Museum|
|IRS&TH / 9 Nov 04/ CD|