Memorial service for Great Eastern Railway's Captain Fryatt 100 years on

Thursday, 21 July 2016

The railway industry held a memorial service for the Great Eastern Railway’s Captain Fryatt at London Liverpool Street station this week, marking 100 years since his death during the First World War.


Representatives of Abellio Greater Anglia, Network Rail, Essex Rail Users Federation, the Merchant Navy Association, the Royal British Legion and Captain Fryatt’s family, as well as the Mayor of Harwich (where the Fryatt family lived), laid wreaths at the station’s war memorial – which features an embossed portrait of Captain Fryatt – during the service which was conducted by a naval chaplain at 1300 on Monday 18th July.


Charles Algernon Fryatt, born in 1872, was a Master mariner, Captain of the Great Eastern Railway Company's steamer SS Brussels, who, in defiance of the Germans continued to work the Rotterdam-British East Coast route after war was declared. On two occasions in March 1915, The SS Brussels was attacked by U-Boats and the second attempt to sink the vessel saw Captain Fryatt steer his ship towards the U-Boat, forcing it to dive. On 23rd June 1916 a German patrol stopped The SS Brussels and Captain Fryatt was taken to Bruges where he was tried on 27th July for attempting to sink the U-Boat. Although strongly denied by Captain Fryatt (and the British Government who said that 'he was simply trying to avoid an attack and was only interested in saving the lives of his passengers and crew ') he was found guilty and executed on 27th July 1916.

The murder of Captain Fryatt was condemned by the British Prime Minister H.H.Asquith and across the world. After the war his body was one of the only three (along with the Unknown Soldier and Nurse Edith Cavell) brought back to the UK - to a service at St Paul’s Cathedral. He was then taken along a route lined with crowds to Liverpool Street Station where the Great Eastern Massed Bands were playing and a special train was waiting to bring the hero to his home town of Dovercourt. At many stations down the line crowds gathered to pay their last respects.

The Mayor of Harwich opened a memorial fund leading to the installation of the memorial to Captain Fryatt at Liverpool Street station in 1917.

Mark Leslie of the Essex Rail Users Federation, who organised the service, commented: “I was very pleased that the rail industry along with the Merchant Navy Association, his home town of Harwich, the Royal British Legion and the Essex rail user groups took time to remember the centenary of the shocking execution during World War 1 of this courageous employee of Great Eastern Railways.”