As master of the Great Eastern Railway Company's steamer Brussels, Captain Charles Algernon Fryatt was steering a course for Rotterdam from Tilbury on 3rd March 1915 when he was approached by Kapitänleutnant Konrad Gansser, commander of U-33 (a submarine of the German Imperial Navy) and ordered to stop. Deciding to ignore this order, Fryatt instead attempted to ram the U-boat, causing it to dive and, thereby, enabling the Brussels to escape, and for his bravery Fryatt in this act he was awared a gold watch. This was not the first time Fryatt had taken action to evade capture by a U-boat, and not the first watch he received, but this second encounter was to be remembered by the Germans when, having captured Fryatt on a return journey to Tilbury from Hoek van Holland on the evening of 22nd June 1916, subjected him to a court martial, sentenced him to death and executed him on 27th July 1916. As July 2016 marks the centenary of Fryatt's death, a special exhbition is being held in Harwich that will give the background to the whole story of how Fryatt came to be in a situation where attempting to ram a U-boat was his best means of survival and will explain the consequences this had for Fryatt and the impact it had during the Great War.
The exhbition will also examine what subsequently happened both immediately following the war and in the years since as this story has continued to fascinate the public and scholars ever since. Copiuosly illustrated with photographs and other documents from the time, the special exhibition will also feature the largest display of Fryatt related artefacts ever assembled, this being drawn from a small but dedicated group of enthusiasts who have been collecting for many years. The Fryatt story will be told through a series of chapters, listed below, and tckets to the special exhibition in Harwich may be purchased on our Tickets web page.
Captain Fryatt - The Martyr of Bruges
Harwich - a brief summary of how this port came to atain such a significant role for continental traffic.
The Arrival of the Railway - how the Great Eastern Railway Company came to be a key operator on the Continental ferry route.
The Brussels - a first view of the Great Eastern Railway Company's ship at the centre of this story.
Charles Algernon, son of Charles, father of Charles - the Fryatt family tree.
The Great War Begins
Internment - images from the three concentration camps in which Fryatt and the crew of the Brussels were interned following capture.
Capture - Fryatt and the Brussels disappear after leaving Hoek van Holland on 22nd June 1916 with a full load of refugees.
Konrad Gansser - the commander of U-33, the U-boat which Fryatt attempted to ram.
The U-boat Offensive
Trial, Excecution & Burial - Fryatt is returned to Bruges to face a court martial, which sentences him to death by firing squad.
Reaction - propaganda leaflets, demonstrations and recruitment.
The Funerals - Fryatt's body is repatriated from Bruges to its final resting place in Dovercourt.
Conclusions - some thoughts of what we can understand from this story.
Remembrance - commemorations since the Great War.
The Memorials - a summary of just some of the many memorials honouring Fryatt.
Lady Brussels - the post-war career of the Brussels.
Acknowlegements to those who have made this exhibition possible.
Details of the source material used during the course of researching this story.
Parkeston - The Great Eastern Railway Company moves upstream from Harwich.
U-33 - the U-boat with which Fryatt had his most informous encounter.
The Great War Ends