The Men from Hyde – Alfred Henry Wyatt

Alfred Henry Wyatt was born on 22nd August 1876 in Aldershot to Henry and Emily Wyatt. Henry’s family came from Winchester, his own father working as a tailor in Colebrook Street and Abbey Passage. Henry was a labourer at the iron foundry [where?]. He married Emily Jones in 1874 when she was 21 years old. She already had a child, Alice, born in 1872.

In the 1881 census the family is living at 10 Staple Gardens, a few houses away from Emily’s parents at no 16. They have 4 children including Alfred Henry. His father Henry is now a grocer’s porter.

The family is still living at 10 Staple Gardens in the 1891 census, but there are now 10 children. Alfred, 14, is an errand boy. His father has become a foreman at the “Cellar Brewery”.

Alfred joined the Royal Navy on his 18th birthday in 1894, to serve for 12 years. His service number was 181053. His records state that he was 5’ 6 ½” tall with brown hair and brown eyes, and a fresh complexion.

In the 1901 census Alfred “Harry” Wyatt is 24 years old, an Able Seaman on HMS Camperdown, a battleship 1st class under the command of Capt Alvin Coote Corry, then based in Portsmouth. There are 321 men on board including Alfred; 187 are described as “not on board”.

In the 1901 census Alfred’s parents are again at 10 Staple Gardens with 4 of their children.

In the 1911 census Alfred is aged 34, single, and still serving as an Able Seaman based in Portsmouth. His parents are now living at 67 Hyde Street. His father Henry, aged 61, is a “brewer’s cellarman”. Emily states that she has had 11 children, all still alive. 4 of the children are living with them at home: Sidney is a butler, Elsie a pupil teacher, Cecil a printer’s apprentice, and May is just 12 years old.

12 years later, according to his service records, Alfred had not changed in appearance. He had served on many ships, and his records state that his character was consistently described as “very good”. He had been an Able Seaman for 6 years by the time he joined Invincible, a battle cruiser, in November 1914. Alfred was sent to the South Atlantic and took part in the Battle of the Falklands in December 1914. He was also at Jutland.

The Battle of Jutland was a naval battle fought from 31st May-1st June 1916 in the North Sea, near the coast of Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula. It was the largest naval battle of the First World War. British combat ships totalled 151, including 9 battle cruisers such as Invincible; in contrast, German combat ships totalled only 99. 14 British and 11 German ships were sunk, with great loss of life.

At 18:30 on 31st May, Invincible appeared as a clear target before the German ships Lützow and Derfflinger. The German ships fired three salvoes each at Invincible, and sank her in 90 seconds. A 30.5 cm (12.0 in) shell from the third salvo struck Invincible‘s Q-turret amidships, detonating the magazines below and causing her to blow up and sink. All but six of her crew of 1,032 officers and men, including Alfred Henry Wyatt, were killed. He was 39 years old.

Both sides claimed victory, but the British lost more ships and many more sailors, and the battle was widely viewed as indecisive. Losses on the British side were 6,094 killed, as opposed to 2,551 Germans.

Alfred’s death was announced in the St Bartholomew Parish Magazine in May 1917.  He is commemorated at Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

In the years following the battle the wrecks were slowly discovered. Invincible was found by the Royal Navy in 1919. In 2016 Orkney will host the 100th Anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Jutland.

Emily died in 1921 in Winchester aged 68. Her husband Henry possibly left Winchester and went to live with family; I cannot trace his death.

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