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Charles Fryatt: A British Seaman's Story in the Spotlight at the Imperial War Museum North
Gun carriage bearing the coffin of Captain Charles Fryatt being escorted through Dover.

MANCHESTER.- 95 years after a famous British First World War hero attempted to ram a German U-boat with his merchant ship - and was later killed for his lifesaving actions - he is to be remembered by a new display at Imperial War Museum North.

Historic objects relating to Captain Charles Fryatt form this small but powerful new In The Spotlight display, designed to give visitors unique access to intriguing items from the Museum’s vast collection. Fryatt’s controversial story, featured at Imperial War Museum North for the first time, caused international outcry when he was arrested and executed during the First World War.

He had been celebrated in Britain for his actions in March 1915. German submarine U-33 had surfaced to torpedo Fryatt’s SS Brussels but Fryatt saved the lives of his crew by steaming straight ahead at full speed, forcing U-33 to crash dive. He was praised in the House of Commons and awarded a gold watch.

The next year the SS Brussels was surrounded by German destroyers. Fryatt was arrested, court-martialled and executed for ramming the German U-boat - and for being a civilian who took up arms against the usual rules of war. His gold watch was produced as evidence that he was following instructions from the then First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith described the execution as ‘murder’ and there was international fury that a civilian should be punished for an act of self defence.

The In The Spotlight display, containing the war-damaged port scuttle-light from Fryatt’s ship and the medal he was posthumously awarded, continues the Museum’s nautical season.

A major new exhibition, All Aboard: Stories of War at Sea, is already open – running until April 2011. Test your sea legs in the Imperial War Museum’s first large scale exhibition to explore life at sea in wartime, from 1914 to the present day, great for families with interactive activities and more stories of bravery at sea.

In The Spotlight is presented in the Museum’s Main Exhibition Space. Here visitors can also explore a display showing the crucifix and prison cell door number of Edith Cavell, the First World War nurse who was famously executed for helping 200 allied soldiers to safety.

Jim Forrester. Imperial War Museum North Director, said: ‘This is a great opportunity to discover the true story behind the legend of Captain Charles Fryatt and see how war shaped his life and that of his crew. Get hands-on and learn more about life at sea in our free special exhibition All Aboard: Stories of War at Sea.’

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