The Murder Of Captain Fryatt

Captain Charles Fryatt was in command of a British steamship named

Brussels, running from Tilbury, England, to the Hook of Holland. His

ship was hailed in 1915 by a German submarine and ordered to stop.

A torpedo costs several thousand dollars, therefore a submarine saves

one whenever she can sink a ship by some other means. Also a submarine

can carry but few torpedoes, so by saving them she can remain longer at

sea and at her work of destruction.

Captain Fryatt was well aware that if he came to a stop, the Germans

would board his ship and sink her by bombs, or would order the

passengers off and sink her by shells from the guns. This is the way

they sank the Carolina off the coast of New Jersey, leaving the

passengers in open boats--many of whom died from exposure and by the

capsizing of one boat in the tempest which struck them at midnight.

Captain Fryatt knew that by the laws of nations he had the right to

defend his ship, so instead of stopping as the Germans ordered him to

do, he put on full speed and turned the head of his ship towards the

submarine, hoping to ram her and sink her. He was obeying instructions

from his government, and was doing nothing but what he had a perfect

right to do according to international law.

He did not succeed, but he gained time and forced the submarine to

submerge, for British destroyers were coming up in answer to his

wireless call.

For his bravery, the British Government rewarded him by giving him a

gold watch and naming him with praise in the House of Commons.

More than a year later, on June 23, 1916, German warships out on a raid

captured the Brussels, which Captain Fryatt still commanded. He was

taken to Bruges, Belgium, and put on trial for his life. The Germans

claimed his case was like that of a non-combatant on land who fired

upon the soldiers. They found him guilty on June 27 and sentenced him

to be shot, for having attempted to sink the submarine, U-33, by

ramming it. They laid much emphasis on the fact that the British

Government had rewarded him, although this really had nothing to do

with whether or not he had a right to defend his ship.

The United States was not then at war with Germany, and the diplomatic

affairs of England were in charge of the United States Ambassador in

Berlin. When Ambassador Gerard learned that Captain Fryatt had been

captured and taken to Bruges for trial, he sent two notes to the proper

German officials, demanding the right to visit Captain Fryatt and to

secure counsel for him.

The German officials acknowledged his notes and assured him that they

would take the necessary steps to meet his request.

But the morning of the day after Ambassador Gerard sent his notes,

Captain Fryatt was tried and sentenced, and was shot in the afternoon

of the same day. As in the case of Edith Cavell, Germany's answer to

America was a lie, and a scornful carrying out of her illegal purpose

before the American Ambassador could do anything more. She acted in

exactly the same way in connection with the Lusitania, and with all

her submarine warfare, or piracy, as it really is according to

international law.

One of the leading German writers on international law says, "The

merchant ship has the right of self-defense against an enemy attack,

and this right it can exercise against visit, for this is indeed the

first act of capture."

Germany knew she had no right to shoot Captain Fryatt, and she did not

want her right challenged at his trial; so she did not allow the

American Ambassador to see him and to secure counsel for him.

She desired to make him an example of German "frightfulness" as she had

in the case of Edith Cavell and of the Lusitania. She thought this

would prevent other British vessels trying to ram her submarines.

The whole world is wondering if Germany would cower under

"frightfulness," and therefore believes other peoples will. Her policy

certainly has never had the effect that she hoped it would. It has

simply made her enemies fight all the harder and dare all the more,

because they remember her inhuman acts and unlawful deeds.

The Germans published the following notice of the trial and execution:

On Thursday at Bruges before the Court Martial of the Marine

Corps, the trial took place of Captain 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

28, 1915, to ram the German submarine, U-33, near the Maas


The accused 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


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 against the submarine, which escaped the steamer

by a few metres only because of swiftly diving. He confessed

that in so doing he had acted in accordance with the

instructions of the Admiralty. The sentence was confirmed

yesterday afternoon and carried out by shooting.

This is one of the many nefarious franc-tireur proceedings of

the British merchant marine against our war vessels, and it has

found a belated but merited expiation.

The civilized nations of the world, in which we do not include Germany

and her allies, have agreed that the execution of Captain Fryatt was a

murder. Possibly the Germans also know it, but defend it as they did

the invasion of Belgium, as "necessary" to German victory.

History will forever record it as an example of the black deeds done by

desperate men who care only to accomplish their selfish ends, and will

explain how these evil deeds of horror and of terror have injured those

who committed them more than those who suffered from them.

On the very day of the execution of Captain Fryatt, the British

passenger liner Falaba was torpedoed and sunk without warning. She

sank in eight minutes carrying with her one hundred and four men,

women, and children, who were "not members of a combatant force."