James ALFRED Gritt

Date of birth: 12th May 1885
Place of birth: Shirley, Southampton
Regiment / Division: Royal Navy
Vessel: HMS Black Prince
Rank / Service No: Leading Stoker, 306439
Died: 31st May 1916, aged 31 years
Commemorated: Portsmouth Naval Memorial

 

Alfred was the third of 7 siblings born to Alfred and Ellen Amelia Gritt (nee Manning), who married in Southampton in 1881.

 

The whole family was born and brought up in Shirley, latterly living at 45 Howards Grove.

 

Alfred was born in 1850 and was a fishmonger in later life; it is not known when he died.

Ellen was born in 1859 and she passed away in Portsmouth in 1920; she and her daughter Fanny were living together in Southsea at the 1911 Census, which suggests Alfred died before 1911.

 

Siblings

Ellen (Nellie) Eliza   b. 1881 Shirley   d. 1962 Southampton   Married George Samuel Saunders in Southampton in 1903.

Charles GEORGE   b. 1883 Shirley d. 1897 Shirley

James Alfred

Ann (Annie) Manning   b. 1887 Shirley   d. 1900 Shirley

William Frank   b. 1891 Shirley   d. 1919 Southampton

Fanny Diana   b. 1894 Shirley   d. 1980 Southampton   Married George S. Terrey in Southampton in 1922. Married George Brant in Southampton in 1947. Married Alfred Pitches in Southampton in 1964.

Lillian (Lily) Maud   b. 1901 Shirley   d. 1985 Portsmouth   Married George A. Preston in Portsmouth in 1920.

 

Alfred evidently led a troubled childhood, because he was a resident at the Hampshire Reformatory School for Boys in Netley Marsh at the 1901 Census.

The school had opened in May 1855 and was formally certified on 29 November to accommodate boys aged 12 to 15, committed by magistrates to a period of detention.

 

As time went on, the school provided industrial training in the form of farming and land management, plus they made their own clothing and footwear.

Because of these skills, it was said that former pupils made good soldiers, and did well in the colonies.

Because of a fall in the numbers being committed to the school, it finally shut its doors in September 1908.

 

Alfred enlisted in the RN on 24 May 1904 for the standard 12 years, and joined Black Prince on 21 April 1914; he became a Leading Stoker on 14 October 1915.

The Black Prince was an armoured cruiser, completed on 17 March 1906 in Blackwall, London.

 

At the beginning of WW1, she was one of 4 armoured cruisers serving in the 1st Cruiser Squadron of the Meditteranean Fleet.

She saw action in the Red Sea and was back in the Med after gun modifications in March 1916.

 

There is some mystery surrounding the fate of Black Prince during the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916.

 

She was sighted at 17.33 by HMS Falmouth and there was a wireless signal reporting a submarine sighting at 20.45.

At approximately midnight, HMS Spitfire saw what appeared to be a German battlecruiser completely on fire, the vessel exploding soon after sighting.

 

This vessel is now thought to have been the Black Prince.

 

The German version is perhaps more tangible; Black Prince found herself separated from the Fleet but still attacked the battleship Rheinland.

In no time, Black Prince was surrounded by up to 5 German vessels and was hit by at least 12 heavy shells and several smaller ones.

 

She sank within 15 minutes, and all 857 crew perished.

 

 

Researcher: Mark Heritage
Published: 5th August 2016
Updated:

 

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