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Page last updated at 10:23 GMT, Monday, 18 October 2010 11:23 UK
Southampton's Capt Charles Fryatt remembered at IWM
Captain Charles Fryatt
Captain Charles Fryatt was born and raised in Southampton

A ship's captain from Southampton who became a war hero is being commemorated by the Imperial War Museum.

In March 1915 Captain Charles Fryatt rammed a German U-boat to save his civilian ship, SS Brussels, from attack.

He became a national hero but was later captured and executed by the Germans.

Fryatt's story became known around the world at the time, and is being re-told at a new display at Imperial War Museum North.

War hero

Captain Fryatt's fame has faded over the 95 years since he steamed at full speed towards the U-33 submarine.

However, at the time, he had been praised in the House of Commons and awarded a gold watch for his actions in forcing the submarine to retreat.

Soldiers with bombs
The story of Captain Fryatt was well known during World War I

When he was surrounded and captured the following year, he destroyed a diplomatic bag to avoid state secrets getting into enemy hands and ensured the safety of his civilian passengers and crew.

However the gold watch was used as evidence by the German authorities to claim he was a civilian who took up arms. He was executed by firing squad after a short court martial.

The killing of a civilian captain caused an international outcry. Later a Canadian mountain and a breed of tulip were named after him as a tribute, as well as countless street names.

Family connections

Captain Fryatt's great niece, Doris Stewart, 90, still lives in Southampton.

repatriation of Captain Fryatt
Thousands turned out for the repatriation of Captain Fryatt

Although she had seen a photo of her fated great uncle and knew he had died in the war, Ms Stewart had no idea about the full story of his heroism until she heard a talk by an American historian.

Since discovering the war hero in her family's past, Ms Stewart has dedicated her time to ensuring he is recognised.

In 2007 a plaque was unveiled at Freemantle School in Southampton, where Captain Fryatt was educated in the 1870s.

Ms Stewart said: "I'm sorry we didn't know the story years ago, we could have done more. We thought it was an act of war, not a murder."

She added the recognition by the Imperial War Museum was "a great honour".

After Captain Fryatt's death, the government began to ensure merchant vessels were armed to defend themselves from enemy attack during wartime.

The All Aboard Stories at Sea exhibition runs at the Imperial War Museum North until April 2011.

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