Private Alfred James Armstrong, PO/13778

  • Batt -
  • Unit - Royal Marine Light Infantry
  • Section - Hms Black Prince
  • Date of Birth - 22/10/1885
  • Died - 31/05/1916
  • Age - 30

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Source: Michael Doyle Their Name Liveth For Evermore: The Great War Roll of Honour for Leicestershire and Rutland.
He was the son of James Armstrong (Armson) a shoe trade finisher, born in the 2nd quarter of 1854 in Earl Shilton, Leics. and his wife Mary Jane Armstrong (nee Martin, married in the 2nd quarter of 1883 in the Hinckley, Leics. district), born 1864 in Earl Shilton, Leics.. Alfred James was a schoolboy and was born on the 22nd October 1885 in Earl Shilton, Leics., his siblings were Thomas, a schoolboy, born in the 4th quarter of 1883, George Harry, born 1888 and William, born 1891, all his siblings were born in Earl Shilton, Leics., in April 1891 the family home was at Nelson Yard, Wood Street, Earl Shilton, Leics. In the 4th quarter of 1902, Alfred’s mother died aged 38. In April 1911 James was no longer residing in the family home at 94, The Mount, Earl Shilton, Leicestershire., residing there was his widowed father, a shoe trade finisher, and his siblings, George, a hosiery trade trimmer, Elizabeth, born 1893, a hosiery trade winder, Grace, born 1895, a hosiery trade mender, Gertrude, born 1898, a hosiery trade runner on and Hiram, born 1901, a schoolboy, Alfred was at the time serving with the Royal Navy and was residing in Alverstoke, Hants, his vessel being HMS Ariadne. Alfred’s father James was officially recorded at birth with the surname Armson, but latterly the name was officially recorded as Armstrong. The background relating to the circumstances in which Alfred lost his life are as follows; HMS Black Prince was modified in March 1916 as a result of lessons learned at the Battle of Coronel, with the 6-inch guns removed from their casemates and replaced by six 6-inch guns mounted individually behind shields between the beam 9.2-inch turrets. The ship participated in the Battle of Jutland, where she was sunk with heavy loss of life. The circumstances under which she sank were mysterious for some years after. As the British had lost contact and did not see the ship destroyed, they were unsure as to whether a submarine or surface ship was responsible for sinking the HMS Black Prince. During the battle, the First Cruiser Squadron was deployed as part of a screening force several miles ahead of the main force of the Grand Fleet, but HMS Black Prince lost contact with the rest of the Squadron as it came into contact with German forces, at about 5.42pm. Soon after, two other members of the First Cruiser Squadron, HMS Defence and HMS Warrior were heavily engaged by German battleships and battle cruisers, with HMS Defence blowing up and HMS Warrior receiving heavy damage, which later caused her to sink. There were no positive sightings of HMS Black Prince by the British fleet after that, although a wireless signal from her was received at 8.45pm, reporting a submarine sighting. During the night of the 31st May–1st June, the British destroyer HMS Spitfire, badly damaged after colliding with the German battleship Nassau, sighted what appeared to be a German battle cruiser, with two widely spaced funnels, described as being “a mass of fire from foremast to mainmast, on deck and between decks. Flames were issuing out of her from every corner.” The mystery ship exploded at about midnight. It was later thought that the burning ship may have been HMS Black Prince, with the two midship’s funnels having collapsed or been shot away. Recent historians, however, hold to the German account of the ship's sinking. HMS Black Prince briefly engaged the German battleship Rheinland at about 11.35pm GMT, scoring two hits with 6-inch shells. Separated from the rest of the British fleet, HMS Black Prince approached the German lines at approximately midnight. She turned away from the German battleships, but it was too late. The German battleship Thuringen fixed the HMS Black Prince in her searchlights and opened fire. Up to five other German ships, including battleships Nassau, Ostfriesland and Friedrich der Grosse, joined in the bombardment, with return fire from HMS Black Prince being ineffective. Most of the German ships were between 750 and 1500 yards of the HMS Black Prince, effectively point blank range for contemporary naval gunnery. HMS Black Prince was hit by at least twelve heavy shells and several smaller ones, sinking within 15 minutes. There were no survivors from HMS Black Prince’s crew, all 857 being killed.

Leicestershire Project Findings
  • Conflict - World War I
Research from Michael Doyle's Their Name Liveth For Evermore
  • Unit - Royal Marine Light Infantry
  • Cause of death - KILLED IN ACTION
  • Burial Commemoration - Portsmouth Naval Mem., Hants., England
  • Born - Earl Shilton, Leics
  • Enlisted - Portsmouth, Hants
  • Place of Residence - 78 Station Road, Earl Shilton, Leicestershire, England

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