Private Frederick Arthur Moat Went was born on the 15th of September 1896 at Mile End, Sheerness to Frederick and Ada Went (née Moat). His parents had two children, Frederick and his elder sister Ethel. His mother Ada died in 1904 when Fred was 8 years of age.
In 1911 when the census was taken Frederick was a Sea Apprentice on the “Warspite”, a training ship on the River Thames off Stone, near Dartford, Kent. He enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry (Chatham Division) on the 20th of November 1913. At the same time his father, who had remarried, was working as caretaker at St Paul’s Church, Ramsgate.
This article from the Thanet Advertiser & Echo,referring to Frederick’s diary, offers a rare insight into life on the Laurentic in the years before the tragic sinking.
THE LOG OF A MARINE. “THE TUMBLING SEAS OF HALF THE WORLD.”
The travels of a Royal Marine are well illustrated by the diary of Private F. A. M. Went, R.M.L.I., only son of Mr. Fred Went, Verger at St. Paul’s Church, Ramsgate. The young man lost hit life on January 25th, when H.M.S. Laurentic was mined in the Irish Channel and 349 officers and men were drowned. He was then twenty years of age, and after his death his father received the “Medal for Good Conduct” awarded to his son by the Committee of the Marine Society, the controllers of the training ship Warspite, where Pte. Went received his first training.
His diary covers the voyaging of the Laurentic while in commission for patrol work, a great portion of which was in the Eastern seas. It alto refers to the attack on the German ship Konigsberg, which had taken refuge in a river on the African coast.
The men on board were instructed to keep a sharp look-out for the German armed liner Kronprinz Wilhelm, and the captain offered £5 to the first man who sighted her, but it was later learned that she was interned at Newport, U.S.A.
Incidents of life on board ship are noted, and Pte. Went records that the attack on the Konigsberg was on July 6th, 1915. H.M.S. Hyacinth, Pioneer, Pyramas, Larconia, Weymouth, Mersey, Severn and Laurentic, with some whalers, all took part in the operations, together with two aeroplanes. The first bomb dropped from the latter set fire to the forepart of the enemy ship.
Journeys to and from Rangoon are referred to in the early days of 1916, and at Manilla Bay (in the Phillipine Islands), “we took off nine prisoners, with £2,000 in English gold on them.” On February 10th the writer says: “Ran into tail end of N.E. Monsoon and passed Formosa during the afternoon.”
A day or so later, patrolling off Shanghai, he records “been away from England twelve months.” From an American mail-boat on February 18th, thirty-eight Germans were taken, their wives and children being left. The next three months passed in patrol work in the same district, the days being occupied with the usual ship’s routine. On June 6th, Pte. Went says: “at sea; heard heavy gunfiring. Great excitement on board. Nothing doing.”
Then comes change: “June 28th—left Singapore. Good-bye to the East. On our way to Simon’s Town.” The Laurentic arrived there on July 17th and at Cape Town two days later; took in 2,880 tons of coal and left on the 24th for unknown destination. The veil was lifted on August 15th, when the ship reached Halifax (Nova Scotia), and ten days later was inspected by H.R.H, the Duke of Connaught, Princess Patricia, and Vice- Admiral Patey.
She left Halifax on the 29th and commenced patrol duties off Baltimore, New York and Long Island. She was subsequently ordered home. The diary does not go beyond September 8th; but in a brief letter Pte. Went records his safe arrival at Liverpool on December 6th, after a rather sad and troublesome voyage. He was looking forward to period of leave,
A pathetic reminder of the danger surrounding naval life in war-time is the last letter received from Pie. Went. It occupies a place in the final pages of the diary, and, written on January 17th, states that the ship was due to leave Liverpool again in couple of days’ time. She left as arranged—and never returned.
The log of the dead sailor brings home vividly to the imagination the wonderful work of the Navy in all seas, of fine service quietly performed, and of the courage and spirit of the men of the fleet.
Thanet Advertiser & Echo, August 4th 1917
Frederick was posthumously awarded the Star, Victory medal and British War Medal. His body was never recovered. He is commemorated on the Chatham Naval War memorial, Kent.
British Newspaper Archive
Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK
General Register Office. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes