This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in New York.
Although recorded as being on the crew of HMS Leviathan, in fact, Stoker Weeden died in an accident in New York while serving in HMS Charybdis, which was undergoing conversion to a passenger and cargo carrier.
Alfred Weeden was born at Farnham in Surrey on 25 December 1884, one of the twelve children of George and Mary Weeden. When he left school he became a bricklayer’s labourer before he enlisted into the Royal Navy on 2 July 1906.
After a period of training ashore and afloat at Portsmouth, Stoker Weeden joined the armoured cruiser HMS Drake. He remained in Drake, other than for periods of training ashore, until July 1909, when he was posted to various training establishments on the south coast. He transferred to the Royal Fleet Reserve on 2 July 1911.
On 11 April 1914 Alfred Weeden married Edith Mary Turner in St Andrew’s Church, Farnham. They lived with Alfred’s parents in Red Lion Lane, where their son, Alfred George, was born later that year and their daughter, Winifred, was born in 1917.
Just before the outbreak of war Weeden was mobilised and joined the armoured cruiser HMS Leviathan, on which he served until December 1917. Leviathan was an armoured cruiser, launched in 1901, placed in reserve in 1913 and recommissioned in 1914 and had just been recommisssioned. She served in 6th Cruiser Squadron until she became the flagship of Commander-in-Chief North America and West Indies Station in March 1915. HMS Leviathan sailed for Bermuda that month. See also Stoker Harry Miller.
Leviathan spent the next two years in Halifax or Bermuda, other than for a short trips to Newfoundland and the United States. She finally arrived back in Bermuda on 1 December 1917.
Although recorded as serving in HMS Leviathan when he died, in fact Stoker Weeden was on the crew of HMS Charybdis.
Charybdis was an obsolete protected cruiser, launched in June 1893, which had operated in the English channel as part of 12th Cruiser Squadron during the deployment of the British Expeditionary Force and had been one of the escorts of the first Canadian troop convoy across the Atlantic. In January 1915 she was damaged in a collision and laid up at Bermuda, where she acted as a depot ship.
From the spring of 1917, the SS Cascapedia had been operated by the Canada Steamship Lines on the New York-Bermuda service. The ship was not well suited for the task and the Bermudian Government negotiated the loan of HMS Charybdis to replace her. The final conversion to a passenger and cargo carrier would take place in New York but first she had to made seaworthy and a crew found for her. In December 1917, HMS Charybdis was readied for sea by work parties from HMS Leviathan and HMS Caesar and, on 15 December, 37 men were transferred from the crew of Leviathan to Charybdis, including Stoker Weeden, for her passage to New York. On 20 December she sailed arriving in New York a week or so later, coming alongside at a pier on the East River. Here work began to convert her to carry 65 passengers and her guns were removed. On 2 January tragedy struck when Stoker Weeden fell while boarding Charybdis—he drowned in the East River and his body was not recovered until 28 April.
He was buried in the Seaman’s Church Institute plot at The Evergreens Cemetery, Brooklyn. His gravestone is inscribed with the name of his previous ship, HMS Leviathan. There are 12 other CWGC burials in this cemetery.
His medals group comprises the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, and Victory Medal.
His youngest brother was also a sailor in the Royal Navy. Stoker Leslie George Weeden took part in the Victoria Cross action at Zeebrugge in April 1918. He died of pneumonia during the influenza pandemic on 18 October 1918 and was buried in Brindisi Communal Cemetery, Italy. His remains were reinterred in Bari War Cemetery in 1981.
William P. Gonzalez for the photograph of Stoker Weeden’s grave.
1. (Back) His service record indicates his birth year as 1886.
2. (Back) George Weeden (1844-1936) married Mary Ann Green (1850-1936) on 13 June 1868: Elizabeth (later Harris) (1868-NK); Caroline (later Smith) (1870-NK); Florence Jane (later Hopkins) (1871-1961); George (1873-1874); Samuel (1875-NK); William (26 March 1878-1962); Harriett (later Blackman) (1880-NK); Annie May (later Watkins) (1882-11 September 1960); Rosetta (later Driver) (1888-NK); Daisy Mary (later Spedding) (1892-1963); and Leslie George (1895-1918).
3. (Back) Allocated the number SS/103322.
4. (Back) Edith Mary Turner (18 February 1892-1971): Alfred George (14 September 1914-1991); and Winifred Mary (1917-NK). His wife remarried (William George Curtis) in 1921 and had four more children.
5. (Back) See also: Serjeant George Birkenhead, Trimmer John Walter Bowles, Able Seaman Thomas Drinkwater, Private William Richard Eveleigh, Leading Seaman William Charles John Geeves, Trimmer Percy Hyett, Able Seaman Patrick McDonagh, Stoker 1st Class Henry John Gardner Miller, Leading Seaman Sydney Stephen Milliner, Fireman Low On, Scullion William B. Parr, and Leading Seaman Sam Gordon Wills.
2 thoughts on “Stoker 1st Class Alfred Weeden”
As Alfred was my Great uncle by marriage it is very interesting to read this account however it does raise many questions. Why wasn’t his transfer from Leviathan listed in service record, why did it take four months to recover the body, how does someone fall while boarding and not get rescued, was there an inquest?
In answer to your questions: (1) Alfred Weeden was detached to a temporary duty to crew Charybdis to New York. He remained on the strength of the Leviathan for that duty. (2) The East River is tidal with strong currents, explaining why he was swept away. I have no indication of where or how his body was recovered. (3) This was more common that one might suppose. His service record indicates that it was on 2 January that he ‘was last seen alive‘ and after his body was recovered on 28 April a note was added to his record stating that ‘…he was last seen endeavouring to board Charybdis.’ The rest of the text is obscure but includes ‘fell into‘. If it was dark and with a strong current flowing there is little surprise that he was not found. Add to that he may have been knocked unconscious. That is speculation but possible. (4) I don’t know.
I hope that’s of use.