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Person Details
St Germans, Cornwall
Algernon was born in 1887 (registered Oct/Nov/Dec) in St Germans, Cornwall, the only son of Rev. Algernon Sydney Osborne Sweet and Alice Mary Sweet (nee Belfast). Algernon and Alice were married in the church of St Thomas, Devon, in 1880 (registration Jan/Feb/Mar). It appears that they moved to Canada immediately after their marriage as they, together with their first child, Julia, and an Amy Sweet (35, b. England), are recorded in Muskoka, Ontario, on the Canadian 1881 census. Their first three children were born in Canada. However, they had returned to England by the time of the birth of their fourth child, Florence, who was born in Cornwall c.1886. At the time of the 1891 census Algernon senior (36) was the vicar of St Margaret of Antioch, Cowlinge, Suffolk, and he and Alice (37) had five children: Julia MA (10, b. Canada), Amy Amphillis E. (7, b. Canada), Alice M.V. (6, b. Canada), Florence E.M. (5) and Algernon Sidney Osborne (3). Amy died some months later at the age of 8 (death registered July/Aug/Sep 1891, Risebridge, Suffolk). Algernon still had the same living ten years later in 1901 and three more daughters had been born to him and his wife: Grace E.M. (8), Maude S.E. (7) and Dorothy A.R. (3) and they, together with their siblings, Alice M.V. and Algernon, were at home the night of the census but their two other surviving sisters, Julia and Florence, were not recorded in the household. Reverend Sweet died in 1907, age 52 (registered July/Aug/Sept, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk). At the time of the 1911 census, when Algernon was 23, he was a boarder at the House of the Sacred Mission, Kelham, Newark upon Trent, where he was a divinity student. The same year his widowed mother was living as a boarder at 'Travershes', 8 The Beacon, Withycombe Raleigh, Exmouth, Devon - the address given on the CWGC record and also as Algernon's address on the probate record. The 1911 census records that she had been married for 27 years and had had eight children born living of whom seven were still alive at the time of the census.
He attended King Edward 6th Free Grammar School, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. In 1897 he was a chorister at the church of St Mary the Virgin, Hardwick (Clumber Park); his parents were probably still living in Suffolk where his father was the vicar at Cowlinge, so Algernon may have been living temporarily in Nottinghamshire with relations or family friends. He trained for the priesthood at Kelham Theological College, Newark, in 1906. He was made a deacon in 1911 and ordained priest in 1912. He was curate of Forton in the Diocese of Winchester until 1911 and then a curate in Gosport until 1914. He became a chaplain in the Royal Navy in 1914.
31 Dec 1915
4005075 - CWGC Website
HMS Natal Royal Navy
HMS Natal was a ‘Warrior Class’ armed cruiser of 13550 tons. She was launched at Barrow in Furness in 1904 and had an interesting history before the First World War. In 1914 she joined the Second Cruiser Squadron, which by 1915 was based in the Cromarty Firth at Invergordon, in the north of Scotland. Sweet served as the ship's Anglican chaplain. During the afternoon of the 30th December 1915, the ship, under the command of Captain Eric Back, blew up at anchor in the Cromarty Firth as the result of an internal explosion. There was a great loss of life; over 400 crew and civilian visitors, including women and children, died in the explosion. It is believed that nursing officers from the shore base and families had been invited onboard for a film show. Around 400 of the crew survived. 'The cause of the sinking was unrecognised for some time, submarine attack, mining and sabotage being all considered possible. Evidence from examination by divers led to the conclusion that the vessel was sunk by the accidental explosion of 'questionable' cordite. An internal explosion in or near the after 9.2in shell room broke the ship's back over a length of 18ft (5.5m) and tore a hole 24ft (7.3m) across in the hull. Damage was more pronounced on the port side, upon which the ship settled at an angle of about 135 degrees, the starboard bilge keel becoming vertical. The ship was found to lie on a mud bottom at a depth of 8.5 fathoms (15.5m) aft and 9 fathoms (16.5m) forward. Reassessment has suggested that the explosion took place in the 3-pdr and small arms magazine rather than in the 9.2in shell room.' (canmore.org.uk/site/101920/hms-natal-nigg-bay-cromarty-firth) Much of the structure of HMS Natal was salvaged in the 1920s but the wreck was subject to demolition operations in the 1970s as it was a hazard to navigation. (See website for details.) The wreck is a war grave and as such designated as a protected place under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 (site number NH76NE 8001). Sweet's body was not recovered and he is commemorated on the Chatham Royal Naval memorial.
There are variations in the spelling of father and son's first names: Sidney/Sydney and Osbourne/Osborne. He is also commemorated on the Exmouth war memorial; his mother moved to the town after she was widowed. There is a memorial garden, 'Natal Garden', in Invergordon, Scotland, and also a memorial in Durban, South Africa. Probate 8 April 1916: 'Sweet the Reverend Algernon Sidney Osborne of Travershes Exmouth Devonshire clerk chaplain RN died 30 December 1915 in the explosion of board HMS Natal Probate Exeter 8 April to Alice Mary Sweet widow [mother]. Effects £67 9s 2d.' Artefacts from HMS Natal are on display in the Invergordon Heritage and Naval Museum.
Remembered on