Frederick Walter Reyner was born in Braintree, Essex, on 18th May 1884. The youngest of five children, his parents were Stephen and Martha Reyner. Stephen was a carpenter, who raised his family alone, when Martha passed away in 1889.
When Frederick left school, he found work as an iron worker. When Stephen also died in 1902, Frederick moved in with his older brother, Henry.
His father’s death seemed to have been the spur he needed to move on to bigger and better things: on 21st April 1904, Frederick enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class for an initial period of five years. His service records show that he stood 5ft 4ins (1.63m) tall, had brown hair, brown eyes and a fresh complexion, with a small scar on his left thumb as an identifying mark.
Over the course of his term of service, Stoker Reyner served on three ships – HMS Acheron, Berwick and Irresistible – and was promoted to Stoker 1st Class. After each voyage, he returned to HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent.
When his initial term ended in 1909, Frederick was placed on reserve, and moved back in with Henry and his family. He worked to pay his way, finding employment as a postman around Brixton, where his brother lived. He met local woman Charlotte Rebecca Scott, and the couple married in St Andrew’s Church, Peckham, on 31st May 1914.
War, by this time, was imminent, and Frederick soon found himself called back in to action. After spending a year on shore, at HMS Pembroke and HMS Victory – the Naval Dockyard in Portsmouth – Stoker Reyner was assigned to HMS Europa, a cruiser that patrolled the Eastern Mediterranean. He spent two years on board, before returning to HMS Pembroke in July 1917.
The base was particularly busy that summer, and the large number of extra servicemen meant that Frederick was billeted in temporary accommodation in Chatham Drill Hall.
On the 3rd September 1917, the first night air raid carried out by the German Air Force bombarded the town, and scored a direct hit on the Drill Hall; Stoker 1st Class Reyner was among those killed instantly. He was 33 years old.
Frederick Walter Reyner was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham. Tragically, the Navy Death Records state that he was Buried as unidentified in one of the following graves: 516, 522, 642, 735, 935, 937 or 948.
To add to the sadness of Frederick’s story, Charlotte was pregnant when he died. She gave birth on 31st May 1918, to a son who she named in memory of her late husband.