Frederick Lutitt was born on 23rd May 1897, one of thirteen children – and one of twins – to Thomas and Mary Lutitt. Thomas was a sailor and so was away at sea a lot of the time. This left Mary raising the family alone, and the conditions seemed to have been against her.
The 1891 census recorded Mary as living at 11 Meard Street in St James, London. She was sharing the property with four other families at the time, although, with eight children by this point, hers was the largest. She was 40 year old and was earning some money working as a tailoress, as where here two oldest daughters.
Ten years later, and by now Mary was living in a new house; Thomas was away again, but four of her children – including Frederick – were still living at home, and there was also a boarder, 16-year old printer’s boy Albert Poulter. Frederick and his twin, Charles, were working as errand boys at the local docks, while Mary was still tailoring.
Frederick was keen on bettering himself, however, and, on 25th January 1906, he enlisted in the Royal Navy. He signed up as a Stoker 2nd Class for an initial five year term of service, with another seven years in the reserve. His service records show that he has begun work as a labourer, and that he was 5ft 3.5ins (1.61m) tall, had brown hair, brown eyes and a fresh complexion.
Stoker Lutitt served on four ships during his term of service – HMS Acheron, Attentive, Endymion and Indomitable – and was promoted to Stoker 1st Class. Between each posting, however, he returned to his base port, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, which was also known as HMS Pembroke.
Frederick was stood down from active duty in January 1911 and that year’s census found him living back with his family in two rooms off Tottenham Court Road. Tailoress Mary was still very much the head of the household, with Frederick and Charles – who was employed as a trouser presser still at home. Mary’s daughter, Ada, had moved back in with her two children in tow.
Storm clouds were gathering over Europe, and Frederick’s time on reserve was limited. He was recalled to HMS Pembroke in October 1912, and soon found himself at sea, on board the cruiser HMS St George. The following year, he was assigned to another cruiser – HMS Apollo – which had been converted to a minelayer.
Romance was in the air for Stoker Luttit, and on 11th April 1914, he married Edith Lambert. She was a plumber’s daughter from Kentish Town, and the couple wed at St Pancras Register Office, while he was on leave.
Two further postings awaited Frederick, the minesweeper HMS Bluebell and the coastguard gunboat, HMS Colleen. By July 1917, however, he found himself back at the dockyard in Chatham. It was a busy place that summer, and temporary accommodation was installed at Chatham Drill Hall. Frederick found himself billeted there.
On the 3rd September 1917, the German Air Force carried out its first night air raid: Chatham was heavily bombed and the Drill Hall received a direct hit; Stoker 1st Class Lutitt was among those killed instantly. He was just 30 years of age.
Frederick Lutitt was laid to rest, alongside the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham.
Frederick’s headstone gives the incorrect initial, but the details are correct.
Frederick’s older brother, Richard, served in the army. Initially enlisting in 1893, he served in Malta. He was called back into service in April 1915, joining the West Riding Regiment as a Private. Sent to France, he was killed on 12th December 1917, at the age of 42 years old; he left behind a widow and five daughters. He was buried at the Windmill British Cemetery in Monchy-le-Prieu.