Alexander Sutherland was born on 20th May 1899 in the Scottish town of Brora. His parents were Peter and Jane Sutherland and he was one of four children, although, tragically, all three of his siblings died before they turned five.
There is little information documented about Alexander’s life: the 1901 census recorded him and his parents living with his paternal grandparents, but give little additional information. Peter died in March 1917, although, again, there is nothing to confirm a cause of death.
The document that provides the most detail about Alexander is his service record. He was too young to enlist when war broke out, but in August 1917, having turned 18, and possibly spurred on by the passing of his father, he joined the Royal Naval Reserve as a Seaman. The record shows that he was 5ft 11ins (1.8m) tall, had fair hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. He was also noted as having a scar on the left side of his neck.
Seaman Sutherlands’s first posting was at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent and he arrived there on 23rd August 1917. The base was a particularly busy place that summer, and Alexander was billeted in some overflow accommodation in the barracks’ Drill Hall.
On the night of the 3rd September 1917, Chatham was bombarded by a German air raid, and the Drill Hall received a direct hit. Tragically, Seamen Sutherland was amongst those killed. He was just 18 years old and had been at the base for just ten days, and on active service for just over a fortnight.
Alexander Sutherland’s body was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, alongside the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid.
Alexander’s death was particularly tragic for his mother, Jane. She had lost three children early on, and both her husband and last child within six months. Her torment must have been unimaginable.