Royal Navy obituary in the Times newspaper
Royal Navy obituary in the Times newspaper

Royal NavyObituaries

The following obituary for Alfred Phillipps Ryder appeared in the Times newspaper.

Obituary in the Times newspaper
2 May 1888

Drowning of Admiral Ryder.

Yesterday the particulars were made known of the death of Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Alfred Phillipps Ryder, K.C.B., which occurred on the previous day by drowning in the Thames under very melancholy circumstances. It appears that the Admiral, who resided at Wellswood-house, Torquay, was on a visit in London to his brothers in Pall-mall, and, as he had heen in rather indifferent health, he thought a trip on the river would do him good. On Monday afternoon he accompanied his brothers to the Vauxhall pier, where three tickets for Battersea were purchased. As an up-boat had only that moment left the pier, the gentlemen were informed that they had nearly a quarter of an hour to wait, and after a few seconds conversation the Messrs. Ryder retired to the small waiting-room, leaving the Admiral on the pier. Henry Bowden, a pierman, who was the only other person on the pier at the time of the occurrence, stated yesterday that he was sitting on a seat at the east end of the pier at a quarter to 4 when he noticed that the Admiral’s eyes were fixed upon him. He could see that his observer was a naval gentleman, so did not take any particular notice of his inspecting him. Bowden turned his head for a minute to look for some big craft coming up the river, when he heard cries of "A man in the water," and he saw that the Admiral had fallen off the back of the pier. He must have stooped to get between the two guard chains, and then he had to walk a distance of 4ft. to get to the edge of the pier; and Bowden thought he must have made a good jump, or else the tide would have carried him against the timber of the pier. Bowden went on to say that before he could make use of his hitcher or life buoy the tide, which was at strong flood, running up at the rate of 4½ miles an hour, had carried the unfortunate gentleman a distance of about 100 yards. A steam tug attempted to save him opposite Messrs. Rickett, Smith, and Co.'s wharf, but, finding he could not get close enough, the captain threw a barge oar within reach of the drowning Admiral, who did not grasp it. It is also stated that a young waterman rowed quite close to him and offered him his scull. The body eventually sank, and was recovered some two hours later by the Thames police, by whom it was removed to the Westminster mortuary, where it awaits an inquest.

The deceased officer was the junior of the six Admirals of the Fleet and had a long and distinguished service. He was born in 1820, the seventh son of Henry Ryder, sometime Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, who was third son of Nathaniel Ryder, who was created Baron Harrowby in 1776. Henry Ryder married Sophia, daughter of Thomas March Phillipps, of Garendon-park, Leicestershire, and it was from his mother that the subject of this notice took his second name. He entered the Navy as cadet in 1833 and after 52 years of service he gained the highest rank that can be reached by a naval officer. His commissions bore date - sub-lieutenant 1839, lieutenant 1841, commander 1846, captain 1848, rear-admiral 1866, vice-admiral 1872, admiral 1877, and Admiral of the Fleet 1885. In 1847 he was employed in North America and the West Indies in command of the Vixen, steam sloop, until May in the followiing year, when he was promoted for services at the capture of Serapique. During the war with Russia he was in command of the Dauntless in the Baltic and in the Mediterranean, and for his services in the war he received the medal with clasp and the Turkish medal, and the Medjidieh of the Fourth Class. He was Comptroller-General of Coastguard from 1863 to 1866, and until his promotion to the rank of Admiral was Naval Aide-de-Camp to Her Majesty. He was second in command of the Channel Squadron in 1868, after which date he was appointed as Naval Attaché to the British Embassy in Paris. In 1874 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief on the China station, which post he filled till 1877, and shortly afterwards was made Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth, where he remained till 1882. He was made a K.C.B. in 1884, and was a Commissioner for the Royal Patriotic Fund. Admiral Ryder was the author of a work on the saving of life at sea. He married in 1852 Louisa, daughter of the late Henry Dawson, of Launde-abbey, Leicestershire.

3 May 1888


Yesterday afternoon Mr. John Trentbeek, the deputy coroner, held an inquiry at the Westminster Sessionshouse into the circumstances attending the death of Admiral Sir Alfred Phillipps Ryder, K.C.B., who was drowned in the Thames, near the Vauxhall-road pier, on Monday afternoon.

Mr. William Dudley Ryder, of 40, Pall-mall, deposed that the deceased was his brother. He was 68 years of age, an Admiral of the Fleet, and resided at Wellswood, Torquay. On Monday afternoon witness accompanied him and another brother to the Vauxhall-road, Millbank, pier, where they arrived at about 4 o’clock. Having taken tickets for Chelsea they went down on the pontoon and, finding that they had some few minutes to wait for a boat, witness and his brother Richard entered a small waiting-room, leaving the Admiral walking to and fro on the pier. A few moments later a voice seemed to say, "A hat over," and, seeing a man hurrying along with a buoy in his hand, witness said, "What is the use of that for a hat?" He was then informed that the Admiral was overboard, but he only saw his hand above the water.

By the Coroner.- His brother had never threatened to commit suicide, but he had been depressed. Of late he had not been very well. He had been staying ten days in London. His family did not consider him at all likely to commit suicide, and witness knew of nothing that would cause him to do so. After the occurrence had taken place the chains of the pier were in their usual condition.

Mr. Richard Jordan Ryder corroborated his brother's evidence, and added that the Admiral wanted to go for a trip on the river for the fresh air.

Mr. Ferdinand Wallis, of 21, Bessborough-gardens, Pimlico, stated that he was standing about a yard from the Admiral at the time. He saw him stoop down and pass between the two chains of the pier, give two or three little runs, and jump into the water. He could not have accidentally fallen into the river. In witness’s opinion he did it intentionally. He did not say anything before he left the pier. There was nothing peculiar in his appearance that he could see.

By the Coroner.- The Admiral did not overbalance himself while looking into the water. There were not many people on the pier just them. Witness at once raised an alarm, but before anything could be done the tide, which was very strong, had carried the body some distance up the river. An oar was thrown to the deceased from a steam-tug, but witness did not see what became of it. There was a space of a yard or a yard and a half from the chain to the edge of the pier. He was positive that the Admiral bent down to get under the top chain, and that he stepped over the lower one. He did not think the deceased saw him.

Henry Bowden, one of the piermen, said that he had noticed Admiral Ryder watching him very closely, and as witness had been in the Navy he thought that perhaps the Admiral had recognized him as one of his former shipmates. Witness turned his head to look at some loaded barges, when the last witness shouted out that the gentleman had jumped into the water. With that witness called to the men of a steam tug to sheer in, and as they could not get close enough to the Admiral they threw him a barge oar, which, however, he would not take hold of, although it was only a yard from him. A young waterman also offered him a scull.

The Coroner.- Did you see all this yourself ? - Yes.

By the jury.- In the excitement of the moment the last witness might have said, "The gentleman has fallen in," but his impression was that he used the word "jumped."

Dr. W.D. Smallpiece, who was called to examine the body, said that death was due to suffocation by drowning. It was quite possible that the deceased fainted and fell into the water.

Dr. J.W. Ogle, a physician, of Cavendish-square, stated that he attended the Admiral four times in the course of last week. He had been attended by a physician at Torquay, and the latter wrote to witness explaining his symptoms, which he found to be in accordance with his own ideas. The first time that he saw him was on Tuesday, the 24th ult., when he came to his house with one of his brothers, and he saw him for the last time on Sunday, when he was depressed and in a very feeble state of health. He considered that he had a very weak heart. His memory was failing, and he was much afraid he had got some brain disease. Witness continued the treatment adopted by his medical man at Torquay, and asked his patient to write him a letter on Monday, the day of the occurrence. At about 1 o’clock on that day witness received the following note, which would explain his mental condition "You wished to know how I was about noon to-day. I had sleep from your night draught. I do not quite know how much - about three hours, I think. Will you look in after 5 o’clock about medicine?" Witness could not go at 5 o’clock, and when he called an hour later he heard of the news.

By the Coroner.- The Admiral did suffer from want of sleep. He never had the least reason to think that he was despondent about his ill-health, and he did not think from his own observation that he contemplated suicide. The mind of a person suffering as he did might suddenly become deranged.

Mr. W.D. Ryder, recalled, said he thought his brother had an apoplectic seizure on one occasion, because he became unconscious and rigid. He could swim, but very little.

This concluding the evidence, the Coroner summed up, and the jury, after 20 minutes deliberation in private, returned a verdict "That the deceased dropped into the water while suffering from a fit of apoplexy." They also expressed their sympathy with the family of the late Admiral.

The funeral of Sir Alfred Ryder will take place on Saturday at the parish church of Hambleden, near to Henley-on-Thames.

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