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Alan Charles Henderson Duke Lt Commander

Alan Charles Henderson Duke was born on 8th June 1886 in Sandhurst, Berkshire, to parents Alexander Duke, a Colonel in the R.A.M.C and Frances Parr and one of four children.

He is not found on the 1891 census after his birth, it is possible he was in Gibraltar as his brother was born on the island in 1889.

He entered Navy service on 15th January 1901, beginning his training on HMS Britannia until 14th May 1902, with a "zealous and active" character, recorded on the 1901 census as a Naval Cadet, stationed at Plymouth. He moved to HMS St George on 15th May, still as a Cadet, rising to a Midshipman on 30th June and leaving on 7th November 1902.

He gradually worked his way up the ranks over the next 10 years, serving aboard HMS Good Hope for almost 3 years, Donegal, Devonshire and Cheerful (Sapphire), becoming Sub Lieutenant on 30th September 1905 and Lieutenant on 1st April 1908. He was always described by his Captains as zealous, except when stationed on HMS Merlin under Captain Walter. During April 1909 Duke is described as "a v. slack and ignorant young officer who is also slightly deaf. Physique poor and I doubt whether he will be able to stand the surveying work in a tropical climate".

He stayed aboard HMS Merlin for a further 2 years, "normal physical qualities, suffers much from sea sickness which incapacitates him" transfering to HMS Revenge on 31st July 1911, for 2 weeks.

Further ships included HMS Nereide, Blake, Vivid (for Youth’s Training Establishment) and Leander, up until 25th August 1914. It was while aboard Nereide that it was remarked that by “medical opinion that this officer is quite unfit for destroyer service through sea sickness”. His character and ability records improved, noted as "keen, painstaking but rather excitable and lacking in tact - has kept ship in good order". Additionally while attached to Nereide Alan married Marion Margaret Elizabeth Homan on 21st March 1912 in Tunbridge Wells.

The impending outbreak of war saw Alan, like so many others, file a will, leaving everything he owned and earned to his wife signing the document on 31st July 1914, witnessed by two domestics, Edith Triplett and Florence Algar.

Section of Alan Duke's Will - image from

Following service on Leander, Alan transferred to HMS Queen from 2nd September 1914 to 17th March 1916 - In January 1916 he volunteered for duty as Commanding Officer of Rigid Airships but was not selected; he transferred to HMS Dublin on 23rd March 1916, becoming a Lt Commander on 1st April 1916 and serving aboard during the Battle of Jutland - his Captain, Cptn Scott wrote "a very zealous and hardworking officer - was Gunnery Officer during action 31st May and carried out his duties entirely to my satisfaction". Captain Scott continued, (Dec 1916) with "this officer is quite unable to carry out his duties in bad weather, request he may be relieved due to sea sickness”. It seems this recommendation was acted upon, as Duke joined HMS Vanguard on New Year's Day 1917.

Alan Duke initially survived the explosion of 9th July 1917, along with 2 other crew members. He was transferred to the Hospital Ship Garth Castle, within the Orkney Islands, where he died of his wounds 2 days later, on the 11th July 1917.

He was buried in Lyness Naval Cemetery, his Star, Victory and British medals awarded to his widow Marion.

Photo credit -

#211 - 843/843


England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915 - Free BMD

1901 & 1911 England Census

Royal Naval Officers' Service Records Index, 1756-1931 -

The National Archives Kew; Admiralty and predecessors: Office of the Director General of the Medical Department of the Navy and predecessors: Service Registers and Registers of Deaths and Injuries. Registers of Reports of Deaths

England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915 - Free BMD

England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, 1973-1995

Daily Mirror - British Newspaper Archives 14th July 1917

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