An Old Coathamian – Not Forgotten


Lieutenant, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve;
H.M.S. ‘Aldenham’.

Died 14 December 1944, aged 24.

Commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, Devon,
Panel 92, Column 3.

H.M.S. ‘Aldenham’, an escort destroyer on operations to assist Yugoslav partisans, broke in half and quickly sank after hitting a mine in the north-eastern Adriatic Sea. She was the last British destroyer to be sunk in the Second World War. A third of her crew – 63 of them – were pulled out of the water and saved by her sister destroyer, H.M.S. ‘Atherstone’, but the remaining 126, including Lieutenant Watson, were lost to the sea.

The Plymouth Naval Memorial commemorates 15,933 sailors of the Royal Navy who lost their lives in the Second World War, as well as 7,251 in the First World War, and whose only grave is the sea.

Alfred Watson was the son of Alfred John Watson and Ethel Watson from Bishop Auckland in County Durham. His father was a dentist and Alfred came to Coatham School in September 1933 as a boarder in School House, joining Form IIB. By December 1936 he had been promoted to Form VA and was a school monitor. He played rugby for his house and the school in 1937, the same year as he passed his School Certificate examinations. As well as being a school prefect in 1937-38, he joined the science sixth form for one year. A letter from the Old Coathamians at Durham University, dated December 1938, confirms that he went there as a student, to read dentistry. In 1940 he was on the first published list of Old Coathamians in H.M. Forces, with his rank then of R.N. Midshipman noted. He was first listed on the School’s Roll of Honour in June 1945.