Watts, John Sidney George. Died 30th Jul 1917

John Sidney George WATTS was born in 1896 in Rugby and registered in the last quarter of that year as Sidney George Watts. He was the middle of the five sons of Albert Edward Watts and his wife Annie Elizabeth (née Bailey). His father, Albert, was born in Newbold and worked as a railway engine stoker on the L & N W railway.

In 1901, he was four years old and enumerated as John S G Watts. His family was living in Old Station Square, Rugby. By 1911 they had moved to 38 Dale Street, Rugby. He was now 14 and enumerated as ‘Sidney George Watts’ and was working as a grocer’s errand boy.

Henry’s Service Records do not survive so little is known of his Service Career. It is not known when he joined up, although he enlisted at Rugby,[1] probably later in 1915, as he did not receive the 1915 Star, and thus there was no embarkation date on his Medal Card. He would not have been 18 years old until just before 1915.

He joined up as a Private, No.28015 in the 10th (Service) Battalion (Bn.) of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment (RWarR). 

The 10th (Service) Battalion was formed in Warwick in August 1914 as part of the Second New Army (K2) and then moved to Salisbury Plain and joined the 57th Brigade of the 19th Division. In March 1915 they moved to Tidworth.

On 17 July 1915 they mobilised for war and landed in France and the Division engaged in various actions on the Western Front. In 1915: the Action of Pietre; in 1916: the Battle of Albert; the attacks on High Wood; the Battle of Pozieres Ridge; the Battle of the Ancre Heights and the Battle of the Ancre. John would have joined with a draft of reinforcements and was possibly involved in some of these but more probably was in action in 1917 in the Battle of Messines. The Battalion would be later involved in the various actions of the Third Battle of Ypres which started on 31 July 1917.

John was probably wounded during the various aftermaths of the Battle of Messines (7-14 June 1917) and during the preparations for the Third Battle of Ypres, probably during the few days before that battle.

The reports in the 10th Battalion War Diary,[2] for the weeks before John’s death, provides the following summary of information:

On 10 July 1917 the Battalion which had been in reserve, was relieved and for a period in mid-July formed working parties until 17 July when further training started. On 19 July there was an inspection by the GOC of 57th Brigade. On 20 July one OR [Other Rank] was wounded during training. At night on 22 July, the Battalion relieved the 7th Bn., Loyal North Lancashire Regiment in the trenches at Roozebeek, Delbske Farm and Denys Wood. They remained in the trenches until relieved on 29 July 1917 when they returned to hutments at Butterfly Farm – the Butterfly was the symbol of the 57th Brigade. During this period of seven days in the trenches, the Battalion was subjected to intermittent shelling, a fairly ineffective gas attacks and particularly heavy shelling on 28 July. There were continuing casualties with ORs killed and/or wounded each day: 23 July – 4 wounded; 24 July – 2 killed, 3 wounded; 25 July – 3 killed, 4 wounded; 26 July – 1 killed, 10 wounded; 27 July – 1 killed, 6 wounded; 28 July – 1 killed, 4 wounded; 29 July – 3 wounded.

During that week of comparative ‘routine’ in the trenches, 34 men were wounded – one of these was probably John Watts – unless he had been wounded some time before, but in that case he would probably have already been evacuated to a hospital further west or even back to England.

He was probably evacuated to an aid post and then through the field ambulance system back to the Convent of St. Antoine in Locre, some 10kms west of the Oosttaverne area, where he had been in action, and some 10kms south-west of Ieper [Ypres]. He was probably at the Convent when he died of his wounds on 30 July 1917.

He was buried in Grave Ref: I. B. 9. in the adjacent Locre (now Loker) Hospice Cemetery. This was in Allied hands during the greater part of the war, and field ambulances were stationed in the Convent of St. Antoine. The Hospice Cemetery was begun in June 1917 by field ambulances and fighting units and was used until April 1918.

John Sidney Watts was awarded the British War and Victory Medals and is also commemorated on the Rugby Memorial Gates in Hillmorton Road.

Two payments were made to his mother, Annie Elizabeth, as sole legatee: £15-12-2d owing in back pay on 22 October 1917 and a War Gratuity of £14-0-0d on 4 November 1919.

John Sidney Watts’ brother, Albert Edward Joseph Watts (below left), was also killed in the War. His biography was published in Rugby Remembers on 26 August 1914.[3] He had joined up very early in the war and went to France on 22 August with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and was killed four days later on 26 August in the Battle of Le Cateau and buried in Fontaine-Au-Pire Communal Cemetery, Plot 1, Row A, Grave No. 3.

There is a story in the family that Albert and John’s mother wore a Royal Warwickshire tie brooch for the rest of her life.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

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This article on John Sidney WATTS was researched and written for the Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson with additional material, particularly on his brother, Albert Watts, from Catherine Corley and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, July 2017.

[1]       As detailed in Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919.

[2]       The National Archives, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Piece 2085/3, 10 Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, July 1915-March 1919.

[3]       https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/watts-albert-edward-joseph-died-26-aug-1914/

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