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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 241608
1st/6th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment
Who died on Tuesday, 18th August 1916
Age 31

No Known Grave. Pier & Face 9A 9B & 10B
Thiepval "Memorial to the Missing", Somme, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Thiepval Memorial

Thiepval "Memorial to the Missing", France1

Joseph Thomas Watts was born in Beeston in 1885 2, the second child, second son of Arthur (b. c1862, Nottingham) and Sarah Ann Watts (b. 1861, Beeston, Notts née Knowles). The family made their home at 14 City Road, Beeston, with Arthur working as a hosiery maker. By 1901, both Joseph and his elder brother William were working as filers in a cycle works, probably Humbers3. In 1911, William was working at Ericssons as a telephone instrument maker and Lily was also working there as a french polisher. Joseph was still working in the cycle trade as a plater, probably having followed Humbers to Coventry when the firm left Beeston in 19084. This may well explain his choice of regiment when he later enlisted.

As Joseph's Army Service Record has not survived, we do not have a precise record of when he enlisted with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, but it likely to have been sometime around the beginning of 1916. He become part of 1/6th Battalion, a unit of the Territorial Force which had been mobilised immediately after war was declared in August 1914 and, after training, had landed in France on the 22nd March 1915 and became part of 143 Brigade, 48th (South Midland) Division5. Joseph, who enlisted at Coventry, would have been part of later reinforcements who arrived in France in 1916.

In the summer of 1916, 48th Division, took part in the Battle of the Somme. In July they took part in The Battle of Bazentin Ridge, during which the town of Ovillers was captured. From there, they fought, alongside Australian Divisions, in the Battle of Pozieres Ridge. In further operations, on the afternoon of 18th August 1916, the 5th & 6th Battalions Royal Warwickshire Regiment, then at Ovillers, were ordered to attack the enemy, advancing in waves before establishing a new line, while supported, in turn, by heavy artillery, a shrapnel barrage and a machine gun barrage. Smoke cover was planned and confidence in the expected success of the attacks was high6. Nevertheless, it was during this attack that Private Watts was killed.

Private Watt's body was never identified and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing which now stands adjacent to the Leipzig Redoubt. The memorial was unveiled on the 1st August 1932 by the then Prince of Wales and is the largest British War Memorial in the world. Standing 150 feet high, it dominates the surrounding area. The memorial stands on a concrete raft 10ft thick, built 19ft below the ground, the solution to the problems of building over the warren of tunnels that formed the German second line. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens the memorial has sixteen masonry piers, where can be found, on the panel faces, the names of some 72,000 British and 830 South African soldiers who died and have no known grave, during the period starting in July 1915, when the British Third Army took over from the French, through the Somme battles of 1916, until 20th March 1918, the eve of the last great German offensive on the Somme. The focal point of the memorial is the Stone of Remembrance, which lies under the great arch and centrally between the piers, for which Rudyard Kipling chose a quotation from Ecclesiasticus, "There name liveth forevermore".

Private Watt was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. His father was paid Joseph's financial effects of 2 6s 6d on 10 October 1917 and his War Gratuity of 3 on 8 October 1919.7.

1The photograph of the Thiepval Memorial is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q1/1885 (Ref 7b 191)
3Beeston, 1901 Census, Piece 3153 Folio 111
Joseph's siblings were William Henry (b. 1883), Arthur (b. c1888) and Lily (1890-1974). In 1912, Lily married Oscar Hallam, part of the well-known family of greengrocers.
4Beeston, 1911 Census, Piece 20431 RD429 SD3 ED6 Schedule 259
5Details of the battalion mobilisation, training and early involvement in France are from www.wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/allied/battalion.php?pid=875 .
6Details the battalion's planned attack on 18th August is from the battalion war diary. While, the detailed orders for the attack are included, there is little or nothing recorded there as to the outcome or casualties.
7Details from Joseph's Medal Card and the "Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929" - available on ancestry.com. The amount of the gratuity tends to confirm that Joseph had served for less that 12 months when he was killed. An earlier service number of 5193 is mentioned occasionally in these records.

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