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Robert Watt


WW1 - The Ypres Salient Battlefields, Belgium

2nd Lieutenant

11th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment), 54th Infantry Brigade, 18th Division

Age: 24

Date of Death: 10.8.17

Buried: Tyne Cot Cemetery XLIV.B.1

Family history: Son of William Watt, of Old Dock Gates, Grangemouth. Prior to enlisting in August 1914 he was employed as a Clerk in the Cooperative Soup works in Grangemouth. He was promoted from the rank of Serjeant Major to 2nd Lieutenant.


The action leading to his death

On the 10 August the 18th Division was engaged in the fighting for Glencorse Wood and Inverness Copse on the Menin Road. The 54th Brigade were asked to take defences in front of the wood, and then to fight their way through it up to the edge of Nonne Boschen Wood. It meant crossing a morass that was littered with derelict tanks and German pill boxes, ten of which stood at the south-west corner of the wood. The Bedfords, with the Fusiliers on their right, formed up near the Hooge-Menin Road with the two battalions stretched out across a front of about 750 yards. The attack opened at 4.35am and by 5.13am the Bedfords had reached their final objective. The Fusiliers had encountered a withering fire from machine guns and having lost practically all their officers the had made slow progress. Portions of the two attacking companies reached the objectives however, a gap of some 300 yards separated the battalion from the Bedfords further north. The right of the battalion had reached Fitzclarence Farm, but could not get in touch with the 55th Brigade and by 6am all of the Fusiliers officers were dead or wounded.

WW1 - The Ypres Salient Battlefields, Belgium
Linesman Map

The German now counter attacked from Inverness Copse up Jargon Trench proceeded by bombing parties and their machine guns forced the Fusiliers back Under orders from the 54th Brigade the battalion took up a line on the ridge in front of Clapham Junction. A fusilier officer wrote of the action: ‘The barrage opened at dawn and the men got away very well. They got into Glencorse Wood, and, on the open ground, some of ‘D’ Company, including Captain Gray, got right up to Fitzclarence Farm… Casualties had been very heavy, especially amongst officers. In ‘B’ Company, Captain Fuller was shot through the head while trying with his Lewis gun Sergeant Franklin to rush a machine gun in a concrete emplacement. Horton, his second in command, was hit by a bullet through the chest shortly after leaving the strong point. Calthorpe had been killed. In ‘D’ Company, Gray was last seen lying in a shell hole close to Fitzclarence Farm, shot through both knees and using his revolver over the top of the shell hole. Watt, commanding ‘C’ Company, was twice wounded, but continued fighting until wounded again, this time mortally.


The situation was now critical with no few men left and no troops in reserve behind the battalion and Sanctuary Wood. However, Lewis guns, and later, machine guns were brought up to cover the gap on the battalions right and Battalion HQ and all available men, servants, runners, pioneers along with a company of the Middlesex Regiment helped to save the day.


Robert’s commanding officer Lt Col P.P. Carr DSO, wrote to his parents to advise them that Robert came under the ‘missing’ list and that: ‘Had was wounded altogether three times - yet he continued fighting after the first two wounds in the most splendid manner…. I regret to be of the opinion that he is almost without doubt dead.’ Captain George Deakin, commandant wrote to Robert’s parents: ‘Your son is missing in circumstances that leave little room for hope.’

WW1 - The Ypres Salient Battlefields, Belgium
War Diary entry listing Robert as missing

Robert’s body was found on the battlefield after the war, he was identified from his cigarette case, and is buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery.

WW1 - The Ypres Salient Battlefields, Belgium
CWGC Records

Headstone

WW1- The Ypres Salient Battlefields, Belgium
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