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Lt John Watt, shot Ireland 1921, body recovered 1962

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A British officer, believed by the IRA, to have been John Watt (no known regiment and a very common name - over 20 on TNA files) was kidnapped and shot in Jun 1921. Experience leads me to believe that the name "John Watt" is substantially correct - men about to die had due cause to tell their real name, but it does rely on the Irish perceivence of "Watt" (Watts, Wattie, Watte,..)

He was buried in a bog by the IRA and in 1962 turf cutters found the grave


He was then re-buried in a churchyard, and I now have his grave location and photo


Michael Farry who wrote a book about the War of Independence "Sligo" was kind enough to send me the photos and noted "

It's actually sad to be there and realise that no-one of his family ever knew where he ended up, in a remote Irish graveyard among Kelly and McDonaghs.



So I have the grave, but I cannot find who Lt Watt(s) was. The British were negligent at reporting missing soldiers, and apparently have not expressed any interest in his reburial - at least I cannot uncover any correspondence from the discovery in 1962.

The only way I can see to solve his identity would be to find who was garrisoned in the area - there are 3 or 4 possible locations. Sadly dates of British Regiments being based in particular out-stations are also difficult to find

There is an IRA Witness Statement WS 1312 John Joe Dockery, Ballymote, Co Sligo, 4th Battalion Sligo IRA, Intelligence Officer. In June, 1921, it was reported to me that some soldiers had deserted from the British Army unit stationed at Boyle and were knocking about in our area. One of them was arrested by Volunteers from the 5th Battalion near Riverstown. I was summoned to act as a member of the courtmartial. Sufficient evidence was available to convict him as a spy and he was sentenced to death. The sentence was duly carried out. He admitted that he was a member of the British forces; he stated he was a private soldier; he was, in fact, a commissioned officer in the British Army with the rank of lieutenant. His name was Watt. A Question was later asked In the British House of Commons as to his. fate. This gave us the facts as to his identity and confirmed our earlier decision. I cannot get a Hansard question that might get us any further.

Basically I have run out of ideas in trying to establish who he was. Can anyone help?

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Hi Corisande

I was talking to mhifle about this and hte Yacomeni case last night.

From your earlier thread and your notes, I think we can remove Lt JJ Watt 6th Black Watch from your list of possibles. His MC register card shows he was decorated with the medal in July 1921.Also, the only single initial J Watt I can find getting an MC was Lt James Watt who was attached to 9th KOYLI but he too was decorated with his medal in July 1921.I can't find a service record under the old reference.

As for the others, the WO 338 index shows several options:

- John Morrison Clark Watt showing on the General List (IWT) there is no MC recorded against his name but he has a service record at Kew in WO 339/101059 though

- James Watt RE(IWT) with no MC listed or a service record under the old reference

- Joseph James Watt RE(IWT) no MIC but a service record in WO 339/85079

- J S F Watt Spec List IWT with no MC but a service record in WO 339/106507

The 2 men in 4th Gordon HIghlanders will be in the WO 374 TF officer files which makes life a bit more awkward as there is no index to them.

If we can get it down to a managable number, I can have a look the next time I'm in Kew.




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Thanks for the input.

The problem here is that his name of John Watt(s) given to his captors, is not necessarily his complete name. In other words he told them what they perceived as "John Watt" - but that does not mean that his name was not "John XYZ Watt" or "John XYZ Watts". I looked in WO338 when trying to get him, and there were too many options with "John" let alone when you include "J" without an Christian name.

The 1920 Army list may be a better guide as it presumably rules out men who had left the Army by then. But I cannot link any of those men to service in Ireland.

The key, I think as I have no better way of trying to hone in on the right man, is to get a list of British regiments in the area at that time. The two Irish documents are suggesting that he was stationed at either (but I guess could be another base in the area)

Drumdoe, Lord French's home. (East Yorks Regt probably stationed in Drumdoe at this time)

OR Boyle ( Bedfordshire probably at Boyle. At some stage the 2nd Suffolk Regiment had their H.Q. at Boyle, as did 1st Leicestershire

I am not really satisfied that I have a full list of regiment stationed in the locality

The men in the Army List seem to be Black Watch or Gordons - neither regiment seems to have been based in the area at that time

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Guest Kieran Finn

Two members of the East Yorkshire Regt stationed at Drumdoe gave evidence at the Court Martial of my father (John Finn) in Belfast on 06/09/1920. They were :

Private W. Newby, No. 42620.

Private Walter Morley, No. 42937.

Morley states that on a Saturday at the begining of August (Newby says 02/08/1920) he, together with Newby and two other soldiers 'absented' themselves from their unit. The first night was spent in Keash and the following day, Newby and Morley went to Gurteen. The local Sinn Fein appears to have accepted them as deserters, provided them with food and civilian clothing, found them work and accommodation locally, and reassured them as to their safety.

Two or three days later the soldiers went to Ballymote and gave themselves up at the local police station.

On orders from the Chief Secretary's Office, Dublin Castle, my father was charges under section 42 AA of the D.R.R. (Defence of the Realm Regulations) with assisting the soldiers to exchange their uniforms for civilian clothing. This section of the D.R.R. concerns deserters, and the soldiers are referred to as deserters in offical British documents at the time.

Newby and Morley give no account as to what became of the other two soldiers.

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