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Remembered Today:

Royal Sussex Regiment JHC Watson


Geoff1984
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Hi All,

I suppose this is a final plea, as I have completed a vast amount of research on my Great Grandfather, Joseph Henry Cook Watson born in Brede East Sussex. He joined the Royal Sussex in December 1914, SD3041, then I have tracked him using the war diaries and records office in Chichester until Battle of Boars Head, where he was wounded.

He then rejoined the 2nd RSR G6601 a few months later, was wounded again in 1917, and again in 1918. One was Gas, the other Shrapnel. Towards the end of the war he was awarded the MM.

I have searched local newspaper records (just found his wedding in the local press along with his cricket scores!) and any military data base, and not found out why and how he won this, this is my first request, would anyone have any ideas as to how I could find out about his award? He just gets a mention in the Battalion Diary.

secondly, I would love to find out more information on his wounds, where he was sent etc and if anyone has this man in photos from the RSR.

I can try and scan and send people a photo of him (unfortunately, the family do not own one of him in is military uniform)

I am heading over to Richebourg end of this month, so may meet some of you who may be able to help me.

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Hi and welcome.

Strangely your post seems to have missed our several RSR experts.

You appear to have a lot of information already, is that from family knowledge or have his Service Records survived?

As you probably know, with an SD prefix he'd have been one of Lowthers Lambs in the South Downs battalions of the Royal Sussex.

That ties in with him being at the Boars Head at Richebourg l'Avoue.

Often after recuperating after being severely wounded men often were posted to units that needed reinforcements urgently, rather than back to his original battalion.

That may have happened after his further woundings, although perhaps they were not serious enough for him to be posted elsewhere.

Without reference to his Service records then there is little to indicate to which hospital(s) he would have been treated in, suffice that he may not always have been returned to England, but have been treated at Base hospitals such as those in Rouen or elsewhere.

As to finding any commendation or information as to his award of the MM, often there is a reference in the London Gazette but not often with any detail. It often appears to be about 3 months after the event for which the award was made. In 1918 for example, in March there was a huge German attack in which many incidents of courage were recorded (and many more no doubt that were not) so it could be related to that or possibly just one deserved award for many repeated instances of gallantry.

Do you know what rank he achieved, wedding date etc?

Good luck!

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Hi,

Thank you for this information.

i have the London Gazette information, along with a record of him being wounded at Boars Head.

In the Battalion war diary, it says he was awarded the MM at the end of October, there seems to be a few awarded here. It seems as though if he was awarded it in any other month, there would have been a comment on why he won it.

His marriage was recorded in the local newspaper on the 12th July 1919, with the address Gotways Farm, Seddlescombe. This is the same address I have on his medals package. One with the ribbon still rolled up!

He gained the rank of Sergeant, which is on his discharge certificate. There are also notes in the Battalion documents of him being an acting corporal.

It is odd, as he completed part of his training just up the road from now where I live at Detling camp.

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If you phone the archives in sussex the reason may have appeared in the sussex daily news if someone wrote into the local papers

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Hi Geoff,

I'm off to East Sussex Records Office today (just awaiting a call to say the technical fault there has been sorted), so I'll have a look for you as I'm checking some 1917 casualties in the Sussex Express. I have a feeling, and I'm still looking into this, but I think he may have won the MM at the crossing of the Sambre Canal on 4th Nov 1918 - please do not take this as gospel yet, I'll do some more digging.

Strange that he was given a new number, normally ex Lowther's Lambs men kept their SD prefixed number even when they were posted to other RSR battalions

I'll see what the papers say and get back to you

Cheers Jim

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Hi Jim,

Thank you so much.

The information I have is that he was wounded on the 23rd October 1918, but the diary also says the Battalion was relieved that day, so could he have possibly been wounded for a few days? As there was the Battle of the Selle, he could have been wounded by gas, as the diary says they used Phosgene gas, "the Boche putting down a gas barrage" (2nd Battalion War Diary) Family accounts say that he was affected by gas years later, but also by a shrapnel wound in the ankle. He was also wounded by gas on the 8th April 1918- returned to Battalion 22nd May 1918.

There is also a family story, where he recounted setting up some field guns, for an ambush or attack, he decided where these guns went, and it was successful. We are unsure however, if it is with this action that he won the MM.

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Hi Geoff,

Sadly the ESRO is down with a technical fault so I'll have to go back and try again later in the week, but I'll definitely have a look for you and get back to you asap

Nothing in certain in this game until you see it in black-and -white and it's corroborated with two or three other sources, but I'm pretty sure he got the MM at the Sambre Canal. Rather than field guns, could it be Lewis Guns?

This may be of interest to you, especially post # 6 which gives you a link to the Pte Josh Grover iv at the IWM, Josh Grover joined 2nd Sussex on the Somme in 1916 and stayed with them throughout the war

http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=201967&hl=

Got a few researches I'm juggling at the minute, so I'll get back to you asap (but don't be afraid to nudge me if I've not been back in touch for a while lol)

Good luck with your research

Jim

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The old firm of Vidler and Company Estate Agents, surveyors and valuers have some records relating to Gothnay/Gotways (go two ways?) Farm, Kent Street, Sedlescombe, reference Valuation book VID/2/2/20 28 Jan 1860 - 8 Nov 1860 p201 which "may" include some reference to the Watson family.

I haven't found any CWGC entries that refer to either of his 2 brothers, William Charles or Thomas.

As respects his wounding on 8th April 1918, there is a Silver War Badge index card indicating that he was invalided out on 8th April 1919, which seems to be exactly a year later than the date you gave for his being gassed. The SWB card shows he was embodied in December 1914 (but he may well have volunteered in August or September 1914) but not been called up until the end of 1914. Rank shown as Sjt and referred to as SD/3041. Notation for MM shown. Perhaps he rushed to enlist and was recorded as G/6601, then arranged to join his Pals as a South Down recruit?

No entitlement to 1915 Star, so looks as though he entered Theatre with the South Downs in 1916. A brutal baptism of fire.

He would have been close to this chap in the recruiting queue

TURNER, EDWARD RICHARD. Rank: Lance Corporal. Service No: SD/3036. Date of Death: 30/06/1916. Age: 39.
Regiment/Service: Royal Sussex Regiment. 13th Bn.
Panel Reference: Panel 69 to 73. Memorial: LOOS MEMORIAL
Additional Information: Husband of Susan Clara Turner, of Rose Cottage, Buckham Hill, Uckfield, Sussex.
I note that the Brede War Memorial has this chap
WATSON, Ernest. Private G.16333, 12th Battalion, The Royal Sussex Regiment. 39th Division. Killed in action on the Somme 16th October 1916. Born in Catsfield and enlisted in Hastings. Also Included on Sedlescombe Parish Church War Memorial. Commemorated on The Thiepval Memorial. The battalion moved to the Schwaben redoubt on 15th October. ‘D’ Company was attacked by the enemy with flame throwers later in the evening of the 15th. This attack was beaten off with heavy German losses.
WATSON, ERNEST. Rank: Private. Service No: G/16333. Date of Death: 16/10/1916.
Regiment/Service: Royal Sussex Regiment. 12th Bn.
Panel Reference: Pier and Face 7 C. Memorial: THIEPVAL MEMORIAL.
I wonder if he was a nephew or cousin, added by the Brede Watson family, as there seems no apparent link to Sedlescombe or Brede?
His Medal Index Card (omitting SD?) doesn't have a close link but confirms the SDGW Service Number has a transcription error.
Name: Ernest Watson. Regiment or Corps: Royal Sussex Regiment
Regimental Number: 4461, then Regimental Number: G/16333
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Hi Kevin,

Strange set of numbers, eh? Paul Nixon gives SD/3078 as a 17th December 1914 entrant to 13th Sussex, so that would fit with the SWB card, but G/6601 is a June 1915 number, nine months before the 13th with 39 Division deployed to the WF. Could he have gone from the Southdowns, moved to the Service Bns (as they were preparing to deploy then) and then was allowed to go back to the Southdowns again? Highly irregular. Haven't checked it yet, but just occurred to me, could it be a typo, could he be G/16601, a summer/autumn 1916 series number, that would correspond with him being wounded at Boar's Head, a few months recovery, then return to the fray in the September/October?

Just a thought, I'll check if there is a G/16601...

Jim

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G/16601 appears to be a Pte Charles Alliston ...

So why a 1915 number for a man who deployed with the SD in 1916???

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Hi,

The response has been great thank you.

I have his certificate of discharge, which indicates G/6601, then in red (seems to be written in later) MM.

On his medal card, it does at the top out of all the normal boxes, Sjt. SD/3041, again seems to be added after all the other information was put in.

I have his enlistment down as the 10th December 1914? So he could have joined earlier with the RSR, then when called up, asked to join his friends in the Lowther's Lambs Battalions.

The war badge information also confirms the 10th December date, with discharge 8th April 1919.

Jim- in response to the Lewis Guns, I have just spoken to my mum, and she clearly remembers the conversation with him (he was sat next to the fire...details eh?!) with him saying field guns, as she remembers at the time not having a clue what they were.

With Ernest, I have been desperately trying to find a link to the family, but nothing as of yet. I think Joseph was the only one in the immediate family who joined up, as my Grandma said they family were not keen to the idea of him going to fight, as he was the youngest of the family.

I am still trying to find out more, and will head down to newspaper archives at Hastings at some point, then on to Chichester again.

I really appreciate the help guys. Thank you again.

Geoff

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Hi Geoff,

10th December 1914 would fit in brilliantly with his Southdown's number SD/3041, as Paul Nixon has identified a soldier with the number SD/3078 being a week later, and 13th Bn took longer to fill than the previous two Southdowns Bns

His G/6601 number is intriguing though ... Ah, I wonder, what if he opted to stay with the Army of Occupation for a period and then perhaps he got a new number just for that period??? I know in 1919/1920 new army numbers were introduced, I wonder if his G/6601 was just for that short period between the end of the war and the start of the new numbering system??? Need a better brain than mine on that one, but I'll see what I can dig up ... What I mean is maybe he was SD/3041 up to 11th Nov 1918 (and after), but for the Occupation until demob was G/6601?

Reference the guns, try looking at the 2nd Sussex WD from Sep-Nov 1918 and see if anything jumps out at you ... or maybe June/July 1917 when they were on Op Hush, maybe when the Germans attacked the 2nd KRRC and 1st Northants and 2nd Sussex held the opposite canal bank ... just thoughts off the top of my head (sorry not more precise)

Hopefully between us we'll get some more for you Geoff

All the best Jim

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You may need to do some research in Brede, maybe there is a Local History Group there?

"Someone" had to put Ernest's name forward for the Brede War Memorial (and Sedlescombe) and your Watson family would have to be the likely ones, surely?

The link between the two branches may have been lost over the years but no Committee is likely to accept "outsiders" without good reason (or a hefty donation).

Ernest may have boarded and worked at Gotways for an uncle etc for example.....

We know from your records that Joseph was wounded in April 1918 and that he was invalided out 12 months later.

To be issued with a Silver War Badge indicates that his wound was quite severe and may have resulted in a pension award.

I believe the Western Front Association are working to digitise the surviving pension records, so more may come to light in the near future, if you are lucky.

My personal take is that whilst he may have apparently recovered from his April 1918 gassing, he may have either sustained a further debilitating wound or that he was found to be no longer A1 fit and fed into the invaliding out process by late 1918/early 1919.

I hope that it's of some help!

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I have been in touch with the Parish Councils, to see if they have any information on this. Hopefully they may have some record of the events or links etc.

Geoff

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I can't help with Joseph, but Ernest originally embarked as 4461, 2/4th Battalion, then posted as G/16333, 12th Battalion. It looks like he was part of a reinforcement draft, going by the entries either side of him.

Phil

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There is an Ernest Watson, 19 yrs, gamekeeper, b. Catsfield, living at Powdermills, Sedlescombe, Sussex, civil parish: Brede in the 1911 Census.

Parents: Nathan=Mary Ann

Sister: Rosina (21)

Laura Amelia & Albert Henry (C. 1901) have already left the family home.

Regards,

JMB

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Thank you.

I have Nathan Watson born in 1868.

I have tried to make a link to Jospeh's side, but with no luck yet.

Joseph's father Charles Watson, born c.1850, had 2 brothers James Watson (b C.1846) and Walter Watson (b C.1858)

Charle's mother and father were, Walter and Eliza Watson they were 29 and 26 in 1851. With what I think must be Walter's brother living with them, William Watson (23)

I will keep digging, as I am determined to find the link.

Thanks for all your help so far.

Geoff

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Hmmm, I have just found this on the roll of honour site.

Private G. 10333. 12th Battalion, The Royal Sussex Regiment. 39th Division. Killed in action near the Schwaben Redoubt 16 October 1916 Aged 24. Son of George & Kate Watson. Born in Catsfield and enlisted in Hastings. Included on Brede Parish Church War Memorial. Commemorated on The Thiepval Memorial

Son of George and Kate Watson? I am getting even more confused now.

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He is down as being killed on the 16th- The war diaries for that day do not state any notable action.

Could he have been killed by a shell? As he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, so no identifiable body being recovered? Just a thought.

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Hi Geoff

They were heavily bombarded on the 17th for 5+ hours with 5.9s and 8"s with heavy casualties, so I'm sure bombardment went on every day while they held the area, part of trench life. Could quite easily have been a sniper though. Lack of evidence is always so frustrating in this research game I'm afraid, can only get as close to the truth as the sources allow. Sadly 12th WD isn't the most detailed is it :angry2:

Cheers Jim

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Geoff: 10331 is an incorrect Service Number mistranscribed on Soldiers Died in the Great War.

Details as per my post #9 refers.

As I suggested, there must have been a family relationship for BOTH the Brede AND Sedlescombe War Memorial committees to have included him, as there is no other apparent link for Ernest to either Parish. I note that Josephs mother was born in Brede (Cook?) so perhaps two Cook sisters married two Watson brothers?

Ernest is NOT commemorated at Catsfield, so it seems the family had been away for some years for no inclusion of him at his birthplace..

It may have been a shell burst catching 4 (possibly all B Company?) in the same trench or dugout, rather than a sniper as there are these three further casualties that day:-

SAWYER, FRANK WALTER. Rank: Private. Service No: G/16322. Date of Death: 16/10/1916. Age: 23.
Regiment/Service: Royal Sussex Regiment. 12th Bn.
Grave Reference: XI. L. 7. Cemetery: CONNAUGHT CEMETERY, THIEPVAL
Additional Information: Son of William Walter and Jane Frances Saker Sawyer, of 16, Fairfield St, Wandsworth, London. Native of Brighton, Sussex.
EASTON, C A. Rank: Private. Service No: SD/2088. Date of Death: 16/10/1916.
Regiment/Service: Royal Sussex Regiment. 12th Bn.
Grave Reference: XI. D. 10. Cemetery: CONNAUGHT CEMETERY, THIEPVAL.
MARSHALL, JOHN. Rank: Private. Service No: SD/1837. Date of Death: 16/10/1916. Age: 20.
Regiment/Service: Royal Sussex Regiment. "B" Coy. 12th Bn.
Grave Reference: B. 53. Cemetery: GRANDCOURT ROAD CEMETERY, GRANDCOURT
Additional Information: Son of Othniel John and Mary Jane Marshall, of Eastbourne.
Connaught Cemetery was begun during the early autumn of 1916 and at the Armistice it contained 228 burials (the whole of Plot I except 10 graves). It was then very greatly increased when graves were brought in from battlefields in the immediate area and the following small cemeteries:-
THIEPVAL VILLAGE CEMETERY, on the summit of the ridge, West of the road to Grandcourt. It contained the graves of 215 British soldiers who fell in 1916 (or in a few cases in 1918).
THIEPVAL VALLEY CEMETERY, on the South-East side of Thiepval Wood, contained 11 British graves.
QUARRY PALACE CEMETERY, THIEPVAL, close to the river and a little North-East of the hamlet of St. Pierre-Divion, contained 23 British graves of the autumn of 1916-17.
ST. PIERRE-DIVION CEMETERY No.1, THIEPVAL, a little South-East of that hamlet contained 10 British graves of November, 1916.
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I am starting to think it may well be coincidence that Ernest is celebrated on the Brede & Sedlescombe memorial.

I have his father down as being born in Burrow, Suffolk. Surely this coincidence cannot be?! What is the likelihood of this happening??

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Not a coincidence, I think; as above, both Nathan & Ernest are on the C. 1911 as gamekeepers in Sedlescombe (church parish ??) which is in Brede (civil parish). See post #17

JMB

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So it is where the Watson (Suffolk) family are based after the war?

So you have two sets of Watsons, but My Jospeh Henry Cook Watson and Ernest Watson are not related?

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