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WHL WATSON DSO DCM - BACKGROUND INFO

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Marticelli

Thanks for the response, Stephen, as I was beginning to wonder if anyone had noticed my post!! As you will have noted from my first contribution, we have made some discoveries about the despatch riders whose activities were described in Willie Watson's excellent book as a result of finding the albums and medals belonging to the Burney brothers, 'Grimers' and 'Cecil' as they appear in print. As a result we are planning to make a documentary for TV to be screened in 2014, alongside the many others that are no doubt being planned for such a momentous date. Plans are well advanced, but there is lots of research still to be done.

Importantly we have identified almost everyone in the group save for the chap who masquerades as 'Fatters' or 'Fat Boy', whose real identity still eludes us. Any suggestions anyone may have would of course be very welcome. All of these chaps seem to have enlisted at more or less the same time, and all have service numbers of five figures 280XX or 281XX, and one is tempted to assume that Fatters must be likewise in this same series. One could plod through the entire record to see if someone of a suitable name and service record is there, but this seems a tedious way to go. Perhaps someone reading this has an idea of where to find the true identity of this last character.

It probably would be worth starting a new topic about the despatch riders in 5th Divisional Signals Coy, RE, as that is very much the focus of our present research. The images in the album in effect provide a set of illustrations that perfectly match the stories in the book, although being a soldier's personal album, the images themselves are quite small and of dubious quality compared with official pictures taken by war photographers with plate cameras, which are usually of stunning quality. What is particularly helpful is that many of the images have handwritten captions or are annotated on the reverse which allow them to be viewed in the context of the book and this gives them an immediacy and clarity which is very powerful.

Looking forward to hearing from others anything that springs to mind about these brave men and their experiences.

Martin

post-74528-0-48858400-1331118787.jpgpost-74528-0-28507100-1331118736.jpgpost-74528-0-00938700-1331118720.jpgpost-74528-0-36578000-1331118679.jpgpost-74528-0-30212800-1331118655.jpgpost-74528-0-70127400-1331118636.jpgpost-74528-0-35743000-1331118616.jpg

Above are pics of Willie Watson, Huggie Trepess, Spuggie Bagshaw, Sadders Hayes Sadler, Cecil Burney, Grimers Alick Burney and Fatters or Fat Boy.

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Scritch

Hi Martin,

I'm not too sure if this is of any interest to you in your research, but we have some details of Corporal Reginald Harry Salt, a despatch rider from Fenny Bentley in Derbyshire, who died of wounds on the 18th November 1914. I don't believe he was ever with the 5th Division Signals Company, though.

http://derbyshirewarmemorials.wikispaces.com/REGINALD+SALT

Kind regards

Richard

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vintagesunbeam

Hi Richard

thanks for the posting - Martin and I are very keen to hear about any Great War despatch riders, but we're concentrating on men like Watson and Salt who served with the BEF in August 1914.

Reginald's story is very interesting story, and it's very close to home (for me) because I live in Nottingham and Fenny Bentley is on the way to the Peak District from here.

Willie Watson was recruited off the street when war was declared and rushed straight to France, whereas I think Reginald Salt was a regular soldier when the war began.

Watson was in the Signals Company attached to the 5th Division (one of the two Divisions which made up 2 Corps) while Corporal Salt was deployed to the HQ of 1 Corps. In his book Watson refers several times to the despatch riders who were attached to Corps HQ. I think there would have been further despatch riders attached to GHQ.

This was difficult work and it's difficult to imagine conditions. Motorcycles were still primitive and road conditions were often dreadful enough in peacetime. In the book Watson describes riding along with shells bursting around and bullets hitting the surface of the road.

If you have any other information, especially pictures or information about equipment (eg motorbike, clothing, training, etc) that would really be appreciated!

Nick Shelley

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vintagesunbeam

Stephen

Thanks for the suggestion. Martin and I would much appreciate it if you would open a new thread as you suggest. As you can see we are novices on this Forum and we'd be grateful for help and guidance! We're inclined to agree that it would be easier to pull this information together about the group itself rather than connected to Willie Watson.

Our main interest is the despatch riders of 5th Signals Company. Martin posted all their pictures earlier. So far as we know, all of them were recruited straight off the street when the war began. Watson says he was even told to bring a motorcycle (which the Army presumably paid them for). In the book Watson is very appreciative of how the Regular Army welcomed them although they had no military experience at all. They had been civilians 2 weeks earlier, and it must have been a shock to find themselves in action almost as soon as they signed up.

Martin is the motorcycle expert, and I'm using my genealogy experience to research the individuals. I'm planning some individual posts with information about each of them.

Of course we'd also appreciate any related material, such as names and details of DRs in the other Divisions and at Corps and GHQ, and any pictures or information about equipment (eg motorcycles, other vehicles, uniform, riding gear, etc).

thanks again

Nick Shelley

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Adam W

Hello there Stephen,

I came across this forum quite by chance whilst poking about on the internet for info on my grandfather - WHL Watson.

Sadly, I never met him (he died of pneumonia when my father was just 15) so I don't have much information on him. However, his oldest son, Patrick, was my father - who, at 6'8" was even taller than WHL! When I can work out how to do it, I'll post a photo of WHL dandling my father; presumably whilst on leave, judging by his dress.

If anyone would like more 'background' information I'll be happy to do what I can.

Best,

Adam

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Adam W

Here's the photo I mentioned, along with another one of WHLW as, I think, a dispatch rider...

post-91714-0-29243600-1344285035_thumb.j

post-91714-0-37403900-1344285086_thumb.j

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delta

Hello Adam - welcome to the Forum and thanks for sharing these wonderful photos.

We would love to know about your grandfather - his books are superb descriptions of life during the Great War but they tell us little about him

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Adam W

I'm afraid there's not a lot of information on him - my grandmother was deeply traumatised by his death and hardly ever spoke about him. I'll see if my older brother has any 'extra' information. I'm planning to go and visit him at the end of the month, in part to trawl through the family photos, so I'll let you know if I find any more info...

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delta

He died so early - only 41 - and with such promise for the future.

For those of you, who dont know his story, his obituary provides more about him

.

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vintagesunbeam

I’m belatedly returning to this thread - I’ve only just read Adam’s recent account of his grandfather, having only just discovered how to turn on notifications!

This is addressed to all who are following this thread, but particularly Adam - it would be good for him to know how much we appreciate his grandfather's book because that has been the starting point of all our endeavours!

Since my first post my brother and I have succeeded in ‘cracking’ the code which Adam’s grandfather used to disguise the identities of 5th Signals Company despatch riders. For example, ‘Fatters’ or ‘Fat boy’ was Arnold Overton (Over a ton?) and ‘Moulders’ was Roy Meldrum. And with that information we made contact first with Pollers' son, and then last summer we met up with Sadders’ daughter and N’Soon’s son and daughter.

Our project is to gather and hopefully publish material about the 1914 despatch riders - we believe there were something in the region of three hundred men who went to France in the early months of the war - for practical purposes our cut-off date is November 1914. Many of them were equipped with motorcycles they already owned or bought for the purpose. The 5th Signals company war diary, which is available at TNA, is a graphic if understated account covering all the matters described in "Adventures". I've also used TNA and online resources heavily to identify the majority of the men, and I'm confident there are not many who have escaped me! However, we've found that there is surprisingly little mention of the despatch riders in modern sources, and we’d like to see their contribution re-evaluated.

Nick Shelley (with Marticelli)

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vintagesunbeam

I’m belatedly returning to this thread - I’ve only just read Adam’s recent account of his grandfather, having only just discovered how to turn on notifications!

This is addressed to all who are following this thread, but particularly Adam - it would be good for him to know how much we appreciate his grandfather's book because that has been the starting point of all our endeavours!

Since my first post my brother and I have succeeded in ‘cracking’ the code which Adam’s grandfather used to disguise the identities of 5th Signals Company despatch riders. For example, ‘Fatters’ or ‘Fat boy’ was Arnold Overton (Over a ton?) and ‘Moulders’ was Roy Meldrum. And with that information we made contact first with Pollers' son, and then last summer we met up with Sadders’ daughter and N’Soon’s son and daughter.

Our project is to gather and hopefully publish material about the 1914 despatch riders - we believe there were something in the region of three hundred men who went to France in the early months of the war - for practical purposes our cut-off date is November 1914. Many of them were equipped with motorcycles they already owned or bought for the purpose. The 5th Signals company war diary, which is available at TNA, is a graphic if understated account covering all the matters described in "Adventures". I've also used TNA and online resources heavily to identify the majority of the men, and I'm confident there are not many who have escaped me! However, we've found that there is surprisingly little mention of the despatch riders in modern sources, and we’d like to see their contribution re-evaluated.

Nick Shelley (with Marticelli)

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Guest Daniel Harris

Dear All,

I am joining a a conversation a bit late in the day, seeing that some of the posts go back to 2007. I am a youth worker who runs a motorcycle charity called Full Throttle UK, and we have secured some funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to create an endcatonal resource exploring motorcycle use in WW1. I am taking a small group of young adult motorcyclists to the Western Front in September to create a road movie following WHL Watson's footprint s (or tyre marks)as told in, in what I think is, one of the first motorcycle travel books - Adventures of a Despatch Rider. Think of the McGregor / Bore man TV show "Long Way Round" and you have an idea of the intended end result!

I am primarily a youth worker who rides a motorcycle, and this is my first real historical research project. It has local significance as I believe Watson was linked to the then Canterbury Royal Engineers in my home town. If anyone has any helpful information, I will be eternally grateful.

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delta

Welcome to the Forum Daniel

I trust your project goes well; however I can't see a link to Canterbury - certainly the city is not mentioned in the book

Stephen

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Guest Daniel Harris

Dear All,

I am following up this conversation, which has been occuring for a few years. I wish to keep you updated about a filming project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which enabled me ot create an educational video exploring the First World War, with a specific reference to WHL Watson who wrote "Adventures of a Despatch Rider" (1915).

The filming occurred on the weekend (11-14 September 2014) and is now moving to the editing stage. We aimed to create a film primarily aimed at the Key Stage 3 educational requirements, which can be delivered in schools around the country.

The film is created by the youth motorcycle charity, Full Throttle UK, and so has specifically drawn on the biker flavour of the story. The filming has been completed as a road movie, inspired by the TV show Long Way Round, and filmed on motorcycles. We have broadened the scope of the film to beyond Watson's original travels, including visits to Vimy Ridge and Sanctuary Hill. It has also compared the perspective of the despatch rider to that of the foot soldier.

In addition we visited the Menin Gate, where our fortunous timing coincided with the official presence of the Belgium branch of the Harley Owner's Group - the officially sanctioned motorcycle club of the Harley Davidson motorcycle manufacters - taking part in the daily act of rememberance supporting military personnel. We were able to film this.

As mentioned, this project is now nearing completion. We will be premiering the project at the Canterbury College of Further Education on 11 November, and warmly invite you to attend the premiere. The Motor Vehicle Department are an official partner of the project.

Please remember that this is an educational project, using the motorcycling perspective, aiming to enlighten young people to the relevance and importance of the Great War, rather than an in-depth academic study of Watson himself. We also have a "Director's Cut" appealing to the biker community, but with wider appeal to the general public.

We recongise that there is no direct link to Canterbury (see comment below) and thank you for the correction, but find the Kent-based historical link of importance to us as we reside in the county,

If you have any queries, please do get in touch.

Kind regards

Daniel Harris

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delta

Dear Daniel

Thanks for the update, I will make sure Willie's grandson (also known as William) knows of the project progress

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Guest
On 8/6/2012 at 09:32, Adam W said:

Hello there Stephen,

I came across this forum quite by chance whilst poking about on the internet for info on my grandfather - WHL Watson.

Sadly, I never met him (he died of pneumonia when my father was just 15) so I don't have much information on him. However, his oldest son, Patrick, was my father - who, at 6'8" was even taller than WHL! When I can work out how to do it, I'll post a photo of WHL dandling my father; presumably whilst on leave, judging by his dress.

If anyone would like more 'background' information I'll be happy to do what I can.

Best,

Adam

Hi Adam,

I wonder if you may be able to help. I'm interested in using some quotes from your grandfather's book and having failed to find contact information for the publishers to gain permission, I found you on here. Would you mind emailing me? (s.e.williams5@gmail.com)

 

Best wishes,

 

Sarah

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