LAST LETTER HOME

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 William Henry Watt ( Harry ) was born at 22 Rose Terrace, Keswick on the 3rd of August 1889, the son of John and Mary Watt, John was the coal agent at Keswick Station.  Harry attended Brigham School and is remembered on the school roll of honour for the 73 old boys killed in the Great War.

Just before the war Harry went out to Australia, he was living in Springsure, Queensland when he travelled down to Rockhampton to enlist in late 1915. Harry joined the 25th Battalion Australian Infantry arriving in Plymouth UK 2nd November 1916 and Etaples, France 14th December, finally reaching his unit in the line on the 20th February 1917.

Harry in his last letter home dated 16th September refers to the great battle he is going into, at 5.40am on 20 September, 1917, after 5 days of bombardment, 11 divisions of the 2nd and 5th BEF armies struck the Germans on a 13 kilometre front. The Australian 1st and 2nd Divisions, along with a Scottish Division, were the centre of the assault along Westhoek Ridge facing Glencorse Wood, with a combined front of 1,800 metres. It was the first occasion in the war in which two Australian Divisions attacked side by side. The Australians overcame enemy infantry opposition and advanced steadily for almost one kilometre to the first objective.  It ran along a sunken road, the north edge of Glencorse Wood to Honnebeck swamp and bogs in the None Borsden Copse.

After an hour to resupply and reorganise the Australians continued to the second objective,  which was about 500 metres from the previous objective. This  was fixed from Iron Cross Redoubt in the north to Albert Redoubt, Verbeck Farm and part of Polygon Wood  in the south. After capturing this second objective the Australians waited another two hours before attacking their third objective the Germans Wilhelm Line, roughly parallel and 200 metres beyond.   By noon, the Australians had taken all the objectives and were at the western end of Polygon Wood.

Harry came through this battle in one piece, only to be killed in action in the attack on Broodsiende Ridge.


The attack commenced at 6am October 4, 1917 after rain commenced falling the day before. Coincidentally, the Germans planned an attack for exactly the same time. At 5.20am the German artillery opened up and then at 6am the Australian artillery started, both in preparation for impending attacks. After both troops emerged from their trenches to commence attacking to their surprise they found the enemy doing exactly the same. The Australians managed to recover from the shock quicker than their opponents as the Australian machine gunners opened up and cut the German lines to pieces. The Germans broke and the Australians managed to capture the ridge.


 Harry has no known grave but his name is on the Menin Gate along with over 54,000 other soldiers lost without known graves in the Battles for Ypres.

The Mrs Evans who was to give the letter to Harry`s mother was Fanny Evans , long time neighbour at 22 Rose Terrace, she was to lose her son Edwin 8th Border the following spring, 10th April at Ploegsteert or as the troops called it " Plug Street " not far from where Harry had been killed, Edwin also has no known grave.



 

Full military records at  -    http://naa12.naa.gov.au/scripts/imagine.asp?B=8375916&I=1&SE=1




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