Sunday, 30 November 2014

29241 Pte Leonard Watts, Suffolk Regiment

I met and interviewed Leonard Watts on the 19th October 1981. He was born in Little Waltham, Essex on the 17th May 1897 and was working as a gardener before he joined the army.  He mentioned to me that he had joined the army in May 1916 and his regimental number confirms this. He would have been nineteen years old and whilst it is possible that he was conscripted, he may well have volunteered the previous year under the Derby Scheme; a lot of Suffolk Regiment men with numbers in this range were Derby Scheme volunteers.

Having trained for almost a year, Leonard found himself taking part in the Battle of Arras, going over the top on the 9th April 1917.

"When it came to the Push we had to go over whether we were trained or not. I got blown over once or twice while going forward and there were more bloody machine guns firing at us than there were rifles. You had to keep down, and you got along more by crawling and rolling than you did by standing upright."

He came through that attack unscathed but was wounded a couple of days later.

"The bullet went into the top of my shoulder and came out over the plate. A mate stopped to dress my shoulder on the battlefield and then I walked up the trench towards the CCS, up to my waist in slimy mud, treading on tins and old bits of rubbish at the bottom. I was then passed on to another station for the walking wounded before being moved to a hospital near Rouen. I had a little operation on my 20th birthday."

Leonard's medal index card notes a second regimental number - 70167 - and his entry on the British War and Victory Medal roll notes three battalions of the Suffolk Regiment: the 2nd Battalion, 9th Battalion and 11th Battalion.

Leonard Watts died in January 1995, a couple of months short of his 98th birthday.

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