Thursday, April 25, 2013

Piper James Watt

I wrote about my grandfather, William Spiller (my mother's father), and his experiences during WWI in a previous blog post. This time I thought I would write about someone on my father's side.  Dad's father did not serve in WWI, but the husband of one of Dad's Aunts did (though they were not married at that time), so it is him I am going to write about this time.

James Watt was born on 7 Jun 1884 in Newmains, Lanarkshire to William Watt and Jessie, nee Forrest. He joined the Glasgow Police in 1907 and was awarded the Carnegie Medal for Bravery. He migrated to Australia sometime between 1910 and 1914 (his arrival has not been found) and joined the NSW Police Force.

Shortly after the outbreak of WWI, on 2 Sep 1914, he enlisted at Randwick in the 4th Battalion AIF and was given the rank of Piper.  On 20 Oct 1914 he embarked on HMAT Euripides for the conflict as part of the first detachment of the Australian and New Zealand Imperial Expeditionary Forces.

HMAT Euripides

James Watt was amongst those who made the first dawn landings at Gallipoli.  A newspaper report in 2005 written by his daughter-in-law contains the following:

"Soon after the battalion was struggling up the hill with 300 rounds of ammunition, iron rations, etc, and Watt, who was hanging on to his bagpipes, was asked to stay behind for a while to take care of the packs.  This was no good to him; he was with the boys a few minutes later, bagpipes and all, and his pipe in his mouth."

He received a gunshot wound in the neck and shoulder, serious enough to result in him being discharged and sent back to Australia.  His military service records are confused on the date this occurred, but it appears to have been in May 1915.

The newspaper report mentioned above says that when he returned to Australia he was considered unfit for duties as a serving policeman, and so he was employed on light duties in the Central Court from 1916 until his death.

But on 3 Oct 1917, when he married May Brockbank at the Central Methodist Mission in Sydney, he gave his occupation as police officer. They moved to Lithgow, where May's family lived, and that was where their first child was born.  Two undated pension applications by James Watt which are included in his service record give addresses of "Police Dept, Bourke St., Redfern" and "Police Stn., Lithgow".  By 1923 at the latest they were back living in Sydney, and it is probably from that time that he worked at the Central Court.

The injury he had received at Gallipoli eventually resulted in his death on 11 Sep 1932.  The medical officers had been unable to remove the bullet that had caused his injury

The cause on his death certificate was "Cerebral Haemorrhage lasting 2 hours", and it is considered to be related to his wound at Gallipoli, so his widow received a war widow's pension until her death in 1981.