CWG: Private Sidney Watts

Private Sidney Watts

Sidney Gilbert Watts was born in 1892, one of five children to railway inspector Arthur Watts and his wife Laura. Initially brought up in the village of Congresbury, near Bristol, Arthur soon moved the family to nearby Taunton.

A likeable man, Arthur continued working for Great Western Railways. He also became involved in the Taunton Co-operative and Industrial Society and, for a number of years was the Chairman. Suddenly, and unexpectedly, however, on 20th January 1907, he collapsed and died from a heart attack.

Now widowed, Laura’s children rallied around her. Most of them had left school; her eldest, Reginald, was a school master, her older daughters Florrie and Mabel worked for a milliner and draper, and two lodgers moved in to help financially support her and her youngest daughter Evelyn.

By this time Sidney had followed in his father’s footsteps, and found work as a porter for GWR. He had moved to Hayle in Cornwall, where, according to the 1911 census, he was boarding with 33-year-old widow, Lizzie Richards, and sharing the house with another railway worker, Richard Crago.

Sidney seemed to be looking for something more. In February 1912, he enlisted as a Private in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He trained as a cook and, when war broke out, was sent out to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force.

In July 1915, Private Watts contracted pleurisy and was treated in a hospital in Boulogne. He was discharged for duty and assigned to a hospital ship, where he stayed for six months. While there, he contracted pneumonia and was bedridden for six weeks, his lung having collapsed.

Sidney was evacuated to England to recuperate. His health did not improve, however, and he was medically discharged from the army on 31st July 1916. A few months later, he was admitted to Cranham Lodge Sanatorium near Gloucester, but passed away on 24th September 1916. He was just 24 years old.

The body of Sidney Gilbert Watts was brought back to Taunton, and he was laid to rest in the St James Cemetery in the town.


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