CWG: Stoker 2nd Class Alfred Watts

Stoker 2nd Class Alfred Watts

Alfred Watts was born on 16th April 1897 in Marylebone, Middlesex. His mother was called Polly, but there is little further information about his early life.

When he left school, he became a seaman, although in what capacity is not entirely evident. What can be confirmed is that, on 24th November 1915, with war raging across Europe, he decided to make this his full career, and enlisted as a Stoker 2nd Class in the Royal Navy.

Alfred’s military records show that he stood 5ft 4ins (1.63m) tall, had brown eyes, dark brown hair and a fresh complexion. He was also noted as having a birthmark on his right breast.

Alfred’s first posting was at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. He spend four months training here, before being assigned to HMS Wallington, a depot shop that served in the Humber Estuary.

On 6th September 1916, in the column marked Discharged is one word: Run. It seems that, for whatever reason, he deserted his post, and having been rounded up nearly three weeks later, he was taken back to Chatham under police guard. He was imprisoned, and only returned to his duties on 30th October.

Stoker Watts was given another posting, on board the battleship HMS Dominion, but again absconded in June 1917, and was detained for a further three weeks, this time at HMS Victory, the dockyard in Portsmouth.

Within a month, Alfred was transferred back to Chatham. HMS Pembroke was a busy place that summer and temporary accommodation was put in place. Chatham Drill Hall was brought into service for this purpose, and Alfred found himself billeted there.

On the 3rd September 1917, the German Air Force carried out its first night air raid: Chatham was heavily bombed and the Drill Hall received a direct hit. Stoker 2nd Class Watts was among those badly injured. He was taken to hospital, but died of his wounds two days later. He was just 20 years of age.

Alfred Watts was laid to rest, alongside the other victims of the Chatham Air Raid, in the Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham.


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