Richard Norman Watt, Private
52nd Battalion (Manitoba Regiment)
Canadian Expeditionary Force
Personal Information: Richard Norman Watt was born January 9, 1890 in Drummond Township, Lanark County, Ontario to James and Eliza Watt. The Watts were a farming family. However, Richard had moved out to Pinto Creek, Saskatchewan to continue farming. At the time of enlistment Watt was five feet, four and a half inches tall with fair hair and complexion and blue eyes. Richard was a Methodist and he was single. On May 25th, 1916 he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Aneriod, Saskatchewan with the 203rd Battalion.[i]
Photograph of the Watt brothers (L-R): Brothers Clarence, William (Lloyd), Stewart and Richard (Norman) Watt. The photograph was taken before the brothers deployed to the war in Europe.[ii] William Watt was killed in action on 3 June 1917 while fighting with the 44th Battalion. William Watt’s body was never recovered from the field of battle. He is commemorated on the Vimy monument in the Pas de Calais region of France.
Military Movements: Private Richard Watt trained near Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan until he was shipped east where he sailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia aboard the S.S. Grampian leaving Canada late October 1916 and arrived in Liverpool, England on November 4, 1916. Watt would remain with the 203rd Battalion and trained in Seaford Camp until he was transferred to the 52nd Battalion. He would continue his training at Dibgate until he was shipped to the front on March 3, 1917.[iii]
Medical Records: According to the service records of Richard Norman Watt, he was never admitted to a hospital or casualty clearing station at any time during his service until he was reported ‘missing in action’ on 27 August 1917.
Final Days: Private Watt had survived the intense 10 days of fighting at Hill 70 but the success of the battle presented new challenges for the Canadians as they now had to hold their position in the face of German artillery and counter-attacks. The evening of the 26th was spent working to hold the line and withstand an intense German bombardment. The 52nd Battalion suffered considerable casualties on the night of the 26th-27th but their position was secured.[iv]
The war diary of the 52nd Battalion for the 26th-27th reveals a harrowing night of back and forth attacks between the Canadians and the Germans. Throughout the evening several raids were thrown back by the Canadians until the 52nd Battalion was relieved by the 59th Battalion. Unfortunately, in the actions of the 26th-27th Private Richard Norman Watt was killed in action.[v]
Lest We Forget: According to his service file Private Richard Watt left his possessions to his father James Watt. This includes his British War Medal and Victory Medal. Private Watt is buried in Aix-Noulette Communal Cemetery Extension in the Pas de Calais region of France.[vi]
The Watt family lost two sons to the Great War and the two surviving sons would be scarred from the experience of war as they returned to Canada. For the soldiers that were killed their sacrifice is something that must be remembered but citizens of Canada should also remember that those that came back and returned to post-war life a part of them died as well in the war. Lest We Forget.
[i] Service File of Richard Norman Watt, Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, Accession 1992-93, Box Number 10154-19
[ii] Veterans Affairs Canada, Canadian Virtual War Memorial. Information accessed at: http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/canadian-virtual-war-memorial/detail/259338?Richard%20Norman%20Watt
[iii] Service File of Richard Norman Watt
[iv] War Diary of the 52nd Battalion, Library and Archives Canada, RG9 III. Information accessed at: http://collectionscanada.gc.ca/lac-bac/results/images?module=images&SortSpec=score+desc&Language=eng&ShowForm=hide&SearchIn_1=mikanNumber&SearchInText_1=1883263&Operator_1=AND&SearchIn_2=&SearchInText_2=&Operator_2=AND&SearchIn_3=&SearchInText_3=&Level=&MaterialDateOperator=after&MaterialDate=&DigitalImages=1&Source=&ResultCount=10
[v] War Diary of the 52nd Battalion
[vi] Veterans Affairs Canada, Canadian Virtual War Memorial. Information accessed at: http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/canadian-virtual-war-memorial/detail/259338?Richard%20Norman%20Watt