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1888 –1916

Early Life

GEORGE WATTS was born on the 30 May 1888 in Great Waltham, the son of William and Fanny Watts (née  Bush). His parents were married on Christmas Day, the 25 December 1871 in the Parish Church in Great Waltham and were both residing in the parish at the time of their wedding.

Fanny was employed as a general servant in the household of Thomas Maning, the Vicar at Canewdon, Rochford, Essex, prior to her marriage to William. William was an agricultural labourer living at 67 Hyde Road, Great Waltham with his parents, James and Mary.

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William Watts and Fanny Bush Marriage

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 Fanny Watts

George was William and Fanny’s seventh child and one of ten children. He had two elder brothers, Walter Charles, b. 1872 and Frank, b. 1875 and four elder sisters, Emily, b. 1877, Lily Mary, b. 1880, Alice, b.1883 and Ellen, b.1885. His three younger sisters were Julia, b. 5 January 1891, Lucy, b.1893 and Minnie b.1896.


 Alice Watts


Lucy Watts & Frank Eve

On their Wedding Day 30 March 1918

In 1881 the Census shows the family were living at 61 Hill House (Road), Great Waltham.

George was baptised at St Mary & St Lawrence Parish Church on the 5 August 1888 by the Vicar, Revd. H E Hulton.



The family were recorded as living at 62 Hill House Road, Great Waltham in the 1891 Census. By the time of the 1901 Census, the family had moved to 93, Chatham Green and William was employed as a Horseman on a farm. George was now 12 years old.

By 1904, the family had moved to Barrack Road, Great Waltham and his father, William died in March 1904, aged 52 years and was buried on the 17 March in the village churchyard.

Military Life

George enlisted in the Military at Warley in late January or early February 1906 as a soldier Regimental No. 8565, in the 1st Battalion Essex Regiment.

The Cardwell Reforms of 1881 saw The Essex Regiment formed out of the old 44th (East Essex) Regiment of Foot and the 56th (West Essex) Regiment of Foot. The 44th became the 1st Battalion and the 56th became the 2nd Battalion. Formed in July 1881, the first man to join the new regiment's 1st and 2nd battalions was given the number 1. The next man along was given the number 2 and so on. There was no distinction made between the two battalions; they both shared the same numbering sequence.

From 1902 to 1914 the 1st Battalion served in India, Burma and Mauritius.

The 1911 Census shows he was a Private stationed with the Regiment in India. It is possible he was stationed at Baluchistan, Quetta, India, near the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. In 1876 when Quetta fell, it was incorporated into the British Empire. British Troops established the infrastructure for their establishment as it was a strategic location.

Meanwhile his widowed mother, Fanny, who was now employed as a Charwoman and Minnie, George’s sister, aged 15 years, employed as a Domestic Servant, were living at home in Great Waltham.

On the 21st March 1915, the 1st Battalion of the Essex Regiment sailed from Avonmouth for Gallipoli, going via Egypt and Mudros. They landed at Cape Helles on the 25th April 1915. This was the Theatre of War George first served in and recorded on his Medal Rolls Index Card (2B) Balkans.

The Regiment fought in First Battle of Krithia, the Second Battle of Krithia, the Third Battle of Krithia, the Battle of Gully Ravine, the Battle of Krithia Vineyard, and the Battle of Scimitar Hill.

On the 8th January 1916 the Essex Regiment were evacuated from Gallipoli to Egypt due to severe casualties from combat, diseases, such as dysentery and cholera and harsh weather conditions, for which they were ill-equipped.

On the 16th March 1916, the troops embarked for France from Alexandria arriving at Marseilles and the Division then engaged in action on the Western Front. These included the Battle of Albert. By this time, George had been promoted to Lance Corporal and was serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Essex Regiment.

Death and Memorial

George was one among 57,470 British casualties killed on the first day of the Battle of Albert where he was killed in action on the 1st July 1916.  He was 29 years old. His body was never found.


‘The Regiment was at Bertrancourt and zero hour was given out at 7.30 am and 65 minutes before that hour the artillery commenced with a heavy bombardment of the German trenches. This lasted 20 minutes before zero hour and a mine was fired and at zero hour the leading lines of the 11th Brigade advanced. At 8.36am “A” and “D” Companies advanced from their assembly trenches and immediately came under very heavy machine gun fire and Artillery barrage. At about 9.30 am the 10th Brigade were holding a line about 50 yards short of the German 2nd line and some parties had forced their way through and got as far as PENDANT COPSE. The main line tried to consolidate themselves in the line of craters but this work was practically impossible owing to the intense machine gun fire brought to bear on them from the direction of SERRE on the left flank and BEAUMONT HAMEL on the right. Later a screen of Bombers advanced against them and the Brigade on the left entering, left their left flank, in the air. About 4.0 pm the line was forced to retire to the German front line, where a small body consisting chiefly of SEAFORTHS, ESSEX and WARWICKS with Captain A G de-la-Mare and 2/Lieut I J Ward of the ESSEX made a long stand in the Quadrilateral until 8.0 am in the 2nd inst. when they were relieved by the Royal Irish Fusiliers. The fighting in the Quadrilateral was entirely by bombing and our men were hampered by an inadequate supply of bombs although they used the bombs found in the German trenches. At one time our Heavy Artillery also began to shell the Quadrilateral but was stopped before doing any harm by mean of an Electric lamp found by a signaller. Communication was also kept with our front line by means of visual signalling and in this way bombs were asked for but the difficulty of getting them across ‘No Man’s Land’ through the fire was very great. Casualties - 22 Officers and about 400 other Ranks.

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UK, Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929


Fanny, his mother was his next of kin and on the 13th November 1919, she received the total sum of £10.10s.0d. This was about the average compensation received by relatives, equivalent to about £920 in today’s money.

George is ‘Remembered with Honour’ on the Thiepval Memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, and built between 1928 and 1932. The Memorial was unveiled on the 1st August 1932, by the Prince of Wales.

The Thiepval Memorial is on the D73, next to the village of Thiepval, off the main Bapaume to Albert road (D929) in the Somme, France.

George is remembered on the Pier Face 10D.

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George is also remembered on the Great Waltham War Memorial

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George was awarded the Victory Medal, the British Medal and the 1915 Star Medal.

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