Frederick Watson


Frederick Watson was born in 1899, his father, Noah, was an agricultural labourer who according to the 1891 census lived as a lodger in the home of his future wife, Ellen Knights in Low Road, Heckfield Green. In 1894 they married and at the time of the 1901 census Ellen was recorded as the head of the household living in Heckfield Green with her daughter Alice and sons, Herbert and Frederick. Noah at this time was employed as a labourer reconstructing Fort Albert on the Channel Island of Alderney. Ellen, somewhat ambiguously recorded, in very faint writing, her occupation as a "soldiers wife".

In 1911 Noah and Ellen are recorded as living in Hoxne. Noah working as a stockman as is Herbert, his eldest son. Alice, now 18 is working as a servant whilst Frederick aged 11 and Cecil 5 are both at school.

Although Fredericks attestation papers are severely damaged it appears that he joined up in December 1917. He gives his address as 43 Heckfield Green and his occupation as a Farm (presumably Labourer). At 5 foot 3½ inches he was only just over the minimum height required by the British Army and his chest measured 33 inches with an expansion of 2½ inches gives the impression of young man who would do well in one of the "Bantam" Battalions. In the event he was given the service number 35986 and joined the 9th Battalion, the Norfolk Regiment. It is not known when Frederick joined the 9th in France but, given the success of the German Spring Offensives and the losses that the British Expeditionary Force suffered, it is probable that his training was the basic required to get him to the front.

By the end of July 1918 the German Spring Offensive had run its course and the Allies had had started to rebuild their offensive capabilities, helped in no little way by the arrival, in significant numbers, of the American Expeditionary Force together with reinforcements for the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F) due to the successful conclusion of the Sinai and Palestinian Campaign. The Supreme Allied Commander, Ferdinand Foch, confident that the Allies could now win the War ordered a series of offensives that would defeat the German Army. The 100 day Offensive, as it was to become know, started on 8th August with the Battle of Amiens and was a spectacular success with the B.E.F regaining most of the territory lost during the German Spring Offensive and taking the advance as far as the Hindenberg Line.

For the 9th Battalion August had been a relatively quite period but on the 1st September they were entrained at St Omer reaching Corbie, a small village east of Amiens, the next day. Here they stayed, refitting and conducting Battle Training for two weeks. Once this was complete they moved towards the front and on the 17th September marched to the Assembly Area across a devasted landscape in pouring rain and under a German Barrage. On the 18th the infantry of the 16th and 71st Brigades (the latter including the 9th Battalion) attempted a surprise attack against their objective the German redoubt known as the Quadrilateral (known formerly at the Enghien Redoubt) but this was repulsed as was a second attempt.

After the Infantry regrouped the British Artillery took a hand and deluged the Quadrilateral with 1,000 shells a day. On the 24th another attack was made and whilst progress was made casualties were high, some records report Frederick as dying of wounds received during this attack. The Battalion War Diary records that between the 26th and 29th of September the Battalion was not in action and on the day of Frederick's recorded death, the 9th Suffolk's were relieved by the 11e Regiment de Chasseurs de Cheval and withdrawn to the rear.

Frederick is commemorated at the Brie British Cemetery, France plot 1V.D.11. and Hoxne War Memorial.