Norman WATTS #2667

Extract from service record, for Norman Watts (National Archives of Australia)

Indigenous Australian, Norman WATTS, 41st Infantry Battalion

Recently widowed, Norman 'Alfred' Henry Watts volunteered to serve for his country in August 1916. Formerly employed at the Ebbw Vale Brickworks, Ipswich he was the son of Englishman Withers Cazalet Watts and a Kabi Kabi woman, Violet Inglebee Blakesley.

Watts trained at Bell's Paddock Camp, Enoggera before embarking on board HMAT Kyarra in November 1916 with the 5th Reinforcements for the 41st Infantry Battalion, bound for England. After spending the best part of the 1916/1917 winter in England, Watts embarked for France in June and joined his unit in the field in July 1917 at Messines.

Group portrait of members of No. 8 hut, 5 Platoon, B Company, 41st Infantry Battalion, Salisbury Plain. Norman 'Alfred' Watts pictured top right, Salisbury Plain, 1917, prior to sailing for France.

Watts was promoted to Lance Corporal in September that year, but shortly after was severely wounded in action, during the Battle of Broodseinde, 5 October 1917.

Initially treated by the 3rd Australian Field Ambulance, he was taken to the 10th Casualty Clearance Station, where it was decided he should be evacuated to England. There he was admitted to Winchester Red Cross Hospital to be treated for the gun shot wounds to his right side and chest. Fragments of metal were lodged in his chest, and penetrated his right lung - still seriously ill, Watts returned home to his family in Southport in 1918.

In 1920 he married Laura Elizabeth Simmons, they had one child. Alfred Watts, never fully recovered from his injuries and died in 1924, he is buried at the Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane.

Family notes:
Violet Watts (nee Blakeley) married Withers Watts in 1884 and had Alfred in 1885 in Rockhampton. They moved to Echuca, Victoria in 1885 where they had Vivian (1887), Lillian (1890) & Percy (1893 died in infancy).
Withers Watts left his family in 1893 after being charged with fraud and took up a different life in Katoomba, NSW as a 'music and art teacher' but there fell foul of the law several times.

Left destitute Violet, returned to Queensland. She is recorded as living at Amity Point, North Stradbroke Island, and her daughter Lillian was enrolled at the Myora primary school. In 1896 a warrant for arrest was issued for Withers for deserting his family, and Violet asked that her children be sent to Deebing Creek Aboriginal Mission.

In 1897 Withers Watts fled from Australia and was soon after found to be living in San Francisco, claiming to be a doctor. He later remarried, and had several children, and died in Chicago in 1916, the same year his son Alfred sailed for England to serve for his country.

Violet later married Herbert Goodson in 1900, a farmer from Southport, and it appears they had a happy life together for over 30 years. When Herbert Goodson died Violet put an 'In memoriam' message in the newspaper every year until her death, after which her daughter Lillian continued to publish a message each year for her.

Newspaper articles ...

The Brisbane Courier 4 April 1918 p.7
Queensland Times 6 April 1918, p.8
The Daily Mail 8 November 1920, p. 6
The Brisbane Courier 7 March 1924, p. 4
South Coast Bulletin 4 March 1932, p. 6

Read more ...

Service record: WATTS, Norman Alfred Henry
Embarkation roll: 5th Reinf. 41st Infantry Battalion
Unit Diaries: 41st Infantry Battalion
One of the soldiers featured in SLQ’s HistoryPin Collection
Queensland’s Indigenous Servicemen [oral history]

Many thanks to Theresa Jennings, California; and Valerie Davies, England who generously shared their research into the Watts family

The information in this blog post has been researched by State Library staff and volunteers, it is based on available information at this time. If you have more information that you would like to share or further research uncovers new findings, this post will be updated.


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