6th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, 25 September 1915
Synopsis of Life and Military Service
Alexander James Watt was born on 30 November 1893 at Aberlour, Banffshire, he was the eldest son of William Watt, Farmer, Whitehouse, near Aberlour and his wife Mary Ann Munro or Watt. The family probably moved into Whitehouse around 1900 when his grandfather, also called Alexander Watt took over the tenancy. He had at least three other brothers according to the 1901 Census.
Tragedy was to strike the family on 6 January 1911 when the grandfather, Alexander Watt, who was also residing at Whitehouse Farm, failed to return from the nearby village of Aberlour following a day out and was found deceased in the nearby Lynn Burn later that evening.
Whitehouse Farm while in possession of the Watt family appears to have been very successful with numerous awards being won locally for the quality of the barley they were producing and the condition of the horses they raised.
Very little is known about Alexander James Watt’s military record as it did not survive, however, it is known that he enlisted in 1914 at Aberlour, Banffshire into the 6th Gordon Highlanders, the local infantry regiment as Private, number 1215. He moved to France / Belgium on the 10th November 1914 (the same day as his brother William).
On the 25th September 1915, the first day of the Battle of Loos, when he was part of the Gordon Highlanders Machine-Gun Section, Alexander was killed in action.
He is honoured and remembered on the Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais, France as his body was either not recovered or never identified.
In the National Probate Calendar for Scotland, the confirmation to his Will was granted to his father on the 25th January 1916 at Banff, the value of his estate was given as £114.
His brother Corporal William Watt was later killed in action on the 23rd April 1917, also while serving in the 6th Gordon Highlanders during the Second Battle of the Scarpe and also aged 21 years old. He is buried at Brown’s Copse Cemetery, Roeux, Pas de Calais, France.
The Battle of Loos – 25 September to 16 October 1915
The Battle of Loos was fought from 25 September until 16 October 1915 in an area of coalmines and mining villages near the town of Lens, north of Arras. Six British divisions attacked strong German defences in support of French offensives to the south.
It was the biggest British attack of 1915, the first time that the British used Poison Gas and the first mass engagement of New Army units.
The attackers suffered very high casualties in capturing the village of Loos, Hill 70 and the formidable Hohenzollern Redoubt, including some self-inflicted losses from the use of chlorine gas against the Germans. Worse came as British units tried to repel German counter-attacks. Despite initial successes and hopes of a breakthrough, the British lost the ground they had gained. By the time the battle ended British losses in men killed, wounded or missing amounted to over 60,000.
Half of the 72 battalions in the assault on 25 September belonged to Scottish regiments. Twelve Regular, Territorial and New Army Scottish battallions formed part of the 1st, 2nd and 7th Regular Army divisions. Twenty-four other battalions, consisting of volunteers, formed the 9th and 15th Scottish divisions in Kitchener’s New Army.
25th September 1915 – First Day of the Battle
In many places British artillery had failed to cut the German wire before the attack. The engineers manning the poison gas cylinders warned against their use, because of the weakness and unpredictability of the wind but they were overruled by General Sir Hubert Gough. In places the gas drifted back into the British lines and caused more British than German casualties. Advancing over open fields, within range of German machine guns and artillery, the British infantry suffered many casualties. The British were able to break through the weaker German defences and capture the village of Loos-en-Gohelle, mainly due to numerical superiority. Supply and communications problems, combined with the late arrival of reserves, meant that the breakthrough could not be exploited. Haig did not hear until 10:00 a.m. that the divisions were moving up to the front. French visited Haig from 11:00 to 11:30 a.m. and agreed that Haig could have the reserve but rather than using the telephone he drove to Haking’s headquarters and gave the order at 12:10 p.m. Haig then heard from Haking at 1:20 p.m. that the reserves were moving forward. French had not understood the poorness of the roads these reserves would be using and had not constructed new ones. Much of the reserves divisions had to march most of the day and night single file up the only accessible roads.
Alexander James Watt was born on 30 November 1893 at Aberlour, Banffshire. The following family information is taken from the 1901 Census.
His family is shown as follows :-
- Father: William Watt, born c.1860 at Speymouth, Morayshire – Farmer.
- Mother: Mary Ann Munro or Watt, born c.1866 at Alness.
- Brother: William, born c.1896 at Aberlour, Banffshire.
- Brother: John Munro, born c.1898 at Aberlour, Banffshire.
- Brother: Charles, born c.1900 at Aberlour, Banffshire.
Also within the residence in 1901 was a Domestic Servant – Jannet Fraser, a Cattleman – James Munro and a Ploughman – Adam Strathdee.
The following addresses have been ascertained for Alexander James Watt :-
- 1901 – Whitehouse, Aberlour
Alexander James Watt was awarded the 1914 Star, Victory and the British War Medals for his service in the Great War.
Alexander James Watt is honoured and remembered on the Aberlour War Memorial, Banffshire.
Links to Additional Information
- Find a Grave website – Alexander James Watt – Loos Memorial
- Find a Grave website -Alexander James Watt – Aberlour Cemetery
- A Street Near You website – Alexander James Watt
- Lives of the First World War – Alexander James Watt
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Alexander James Watt
- Imperial War Museum Memorials – Aberlour War Memorial
- Medal Index Card.
- Soldiers Died in the Great War.
- Pension Card.
- Register of Soldiers Effects.
- Scotland National Probate Index Calendar 1916.
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
- Find a Grave.
- The Aberdeen Daily Journal dated 6 October 1915.
- Family Grave, Aberlour.
- 1901 Census.
- Aberdeen Press & Journal dated 9 January 1911.
- Banffshire Herald dated 26 May 1900.
- Vincent Stuart.