Lieutenant Colonel Walter Oswald Watt

Ranks Held Captain, Lieutenant Colonel, Major, Temporary Lieutenant Colonel
Birth Date 11 February 1878
Birth Place United Kingdom: England, Dorset, Bournemouth
Death Date 21 May 1921
Death Place Australia: New South Wales, Sydney, Newport
Final Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Service Australian Imperial Force
Units
  • Headquarters
  • Australian Flying Corps
Places
Conflict/Operation First World War, 1914-1918
Gazettes Published in London Gazette in 1919-01-01
Published in London Gazette in 1916-12-01
Published in London Gazette in 1918-05-28
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1918-10-24
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1917-04-19
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1919-05-23
Description

Walter “Toby” Watt was born to a wealthy family in Bournemouth, England, on 11 February 1878. When he was one year old, his mother died, and Walter spent ten years in Australia. He returned to England in 1888 and later completed two university degrees, a Bachelor of Arts in 1899 and a Master of Arts in 1902 from Cambridge University. He returned to Australia in 1900 and joined the New South Wales Scottish Rifles with the rank of lieutenant. He was promoted to captain in 1902 and served with this unit until 1907. Watt married Muriel Williams in 1902. In the same year, he was appointed aide-de-camp to the New South Wales Governor, Admiral Sir Harry Rawson. At about this time, Watt also purchased significant cattle station holdings in New South Wales and Queensland. On a later trip to England, Watt undertook flying training and obtained his Royal Aero Club certificate in 1911, the first Australian to do so.

Watt was divorced in 1913 and went to Egypt, where he purchased and flew a Bleriot XI aeroplane. He formed a friendship with both Louis Bleriot and Roland Garros, who were in Egypt at the time.

In 1914 Watt left Egypt and started work with the Bleriot aircraft factory in Paris. On 2 August 1914, the day France declared war on Germany, he offered his flying services and his plane to the French war effort, which was accepted. He joined the French Foreign Legion military aviation division. For his aviation services with France from 1914 to 1916, he was awarded the French Legion of Honour and Croix de Guerre. Following a suggestion from his French command, Watt enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on 1 March 1916 and was released from the French Foreign Legion to transfer to the AIF in April 1916. Watt joined the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) as a captain attached to No. 1 Squadron (referred to as No. 67 Squadron RFC by the British).

Watt embarked from England for Egypt in May 1916 and took command of No. 1 Squadron AFC. In October 1916, Watt was mentioned in despatches for his service with the squadron in Alexandria, as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. In the same month, he was appointed acting in command of No. 2 Squadron AFC (referred to as No. 68 Squadron RFC by the British). In December he was promoted to major and took permanent command of No. 2 Squadron. In January 1917, Watt was transferred with his unit from Alexandria to England and by May, he was in command of the School of Aerial Gunnery at Turnbury, England. Watt was then attached back to the No. 2 Squadron in June 1917. In September 1917, his unit went to France. Charles Bean visited No. 2 Squadron in November 1917 and recorded the excellent work performed by Watt and his unit.

In 1918 a concert was held in France by the Kookaburras Concert Party of No. 2 Squadron AFC to farewell Major Watt, in recognition of the high esteem in which he was held by his unit. Watt was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and transferred to England in February 1918 to take command of the 1st Training Wing (5, 6, 7 and 8 Squadrons RFC). In April 1918 he was in command of the School of Special Flying at Gosport, England, and then in command of 1st Wing Headquarters.

In April 1918 Watt was again mentioned in despatches, this time by Sir Douglas Haig, Commander of the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front, and in January 1919 Watt was awarded an Order of the British Empire.

Watt embarked for Australia on the troopship Kaiser-I-Hind in May 1919, arriving in Australia on 19 June 1919; on 3 August 1919 his appointment was terminated.

Following his war service, Watt became engaged in lobbying for improvement in civil aviation safety and was extensively involved in various business interests. These included involvement in a family shipping company and directorships in companies engaged in art, tin mining, and production of alum and rubber. He declined various offers, among them to be controller of civil aviation, standing for parliament, and to join the newly formed Royal Australian Air Force.

Walter Watt drowned at Bilgola Beach, Newport, New South Wales, on 21 May 1921, aged 43. He was accorded a military funeral and his ashes are buried at St. Jude’s church, Randwick, New South Wales.

Rolls

  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    Australian Flying Corps
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
    London Gazette
    28 May 1918 on page 6200 at position 75
    Commonwealth Gazette
    24 October 1918 on page 2055 at position 91
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    Headquarters
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    Australian Flying Corps
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Captain
    London Gazette
    01 December 1916 on page 11803 at position 1
    Commonwealth Gazette
    19 April 1917 on page 926 at position 5
  • First World War Embarkation Roll:

    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Captain
  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    Australian Flying Corps
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Temporary Lieutenant Colonel
    London Gazette
    01 January 1919 on page 86 at position 10
    Commonwealth Gazette
    23 May 1919 on page 892 at position 10
  • First World War Nominal Roll:

    Unit
    Australian Flying Corps
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel

Timeline

Date of birth 11 February 1878
Date of enlistment 01 March 1916
Other 1916-09-21 - 1918-02-16 Commanding Officer of 2 Squadron, AFC.
Date of recommendation honour or award 16 April 1918
Date returned to Australia 06 May 1919
Date of death 21 May 1921

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