A Collection of Army Gallantry Awards to the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, and the Royal Air Force

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Date of Auction: 4th March 2020

Sold for £3,600

Estimate: £2,000 - £2,400

A Great War 1917 ‘Gavrelle Windmill’ M.M. group of five awarded to Private, later Lieutenant, W. H. Watts, 1st Royal Marines Battalion, Royal Naval Division, who served with the Royal Marines Brigade at Dunkirk and in the Defence of Antwerp in 1914; at Gallipoli, where he was wounded; and on the Western Front, where he was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry during the Royal Marine’s disastrous attack on Gavrelle Windmill on 28 April 1917, in what was the bloodiest action in the history of the Royal Marines

Military Medal, G.V.R. (Ch-16180 Pte. W. H. Watts. 1/R.M.L.I.); 1914 Star, with clasp (Ch.16180 Pte. W. H. Watts, R.M. Brigade.); British War and Victory Medals (Ch.16180 Cpl. W. H. Watts. R.M.L.I.); Royal Navy L.S. & G.C., G.V.R., 2nd issue, fixed suspension (Depot 607 W. H. Watts. St. Cl. R.M.) light contact marks, good very fine (5) £2,000-£2,400

Footnote

M.M. London Gazette 18 July 1917.

William Henry Watts was born in 1894 and was admitted to Royal Hospital School, Greenwich in 1905 aged 11 years. In 1909 enlisted into Royal Marines as Bugler, aged 14. He served during the Great War with the Royal Marine Brigade at Dunkirk from 30 September to 2 October 1914, and then at the Defence of Antwerp from 3 to 9 October of that year. The following year he proceeded to Gallipoli, and was slightly wounded in action on 15 June 1915. He saw further service on the Western Front at the Battle of the Somme in 1916, and in August 1916 was tried and found guilty by Field General Court Martial for ‘using insubordinate language to his superior officer’, and was reduced in rank from Corporal to Private, but later had these entries in his service record blacked out. The following year he was awarded the Military Medal for his gallantry during the momentous action fought by the 1st and 2nd R.M.L.I. at Gavrelle Windmill in the battle of Arras on 28-29 April 1917, in which the two battalions suffered over 1,000 casualties - at one point an overwhelming enemy counter-attack was only stemmed by the senior officer enlisting the assistance of his H.Q. Staff, cooks and bottlewashers.

As verified in Blumberg’s definitive history, Britain’s Sea Soldiers, three D.C.Ms and 15 M.Ms were awarded to the Royal Marine Light Infantry in respect of this action, Watts being listed among the latter.

Watts served out the rest of the War in defensively armed merchant ships, and then was employed post-War at the Royal Marines Depot, being awarded his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal on 20 January 1927. Technically, as a result of his Court Martial, he should have been ineligible for the award of the L.S. & G.C., but it appears that, following the award of the Military Medal, the charge was overlooked and blacked out. He retired from the Royal Marines in the Rank of Superintendent Clerk (Warrant Officer) in 1934, but was recalled for service in 1940 as a Lieutenant in the Royal Marine Records, until retiring in 1942. He died in 1972.