Watson S.

SYDNEY WATSON (1892-1917)

42631 Private Sydney Watson, 12th Battalion, the West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own) died of wounds 29 July 1917.  He is buried in Grevillers British Cemetery near Bapaume, France[1] and is commemorated on the Roll of Honour in Newbiggin Village Hall.[2]  Private Watson was 25 years old, married to Ivy and they had one daughter, Nellie.

Family Details

Sydney was born 1892[3] at Newbiggin, County Durham the son of William and Jane Ann Watson.[4]  There were at least 6 children, all born at Newbiggin in Teesdale:[5]

  • Mary Jane bc.1888
  • Ralph William bc.1890
  • Sidney bc. 1892
  • Hannah bc. 1895
  • Emma bc.1898
  • Annie bc.1904

In 1901, Sydney’s father William worked as a farm servant/labourer at Newbiggin. By 1911, William is recorded as a farmer and a worker indicating that he was employed by another.  Sidney, now 19 years old was employed as a quarryman.[6]  In 1916 Sidney married Ivy R. Chapman.[7]  In 1917 a daughter Nellie was born.[8]

Service Details

The service records of Private S. Watson have not been traced.  Sydney Watson enlisted at Middleton in Teesdale and joined the West Yorkshire Regiment (the Prince of Wales’s Own) and was allocated the regimental number 42631.[9]  He served with the 12th (Service) Battalion which was formed 16 September 1914 at York as part of K3, Kitchener’s New Army and came under the orders of the 63rd Brigade, 21st Division.  The Division landed in France in September 1915 and was transferred to the 9th Brigade, 3rd Division in November 1915.[10]  Private S. Watson did not enter France until after 31 December 1915. [11] The date he enlisted is unknown but it is highly likely that he was conscripted for general army service.

By July 1917, the following units came under the orders of the 9th Brigade:

  • 1st Battalion, the Northumberland Fusiliers
  • 4th Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers
  • 12th Battalion the West Yorkshire Regiment joined 16 November 1915
  • 13th Battalion the Kings (Liverpool Regiment) joined 4 April 1916
  • 9th Brigade Machine Gun Company joined 8 February 1916
  • 9th Brigade Trench Mortar Battery formed 1 May 1916 [12]

The 3rd Division served with distinction on the Western Front throughout the war. In 1917, until Private S. Watson’s death, the 3rd Division saw action during various phases of the Arras Offensive:

  • 9 – 14 April: First Battle of the Scarpe
  • 23 – 24 April: Second Battle of the Scarpe (9th Brigade only)
  • 28 – 29 April: Battle of Arleux
  • 3 – 4 May: Third Battle of the Scarpe
  • 13 – 14 May: Capture of Roeux [13]

It is possible that 42631 Private S. Watson saw action here.  He died of wounds 29 July 1917. [14]   Private S. Watson is buried at Grevillers, a village to the west of Bapaume which is located to the south of the Arras battlefield.  There was no major action taking place in this vicinity during July 1917 and Private S. Watson was the battalion’s only fatality that day.[15]  It is assumed that the battalion was transferred to this part of the front following the exertions of the Arras Offensive and Private S. Watson was a victim of the usual violence of warfare, artillery shelling, machine gun or sniper fire.

In March and early April 1917, the German armies on the Somme carried out a strategic withdrawal known to the Allies as the German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line. They destroyed everything on the ground that they left – flattening villages, poisoning wells, cutting down trees, blowing craters on roads and crossroads, booby-trapping ruins and dugouts. The withdrawal was to an immensely powerful and shorter line, positioned to take every tactical advantage of ground.  A cautious pursuit began, halted only as the Hindenburg Line itself was approached.  Grevillers was a village located in this area.  It is possible that Private Watson could have suffered wounds as a result of previous enemy actions such as a booby-trapping device.[16]

The war diaries of the 12/WYR and relevant Casualty Clearance Stations/Ambulance provision have not been researched.

42631 Private S. Watson was awarded the British War and Victory medals.[17]


42631 Private S. Watson is buried at grave reference VI.C. 9, Grevillers British Cemetery.

The village of Grevillers was occupied by Commonwealth troops on 14 March 1917 and in April and May, the 3rd   29th and 3rd Australian Casualty Clearing Stations were posted nearby. They began the cemetery and continued to use it until March 1918, when Grevillers was lost to the German during their great advance. 24 August 1918, the New Zealand Division recaptured Grevillers and in September, the 34th 49th and 56th Casualty Clearing Stations came to the village and used the cemetery again. After the Armistice, 200 graves were brought in from the battlefields to the south of the village.  There are now 2,106 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in Grevillers British Cemetery. 189 of the burials are unidentified.


42631 Private S. Watson is commemorated on the Plaque which names those in a Roll of Honour now located in Newbiggin Village Hall.  The plaque was originally housed in Newbiggin schoolroom.  It was unveiled 21 September 1921 by Mr. R.W. Raine JP.  There are 5 names commemorating those who lost their lives and 36 names to those who served.  The fallen are:

  • J. Gargate
  • H. Nixon
  • W Hebdon
  • C. Watson
  • Watson

The plaque is 37” by 25” repousse bronze copper mounted on dark fumed oak background.[18]


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Note: some sources spell his forename Sidney.

[2] North East War Memorials Project

[3] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1916 Vol.10a p.297 Teesdale 1892 Q2 (spelt Sidney)

[4] 1901 census (spelt Sidney)

[5] 1901 & 1911 census (spelt Sidney)

[6] 1911 census

[7] England & Wales Marriage Index 1916-2005 Vol.10a p.429 Teesdale 1916 Q4

[8] England & Wales Birth Index 1916-2005 Vol.10a p.34 Darlington 1917 Q3: Note: mother’s maiden name recorded as Raine

[9] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[10] http://www.1914-1918.net/westyorks.htm

[11] Medal Roll: Note: he was not awarded the 1914-1915 Star thus did not enter France before 31.12.1915.

[12] http://www.1914-1918.net/3div.htm

[13] http://www.warpath.orbat.com/battles_ff/1917.htm

[14] CWGC: Note: SDGW has not yet been consulted to ascertain if there were other 12/WYR casualties on or around that date

[15] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[16] http://www.1914-1918.net/bat17.htm

[17] Medal Roll

[18] http://www.newmp.org.uk/detail.php?contentId=8163




Memorial Card

WATSON S. Headstone


29 September 2017
Miriam Hall visiting
Sydney Watson [Great Uncle]