Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sgt. James Watt Killed in Action 28 August 1918

James Watt is one of the soldiers that I am researching as part of my 2011 goals to create a memorial book. I started last week at Z researching and writing about Louis Zeiggel.

This week, my focus is James Watt. I do not know as much about James Watt as I do about the other soldiers. There are discrepancies in information between the 1911 census and his attestation papers when he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force with the 147th Battalion.  The 1911 census gives a date of birth of December 1884 in Ontario; whereas his attestation paper gives 24 May 1886 at Belfast, Antrim, Ireland. The information that he gave when he joined was most likely correct. In 1911, James was living in the household of Robert and Ellen Cameron as a lodger. We do not know who supplied the information. The digital images of his attestation papers are not available on the Library and Archives Canada website in the First World War - Canadian Expeditionary Soldiers database. has only the first page, so we are missing his physical description, medical status and religion.

James signed up 29 November 1915 in Owen Sound. He had been part of the 31st Militia Regiment for five years. He was married. James had married Annie Dales of Alliston in Owen Sound on 25 November 1914. According to his marriage registration, James Watt's parents were James Watt and Elizabeth McCready. Both Annie and James are listed as Methodists. Methodist minister, Rev. J. Wallace Stewart conducted the marriage ceremony.

His obituary in the 15 September 1918 The Owen Sound Sun provides some more information. When he went overseas to England, his rank was Sgt. Major but reverted to Sergeant when he went to France. James had been a foreman with the North American Bent Chair Company factory in Owen Sound. He had also been a sailor for a short time. He had come from Alliston, so he likely met Annie there.

James and Annie had one child who was born after James went overseas so he never saw the baby. James' mother was widowed and lived in Belfast, Ireland. Four brothers and one sister, a nurse, were serving in France when James was killed 28 August 1918. According to the War Graves Commission website Vis-En-Artois and Haucourt were taken by the Canadian Corps on 27 August 1918.

The Commonwealth War Graves Registry shows that he was initially buried in Boiry Notre Dame British Cemetery, 7 1/4 miles South east of Arras. His body was later moved to the Vis-en-Artois British Cemetery, Haucourt, 8 miles south east of Arras, France to grave P5, RJ, grave 1 in 1920.

Why was James Watt named as part of Knox Presbyterian Church memorial as he gives his religion as Methodist at the time of marriage? I am wondering if attended the Presbyterian Church with his landlords as he is and his landlords are shown as Presbyterian on the 1911 census. It looks like the Robert and Ellen who were witnesses at his wedding had been his landlords.

The project is described here and also back in 2008 it was part of my goal to research the men from then Knox Presbyterian Church Owen Sound who died in the First World War. An organ was dedicated in their memory in 1919. None of these individuals are related to me. I did have a great uncle who died in the First World War but he was a member of the Salvation Army.

© 2010 Janet Iles


  1. Writing a memorial book is a laudable 2011 goal, Janet. Is this a memorial book of soldiers from your family, or just memorial to family members, or specifically soldiers who served in a particular war? Coincidentally, I have a relative who died in WWI as well -- but in Galizia and at the beginning of the war. I'll be sharing that info on my blog when the time is right.
    Lots of historical details in this post that are most interesting.

  2. Hello Linda
    I have added some information at the bottom of posting about the project. The men all were members or affiliated with Knox Presbyterian Church who served in World War I.

    I look forward to reading what you write about your relative.


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