Private Henry Watton


Henry Watton was born on 15 August 1895 at Ballindreen, near Coleraine, County Londonderry, the fifth of eight children of labourer James Watton and his wife Catherine (née Peacock). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at nearby Damhead with his parents, his six surviving siblings, and a grandmother, and working as a general labourer. His younger brother William was drowned in an accident two years later.

Watton enlisted in the North Irish Horse between 22 and 24 May 1915 (No.1579 – later Corps of Hussars No.71454). He trained at the regiment's Antrim reserve camp before embarking for France sometime between 1916 and 1918, probably with E Squadron on 11 January 1916.

In May 1916 E Squadron came together with A and D Squadrons to form the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to VII, XIX, then V Corps until February-March 1918, when the regiment was dismounted and converted to a cyclist unit, serving as corps cyclists to V Corps until the end of the war.

Watton served with the 1st NIH Regiment throughout the war. In early July 1918, he sustained a lacerated wound to his right buttock, the result of an accident. After treatment at a hospital in France, it appears that he was able to rejoin the regiment, but he was wounded again during the Advance to Victory offensive. This was probably on 3 October, when E Squadron was camped east of Epehy, near the German defences on the St Quentin Canal. The squadron war diary recorded:

[1-2 October] Attached 100th Inf Brdge 33rd Division. Sent out a patrol under 2/Lt Downey to reconnoitre Canal de St Quentin ... preparatory to small raiding operations on following night which however never took place.

[3 October] 15 ORs Gassed by gas shelling. Sqdn moved forward to Battn H.Q. owing to report that enemy were retiring. This did not prove to be the case, so Sqdn moved back to previous location and were engaged in afternoon on salvage work.

On 2 May 1919 Watton was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve.