Frank WATTS
Rank: Sapper
Number: 51826
Unit: 15th Field Company ROYAL ENGINEERS
Date of Death: 31 July 1917
Age: 26
Cemetery: Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper, Belgium

Other than the fact Frank was born in the Stockport area in 1891, nothing is known of his early life. He was a joiner working for a Mr W Beattie of King Street West and he enlisted into the army very soon after War was declared in August 1914. His craft skills were needed by the army as it rapidly expanded and it's no surprise that he found himself in the Engineers.

Just before he went overseas, he married his fiancée, Beatrice Hulme, in the late spring of 1915. They set up home at 25 Menai Road but Frank probably had time only for a brief honeymoon there before going on active service.

At dawn on 31 July 1917, the British infantry went "over the top" in an attack that marked the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres. In Frank's sector, the men advanced abreast the Menin Road, to the north east of Ypres capturing positions near Hooge. Once the positions were secured, the Engineers were called in to lay tracks across the former No Man's Land to the captured trenches at Hooge Crater. These would enable the British artillery to move up ready for any counter attack and to prepare for the next stage of the attack. The Company's War Diary records they "went to work under heavy shell fire. Work progressed all day and Company took shelter in tunnel under Menin Road for night."

The Captain of Frank's Section wrote to Mrs Watts "I am afraid I have some sad news for you and must ask you to prepare yourself for the blow which so many others are having to bear nowadays. Your husband has gone to his rest. He died instantly and so you have the consolation of knowing that he himself knew nothing whatsoever about it. His loss is a great blow to me personally. Only two days ago, I had fetched him out of the rest of the section to be my orderly and right hand man. He was killed whilst accompanying his OC out of the battle, the Major being wounded by the same shell. The Section lost one of its best sappers. Your husband was doing so well and showing so much coolness under heavy fire that had he lived I should have recommended him for the Military Medal."

Frank's body was never recovered and identified. Perhaps there was nothing left of him to recover.

   
           
   
     
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