DROWNED NEAR NEWPORT
SPLENDID WAR RECORD.
Colonel Walter Oswald Watt, late of the Australian Flying Corps, and a director of
the firm of Messrs. Gilchrist, Watt, and San-
derson, Ltd., was found drowned at Bilgola Beach, about a mile north of Newport, on
Colonel Watt was staying at his week-end residence there, and went down to the beach alone, evidently for the purpose of collecting wood. He had taken off his bath robe, which he was wearing over his bathing costume, and this, together with his towel, was found on the beach. A number of sticks were piled in a heap close by. These were close to a point where a number of slippery rocks run down to the water's edge, and not at the place where
Colonel Watt usually entered the water when
swimming. When the body was examined on Saturday afternoon a bruise was found at the back of the head and a cut in the middle of the forehead. There were also some scratches on one cheek, and these signs suggested that Colonel Watt slipped on the rocks referred to, and fell, striking his head. It is believed that the fall stunned him, and that he was drowned in comparatively shallow water, into which he rolled after the fall.
Mr. Sydney Jones, a caretaker at Colonel Watt's residence, was the first to notice the body floating in the water. He hurried to Newport to obtain assistance. From there some fishermen proceeded in a boat, and re- covered the body. Constable Grant, of Mona Vale, and Mr. Bulfin made strenuous efforts to restore animation, but it was realised from the beginning that there was no hope of suc- cess, and after half an hour's work they had to admit failure. Dr. Richards, of Narrabeen, pronounced life extinct.
Colonel Walter Oswald Watt, O.B.E., was the youngest son of the late Mr. John Brown Watt, M.L.C., who came to Australia in 1842,
and who, in 1851, founded tbe shipping firm
of Messrs. Gilchrist, Watt, and Company. Colonel Watt was born at Bournemouth, Eng- land, on February 11, 1878. His early school- ing was interfered with seriously by illness and by a burning accldent which he met with in 1890. In 1899, however, he obtained a third class in the Natural Science Tripos at Cam- bridge. He left Trinity College in the same year, and came to Sydney early in 1900. Two years later he married Miss Muriel Williams,
daughter of Mr. Justice Williams, of Victoria. He left a son, aged 15 years, who is now at
Wellington College, England.
It was in aviation that Colonel Watt
achieved his greatest distinction. He was, in fact, one of the first in Australia to take it up seriously. He started flying at Salisbury in 1911, and gained his pilot's certificate there. The Royal Aero Club's certificate was issued to him on July 5, 1911, and it was the first certificate of its kind to be issued to any
After gaining his certificate Colonel Watt returned to Australia, but did not engage further in flying until the winter of 1913-14, when he went to Egypt, and while there bought a Bleriot monoplane. While in Egypt he made the acquaintance of most of the noted French airmen of the day, including Messrs. Bleriot, Vedrines, Conneau, Garros, Louis Noel, Guillaux, and others, most of whom later on did excellent work in the Great
Colonel Watt was at this time anxious to be- come thoroughly proficient in the art of flying, which was still practically in its infancy. He therefore proceeded to France, and entered Bleriot's factory on a six months' appren- ticeship. Before he was able to com- plete this period the war suddenly broke out, and threw Europe into a fever of excitement. France declared war on August 2— two days before Great Britain—and on the same day Colonel Watt offered his services to the French Government, expressing his willingness to serve in any capacity. At the same time he handed over his monoplane to the French Government as a free gift.
His services were readily accepted by the French Government. This was regarded as a great compliment and an excellent testi- mony to the value of his services as an aviator, as at that time there were only seven foreigners who were allowed to serve with the French army. He was one of the most popular
pilots in the French army, and, for the first 18 months of the war, he flew regularly every second day, and met with the greatest possible
An indication of the courage with which he tackled his task was given by the fact that on one occasion, after securing information of the utmost importance to the French army, his aeroplane was hit no fewer than 36 times,
and he succeeded in getting back to the French lines. The deed for whlch the late Colonel Watt gained the Legion of Honour was a particularly striking one. He had been forced to land midway between the French and German lines. He and his observer
immediately came under a heavy fire from the enemy's trenches, and, after disentangling themselves from their machine, had to run a distance of 300 yards, still under the enemy's fire. They succeeded in reaching the French lines safely, and the information which they brought back proved to be of the greatest pos- sible value. Some little time afterwards the late Colonel Watt was awarded the Croix de Guerre, to which were subsequently added three of the highly-coveted palm leaves. These were personally presented to Colonel Watt by
In the French Army Colonel Watt remained a poilu, but enjoyed the titular rank of "cap- tain," his pay, however, being ½d per day. This was due to the fact that he was not a naturalised French subject, which was a ne- cessary condition if he desired to take com- mand of a French squadron. The French Go- vernment realised that an officer of Colonel Watt's calibre was being wasted in the in- ferior rank which he was compelled to hold. They therefore suggested that he should join the Australian Flying Service, which had just been formed. Colonel Watt followed this ad- vice, and was sent to Egypt with the rank of major. After being second in command for some time, he took the No. 2 Squadron to England. On September 21, 1917, he flew his squadron of 24 machines across the Channel to France, and arrived without a mishap. The type of machine used by this squadron was the
The record of Colonel Watt's squadron dur- ing the following nine months in France was
one which has seldom, if ever, been excelled. They were a happy family. Many of the pilots were killed, but the squadron gained a large number of D.S.Os., Military Crosses, and other decorations. .
In 1917 Colonel Watt was appointed to com-
mand the new training wing at Tetbury,
Gloucestershire. He hoped to take the wing to France, but in this he was disappointed.
He was able, however, to keep the three Aus- tralian squadrons in France well supplied with brilliant pilots. The wing at Tetbury was the
last word in efficiency, and only those who visited the headquarters of the two aero- dromes which comprised the wing could re- alise the remarkable spirit which prevailed. At the end of the war Colonel Watt was pre- sented by those who served under him with a magnificent miniature aeroplane in silver, a trophy of which he was very proud. He brought his wing back to Australia in the
Kaisar-i-Hind, which arrived here in June, 1919, Colonel Watt being officer in charge of the troopship. Since resigning his command, Colonel Watt's interest in those who served with him re- mained unabated, and he was constantly en-
deavouring to aid those who had served with him and to see that they were given a fair start in civil life. Last year he was offered
the position of Controller of Civil Aviation, but was compelled to decline it owing to business calls. He was also invited to stand
for Parliament, but again declined.
The late Colonel Watt was president of the Australian Aero Club, and vice-president of
the United Service Institution. He was also
a partner in the firm of Messrs. Gilchrist, Watt, and Co., and a director of Messrs. Gil- christ, Watt, and Sanderson. Ltd., the Aus- tralian Alum Company, the Sogeri Para Rub- ber Company, and several other commercial enterprises.
Colonel Watt was a brother of the late Mr. William Holden Watt, who died in 1909, and
of Mr. Ernest Watt, of Elizabeth Bay-road. His three sisters are Mrs. William Caldwell, of Scotland, Mrs. Gordon Caldwell, of Sur- rey, and Mrs. Bethune, of Scotland.
Mr. E. J. Hart, hon. secretary of the Aus- trallan Aero Club, has been asked to make arrangements for a military funeral. He
stated last night that permission had been obtained for uniform to be worn. The funeral will take place af St. Jude's churchyard, Randwick, at 4 p.m. to-day. Members and
ex-members of the Australian Flying Corps Royal Air Force, and Australian Aero Club will form a guard of honour. They will as- semble at the churchyard at 3.30 p.m., and re- port to a senior officer.