Indigenous Australian, Charles Henry WATTS, 41st Infantry Depot Battalion
Charles Henry WATTS (1898-1970) was one of three brothers who volunteered to serve for his country. They were Yuin men from the south coast of New South Wales, born to Charles Watts and Mary Ann Longbottom
Charles enlisted at Lismore when he was just 18 in January 1916. He was farewelled by the patriotic community of Numulgi, north of Lismore and was presented with a wrist-watch before he travelled to the military camp at Enoggera, Brisbane, there he was assigned to the 41st Infantry Depot Battalion.
Charles was found to be absent from camp and was located some months later at home at Numulgi. He was escorted back to Queensland under arrest as a deserter. His mother Mary and wife both wrote to the Camp Commandant at Enoggera asking that he be discharged, that he was not yet 19 and had recently married, Sarah Fox (1898-1983).
Major Ross replied to their letters, and considered their requests, respectfully pointing out that Charles would be 19 very soon and eligible to serve overseas, and that both his parents had given their written consent on his attestation papers.
Nevertheless Major Ross noted that Mary had already ‘given 2 out of 4 sons to your Country’s service’ and agreed to discharge the young man.
In the matter of Charles desertion, he had been sentenced to 28 days detention and fined £2 11/- 5 the cost of the military escort that returned him to camp. The fine was scheduled to be taken out of his pay when he embarked, which was in just a week’s time.
Major Ross agreed to arrange his discharge if she would reimburse the fine and advise him by return mail, which Mary did. Private Charles Henry Watts was discharged from any further service with the AIF on 25 October 1916 for ‘being under military age‘.
Charles and his wife Sarah had 13 children, their first Emily died in infancy.
Read more …
Service record: WATTS, Charles Henry
Northern Star 27 September 1915 p. 3.
One of the soldiers featured in SLQ’s HistoryPin Collection
View the whole Collection: Indigenous enlistment
Queensland’s Indigenous Servicemen Digital Story and Oral History
Marg Powell & Des Crump | QANZAC100, State Library of Queensland