Indigenous Australian, Joseph WATTS, 42nd Infantry Battalion
Joseph Carlisle WATTS (1893-1962) 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
Joe WATTS just 20 year old, enlisted to serve with the first AIF in October 1915 when allied troops were still engaged in operations on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Joe was farewelled by the proud citizens of Numulgi before he left for camp.
Although he enlisted in Lismore, like many men from the Northern Rivers region, he travelled to Brisbane to undergo initial training, staying at Thompsons Paddock, Enoggera Military camp.
Just prior to leaving Australia while on ‘home leave’ Joe was involved in a ‘sulky accident’ when the cart and horse he was driving, went over the side of a deep cutting at North Lismore. Only slightly injured he was able to return to camp and departed Australia aboard HMAT Borda, in June 1916, now assigned to A Company, 42nd Infantry Battalion.
While serving in France late in 1916 Joe was admitted to hospital but rejoined his unit four weeks later, when they were engaged in the trenches of Armentiers.
Joe was promoted to Lance Corporal in September 1917 and one month later was severely wounded in action during operations near Ypres.
Joe received serious wounds to both his legs during a bombardment by the German artillery on 2 October, and was evacuated via the hospital ship Warelda and admitted to Northampton War Hospital, Dunston.
Joe’s injuries were so severe that one of his legs had to be amputated and underwent 11 operations before finally being ‘fit’ enough to be repatriated home.
Joe’s community held a special public meeting before he returned, to discuss ways they would show their sympathy and appreciation for the suffering he had undergone. They decided to raise funds door knocking in the Numulgi area and hosting a picnic and sports day.
The council raised the sum of £ 10 which they cabled to him at No. 2 Australian Hospital, Southall, England, along with a message of sympathy and wishes for a speedy recovery. After his return in 1919 the community presented him with a horse, sulky and harness at a ‘Diggers’ picnic and concert’.
Joe married Agnes Teresa Hughes in 1922, it is not known if they had any children. He worked as a stock inspector in the Tweed region for many years; Joe Watts died in July 1957 age 62.
Read more …
Service record: WATTS, Joseph Carlisle
Embarkation roll: 42nd Infantry Battalion
Northern Star 21, October 1915 p.6
Northern Star, 5 January 1916 p.4
Northern Star, 28 August 1918 p.7
Northern Star, 12 December 1918 p.4
Northern Star, 11 April 1919 p.4
Northern Star, 27 October 1919 p.8
Northern Star, 6 December 1919 p.7
Northern Star, 24 September 1921 p.10
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