WATTS, Ralph F.

45935, Private, Ralph Fincham WATTS
Age 20

Suffolk Regiment, 2nd Battalion
Killed in Action on Friday 30th August 1918

Born in Exning (Newmarket Q4-1898 3b:495)

1901 census...Aged 2, he was living at High Street, Burwell with his father- Grimmer WATTS [31] baker/grocer born Lakenheath; mother- Rebeka (née FINCHAM) [31] born Lakenheath; brother- Arthur W [4] born Lakenheath; brother Albert G.B. [10 months] born Exning, and Ethel FINCHAM, a visitor (born Nottingham).
His mother had been registered at birth as Albina Rebecca FINCHAM.

1911 census...Aged 12, living at High Street, Burwell with his parents, brother Albert and 5 sisters, all born in Burwell; Hilda Maud [9], Mildred Doris [7], Eva Rebekah [6], Amy Hannah [5]and Freda Ethel [3] and a brother Reginald Frank [8 months]. Brother Arthur had died.
It appears Ralph's only Lakeheath connection was it being the birthplace of his parents

He enlisted Hitchin.
The 2nd Suffolks took part on 30th August 1918 in the attack on Ecoust St Mein and Noreuil. At dawn they went forward and took the village of Ecoust St Mien quite easily, but were unable to maintain that forward position. They were forced after about six hours to fall back to the Ecoust trench. CSM Jones and Pte H H Roberts dislayed outstanding courage in holding their position for five hours after the battalion had withdrawn, receiving the DCM and MM respectively.
The Suffolks lost 52 men killed on 30th August 1918, but unlike in earlier battles, all have identified graves, 37 are in Ecoust Military and 4 in the HAC Cemetery also in Ecoust.

The Bury Free Press of 14th September 1918 reported:-

News which has aroused a good deal of sympathy has been conveyed to Mr. and Mrs. T.Watts, Anchor Lane, Lakenheath that their nephew, Lance-Corpl Ralph Watts, Suffolks, was killed in battle on Aug.30th.
He was a very promising youth. He was only 19 and the second son of the late Mr.G.Watts and of Mrs. Watts of Burwell Cambs. This is a double bereavement for Mrs. Watts as only recently her husband passed away, leaving her with a family.
This young soldier was well respected and his death has caused general regret.

Then on 21st September the same newspaper reported:-

The accompanying photograph is of Lance-Corpl. Ralph Watts, Suffolk Regiment,who fell in action in France on August 390th, at the age of 19 years. The deceased lad, whose home was at Burwell, Cambs., is a nephew of Mrs. T.Watts of Lakenheath. His mother had received the following letter from the captain of the battalion:" I have much regret to have to inform you that your son who was previously reports as wounded on August 30th, was killed in action on that date. I regret I am unable to give you any further particulars, as I was not with the company at the time. I knew your lad well and esteemed him highly,. He led a very straight life and was a thorough soldier. Only a few days before his death I had appointed him to Lance-Corporal, and I am sorry he has not lived to gain further promotion. Perhaps for him it is promotion for higher service in a better land than this, and I ask you to think of your great loss in this light.. There is a sure and certain hope in the great Beyond for those who are trusting in Christ, and to be with Him is far better. My sympathy is with you in your sorrow.

photo: Rodney Gibson

Ralph Watts is buried in Ecoust -St.Mein British Cemetery ref..D:44
and also commemorated on the Burwell war memorial

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details