William Arthur Watts
L/6853/CH, Officer's Steward 1C William Watts, age 35
HMS Conquest, Royal Navy
Died 28 March 1916
Officer’s Steward 1st Class L/6853/CH, Royal Navy, HMS Conquest. Died 28/03/1916. Age 35.
Born in Barkham near Wokingham in Berkshire in 1881, the youngest child of George Watts & his wife Ann nee Bishop. Married to Mabel Watts (Woods) Lived Mill House, Walton. Buried at Walton (St Mary) Churchyard. Steward Watt’s died when HMS Conquest was hit in a German raid on Lowestoft and Yarmouth on 28th March 1916. 39 other officers and men died in the raid. His headstone in St Mary's church was paid for by Mrs. Susan Rowley, of Vernon Villas in Maybush Lane, before the war William had been her butler.
The night of Tuesday 28th March 1916 should have been a comparatively easy boat trip for those from Conquest returning onboard, whilst at Harwich.
However, this was anything other than a balmy Spring evening.
The weather was filthy, and a blizzard was unseasonably sweeping the coast. Those ashore from a number of the warships still had to return to their familiar steel homes scattered about the harbour, having enjoyed these comparatively infrequent but joyful opportunities to spend some of your hard earned pay in the local hostelries, or, with more time, venture further afield.
A good day out.
39 men got in one of the ships available cutters that dismal, freezing dark night.
Not a single one was to see the next dawn alive.
The 39 men lost in this accident makes this the worst single incident to involve loss of life to members of one Royal Naval ships company, excepting actions in war or onboard accidents of any description since before 1899.
Late on Tuesday night when the blizzard was almost at its height a number of naval liberty men, returning from shore leave, went off to their respective ships. All arrived safely with the exception of a large cutter belonging to H.M.S. Conquest which was being towed out by a steam launch. The hawser parted and no trace of the cutter has since been found. Between 40 and 45 men of the lower deck are missing. It is presumed that the cutter was swept away by the gale and capsized, all aboard her being drowned.
Pall Mall Gazette 31 March 1916