Dudley Haldane Watts

Dudley Haldane Watts
Born at Hemingford Grey in 1889, Dudley was one of four children delivered to William, a solicitor, and Lucy (née Haldane). The family home was at Westgarth, Church Street, St Ives, complete with a domestic servant and a nursemaid. Dudley's father died in 1903, when Dudley was aged 14yrs.

Educated at Cranleigh, by 1911 Dudley was studying law and working as an articled clerk aiming to follow in his father's occupational footsteps. He lodged at 20 Blandford Road, St Albans, occupying two rooms. Dudley had qualified as a solicitor by 1914 

Enrolling within days of war being declared, Dudley joined the 8th Battalion, Queen's Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment. He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on 19 November 1914. After several months training, Dudley's Battalion landed at Boulogne, France, on 30 August 1915.

Their first engagement was the Battle of Loos, the biggest British attack of 1915. Hoping to restore a war of movement, it was the first use of poison gas by the British forces. Prior to the attack 140 tons of chlorine gas were released, with mixed success. In some places the gas blew back onto British trenches. Many soldiers removed their gas masks, not able to see through fogged up lenses and finding it difficult to breath. Some suffered from their own gas. A shortage of artillery meant the preliminary bombardment essential to success was insufficient, failing to cut the German barbed wire defences.

Battle of Loos
Aftermath of the Battle of Loos
On Saturday 25 September 1915, advancing over open fields within range of German machine guns and artillery, British losses were devastating, totalling over 48,000 men. Further attacks were launched over the following three days. The result was just as catastrophic, with 8,000 casualties in the first four hours out of 10,000 British forces taking part.

Dudley was initially reported as wounded and missing some time between 23 and 27 September 1915, as published by the Hunts Post on 15 October 1915. His family had an agonising wait for more news, hoping he was a prisoner of war. Some months later the authorities assumed Dudley had been killed in action on Sunday 26 September 1915, aged 26yrs. He has no known grave and is commemorated on Loos Memorial, France. He is also commemorated at Cranleigh. His worldly goods, valued today at about £7,000, were left to his mother.

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Source materials
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