Private Albert James Watton was killed in action on 30th October 1914, serving with the 3rd Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment. We think this is the same person as A. W. Watton listed on the Castle Bromwich war memorial. Confusingly, he is also recorded in records as James Albert Watton, which was the name under which his birth was registered, and under which he is recorded on census records 1891-1911, and in the railway employment register. The transposition of his first names suggests that he was known by his middle name of Albert.
The Birmingham Daily Mail, 5th December 1914 includes the following announcement:
BIRMINGHAM SOLDIERS KILLED IN ACTION
Information has been received at Castle Bromwich of the death of Albert Watton, a reservist of the 3rd Worcestershire Regiment, who was killed in action near Vailly. At the time he was called up Watton was within a week of completing his period of serice on reserve. He was a shunter at Water Orton, thirty years of age, and married, without family.
The only Watton serving with the Worcestershire Regiment who died in this period appears to be Private Albert James Watton, 7188, serving with the 3rd Battalion and buried at Vailly British Cemetery, so this would appear to be the correct person.
At the time of the 1911 census, he was aged 24, railway shunter, boarding with his future parents-in-law, William (a railway plate-layer) and Sarah Reading, at Albion Terrace, Water Orton, although his future bride, 23-year-old Elsie, was not living at home at the time, as she was working as a domestic servant to a couple in Moseley, Birmingham. James Albert Watton’s place of birth on the census was listed as Feckenham, Worcestershire. If the age on the census is correct, this does give a discrepancy with the newspaper announcement three years later, giving his age as 30, when it would actually have been 27 or 28.
He appears on the 1891 and 1901 censuses in Feckenham, aged 4 and 14 respectively, suggesting a date of birth in 1886/7 rather than 1884. On both censuses, he was living with his siblings and parents Laban (a machine needle tool maker) and Sarah. At the time of the 1901 census he was recorded as working in a cycle factory.
According to railway employment records (available on the Ancestry website free of charge from library computers) James Albert [sic] Watton joined the Midland Railway on 19th June 1905, aged 20. His twentieth bithday was listed as having been on 10th July 1904, which would make his date of birth 10th July 1884, although this does not match the age given on census records. He was employed as a lampman at Water Orton Station, receiving a salary of 16/- per week. At the time he was 5ft 7½, single, and also serving with the Worcestershire Regiment (having completed service of 2 years 190 days at the time of the commencement of his railway employment).
It looks as if Albert James [sic] Watton married Elsie Reading between September and December 1913, only a year before he was killed. The newspaper announcement of his death indicates he was serving in the Army Reserves, and was just one week away from completing his term of service when he was called up. The Long, Long Trail website has an interesting section on the types of service available in the Regular Army, Territorials and Reserves.
He is listed on the Commonwealth War Graves website under the name Albert James Walton [sic] but the service number, 7188, ties in with other records that give his name as Albert James Watton.
It seems that Private Watton’s service record hasn’t survived, so we don’t know any more about him or his military experiences. If you have any further information, please get in touch.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
Tel.: 0121 704 6977
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