Alexander Watters

From auditor to soldier.

Alexander Watters, 1909. Alexander Watters was from the West Coast. He joined the Audit Department in March 1907.

At the outbreak of WW1, Alexander had passed the Senior Civil Service Examination and attained the position of Audit Examiner, Class VII.

He joined the New Zealand Expeditionary Force on 19 October 1915, aged 26.

After an initial period of training, Alexander was sent to Egypt on 8 January 1916 with the 2nd Battalion, Wellington Regiment, and then to France in 18 April 1916.

The Wellington Regiment was part of the New Zealand Division, which was sent to relieve other troops occupying trenches outside the French town of Armentières.

A book about the Regiment records that the New Zealanders undertook aggressive night-time raids on enemy trenches to gain information and reduce the morale of the enemy. They destroyed ammunition supplies and pumping equipment (that kept trenches dry), and captured documents and prisoners. The New Zealanders suffered heavy casualties in some of these raids.

On 2 July 1916, Alexander was shot in the chest and admitted to a hospital at Boulogne, France, on 5 July 1916. He may have been wounded as a result of taking part in one of the raids on enemy trenches. He was then sent to a military hospital in the United Kingdom. In August 1916, a medical assessment said “wounded chest progressing favorably”.

Alexander recovered from his injuries and returned to service in December 1916.

Alexander was wounded in action again on 31 July 1917. In July 1917, the Wellington Regiment was engaged in fighting around the Belgian town of La Basse Ville. Alexander was probably injured in this fighting. He was admitted to a field hospital on 3 August 1917. He recovered from his injuries and was granted leave, which he took in the United Kingdom. He returned to service on 1 December 1917.

Alexander was killed in action at the Somme on 27 March 1918.

At dawn on 21 March 1918, Germany launched its largest offensive since the war began, unleashing a huge barrage of artillery fire on British positions on the Western Front, mainly around the Somme.

The Germans’ intention was to achieve a major breakthrough and end the war before American troops could arrive in large numbers. The British Army suffered 38,000 casualties and many units began to retreat. It was feared that the whole of the Allied Western Front would collapse.

As part of the effort to halt the German advance, New Zealand and Australian Divisions were moved to the front to try and stop the German drive towards the city of Amiens. New Zealand troops were moved by train, then trucks, and then a forced march of 25 miles to the front. They arrived in a state of exhaustion.

The Wellington Infantry Regiment occupied a defensive position 1500 yards long between a sugar factory and the town of Hébuterne.

During the afternoon of 27 March, German troops launched counter-attacks to regain the position held by the 2nd Battalion, Wellington Regiment. The Germans were beaten back. But, in the last counter-attack of the day, at 7pm, the New Zealanders were forced back, suffering heavy casualties. Seventy-three soldiers were killed. Alexander may have been killed in this last attack of the day.

He was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Alexander is buried at the Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps, France.